Reading Books Outdoors

Readers’ Advisory Conversation

Readers Advisory Conversation

The readers’ advisory conversation takes place between a reader and a library staff member about books and reading.  This conversation includes the readers’ advisory interview, the determination of appeal factors, reading suggestions, and the follow-up, both immediately and over the long term.

Simply stated, readers’ advisory is the task of promoting the library’s collections and trying to get the material in the customer’s hands so they can check them out.

Reader’s advisory is the process of matching readers and viewers to materials.  Reader’s advisory answers questions that have more to do with the patron’s leisure reading than with informational needs.  People read to escape from the mundane and everyday life, out of curiosity (what’s all the excitement around this book/author), to connect when feeling excluded or alone, to challenge their ideas, knowledge and philosophies, and for sheer pleasure.

All staff may act as a reader’s advisor.  The job of a readers’ advisor is to suggest/recommend material and provide customers with a value-added library experience.

Video: Reader’s Advisory Conversation Don’t Panic


  • When customer’s check out material this is the best time to discuss with them other material they may be interested in.
  • When circulating around the immediate area of the desk, take the opportunity to engage customers and ask them if you can help them find an item of interest. Lead them to the online catalogue to show them how to find books from their favourite author or genre.  Let the customer know that the shelving cart contains items that customers have recently read and returned.

Conversation or Interview

When you chat with customers, you often find they are open about their interests and you can offer your suggestions or perspectives on what you have read, listened to, or watched.

The following are questions or suggestions you can ask during the reader’s advisory discussion:

  • The item you are looking for is currently checked-out, but we do have it in audio-book and it is downloadable.
  • If you like that genre, remember that we label our books with genre stickers.
  • There are many other titles in that series, would you like me to look that up for you?
  • How did you enjoy that title? Was it interesting?
  • I also read this book. How did you find it?
  • The Quick Pick is not available, but I can show you where the display is so you can choose another title while you wait for the one you want.
  • The item you are looking for is currently checked-out, but I can check our catalogue to look for read-a-likes.

Actions to Offer Suggestions

  • The catalogue is a great way to find items to suggest to customers.
    • New lists of DVD’s, fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks etc., which are always updated.
  • For print material, enter the following keywords in the ‘Subject’ search of the catalogue:
Ghost stories                Fantasy fiction
Legal stories                 Science fiction
Love stories                  Horror fiction
Spy stories                    Suspense fiction
Sea stories                    Christian fiction
Western stories             Historical fiction

Once the search results are listed, many online catalogues have the ability to limit by facets (usually found on the left of the search results screen). For example, you can limit by children vs. adult material or language.

For movies, enter the following keywords in the ‘Subject’ search of the catalogue:

Animated films              Historical films             Spy films
Biographical films         Horror films                  Superhero films
Comedy films                Musical films               War films
Epic films                      Science fiction films     Western films
Fantasy films                Short films
Gangster films              Silent films

Once the search results are listed, you can limit by the facets on the left (e.g. children vs. adult etc.)

RA websites offer great information and provide a visual for you and the customer to peruse:

Closing and Follow-up Customer Service

  • Give them a book to hold: Put a book in their hands so they can look at it while you talk about it.  Customers are more likely to borrow something they can touch. Front-line staff should be empowered to ensure that customers don’t leave the library without “something in their hands”.
  • Make them comfortable: Invite them to sit at a table to look over the books.  Bring over extra titles by the same author or within the same genre for them to choose from.
  • Follow through: Remind them:  “Any time you want any other suggestions, I’d be pleased to help.”

A Word on Series

Science fiction series usually should be read in order. Character based series do not usually need to be read in order.


Booktalking Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town – A slide show that offers valuable tips on how to engage customers in a readers’ advisory conversation.

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