Article submitted to the Bellingham Bulletin by Library Director Charlotte Rabbitt, August 2006

Putting the ‘RA’ back in LIBRARY or What Do We Read Next?

In October of 2005 the Bellingham Public Library filed its 2006-2010 Long Range Plan with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. This made the library eligible to receive grants funded by the federal government through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. LSTA (Library Services and Technology ACT) grants are designed to fund library projects that the town, region or state cannot possible afford to do. Cecily Christensen, Reference and Adult Services Librarian at the library prepared and filed a complicated grant proposal in March of 2006 and we were awarded a $10,000 grant on July 17th. It was exciting news for the library and we have a busy year ahead. The project begins in October 2006 and ends in October 2007. *It must be noted that the grant is provisional; it is dependent upon the yearly LSTA funding to be approved in the federal budget.

What does this mean for Bellingham? And what is ‘RA’? RA is an acronym for Reader’s Advisory. Simplified, this basically means this: matching the appropriate book with a specific reader. All of us here at the library tend to be readers and our tastes are very different. As a first step in a new customer service focus at the Bellingham Public Library we have installed a Staff Recommends display. These one-hundred recommended books are going out on a regular basis. Bookstores learned this technique long ago. Readers are often looking for just that spark to excite them about a new author, a new topic or a new genre. This is just the enthusiasm behind book discussions like Oprah’s, the Today Show or neighborhood groups. Spreading the love of a book and the love of reading is infectious.

The grant we have received will fund training for the library staff, print and electronic resources to further enhance our knowledge, workshops for the staff and the public and other components of the project. Library staff will learn how to go the extra mile for library users who are looking for particular titles or who are hoping to step outside of their own reading comfort. We will participate in in-depth examinations of genre literature (mysteries, non-fiction, etc.) We will improve our skills in the use of print and electronic resources; inotherwords, we will learn how to go beyond the Google search. We will invite authors to visit the library and hold these visits open to the public. We will spend some of this funding on increasing our collections in areas we have been uncertain about.

‘Reader’s Advisory’ is one of those library terms like ‘information literacy’ and ‘bibliographic instruction’ and ‘collection development’ that crosses the eyes of those listening to librarian-speak. ‘What Do I Read Next’ are words that every reader understands. We hope that by the fall of 2007 any one of you who comes to a librarian at this library will get an answer to that question and that we will put a book that you will love into your hands.


 
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