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[Welcome] This presentation will discuss how a public library can enhance adult reading experience through knowledge of and engagement with both sides of the reading relationship.
How can libraries enhance reading in ways that bookshops and the Internet cannot? They can do so through demonstrating two qualities: knowledge and engagement. Knowledge - Library staff are intelligent men and women, usually with a passion for library work and helping library users. Librarians are experts at gathering knowledge and this knowledge can be used to the benefit of readers. Engagement - This refers to meaningful interaction and can be applied to three distinct groups which will be shown in the next slide. Real interaction is something that bookshops and websites do not offer but that libraries can. Knowledge and engagement are the Unique Selling Points of libraries. This presentation will discuss how to apply these qualities to the enhancement of adult reading.
Shiyali Ranganathan was a philosopher and librarian. His biggest contribution to libraries is his Five Laws of Library Science. These laws can be seen to represent the two sides of the reading relationship: sides that library staff can demonstrate knowledge of and engagement with. [Click through animation] The first three of Ranganathan’s laws refer to the books. The last three refer to the reader. The last law refers to the library as an organism within an ecosystem. That ecosystem is the world beyond the library doors: a larger society made up of readers. No library is an island.
This is the most important group. A good knowledge of books and a willingness to dive into the realm of books is essential for anyone who wants to help others’ reading. So how can librarians use their knowledge of books and their engagement with books to enhance the reading experience of library users?
“ Only connect”. The motto of E. M. Forster’s novel Howards End: a simple declaration that everything can be connected; that everything is tied to everything else. Another law of library science could be ‘Every book is connected’. Knowledge of books begins with a knowledge of the myriad interconnections between books. Threads of genre, themes, tropes, characters, publishers, authors, metaphors, settings, and moods tie all books together in a web of knowledge. Take for example Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol , a recent bestseller. [Click through animation. Explain connections as they come up] Knowledge of the connectedness of all books can serve to enhance reading in a number of ways.
Amazon chooses to enhance its customers’ reading by recommending connected titles. Amazon’s software lets readers follow the trail of breadcrumbs left by other readers as they make their way through the labyrinthine passages of literature. Librarians can fulfil this role in a more interpersonal way: chatting to readers, not being afraid to make suggestions, acting as guides through the labyrinth. For this, knowledge of the books goes hand in hand with knowledge of the reader. Ross (2001) investigates the psychology behind why people choose books: it is important for librarians to understand this reasoning to help enhance reading by navigating readers along the right course. (Can be linked to reader engagement further in presentation)
There’s nothing worse than a book display without any knowledge put into it: books grouped by the colour of their covers or by the presence of a keyword in their title. Such displays mean that readers end up literally judging a book by its cover. Books should be displayed intelligently based on connectedness. Demonstrate knowledge in the presentation of the books. Van Riel et al. (2008) recommend displaying popular books with the covers outwards to catch the eye and break up the monotony of library shelving. It can also be a good idea to set up presentation tables like in modern bookshops.
The books are one component of the reading relationship: the reader is the other. Knowledge of and engagement with readers is key to enhancing what is after all THEIR reading experience. Part of this is understanding reader psychology as mentioned previously; part of it is engaging with the reader to gain knowledge of their needs. Sometimes readers know how to enhance their reading better than librarians do. Davis (2008) represents a good example of engaging with a reading group. With her group of uneducated readers, Davis listened to them, understood their needs, and respected their intelligence. [Display quote] Engage with the reader to learn what they want and then use knowledge of the books to facilitate and enhance that. If a reader wants to read Tennyson, move heaven and earth to get them some Tennyson and then be ready with a list of other Victorian Romantic poets.
Reading is often a solitary activity. Librarians can enhance reading experiences by making it a community activity. [Display quote] Engage with people to bring them together. Chat to people. If you know of two people who like the same books, get them chatting. Hold reading events: coffee mornings, reading groups, poetry readings, discussion. Engagement with groups of people enhances the reading experience of every individual in the group and makes the library the centre of a reading community.
[The image on this slide would point to whichever library was interviewing me] Libraries and their users don’t exist in isolation. Readers inhabit larger society and this impacts their reading experiences every day. Librarians can use knowledge of current events to enhance users’ reading: they can engage with the world to ensure that reading isn’t a musty anachronism but that it is current and important.
Take the recent allegations that Gordon Brown bullied Downing Street staff. The story came out of a book – Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party. A reader engaged with current affairs will have their reading experience informed by this story. A librarian can facilitate this by using their knowledge to prepare some engaged and current titles. [Click through titles] Political intrigue novels, political memoirs, political non-fiction: any of these can cater to political scandal. A librarian simply needs to engage with the wider world and then use their knowledge of the books to recommend and display them.
[Click through slide and summarise what has been said]
Enhancing Reading Presentation
Ways of enhancing adult reading experiences Knowledge & Engagement and The Reading Relationship
Knowledge Library staff are intelligent men and women, usually with a passion for library work and helping library users. Librarians are experts at gathering knowledge and this knowledge can be used to the benefit of readers. Engagement This refers to meaningful interaction. Real interaction is something that bookshops and websites do not offer but that libraries can.
Books Reader Ranganathan’s Five Laws The Reading Relationship
The Books A good knowledge of books and a willingness to dive into the realm of books is essential for anyone who wants to help others’ reading
“ Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” - E. M. Forster, Howards End Freemasonry Cryptography
<ul><li>Recommendation </li></ul><ul><li>To make insightful recommendations you need: </li></ul><ul><li>To know the books </li></ul><ul><li>To engage with the books </li></ul><ul><li>To know the reader </li></ul><ul><li>To engage with the reader </li></ul>Amazon does this with software. Librarians need to do it in person.
The Reader Knowledge of and engagement with readers is key to enhancing their reading experience. “ So when are you bringing all the good stuff. Shakespeare? Tolstoy? The poshknobs have all the best stuff. Why can’t we try it?” – A reader in Davis (2008).
A community of readers “ We have searched for wayward brothers and sisters, evaded wolves, lost friends and learned how to make new ones. We have laughed, cried, shaken with fright, and shivered with delight. And best of all, we did it together. Along the way we discovered something about the universality of human experience – that we, too, have many of the hopes and fears of the people we read about.” – Trelease (1982).
Readers in the world Readers inhabit larger society and this impacts their reading experiences every day: what they read; how they read; why they read; where they read; where they get books from
The End of the Party – Andrew Rawnsley Servants of the People – Andrew Rawnsley The Ghost – Robert Harris The Blair Years – Alastair Campbell Engaging with current events
Enhancing reading through knowledge and engagement The Books Appreciation of connectedness Insightful recommendations Intelligent and provocative displays The Reader Listening to their needs Developing a community Engaging with current events