As we were wrapping up I was asked this question: “How do I convince the staff who don’t get it that RA is important for the entire library to care about.”
This is a great question. For the answer I took inspiration from my friend and colleague Steve Thomas who runs the librarian interview podcast, Circulating Ideas. In every interview he asks the librarians what their professional “origin” story is; meaning how they decided to to this as a job. He also asks the non library professionals he has on for their first library memory.
So I began my answer by citing Steve and telling her that for the most stubborn staff, you need to pull them aside and ask them to tell you their favorite book from childhood. What is the story that first captured you? Don’t ask just favorite book in general. If they are not into books and think they are not what the library is about anymore, you won’t get an answer.
But, if you ask them about a favorite childhood book, you will find that more often than not, they have an answer. Remember, they work at a library. Even if they are not into books right this minute, they were at some point. You don’t work at a library for the money. You can get better pay doing the same type of job somewhere else. You work there because of what it stands for and what it means to you.
Try this on anyone you know and see what I mean. When you ask people about their favorite childhood book, their eyes gloss over and they harken back to a time in their life when everything was simpler. That person will start speaking about that book, how it made them feel, and what it meant to them. They will use all those adjectives we work so hard to get out of our patrons when we ask them to tell us about a book they enjoyed.
When you ask this “origin” type of question to any library worker, you get an honest, heartfelt response. I know, I do it all of the time.
After the staff member answers, you say: “That response is why we do this.” [mic drop]
No seriously though, tell the person that how that book made them feel is the essence of why we do RA. Matching people with a book that brings them joy is magical. And, since we work at the public library already, it’s an obvious place to do this great work.
This won’t work for every one, and you may have to go about it one person at a time, but it will help you get more people on your side than not, and that is all you need, to create an RA culture at your library- a majority on your side, drinking the RA Kool-Aide.
We need to spread the joy that a good read brings to people, especially right now.