Sunday, June 12, 2016

Readers' Advisory Online Trendsetter Multnomah County Library

 "One of the biggest trends in RA education has been catalyzed by experimentation with RA online, which has necessitated not only teaching new skills to readers’ advisors, but also often enlisting new staff to be trained in RA to provide the service. Many recent conference presentations—a common form of education for RA practitioners—have focused on moving RA online, especially on social media. Despite focused professional attention, this trend is still in early stages; Burke and Strothmann recently found that although librarians who have experimented with online RA receive positive feedback from patrons and improve the quality of their RA service, “libraries that offer robust online RA services remain a minority,” with only 17.6 percent of public libraries in their study’s sample having a RA page on their website. A prominent recent example is the My Librarian program, launched by the Multnomah County Library after extended research, a successful initiative to bridge the gap between online patrons and readers’ advisors. 

House writes that “My Librarian takes a big step toward humanizing the online library experience.” MCL is a system with a strong commitment to RA education, and has a full roster of internal practitioner-led education that supports the My Librarian program, according to Reader Services Librarian Alison Kastner. 
While an in-house RA 101 class is required for all Information Services staff at MCL, they also offer a full “menu” of other RA classes to their staff. As in MCL, initiatives to bring RA online are usually developed by practitioners, and all education for them is created by the library system. In addition, education around RA online cannot just address the practice of RA but also has to address the technological skills needed to move RA online, which often presents an equal barrier."