I got this idea when I found a Goodreads group called Readers Advisory For All which is experimenting with the premise: "we are going to try this out here to see if a social networking site can be useful for future RA work." I was thinking I would join the group and check it all out as well as searching other social networking sites and blogs, and see how that seems to be working? Perhaps some types of networking work better than others? Or maybe it takes too long to get responses, making it useless in real-time? Maybe it's mostly just a good way to find new and better databases or resource-sharing? Or maybe it works super well, like Batman's computer: just ask a question and BLAM there's the answer! Is it just for pros, or just for readers, or both?
Gina Sheridan and Anna Huckeby, in their Tumblr article “Readers’ Advisory in a Mobile, Social World”, exemplify this very issue, asking, “Traditional RA gathers information from in-person interviews, when we hear reader likes/dislikes, interpret body language, and listen for appeal factors. It sets the foundation for a relationship based on trust. How does an online experience compare?” (Tumblr, Readers’ Advisory in a Mobile, Social World, Sheridan & Huckeby, March 13, 2014)
Using social media platforms for RA is not a new idea, librarians and readers have been sharing lists, reviews, databases, and book suggestions online for a long while now. Many libraries offer lists of popular genre titles, read-a-likes, annotated bibliographies, awards and “best” lists, and other RA tools on their social media sites as well as on their own websites. The real question is whether or not it can emulate or replace an in-real-life interaction.
I found a lot of evidence that many people are finding creative ways to use social media platforms as a real place of conversations about books and a truly amazing way to connect readers with exactly the book they're seeking. Goodreads, in particular, is a great way to do this. I joined the group, Readers' Advisory For All, and it's turning out to be a super way to get book recommendations, although a teensy bit slow and some people may reply to your post months or years later. Not good for you at the moment, but possibly helpful to others in the future.
I found Brooklyn Bookmatch on Tumblr, which is another crowdsourced RA conversation, and a real time RA board on Pinterest, Real Time Book Recommendations, and was referred to a number of Facebook RA events (couldn't locate those, but the idea is super).
I found a number of unique and interesting ways that libraries and readers themselves are attempting to use social media platforms to offer readers’ advisory services. Some are more successful than others in emulating the contact and interaction of real life RA, but all of them are offering at least something to try to reach out to readers. Every single one of them was positive, enthusiastic, and striving to be helpful (unlike my real life librarian scenario). I think that the future of online RA conversations depending a great deal on technology and our ability to adapt it to our needs. “George, McGraw, and Nagle identified two key steps for providing a successful RA service, beginning with understanding the importance of the service to the library patrons. Their next step involves providing training and support for staff so they can provide the best RA service possible.” (Anwyll & Chawner, 2013) This statement was in regards to traditional RA service, but it applies even more to moving to an online platform. Understanding the importance is the underpinning without which the library won’t commit the resources to full implementation, they won’t go all-in, and of course the staff will require training and support to learn how to use these platforms and how to think outside the box in inventing unique solutions for connecting with readers and providing the right book at the right time.