Sunday, February 7, 2010

Topic 1: What is a "good" book?

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion in class on Thursday, as intense as it was at certain points. I was especially inspired by Andrea’s points about the individual patron’s experience and how it relates to Readers’ Advisory. I think it is vital that we as librarians—as advocates of literacy and oftentimes liaisions into the world of reading—take our jobs seriously and use caution with new or inexperienced readers. We cannot make judgments or assumptions. Because many of us are avid readers ourselves and gobble up all kinds of reading material every chance we get, I think we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that we know the difference between “good” read and a “bad” one.

The truth is that even books that are highly praised by literary critics or which are considered “classics” are not going to appeal to everyone. People want to read something that they will enjoy; some will desire something intellectually stimulating, while others are looking for entertainment that doesn’t require an analytical approach. As I have discovered myself, what people want to read depends heavily on their mood; sometimes I like to read material that will force me to think and apply skills I’ve gained through my education, while other times I just want something that will engage me without a whole lot of effort on my part.

I’ve noticed that when I sit down to write annotations, I tend to start out with a critical literary analysis. I evaluate the quality of writing, the plot’s originality, and the profundity of the book’s themes. That’s the English Literature major in me, I suppose. But then, about halfway through my feverous scrutiny of the material, I remember what Readers’ Advisory is about, and I have to erase everything I’ve written so far. Because it’s not about identifying a book’s faults, or comparing a book to literary “classics,” or expecting readers to appreciate the same qualities I appreciate in books. I can’t be pretentious and reject books that I don’t like for whatever reasons. There’s no room for my personal opinions. I have to remind myself to focus instead on the unique characteristics of the book and the appeal that it might have for others.  The last thing I want to do is act superior.

Like this guy.

That said, my goal as a librarian is to become someone who won’t make judgments or assumptions, or have expectations of people who simply want to find a “good” book. I don’t want to be the librarian who just recommends my favorite books without regard for the patron’s own experiences, interests, and tastes. With that kind of attitude, I think I can be more successful at pleasing the patron, and maybe eventually taking the next step and offering suggestions that will lead the reader to a new genre or type of book which might help expand their reading interests and experiences.


  1. Impressive goal, and as the saying goes, 'Bully for you'.

  2. I'm going to cry now. That was so beautiful! I'm making copies for everyone in our class.