The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Readers’ Advisory Services in Southern Ontario Public Libraries
Copyright (c) 2023 Suzanne McLean
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The aim of this research was to investigate the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the readers’ advisory services (RA) provided by southern Ontario public libraries. Its objectives were to determine whether there have been changes in patron demand for readers’ advisory and whether libraries have responded to pandemic restrictions by changing their readers’ advisory offerings. A final objective was to develop recommendations for public libraries wanting to improve their RA services. A review of the literature found that there are many studies examining the history of readers’ advisory, and the way RA is practised in North American public libraries. However, there has not yet been much research published exploring the ways in which the pandemic has affected readers’ advisory services in public libraries, nor has there been a lot of research examining the ways in which public libraries have adapted these services to better serve the public during pandemic restrictions. This research was intended to address this gap in the literature. A mixed-methods approach was chosen for this research as the best course to acquire both quantitative and qualitative data. First, a questionnaire was distributed to southern Ontario public library staff. The questionnaire explored various types of readers’ advisory services and asked respondents about their library’s responses to pandemic restrictions. Next, follow-up interviews were conducted with select questionnaire respondents to obtain more detailed and nuanced information regarding readers’ advisory services at their libraries during the pandemic. It was found that most libraries had found some changes in demand for RA services during the pandemic. More patrons were asking for books to be chosen for them when they were unable to visit the library during lockdowns or restrictions. Most libraries also implemented some type of new RA service during the pandemic. Recommendations were made for public libraries to continue to adapt their RA services to better serve their patrons. These recommendations included better RA training for staff, fostering a culture of “booktalking” and advertising RA services more effectively.