Readers’ Advisory Service in North American Public Libraries, 1870–2005

A History and Critical Analysis

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About the Book

Beginning in the early 1980s, readers’ advisory services were a widely discussed topic in North American public libraries. By 2005, almost every public library in the United States and Canada offered some form of readers’ advisory service. The services offered have changed significantly, in ways perhaps disadvantageous to adult North American library patrons.
This book provides a critical history of readers’ advisory philosophy and offers a new perspective on the evolution of the service. The book analyzes the debate that shaped readers’ advisory and discusses how the service has assumed its present form. The study follows readers’ advisory through its three prominent stages of development, beginning with the period 1870 to 1916, when the service was still a subject of much crucial debate about its meaning and purpose. During the second phase (1917 to 1962), readers’ advisory systematically committed itself to meaningful adult education through serious and purposeful reading. The book argues, however, that during the most recent phase of readers’ advisory, from 1963 until the present, contemporary public libraries have turned their backs on the rich heritage of readers’ advisory services by valorizing the reading of entertainment-oriented and commodified genre titles and bestsellers. Historical analysis, case studies and statistical charts augment the book’s central argument.

About the Author(s)

Juris Dilevko is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Information Ethics, the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, American Studies, Library Quarterly, and Reference & User Services Quarterly, among other publications. He is also a co-author of Reading and the Reference Librarian (2004) and lives in Toronto.
Candice F.C. Magowan is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto.

Bibliographic Details

Juris Dilevko and Candice F.C. Magowan
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 258
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2925-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0766-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments      1

1. Staking Out the Territory of Readers’ Advisory Service      3

2. Positioning Readers’ Advisory Service Ideologically      23

3. The Formative Years: Philosophical Debates and Lively Tensions      53

4. The Commitment to Systematic Adult Education      87

5. The Devolution into Entertainment      135

6. Case Studies of Readers’ Advisory Resources in the Early 21st Century      173

7. The Future of Readers’ Advisory Service      195

Appendix A: Assignments Used in Case Study 1, Chapter 6      203

Appendix B: Quality of NoveList Informational Records      207

Appendix C: Quality of NoveList Suggestions or Recommendations      209

Chapter Notes      211

Bibliography      237

Index      249

Book Reviews & Awards

“provocative”—Technicalities; “well researched…recommended…provides a solid history”—Feliciter; “comprehensively referenced…interesting analysis…thought-provoking”—The Australian Library Journal.