RSS Feed

Tag Archives: librarian

Genre wars.

Posted on

In August last year (yes, it has taken me a while to write this post!) I was invited to attended an event presented by the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland. The aim of the event was to give english teachers an overview of shortlisted book in the Children’s book council of Australia’s Book of the Year award and was presented by the Young People’s Librarian at the Toowoomba Regional Library, Liz Derouet.

Liz outlined each book and gave some personal comments about what she thought of the writing, plot and her experiences reading the book. She was well informed about each novel and it was clear that she had read most of the books, although she did admit to listening to the audio versions during her morning and afternoon commute to save time. The list of books was extensive, and as I flipped through the numerous pages of notes, I ashamedly realised that I had not read one of these books. Not a single one.

Time for a confession. My reading habits are very… escapist. I pretty much live on a diet of fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional Billie Letts book (My favorite is The Honk and Holler opening soon. There is something about her feel-good depiction of American poverty and heartache that just gets me everytime). I have preferred this genre since I was a kid, and while I did diversify my reading at times (I spent one summer reading every Kinky Friedman book I could get my hands on), I always strayed back to the dragons and space ships. Who knows what influences or experiences lead to a particular reading preference? It never really bothered me. Until now. Working in a secondary school library meant that I was frequently asked to recommend books, or for books that are similar to other books. This was fine if  the kid was into Raymond E. Fiest, but anything else? Forget it! I had no idea.

So then began the genre wars. I made a concerted effort to read books that were not fantasy/sci-fi. I started with Margo Lanagan’s Sea Heartsnot a complete departure, but a start at least. This book is amazing. Please go and find a copy and read it immediately! Lanagan has created a whimsical, but dark tale about greed, love and loss, in language so beautiful it will make you weep. Seriously. It is that good.  Not a bad start, I thought, to my foray into other genre

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Lets just say, since then, my reading habit strayed back to the escapism, just the young adult escapism I can borrow from the library.

I think the idea that has made me struggle with diversifying my reading, is the contrast between reading as a form of enjoyment, and reading as professional development. I definitely see the need to read widely as a librarian, so that we can make informed recommendations and to better understand what our users are interested in. We also need to read to ascertain whether certain titles are suitable for young audiences especially in a secondary school library (I am not talking censorship here, there are just some books that seem suitable, but are  not appropriate for teenagers. Sometimes the only way to make that decision is to read the book).

Despite the stereotype; Librarians do not spend all day reading. It is not our job to read every book on the shelf, rather,  it is our job to know our collections and to be able to link users with resources that are meaningful to them. Reading every book that we think our users would be interested in is impossible and illogical, and would take us away from the fundamental elements of being a librarian.

So maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up about my reading choices, which are in essence a form of relaxation, along the same lines as yoga or gardening. However, I think it is vital to be in touch with what is popular or seminal in the reading lives of our users. During my time as a fledgling librarian, I have learnt that it is vital to establish and maintain a network of people and resources who can help you stay informed. Suppliers, colleagues and events, such as the one I attended, and the the students/users themselves all assist in developing an understanding of what is needed in a that particular library.

Are you a librarian/Library sciences student? I would love to hear about your reading habits? Did your habit change after you become a librarian?



The Article: An academic journey

Posted on

photoWhile craft, sewing and food are definitely a time consuming passion, my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science often takes centre stage. This semester, I have had the opportunity to devote all of my time exploring one issue; seniors, social technology and public libraries. The inspiration for this project came from helping a couple of seniors in my life through their technology use and witnessing the problems and barriers they faced. The project involved interviewing seniors to find out exactly how they use social technologies and then comparing the results to the programs that public library offer.

Developing a project from scratch presented several challenges. The research problem needed to be succinct and focussed, meaning that the multitude of ideas I had identified in my initial thinking needed to be pared down. The aim was to clarify my thinking and to sift out the central themes that could lead to a tidy article and be interesting enough keep focus over the duration of the semester. This was achieved in the project, however, at times I found it very difficult to funnel the large amounts of information I was dealing with into tight parcels of information that supported the overall premise of the project.

The other challenging aspect of this project was process of initiating, setting up and conducting interviews. By nature, I am a fairly solitary being and usually choose to do things by myself if I can. For this project, I had to cold call strangers, explain my project and what I wanted from each participant, and follow up on calls and emails if people didn’t reply. This process was definitely out of my comfort zone, but an important learning curve in terms of what I am actually capable of. I think sometimes the important lessons learnt don’t necessary come from the topic or the task, but a realisation that you are capable of things that were previously thought uncomfortable and avoided.

The advantage of devoting an entire semester on one project is the depth of understanding that is developed about the topic and the insights that this can bring. Before I began this project I had a static view of what a senior and technology looked like. It was a person who had no interest in technology and was fearful of how it worked and what its use meant for society. Actually talking to seniors about their technology use showed me that in reality, seniors had complex views of technology and were largely positive about the effect it had on their lives. I think that this is an essential lesson for a new librarian. Client’s can’t be taken at face value, they each have unique information or entertainment needs which should be met on an individual basis, not with a blanket solution.

At the end of this semester, I am a little bit brain dead, but glad that I decided to undergo this project. It was interesting (and at times scary) to be on the other side of producing an academic article, after spending so many years relying on them to learn and finish assignments. I have an intense appreciation for the time, effort and energy that it takes to arrive at the final five thousand words.

A big thanks to Zaana Howard for the support and mentorship this semester. Thanks also to Paul Edwards and Amanda Fitzsimon for their encouragement, and of course, to all my lovely participants for their time!