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!)