Yesterday, I reviewed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner. (By the way, in England, it's called The Little Shop of Happily Ever After, which I kind of like.) I loved the story, and, most of all, I loved Nina Redmond, the librarian turned bookseller. But, here are my thoughts. In some ways, it was a depressing book because Nina Redmond had to become a bookseller in order to continue to share her love of books.
It was just happenstance that while I was finishing Colgan's novel I read an article in the August 29, 2016 Publishers Weekly, "We Need to Talk About Reference" by Andrew Richard Albanese and Brian Kenney. It's an article that angers me and breaks my heart, as Colgan's book does sometimes. In talking about library education in the PW article, Andy Woodworth says, "It needs a customer service revamp with a side of social work and a generous helping of interpersonal communication and psychology." In Colgan, one of the reference librarians says, "It was lovely. People coming in to share stories or books or things they liked. Now, it's people coming in because they're desperate. They're cut off from the world because they don't have the Internet or their benefits have been taken away and they can't make ends meet, and nobody is left out there to care...I'm a librarian, and now I'm an IT support worker with a side order of psychology, addiction counseling, and social work."
You want to know something? I didn't go to school to get a social work degree. I'm glad I'm no longer in direct public service. I want to be Nina, but Nina as a librarian. Nina's dream is "Helping to match people to the book that would change their life, or make them fall in love, or get over a love affair gone wrong." What's wrong with that? In one of my libraries, I did that. I knew the community, and my customers, and they asked for book suggestions. People still want to read, but libraries, in their attempt to stay "relevant" may have forgotten that. Computers and makerspaces. What about the people who want a good book? While we're so busy being social workers and IT staff, the people who want to read are drifting away from libraries, the people who always supported libraries. Why the popularity of Little Libraries? Because those are still collections of books.
I love to write my blog, where I can talk about books with other people. I love to go to mystery conferences because people get excited about books and authors. Here are the best parts of my work life. Once a month, I talk books with other librarians and publishers. Once a month, I go to a school and read to third graders who are still excited about books. And, the highlight of every week is on Twitter when librarians from all over the country participate in #AskaLibrarian. People tweet, asking for book suggestions from librarians. And, it's so popular that it tends to trend every Thursday between noon and 1 PM ET. And, people follow me after I suggest books! Just imagine. I suggest books to readers, and they get excited! And, I order books and see all the books that come in, and I get tons of books at home, but the best part of every week is that hour of #AskaLibrarian.
Some people still understand that. Rivkah Sass, Executive Director at Sacramento Public Library, is quoted in the PW article. "In fact, most people who meet librarians socially want to know what the librarian is reading and want to hear recommendations. Since reading is so important to everything we do, why not celebrate our power to help everyone find just the right book?"
I'm still a librarian in everything I do, in my blog, my book reviews, my discussions with family members (we talk books!), discussions with friends. As I said, I'm glad I'm no longer on the floor where I wouldn't get to talk books. I'm finding my own ways to do what I want, as Nina did, "the only job she wanted: finding the right book for the right person."