Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A "Novel" Approach to Recreational Reading: Creating a Virtual Collection on a Shoestring

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A "Novel" Approach to Recreational Reading: Creating a Virtual Collection on a Shoestring

Article excerpt

The implementation of readers' advisory services in academic libraries continues to expand. Libraries have developed a variety of innovative projects that support students' recreational reading interests and promote academic libraries to their user communities. Here, Sarah Dahlen and Steve Watkins discuss the creation of an online portal to an academic library's recreational reading collection, enhancing user access, improving circulation, and offering a model for reaching their library community in new ways.--Editor

Providing recreational reading materials for patrons, while squarely within the purview of public libraries, has not been a goal equally embraced by academic libraries. Despite its connections to academic achievement and lifelong learning, many academic libraries either do not consider recreational reading as vital to their mission or, more likely, do not have the funds to pursue its promotion. An affordable option (costing only minimal staff time) is to create a virtual collection of print recreational reading materials that, through an online interface, allows patrons to browse for titles by genre or book cover. This virtual solution complements catalog searching by attempting to simulate a browsing experience similar to what one would find in a bookstore or physical library collection. We recently implemented this solution at our institution, a small, public university in California, with some success. By dynamically compiling records of titles previously purchased by the library to support the humanities and education curricula, we are able to highlight books belonging to genres that are often of interest to recreational readers. This article addresses the justification for investing staff time in promoting recreational reading, discuses the technology employed to create and maintain this virtual collection, and shares the impacts of this effort on circulation of the items included in the collection.


The benefits of reading are undeniable. There are well documented links between recreational reading and improved writing skills, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and reading comprehension as noted by Krashen and others. (1) Dewan, among others, has noted that academic libraries are the clear candidates to provide and promote this service, especially given that college students are unlikely to take advantage of public libraries for their recreational reading needs. (2)

Not surprisingly, given the benefits of recreational reading, many academic libraries provide a recreational collection for their users. While views on academic libraries' role in promoting leisure reading have varied through the decades, recent surveys suggest that a clear majority of academic libraries see this as being within their purview. (3) In a national survey executed by Julie Elliott, 71 percent of academic libraries reported maintaining separate recreational browsing collections; 64 percent reported the same in a survey of three southeastern states conducted by Mark Sanders. (4) A number of creative approaches to providing recreational reading collections have been documented, including book leasing programs, donations from public libraries, and book exchanges. (5) High circulation rates have been associated with some of these efforts. (6) Short of providing a separate collection, other methods of promoting recreational reading are also noted in the literature, including displays, cozy reading areas, extended circulation periods, and book lists. (7) The advantages of a separate collection are notable, however, considering the shortcomings of the Library of Congress Classification system for browsing fiction and the greater likelihood of discovery by students when collections are placed in a prominent location. (8)



Established in 1994, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is a public university located on California's central coast. …

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