Thursday, March 10, 2016

Applying Reader’s Advisory Tips to ILL Practice

Guest Post written by Maureen Welch

Many public libraries embrace Reader’s Advisory (RA) as a core service with a set of principles and training for staff that help patrons discover the world of reading and viewing. I think Interlibrary loan
woman showing book to young boy
Image Courtesy of Pixabay
(ILL) as another core public library service that might benefit from a comparison to the RA approach for good practice and policy.

Provide a comfortable atmosphere

Friendly, approachable staff work best for patrons asking for any library service - RA or ILL.

Listen to the Individual Reader

The RA interview is about listening to the individual reader and asking questions to draw out what appeals to their reading taste. Listening is a key skill in RA and ILL. The ILL interview can be an important piece of the interlibrary loan process too. Is the patron looking for a specific title or a piece of information that they think is in the title? Open ended questions and the listening for the answers - what information is needed, what format is preferred, and when it is needed - sets up a successful ILL transaction.

ILL doesn’t need to be about limits but about finding the materials patrons need.  When a patron asks for all the Green Bay newspapers from 1880-1930, an ILL interview is in order. You can usually get 6 microfilm reels per request – so how much microfilm does the patron want to go through if that's the only format available? Is there a set of years which is more important first? Is the newspaper digitized and searchable?

Provide the Tools
Girl choosing library item
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

As reader’s advisors look to the OPAC, NoveList, author & reader websites to find suggestions, Wisconsin library staff have WISCAT, WorldCat, and databases to help them serve their patrons. Does your library's website provide patron access to reader's advisory tools? And are you providing links to give your patrons the ILL tools as well as your interlibrary loan policies/procedures?

Train Staff

For reader's advisory and interlibrary loan, staff need to be trained to be comfortable, skilled, and non-judgmental. As a pioneer in RA, Betty Rosenberg’s First Law of Reading was “Never apologize for your reading tastes” (Genreflecting, 1982). For ILL services, do all your staff know what ILL services your library provides and are they trained to be comfortable, skilled, and nonjudgmental when offering those services? Has your staff used your ILL services to experience it from a patron's point of view? Personally, I love a good romance and like many genre readers when I find an author I enjoy/love/trust, I want more books by that author (okay, maybe all the books by her) and ILL has been a great way to track down many a classic.

RA is also a team effort. Know when to call on your colleagues for help. For ILL, Wisconsin has a great team to help you find and fill your patrons' interlibrary loan requests. Know the experts at your System and/or at Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning (RL&LL) when you need the team effort.

Promotion of your service

For reader's advisory and interlibrary loan, let your patrons know what great services are available at your library. Embrace your readers and ILL patrons, and enjoy yourself by helping them to use your core library services.

Written by: 
Maureen Welch, Indianhead Library System