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Monday, July 7, 2014

50 Books for 50 States: A List, a Staff Training Exercise, A Patron Tool, and Some Fun All Rolled Into One Post

I know just yesterday I said that I would not have a Monday Discussion today.  And I still will not, but I can’t help myself from posting this list, "Celebrating Read, White and Blue: 50 Favorite Books for 50 States” from the Barnes and Noble blog originally posted on the 4th, a list which is sure to cause discussion.

The list has the blogger’s choice of a book for each state.  What I love about the list is that it combines classics, old and new.  The books listed for my two favorite states NJ and IL perfectly illustrate that.  IL Has Native Son listed, while NJ has The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  An old established classic juxtaposed with a modern one. Nicely done.

Of course, I quibble with a few of the choices.  For example, while When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka was a fantastic book [I read it before the blog began], I don’t really associate it with Utah.  Yes it is technically set there, but it is much more about the no man’s land that is the Japanese internment camp.  For me, the first book that comes to mind if someone says Utah is The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall; one of my all time favorites.

See I am starting a discussion on Monday even after I said I wouldn’t.  I just can’t help myself.

So check out the list for yourself.  Then just for fun, change it up.  Make your list of 50 books for 50 states.  Maybe some would stay the same, but I know for at least a few everyone will have something different.  Circulate it among your staff.  Ask them to fill in their favorites where they differ. It will be a great training exercise.  Don’t use reference tools though.  Simply ask people to contribute to the list with books that they think of immediately when the state is mentioned.  Mix it up with fiction and nonfiction if you want. Together you can create a huge library-wide list of multiple options for each state.

Then make it all available to patrons, in print or online.  Why?  Well, first it makes a great book related conversation starter, both between you and a patron to break the ice, but also, for a patron to take home and use at a summer bbq with friends and family.

Second, this mega-list is a great RA tool to use for a patron looking for an interesting summer reading project or for suggesting a book to go with their vacation destination. For example, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, as suggested in the original list, would be an amazing read for anyone going to Colorado this summer, but so would Plainsong by Kent Huruf or The Shining by Stephen King (depending on the reader). If you created the mega-list I suggest above, you end up with 3 awesome choices for a patron looking for a CO set book.

And third, this is all a fun exercise to shake you out of the summer blahs.  I don’t know about your library, but we are VERY busy in the summer.  Many patrons are trying to squeeze a year of reading into the summer. Our door counts are up.  The Summer Reading Program is entering its busiest time. And, staff are out on staggered vacations so we are all doing our jobs plus the work of someone who is enjoying a well earned vacation. Busy is an understatement.

When you are feeling too busy, it is often easy to lose sight of how great we have it-- working in a library, helping people find their next great read, and making people happy. A quick, easy exercise like this can reinvigorate you, remind you why you do it all in the first place, and sharpen your skills. What a treat!

Following my suggestions in this post, will make for a fun (yet still skill building) diversion. And after a nice relaxing long weekend followed by what will probably be a super crazy Monday (which is why I wrote this post on Sunday and set it to post automatically on Monday), we are all going to need a break.

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