Do Librarians Need to Be Readers?

Do Librarians Need to Be Readers?

When I am in the library, the books I most frequently hear recommended to children are the Dog-Man series and Magic Tree House. If the children protest they have read these series already, the librarians will usually move on to Stick Dog, Wimpy Kid, and Geronimo Stilton. I am always perplexed by these interactions because, well, of course, the children have read all these series. They are incredibly popular series, many of them bestsellers. Recommending a child read “Dog-Man” is akin to saying, “Have you heard of this magical series called Harry Potter?” “What about Percy Jackson?” Well, yes! Who among frequent readers and library users has not?

Now, the first problem with these interactions is undoubtedly that the librarians here have failed to perform a successful reference interview. In theory, when someone asks for a recommendation, the librarian should first ask what kinds of books the person likes. They would thus (hopefully) avoid giving a bunch of recommendations the person has already read. More interesting to me about these interactions is, however, the obvious fact that librarians being questioned really do not know what books they ought to be recommending. They are resorting to Dog-Mag and Magic Tree House precisely because these series are popular. They see the books on the bestseller list and being constantly circulated and so their minds automatically jump to them. They are recommending perhaps some of the only titles they know.

Surprising as it may seem, a number of librarians I have spoken to do not read. Of the children’s librarians who do, many read only adult books, perhaps reading primarily cozy mysteries or historical fiction or some other genre they love. Of course, everyone ought to read what they love. But how can librarians competently perform a central part of their job–readers’ advisory–if they have read none of the books in their collection?

People go to librarians for recommendations because they perceive librarians to be experts in the field. They assume librarians read all the time (an annoying job stereotype is that librarians read all day at work, right?) and thus know how to recommend titles that a search algorithm will not easily pull up. I have heard patrons ask librarians for things like “books with sassy heroines for third graders,” “lyrical picture books good for a read-aloud,” and “books for a preschooler that read on a first-grade level, but have nothing dramatic or scary in them.” An Internet search engine simply is not going to pull up many good results for such specific requests. And so, people turn to librarians, assuming they will the answer. But librarians will not have the answer if they do not read, because these are questions they cannot easily research online, either.

Also common are the readers who have seemingly read everything in the library. After going through what may seem like every fantasy series available, a reader may then ask for more recommendations. These interactions require reader expertise as well because the person asking is seeking to go beyond the obvious titles, the bestsellers, the books everyone has heard of. Libraries are special in many ways because, unlike a big chain bookstore, they tend to purchase and stock midlist titles they think are worthy and somehow add to the collection. They do not fill their shelves only with bestsellers. But, to recommend hidden gems, the librarians will need to have read them. Searching for “popular middle-grade fantasy series” will likely give them results an avid reader has already read.

It seems obvious that librarians need to read the books in their collections, the books they may be recommending to patrons. The problem here is, perhaps, that librarians generally do not read at work and so any reading would have to happen on their own time. In that case, people would, of course, prefer to read the types of books they like–or, in some cases, to read no books at all. To expect librarians to be experts is to expect them to do the work on their own time without recognition or pay.

I do not know what the answer is. Maybe being a reader of certain types of books needs to be in job descriptions. Maybe librarians need to receive some time to read books at work. Maybe librarians at least need to be given time to read professional reviews of books, if they are not going to read the books themselves. But, ultimately, I do think librarians need to be readers. They need to be reading the books they are expected to recommend. Otherwise, they are failing to be experts in their fields–and experts who answer questions the Internet cannot is what the public needs them to be.

51 thoughts on “Do Librarians Need to Be Readers?

  1. Sara”H” says:

    I feel like that would be the equivalent of going to a “five star” dentist but he had bad teeth. While I don’t like to pass judgement in every day scenarios, there are some things that just contradict themselves. I would have to think it would be a librarian that didn’t read.

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    • Krysta says:

      It does seem odd to me. I think you could do a good job as a librarian who doesn’t read. I think you could do a better job as a librarian who does. That’s why they have specialist librarians. There are law librarians specially trained to find legal resources. Colleges usually have subject area librarians who know enough about a particular subject to recommend the most relevant books. You just get better service from someone who’s familiar with what you’re asking about.

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    • Krysta says:

      Some read, just not what they do readers’ advisory for. They could have professional development where they are encouraged to read professional review journals, etc. to keep up with what’s being published and recommended by other professionals.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    I’ve also encountered this with librarians, especially children’s librarians who don’t read children’s books and can only read off the bestseller list for recommendations, and it IS a bit baffling considering “being familiar with books” seems like a core part of the job and something I would hope hiring committees would screen for, in addition to customer service skills, programming experience, etc.

    On the other hand, this happens in SO many industries that it’s not really surprising. There are a shocking amount of English teachers who don’t read, English PhD students who only read stuff for their research, people in publishing who don’t read, etc. Even for jobs where there is TONS of competition and TONS of qualified people, there are employees who basically fell into the job by accident or who go the job through nepotism or other connections, not because they have a real interest in it. So in that sense, I’m not remotely surprised there are people who work in libraries who don’t read and don’t really care about books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Theoretically, interviewers should be asking how candidates would perform readers’ advisory, but perhaps they don’t, or perhaps they consider it less important than bringing people in with fancy programming.

      That’s true. Many of the staff I’ve known don’t have a background in libraries. Many were hired through their connections.

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    • Krysta says:

      Some librarians read. Just not what they do readers’ advisory for. I do think you’ll do a better job if you have some knowledge of the collection and the market.

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  3. Grab the Lapels says:

    I can appreciate your argument, but I disagree. Because the example was limited to children’s books, it seems easy to say that the librarians should be reading what’s in their collection — the books are short, right? But given the size of some libraries, and the fact that professional development isn’t free, nor should a librarian be expected to work on his/her own time, it’s not fair to expect a person’s librarian skills to only come from first-hand knowledge. I work in reference, and no one would ever expect me to read from 000-999 to have a knowledge of anything that a patron might ask about. We use sites like Fantastic Fiction, Library Aware, NoveList Plus, and even Goodreads lists to find read-a-likes. When I took a course on reference interviews through the University of Madison-Wisconsin, the professors were very clear that no librarian is expected to read for the sake of recommended book, because that’s what research skills are for.

    As a bookworm, it does blow my mind that there are librarians who don’t seem to read at all, but that’s their personal choice and doesn’t excuse poor research skills in finding the right book for a patron.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I agree it’s not possible for a librarian to read everything. Even if someone is an avid reader, they of course might read mainly mysteries and literary fiction or maybe they read children’s books but mostly fantasy and historical fiction and couldn’t tell you much about contemporary books. In that case, I do think research matters and, as Krysta mentioned, the opportunity to at least read professional reviews and publications on work time. The thing about research is often that you need some base level of knowledge to know *what* to research, and librarians do need to find a way to go beyond, “Oh, you like fantasy? Have you heard of JRR Tolkien and Brandon Sanderson?” for things they don’t know much about.

      I do think nonfiction is different because the requests are more like, “I want a book on how to knit” or “I need a keto diet book” and there are clear keywords there.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

        You’re so right– knowing WHAT to research is key! I’d love it if my library had a class that taught patrons how to research read-alikes. I’m shocked at how many patrons don’t know they can use tools like Library Aware and NoveList. I feel, in part thanks to the accessibility of the internet, researching for ourselves is becoming a lost art.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          And then delving deeper into the lists! One of the reasons I think it’s important for librarians to read (books and reviews of books) even if you can’t read everything is because sometimes these lists are…wrong. I can look at a Goodreads list of “YA books based on Jane Austen” and know some aren’t YA only because I read YA and about YA. Otherwise, people really have to look more into the list, checking the summary of the book and what age range it’s classified as, instead of stopping at looking at the list.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

            Very true. Wonder how many librarians are just as lost as we are when coming up with recommendations because they are overwhelmed by the information. The key is finding sources you trust.

            Yes, I think librarians should be familiar with the collection and know enough about the lists to recognize good from bad information.

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      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Yes, I absolutely agree that librarians should be reading reviews at work. We get Publisher’s Weekly here, and that’s helpful. We also get a magazine copy of Krikus Reviews. Even if the library employee hasn’t read the book, they should have a good knowledge of what’s going on in publishing, what’s being reviewed, etc. I definitely agree there!

        Boy howdy, I wish requests at the reference desk were as simple as “knit” and “keto.” It’s more like “I need images of a specific air plane from WWII because I’m painting these model planes,” or “I need information about two types of wind-generated water pumps because I’m making my own windmill,” or “can you tell me about the boating laws for a specific lake in Michigan, but that lake isn’t on the map.” I feel like Sherlock Holmes most days, and have to rely on reasoning and research skills.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think nonfiction is different in that patrons would generally be asking reference questions, and not for readers’ advisory. They want to know if you have books on penguins or where the penguin books are located, not necessarily which penguin book is best (unless they’re asking about reading level). In any case, nonfiction tends to be very expensive and libraries house fewer titles, so most patrons would likely see there are five penguin books and just decide for themselves which is best on the spot, or take them all.

      It’s a bit different from asking something like, “Do you have a book like Where the Red Fern Grows appropriate for a ten-year-old and featuring a female protagonist?” To do that type of readers’ advisory, you can’t just type a keyword into the catalog, You have to have some general knowledge of 1) what Where the Red Fern Grows is, 2) what books are considered to be on a 10-year-old’s reading level, and 3) what types of books might be what the patron is looking for (after asking what it is she likes about the book, what other books her child reads, etc.). Novelist and those other resources are a great place to start. But the librarians need to be trained in using these resources.

      If patrons regularly ask for books for a third grader and all the librarians can say is, “Here’s Magic Tree House!” I’m thinking 1) they have no clue what’s in their collection and 2) they aren’t being given any time to work on professional development and familiarize themselves with what’s out there. I think ideally they’d be given time to browse the collection, read professional reviews, learn how to use resources like Novelist, and, yes, even read a few of the shorter titles while at work.

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      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Hi Krysta, Briana wrote a very similar comment that I responded to, so you can check out my answer there. I also think there are some assumptions happening here: 1) that the reference section is small, 2) that patrons ask simple reference questions, and 3) that they are always requesting books for themselves as opposed to someone with a learning disability, a person with advanced knowledge of the subject, or a book for a homeschooled child who reads way above his/her reading level.

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        • Krysta says:

          I think we may be addressing different topics. I was speaking about readers’ advisory–recommending books–and not so much reference questions, and I think Briana’s comment was also in that vein. People would ask for books on knitting or cookbooks for keto. In those cases, most librarians will show them the section and let them browse, unless the person specifies they need a book for a certain reading level or certain project.

          Reference questions about a lake or requests for photos would probably entail an internet search in most cases. Of course, those aren’t easy questions! But I think they are very different from someone asking if you have a book on a certain topic in the nonfiction section.

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          • Grab the Lapels says:

            Possibly. I may have gotten slightly off track, but I think a question like “I’m interested in WWII nonfiction, I’ve already read everything about D-Day and now want something that reads more like a narrative than a textbook, what do you recommend?” is pretty similar. And still, the librarian doesn’t need to be a historian or read all of the nonfiction.

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  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I agree with Melanie’s comment above– there is a middle ground. While it would be great if librarians are reading what is in their collection, or at least reading books they can add to their collection in the future, there are far more books in the world that we will ever read. I do expect my librarian to be willing to take the time to get to know me, what I’ve read, and my tastes before recommending something. None of this off-the-cuff recommendation based on the Bestseller List.

    But I think Librarians are unfairly judged by their patrons. I was waiting to speak to a librarian who was assisting another patron and I overheard the patron admonishing the librarian for looking something up! The comment was along the lines of, “Do they pay you just to Google stuff for us, then?” I was so offended for the librarian! Thankfully, he was well prepared to explain that he has tools like NoveList to help connect readers to book he had never read. The librarian did a wonderful job deflecting the comment. His ability to do so gracefully had me thinking: I bet he has to deflect this sort of comment a lot.

    Are we unfairly expecting librarians to be human supercomputers and have lists of recommendations memorized? Perhaps. And perhaps this is why librarians default to Bestsellers when confronted with a recommendation.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t think librarians need to be familiar with every book in the library. That would be quite the feat! I do think that they ought to have read SOMETHING in the collection, and that they ought to follow publishing and library news, and read reviews on upcoming releases. I think if someone asks for a popular book, they should have heard of it. I think they should be able to hear a recommendation and think, “Hm, School Library Journal just released a list of the top ten books with digital romances” or whatever. But if all I hear is, “Have you read Dog Man?” it seems clear to me that the librarians aren’t being asked to do any professional development for readers’ advisory, and that’s a problem.

      Haha! I’ve never heard someone upset about a librarian looking something up! But it’s a customer service job. I’m sure librarians hear all sorts of bizarre things.

      I don’t think librarians need to be supercomputers or remember everything they’ve ever read. But I can go to Goodreads and look for recommendations, too. I do expect my librarians to go a bit beyond what I can do myself with Google.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

        I completely agree. They need to know SOMETHING. Getting a library job is extraordinarily difficult, I hear, as the market is oversaturated. If you’re a librarian, I’d hope you’re a good one to be in this position.

        Have you ever experienced a librarian not knowing a popular book? I don’t think I have. But such an experience would make me sad.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I worked in a library briefly and mentioned Sarah J Maas and Throne of Glass to someone who was becoming involved with the teen books and programming, and she had no idea who she was. Granted, the person was not specifically a teen librarian and was not hired to be one; she just wanted to start moving more into that role. However, I was surprised she had idea who Maas is. She vaguely said something about how she didn’t read YA but was starting to a little bit since she wanted to work with teens more. I threw out a few more popular YA books and then awkwardly shuffled away when we couldn’t find anything she had read or even generally knew existed.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

            Yikes. Well, at least she recognizes that she needed to read more YA if she wanted to work with teens more… I’d love to get into a conversation with a teen librarian about whether Sarah J Maas’s works should be shelved in the Teen section! I hope you gave her some food for thought.

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  5. Jessica @ Storytime in the Stacks says:

    A few thoughts:

    Is it librarians making these recommendations, or paraprofessionals with less training? I wonder about the impact on advisory when libraries rely more and more on paraprofessionals and cut back on degreed staff – especially if there isn’t good continuous training in place to support the development of advisory and reference skills.

    It’s also impossible to read widely and become personally familiar with each and every collection when you staff each and every desk in the library… especially if this time isn’t built into your schedule! I’m concerned by this lack of time to read reviews and keep up with the publishing industry. Like you said, if patrons are mostly seeing us turn to bestseller lists on Google, why should they ask us for help? Why should they vote for mill levies and better staffing levels if we’re offering marginally better than self-service?

    I’d love to see libraries rely less on their staff’s unpaid labor and prioritize professional development for RA! I wonder if this focus is something that has been lost as libraries have moved away from just physical collections and tried to find their footing in the 21st century?

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    • Krysta says:

      I’m guessing most of the staff are not degreed librarians, which could be part of the issue. They wouldn’t necessarily have had any training at all in readers’ advisory.

      I do see how staffing various desks could be difficult. This would particularly be a dilemma for smaller libraries where there is one desk and staff rotate on and off the floor. My hometown library, however, has a separate children’s room where all the staff at desk are children’s staff. And that is why it is bizarre to me that so few of them seem to be able to do competent readers’ advisory.

      I do think professional training would help, but almost everyone there is part-time, so I don’t imagine that’s considered a priority by administration.

      I do think that libraries are trying, as you say, to find their footing in the 21st century. However, I would argue that the materials collection remains at the heart of the library and is the main thing most people would associate the library with, so it’s odd to me that staff would forget to prioritize their knowledge of the physical collections. I appreciate libraries doing programming and acting as community spaces, but plenty of people still go there for the books!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. cryptomathecian says:

    I’ve known a librarian who was only interested in books about cats and who was still a decent librarian. After all, being a librarian is a job and not some kind of vocational profession.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think it can depend on what you want from a librarian. Colleges, for instance, often have librarians who specialize in different subject areas because they can better point researchers to relevant texts. There are also law librarians because generalist librarians aren’t trained as thoroughly in finding legal resources. If I have general reference question, a generalist can answer it. If I don’t, I might need someone with more extensive background knowledge.

      In this case, I was thinking specifically of children’s books since that’s where I spend most of my time in the library. (Also, I think adults generally don’t ask for readers’ advisory because they have a better idea of what they like already.) I think children’s librarians should specifically have background knowledge of children’s literature. I think even the librarians must agree because I have heard the adult reference librarians transfer children’s readers’ advisory questions to the children’s librarians.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cryptomathecian says:

        When I was graduating, library sciences where offered as post graduate course for graduates who wanted to spend their careers away of the rat race in a research library. People who studied library science as a major, usually find employ in libraries and archives where you have a bigger variety of indexed subjects, materials and diversity among the patrons.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nancy says:

    Yes, yes, yes- librarians need to be readers! I am a teen librarian, and I order the YA books and all the graphic novels for my library, so I need to be aware of trends, awards and my communities needs when I place my monthly order. I read a few YA and graphic novels a month, both for my pleasure and to understand the genres, plus I read other adult books that interest me. While I typically read 100+ books a year, I do not think other librarians need to read that much (I choose to because I love to read) but being informed and reading trade publications is a must. I love being asked for recommendations and want to be knowledgable and offer my help in finding a book that they will enjoy.

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    • Krysta says:

      I once read a recommendation from a children’s librarian who suggested children’s librarians should read 500 books a year. Even if most of them are picture books or chapter books, that seems a little over-ambitious! I think librarians should read a few books each year from the collection and keep up with the market through professional publications. Just enough so that they can make recommendations that are personal and relevant. 500 books is like…I don’t know. You’re really going above and beyond there!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. overstuffedbook says:

    A couple of things:

    Not all library staff are librarians. I am a Library Assistant and I am regularly asked for recommendations, even though readers’ advisory is not a part of what I’m supposed to do. Public Service Associates and Public Service Specialists are the ones at my library system that do most of the readers’ advisory, and they do not all have degrees. Library degrees are definitely not required. But they do use resources online to help with readers’ advisory. However, if I’m the only person working in one of our smaller branches, that readers’ advisory falls to me, and I try my best to get through it, even though I haven’t been trained on it, and am not “supposed” to do it. At my library system, librarians are often not even on the floor helping customers, or are only doing that for part of the time. They are leading programs or planning them, or are doing other jobs that they are assigned. So I think it unfair to claim that everyone doing readers’ advisory is someone who has a masters degree (librarians have masters degrees) and therefore should know most of the books that are in the library.

    Also: no one in my library system has any time to read on the job. It would be wonderful to be able to, but it doesn’t happen. Training for readers’ advisory should be a given, but allowing for time for all those staff (not just librarians are doing readers’ advisory, remember) to read books in the collection would be really hard to do, if not impossible. It would be wonderful, as I said, but not very doable.

    In my library system, there are two people who order books for the entire system and they don’t even read all the books we order. There’s no way. They get in new books every week, if not more often. They rely on bloggers and other reviewers and word of mouth, etc.

    Also, a big thing that would help all this: funding. If our public library systems could get more funding, we could do a hell of a lot more. Have better training. Maybe hire a few more people so that we actually could get time on the job to read a new release or some info on new releases. Purchase a lot more books that are not those super-popular titles.

    I agree that librarians should be readers. And I’m sure that there are some out there who are not readers. But I’m sure that most library staff ARE readers. They just can’t read everything. And maybe they’re like me, and are super slow readers so they really can’t read everything. But i don’t know if it’s fair to tell librarians and library staff that they need to know the collection a lot better when A) There’s not enough time and funding to do so, B) Most librarians and library staff ARE reading, just maybe not every section, and C) Library jobs contain so so so many more duties than readers’ advisory.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      The thing about not all library workers being librarians is a big one, and it’s a common misconception I see, though Krysta’s post was about librarians and children’s librarians in particular and not suggesting that every person in the library should read the entire collection. I do think it’s helpful for people to understand, however, that if they just stop the first person they see in a library to ask them a question, it may or may not be their area of expertise. At the library I used to work at, it was common for people to stop pages and ask them questions because “They’re standing here in the aisle, and someone’s already talking to the person at the desk.” And at that library, a page might actually be best positioned to answer questions like “Where are the children’s graphic novels?” because they are the ones who put them away. (There were seriously people who worked at circulation who didn’t know there WAS a children’s graphic novel section at all.) But the page–often a part-time, minimum wage college student–might not be the best person for readers’ advisory. I definitely heard a few stumble when asked for middle grade or picture book recommendations because this is not something they read AND they aren’t at a desk where they would have even access to a computer to search for something. (But, yes, pages would occasionally cover the children’s desk for breaks, too, and then they LOOK like they’re someone official who should have the answers for recommendations, but they still are not librarians or even generally trained on how to do readers’ advisory searches.)

      I also agree that librarians cannot read everything and clearly no one is expecting them to, but if you’re in a general section, you should know something about it, which is why Krysta was talking about children’s librarians. There are a number of them who do not read any children’s books at all, and it’s strange, and reading some and then learning more by reading reviews and trade publications would obviously help them fill up the gaps. I do think looking up lists and whatnot is helpful, but a base level of knowledge of the materials you are specifically working with is invaluable. For instance, I can look at a “YA retellings of Snow White” on Goodreads, but I only know that half the books on the list are not actually YA or are not actually Snow White retellings because I happen to read YA and read reviews of YA books that I haven’t personally read. If I were relying purely on my research skills, I might just trust the list and hand it to someone and tell them to have fun reading stuff that…is not what they were actually looking for.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Christopher says:

    As another Library Assistant I’m also surprised by the number of librarians who don’t read–not even on their own time. Although to be fair the degreed librarians where I work are also salaried and many work more than forty hours a week, so I understand their free time is limited. However there are also librarians whose primary responsibility is selecting materials, and they spend time talking to patrons. They’re also the people who staff the reference desk where patrons are sent who have questions or want recommendations.
    The assumption that librarians read a lot, that librarians have time to read a lot, bugs me too, though. In the July 18, 2019 New York Times Book Review the author Chuck Klosterman said he respects the recommendations of research librarians because “They have no agenda and plenty of free time.” As you can imagine there were some pretty pointed replies from librarians explaining that they don’t have a lot of free time.
    One thing that could help, I think, is better technology. The major library databases out there promise to automate mundane, routine tasks but fall short of that promise. Too much library software is designed by developers with no library experience and little or no input from librarians or library employees. A developer once said to me, “If the system we’re building doesn’t fit your procedures than you need to change your procedures.”
    That kind of thinking leads to a lot of wasted time as library staff try to find ways to use software that isn’t really designed to fit their needs. I don’t expect technology to solve everything but better design could lead to librarians spending less time staring at screens and more time interacting with patrons.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      “Plenty of free time!” That comment seems designed to annoy anyone in ANY industry! Even if someone did have a job with downtime, in many cases you’re supposed to “find work to do” or “look busy,” not just plop down and pull out a book!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Michael J. Miller says:

    I absolutely agree librarians should be readers. As I was reading this I kept thinking, “Librarians not reading would be like me, as a theology teacher, saying, ‘Huh, have you heard about this Jesus or Buddha guy? It’s wild stuff!'” But, like teaching, I can appreciate the struggle with time. I always have another book I’d like to read to inform a lesson but it’s hard to find the time to do that AND it’s hard to strike the balance between my reading for pleasure and my reading for work. I don’t know what the answer is. But I think it has to at least be to try – to read as much as you can, both for librarians and for teachers.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think some of the commenters raised good points about not all library staff being librarians. To call yourself a librarian, you technically have to hold a MLIS degree. Even if you hold the same job as a degreed librarian, you are not a librarian! (Which I find interesting and odd.)

      Anyway, libraries with smaller budgets are more likely to higher non-degreed individuals who are part-time. If you are part-time, you really aren’t being given the time you might need to professionalize. So I think there’s some room here for libraries to consider how they are training their staff.

      I know some just tell staff to use Novelist. Novelist is great and all, but I think there is some degree of interpretation the library should be able to do of the read-alikes offered. I see it as mainly useful for parents since they’re less likely to be familiar with the children’s market or what books are considered age-appropriate.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    Love this post! It’s something I’ve struggled with myself, because the majority of the employees at my library do not read, or they read very little (like, say, 12 books a year). Of the few who do read, they mostly have heavy niches, like one reads only mystery. Before I started there, they had NO ONE who read MG OR YA … not even the programmer for kids’ programs. So I fit that niche nicely, and that’s great, but I only work 15 hours a week.

    I love that you bring up the time struggle, though. We aren’t allowed to read at work, which is absolutely wild to me. I asked once, because it seems logical to that, hey, if we’re expected to actually know about these books, it would make sense that when there’s no one around, we should be able to read at the front desk. Apparently, they tried it before, and they had complaints about wasting taxpayer money paying people to read, etc, which … boggles my mind, since we have to sit there, regardless of what we’re doing, and at least reading is productive, versus staring at the wall?

    For me, personally, I think it’s important that I read. I’ve given quite a few recommendations, and I know for sure there’s no way I wouldn’t be able to do it without having read a lot and being part of the blogger community, because even if i didn’t read it, I’m reading reviews about it and what it contains. But, like I said, I’m only part-time, and this is all on my own time, which is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have.

    I don’t have any solutions either (surprise, right? xD). I do think it’d be fabulous if we had even one hour a week to go somewhere quiet and read reviews for books, just so we know something about them.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I can see not reading at the desk because libraries have that customer service aspect and there’s the “Well there must be SOME work you can be doing attitude!” from supervisors, combined with patrons thinking, “I’m paying taxes for this person to read,” combined with trying to combat the idea that librarians DO just sit around and read and don’t do actual work. But in the end, it’s just an optics things. When I worked at a library and could get behind the desk and see what people were doing on the computers…they were online shopping. So they LOOKED to patrons like they were doing some sort of necessary library work clicking around on the computer, but no.

      I think giving people time to read in the back might work, but then you still have the “We’re paying people to read” issue, plus you’d have to think about how many hours you’re going to allot to that. I mean, an hour a week wouldn’t make a difference because some people would barely get through a couple chapters in a book, but funding is so tight that paying someone (actually, each employee) six hours a week just to read–hopefully enough time to finish a book–likely isn’t in the cards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

        I’m pretty lucky that my director and assistant director are pretty down to Earth. They know that we work hard, but sometimes there just isn’t anything for *us* to do, in particular, because there’s only so many tasks you can do at the desk, and you can’t leave it. We don’t usually have, like, big, sweeping periods of downtime before something comes up that needs doing, but it’s there.

        That makes me laugh, because that’s 100% what we often do. xD Just busy stuff. Mine is always related to books, so I don’t feel too bad about it LOL.

        It’s mostly patrons complaining about that, but there are places staff can go that patrons can’t see them and don’t know what they’re doing. 😉 A book in an hour a week, no, certainly not, but you could at least do a little bit of reading reviews, catching up with upcoming releases, and just seeing what’s out there and such. It doesn’t fix the *reading* problem, per se, but it would help with the content knowledge and being able to recommend books, if you at least have cursory knowledge about the titles. It’s a Band-Aid fix at best, but I know our library, at least, for sure wouldn’t have the budget for reading hours. xD

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    • Krysta says:

      I understand they don’t want patrons to complain you’re “not working,” but maybe they could explain it to people like, “Oh, we read all the new picture books to decide on story time titles and to make recommendations” or something like that? I don’t know. It is funny that you’re being asked to be unproductive so you can look productive to the public, instead of actually using your time wisely.

      And the screen thing is amusing because many library desks are situated so you can see the computer screen if you walk around back, and, yes, I see library staff looking at Facebook or online shopping or, once, filling out some insurance form, I think. Staring at the screen doesn’t mean people are working. It just makes the public think they are, I guess.

      I think even a bit of time to go off and read Library Journal or something would be helpful. It can be off the floor if it makes the patrons feels better, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

        Right? It boggles my mind, because I try to be as efficient as possible, especially with work time, so I just had to laugh. I mean, I read A LOT, so reading on my own time isn’t such an issue. But for everyone else, who doesn’t have a book blog? They’re using their time elsewhere.

        We 100% do all that sort of thing. You can’t see the screens as a patron unless we turn the computer, mostly, or you’re in just the right spot, so as long as we “look” busy, it’s all good. I try to use the time for blog hopping or checking out books on Goodreads, so at least it’s library adjacent. xD

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I think most people don’t spend 100% of their time at work working because there often isn’t something to do the entire time. It’s just amusing that some jobs want workers to hide it more than others. I do have friends who were explicitly told they could go on their phones and such while waiting for more work. But they are not in customer-facing jobs.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

            Yeah, for the folks in back, it’s more acceptable if you need to take a personal call or check a message on your phone, etc, because everyone understands that they have, like, kids and family that might need to reach them, you know? Just can’t do that at the front, of course. But it’s nice to have that flexibility.

            I definitely think it’s funny that doing busywork is seen more positively than legitimately doing something more related to the job during downtime lol.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Librarian Lou says:

            I hate having to look “busy.” I face several situations like that in libraries on a long term basis. One was because of a delayed library opening and the other was because I was working in Collection Development and we ran out of funds. I think some professional reading should be allowed on the job especially at a service desk when you’re not busy.

            Like

            • Krysta says:

              I think so! Why not do actual work instead of pretending to do something so customers are happy? Do all the customers work 100% of the time at their jobs? I highly doubt it. Not with the amount of texting I see being done by people at work!

              Like

  12. Librarian Lou says:

    I think the best library employees love books and it’s an extension of who they are. I dislike it when people make simplistic suggestions about books that the kids are already reading. If a mom is having trouble getting her child to read anything, that’s different. But I think we should encourage children to try new things.

    I have never read a Magic Tree House or a Nancy Drew and don’t feel the need to but I eagerly read books by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Gary D. Schmidt, Kate DiCamillo and many others. I often put down a book after one chapter and that’s okay because it give me a feel for the book even if it’s not worth my time.

    I think one of the marks of a great children’s or YA book is enjoyment by adults as well as children. Have many adults have you seen reading Nancy Drew?

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I tried to read Magic Tree House recently and just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I need to be eight. Who knows? I used to love Nancy Drew going up. Now I see Nancy is kind of a Mary Sue and it makes me laugh a bit! But I really admired her growing up!

      I agree, though. Great books can be enjoyed by all!

      Like

  13. storianblog says:

    What a fascinating discussion! I started library school dead set on being a public librarian, but through a series of unforeseeable circumstances I ended up following another passion (I am a health sciences librarian). I was drawn to public librarianship because of my experiences as a bookseller and adult literacy tutor. One thing I noticed while interviewing with public libraries is that they seem to expect everyone to be prepared to work with kids, regardless of their actual interests. (I was surprised at how many questions I was asked about children’s programming during one particular interview for an adult librarian job.) While the focus on kids is entirely understandable given the public library customer base and the limited staffing most libraries are working with, I wonder how many of the children’s librarians who are not knowledgeable about children’s lit were placed in the children’s section against their own wishes (perhaps even after being told that they would be doing something entirely different?) I have no idea how often this happens, but after the interview experience I had, I do wonder. I absolutely agree that to excel at the children’s librarian role, one must have a strong and wide-ranging knowledge of children’s literature. Building that knowledge takes time, and it definitely helps if you have a passion for the subject.

    Like

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