Friday, April 23, 2010

Lab: Reader's Advisory, Volunteer 2 and 3

Volunteers 2 and 3 are two of my friends who are engaged, so I performed advisories for them on the same evening.

I asked Volunteer 2 what she was in the mood to read and she told me that she was really interested in reading some nonfiction. I asked her what topics in nonfiction interested her and she said that she really wanted to read sociological studies, particularly regarding drug use. I then asked her to tell me about the last book she had read that she would consider part of that topic and she told me that she had really enjoyed Methland and how it looked at what drugs had done to communities. I asked her if she wanted to focus specifically on the affects of meth or if she wanted to expand out to other studies on other drugs. She said it was fine to expand to other drugs both legal and illegal.

I tried NoveList first, but came up with very little. So, I turned to Amazon to see if it had any suggestions. We came up with two results that she was very excited about: Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Highjacking the Global Economy and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.

Because she and I can get really chatty when we hang out, she and I started talking about other things that interest her while I was searching for books similar to Methland. During our conversation, she brought up that she was really interested in reading about religious cults. She seemed embarrassed to admit it even to me, so I can imagine that she probably would not have brought this up to an unfamiliar librarian. So, I was actually really glad that she had volunteered for my lab because she would now get a chance to have some books on that topic recommended to her when she might not have had the courage to ask someone other than me.

I asked her if there were any cults in particular she was interested in and she said the offshoots of Mormonism and the Branch Davidians really interested her, but she was also interested in reading about Scientology. I asked her if she was interested in them as religions and what they believed or if she wanted to read books that exposed the hipocrises of the sects. She definitely wanted books that exposed the religions, so I used Amazon once again. First, I looked into cults based on Mormonism and found mostly books that exposed Mormonism itself, not the off-shoot cults, which was not exactly what she was looking for. I tried combining Mormonism and cults, but that only seemed to give us the same results. So, I typed in simply "religious cults" and finally got what we were looking for. We found several books on religious cults in America including Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman's Courageous Fight from the Grip of a Religious Cult and God's Brothel. I also found many books on the Branch Davidians and the massacre at Waco. She was extremely excited to read God's Brothel.

Volunteer 3 also wanted to read nonfiction, but he wanted to read history. In particular, he was interested in social history of the Native Americans, the colonization of America, or the Civil War. I asked him if there was anything in particular that he was not interested in reading and he said he wanted to stay away from military history. Given the topics he wanted to cover, I was a little nervous about finding some good books that weren't packed with military history, but since I also really enjoy this topic, I thought I could handle it and find some things for him. I decided to stay with Amazon as I thought I would have better results than with the more common readers advisory tools. I started with Native American history first and found a couple of titles that he said he would be interested in, such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. For the most part, we were finding long books that covered the history of Native American people and even though he was saying that he was interested, I had a feeling that he was just trying to be nice to me. So, I asked him to tell me about the last book of this kind he had read and why he liked it. I probably should have asked that question before I started my search, but I thought I could find him something based on my own knowledge and the database.

He wasn't quite sure how to answer my question, but his fiance stepped in and said that he really enjoyed quirky history and humorous stories. I asked if either of them had any examples and neither could really come up with a title for me, so I felt just a little lost on how to come up with some titles for him. I tried to pull from my own stores of knowledge while searching Amazon and remembered a book I had read about sex during the Civil War. I asked him if something like that would interest him and, for the first time, he looked genuinely interested. I found the book I had read, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War as well as Sex During Wartime: History Under the Covers. He seemed really eager to read both of those and reassured me that he also really was interested in reading the other books I had suggested.

A few weeks later I asked them both if they had had a chance to read what I had suggested and got some positive results. Volunteer 2 had read and really enjoyed both Illicit and God's Brothel. Volunteer 3 had read The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell, Sex During Wartime, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I was pleased to hear that not only had he really enjoyed all three of them, but he also had recommended The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell to a friend.

Again, I had some positive results and I would consider those successful, but Volunteer 2 was a really good friend who I communicate with very easily and she also helped me out with Volunteer 3. So, I was still curious as to how I would do with people who are less forthcoming or who I don't know that well.

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