A reading coach guides the customer in finding new books and interesting literature.
A message pings into Reading Coach Silene Lehto’s inbox. A customer has replied to the questions preceding actual coaching: What kind of literature would you like reading tips for? Who is your favourite author?
Lehto, who works at the Kallio Branch Library of the Helsinki City Library, prepares a comprehensive list of recommended reading on the basis of the answers. If required, Silene will go through the list in a one-hour discussion with the customer.
“In coaching, the need for reading tips and recommendations meet in an ideal way”, Silene Lehto says.
The Helsinki City Library started reading coaching at the Kallio Branch Library in April 2013. Since then, the idea has been adopted at least by the Itäkeskus Branch Library, if not more.
Time to prepare
Book recommendations are part of librarians’ everyday work, but normal customer service rarely allows enough time for deeper discussions on literature. “Sometimes the best ideas come to mind when the customer has gone,” Lehto says. Reading coaching improves the situation. The reading coaches are allowed to concentrate on collecting reading lists for a few hours every week. This gives them an opportunity to utilise their literature expertise.
Coaching means time dedicated to the customer with no rush, and this deepens the customer relationship. In order to find the best books for different reading tastes, the librarians have brainstorming sessions in which they prepare reading lists.
“For instance, I am not particularly keen on fantasy literature, but some of my colleagues are.”
In the beginning, reading coaching often means putting out feelers for the right ideas. If the recommendations are off slightly,, they nevertheless act as a basis on which to continue the coaching process.
Reading coaching put to the test
The email received by Reading Coach Lehto is from me. I hope that reading coaching will give me new ideas and inspiration for my thinking. Once again, I am stuck with my all time favourites Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera.
One hour with Silene Lehto in the cosy Dekkarikirjasto (Detective story library) meeting room of the Kallio Branch Library is extremely rewarding. We go through 20 books selected for me by Silene. Most of them are completely unknown to me and some of them already on my list of books to read. Only one book in the list is one that I have already read. Excellent!
The book list meets my expectations, and I leave the library with four books in my bag.
I start with a book that I already know. Peter Høeg’s Borderliners fascinated me when I was a high school student.
According to Lehto, this book is worth reading more than once. When I read it, I realised how right she was.
A professional knows her job.
What is reading coaching?
- Reading coaching is suitable for everybody.
- You can register for coaching by email. If you do not have an email address, you can phone the local library or visit in person to ask about it.
- There are three types of coaching available. You can either order a reading list direct to your email address or a reading list plus the books to be collected from the library, or you can have a one-hour face-to-face discussion with a reading coach. The reading list includes a short introduction to each book.
- You can participate in reading coaching as many times as you need or your interests require.