Readers, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Today’s librarians cringe a little when you talk to us about books and reading. Come on, guys: it’s the Information Age, and all of your librarians went to “Library and Information Schools.” Maybe even just an “Information School.” Many of us came into librarianship because we liked to read, but left “professionalized” with all these fancy ideas about how our core calling is to bring Information to the people. That’s what happened to me.
These days, I am what I’m beginning to think of as a rehabilitated reader. Sure, my heart still palpitates over social media, government docs, and information literacy. But there’s one thing you just can’t shake when people find out you’re a librarian. They really wanna talk about books.
A few months ago, my buddy Nog and I formed a little book club on a lark. If you want to witness the saltier side of your friendly neighborhood Librarian in a Banana Suit, head on over to our PBR Book Club blog. It’s a group for bookish hipsters, and we are actually mostly boys. That’s what happens when you combine books with beer. At our inaugural meeting there were only five of us, and we were discussing David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. We started by shotgunning a few PBRs to ease any tension, and then Nog — who teaches college English courses — cleared his throat. “Umm, I don’t really know how to do a book group.” And then he turned expectantly to me.
“Oh my god,” I realized, “they expect me to know what I’m doing because I’m the librarian.”
And so, dear readers, I can’t seem to escape. Recent conversations with Nancy Pearl, Kasey Riley, and my own LPL colleague Susan Brown, have inspired me to get a little more gutsy in embracing my Bookish Librarian persona. I’ve tepidly started suggesting books to friends… and found that I actually like it. You know, I have read and reviewed a ton of books; maybe I do know how to talk about them…
For next month’s book club discussion of Earnest Cline’s Ready Player One, I’m doing my research ahead of time and learning what I didn’t learn in library school. I’ve checked out a copy of Good Books Lately: The One-Stop Resource for Book Groups and Other Greedy Readers by Ellen Moore and Kira Stevens, and so far I love it! In the introduction, they promise to address the challenges that every book group in the world confronts:
“… how to choose the best books, how to read for meaning, how to get the talkative people to shut up so the more reserved get a chance to speak, how to balance between social time and book time, and how to sneak off with the forgotten unopened bottle of wine that got left on the counter.”
Although in our case, it will be “how to sneak off without buying the next round of PBRs.”
I’m still in Library School, but sometimes I find myself feeling like an outsider when compared to other MLIS students because I AM so passionate about books (although I too would have no idea how to run a book club). I recommend them to friends and strangers all of the time, and suspect I’ll have to resist the urge when I begin working in a library; I haven’t taken Reader’s Advisory yet, so I’ll find out soon enough.
You’re right that being a librarian is not all about being one with the printed book (and that too many people downplay the role of librarians by associating them with books alone), but I hope I don’t get *too* detached from them while I’m learning how to bring information to the masses and develop the best search strings for database queries. 🙂