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Sunday, March 24, 2013

"New Adult" Fiction

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter about "New Adult" books. Novels about first jobs, life outside high school and beyond college are gaining popularity and their own marketing niche. And I just realized ---we were all new adults once.

Somewhere near grown-up, I imagined earning a degree in Library Science. I wondered what being a librarian was all about. I'd met quite a few (cool, diverse, tattooed) librarians, but wanted to get even more of a picture about normal library life. And it's funny, but movie and t.v. portrayals of librarians are not so realistic. Katharine Hepburn and Parker Posey aside, I was looking for some role models.

And that's when I turned to fiction. Looking through the OPAC, I searched for stories about life in the stacks, or in school libraries, or academia. And didn't find too much, I'm afraid. I was new to library studies; I wasn't such a great searcher. And there was no such thing as crowd sourcing on social media back then. Or even blogs. But I wanted to read it---not just cozy mysteries or kids' stories. I guess I was looking for New Adult fiction about starting a career. I wanted to put on the costume and wear it by reading a character’s version of the life. Or get a peek in the fiction window of a fun-loving children’s services specialist instead of a chick-lit designer shoe-wearing journalist. 

Honestly, I didn't get what I was looking for from Stones from the River; there was more to inspire me in strange libraries found in graphic novels. I kind of knew "Sandman" and Garth Nix characters didn't have realistic libraries, but still got something out of those books.

Nevertheless, here's my new insight; not all quests for information require non-fiction to fulfill that need. If a topic is of interest, a reader may enjoy narrative description and stories as well as facts. It’s even a learning experience in itself to determine whether a book is accurate and reliable in depicting the subject at hand. There are truths in fiction that you would never get from the facts. Non-fiction can create understanding, and fiction can create empathy; two important ways to know the world.

Just like I wanted to read a novel about exciting, young, fashionable, well-paid, new NYC librarians. 

That would have been, well…very enlightening and accurate indeed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The question was a total stumper. I was negotiating my first interview for a full-time librarian trainee job. I thought I was doing well until the library director asked me "Can you see any disadvantages to merchandising?"

I had no idea what that meant. My mind flashed to clothing stores, windows, um, ...nothing. Whew, I had to admit in an interview that I didn't know.

Now that I have a few "holiday" displays under my belt, and a couple for "Women's History Month", I can see that indeed I do find some disadvantages to pulling out special book selections and propping them on an end-cap for extra visibility. Who knows where they are? What are some ways to track them? And communicate it to my colleagues? How many places do I need to check for a Hanukkah-themed folktale before I concede that it is lost? 

I just read a Tweet that reminded me of this.

It said: "Checking one last spot before finding the book they desperately need is the best! (Saturday librarian hashtag)".

Can't we all appreciate that feeling of success?

I remember how as a librarian working on Saturday, sometimes you have to check multiple places to find a book that should be "in." It could be on a cart to-be-shelved, or mis-filed on the shelf, or hidden by pranksters. Or on a special display!

Since we stopped using Dewey and converted to an intuitive subject-based categorization system, we've brought materials together from all over the library where they are most likely to be wanted and used by our students. We've identified them by call # in the catalog, so when I can't remember to think like a child, I can still look up the right location.

I like having our "Traditions" books all together with celebrations, holidays, how to throw a Halloween party, the best birthday stories---all labeled and with a simple whole-word descriptor like "Birthdays." I don't need to pull out the Hanukkah stories for a display once a year so they can be noticed.