Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

In the Readers' Own Words: How User Content in the Catalog Can Enhance Readers' Advisory Services

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

In the Readers' Own Words: How User Content in the Catalog Can Enhance Readers' Advisory Services

Article excerpt

It's always challenging and exciting to find topics for the readers' advisory column, and professionals willing to write for them! I've been so thankful to the many professionals who have so generously given their time and shared their expertise for this column. From lessons learned, case studies and differing opinions on RA and its future, it is amazing how various and rich this area of librarianship is--and how rewarding and frustrating! In an effort to continue to provide a broad spectrum of thoughts and ideas, I asked Dr. Louise Spiteri of Dalhousie University to write for this issue. Spiteri recently completed two stages of research examining subject headings and user-generated content and how these connect with RA access points. Jen Pecoskie was Spiteri's research partner in both studies.--Editor

In the public library context, readers' advisory (RA) services, which aim to provide the right book in the hands of the user at the right time, is a central and longstanding core of the profession. In traditional RA services, knowledgeable library staff help readers with their leisure-reading needs. In most public libraries, RA models are heavily based on the traditional reference-interview structure. The conversations start with a roving readers' advisor approaching a reader within the library, or a patron who approaches an RA staff member. The RA librarian generally has a list of predetermined questions that assists in deciding which books to suggest, and when the reader leaves, the conversation is documented by a statistic, with little or no feedback or follow-up with that patron. (1) Reading preferences can be a very personal experience: Some readers may prefer accessing a readers' advisor remotely rather than face-to-face, or to only have a book conversation with other community members, rather than with library staff. Other readers might be reluctant to discuss their reading interests with librarians, possibly because of shyness, a lack of awareness that some librarians are trained to provide this type of service, a perception of librarians as authority figures, assumptions that a librarian of a different age, gender, culture may not relate to them, and a fear of having their reading interests dismissed or judged. (2)

This paper discusses two research studies conducted to examine the contribution of user-generated content in the form of tags and reviews in public library catalogs to both the description of fiction titles as well as its possible extension to RA services. Social services such as Amazon (www.amazon .com), LibraryThing (www.librarything.com), and Goodreads (www.goodreads.com) have long encouraged readers to share their reviews of books, and, particularly in the case of the latter two services, to contribute descriptive content to the titles in the form of tags. Various online public access catalogs are integrating social discovery platforms such as BiblioCommons (www.bibliocommons.com), SirsiDynix (www.sirsidynix.com), and Encore (http://encoreforlibraries .com/overview), which allow the contribution of this type of user content. This research was driven by the belief that these discovery systems could be used to encourage readers to comment on titles read, make recommendations for future reading based on such ideas as shared interests, and classify items in the catalog with their own tags or reviews that may be more reflective of their language and needs than the formal subject headings assigned by library staff. These tags and reviews can serve as added access points by which users can search for items of interest. Librarians and library staff can interact with users, learn more about their needs, and become part of the online community, while at the same time compile recommended reading lists and make purchasing decisions based on the reviews and recommendations made in the catalog by users.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In library cataloging practice, the description of the content of fiction titles can be problematic for a variety of reasons. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.