Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pleasantly Surprised

Over lunch today, I stood next to the reference desk at the West Lafayette Public Library and read a Dewey Decimal System sign while working up the courage to ask for help. The librarian working the desk asked, "Can I help you?"

"Yes," I said. "I was wondering if you could help me find a good book to read."

A sarcastic smile came to her face, which I didn't know how to interpret, but she followed it with a question: "Do you know what you're looking for?

I told her I liked women's lives and relationships type of books. That one of the books I liked recently was called Dixieland Sushi. She asked if this was fiction and I said yes. Then I told her another book I liked recently was called Hotel Riviera. At that point she said I was looking for light reading. I sensed a bit of judgment, but I agreed with that summary.

"Have you read Jennifer Cruise (sic)?" she then asked. I said no, but my answer was enthusiastic so she did a search for the author in the library catalog. There was a bit of a delay, and she kind of mumbled things to herself like, "There are only so many ways you can spell that name." But eventually she discovered that the last name was Crusie and told me that the library had at least a dozen of her titles in regular fiction. I asked where that was, and she said downstairs.

"If you're looking for humorous fiction," she added, "you could do a search in the catalog for that." I asked her how to do such a search, telling her I'd only used the new catalog once and it overwhelmed me, so she showed me.

Then suddenly I thought of Four to Score, so I told the librarian I also had enjoyed a book by Janet Evanovich recently.

"Those would be in mystery," she said.

"Are there any other authors like Evanovich?"

"Not now, but probably there will be soon."

We had reached a roadblock, but I continued to stand there, and the librarian was still typing things on her computer ...

"There are lots of funny mysteries written by women," she said. Then she told me there was an author whose last name was Davidson whose books were very popular. They featured a detective named Goldie something, who works as a caterer. Diane Mott Davidson. All of the books have food titles.

The foodie in me was getting excited, so I asked where the mystery section was. I then did a quick summary of her recommendations to make sure I had understood and that I knew where to find the titles. She confirmed everything, so I thanked her and then went downstairs to comb through the titles by Crusie and Davidson. I ended up checking out four books. The Crusie ones I'm not so sure about yet, but I'm excited to read Catering for Nobody and then, if I get hooked on Davidson, Dying for Chocolate.

Sure, I could pick apart the way the librarian answered my question. She shouldn't have given me the feeling that her reading tastes were above mine. She should have turned to face me more often and focused less on her computer. She probably shouldn't mumble things to herself. But I had gone into the situation expecting to get nothing out of it, and instead I left the library a happy customer. So overall, I'd say the librarian did her job.


  1. I've read some Diane Mott Davidson mysteries, and I like her style. I couldn't stay on a regular diet (ha!) of her books, though. Even though you left with some "good books", I still consider this transaction a fail. She sounds judgemental, she didn't actually help you find the books (she just listed things for you to try), I really don't know what to make of her comment about Janet Evanovich (NoveList suggests Julie Smith as a readalike), and the "Do you know what you're looking for?" question is the kind of thing I would have disciplined one of my employees for in the old days, as there are all kinds of uncomplimentary implications. I'm glad you were satisfied, but she sounds like the kind of librarian that wouldn't do much to encourage people to ask her another question.

  2. I also like Diane Mott Davidson mysteries in audio format. They tend to make me hungry!

  3. I have to say the title Dying For Chocolate sounds like a total win to me. Course, I'm gonna avoid for a beat till I manage to drop some more pounds, don't need the hunger inducing books just yet, heh.

  4. I tease my mom about reading nothing but fiction and occasionally I will slip a nonfiction book into her hands, but I don't judge her reading preferences. We are all different and do a lot of things differently. That is what makes the world go round.

  5. I wonder if her sarcastic smile was the result of helping someone else out for a class. I'd laugh if it was. :)

  6. O my - they might be on to us.... us folks who like to read new and exciting books.

    I'll put one in the plus column for this interaction.