Thanks to Liz, via Twitter I found out about a recent article in Library Journal called Reader's Advisory: Kissing Cousins. Hang in there and read the whole article, in spite of the lack of paragraph breaks, because it's eye-opening.
The upshot of the article is that for decades, reference librarians have resisted answering reader's advisory questions, due to either a lack of expertise in finding popular titles for patrons or because reader's advisory is not a "serious" pursuit for a degreed librarian.
All I can say to that is, Really?
Perhaps it's because I graduated from library school in 2000, a time cited as being past the strongest resistance to RA. Or maybe it's because I've primarily worked in children and young adult services, where reader's advisory is the bread-and-butter of the job. Even with that, though, I can't imagine working on any service desk, serving any patron group, and not responding to questions about "What do I read next?"
I will admit that since my expertise is in teen literature, I do have difficulty in helping patrons looking for adult fiction advisory. Since I work on the adult desk--not the children's desk--this does occur fairly often, especially now that summer is here and RA questions have increased dramatically. But even without having the same comfort level in helping adults look for books, I still have the techniques and tools to help patrons find a book, most of the time.
The article does indicate that the reference vs. RA mindset has changed quite a bit, and that it's part of the bigger overall picture that sees libraries constantly affected by change. Still, it was quite surprising to me to read about this historical attitude still having an impact on today's library service. I feel the same way about this as I did when I learned that libraries used to be anti-paperback: amazed about the opinions the library field once held, and pleased that we've learned to adapt to change. Because honestly, as the line goes, life is change. Libraryland is no different. What really matters, though, is how you handle the change; for the most part, libraries do a pretty good job at that, even if it sometimes takes us a while to get there.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone have experience working as reference only, with no RA questions permitted? I'd be curious to hear how that worked in a real library!