Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Article Note: On Readers' Advisory and Social Networking Sites

Citation for the article:

Stover, Kaite Mediatore, "Stalking the Wild Appeal Factor: Reader's Advisory and Social Networking Sites." Reference & User Services Quarterly 48.3 (2009): 243-246, 269.

Read online.

This is a brief article that mentions three social networking sites focused on books and reading. The sites in question are Shelfari, Library Thing, and GoodReads. The article is a call for readers' advisors to embrace these technologies, and it offers some commentary on the sites.

Some brief notes:

  • Food for thought: "Readers' advisory (RA) is one of the most social services libraries offer" (244). It certainly is a reason I was drawn to librarianship, and it is an interest and professional area that I try to keep up with even as I do very little of it as an academic librarian. Personally, I think it is an important skill for us to have, and I think we should be promoting recreational reading a bit more on our campuses. I have had a thing or two to say on the matter if anyone is interested.
  • The author argues that expanding RA online will create larger communities and that the library's space should include the virtual space as well. That sounds good to me. 
  • A big benefit of using these online services for library staff: "Not only are library staff reaching new and different patrons, but they are improving their own knowledge of books read, heard of, and glanced at, and it is all in one place. Library staff are equipped with easy-to-use tools that help them organize their own reading and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in reading areas" (244). Personally, that is a benefit of using these kinds of tools: I can keep track of what I read and get a sense of what I read and tend to favor. Looking at it over time, combined with my annual book list exercise, gives a sense also of where my reading preferences change. Maybe more of us should be doing these things and taking the time to reflect on what we read. 
  • The author goes over briefly over descriptions and features of the three services I mentioned above. In terms of preferences, it seems those who prefer GR do so due to the fact you can add an unlimited number of books to your lists: Library Thing was praised for its tagging features (245).
  • Conclusion: "Try out all of the Web toys out there. It's the responsibility of a good readers' advisor to at least be familiar with the numerous Internet playthings. But once they've all been taken for a test run, commit to one and politely show the others the door. It will be enough of a time commitment to keep one account current on a reading network, and it will be very important to keep that account up to date" (246). This is consistent with my personal philosophy of keeping up and "try it out, use it if it works, discard it if it does not."

Disclosure note: I am a GoodReads user, which in my case, includes "librarian" privileges (I can edit records among other things). You can find a link to my profile there in the right side bar of the blog. If anything, consistent with the article, a reason I liked it better was that I could add all the books I wanted. However, Library Thing does seem to be the librarians' favored service overall (conclusion based on informal observation).

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