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It’s easy to forget the pleasure of being a library patron. Wandering the shelves becomes a thing of the past when you have the opportunity to place a hold on any book you want to read, and it just appears on your desk or in your inbox.
Inspired by Alene Moroni and King County Library System’s year of reading suggestions, I’d like to encourage library staffers to read like a patron.
RLAP #1: Ask a friend or relative for a reading recommendation—someone who is not connected to the book world at all. Find out what they like to read and why, and then read what they suggest to you.
The objective? Nothing deep here, just to read something purely because someone you know read it. Maybe you’ll discover an author you haven’t heard of before. Maybe the book will totally stink. Maybe it will make you view your mother-in-law in a whole new light.
RLAP #2: Seek out something that you saw mentioned in a popular magazine or on TV. What are the sources your patrons mention to you?
What can this accomplish? You’ll start to see where your patrons are getting their information on new books. In addition, you might come across something that you never would have thought about reading.
RLAP #3: If you don’t work at your local public library, go there and spend at least 30 minutes in the stacks. (If you do happen to work at your hometown public library, then go to an unfamiliar library.) Take note of how it feels to not know immediately where everything is. Ask someone for a reading recommendation. (Play nice—you aren’t there to check up on them or trip them up in their job; you’re there to get a book recommendation from someone you don’t know.)
In addition to getting a new reading recommendation, try to glean something useful from searching the stacks. What do you like or dislike? As a patron, how did you feel navigating their collection? What ideas can you take back with you to your library?
RLAP #4: Choose your next book from a display. If you do all the displays at your library, try another library or a bookstore.
What appealed to you about this book? Why did you decide to check it out? The real question: Would you have come across this book if it hadn’t been on display?
RLAP #5: The next time you are taking a particular book off of the shelf, pick a random book that looks good from nearby.
Sounds simple, but how many times do you ever do this? This is a good way to get out of your comfort zone—perhaps you only manage to read books that are on your never-ending to-read list. Pick one simply because the title sounds interesting. Because the color or the font leaped out at you. Why not? Patrons do this all the time.
RLAP #6: If you don’t normally have YA novels as part of your reading rotation, read a YA novel. If you haven’t picked up a YA book since you were a teen, ask your YA librarian for a suggestion—they’ll be delighted you asked, and you’ll be in for a treat.
Already a YA reader? Than go back even further, and read a chapter book. I confess to rereading my favorite grade-school series (The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald) every couple of years or so. It really is a lot of fun—no drama, no heavy plot, no flowery language, just sheer pleasure reading.
RLAP #7: This one is meant to jump-start your nonfiction reading: resolve to read a book in each Dewey area. If you’re looking for some suggestions, check out some of Booklist’s nonfiction Top 10 lists, or try the blog Citizen Reader.
RLAP #8: Reread the first book written by your favorite author. Alternately, follow up on an author you stopped reading for whatever reason.
Big fan of a mystery series? Maybe you like a particular romance writer who’s been writing forever? Go back and read the first book the author published. How has the style or the series evolved over time?
Were you once a fan of a certain author, but just haven’t kept up with what he or she has written lately? Figure out why not—did you grow out of the author’s style? Are the books too repetitive? Or did you just lose track?
When you are responsible for purchasing or recommending books from your collection, you miss the serendipity of coming across a book you’ve never heard of before. Hopefully, these tips will remind you of what it can be like on the other side of the desk.
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