Librarian’s Advisory

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you may recall that I have sort of a love-hate relationship with what we here in the library like to call “Reader’s Advisory.” Don’t panic — I’m not going to rehash that whole thing!

Yet I had the coolest Reader’s Advisory experience here at the public library the other day, and now I’m dying to know if other librarians have experienced this, too. I’m going to call it “Librarian’s Advisory.” Here’s what happened: the sweetest old man, one of our regular patrons, took it upon himself to write up a little “to-read” list for me ~ just three titles, really, that he viewed as essential reading for anyone who wanted to learn a little bit more about Kansas*.

This excited me for a couple of reasons: first, because I’m still pretty brand-new to Kansas and love any opportunity to learn more about my state, and second, because it flipped the typical librarian / patron power dynamic right on its head! I was stoked to be having a genuine conversation with this man about what he considered to be valuable information, rather than privileging what I know and read over what he knows reads. In Rachel’s Dream Library, every reference interview would be a dialogue like this one, and we’d all come away afterward with a greater pool of information to share with others in the future.

These are the three titles he recommended (descriptions and images are from Goodreads, Amazon, and WorldCat):

Blue Highways Blue Highways: A Journey Into America
“First published in 1982, William Least Heat-Moon’s account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) has become something of a classic. When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: ‘A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity.’ Accompanied by his photographs, Heat-Moon’s literary portraits of ordinary Americans should not be merely read, but savored.”
PrairyErth Cover PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country
“Bill McKibben has called this book “the deepest map anyone ever made of an American place” — a majestic survey of land and time and people in a single county of the Kansas plains. It takes the author — by car, on foot, and in mind — into the core of our continent and backward and forward through a brilliant spectrum of time and place. There is no other book like it.
West with the Night West With the Night
“Born in England in 1902, Markham was taken by her father to East Africa in 1906. She spent her childhood playing with native Maruni children and apprenticing with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses. In the 1930s, she became an African bush pilot, and in September 1936, became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.”

*Disclaimer: So, after investigating all these titles, I realized that a couple of them are only “loosely” affiliated with Kansas. This is both hilarious, but also extremely fascinating. For this man, at least, all three titles are imbued with the “essence” of Kansas!


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