Reader development refers to professional work designed to encourage reading and deepen the enjoyment of individual readers. It is a broad label given mainly in the United Kingdom to an area of professional practice within the library and education sectors. It is reader and individual centred rather than book and author centred. The term was coined by Opening the Book in 1993. Common activities which come under the banner of reader development include organising a book club, promoting books and reader to reader recommendation and communication tools.
From a starting point of being viewed as quirky and peripheral, reader development is now built into the core practice of all UK public library services. This approach for the first time gave attention to the relationship between the reader and the book and the role libraries, publishers and bookshops could play in valuing and enhancing that. It also looked at widening choice for readers through better skills in stock awareness and promotion in libraries.
Websites which demonstrate the approach of reader-centred promotion have been set up by Opening the Book. http://www.whichbook.net/ and http://www.reader2reader.net/ both offer readers the chance to choose what to read next according to the experience the book will give them rather than who the author is or what the genre is.
A new key text is available from Opening the Book. ' The Reader-friendly Library Service' (ISBN 978-0-9559028-0-2) was commissioned by the Society of Chief Librarians in England as the final part of the Branching Out programme, the first national training programme in reader development. Authors Rachel Van Riel, Olive Fowler and Anne Downes all work for Opening the Book and have been involved in pioneering reader development projects and training since the 1990s.
Opening the Book, in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians, has also created an online library training course for frontline staff in reader development. 152 UK library authorities are currently subscribing to the course as well as all 32 library boards in the Republic of Ireland. More than 4,500 library staff members have completed or are in process of completing the course, as at July 08. (see http://www.openingthebook.com/library-training/default.aspx)