Like most areas, the Isle Of Wight had a planned week of activities to celebrate National Libraries Week. We wanted to use the occasion to highlight the good work that is going on in the libraries. On the island we have a mixture of council-run and community libraries and both, despite what the powers that be might want us to think, continue to thrive.
One of the libraries I work at wanted to offer something completely new for the week and we got to racking our brains. I had mentioned a bookshop I had been into in Bath where a customer was sat with a member of staff who was talking to them about their reading interests and acting as a personal shopper for them. I mentioned how this would be a perfect job and an idea was formed.
We decided to hold a Reader’s Advisory Day. A quick visit to the internet suggested that this is something which happens in libraries in less cash-strapped areas than ourselves and that some people in certain areas (although we didn’t find any evidence of this in the UK) have this as their job title. There were some basic resources on the internet to ensure that you got the best out of making recommendations, but these largely involved listening to what the person you were advising was telling you! And who was deemed the most appropriate person to be the said Reading Advisor. How about someone who spends their time reviewing and blogging and writing about books? So that’s how I became the Sandown Library Reading Advisor for a day (or the Book Doctor as colleagues have termed me, or the Book Guru, which is probably worse!).
Here’s how we advertised it.
To be honest, people didn’t flock to make appointments as they were unsure what it was all about. Nevertheless, we made cakes and in a fit of getting carried away by the idea decided to pitch a mini-marquee in the middle of the library for me to work from.
On the day you couldn’t help but notice something was going on in the library and I had people in my tent with me talking about books for the whole of the time the thing was running. Basically, we chatted about what it was they liked about their favourites and saw if that rang any bells in my head (sometimes it didn’t sometimes it did). When it didn’t there are loads of online resources out there (including Amazon and I’m pleased to say New Books magazine and the Nudge website where many of my reviews and interviews can be found). We ate cake and had a very nice day. The whole thing was deemed a success- although it took us a while to remember how to take the marquee down!
It was great fun but all that concentration did leave me a little tired by the end of the afternoon. We are certainly going to do it again in the future and my line manager wants me to work the idea for other libraries on the island.
Some of the authors I recommended during the day: Chris Cleave, Ann Patchett, Frederick Backman, Robert Harris (more than once actually), Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, C J Sansom, Frances Hardinge, Ann Tyler, Rachel Joyce, Nina George, Stephen King, Joe Hill, David Gemell, Rory Clemens.