On Reader’s Advisory

W Bivens-Tatum. (2008, October 23). Academic reader’s advisory [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.princeton.edu/librarian/2008/10/academic_readers_advisory/

In a blog post titled “Academic Reader’s Advisory,” Princeton University librarian Wayne Bivens-Tatum muses about the role of readers advisory in an academic library. He writes that “helping people find books they want to read” is not something that happens regularly in academic libraries. He recounts the one time in his career where an instructor wanted suggestions of popular books on a specific topic to recommend to students. At that time, Bivens-Tatum writes that he looked for resources compiled by public librarians, and regarded these reader’s advisory lists with wonder and amazement. The author provides a counterpoint, writing that academic librarians technically do perform reader’s advisory during research consultations by “dispensing some advice on what to read.” However, he says this is not the same as in a public library, mostly because of the different levels of patron satisfaction that result after a successful reader’s advisory consultation in the two settings.

This post does not express a particularly strong point of view, it’s more of an observation, but I still find myself relating to the author. When I set out to find literature about reader’s advisory in academic libraries, I did not know how much I would find (a search in the Library Lit scholarly database returned exactly 3 results, none of which were relevant to my task). Bivens-Tatum similarly questions reader’s advisory in academic libraries, writing that he “almost put a question mark after the title” of his blog post. I also relate to the author’s questioning of the nature of reader’s advisory in academic libraries. Does reader’s advisory have to be about popular materials? Must it lead to the patron being excited to read the materials the librarian recommends? Or is reader’s advisory simply any act of recommending any material to a reader? I share Biven-Tatum’s belief that while academic librarians do advise readers, giving reading advice during research consultations is not the same as “reader’s advisory” as it occurs in public libraries or with popular materials.


K M Klipfel. (2013, October 3). On reading: Should academic librarians be doing reader’s advisory? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://rulenumberoneblog.com/2013/10/03/on-reading-should-academic-librarians-be-doing-readers-advisory/

After sharing a story of his lifelong love of reading, author Kevin Michael Klipfel discusses the tension between loving books and being a librarian. He notes that the “worst thing” someone can write in their library school application is “that you want to be a librarian because you love to read” and acknowledges that a love of books does not directly affect his day-to-day work in an academic library. But, Klipfel argues that reader’s advisory, “or the promotion of reading in general,” should be made more important in academic libraries. He cites an article by Pauline Dewan on promoting reading in academic libraries and tries to answer a question inspired by Dewan’s work: “Should [academic librarians] actively be doing readers advisory?” He states that academic libraries should focus more on promoting reading, and that more readers advisory may align with the goals of librarians in different areas of the academic library.

I agree with Klipfel that reading is important and that librarianship as a profession should not dismiss any relationship between librarians and a love of reading. However, I think his blog post lacks the context needed for me to agree with him on better integrating reader’s advisory into academic libraries. The Bivens-Tatum post made it clear to me that university members are not regularly using their libraries for popular materials. In contrast, Klipfel makes it seem like students would welcome more reader’s advisory from their academic libraries, but the libraries are refusing to provide this service. Knowing that libraries are service-oriented and librarians are often trained in finding and recommending materials, I know my generalized interpretation cannot be true. This made me realize that the tension here may have to do with different definitions of what reader’s advisory actually is. It seems that those who work in academic libraries, and are not performing traditional reader’s advisory services, do not have a shared definition of this type of service. It may be that reader’s advisory needs to be more clearly defined in order for academic librarians to answer questions of whether or not reader’s advisory should be a larger part of their library’s service offerings.


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