We’ve made it almost all the way through February, but love is still in the air at the library… love of books, anyhow! Really, though, library folks have a year-round love affair with reading. While a modern library is many things beyond a place to borrow books, connecting the right person with the right book at the right time is still one of the great joys of library work. In the biz, we call it Reader’s Advisory—the conversation with a patron in which staff learn about a library user’s likes, dislikes, and what they’re looking for today, then make some suggestions for books we hope they’ll click with. For me, a successful Reader’s Advisory session is a reminder of why I love my job, and if the patron comes back and tells me how they liked my suggestions, that’s the cherry on top. 

Librarians use a variety of tools when recommending books, and take whole classes in library school where we learn how to have those conversations. We study the history of literature, genres, and popular reading interests. We keep up with publishing trends, new authors, and reviews in order to make sure we have the books you’re looking for. So please, step right up to the library desk and ask for a recommendation.  

Now, you might think that someone who knows a lot about books would be inclined to have opinions about what people should be reading. You might even be worried your favorite books might not meet with a Librarian’s approval. Never fear! The reality is just the opposite. We know enough to know that there is no right or wrong type of book or reader. We just want you to be happy and read what you love! 

A library professional’s ethics are deeply rooted in providing access, not passing judgement. Any inclination toward snobbery or jumping to conclusions about a reader’s reasons for borrowing a book is antithetical to the work we do. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and personal opinions (and we may get very excited when we meet someone who likes to read the same kinds of things we do) but if your interests don’t align with mine, that is none of my business. I’ll help you find whatever it is and make some suggestions for similar titles you could check out next time. On top of that, I’ll be grateful to you for teaching me more about a genre I don’t gravitate toward on my own. There’s always more to learn, especially in a library. 

When I’m looking for books in a genre I don’t know well or making a list of read-alikes for a book I haven’t read, I often turn to the Novelist database. You can use Novelist at the library or log in at home with your library card number for fiction or nonfiction book recommendations based on other books you’ve liked or qualities you are looking for, like genre, writing style, pace, even things like author’s nationality. Novelist also provided suggestions in the library’s catalog. When you’re viewing a record for an individual book, scroll down and you’ll see a row of suggestions labeled “More Like This.” It is a bit like browsing a display in the library. 

If you’d like someone else to make some suggestions, but you prefer an online experience, you can use JCLS Discovery. Just fill out a survey letting us know what you’re looking for, and our staff will send you a list of suggestions. You can turn around and place holds on whichever titles look good to you. We’ll let you know when your choices are ready to pick up at your library branch. 

People who work in libraries are genuinely delighted when we get to dabble in a bit of literary matchmaking. If you’re looking for a book to fall in love with, or even just in search of a new book-friend, please ask at the library for a recommendation. We promise we’ll encourage your interests, support your search, and cheer you on all the way.