Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Time Out

When I’m working the Circ Desk I often get the opportunity to chat with people about what they’re reading. I also see how often a book goes out when I stamp the due date in the back. It is possible for me to get a very accurate picture of how popular a read is by looking at the stats we keep on each book. I have no idea who has taken the book out, but I am able to tell how many times the book has gone out. But, by and large, I can get a rough read by just looking at the stamped date. The dates are color coded so I can also see if the book has gone out a lot this year or last or even the year before depending on the stamped ink color. There have also been times when I’ve noted that the last time a particular book went out was say, October of 87. That is a long time between check-outs.

Anyway, sometimes when I flip the back cover I see that for this particular book there are no stamped dates. So this means that this patron is the first person to borrow this book. I usually make a remark like: “Hey, you’re the first person to take out this book.” As a rule the individual smiles, I then ask “Let me know what you think of the book when you bring it back.” The patron usually smiles, nods their head and says “Sure”. I first started doing this with children. I have a very clear memory of having to lean over the Circ Desk to speak to a small child and ask them to tell me about the book when she brought it back. She beamed at the prospect of an adult interested in her opinion of a book. She then told me all about the book. Evidently she and her mom had already read the book in the Children’s Area, liked it and were taking it home for additional readings. I found the activity so enjoyable and successful with children that I decided to expand the request to include adults.

Now the chances that I’ll be at the front desk when the book is returned are not good. But there have been a few cases where the individual to whom I made the request has sought me out to tell me about the book. And that is just great. My request is not merely a way to chat away the time with patrons, although it is a pleasant activity. I really am interested in what people like to read and the reasons for doing so. One of the reasons is because I sometimes get recommendation requests. So if my breadth of knowledge concerning the collection is expanded by other readers who have first hand experience with a particular book I have a much better chance of hitting the mark for any individual reader.

There is also an additional reason. I too like to read. And when a few hundred books pass through your hands each week you can’t read them all. No matter how much you might want to. So some type of personal triage for reading material is necessary. One way I decide what I’m going to read is personal recommendations. If someone I work with recommends a book I take that as a very good sign. And if a patron recommends a particular book that too is a strong point in favor of my checking it out. Now, does this method always produce a winning read for me? Nope. But what it does do is it allows me to chat with others who also happen to enjoy one of my favorite activities. In addition, it also expands my exposure to include a particular book; one that, for whatever reason, I might never have chosen to take off the shelf and read myself. What a deal!

See you at the Library,

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