Interview with Jessica Moyer

Jessica E. Moyer is an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Literacy Education and MS and CAS degrees from the University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Moyer has taught reference and readers’ advisory courses for the LIS programs at the University of St. Catherine, San Jose State, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as well and continuing education courses for the American Library Association. She is scheduled to teach some courses in Readers’ Advisory with Library Juice Academy coming up. Jessica agreed to do an interview here to give people an idea of what they will get out of her courses, and a bit about her in general.

Jessica, thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’m happy to expand our course offerings to cover readers’ advisory topics, and you are one of the best-qualified people out there to teach on the topic. I’d like to start by asking you what librarians need to know about readers’ advisory that they may not know before taking a class in it?

Probably the most important thing to know is that readers’ advisory is an active and growing part of information services in school and public libraries and is a service that meets the needs of all age groups, from babies to seniors.

After that I’d say, the excuse of “I don’t read much” isn’t a professional or valid excuse for not providing RA. Today there are so many great tools and resources that librarians who read only a few books a year, can and do provide great RA services. It’s far more important to understand the role and value of reading, and how to talk to readers than it is to know lots of books.

So, other than knowing lots of books, what knowledge is involved in RA? Is it a case where “There’s knowing books and there’s knowing books?” I would imagine you can learn a little bit about many books, for RA purposes, in the time it takes to read one book deeply, if you have the right techniques. How much is RA a matter of knowing about books and what are some of the other skills involved?

There are four areas that I think are important for providing good RA. I cover the first three in the Intro to RA class, and the fourth is the subject of my next two classes for Library Juice

First, know your tools and resources. There are so many great resources out there for busy librarians, from subscription databases like Novelist to free websites like my favorite, “What’s Next” from the Kent District Library.

Second, understand the basics of how readers connect with and talk about books. The two most common models are the Doorways approach by Nancy Pearl and the appeal factors approach by Joyce Saricks.

Third, learn how to do a good readers’ advisory interview. So many techniques can be translated from the reference interview that this should be easy for any librarian to get started on, but I know it can be very intimidating. Above all, stay professional and treat RA queries with the same level of service and seriousness that a reference query gets.

Finally you do need to know something about the most popular types of books. A genre study is a great way to do this, whether through a class like mine, through a work based group, or even on your own. It’s very eye opening to expose yourself to new genres and areas of popular reading, especially if you keep in mind that you are reading these to try and understand just what makes them so popular with library patrons.

So right now you’re teaching your Introduction to Readers’ Advisory course, which I gather would cover the above topics. What classes are coming next?

Next are two genre studies classes, on romance and fantasy. I’m starting with these since they are two of the most popular and can also provide some challenges to librarians who haven’t read or kept up with the changes.

For each genre study participants will learn about the genre through lectures, readings about the genre, and experiencing the genre by reading two books that are representative of the genre as it is today.

Sounds very good. I’m glad you’re teaching these classes. We haven’t done as much for a public library audience, but we want to do more, and I think this is a good way to move in that direction. As a final question I’d like to ask what other classes you would want to teach for Library Juice Academy, given total freedom. What would you want to teach?

I’d love to teach more genre studies classes – science fiction, crime, young adult and nonfiction are just a few of the many possibilities. I especially like teaching librarians about science fiction so I’m hoping that’s in my near future.

I’m working on a book project this fall about crossover readers’ advisory: adult genre fiction for teen readers, and teen fiction for adult genre readers. I’d love to teach a workshop or even a series of workshops in this area. I think it has a lot of potential as an under-recognized area of readers’ advisory.

Outside of readers’ advisory topics I’m a dedicated reference librarian and always enjoy teaching classes about reference interviews, selecting and evaluating sources, and reviewing reference material.

That sounds great. Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed.

My pleasure, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to teach classes for Library Juice and I’m excited about our continued work together.

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