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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

You Can Use The Words of Others to Booktalk

Starting tomorrow and a half dozen times over the next 45 days, I am going to be promoting the idea of booktalking-- all over the library-- to many different organizations across a few different states.

I love talking about booktalking as much as I love booktalking. My booktalking training is one of my favorite and most popular programs. You know why? Because every single person on staff at your library can booktalk. Everyone. From the maintenance crew to the Director.

In my program I share stories about specific libraries who have cultivated a culture of booktalking at their library. But the basic idea is, anyone on staff can and should talk about what they are reading, watching, and listening to with each other or with patrons-- out loud for others to hear. As long as the things you are talking about are something that can be checked out from the library. Even new movies are good to talk about at work because they will be available at some point and you can use them to start a conversation about other movies or books.

The point is that booktalking is not only about hand selling a title to a specific patron based on their likes and dislikes. Rather, booktalking is a way to start conversations at the library. When you talk about leisure items at the library freely, openly, and often, you are both demonstrating that you care about leisure items AND advertising that you are qualified to help patrons find some themselves.

This is a concept I spend a a good 30 minutes developing in this program, but today on the blog I want to point out something I have learned after presenting a version of this program for three years now. I have found that many library workers don’t want to talk about what they are reading or watching. There reasons are valid and fair for sure. Some cite privacy concerns, especially those whose job is not at a public desk; they don’t want to have to share what they do in their free time. Others rightly comment that they are reading, for example, erotic romance, and work at the Children's’ desk most of the day [this has come up enough that I think you might want to ask your youth staff if they have any suggestions here]. Still others say, I want to talk about the book I just read, but I am not comfortable finding the right words.

For all of these reasons, and just so you can share books you haven’t read, I have what I thought was common sense advice, but through training after training I am learning is quite a revolutionary idea--

Use the words of others when you booktalk!

I just assumed people knew that a “book talk” didn’t need to also be written by them. I was wrong to assume.

Yes, you heard me. You don’t have to write the words about the book you are talking about, heck you don’t even have to have read it. The point of the booktalk isn’t to prove you have a great way with words. The point is to talk about an item...period.

One of my 10 Rules of RA Service is “Use Resources.” We have trained patrons for over 100 years that librarians do not know the answers to every question, rather we know how to find the answers. We use resources. Guess what, we can use them for leisure reading too. As long as we are honest that the words are not ours, it’s fine. In fact, it is better than fine. It is what we are best at. Its what our patrons expect us to do.

That’s right. Many of you think your patrons will be disappointed in you if you “read” a booktalk. Why do you think that? You read them answers about reference questions. They don’t expect you to pull facts about North Korea out of thin air. Here’s the truth, we put this pressure on ourselves. Our patrons expect us to use resources. So stop giving yourself more stress and more work to do. Use resources!

So where can you find booktalk material? Reviews, professional or from Goodreads, blurbs from other authors [check Fantastic Fiction for those], other libraries’ websites, book lists, etc.... Heck, I ever pull books of the shelf and read the blurbs and summary off the back with the patron. You can read all of these to a patron and say, “Wow, this book looks so interesting. Here’s what someone who enjoyed it says.” This is a book talk! You are starting a conversation about books by using the words of others.

I often keep the conversation going with the patron here by adding, “Well I will put that on my mountain of a TBR pile. What about you? What are you reading?”

Using resources for your booktalking material means you can talk about ANY BOOK AT ANY TIME. You have no limits now.

This also goes hand in hand with yesterday’s post when I talked about owning up to us not doing everything we can to curate and promote diverse collections. Another excuse some library workers make as a reason for their failure in this is that they don’t have time to read all the diverse titles, and that is why they don’t promote them. While I think this excuse is BS, this concept of using reviews and book talks by others counters this excuse. Now you can freely talk about any title in the world. 

I hope my sharing this advice encourages all of you to get out there and talk about more books with patrons, especially those you haven’t read yourself.

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