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Monday, July 11, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action--Don’t Bad Mouth Any Books or Authors in Public...EVER!

I have been a Readers’ Advisor for 16 years and a teacher/trainer of RA for 12 of those years. One of the tenets of RA Service is Betty Rosenberg’s famous quote, “Never apologize for your reading tastes.”  That is the cornerstone behind modern RA Service and what made it fundamentally different from any RA Service that came before it.

We are nonjudgemental ALWAYS. If someone’s favorite author is James Patterson and they love James Patterson and want to read everything he writes or publishes as himself or under his co-authors, good for them. Find them everything and then find them readadlikes that they would like when they run out.

I do not care if you like Patterson. That is not the point. Being a Readers’ Advisor had NOTHING to do with how you feel about a certain book. What you are concerned with is why the person in front of you likes the book that she or he does, and then finding her or him another book she or he may also enjoy. Again, not caring how you would feel about said book.

Psst....it’s not about you. It’s about the person in front of you. Seriously, I don’t care about how you feel about a book or author unless you want me to do some RA for you. Then I care immensely about you.

It is no coincidence that I pick Patterson here. Look, I know he has a lot of books coming out ALL THE TIME. And I know he takes a lot of our budget up. And I know that they are not the most literary titles. I know we get frustrated with him.

BUT, here is what a Patterson book is-- a crowd pleaser, a quick and easy escape from the real world, a book that gets people excited about reading books! Because he has so many books and they are so addictive to their readers, we have patrons coming into the library to feed their need for more. No one can afford to buy every Patterson book, heck, we libraries can barely afford it. They come in to the library to get them and while they are visiting and/or waiting for the next Patterson title, they try other books. He creates tons of business for us. He creates readers. He stimulates a life long love of reading.

BUT [yes another but], for all the good Patterson does getting people of all ages to read and visit the library, I still hear library people bad mouthing him all of the time. And the worst part of it is.....WE DO IT IN FRONT OF PATRONS!

How do you think that makes our readers feel?

I feel like I shouldn’t have to write this kind of post anymore, but apparently I do because over the weekend, my friend and ARRT colleague Megan and I had this Twitter exchange.

The fact that she had to Tweet this makes me sad and angry. Overhearing our colleagues doing this is infuriating.

Back in 2012 I had this post where I talked about three books I disliked but for which I wrote a review that did not necessarily give that away. I write every review, whether just for this blog or for publication, for the book’s best reader. That is the purpose of what we do.

Now even in that post, I do mention sometimes it is hard to always be positive about every book. And yes, we all need to vent about authors we personally dislike sometimes. But that venting needs to be done in staff meetings, at outside library events, in emails to colleagues, etc... Somewhere that is not at the desk where we are stationed to help ANY reader who comes by. Who is that helping? I am not sure because it is not helping any patrons in ear shot who love the author you are bad mouthing, nor is it helping your library promote your services. And it makes you look like a judgmental ass.

If you want to be a book snob, don’t work at the public library. We don’t need you or want you. 

Every book has a reader. Our job is to listen to the patron in front of us and find him or her THEIR book. And, it is a fun and rewarding job a that.

Or, as Megan said succinctly above, Don’t jude. Connect.

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