Readers' Advisory

Readers’ advisory basics

A little history

Readers’ Advisory has a long and rich tradition in public libraries. Librarians were consulted for recommendations of “good” books, or books that would give the patron a specific educational outcome. People who could not afford the money or the time to pursue a formal education would use the library to expand their horizons, read about new ideas, and gather practical new information helpful in their work or personal life.

Readers' advisory services flourished from 1910-1950 in the U.S. Librarians met with patrons to create reading plans, annotated book lists, provide reading guidance. Research into adult reading led to expanded services linking book selection with individual interests rather than a general course of study. Learning and continuing education was the main goal of these early readers’ advisory services.

Current readers’ advisory services have flourished since 1994, with the advent of a readers’ advisory committee within RUSA, the Reference Users Services Association of the American Library Association. This committee has grown in influence and scope, and presents programs on readers' advisory training, publishes bibliographies of readers' advisory resources, and has pushed readers’ advisory services onto the Internet.

Most libraries have extended readers’ advisory services to the web by producing and distributing materials and resources electronically. The New York Public Library, one of the first major public libraries to offer readers' advisory services, provides a wonderful collection of readers' advisory resources. The Electronic Reader’s Advisor at offers categorized and annotated "lists and links" for general fiction, genre fiction, award winners, book lists and recommendations.

Many other libraries offer large, enhanced readers’ advisory sites, including the Morton Grove Public Library (Illinois) Webrary This site links patrons and librarians to a wonderful world of readers’ advisory resources.

The Model Reference Behaviors for readers’ advisory services are slightly different than for reference transactions.

You can find more information on readers’ advisory resources from ALA’s Reference and User Services Association at

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This page was last updated on August 28, 2003.