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Readers' Advisory In The Engineering Library

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

“And Other Duties as Assigned”

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1007.1 - 14.1007.8



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Paper Authors

author page

Scott Curtis Linda Hall Library

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Readers’ Advisory in the Engineering Library


Traditionally, librarians view readers’ advisory (RA) as a public library function, geared toward recommending fiction and focused around genre studies. This paper argues that an active RA program would provide engineering librarians with a tool to help students broaden their scientific, technical, and social perspectives beyond their course and project work. Many colleges and universities require student cohorts to participate in campus reading programs; RA in the engineering library would go beyond these community reads to promote directed casual reading across disciplines. The many techniques explored by public library RA librarians can be effectively translated for use in a nonfiction, technical literature environment. For example, at Linda Hall Library, we have adapted RA techniques and used them for selection of works for our Periodic Roundtable book discussions. In engineering, practitioners implement technologies with intention and consequence to human society. For this reason, we should programmatically encourage casual reading in addition to academic reading as part of the educational process for engineers.

Readers’ Advisory: Background

Readers' Advisory (RA) encompasses a range of librarian activities with the goal of encouraging library users to become active recreational readers. Bill Crowley, in his essay “A History of Readers' Advisory Service in the Public Library,” states that RA

“ best understood as an organized program promoting both fiction and non-fiction discretionary reading for the dual purposes of satisfying reader needs and advancing a culture's goal of a literate population.”1

RA can involve both indirect promotion, such as the creation of book displays in the library and booklists using web tools such as GoodReads, and direct interaction with the library users to help them find a suitable book or article. The key factor that distinguishes RA from other reference transactions in the academic environment appears to be the intended use of the materials the users seek to access. For reference purposes, the user wants to satisfy some scholarly or imperative information need, the implication being that satisfaction of this need nets the user some gain in knowledge. RA, on the other hand, does not have an immediately recognizable gaining principle; the user seeks materials for personal entertainment.

Interest and enthusiasm for RA has waxed and waned over much of the 20th Century. While in the United States public librarian interest in finding appropriate leisure reading materials for patrons dates to the nineteenth century, the beginnings of a readers' advisory movement can be traced to a 1920's American Library Association program titled “Reading with a Purpose.” This program produced a series of bibliographic essays that each provided an introduction to a topic, followed by recommendations of eight to twelve books to read, sometimes in an intended reading order.2 Over time, conceptions of RA changed from the

Curtis, S. (2009, June), Readers' Advisory In The Engineering Library Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4886

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