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Friday, May 24, 2019

Conversation Starter and Display Idea Courtesy of Author Gabino Iglesias

Click here to see original Tweet
and read responses
Wednesday, author and reviewer Gabino Iglesias asked this question on twitter:
Which book would you like to go on a date with if it became a person?
I immediately retweeted this to library land with the following comment:
"Attn Libraries- This is a great conversation starter with patrons. Or ask your staff and make a display. Puts a new spin on the staff rec shelf. You might get more staff to participate this way too."
Both because I only had a small space in order to explain myself and because I know many of you aren't on Twitter, I wanted to explore this idea further on the blog today. There are two distinct ways you could use this prompt. The first is easy, it makes a great conversation starter with patrons.

We all know that asking people to tell us about a book that they read and enjoyed works fine, but let's be honest, we are all bored of that same old question-- us and the patrons. And shaking it up with the "tell me about a book you did not enjoy." isn't the answer either. Been there, done that, times infinity.

I alway try to suggest more interesting conversation starters here on the blog and in my training programs. You can click here to see a few examples. But this question- Which book would you like to go on a date with if it became a person?-- is perfect. First, it is outside the box in terms of what we usually ask, so it will get our patrons' attention. Second, it really makes the patrons think about both the title and their answer, thus revealing what kind of book they truly enjoy. Third, it is about dating but is inclusive of all sexualities and genders because a book is nongendered. I love it!

The second reason I loved this question is because it would be a great way to shake up our staff and energize them about participating in a staff recommendation display. Many libraries have these but many also put up barriers to who can participate. Often I encounter libraries where only the staff of the particular department where the shelf resides can participate, or I have also seen only public service or professional employees being allowed to participate.

Here's the thing, when we allow all staff, from janitors and pages all the way up to the director, to participate in staff recommendation displays, by default our displays becomes more inclusive. When we include more voices in the process, we get a wider range of outcomes. And because support staff are less white than librarians, we are including more diverse voices.

However, I often hear library staff tell me that they have asked all staff to participate in staff recommendation displays, but only a few ever try. Well, some of this is because many support staff feel like they don't know how to start or don't feel comfortable. Back in January I had this post where I talked about how you can encourage everyone on staff to participate by lower the barrier to enter.

But also, we ask staff to give us "favorites" and even though we try to be nonjudgmental, many staff are afraid to admit a favorite if it isn't high brow enough, so instead, they choose not to participate.

So that's where Gabino's questions comes in. If instead of asking staff to pass on their "favorites," we change it up and have each staff recommendation display be an answer to a question, you are pretty much insuring high participation and more interesting titles to put out on display. When the question is silly, you will get fun answers.

Finally, when you use a conversation starter prompt for a display, you can also make the display interactive. Put up the question and add staff answers with physical books. Identify who answered with which title if you want or just say that the display contains the staff's answers. But either way, you should also put out slips of paper for patrons to write down their answers to drop in a basket or box. And then, as the box fills up, grab those titles and put them on display with a tag that says "patron pick."

I love this idea so much. I hope someone tries it. If you do try it, let me know

Thanks Gabino for putting that question out into the universe.

And I will end here with my answer to this questions, but anyone who knows me even a little can probably guess the answer...

It's RIVER OF TEETH, of course! By Sarah Gailey. It's an all out adventure with amazing, interesting, and eccentric characters who seem super fun and...wait for it....there'd be HIPPOS! Yup, that one was easy. Sounds like a super fun night out to me.

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