Sunday, February 04, 2007

Zone 1 Reference Librarians on Nonfiction Readers' Advisory

Thursday’s meeting of Zone 1 Reference Librarians (Metropolitan Library System outside Chicago) was really good. Six librarians met at the Indian Prairie Public Library to discuss nonfiction readers’ advisory. Debra Wordinger baked cookies, which we ate with our choice of beverages, and we settled in for a good long talk.

Bonnie Reid of the Downers Grove Public Library reported on meetings of the Adult Reading Round Table, which has devoted 2006-2007 to nonfiction. Each meeting focuses on a nonfiction genre, such as biographies, adventure stories, or science discoveries. The participants read an assigned book and two titles from a genre booklist for the discussions, which are held every second month at the libraries in either Downers Grove or Des Plaines.

A key reason for the ARRT discussions is to identify appeal factors, which could help in choosing like books to offer readers. Appeal factors include frame, characterization, pacing, and storyline. Advisory for nonfiction readers may be more challenging than for fiction readers, who may happily read every book in a series by an author. The nonfiction reader may feel one book was enough on a topic and want the next book to be on a completely different topic but still have similar appeal.

Participants of the ARRT meeting keep the initial genre lists and the meeting notes to help them with their reader services.

Bonnie went on to tell about the DGPL Reference Department’s nonfiction readers’ advisory. At the staff’s weekly Wednesday afternoon meeting, the librarians report on any nonfiction books they read that week. (DGPL has a separate Readers’ Advisory Department that is devoted to fiction.) Each title with subject tags goes into a departmental database to help with advising readers and producing booklists. DGPL has these booklists on their website, and they are searchable in the Librarian’s Booklist Search.

During the Zone 1 meeting, we talked about nonfiction books that we had read. Each title mentioned suggested another. We jokingly started to identify new sub-genre, like “growing up in a really bad family” or “incidents in small midwestern towns.”

The next Zone 1 Reference Librarians Meeting is Thursday, May 3 in Downers Grove.

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