Thursday, September 17, 2015

Today At The Desk....Reluctant Readers

Today was a little different than my typical Thursday afternoon shift, and that's a good thing.  It's nice to have routines, but then again, it's nice to have it disrupted a bit to keep things interesting.  It wasn't super busy exactly, but as soon as I took the desk I had several people need help, whereas usually it is very slow at the beginning and I take advantage of that by cleaning up, straightening the shelves, filling displays, maybe shelving a little or sorting carts.

But right off the bat someone gave me a stack of books to check in, then a patron asked for help finding books that the catalog said were there but he couldn't find.  Most of the time when that happens, they either (1) didn't really know how to find it and were looking in the wrong section, or (2) didn't realize when the catalog says "Available" that means at any of our 6 locations, and you have to click on it to see at which branches.  But I double-checked the catalog, and it was really supposed to be in at our location, then I checked the shelf and displays, but no luck.  I thought maybe it had been returned very recently and just hadn't made it's way through circulation back to our department yet, but when I checked the circulation record it showed the book was last returned over a year ago.  That most likely means it had been stolen.  Worse yet, no other branch in the system owned it either.  I explained that I would report it missing and it would be replaced, but I wasn't sure how long that would take.  I tried to offer other options, but he was only interested in something he could take right then. 

Then I had a patron who needed help selecting books for two 12-year old boys who generally didn't like to read much, and she had no idea what to try, but that they did enjoy S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders when they read it for language arts.  Unfortunately, we did not have any of Hinton's other books, and I could not think of any obvious read-alikes off the top of my head.  I consulted Novelist, but wasn't thrilled with most of the suggestions nor did we have many of them, anyway.  Fortunately, the customer was at the library for a meeting, so I told her I would do some digging and pull some selections and have them ready for her when she came back by the desk after her meeting.  This took the pressure off and gave me time to give it some careful thought, and get some great suggestions from an online group of Youth Services professionals who gave me some great ideas.  So I was able to pull a couple of Walter Dean Myers' books, Scorpions and Lockdown; Miracle's Boys, The Chocolate War, Bronx Masquerade, Fat Boy Rules The World, Hatchet, Holes, Small Steps, and Ender's Game.  I wanted to give her a cross-section with some gritty, realistic fiction, some teen angst, some lighter realistic fiction about survival/fighting the system/overcoming difficulties, and a range of length and reading level. I threw in Ender's Game, even though it is sci-fi, but I just had a gut feeling they might like it.

When the patron returned, I gave her a brief description of each one, told her which ones had sequels, and which ones I had not personally read, and suggested she might want to look through them first to check for any content she might object to.  I offered to take the stack over to a table so she could look through them and decide what to take, to which she replied, "Oh, these all sound perfect for them; you put together a great selection.  I'll just take them all so they have plenty of options".  Then she didn't have her card, so I looked her up to check her out myself, but then discovered she had fines over the limit.  So then I had to take her books back over to the self-check and manually enter her card number since that is the only machine equipped to take credit cards.  She was so appreciative for everything and I was really glad I was able to help her.  I hope I see her again so I can find out if her boys like them, and if so, which ones.  That's always the best part; it's good to know the parents appreciate your help in selecting books, but it's even better to find out the kids liked something you suggested!

I also helped a couple of people with checkouts and parking validations, find books they were looking for, pulled books for the send list, and helped an early education major with a project for her kiddie-lit class, which was to propose a book for this year's Caldecott award and defend her choice.  So first I explained that Caldecott winners were usually picture books, but sometimes non-fiction, and showed her where those respective areas were.  Then I showed her how to use the catalog, and how to set it to only show books we had at our location, and what to look for to know the shelf location and how to find them.  She said she thought she got it, and I told her I'd be happy to help her and just to let me know if she had any trouble finding anything, and let her get to work.  She soon found a book she was happy with and we chatted a bit about early education and working with preschoolers, then she went on her way.  It was refreshing to have a college student who only wanted to be shown how to use the catalog, and not expect us to do all the work for them.  That's a future teacher I would want my child to have.

All in all, it was a very satisfying day, even if I was a little disappointed "Batman" didn't make an appearance.

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