Public Librarianship – the downlow

I’ve had a mixed reaction from people I’ve known for years when they find out I’m a librarian. Most go, “Oh, that makes sense!”, but I did run into a high school buddy who had assumed I would end up an accountant. Anyway, a Public Librarian is what I am, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. And while most librarians are not of the “shushing old lady with a hairbun” type (and can we PLEASE move away from that already!), I am not of the “dye my hair a funky color, dress steampunk, and have lots of Twitter followers” librarians either. I’m far more middle ground. I’ve been in the profession a solid two years, and have been reflecting on my career expectations. While I am pleased with the position I am currently in (and very lucky to have it), it has occurred to me that my job is quite different from what I had initially anticipated. And while some of it has to do with the kind of library I work it, some of it has to do with the profession at large.

  • I rarely talk books with the public. My library keeps track of the “reader’s advisory” interactions we have at the desk (when we talk books with a patron and hopefully make a good suggestion to them of what to read next), and in the past few months we’re still in single digits for the grand total. Which, seeing as many librarians enter the profession because of a love of reading and books, is super sad. I’ve been proactive about reading ARCs (advance reader copies of books), and spend some of my work hours creating book lists for patrons, and practically BEG patrons to talk books with me, and it almost never happens. A lot of this has to do with the community I’m in, and the size of the library. We’re not big enough to have a specific reader’s advisory department, and though we do have some voracious readers for patrons, they tend to be old ladies who have specific interests for what they read, and they don’t need me to help them out. So I find myself brainstorming about ways I can use this book knowledge I’ve curated, channel it, because IRL I tend to only talk about what I’m reading with my library director.
  • Libraries in general are moving towards a more “community center” kind of mentality, what with the different kinds of programming, MakerSpaces, and things of that nature. But at least in the two communities I’ve worked in thus far, the library is pretty much just the place where harried moms can take their children for a short break, unemployed people can apply for jobs and force me to realize how little they know about computers, and where the odd community organizations will hold some function in our meeting rooms and then maybe one of them will wander into the rest of the building, be impressed, but never set foot in here again. Also, where middle-aged women can get ALL the mystery and romance novels they desire, all by well-known authors or specialty publishers who publish frequently. People in my demographic don’t use the library, and everybody knows that. So many people don’t use the library because they don’t read much, and if they do, they buy the books. Most people don’t even realize they can check out eBooks from the library for free! (This has become my life’s mission, to tell the masses about free eBooks at the library.) In general, college students don’t come here. Professionals don’t come here. My demographic, my people, don’t come here.
  • When I tell people I’m from the library, I usually get a glazed-over look from them. To a lot of people, I have a super boring-sounding job. They don’t know how much work I put into a program that hardly anyone shows up to. They don’t know all the different kinds of books I buy that nobody checks out. They don’t know that I went to grad school to get this job. They don’t know that I am a creative person, looking for ways to have the library help them. The especially annoying interaction will involve the other party saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I never read. I bet you hate me! Har har har!” When I meet someone new and learn their profession, you can bet I’m already thinking about ways to use your skills in a library program. But some people just brush me off because they think my job is boring.

I’ve been thinking that I may want to get back into book retail someday, since that’s where my interests lie. Maybe I’ll change what kind of library I work in. Maybe I’ll go for another degree and end up in a completely different field. I don’t know yet. But I do know that sometimes it’s really hard to be a librarian.

Favorite Books of 2014

Happy New Year!! I rang in the new year by myself – super enjoyable because I watched disaster films! (It’s sort of become a family tradition.) Airport, Airport 1975 (which is one of my favorite films of all time now, simply because it’s so over-the-top and if you grew up watching Airplane! you’ll recognize where the gags came from), and the original Poseidon Adventure. So many famous movie stars in all of them, too!!

Anyway, back to bookish things. In 2014, I read 74 books, for a total of 24,542 pages. 27% male writers, and 63% ebooks. Not too shabby. I set my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge to 60 books because if I read more, great! If I don’t, no matter!

This was the first year in a long while where I actually kept track of what I read (honestly, I think the last time was middle school where you could win prizes based on how many books you read), and the first year since becoming a librarian that I read so voraciously! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, and I’ve dipped my toe into some genres I don’t normally read. I’m looking forward to lots of great reading to come. But I did want to document my picks for 2014:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Hands down, my favorite book of the year. If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is the first one I mention. It’s categorized as science fiction, and is set in a dystopian society of sorts, which had initially turned me off, but the reviews were so good, and the premise so intriguing I threw caution to the wind and dove in. I stayed up very late to finish this book. It’s an intense emotional roller coaster that follows a few different story lines, and will make you sit and think about the book long after you’ve read it. It starts with a famous actor dying on stage during King Lear, and all the characters we follow throughout the rest of the book are connected to that one night. We see what life what like before that night when the pandemic flu came, and what life was like after, up to 20 years later. It’s absolutely fascinating, and heartbreaking, and utterly beautiful.

2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I had not previously read any Waters, but won this book from a Shelf Awareness giveaway and gave it a try. DUDE. First off – it’s historical fiction, very evocative of the era just after World War I. Not quite Downton Abbey level, but that connection may still draw you in. The relationships in this book are complex and heart-wrenching, and will appeal to many. And there’s a murder in it, and once you reach that point in the book, you can’t put it down. I was told to set aside a weekend to read this, and that was definitely the case. You’ll get sucked in and won’t let up until the very end.

3. As You Wish by Carey Elwes. Like most people, I LOVE The Princess Bride! When I heard Elwes (“my sweet Westley”) was publishing a book about his experiences with Princess Bride, I was overjoyed. Elwes definitely delivers! The book is SO SWEET. You can tell this man had the time of his life making this movie, and loved the cast and crew for enabling this silly little film to be made. He’s utterly charming as he tells about how he got the job, what working with Rob Reiner was like, his relationship with Robin Wright, and a number of fun stories about Andre the Giant. Plus he gets fellow cast and crew to tell short asides about their version of events. An absolute delight to read, and you’ll want to watch the film again immediately after reading.

4. The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow. I read this earlier in the year, and once I finished it I immediately had to write an aunt of mine to tell her she should read it. The MacGuffin (if you will) is an old family quilt. A modern English woman is going through her own daily troubles, and is trying to find out more about this quilt that was passed down in her family. Meanwhile, we alternate to a young English woman in the past who might have connection to the quilt, and we follow her sad life after a very Downton Abbey run-in with a man of means. Not quite a cozy mystery, but if you’re into family history, upstairs/downstairs stories, and mysteries that don’t necessarily involve a murder, this one may be for you.

5. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. This was one of the first books this year that I flipped out over. We follow a young immigrant Russian girl go from rags to riches over the course of her life. She is badly injured after her family comes to America, and is taking in by an Italian family who make gelato. She grows up with the family, learning the business, and gaining shrewd business practices that will help her continue to climb the economic ladder. The woman is like a more humorous Scarlett O’Hara, who finds herself involved with so many 20th century milestones it’s a little like Forrest Gump, too. A hefty book, but a mighty entertaining story of a woman determined to make her life better than what she was handed.

Plenty more on my list of great reads, but these particularly stood out, and were ones I found myself recommending to friends, family, and library patrons alike. Onward in 2015!

My love/hate relationship with BookTube

So as I stated in my last post, I recently discovered BookTube. I am both intrigued and annoyed by the phenomenon of BookTube. I love it for showcasing lots of great books, and getting the enthusiasm from other book lovers rubbed off on you. But there are a couple of things that really get under my skin about the BookTube community (at least what I have seen of it thus far):

“This book is SO GOOD. UH. SO GOOD. I JUST LOVE IT. And this cover is GORGEOUS.”
This is about 90% of the reviews I have seen. Just unleashed giddiness. But as a potential reader, I would like to know WHY do you find it a good read? What is the plot? Did characters stand out? Was the writing evocative? What other books are like it? What kind of reader might like this book? As a book professional for a number of years, I find this extremely lacking, and not good sells at all. If a publisher or author is sending you a review or even finished copy of a book, I would think you owe them a little more time and space in your videos. Which leads me to my second point…

“LOOK AT ALL THE BOOKS I GOT.”
I get book hauls. I do. But these BookTubers… they seem more materialistic than anything. They get sent books for review, sure, but they also buy books like crazy, and might buy three copies of the same book because they want the UK cover and the new reboot cover in addition to the one they actually read. Some people are book collectors, and I get it, but I also get annoyed with all these book haul videos that number DOZENS of books that these BookTubers cannot possibly read. I just seem them as greedy teens who are being reckless with daddy’s money. YES, I do see a number of review videos, but that leads me to my third point….

All YA. Almost nothing but YA.
I like YA. I do! But I’m very selective with the YA I read because I find much of it fluff, and I’m in charge of Adult Fiction purchasing at my library, so that’s what I pay the most attention to. So I get bored super fast with the majority of BookTube videos that just gush about YA titles. Where are the literary fiction BookTubers? If they do go into literary fiction, it’s mixed in with YA, and it’s frequently something like, “what classic books should I read?” *sigh* Again.

I wish there were more vibrant librarians on BookTube. Book professionals who know how to book talk, and have some method to the madness of book accumulation. Avid readers of adult fiction who can speak more authoritatively about it than just on dead white guys. Librarians who know their stuff, yet can also command a video camera with enthusiasm like the best young BookTubers. Many librarian book talk videos are of poor quality, and have not particularly inviting women (not many guys in general) talking about books. That’s also boring. And after a few solid updates, they stop having the time or energy to keep producing and uploading videos. Many of the reader’s advisory librarians are busy doing their jobs, or posting useful blog links, and are thus not able or equipped to make BookTube videos. But it’s still my wish.

Le sigh. I’m not the kind of person to actually make this change, I just know what needs to be done. That can be an annoying position for everyone. But I hope some more outgoing and experimental librarian tries to tackle an unexplored area of BookTube!

BookTube and September Haul

Do you know about BookTube? I only recently discovered it. It seems to mostly be young ladies in their teens or early twenties to make videos about the stacks of YA novels they just got, and gushing about how beautiful the covers are. I think it’s neat (if somewhat overwhelming), but I would be more into it if there was more… uh… grown-up(?) content to be had. More literary fiction, maybe some subject non-fiction. So I briefly entertained the idea of starting a BookTube channel myself doing that very thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided against it because A) I don’t think I look very good on camera, nor do I have camera equipment besides a webcam, B) I don’t know if I want to make the “brand” commitment and stick to it, and C) that’s a lot of content creation, and I don’t know if I want to dedicate some of my free time to doing something that will inevitably stress me out. So I’m backing off the idea of BookTube and going to see about doing more on the Twitter side of the bookish social media, and maybe use this blog as more of a platform for what I would put in a BookTube video without the anxiety of being on camera and working in a medium I’m not as familiar with.

So, in the spirit of BookTube, I thought I would do a “September Haul,” here on the blog! (Because, gosh, my TBR is sinking under the weight.)

September 2014 Book Haul

Continue reading “BookTube and September Haul”