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Thursday, July 28, 2016

RA for All: Guest Post: RA at Small Libraries

Today’s post comes from a former student of mine, Leanne, who has not only gone out into the world to do go work in the name of serving leisure readers, but she has also kept in touch to let me know how things are going.

Leanne has written guest posts for me before, but I asked her to reintroduce herself:
Leanne Pavel has been the Circulation Services Manager at a cozy western suburban Chicagoland library for eight years.  She graduated from Dominican University with an MLIS in January 2011, though she still loves to learn through free online courses and community park district classes.  When not helping patrons with front desk tasks and exploring new reading genres, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, reading, and pinning new recipes to try from Pinterest boards.  Slow cookery is fast becoming her favorite mode of heating food. 
One of the things I want to highlight about Leanne is that because her library is so small, as the Circulation Services Manager, she is the RA person. The Circ desk is where the RA magic happens at her library and hundreds of small libraries all over the country. Hers is an important voice because she represents many of you out there. I know this because I have met many of you, talked to you about it, and/or visited your small libraries.

So today’s post by Leanne is for all of you library workers in small libraries who make RA a priority not because you work in a department that is assigned to do this work, not because your supervisors gave you a raise to do it,  but because if you don’t do it no one else would and the patrons need it.  

Thank you.

Here is Leanne...

The thick paperback novel held me in its spell; it had been a long time since a story entertained me with colorful descriptions of royal clothing in the Tudor Court, the spies and the intrigues between courtiers and ladies in waiting, the executions by skilled swordsmen. 
I am a pragmatic type of person.I went through library school knowing I was an avowed non-fiction reader, that flights of fantasy and esoteric concepts in literature were not for me.  If I couldn't see myself using it in daily life, what was the point of filling my head when there was only so much bandwidth for my daily tasks? 

Working at a circulation desk at a public library soon challenged my assumptions and my reading habits.  People were looking for recommendations on certain authors and titles.  I wanted to better join in the conversations that people were having around certain types of fiction, join that community, and contribute my own opinions.  So, being the practical type of person that I am, I went back to my Readers Advisory lists from a course in library school and decided that for the year of 2015, I was going to prioritize reading a book from each genre and finish reading that list in one year. I used the Joyce Saricks' 5-Book Genre Reading Challenge and documented the books on the Goodreads site.  Side note: It is now 2016, and I am still reading and enjoying my adventures in fiction reading.

Like a string of first dates or job interviews, I have enjoyed and hated some of the books that I have read.  I have given horror, suspense, thrillers, and fantasy a fair chance and at times have been pleasantly surprised.  The nursery crime humor in  The Big Overeasy by Jasper Fforde appealed to both my sense of mystery and wordplay.  Other times, I have found that some books just needed a second chance from me at a different life stage, as in the case of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon.  Other books have spurred me on to read more about the history behind certain situations, such as the Boleyn  sisters in a Philippa Gregory novel.  

However, I have rediscovered the sense of community of readers as I delve more deeply into my list.  Finding out that a volunteer at my library enjoys the adventuresome and historical Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell gives me a common ground to converse with him.  Reading can also strengthen family relationships as well-I have found that one of my cousins enjoys historical fiction novels as well!   I found myself talking with Vietnam War veterans about different duties in tunnels after reading Black Echo by Michael Connelly and developing a more profound respect for those difficult times.

The book that kept me awake turning pages was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.  I am looking forward to the next big summer surprise reading.

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