By Debra Vaughn
For Sno-Isle Libraries
Your community library is a treasure trove of books, music, movies and more. But where to begin?
Jackie Parker is here to help. It’s her job to find better ways for Sno-Isle Libraries to connect with customers, so they can more easily find their next favorite books or movies.
“We want people in our communities to know that they can come to us for suggestions,” she said. “We’re bursting with recommendations, and we’re eager to share.”
In her new role as Lead Librarian for Readers’ Services, Parker works with other librarians on how to best talk with customers about what resources will suit their needs. Many algorithms — think Amazon — attempt to match readers with their next books and movies, but no formula can compete with a library’s personalized service.
For example, a customer might tell a librarian about a book she or he liked — say, “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, about a modern day nurse who time travels 18th century Scotland. Perhaps the customer enjoyed the Scottish setting, the romance or the time travel. The librarian might ask a series of questions about the customer’s preferences for pacing, storyline, tone and writing style to help make the best recommendation for other books.
“We want to have a conversation with individuals, learn what they’re looking for and match them with their next favorite item — hether it’s a book, movie or an album,” Parker said.
|What’s on Jackie Parker’s “must-read” list? She’s looking forward to “The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough. The novel, about two teens tangled up by immortal forces beyond their control, is set in 1930s Seattle.|
She leads the Readers’ Advisory Team, which is made up of staff from Sno-Isle’s 21 libraries in Island and Snohomish counties. Their task: Determine how librarians can best steer you toward materials you need and like.
The solution is likely a suite of services that encourages customers to interact with librarians in whatever ways they’re most comfortable, in person or online. For example, the library could ask customers via email to learn if they want to receive personalized reading recommendations, inspired by examples of what they like to read. Another idea is to challenge people to read something they wouldn’t normally consider — perhaps a coming of age novel, a book originally written in another language, or a book set in their hometown.
Parker also wants to find ways to connect with people who rarely, if ever, use the library.
Before joining Sno-Isle, Parker worked as a librarian for the Spokane County Library System. She earned her master’s degree in library and information science from Wayne State University in Detroit. In addition to her reader advisory role, Parker continues to work as a teen librarian at the Lynnwood Library, a job she’s held since 2008.
She views the library as a haven where teens can feel welcome, and learn something and have fun, too.
“Libraries are an essential service that improves lives in the community,” she said. “There is something for everyone if they know how to use it.”