Thursday, June 09, 2005

ReadThisNow in Ohio: Virtual Reference for Readers' Advisory

At yesterday’s Zone 1-4 Reference Librarians Meeting at the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, Illinois, we discussed the successes of MyWebLibrarian and what libraries in the Metropolitan Library System should be doing about virtual reference. I mentioned that one area of virtual reference that we are not promoting much in Illinois is readers’ advisory. At the Public Library Association National Conference in Seattle in February 2004, I attended a virtual reference program titled ‘Round the Clock Readers’ Advisory at which Ohio librarians reported on ReadThisNow.

Tracy Strobel and Richard Fox from the Cleveland Public Library then spoke about Clevnet’s ReadThisNow service (which appears to have now gone statewide) which is a readers’ advisory spin off from the library system’s KnowItNow24X7 virtual reference service. The speakers said that the idea for ReadThisNow came from the library director, and that the reference librarians on the general virtual reference service, who felt that they did not handle readers’ advisory questions well, welcomed the idea. This service, which launched in July 2003, has three components. First is live chat readers’ advisory service. The second component is a menu of reading lists grouped by genre (much like the lists at Fiction_L created by the Reader's Service staff of the Morton Grove Public Library). The third is “Book Tracker,” an online reading management system readers can use to record books that they have read and keep wish lists with links to the library catalog.

I spoke briefly with Joyce Saricks (who is famous in the arena of readers’ advisory) after this presentation. She thought that our area libraries should also be starting virtual readers’ advisory services. Some of us are members of MyWebLibrarian, which has the platform which Clevnet uses. We also have the human and intellectual resources of the Adult Reading Round Table. We should look at this is Illinois. It might attract libraries that have shied away from virtual reference in the past.

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