Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Education for Readers' Advisory Service in Library and Information Science Programs: Challenges and Opportunities

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Education for Readers' Advisory Service in Library and Information Science Programs: Challenges and Opportunities

Article excerpt

Most frequently, this column looks at potential new directions in readers' advisory theory and practice, offering tools that readers' advisors can use in their day to day work as well as expanding the theoretical foundations of that practice. This issue, we step back and take a broader view, looking at the challenges and opportunities that arise in making readers' advisory services an integral part of library-school education. Connie Van Fleet is a professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma. One of her major fields of research is the "interaction of practitioners and educators in the library and information science professions." She also has a strong interest in readers' advisory work, and is coauthor of African-American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests (Libraries Unlimited, 2004). In this column, Van Fleet makes a strong case for the importance of readers' advisory studies in the curriculum of library and information studies programs, and suggests where both library educators and library practitioners can collaborate more actively to develop a strong foundation of readers' advisory theory and practice.--Editor

No one who keeps abreast of current trends in libraries and information science can doubt that readers' advisory is an important service area that is expanding its conceptual base and growing in practice. This is an area of education that is rich in the use of experiential learning pedagogies, critical analysis, and interdisciplinary foundations. Nevertheless, there are special challenges, as well as opportunities, in teaching readers' advisory. Although individual programs may offer excellent courses of study that prepare librarians to meet the needs of readers, marginalization of this area in schools of library and information studies persists. But the trends of the past several years give rise to cautious optimism.

Two columns that appeared in the winter 2000 issue of RUSQ provide an excellent springboard for a discussion of current issues of education for readers' advisory. "Time to Turn the Page: Library Education for Readers' Advisory Services" by Dana Watson and the RUSA CODES Readers' Advisory Committee examined the content and availability of readers' advisory-related courses in ALA-accredited programs. (1) Duncan Smith contributed "Talking with Readers: A Competency Based Approach to Readers' Advisory Service," the first offering in the Readers' Advisory column, which Danny P. Wallace and I created when we assumed editorship of RUSQ. (2)


The content of readers' advisory services (and courses) has expanded as we (the readers' advisory community) explored what actually happens in libraries and found out more about what people want to read. We have moved from offering only genre fiction guidance to offering guidance for leisure reading, including mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles. For teachers of readers' advisory, life has never been so good. We have an expanded research base and a growing number of resources to support our work. We enjoy active and enthusiastic partnerships with intelligent, lively, and creative librarians.

As Burgin and Shearer point out, readers' advisory courses that are considered integral to the curriculum are most often associated with individual faculty. (3) Perhaps this accounts for the enthusiasm for the course that is evident in most syllabi. In any event, these courses reflect the nature of education for a profession, combining a conceptual framework with practical applications. Almost all readers' advisory courses in MLIS programs are designed to address three levels of learning: knowledge, basic skills and techniques, and attitude.

Faculty usually ground courses in interdisciplinary research, addressing such topics as motivations for and the impact of reading, the social nature of reading, and cultural contexts and implications of stories. …

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