Barry Trott, Director of Adult Services at the Williamsburg, Virginia Regional Library http://www.wrl.org/ led a lively discussion on how to enhance and expand reader's advisory services by implementing a form based reader's advisory on the web.
Some reasoning behind developing a form based reading suggestion service include; too few patrons asking for help choosing books, staff don't get enough practice doing RA and it allows for a more comfortable environment when it isn't face to face, reinforces that RA is not a ready reference process, documents the RA process and readers love it!
Benefits of a form based reading suggestion service include; creates a connection between staff and patrons, gives patrons the vocabulary to make their reading choices coherent, melds technology with service, provides the time and information to successfully respond to RA questions, enhances circulation of collection, particularly older items an less-known writers, and aids in collection development.
Implementation of a form based reading suggestion service requires a team willing to put aside personal bias and suggest books that fit readers, understanding the differences between genres, familiarity with resources available for researching books and authors and good communication skills. Design a form that allows open ended questions, avoid jargon and set a non-judgmental tone. Forms should be made available in paper and online. Respond to the form in a predetermined time allotment, compose responses based on a template, provide a mix of suggestions, both old and new as well as ones that 'stretch' the reader. Documenting and following up transactions allows for excellent customer service and provides the library with statistics on the reading community that can help shape programs and services.
For an example form- www.wrl.org/bookweb/ra/index.html
Reader's Advisory Tips:
Don't treat RA questions as secondary (no cringing)
Use signage indicating RA is something we do
Seek out readers in the stacks
Keep reading lists handy-in print and online
Promote RA in library newsletters
Use displays-mix fiction and non-fiction
Develop quick read alike lists for high demand materials
Sites you may want to explore;