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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Reading Books

As some of you may know (or have guessed), I love books, I love to read, and I love the role that libraries and librarians serve in the lives of readers.

One of my pet peeves (I have so many I should run a zoo) is when that role isn’t recognized or is downplayed. Sometimes it’s “anyone who reads can do readers advisory,” so who needs librarians? That’s a bit like saying anyone who eats can cook. Reading is about “me,” what I want and enjoy in a story; readers advisory is about “you,” what you want and enjoy in a story. Me is not you.

Other times its, “it’s really easy for people to find the books they want to read so they don’t need librarians or libraries.” I file that under, “you really don’t understand how people find books” folder. (How people find what they read, what influences them, how they’re not even aware of it (i.e., paid promotion in bookstores), is far from simple. That it’s invisible and hard to define does not mean it’s nonexistent and easy to do.)

Do libraries downplay it? Well, how many times do you see “readers advisory” included in “what’s amazing about libraries?” Nowadays, the main talking points for libraries seem to be information, knowledge, technology, and community — all good and admirable — but it leaves no room for the reader, unless there happens to be some overlap with one those four points.

So, it was with a lot of agreement that I read Laura Pearle’s The Role of Reading at the Venn Librarian (and not just because she highlighted one of my tweets on this subject). Here are some highlights, but please read the whole thing: “Yet for some reason, our role in reading has been diminished and unstressed.” “Reader’s Advisory is one of the few school librarian skills that cannot be outsourced to others. Many (most?) English/Language Arts teachers aren’t really up on what’s New! Wonderful! in the world of ya or children’s literature. Not only that, those teachers rarely allow students to just read the book, they want analysis and thoughtfulness.” Laura’s final words, “What I’m saying is, what better way to make yourself essential to the school than by creating passionate readers who will advocate for you when they tell their teachers and parents that you provided them with their current great read?” can also apply to public libraries.

If passionate readers make passionate library users, why isn’t readers advisory given more respect in the greater libraryworld? (And if you think it is, please, leave the links to reassure me of that!)

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. I agree with you 100%. One of my close friends is a librarian and she’s had many kids come up to her, confessing they’re not big readers and asking for recommendations. And a lot of those kids have now become avid readers and supporters of the library.

    So for anyone who underestimates the role of the librarian, ask where those kids would be now if a librarian hadn’t listened to them and, not only found a book for them to read, but taught them how to learn to LOVE reading.

    Smiles!
    Lori

  2. adrienne says:

    I’m going to share this with my colleagues at the library. We’ve been talking about this over the last couple years, trying to find ways to strengthen the reader’s advisory skills of our staff and make them more prominent and recognized.

  3. MotherReader says:

    I agree with you on the value of reader’s advisory, but I think it’s a hard sell in “marketing” to the public. It’s like how YouTube ruined making short films in that everyone thinks that everyone can do it. And I guess they can, but not necessarily well.

  4. sylvia mcadam says:

    As a mom, I despise how schools have ditched librarians in favor of ‘media specialists’. I do read a lot of children’s literature and y.a. because I like it but most of my friends do not. They have no idea how to advise their children to read especially as they hit that really awful time — middle school — when being a parent is akin to being a leper in the eyes of the child.
    And an English or reading teacher as a reference to good, new books? Don’t make me laugh. They teach the same ‘classic’ books every year and by the time they are done with that book, the kids in the class wouldn’t be caught dead reading it again. My two favorite books as a 5th grader were Julie of the Wolves and Witch of Blackbird Pond. My kids read both books as ‘novels’ in 6th grade. If you ask them about those books now, 6 years later, they will put their fingers in their mouths and make gagging noises. Their English teacher beat those lovely books to death. And it continues to happen.
    Keep fighting the good fight. Maybe one day, the tide will turn the other way and a good librarian who knows books and readers will be valued again. It will be too late for my boys but maybe not for the students who come afterwards.

  5. Sondy says:

    I love this, Liz. And it’s a good reminder to let people KNOW this is something Librarians are good at.

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