At the program Establishing and Promoting Readers' Advisory in Small and Medium-Sized Libraries in New Orleans, Sharon Smith said her number one rule is "Never let a reader leave empty-handed." Liking the lofty idea, I tried to put it into practice in my shift at the reference desk last night.
It was one of those night when people asked for books that were out or at other libraries in our shared catalog. After writing the book titles and the client information on request slips, I asked matter-of-factly, "Since we did not have your book, can we find another for you? We wouldn't want you to go home empty-handed." It worked three out of the five times I tried it. One of declining readers told me she already had several books on a nearby table to check out. So, one person went home empty-handed, and even he said he had several books on his nightstand.
I was pleased. I think the statement works much better than the vaguer and weaker "Is there anything else we can do today?" When we have taken a reserve, we have not actually done anything immediate for the client, and this question might not really instill confidence. We have only given them a promise to do something. The new statement that I tried says exactly what I can do right now. Two of the clients replied "Now that you mention it, I have been thinking about reading (fill in the blank)." One client declined initially, walked away very briefly, and came back asking, "Do you have any books by (fill in the blank)?"
As a bonus, I had another reader recommend a book of international finance for library purchase last night. It reminded me of a book I reviewed three weeks ago. I said, "This reminds me of a book I think you might like." It did look good to him and he checked it out.
Four books went home with readers last night. Assertiveness works.