I have always greatly admired the work that librarians do with collections. Not only did the whole idea of libraries start with a focus on collections, but as time has passed and trends have come and gone, the collections are still here. Communities need strong collections full of diverse books, and to make that happen, libraries must have smart, strong, and well-read librarians who are trained in readers' advisory (RA) and can focus their efforts on building them.
I've long been a fan of Stephanie Anderson's work as assistant director of selection for BookOps, a library technical services organization shared by The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. I was also really impressed with Stephanie's Main Street idea at Darien Library in Connecticut--it mashed together the best of the public library with the best of a retail bookstore. I hope you enjoy my chat with Stephanie and come away from it as inspired as I did.
YOU'VE DONE SO MUCH GREAT WORK AROUND RA, COLLECTIONS, AND MORE. TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO LIBRARIES AND WHERE YOUR LOVE OF READING COMES FROM.
I'm one of those librarians who can't remember times in my life before libraries, and even the years I'm too young to remember were full of libraries. My mom was on bedrest at the end of her pregnancy with my sister, but I was only 2, so she'd get grocery bags full of books, and we'd sit in bed together all day and read. I have pages of good memories of my childhood public library and elementary school library. I was a painfully shy child and have always found solace in books and libraries. Actually, my first experience with good readers' advisory was formative, and it came years before I knew what RA was. Like many shy, obsessive readers, I ran out of things to read in the children's and teen section of my public library, but wasn't quite ready for the content in many books for adults. (This was before YA really blossomed as a section.) My mom consulted the librarian, who recommended that I try cozy mysteries: They are written for adults, but contain very little of the violent or sexual content that I wasn't quite ready for. It was a very successful recommendation! I read my way through Diane Mott Davidson, through Lilian Jackson Braun, and many more, then slowly moved into less cozy mysteries when I ran out of those. I still remember exactly where in the building they were, in the back left corner all along the wall. I developed a lifelong love of crime fiction as a result, and I am forever grateful to that librarian, wherever they are.
I always thought I would be a librarian, but then my high school guidance counselor talked me out of it, which took me on a detour through independent bookselling before coming back to the profession. But in the end, I got a lot of good experience that way, which has...