Thursday, April 30, 2015

RWA Librarian of the Year

I am busy planning our annual readers' advisory event and the committee has selected "romance" as the theme of the event.  Librarians are often loathe to admit that readers enjoy romance more than any genre that we stock on our shelves.  The Romance Writers of America offer a very informative website which provide background on the genre, information about writers and the industry.  It is a key resource for library staff who serve romance readers.

Various industry surveys return the same information year after year which puts romance ahead of sales in any other genre.  The Romance Writers of America present this statistical analysis on their website as well.  Romance is firmly in the driver's seat of increased e-book sales with many readers preferring to indulge in romance inconspicuously on the e-readers, tablets or smartphones.  This was one of the main drivers behind our desire to investigate the trend.

Lisa Schimmer, senior cataloguer at Novelist, is the 2015 RWA Librarian of the Year.  She was selected for her work which improved the cataloguing of romance novels, making them more accessible to readers and library staff who use the Novelist database.  Lisa will be able to offer library staff a unique perspective on finding and categorizing romance novels.  It is important that libraries are aware of trends in the industry and individuals who are working hard to make serving readers easier.  The committee is hopeful that Lisa can join our event.

The committee has also agreed to read and provide annotations for five romance novels as per the committee's regular practice.  Groans all around!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What We See When We Read

I was finally able to get a copy of Peter Mendelsund's "What We See When We Read."  Peter appeared at the 2015 "RA in a Day" event organized by OPLA's Readers' Advisory Committee and he was a dynamic and absorbing speaker.  He was quite humble about his work at Knopf and his books but he should not be because I could read his books and listen to him all day.

This book is really just a meditation on something that we can never know because "what we see when we read" is as individual as each human and each reading experience.  Readers may think very little about the reading experience as it is an ethereal and ever-evolving notion.  Mendelsund tries to recreate the experience in the format of his book that reads likes a philosophic treatise that has been smoking up in an alley.

He looks at concepts like character and setting and tends to focus a lot of his consideration on a few classic texts like Finnegan's Wake, Anna Karenina and Moby Dick.  Readers who have read those texts would gain an additional layer of insight but is not 100% necessary.  I followed his thoughts and assertions despite not having read Tolstoy.  Considering Nancy Pearl's doorways, this book is firmly behind the language door as it reads lyrically and with profound humour and humanity.  (Am I gushing?)

Ultimately, Mendelsund suggested that reduction is what we see and that reduction is the currency of human experience.  We can never take in everything, so we take in what we can or want to see.  Reading is a sum of our own experience, knowledge and education and no one reads a book in the same way.  The book celebrates our own individuality and paints a cast landscape in the books we read which can never be fully known.

I suggest this book for every readers' advisor to understand the reading experience from a completely new perspective.