Staying in Top Genre Shape

Study model helps librarians with readers' advisory

August 24, 2017

Becky Spratford, readers' advisory specialist and founder of RA for All, presenting at “How to Stay in Top Genre Shape.”
Becky Spratford, readers' advisory specialist and founder of RA for All, presenting at “How to Stay in Top Genre Shape.”

When a patron asks you to recommend some bone-chilling new horror novels, but you haven’t read a scary book since the Goosebumps series, what do you do? How do you provide confident readers’ advisory (RA) in genres outside your personal expertise?

Thirty librarians from across the Chicago area gathered with Booklist editors at the Harold Washington branch of Chicago Public Library August 22 to answer those questions and more at “How to Stay in Top Genre Shape.” At the workshop, led by Booklist RA specialist and founder of RA for All Becky Spratford, attendees learned about the process of crafting a genre study model. “You want to ensure success for RA leaders, staff, readers, and, most importantly, patrons,” Spratford said in her opening remarks.

Panelist Karen Toonen, adult services librarian at Naperville (Ill.)  Public Library, praised Adult Reading Round Table’s genre study program, in which librarians meet regularly to learn about popular genres like crime fiction and graphic novels through assignments and discussions. She said she “learned to book talk—get to appeals to hook someone quickly and concisely.”

Spratford, Toonen, and Marlise Schiltz, reader services librarian at St. Charles (Ill.) Public Library, explained how a “workout plan” using personal trainer tools such as Booklist and NoveList database searching would lead to genre fitness success by:

  1. Learning with and from colleagues.
  2. Learning to read outside your comfort zone.
  3. Covering more information together than alone and building camaraderie.
  4. Improving your patron satisfaction.
  5. Increasing your circulation.

The event was live streamed on Facebook, was recorded, and will be available in the September issue of Booklist’s Corner Shelf Newsletter. This workshop was the first of a five-part series of Booklist RA Conversations, sponsored by NoveList. Dates, times, and locations have not been set for the rest of the series, but they will run through July 2018. For more information on Booklist’s live events, visit


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