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.