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I thought I’d jump back in by sharing something that has filled me with pure joy. Something that makes me happy every time I walk by and see families crowded around flipping through and snapping pictures. Introducing the Book Menu!
I first got the idea to try something like this from Teen Librarian Toolbox. I liked it immediately. A visual reader’s advisory tool to help families discover all our collection has to offer? Yes please!
I thought it would work at my library because we have a community of voracious kid readers. We get asked all the time for reading recommendations, often by kids who have read all the popular titles. I also know caregivers here use our website and app and will often place holds by themselves. I wanted something that would empower our readers to use our collection in a self-sufficient way, while also promoting the library as a place where they can get amazing recommendations.
My goals for the Book Menu (you know, in case you want to do this too and are asked to write up a rationale):
- To visually draw children into the browsing process with colourful, graphically appealing “menu items.”
- To promote our collection and increase circulation by exposing families to hidden gems.
- To identify ourselves as a place where families can get recommendations that meet the interests of their child.
- To encourage kids and families to come to the information desk to ask for help in finding something they are looking for.
- To promote other services such as programs by including program posters as “menu items.”
- To serve as a passive reader’s advisory tool when information staff are helping other people (which often happens on the busy weekends and after school hours)
Here’s how to create one.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
All you need for a Book Menu is a desktop reference system. Here’s the one I bought. It’s not the best but it gets the job done. It’s a bit wobbly and the covers are a little hard to see out of. I put cardstock paper in between each list to make them more visible. If you have the money, invest in a high quality one! I also used really strong tape to secure it to the shelf so people wouldn’t pick it up and move it around.
Step 2: Make Your Lists
I decided to focus primarily on chapter books and graphic novels with some nonfiction thrown in there. Picture books are more browsable, and we get more questions from school-age readers. It’s also the collection my staff are less comfortable answering hard reference questions about because they often haven’t read the books. If I had space in my teen area I would make a separate Book Menu just for them. You can make lists about any topic and any part of your collection!
Here’s my gift to you: the Canva template for the 35+ lists I’ve already created. You can edit them to your heart’s delight! If you have a paid Canva account you can make these even better; I was stuck using free images and fonts.
A huge shout out to Karen Jensen at Teen Librarian Toolbox who kindly sent me her Canva templates when I was getting started. I also adapted some of the lists on Visual Book Lists, another amazing resource.
Here’s some of the lists you’ll find in my template.
So You Like…
For the K – 3 Crowd
For Special Days and Months
Step 3: Find a Place to Display
Next you need to figure out where to put the Book Menu. I cleared a space at the beginning of the chapter book section because that’s what my book menu focuses on. Mine takes up an entire shelf. You could also put it on a display space or on your information service desk (that could be a cool talking point when patrons come to the desk!)
Step 4: Update Your Lists and Get Creative
I try to rotate the lists every month, adding seasonal lists and switching the order to keep it fresh. If anyone creates lists for upcoming seasonal events, please share them in the comments!
Another feature I recently started is called Reader Spotlight. Kids can fill out one of the forms and I create a list based on their recommendations. My goal is to create a community of readers.
One thing I haven’t been able to do based on limitations of my library is put QR codes on each list so families can scan it on their phone and be taken directly to the booklist on the library’s website. How easy for them! If you can use QR codes, DO IT.
So that’s the Book Menu, my source of pride and joy. Have you ever done anything like this? Do you have other creative ways to do reader’s advisory? What lists should I make next? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
(p.s. I am trying out a new widget which allows people to react to comments with emojis. Feel free to try it out.)