Serving Readers’ Advisory Realness at the Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library is offering a rad, unique, and extremely helpful Readers’ Advisory service that I just had to try out for myself. It’s called Your Next 5 Books. All you have to do is fill out their quick and easy form, tell the librarian what you’re interested in reading, and they send you, you guessed it, a list of five books they think you’ll like. I sent them the following statement:

My favorite book is Weetzie Bat, I just finished the Diviners by Libba Bray (an ARC, about 1920s NYC+occultism). I enjoy GLBTQ lit, magic realism, and anything by Francesca Lia Block.
I’m not against Sci-Fi, but it’s not my favorite. I tend to like dark, dark fiction, but am open to non-fiction.

Within just a few hours (amazing turn-around time, librarians! Way to hustle!) I got the list of the following five books (all the images and summaries come from the SPL website):

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: “Orphan Sue Trinder is raised by pick-pocket ‘fingersmiths’ and becomes involved in a scam to defraud Maud Lilly, a young heiress. Sue begins to have serious misgivings about the plan, when she discovers she has fallen in love with Maud.”

It won a Lambda Literary Award in 2002!

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland: “Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is locked away in the Wildthorn Hall mental institution, where she is stripped of her identity and left to wonder who has tried to destroy her life.

Sounds SUPER creepy. My favorite.

Shine by Lauren Myracle: “When her best friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover the culprits in her small North Carolina town.”

On the “I meant to read but never did” list. #badlibrarian

Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand: “It is 1978. Merle is in her first year at the Corcoran School of Art, catapulted from her impoverished Appalachian upbringing into a sophisticated, dissipated art scene. It is 1870. The teenage poet Arthur Rimbaud is on the verge of breaking through to the images and voice that will make his name. The meshed power of words and art thins the boundaries between the present and the past – and allows these two troubled, brilliant artists to enter each other’s worlds.

I am most skeptical about this one, but I already put it on hold and I’m ready to give it a try. It’s important to grow as a reader!

Tithe by Holly Black: “Sixteen-year-old Kaye, who has been visited by faeries since childhood, discovers that she herself is a magical faerie creature with a special destiny.”

I know, I know. I should have read this ages ago. Please don’t judge me!

I was super impressed with the librarian’s ability to get me five great suggestions, three of which I’d never heard of and all of which I have never read. I put absolutely all of them on hold and I cannot wait to read them.

I think this is a great service and a brilliant idea. Hayden Bass, coordinator of Teen Services at SPL, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the service:

1. Do you have any  anecdotes or success stories concerning this service?
We have a huge file of thank you notes from patrons, although as you might imagine, there are more from adults than from teens.  Here’s one we got today from a teen, though:
“Oh my god i think this is the best list ive ever gotten!!!!!!!!! Theses look amazing! Funny thing, i was at barnes and noble earlier today and i was looking at the book Spoiled, which is the last one on this list! Thank you so much!!!!!!”
People really love this service, and (for me at least) it’s a huge pleasure to provide–a great way to do reader’s advisory for folks who download e-books or pick up their holds, but rarely interact with us otherwise.

2. How long have you been offering Your Next 5 Books?
About six years ago, our Fiction department began offering personlized reading lists. But they were really long (like, 10 Word doc. pages long sometimes) and took up too much staff time. Eventually the work load was too heavy and they had to stop offering them.
Then we started a pilot program for a shorter, snappier list called Your Next 5 Books and promoted it to teens.  It was successful, and so a year ago we began offering the service for all age levels.

3. About how many queries do you get a day or week?
For teens, we probably get 8-10 a week–more during the summer and school breaks, slightly less during busy times of the school year.  For children, perhaps 5 a week, and for adults more; about 15-20/week.
So, readers, does your library offer anything similar? What do you think about the book suggestions SPL gave me?
Thanks for reading!
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

16 thoughts on “Serving Readers’ Advisory Realness at the Seattle Public Library

  1. Chris Lassen

    Radiant Days is straight up one of my favorite books of this year. The writing is gorgeous! You’ll love it!

  2. I tried this after seeing your post and this service is TOPS. I had the same experience of getting 5 great sounding titles that I have never heard of before. And the librarian also made a list in their OPAC of all the formats for each title. This isn’t my library, but if it was this list would be extra awesome.

    1. It’s incredible in so many ways. I had a good experience just using it as a NY-er, but you’re right. If you’re a SPL user, they’ve made it so easy for you to get hold of the books you want in the format you like.

  3. dearwatsonblog

    this service is fantastic! and i now want to read each of the recommended books… especially ‘wildthorn’. i’d love to know if you enjoy them after you’ve had a chance to read them.

    1. Hey! I just read your blog today!
      I have read all of them so far except for Shine and Fingersmith.
      Wildthorn was very enjoyable. YA book about old timey mental institutions? Sign me up.
      Radiant Days is my favorite so far. I cannot believe I
      hadn’t read it. You should totally check it out. It is *so* beautiful.
      Thanks for reading!

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