Thursday, January 26, 2006

Test Your Librarian Know-How

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!
PATRON: Thanks!

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? :-)


Chris said...

Wow, hon. I won't say this often about anything (as you well know)... but your librarian skills are out of my league. Nice one.

A Girl From Texas said...

I have some of the same tendencies and the owner of the company I work for calls me Dick Tracy. He can call me looking for information on something or someone, no matter how obscure; and I'll find it.

eaf said...

Well then, Girl, we need to recruit you into our libraries! I swear a lot of the work I do is stuff P.I.s get paid lots of money to do. I have one guy who always calls wanting phone numbers of famous and semi-famous people. And every now and then I can actually find one. It's scary.

Sophie said... wonder you are a "master" librarian. Why is it that almost every job related to customer service is mostly about YOU having to read the CUSTOMER'S mind because said customer doesn't know what the heck they want??

Cathy said...

You are a library god(dess). All hail! I hope your patrons understand just how lucky they are to have you.

Cathy said...

Nope, don't have those skills but am very glad there are librarians like you out there. I'm terrible with author's names and remembering the titles of books. I hate to admit it but, I've been in that patron's shoes before.

Jen said...

You are my idol! That was a great transaction. And it's funny how I can recognize certain patrons just by a short description of their request... Who knows, maybe I'll learn from the master and be as genius a librarian as you someday!

/suck-up :)