Today, I asked a former student to write about what it is like to work in a small public library where the librarian is asked to do a little bit of everything each and every day. In this case, Leanne works at the Clarendon Hills Public Library. Take it away Leanne
My name is Leanne and I work at a small public library in the western suburbs. I first met Becky Spratford when I was an MLIS student at Dominican University in Fall 2008. She was the adjunct instructor for Reader's Advisory and I was in her class. I learned a lot about the different genres of reading and literature, how to book talk(ie. to describe a book, even one you haven't read, through short adjectives), and how to speak in front of other librarians. I had an enjoyable course, and much of what I learned in the RA class still serves me every day.
Working in a small public library has been both pleasant and educational for me. I see regular library patrons(some daily), learn about their lives, and in turn learn about their reading tastes. Week to week and month to month, people come in, excited to talk about a new author they have found or a new book that they have read. They faithfully follow the new books of an author like James Patterson or Elizabeth Strout and put their requests for new novels months in advance. Our library has an "Automatically Order" request for certain popular authors, making planning ahead simpler.
Working in a smaller library can also have its challenges (such as having only one copy of a bestseller in the library). I personally like to read narrative non fiction, historical novels, and realistic fiction. (I am trying to broaden my reading tastes.) Some people have very specific requests to find genre books that fit their reading tastes-and I cannot always instantly come up with an answer. For instance, mystery and thriller are popular at our library. However, I am available to provide cheerful service, even if it takes longer. When I am in this situation, I first ask "Is this a series of books by one author?" Maybe there are other series or stand alone novels by the same author that the patron might enjoy. If this doesn't provide a satisfactory answer, I would then turn to a database like Novelist(http://www.ebscohost.
One of the significant lessons I learned in RA class is having awareness of upcoming books and upcoming authors-sometimes even popular talk shows can increase the book publicity. There are also the regular resources like book reviews in libraryjournal.com, bookpage.com(most public libraries have a print version of this monthly newsletter), and huffingtonpost.com/books. Knowing the genre organizations and their respective awards can also be a good update for popular authors and trends. Some examples include: Mystery Writers of America(www.mysterywriters.org
Working with readers advisory in a small public library requires love of reading, care for patrons, and patience. Having a personalized relationship with regular patrons can be a good introduction to new authors and series. To do the task well, one must have a broad interest and curiosity in reading trends, a good sense of humor, and an open mind. It also requires flexibility, especially on days when staff is in short supply. It is a good learning opportunity for a young librarian.