Passive Readers’ Advisory

One of my favorite parts of being a school librarian is connecting students with books they love. Providing readers’ advisory is an art that librarians are skilled at. However, sometimes you just can’t reach every student for one-on-one help finding the perfect book. Sometimes there are just too many students in the library at once. Sometimes students are just too shy to ask for or accept help. To combat this issue, I try to make my library more accessible by providing passive readers’ advisory in a variety of ways. In my four years as a school librarian, I have made a number of changes to the library collection and library space with passive readers’ advisory in mind. 

Spine Labels

I started by adding genre labels to all of my fiction titles. While my library is not genre-fied, students can go to the shelves and quickly identify fantasy titles, mystery titles, or a number of other genres. I also added series number stickers to the spines of books so it is clear which volume in a series each book is. 

Alphabet Dividers

I added these simple dividers to Fiction, Biography, and Graphic Format to make it easier to identify where the call numbers will fall on the shelves. 

Dewey Signage

I asked our advanced art students to create new Dewey signs that reflect the content of each area so it is more obvious to students where to find books about science, literature, etc. Pictured is our gorgeous 400s sign with a close-up on the detail. 

Book Displays

I create multiple book displays each month around a variety of themes. So far the most popular is horror. I try to select themes that I know match the interests of my regular readers, as well as some outside-of-the-box themes that might draw in new readers. Pictured is my main display case (now spray painted bright red). According to the former librarian, it is actually a room divider converted into display shelves. I also have several clear tabletop display cases that I update monthly as well. 

Star Stickers

Inspired by a colleague, I decided to try this simple way of allowing students to recommend books. 

Book Lists

Finally, I have created a notebook full of book lists. In the beginning, I created these lists myself, and I still sometimes add to the collection, but now I ask my library assistants to create lists using Canva. I keep the notebook on the circulation desk and it gets a lot of attention! Some of the lists I originally created include YA Horror, Young Adult Fantasy Series, and Young Adult Novels That Will Make You Laugh. Pictured are two lists created by library student assistants. This notebook gets a lot of attention, particularly the LGBTQ+ fiction lists. 

These changes have made our library collection more student friendly and accessible. It is my hope with continued improvements to the library space, regular weeding, and strategic decision making, the library will continue to grow and circulation will continue to increase.

What ways have you found to provide passive readers’ advisory? Share your suggestions in the comments!


Author: Brandi Hartsell

Brandi Hartsell is the school librarian at Halls High School in Knoxville, TN. She was awarded Teacher of the Year at HHS in 2021. Brandi was also recognized alongside colleagues as recipients of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) Teacher Collaboration Award in 2019 and 2021. She has served (and continues to serve) in many leadership roles within TASL. Brandi has presented professional development sessions for TASL, Halls High School, and Knox County Schools. Brandi loves sharing ideas and brainstorming…also cats…and true crime. Follow her on Instagram @hhslibrarytn.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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6 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing these student-focused and easy ideas.

  2. Love these ideas! Definitely planning to borrow lots of what you shared here! Thanks very much!

  3. These look great! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I like all of these ideas, but I LOVE the star sticker idea! Not only does this not tell students which books are good, but it can also help librarians with weeding. Thank you for sharing these tips!

  5. Hi, Brandi,
    I love the bookshelves that you use for displays. Where did you get them?

  6. Love this post! Great ideas. Can’t wait to implement the Star Spine Sticker idea. Thank you!

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