Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sharing Knowledge - Volunteer Reader Development Training

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to be involved in many interesting projects within the Wiltshire Library Service. During the Autumn I received an email from our volunteer co-ordinator asking myself and a colleague to develop and roll out training at our volunteer aided libraries of which there are ten in Wiltshire. Twice a year volunteers are invited to a coffee morning with professional staff to receive training, it also provides a chance for feedback and dialogue between volunteers and staff. The training we were to provide was to enable the volunteers to confidently talk about books in the library and provide resources to help them improve their knowledge and help answer simple enquiries e.g. the next in a series or authors of the same genre.

Reader development has always been an area of interest to me but seems to be a dying part of library services in an age of technologies and budget cuts. This project gave me a chance to explore this area more thoroughly in order to provide insight on resources that could help volunteers when fielding enquiries and getting them involved in the idea of a “reader-centred library”, a phrase coined by Rachel Van Riel of Opening the Book notoriety. A couple of obstacles that we had to keep in mind were that not all training sessions were held in libraries and also that the number of volunteers that attended varied dramatically between five and twenty.

After an initial ideas session we came up with a basic format for the half an hour session. We wanted to keep it as informal and participatory as possible and so began with an icebreaker to get the participants talking about the books that they enjoy reading for the first five minutes with a chance for feedback to the group. Trying to stop this conversation in some libraries proved troublesome but at least we have enthusiastic volunteers! This then flowed into a conversation on why we as a library service value readers and the importance of being able to communicate this love with our readership... it reminds me of a phrase we used to use when I worked at Habitat which was “Our product is our passion”, cheesy but it gets the point across! We also felt it important to point out the difference on the way we work as oppose to bookshops. For instance we do not have multiple copies of bestsellers, forty copies of The Casual Vacancy were ordered in to satisfy a reservation list of nearly seventy over the thirty-five libraries in our county. It is not in our interest to buy multiple copies as a book shop would do but paying at 80p reservation charge is not as bad as paying £12.99 for a book you’ll only read once. So unlike book shops we rely on our customer service and other stock, not just best sellers, to keep our readership interested. We take into consideration our readership when ordering stock; we talk to them and display stock in such a way as to enable readers to explore new authors and genres.

The final part of the training was running through a list of resources found in the library both in hard copy and online which would help volunteers to help with reader enquiries and recommendations. Resources such as Who Else Writes Like, Fantastic Fiction, Books and Media and even Amazon which can help find authors and titles.

There was also the option of a practical exercise if time allowed and volunteers were enthusiastic which was a crate of books picked out for display with a couple of obvious stand outs e.g contemporary literature with a couple of aga sagas thrown in such as a Linda Page or an Emma Blair which would facilitate conversation about what is appropriate to display and how we put displays together. This could be seen to echo some of the frontline training provided by Opening the Book which was adopted by local authorities.

All the information communicated in the session was contracted into two easy to follow handouts and added to each of the volunteer libraries handbooks. There was a handout on resources and one with practical tips on book displays so volunteers went away with the information and those who were unable to attend coffee mornings did not miss out.

Due to staff and timing constraints I was only able to deliver the training in one venue but there was a group of four Librarians who delivered the training to the ten volunteer libraries, supported by the Community Librarian of that area. This went surprisingly well with a good discussion of reading habits and recommendations and the volunteers responded positively to the information they were given. From what I gather of the other training sessions this was true across the board but with the session only lasting half an hour and the mixture of people delivering the sessions were also unique to the volunteers that attended, making them more memorable.

This was a first for me in terms of devising and rolling out library training and it was good to have a group of experienced librarians to go to for advice and guidance. There was also the obstacle of producing this for an audience of volunteers who were not aware of library jargon especially when talking about concepts such as “reader-centred” libraries and explaining the key term of reader development. It also gave me the opportunity to work closer with other members of the library service who I may not necessarily see very often which will help me in future projects. I really enjoyed my time on this project and am glad that it was received in a positive light. Following the project through from inception to delivery took three months which meant balancing it with other core responsibilities which I felt I handled well and I look forward to the next opportunity.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

December Book Reviews

The sequel to the intensity of everyday life picks up with the residents of Edenfield 8 years on from the happenings of the previous novel.
Familiar characters have new dilemmas, younger characters have grown older and in most cases more precocious... but they're all looking for the elusive emotion of love.

Any Nicholson story is a treat for me and gobbled this one down in less than a week... easily readable with rounded characters and real live dialogue... simple and life affirming and perfect for a winter's evening curling up with a glass of vino!
A disease has wiped out all the people on earth apart from 82 people in a village in Surrey - one of whom happens to be the only person to engineer a cure for Hav3n! 

When Michael retruns with the vaccine the people of Little Sheen have to learn how to survive in a world where they are the only inhabitants and much rests on the shoulders of the 4 teenagers of the village.

Are you part of the church gang or the Wheatsheaf gang? When you're the only people in the world is it easier to keep order? it would appear not! 

A nice change from the distopia/vampire fiction that is drowning the YA market at the moment... and a stand alone to boot!

A necessity for homemade Christmas presents and novice preserve makers! I made blueberry and lime jam and lemon and ginger marmalade from the recipes found and they were really easy to follow. Was also brilliant to read the advice about testing for sets and how to properly sterilise jars... v useful!

 I've always wanted to read Pepys' Diary but when seeing the epic-ness of it I thought this may be the next best thing!

Bastable recreates Pepys' world using extracts from Pepys' own diary and those of his contemporaries... very readable and easy to digest!

A teen series I've been meaning to read for a while, when I realised there was a graphic novel I thought it would be a brilliant way to get started! 

After being orphaned, James is taken to an Orphanage... what he doesn't know is he has been head hunted by CHERUB... the youth section of MI5 - no-one suspects a child of espionage... James gets put to the test in his first mission but will his naivety get the better of him?

The first of The City trilogy... an adult novel from Darren Shan. Capac gets off the train in the city to begin the gangster life he's always been dreaming of... his Uncle Theo starts to show him the ropes but when he is gunned down in front of Capac everything changes... the only person that matters in the city is The Cardinal and Capac is on his way to meet him!

As Capac fins his way in the city with his new mentor not everything is quite as it seems... violent, gritty and magical at times this will keep you wanting more!

After reading Howard's End is on the Landing I felt the need to read this story but I found myself getting lost very easily.

 Mayor follows the Rector's Daughter Mary and her life in Deadmayne. She lives a life of servitude and duty whilst everyone around her finds happiness... A unique writing style but I doubt I'll be diving in again any time soon

A selection of Christmas stories from Phinn's Dales books... if these stories do not lighten your heart you're basically dead inside. A brilliant way of getting into the festive spirit!