TABLING OUTREACH VISITS
Checking out materials (either by hand or with a networked computer) can be frustrating, if not impossible during a tabling visit. With groups of teens coming up to talk to you – usually making their friends tag along so they’re not alone – it’s much easier to talk to a group all at once than to manage a single teen at a time. Being able to find out the reading interests of a single teen will be very challenging, and then getting them a book will be even harder. Instead, bring a small number of books that you can try to sell to groups of teens instead of one at a time.
I recommend bringing books with you that don’t need to be officially checked out. These can be weeded copies, giveaway books, or “honor” books. My favorite options is the honor book, a book labeled with library stickers but not cataloged. At my library, we started out with shelves of paperbacks, usually Harlequins and other romance novels, that have library stickers and are “checked out” on the honor system. With the influx of ARCs and review copies I receive, as well as weeded damaged copies of very popular books, I created an honor system collection of YA and MG books.
I can give a teen an honor book, tell them to give it back to me the next time they see me, and no one has to worry about library cards or late fees or missing books. If the book does go missing, you’re out a cheap or weeded copy that doesn’t cost anything for the teen, and you can still count it as an “honor” or “paperback” checkout.
IN THE CLASSROOM
In a classroom setting, the same approach can work if you don’t have time to speak with the students individually or in small groups. However, if you can do RA for the students, you’re going to need a class list. Ask the teacher to provide you with a list of the student’s names, and any other information they can give you, and note the student’s library card number on the list. If they don’t have a library card, this is the perfect opportunity to get them one!
Make notes on the class list about each student’s interest. Then try to group their interests into more generic categories, just in case you don’t have time to find books for all 20-35 students in the class. Next time you visit, you’ll be prepared with books you can check out to the students, honor copies they can borrow, or even giveaway or classroom-reading-only materials that fit the students’ personal interest.
What techniques do you use to make doing Reader’s Advisory at school outreach visits easier and more successful? Share in the comments!