Brush Up on Reader’s Advisory Skills

Career Blog
Open Book in Field of Flowers

Published: May 24, 2024 by Aryn Prestia 

While you do not have to be an avid reader to be a successful librarian, it certainly helps. One of the most in-demand skills for librarians according to SJSU’s MLIS Skills at Work Report is reader’s advisory. 

So what exactly is reader’s advisory?

While there are many definitions, one of my favorites is: “Simply put, reader’s advisory is helping our customers find the best, most enjoyable reading experience that matches their needs, interest and reading levels. It is finding the right book at the right time” (Source: Maine State Library). This ability to recommend a great next read to someone else is not only an incredibly helpful skill but also a wonderful party trick.

 While it would be beneficial for librarians to have read everything in the library – with volumes in the tens or hundreds of thousands – that endeavor is impossible. Not to mention, your personal interests likely don’t match those of all patrons.  Fortunately, librarians can build a skillset to allow them to stay current with lots of different kinds of fiction and nonfiction. Reviewing materials about up-and-coming books from sources that note writing style, setting, characters, and format allow librarians to get a general idea of which readers each book would appeal to. Below are a few great starter resources: 

Kirkus Reviews – One of the oldest book review magazines, Kirkus is renowned for its honest (and at times harsh) reviews that are popular among librarians, booksellers, and those who work in publishing.

Library Reads – A monthly list of top-reviewed, soon-to-be-published books. This list is created from nominations by librarians who’ve read advanced copies through sources like NetGalley and Edelweiss.

While it’s wonderful for librarians to be ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating new releases, it is also important to be able to recommend existing books that may already be included in the library’s collection. For example,  if a teen comes into the library having just finished A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, they may be interested to know that Holly Jackson has just released a new thriller – The Reappearance of Rachel Price.

While you may already be familiar with book review sites like Goodreads, media sources like Booklist, NPR Books We Love, or NYPL Best Books of the Year provide a good combination of books that have been reviewed by experts and have commercial appeal. For librarians looking to find the highest-rated books all in one spot, LitHub provides an annual condensed list of titles receiving accolades.

Though Reader’s Advisory is typically considered an element of public librarianship, it’s an important skill for all librarians! No matter your preferred specialty, you can start building your reader’s advisory skillset today using the resources above or by checking out Reader’s Advisory Service in the Public Library, 3rd ed. (ALA Editions, 2005) by Joyce Saricks, or genre-specific titles available through King Library online

Two More Things…

Here are a few job opportunities that might be of interest!

Remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.


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