Why Romance Readers' Advisory?
Why do I have to learn romance readers' advisory?So, for all my fellow romance readers out there, I'm creating a blog to help my fellow library and book store colleagues. But this site, is also for you!
As an avid fan and romance reader, for years I tried to hide and down play my addiction and appreciation of romance novels from co-workers. The invention of e-readers hugely helped make this possible. Before e-readers, I awkwardly would hold my book in the staff break room.
There is a "sort of" perception or preconceptions of romance readers and the genre, particularly in reader's advisory. How many romance readers have dealt with preconceptions and stereotypes of the genre? Romance genre is viewed as smutty or "low-brow" reading, yet it is one of the highest circulating and most popular genres in libraries and highest selling by publishers. According to Romance Writer's of America, romance genre grosses over $1 billion a year. Why would you not offer approachable, inclusive, and targeted R.A. programs, events, recommendations, and newsletters? It is often overlooked as a way to serve customers.
I'm a romance reader and love the genre. Admittedly, it has always been frustrating for me when my library colleagues mocked my reading choices and those of our customers. Yet, on average, romance readers read more per year than other readers. When I finally let go of hiding the covers of my books (we've all been there with our bodice rippers) and was out in open about being such a huge fan of the genre, I become a "go-to" for romance readers' advisory.
Where do we go from here?It's frustrating for customers and patrons that somehow the genre is viewed as less noteworthy of displays, author programming, and recommendations than best-selling authors or book discussion group recommendations. Kim Storbeck, Electronic Resource Collection Development Specialist for Timberland Regional Library, teaches training courses for romance RA. In "Learning to Love Romance: Readers' Advisory," an article she wrote for Library Journal, Storbeck stresses that librarians only have 5 seconds to connect with their readers and that attitude matters:
"Romance readers are used to being judged—by friends, family, strangers, booksellers, and librarians. They’ve been told their reading tastes are not good enough, and their favorite books are often dismissed. If you personally dislike romance works, just keep in mind that RA isn’t about you or what you like but about assisting readers and helping them find their next great read."
I think we can make approachable and interesting recommendations and remove some of the unintended attitudes from R.A. Readers' advisory is about helping our patrons and customers find what they enjoy reading, not what we think they should enjoy. According to NPD Books Romance Landscape: A Study by NPD Book for Romance Writers of America, "The romance industry is booming! In 2016, romance made up 23% of the overall US fiction market, second only to General Fiction." It's a good time for libraries and bookstores to invest our services and expand our knowledge of romance readers' advisory.
Let's help remove the stereotypes and preconceptions and help readers find books they enjoy. Let's make our libraries romance-friendly zones and welcome all readers.
"An Ode to the Romance Novel" in honor of PBS' Great American Read