Readers' Advisory for Children and Young Adults

An Instructional Session by Tanya Rogoschewsky

Tips for the Reference Interview

A reference interview is a conversation between you and the student (or teacher) that helps you determine what sort of book they would like. For a good interview, remember:


- Be approachable and friendly
- Treat reader's advisory questions with the same respect as reference questions


- Ask open-ended questions
- Start with broad questions and then narrow it down
- Eliminate: Readers that have trouble telling you what they like, often have no trouble telling you what they don’t like

Reading Patterns:

- Use the books they have liked in the past as a guide
- Look for patterns in their reading choices: you can recommend an unfamiliar genre or style if it otherwise fits the pattern

Suggest Only:

- Suggest books, but make it clear they are only suggestions – make them feel comfortable about saying no
- Avoid categorizing books as ‘bad’ or ‘good’
- Walk the reader to the shelf – watch their face and body language as you suggest items

Find a Fit:

- Try to give several items so that the reader can choose amongst them
- Aim older rather than younger (kids hate to be given a book they perceive as baby-ish)

Use the Tools:

- Become familiar with the reader’s advisory books
- Develop your own ‘best books list”
- Know your library collection

Think Outside the Novel:

- The goal is to get students reading
- Consider: graphic novels, comics, non-fiction, magazines, etc.

Adapted from:

Jones, Patrick. Connecting Young Adults and Libraries: A-How-to-Do-It Manual for Librarians. 2nd ed. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1998.

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University of Alberta   |   School of Library and Information Studies   |   E-Mail Tanya Rogoschewsky
Last Updated: March 20, 2006.