It’s not easy being a geek who works in a library. The temptation to continually borrow a billion books is overwhelming at times. For instance, at the time of writing I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Now, I’ve a science background and I recall reading the review in New Scientist, but I fear I would never have discovered this excellent book if I hadn’t seen it on the shelf and picked it up.
I spend about a third to a half of my week on the counter issuing and discharging books to users and unpacking our stock deliveries – incoming reservations for our borrowers and new stock. I work in a city centre library, so we get dozens of new books every week which includes a good half dozen graphic novels. There are always reservations passing before your eyes. You get used to the readers preferences too, so you keep an eye out on particular certain borrowers reading habits. If a favourite user orders something I haven’t come across, I tend to order it too (once they’ve finished with it, of course). The most enjoyable part of the job is the giving and receiving of recommendations. Talking to the readers about what they like, what they’ve heard of, and what they would like to read. You can’t imagine the pleasure you receive when you recommend a book to a valued user who then comes back telling you how right you were and how much they enjoyed it. The only thing better is when they recommend something to you and you enjoy it. I’ve recently converted an avid reader into China Mieville and Cory Doctorow. I was turned onto Haruki Murakami by incessant recommendations. I’ve introduced many a customer to something new. And of course, I’ve picked up the odd title from their recommendations.
Now, I am sad to say, that sometimes the library is a quiet place. There are always lulls. I think at times that the users all gather in a secret shelter somewhere in town and then all decide to come in together, like starlings deciding to swoop and climb at sunset. So, when all the work at the counter is up to date and all emails have been addressed, it is, of course, time to browse the catalogue. We have access to every book in the country. I especially like to pick an author or a genre I like on Wikipedia, then click through a few links to find a book I’ve not read or maybe not even heard of, and then see what we’ve got on the catalogue. By doing this, I’ve got Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls on my shelf and The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares on reserve.
Of course, I read Bookseller and SFX, as well as browse the web, so I have a reading list as long as my arm. There are 100+ books to read on my Google Books Library. Sheesh. People keep publishing new books. People keep giving them good reviews and suggesting I should read them. There are classics I’ve just never got round to. I’ve just started reading The Female Man by Joanna Russ, which is shockingly, not a library book, but one I actually own. It has been on my shelf for about a year, if not longer. Only outside forces have encouraged me to put it ahead of the 7 library books I have by my bedside. Of course, what I haven’t said, is that despite reading all the time, I am a very slow reader. I tend to have a graphic novel, a fiction and a non-fiction on the go at any one time, and I read about 200 pages a week…
So why is it hard being a geek who works in a library? Simple. Too many books to read and too little time to dedicate to them.