On a recent trip to San Francisco, my boyfriend and I stopped into a well-known independent bookshop and asked for some book advice. I wanted to find a book for my mom, so I asked the book clerk what he could recommend as a good story that focused on relationships between a mothers and adult children. He told me that he didn’t have any ideas because he wouldn’t normally read anything of that genre but wished me luck on the search. Thanks, sir.
After returning home from our trip I went to my local library branch and asked a librarian the same question. Instead of telling me that the type of novel I was looking for wasn’t a favorite genre of hers, the librarian asked me further questions to narrow the search and find a book that would be a good fit. I ended up with She is Me, a book that I would never have found without asking the right questions because the cover was sort of teenage-angst meets Sophie Kinsella. And I would never have asked those questions had someone not taken me through the process of reader’s advisory.
Looking for a new book to read when you aren’t sure what you feel like is more daunting than finding something to watch on TV, Netflix, or the internet because it’s a huge investment of time. And if the book you end up reading is lame, then it becomes a chore to read, and you're back to looking for something on YouTube to fill the void. It's a vicious cycle, but one that can be remedied with a little TLC, tender library care (librarians are also very good at alliteration).
The Reader's Advisory interview is a way for a librarian to connect with the library user on a personal level in order to find the right book. Through asking the reader what he or she liked or didn't like about a book, a librarian can read the users' mind... almost. This is much less less frustrating than using Amazon to rank books because if the title that is recommended to you obviously sucks, you can yell at someone in person - especially if the book is for your child. It's every librarian's dream.
Reader's Advisory is important not just because the most virtuous thing someone can do is to help another person find a book, but because reading makes everyone better - even reading the entire box set of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books (the best week of my life). Librarians love to read - I feel appropriate making this across-the-board statement because it would be weird if they didn't - unless they work in the tech department, but then who cares. But seriously, librarians are here to encourage people to enjoy reading. We want it to be fun, just ask! Or we'll come find you wandering around aimlessly in the reference section - c'mon, no one likes it over there.
So the next time you're wondering what to read after The Women's Room and goodreads tells you that you'll like the Shopaholic's series, head over to your local library and ask someone who gives a shit.