The best thing about my job is the Readers' Advisory portion of it. For those of you not up on your library jargon, this basically means "suggesting a book that someone will like based on their preferences (not yours)." The skills involved really come down to knowing how to ask the right questions and then having enough knowledge of "what's out there" to make some recommendations. There are plenty of databases and other tools out there to assist with this process. Even Amazon's "Readers who bought this also bought..." feature can come in handy.
This area of librarianship usually focuses on recreational reading... things we read not because we have to, but because we want to. It is usually fiction, but it certainly can be nonfiction. Most people read biographies and humor (think David Sedaris or Bill Bryson) for pleasure... they don't really mean to learn much or study a particular person. *end library lesson*
So yesterday, I had one of those great Readers' Advisory interviews with a patron, and I thought I would share it with you...
PATRON: Where do you keep your Tim Ford books?
EAF: Tim Ford? Is that the author? (searching the computer catalog)
PATRON: Well, it's either Tim Ford or Kim Ford. Can't remember which.
EAF: (not finding either in the catalog) Hmmm... And Tim or Kim wrote these books? Or was that a character in the books?
PATRON: *blinks* I think that was the author.
EAF: (searching on key words now instead of authors) Let's see... can you tell me anything about the books? Are they Fiction or Nonfiction?
PATRON: *blinks* My friend at the pool yesterday was telling me they are really good stories.
EAF: Ah... so are they true stories? Or made up stories?
PATRON: Oh, made up, I'm sure. Tim Ford. Or Kim.
EAF: I see. And do you know if they are love stories? Or maybe they are mysteries?
PATRON: They aren't mysteries!
EAF: Okay. Can you tell me anything else about them? Did your friend say why she liked them?
PATRON: She said they were very good. Very light and warm. So where are they? Your Tim Ford books?
EAF: Well, see... I can't see that we have books by either Tim Ford or Kim Ford, so I'm trying to think of what they might be. Sounds a bit like maybe Jan Karon's Father Tim series. Does that sound familiar? Are they set in North Carolina?
PATRON: Father Tim? Is his last name Ford?
EAF: Well, I'm not sure...
PATRON: Well, yes... the town is in the mountains of North Carolina.
EAF: Let's take a look at Father Tim then. (walking to the shelf with the patron). The first book in the series is checked out. But here is the second one. Do you think this is it?
PATRON: (reading the cover of the book) MITFORD! This is it!
EAF: Ah... Mitford is the town these books are set in! So let me put the first one in the series on hold for you!
So had you figured it out?! As I look back over the conversation, I surprise myself that I picked out enough clues from this woman. When she said Tim or Kim Ford, I immediately thought of Jasper and Katie Fforde (no relation), who are both popular but write mysteries and romances respectively. But then just looking at her (she was probably in her 60s) and hearing "friend at the pool" (it's too cold to swim outside here now, so this means we were at some sort of water exercise class or indoor pool at a facility), I thought perhaps we were looking for something a little gentler... old fashioned. And Jan Karon just pops to mind.
Natural talent? Psychic? Don't know...
So, do you have the skills to be a librarian? :-)