New Canaan Library Creates ‘Reader’s Advisor’ Role


Saying online search engines have changed the way New Canaan Library patrons use the reference desk, the organization has carved out a new “reader’s advisor” role that’s designed to improve service while streamlining staff responsibilities.

Library users long have valued the deep and wide-ranging knowledge of reference professionals, Director Lisa Oldham said.

Laurie Iffland has taken on the new role of New Canaan Library's reader's advisor. Credit: Michael Dinan

Laurie Iffland has taken on the new role of New Canaan Library’s reader’s advisor. Credit: Michael Dinan

“At the same time, the number of really deep and exciting reference questions that people come in with are fewer, because people can Google,” Oldham said. “So when they come to us, they’re great questions and we really need the expertise of qualified librarians to handle it. It also doesn’t take up as much time as it used to.”

In her new role as reader’s advisor, Laurie Iffland—a 14-year veteran at New Canaan Library, most recently as head of reference—said she will engage the community with all types of materials: downloadable audio and movies, as well as music and books.

“This is really about getting our patrons in here and offering our expertise and recommendations beyond ‘Here’s a good book,’ ” Iffland said.

New digital services include an online “Reader Profile” that patrons may fill out to form the basis of recommendations from Iffland. It solicits information about preferred genres, books and writers that a library patron has liked (and disliked), annoying content, desirable “mood” and more.

Iffland herself is a voracious reader in a variety of areas.

“I like popular fiction, and I tend to read in a lot of different ways,” she said. “There is always a book on CD going on for my commute”—from Norwalk—“so I go through about one book a week on audio, and there’s always something on my Kindle and I always have a book in the bedroom, book by the TV.”

Asked for some personal recommendations (to get an idea of her own taste in books), Iffland—who grew up in Weston and graduated from Wooster School in Danbury (’88)—said for a good pick-it-up-put-it-down summer read she’d say “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty or “Room” by Emma Donoghue. Something darker? “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King. Nonfiction? “Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown.

Iffland has been working into the role for about one month, Oldham said, as the former “Reference Desk” is now a reference team that includes its former role as well as community engagement, programming and reader’s advisory.

Iffland will continue to create, and expand on, the thematic displays of materials seen around the library, and parts of her role will include training staff on the reader’s advisory responsibility, Oldham said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *