Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thanks, OALT!

I had a great time in Hamilton on Friday, presenting at the OALT conference (slides here). I am always happy to see a room packed for a readers' advisory session: in this case, we had to round up some extra chairs, even! It's nice to see that people are interested in and enthusiastic about learning how to be a better readers' advisor.

A few interesting things from the trip: I was speaking with one library technician who said that, at her library, they are not supposed to "recommend" books, but "suggest" them. To be devil's advocate, I asked drily, what's the difference? I understand her library is afraid people are going to come back and complain if they recommend something that the person doesn't like. For heaven's sake, is that how low we've stooped now? What's next: suing someone for recommending a book you hated? Apparently they're all very careful about saying, "if you liked that, you might like..."

There was also a considerable amount of interest in tools like What Should I Read Next? and WhichBook, which are certainly neat little tools, but are not, in my mind, tools for library professionals. There's no Magic 8 Ball that can replace good title and genre knowledge: no one is saying you have to read everything, you just have to know a bit about everything. To that end, my six indispensable RA tools for staff to build their own knowledge were: Library Journal, Booklist (Likely Stories being my blog of choice there, especially their features like Reading the Screen), Bookninja, the Reader’s Advisor Online blog (and its brilliant RA Run Down each week), Guardian Books (can't live without the Digested reads), and CBC Books. I also talked about LibraryThing and other social tools to organise your own reading. The second part of my presentation focused on ideas for your library: how to reach readers, share reading recommendations, and invite them in to share their own reading recommendations.

I hope people got something out of all this; we ran out of time for questions because of a mix-up about what time we needed to be out of the room, but a few people did come up to me in the hall for more conversation, which was lovely. A big, giant, hearty thank you to the wonderfully welcoming Kate Morrisson, Stella Clark and Liz Aldrey, for inviting me, helping to organise my travel, feeding me lunch, and even dropping me off at the (charming Art Deco) GO station.

I went to Hamilton and back in the same day, which means a shout-out is also due to Porter Airlines. I love you, Porter. Seriously. Because you exist, I can get up at 6 am, take a 9 am flight, get to Hamilton at noon, leave again at 3:30 pm, get a 6:45 pm flight, and be in Ottawa again by 7:45. OK, it's a little tiring, but it is nice to be in your own bed.

I also received the lovely thank you gift pictured below, a representation of Hamilton Mountain by local artist Lara Aikin of Jaded Dragon Studios in Burlington.

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