Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I don't think that's how it's supposed to be done.

I volunteer every Monday night at Zionsville's library. Mostly I sit at the reference desk and look up call numbers for students. Last night a woman came up to me and asked if the library had Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. It was checked out and she was about to walk away when I asked her if there was anything else I could look up for her. She then asked what I recommended. I was so excited at the idea of performing my first real reader's advisory that I'm sure I got some weird, maniacal grin on my face, but I at least refrained from jumping up and down in my chair. Anyway, I asked her what she was in the mood for and she said (and I quote): "Anything. My daughter is working on some homework and I just want something to read until she's done." I then asked her if she would like to stay within the Fantasy genre. Again, she said that she didn't care and, honestly, she seemed a little irritated that I was asking her so many questions and not suggesting any books. Since she earlier had said that her daughter had recommended Percy Jackson to her, I decided to stay within the YA collection as I thought maybe she and her daughter often shared books and maybe, if she liked the book she ended up reading, I could introduce both of them to a new book.

Anyway, I quickly scanned through the YA collection for anything by Rick Riordan and, of course, everything was checked out. Since she wasn't giving me any answers about what she wanted to read, I typed in the only other author I could think of who writes YA novels and that was Neil Gaiman. Fortunately, Coraline was checked in and when I suggested it, she seemed really excited about reading it. So, I took her over to the shelf and found it for her.

She walked away looking very satisfied, but I sure wasn't. I wanted to do it right. I was looking forward to performing an interview and using RA tools. She was in no mood for questions. She wanted to know what I thought she should read. It made me think of what Andrea said in our last class about how patrons tend to put us on pedestals and think that what we suggest to them is gospel. This woman seemed to want me to tell her what to read instead of me making suggestions based on her interests. Now, she probably just wasn't in the mood for those suggestions and just wanted me to hand her a book to keep her from getting bored. Perhaps on any other day she would have been a great person to perform readers advisory for. I don't know.

I'm wondering, for those of you who work in a library and handle these kinds of requests frequently, what would you have done in that situation? Is there a way to perform a proper reader's advisory even when the patron isn't really in the mood to answer a bunch of questions? Or is that just a situation where the interview kind of has to go out the window and we just have to flat out tell them what to read?


  1. I do think patrons expect us to know everything about everything off the top of our heads. Sometimes they're willing to work with you to get where they want; sometimes they're not. I think this was a good example of wanting immediate gratification and that you made the best of a not-so-great situation. YMMV.

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us. Yeah, great job. I think with any interpersonal interaction it is wise to be aware of the mood of our partner in conversation. How many times have we had discussions with others - where we thought much more was needed to be said - and they did not agree and vice versa?

    The important thing is that you opened the door to more in depth discussions in the future. Many of you may find as you attempt to readers advisory that patrons find it hard to answer these questions because no one has bothered to ask them before.

    I suspect she will read the book, share it with her daughter, and come back to interact with you yet again. Nice Work!