Picture from "The Library Dragon" by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrations by Michael P. White

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
- G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Readers Advisoy at Hamilton East Public Library Fishers Branch

I visited HEPL Fishers Branch on a rainy Saturday to test their librarian’s skill at readers advisory. I began by perusing a large display of readers advisory pamphlets displayed near the reference desk. These seemed to focus primarily on mysteries and thrillers. There were also some on Christian authors. Nothing there particularly caught my eye so I strolled over to the reference desk. There were two staff members seated behind the desk. I’m not sure if they were full-fledged librarians as I didn’t see name tags. The one closest to me looked up from a magazine she was reading and pleasantly asked if she could help me. I asked if she could recommend a book for me.

She kept looking at me like she was waiting for more and I felt rather awkward so I blurted out, “I need to find a Western for a class I’m taking and I’ve never read any Westerns before.” She seemed to jump at that and said that she really liked Louis L’Amour. She told me to follow her and as we went to the stacks she talked about how she loved watching Hopalong Cassidy as a kid and reiterated how much she enjoyed his books. I believe she even used the clichĂ©’ “truth, justice, and the American way” in describing the type of stories L’Amour wrote.

Once in the stacks she floundered a bit and mentioned that they had just rearranged the paperbacks so nothing was where it used to be. She was able to locate the books fairly quickly despite this. There was close to two full shelves worth of books by L’Amour, which would have been overwhelming had I actually planned on selecting one. As I stood there she did give me some additional information. She said that while some were part of series, they could all be read as standalones. Also, there were skinny books (in case I decided I didn’t really like these Westerns) and thicker ones (if I did like them.) I thanked her and she left.

Obviously, this was a less than satisfactory exchange. To begin with, my reader’s advisor did not attempt to interview me or determine my reading preferences at all. The fact that she enjoyed Louis L’Amour westerns did not mean that I would. Yet, as we mentioned in class, I was too intimidated to tell her I never watched Hopalong Cassidy, nor was I looking for the type of westerns she liked. Had she asked, I might have mentioned that I watch the HBO show Justified and then she might have steered me to Elmore Leonard. She also offered only one author (they one she approved of) when she really should have given me a choice of at least three. As it was, she led me to the only western author I had ever really heard of so I learned nothing new from this exchange.

1 comment: