Academic Libraries and Extracurricular Reading Promotion

By Elliott, Julie | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Academic Libraries and Extracurricular Reading Promotion


Elliott, Julie, Reference & User Services Quarterly


It is clear to anyone in the library profession, and certainly to readers of this column, that readers' advisory (RA) services have become an important part of libraries. While librarians have worked to connect readers and books throughout the history of libraries, the past eighteen years since the publication of Joyce Saricks's Readers' Advisory Service in the Public Library (ALA, 1989, 1997, 2005) have seen a blossoming of RA tools for thoughtful discussion of techniques for working with readers, and, most recently, an expansion of RA to look at nonfiction reading. As Saricks's title suggests though, this renaissance has been primarily centered in the public library. In this column, Julie Elliott considers the role of RA services in the academic library She looks at the history of the role of extracurricular reading at colleges and universities. Elliott examines current practices in academic libraries, and outlines the issues that have kept readers' services from taking a prominent role in academic libraries. Her article concludes with a call for academic libraries to revitalize their approach to readers' services.

Elliott organizes the One Book, One Campus events at Indiana University-South Bend as well as the library's speaker series. Elliott is an active participant in the promotion of RA services, and she serves on the Reference and User Services Association Collection Development and Evaluation Section (RUSA CODES) Readers' Advisory Committee as well as the Library Instruction Round Table's (LIRT) Conference Program Committee; she is also incoming secretary for the Library Administration and Management's (LAMA) Public Relations and Marketing Section.--Editor

Information literacy, becoming tech savvy with Library 2.0, and marketing one's library are common topics of professional library conversation. However, another aspect of college libraries not being discussed is extracurricular reading promotion. Indiana University-South Bend (IUSB) has a One Book, One Campus program, and there are some ongoing recreational reading programs in colleges across the United States, but it was unclear how many were out there. It was also unclear what academic librarians were doing in addition to reading programs to promote extracurricular reading, and if they weren't promoting extracurricular reading, why not?

To that end, I created a survey and corresponded with academic librarians across the United States to determine what academic libraries are doing to promote extracurricular reading, what barriers are keeping them from promoting it more, and why some of them do not actively promote reading.

To get a better idea of why recreational reading promotion is so scarce in academic libraries, I examined the history of reading promotion in academic librarianship. What I found was that it was not only elitism among past librarians that hampered the concept (or that could impede its future) but rather the same three culprits that hamper just about every project in our profession: budget, staff time, and space.

That is not to say that the idea of reading promotion in academic libraries is a nonstarter. Rather, I discovered that there are many librarians dedicated to the idea who have found creative methods of getting past the barriers of budget, time, and space to create programs and collections of value for their students, faculty, and staff. I also learned that nearly everyone I interviewed wants to continue the conversation and to begin collaborating with our public library colleagues to learn from their experience how to create better recreational reading resources for our students. Please visit appendix A for links to collections and activities by librarians interviewed in this article. I'd like to suggest that anyone interested in continuing the conversation via a wiki, discussion list, or other method to please e-mail me at: jmfelli@iusb.edu.

HISTORY OF EXTRACURRICULAR READING PROMOTION IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES

Encouraging extracurricular reading used to be a component of an academic library's mission. …

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