I’m not the type to ask questions at the reference desk, and I’ve certainly never needed help finding my own books to read. I approached the desk uncertainly, and the librarian seemed to pick up on my hesitancy. He was very friendly and approachable. When I asked if he could help me find a good book to read, he looked a little uneasy, but then he smiled, nodded, and answered: “I might be able to help you with that.”
He asked me some of the standard questions: What are you looking for? What have you read in the past? Do you want something newer or older? Do you want a series or a stand alone? Because I was asking for science fiction—something I’ve read very little of—I volunteered my favorite sci-fi television shows as well. The librarian was familiar with Firefly, so we talked a little about what I liked about that show. I mentioned that I wanted something ‘accessible’ and not a lot of ‘technobabble.’ It felt like we were having a conversation instead of an interview.
There was a line forming behind me, and the librarian said he’d need a little time to do the searching. He showed me to the Science Fiction shelves so I could browse. I watched him as I browsed for 10 minutes, and he was kept occupied by other patrons’ questions. It was a Sunday afternoon, so there was a rush to pay for printing and get computers.
I happened to find a really promising book as I was browsing. It was a novel about colonizing Mars. When the librarian came to get me, one of the books he said fit my description was Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles – a series of short stories about colonizing Mars. In the interview, he’d clearly grasped exactly the kind of book I was looking for. (For you cynics out there – no, he could not see which books I was browsing.)
Since I was browsing and the librarian was at the desk, I don’t know what tools he used to find the book. When I asked for a description, though, he pulled up Wikipedia for me to read. After I said I thought that book sounded promising, we had a short discussion about science fiction. Apparently, he recommended the book because he had read it before and liked it for the same reasons I said I liked Firefly.
In our textbook, Saricks wrote that librarians fear the dreaded question of science fiction recommendations more than most other genres, but even reading a few titles makes the process easier. This librarian is proof of that. He said he’s not a science fiction fan, but I could tell he had clearly read enough to have some grasp of the genre.
The librarian was friendly and helpful, even though he was alone at the desk on a busy afternoon. He found a book that matched what I asked for with a plot I think is interesting. Whether I actually enjoy the book or not (I do plan to read it!), I consider this secret shopper assignment a success, and I grade the librarian well for his work.
And here’s something interesting:
When I was checking out the book, I mentioned to the clerks how helpful the librarian was. They told me he had just graduated from library school at IUPUI! Since we have a common college, I need to introduce myself properly sometime. I dread telling someone they were “secret shopped” so I might just mention the book was for a class.
Book Review: Illuminae
10 months ago