I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Happy Birthday to Me: Get Me a Present-- Read Something You Are "Afraid" Of

Today I am 45 years old. Not that old, not that young. In 2 days I will become the parent of a full fledged adult child as my eldest daughter turns 18. That is infinitely more unsettling than a birthday for me.

And since it is my birthday, I have a gift request for every single one of you who reads this blog and includes it as part of your Continuing Education. This gift will cost you nothing and you will gain much.

I am asking you to read something you would normally be "afraid" of. Below I have the Call to Action post I wrote here in 2016 explaining how to do this and why. And I also have this post by a librarian who answered the Call to Action and reported on his experience.

I do have a caveat though. After you read the original post and figure out the genre you are most afraid of, pick a title to read that is NOT by a white, heterosexual male in that genre. 

That's it. That is all I am asking you to do. I tell all of you to read in genres you are less comfortable and to read diversely frequently, but I also know that  many don't actually follow through. However, today is my birthday so I am going to use it as a chance to get you to do what I want. It's for your own good. 

[Eds note re last sentence: see above where I said I am about to lose a child  to adulthood, so I am feeling like flexing my parenting demands before I run out of time. Sorry.]

Let's try it this way. Please read the post below, and then if you have further questions or need help finding a title to try, contact me. This request [demand?] comes with assistance. And also, let me know how it went.



RA for All: Call to Action: Get Out There and Read Something You Are “Afraid” Of

It’s back to school time here in Illinois, and as library workers, we all know that this is a time for fresh starts. What a perfect time for me to shake you out of your complacency.

I know, it sounds scary, but it isn’t because first I am going to let you complain.


Real quick, say your least favorite type of book to read. Don’t think about it, just blurt it out. Yes, I am asking you to talk to your computer screen. Just go with it.

It can be a genre, a format, a very specific subgenre, whatever you dislike reading the most. It can be a few things. All I am asking is that you are brutal honest with yourself.

Okay, now, jot those down somewhere.

Now, again be very honest with yourself, how do you feel when readers of your least favorite things  come up to the desk and ask for help?

The most common answer I have found is-- AFRAID. Afraid you cannot help that person because you don’t have any positive feelings about what they are asking for. But that fear translates into us not helping those readers as well and that is not good.

Guess what? I have a way to solve that problem. Take that list you just made of your least favorites and...are you ready for this.... read one of them! Why? Because fear comes from ignorance. Not knowing about something makes us afraid of it.

Arm yourself with a little knowledge by heading over to Goodreads or NoveList and looking up your least favorite areas and find out what the best new books are in that world. And then, put something on hold.

I am not asking you to love it. I’m not even asking you to read it cover to cover. Give it a good skim. But give it a chance. Then read reviews, look at the appeals on NoveList and read the 5 star reviews on Goodreads. The whole process can take you under an hour if you focus, but give yourself a few days.

While you are doing this, I also want you to think about your favorite things to read. Why are they your favorites? Now go and look those books’ appeal and five star reviews.

When you pair your least favorite type of reads [with a focus on those who would like them] with your own personal loves, you get a better understanding of why people enjoy the books they enjoy. You move beyond the fear and into a place of understanding.

You will realize that you can still help someone who likes your least favorite books if you simply take the plunge and expose yourself to something you are “afraid" of. In fact, you may find (as I have over the years) that it is often easier to help people who like the things you dislike more than it is to help those with similar tastes. When you already like something, your personal feelings and biases get in the way of your suggestions. When you have less feelings about the genre, you can be more empirical and impartial with your suggestions.

I promise you, no one will get hurt. In fact, quite the opposite, many more patrons will find their next good read.

For the Call to Action Archive, click here.

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