Electronic Materials Logo

Use: Advisory Services

Audio and video programs are used across library types. Librarians often provide viewing and listening advisory services.

Digital collections have many purposes. Some people are looking for a specific sound or speech. Others are just browsing different genres of music. Although many people are seeking free materials, others are willing to buy materials or pay a subscription fee.

2015Annette's Reflection
You've got to meet library users where they are. As a teen I read Tiger Beat magazine and listened to my 45 of "Heartbeat It's a Lovebeat" over and over again.

You might not always like the same music as your teen library users, but it's your job to match their interests with what's available.

Collection Use

Explore some of the ways people use digital collections.


From watching book trailers to trying out video games, many users explore the library's collections prior to checking out items or making personal purchases.

Many library visitors use the library's collection as a way to search for new artists and explore a variety of musical genres. They use library subscriptions such as Freegal, library CD collections, and music websites to browse music. While they may stream or download music from the library, they may also use what they've learned to make personal purchases through systems such as Amazon or iTunes.


A huge market has emerged for buying movies, music, and other media direct from the Internet. Customers select the item and provide their credit card. Then, the files are downloaded directly to the customer's computer. Subscription services sometimes allow customers to listen to streamed music for a fee.

The most famous of these services is iTunes. Once software is downloaded to the computer, customers can begin downloading apps, games, podcasts, music, and more.

Many visitors use the library's subscription services such as Hoopla and Overdrive as a way to enjoy audio and video without making personal purchases.

Open Access

Some people have use the library as a source for open access materials that can be freely downloaded and shared. As such, it's important that libraries provide subject guides, lists of resources, and other tools to assist users in locating these free sources.


Sharing copyrighted materials without the permission of the author is considered theft. This is a highly controversial area because it involves issues related to ethics, law, and technology. Unfortunately, some people make illegal use of the library's collection by copying music CDs and movie DVDs. Or, by using library computers to illegally download audio and video. Guidelines must be in place that prohibit these activities in the library.

Advisory Services

assistanceAdvisory services involve suggesting titles to a library user. These services help users make the best possible use of library sources. User advisory is an important part of many library positions.

Direct advisory is based on the personal preferences of the viewer or listener. Librarians use a series of questions to hold a conversation with a client about their interests. Through this conversation, the librarian learns what the user likes and dislikes in terms of the subjects, genre, audio and video techniques, characters, plot, settings, and storylines. The goal of this interaction is to identify a few suggestions that meet the needs of the library user. Like readers advisory, it's essential that the librarian focus on the interests of their client rather than on their personal preferences.

Indirect advisory provides advisory aids that can be accessed by any library users. While these resources aren't personalized, they're a good place to start. They're also useful for library users who don't have the time or interest in meeting with a librarian individually. While these resources might be displayed in the library, they may also be shared online.

Read Williamson, Tara Bannon (2011). Materials matchmaking: articulating whole library advisory. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(3), 230-234. Available through IUPUI.

View and Listen-Alikes

Like "read-alikes", view-alikes and listen-alikes help users find other materials they might be interested in exploring. Consider creating single page infographics that share these ideas visually.

Flowcharts are a fun way to help users make selections. For instance the Viewer’s Advisory – Horror Films blog contains a flowchart on selecting Halloween movies.

Some libraries post "alikes" as blog postings such as Viewer’s Advisory: International Science Fiction Films.

Check out a graphic that combines reading-listening-watching titled Read It Then Stream It.

Read Saricks, Joyce (April 1, 2015). Listen-alikes: listening for a sense of place. Booklist, 111(15), 86. Available through IUPUI.

Annotated Lists

Lists are an easy way to share audio and video sources available in the library. While they may be distributed on paper, they might also take the form of a poster or web page.

Subject Guides

Create audio, video, and game subject guides that provide reviews and suggestions for particular areas of interest. While these may focus on a single media type, they may also include the broad range of resources related to a particular topic.


Reviews can be valuable for library users. They can also be helping in thinking about advisory services. Explore a few examples of reviews designed specifically for Listener Advisory:

Staff Recommendations

Readers often enjoy learning about what library staff like and dislike. These are often posted in a blog format and tagged by media type. Below are a few examples:

Listening and Watching Challenges

Challenges are a way to get library users to expand their interest areas by encouraging viewers and listener to explore a range of sources within a genre.

Read Kraus, Daniel (September 23, 2015). The 31 Horror Films in 31 Days Challenge: 2015. The Booklist. Available through IUPUI.

Interactive Tools

Some online tools can be helpful for advisory services.

GuysListen is a website that provides a tool to help readers focus in on areas of interest.

IMDB and other online databases provide links to related movies that might be of interest.

Audiobook Advisory

Audiobook advisory is very similar to the reader's advisory familiar to most librarians. However, there are some specialized areas to consider. Some listeners have a preference for listening to a particular narrator such as the book's author or a celebrity reader. In some cases, listeners have preferences related to special features such as multiple readers, music, sound effects or other features.

Read Lamb, Annette (December 2017). Listener's Advisory Part 1. Teacher Librarian, 45(2), 54-57. Available through IUPUI.

Go to the Naperville Public Library. Notice how they list popular narrators.

Use the TryAudioBooks website to get new users started exploring audiobook options.

You might also use the publisher websites to locate audiobook excerpts to help identify listener preferences.

GuysListen is an audiobook advisory service for youth listeners. According it's website, GuysListen

"promotes literacy by focusing on the art of listening. Allowing guys to 'plug in' to experience great stories will motivate them to enjoy novels and literature they may have been unwilling to try out before. Audiobooks are an ideal medium for all boys, whether they are reluctant readers or voracious ones, especially the 30% of guys who are auditory learners."

try itTry It!
GuysListen is a website designed to help boys and young men find audiobooks of interest.

Read Stover, Kaite, Mediatore (2010). How to listen to a book in thirty minutes. In, Readers’ Advisory Handbook. ALA Editions. Available through IUPUI.

Read at least two of the following articles:
Burkey, Mary (June 1-15, 2014). Voices in my head. The Booklist, 110(19/20), 125. Available through IUPUI.
Saricks, Joyce (July 2008). LA: Essentials of listening advisory. The Booklist, 104(22), 16. Available through IUPUI. Available through IUPUI.
Saricks, Joyce (December 1, 2015). At leisure with Joyce Saricks: listening. The Booklist, 112(7), 25. Available through IUPUI.
Saricks, Joyce (June 1-15, 2015). At leisure with Joyce Saricks: listening for the appeal of audiobooks. The Booklist, 111(19/20), 31. Available through IUPUI.

Go to The Exploding World of Audiobooks and Listeners' Advisory. Browse the webinar and resources.

Music Advisory

It's not possible to keep up on every music genre. When helping library users make selections, suggest an electronic tool such as Pandora that assists listener in suggesting music.

try itTry It!
Try Pandora. It's easy to set up a free account. Notice how it learns about your interests and makes suggestions. How would this be useful in your library setting of interest?

Video Advisory

Although it would be fun to watch all the favorite television programs and movies, it's not possible. Instead, rely on a variety of review sites for recommendations. IMDB is probably the most popular television and movie website.

Read the presentation on Viewers' Advisory from the Ontario Library Association Conference.

| eduscapes | Online Courses | About Us | Contact Us | © 2019 Annette Lamb

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.