Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lists and Librarianship

Librarians, I have found, love lists. There's something satisfying about an ordered compilation of information to those of us who are inclined to categorize and organize. To good librarians, though, lists are a lot more than attractive, accessible bits of information: lists are remarkably useful tools.

Lists have helped me to perform my job better on more occasions than I could reasonably expect to remember. I go to lists of Youth Media Award winners when I'm looking for outstanding children's media across the decades; I go to ALA's lists of frequently challenged books (organized by year, author, frequency of challenges, etc.) when I am preparing displays on censorship or for Banned Books Week; and I use the yearly Notables lists to assess my branch's collection and whether I am offering my young readers access to the best materials. In both the children's and young adult departments of my branch, we use the lists of books nominated for Missouri Readers Awards to order and display the books that local teachers encourage their students to read. And goodness knows we'd be in serious trouble if we didn't have in our collections the books on the weekly NYT and independent bestsellers lists! Without all of these lists, we'd have plenty of kids, teens, and adults coming into the library and then leaving empty-handed because we hadn't anticipated demand. Lists help librarians make sure we have what our customers want to read, and they help guide us in displaying these highly-desire items.

Lists do a lot more, however, than just inform collection development and influence where we display items. Lists are a HUGE help in providing quality readers' advisory services, especially when you work a shared reference desk. I read a lot of juvenile and teen literature, but I cannot rely on my own reading knowledge when an adult who loves mysteries comes to the desk asking for some reading suggestions. Instead, I look once again to lists: lists of Read Alikes from NoveList; genre awards lists; the LibraryThing book tag word clouds and recommendations for a favorite or recently-enjoyed title. The list of lists, as it were, could go on and on. All of these lists help me and my colleagues to serve our customers better.

Ah, customers. It always comes back to them, right? Have you noticed that customers love lists, too? I have tons of library regulars of all ages who will gobble up anything and everything that is on a list, so long as they deem that list reputable. They don't necessarily want to read everything on their aunt's best-reads list, but they will happily read everything that a favorite book blogger or author recommends. Knowing the sorts of recommended reading lists that are out there and offering them to your patrons can be a great way to engage voracious readers and reach out to customers who don't come to the reference desk to ask for help choosing a book (indirect RA, yay!). A few lists we're currently loving at my library:

Last but not least, lists can help librarians with more than just their books. They can help with ideas, with programming, and with all of the odds-and-ends bits of any library job. Online just updated their list of the 100 Best Blogs for School Librarians--and really, this list of phenomenal blogs, curated by broad topic, is applicable to anyone who works with kids and teens in any setting. I've only spent a small amount of time looking through some of the listed blogs, but already I've added a number of them to my Google Reader. There are some real winners on that list.

There are so many ideas for librarians out there, folks. All of that information and inspiration could easily become overwhelming, but luckily for us so much of it is compiled into organized, thoughtful, lovely, and accessible lists.

What are some of your go-to lists that help you shine at your job?

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