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Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Discussion: Let's Go Exploring

The BPL is closed today to celebrate Columbus Day. I am enjoying a day off with the kids, but I wasn't going to forget about the Monday Discussion. Just don't expect any other BPL staffers to comment today.

I wanted the discussion today to be in the spirit of the explorer. Yes, Columbus was not the true role model we learned about back when I was in school. Yes, he had no idea where he was when he landed in the West Indies. Yes, he then exploited the people he found there.

But, Columbus and his contemporaries did have a drive to discover new things. They were not content with the status quo and could not live in a world that was not fully mapped. It is this spirit I want to celebrate.

As a Readers' Advisor and library educator, I am constantly reminding librarians that patrons should read what they want; we should not force them to expand their horizons if they do not want to. However, this is not true for the librarians. Those of us who help patrons, MUST read a wide variety of books. We cannot rest on our laurels and only read what we like.

Sometimes this message gets lost on staff.  We cannot help patrons if we do not understand the full scope of what choices are out there. To that end, library staff who help leisure readers, must explore outside of their comfort zone.

For me, that means I make sure that I read at least one book from every major genre a year (if not more). To go further, I then take my least favorite genres and spend a year reading more than 1 and spending time with the resources.

For example, last year, I read (or at least skimmed in detail) about 6 romances. I tried to hit different popular areas such as paranormal, historical, and contemporary. I also subscribed to the RSS feeds for a few romance centered blogs, and reaquainted myself with some other resources. Thus, I was exploring unknown territory.

This year, I have been trying a bit more hard science fiction. Again, I am doing a detailed skimming of some books and reading a few others. I have a bunch of RSS feeds that I am following every day (and boy those SF people post a lot) and as the year winds down, I will be spending some time with a few different resources.

The point I am trying to make is, I may not love these genres, but because I have honestly gone out and explored them in detail, I have achieved a new understanding of why they are appealing to the patrons who love them. My explorations always get me excited because when I am done, I can understand why people who love these books love them.  I am excited for the fans of those books. I do not need to love them myself to gain this understanding. I could not do my job effectively if I stayed in my comfort zone all of the time.

So for today's Monday Discussion, what do you do to expand you reading horizons? How do you find out about the books outside of your comfort zone? What exploring will you do in the future?

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4 comments:

Jackie, BPL Youth Services said...

I think I already read a wide range of genres since, I too, believe a librarian has to be well-rounded in all genres to help the patron. This is as true for youth services as adult readers' advisory.

However, I try to do two things to acquaint myself and then read the newest, greatest book in a genre that is not my favorite.

#1: I read LOTS of reviews. From these, I try to pick up on subtleties from reviewers. These reviews give me a heads-up on which books I should actually take a closer look at.

#2: I surround myself with people who read as much as I do. I start to develop a trust between a reader of a genre that I am not particularly fond of and seek their input and recommendations. Many times I'll be able to get a feeling of which books would be beneficial for me to read.

Then, of course, the final step is to READ, READ, READ!

Lizzy said...

I spend a month with popular genres reading as many books as I can and revisiting RA resources for that genre. Every fourth month, I read whatever I want. It is not the perfect system. When patrons come in with my reading tastes, I feel like I have lost an edge because I haven't picked up those genres in a few months. By the time I get to my free month, my to read list is hugely long and I miss the thrill of browsing. But the benefits of finding new authors and relating to more people has outweighed these few negatives.

Kathy BPL RA said...

I LOVE collection management and it is when I am trying to build up a lacking genre that I tend to get my learn on. For instance about a year ago, I really beefed up our Urban Fiction titles and I spent a lot of time reading reviews, skimming books, looking at websites and reading about authors. I also try to read outside of my comfort zone in general, especially if I think a book is going to be big or is big (like "Twilight").
I also love Jackie's take on this. Getting to know a trusted someone who reads stuff you don't is a great idea. Who can read everything anyway? A suggestion has a lot more weight behind it if I can say that a co-worker, friend, or family member read it and loved it.

John BPL RA said...

Wow! I am REALLY fighting an urge to fly off on a discussion of Columbus! How can you bring him up and then discuss something else??!! Perhaps I've spent too much time in history classes or maybe I'm just too in love with travel. Suffice to say that the "age of exploration" which produced Columbus has always struck me as a metaphor for the human condition and a precursor to events and thinking of the future. You know, everyone always assumes that explorers of this period were driven by greed and that this was the mindset that fueled their actions which of course is true but overlooks another, and in my opinion, more important phenomenon: the confrontation of the unknown. Confronting the unknown is a kind of secondary travel that takes place in the minds of these people before they even depart. It is the same phenomenon that you see when you look at Marco Polo or at the moon landing or a dozen different time periods. I must say that there is such a beautiful arrogance to this that is just so attractive. The explorer does not fully know what awaits him on his travels. He CAN'T know. He operates on the notion that he will be better than whatever it is he encounters. He KNOWS he is better. This looks like absolute foolishness at times. Magellan, for example, was eaten by cannibals. But what better way to make a living art of oneself than to think this way. In the course of travel the traveler not only sees the world but the world sees him. The world KNOWS him and therefore confirms his existence. It tells him who he is. It tells him THAT HE IS. Personally, I've always thought it tragic that this type of philosophy has been consigned to another age. The world is not only the most accessible that it ever has been but also the most dangerous. It sits there like a taunting gesture to any young person with the thirst to do something about it.

Happy Columbus Day.