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Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Discussion: Did You Like This Book?

Today I am going to tackle that most sensitive of RA transactions, when you are helping a patron to find the perfect  book to match her reading tastes and she turns to you and asks, "Have you read this book?" or "Did you like this book?"

Since you are finding said patron a book based on her specific reading whether or not you have read the book or liked it yourself does not matter.  However, we need to answer our patrons questions.  To complicate things further, more often the not, my true answer to both of these questions is, "No."  So every library worker who works with leisure readers, needs to be prepared to answer these questions positively.

Before I give you my favorite answers to these questions, let's talk about why our patrons ask them.  It is not because they care whether or not you liked the book you are suggesting they read.  Rather, they just want to know that someone, somewhere enjoyed it.  They just need a reason to take the plunge.  You happen to be the person in front of them who can push them toward the check-out desk with that book in hand,

So how do I handle these questions?  I have to say, even if I loved the book, I do not ever talk about how I feel about the book.  As I said above, that is not what they want to know.  And quite honestly, it doesn't matter how I felt; this is a book for them not me.  So, even if I hated the book, never read it, or loved it I say something along the lines of, "This author is very popular at our library," or "I have given this book to many patrons and they seem to have enjoyed it."  If I truly know nothing about the book or author, I try a different line of attack by checking reviews and reading from them.  Again, this lets the patron know that someone had something good to say about this title.

To take it a step further, I sometimes ask the patron to come let anyone at the RA desk know how they felt about the book after they read it.  This lets the patron know that we care whether or not he or she enjoyed the book.  It also reinforces that anyone at the desk, not just me, can help him or her.  Often, this offer to hear how the book was or wasn't enjoyed is enough to make the patron trust you, even if they end up hating the book you suggest.  The fact that you cared, was all that really mattered.

The point here is I am helping the patron fell good about her choice.  I am also not going down the slippery slope of sharing my personal opinion.  What if they read the book and have the exact opposite opinion to the one I gave them?  They will never trust me or, more importantly, anyone at our RA desk again if that happens.

I have one final point to make.  To any reader who seems wary about trying a book I am suggesting, I always do two things.  First, I try to offer them at least one other book, "in case you cannot get into the first one."  Second, I remind them that the book is free and do a big arm swoop showing off our large collection Vanna White style saying, "we have plenty more. Just close this book if you don't like it and come on back for another one."

So for today's Monday Discussion, how do you handle this sticky patron interaction when they ask you your opinion on a book?

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John BPL RA said...

GRIN AND BEAR IT! I try to locate what few positive qualities the book has and dwell on those...and hope for that wonderful day when James Patterson retires.

Kathy BPL RA said...

I try not to give personal opinions very much either but if someone asks directly, I will. If I didn't like the book I will say something along the lines of "It wasn't my cup of tea but I really liked..." I can almost always find something I liked about a book. If I haven't read it, I use reviews and ANYONE I know who has read it and liked it. This is one reason I think book-talking during staff meetings is so important. As Becky said, it inspires confidence in the patron when I can suggest a title that someone on staff read and liked.

Rebecca said...

you are so very awesome, I say the exact same thing: "Well, many of our patrons have read and enjoyed this"... or "it certainly has been popular". : )