I’ve been thinking about the different ways that librarians push books.
Personally, I don’t ever want to be told what to read. In this way, my teen years still cling to me: if you tell me I should read a book, I say “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” For example, it took me ages to crack open The Book Thief, because my sister told me it was a must-read. When I finally got around to it, I loved The Book Thief. Such a powerful story, and a brilliant look at the way small things are really large things, and vice versa – really, you must read it.
We public librarians recommend books all the time. We sit at a desk and people ask us killer questions like, “what’s a good book to read?” or “I just finished the new Michael Chabon, what should I read next?” Reader’s Advisory is kind of like match-making. You ask a series of questions, and then use your gut to try to match your reader client with her perfect book-date.
But I didn’t really think about a librarian’s function as a Book Pusher until a couple months ago, when I was working on a weeding project for a children’s librarian. We were going through the books and getting rid of things which hadn’t been checked out in the last five years, which really is quite a while to sit on the shelf. She rescued about a dozen books, saying “I don’t think I’ve been pushing these enough.”
Pushing books! My own knee-jerk reaction against having books pushed at me, even in the most subtle and non-pushing of ways, had really kept me from thinking about what the Action Librarian should do. An Action Librarian should push books. It’s not enough to create a great collection, you must find ways to entice people into taking them home.
This doesn’t mean you’ve got to run people down and tell them “You’ll love Gone Girl” or “If you don’t read The Passage of Power, baby’s going to be really unhappy.” But it does mean you can’t just buy a pile of books to sit on. You gotta lay them out real nice. You need to create additional content, which showcases your books in their most attractive light. You need to work your magic in order to really hook people in. You need to create in a community where, if the reading don’t happen, people’s hands might start to shake a bit.
You gotta push the books.