Week 11 – Service Review!

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      Nicole Steer

      Over the holidays, I went back home to visit my family. My Nanna and Grandad were visiting too and we showed them around the local town as well as our block. I suggested we include the local library so my Nanna and Grandad could get some reading material while they were up, and so I could help them out while also getting some material for my learning journal 😉 We decided to see what kind of reader advisory services the local library offered.

      When we first went in and had a look around on our own, we found lots of tags on the shelves in the fiction area saying “If you like [popular author], you might like [list of less well-known authors].” This included historical fiction, mystery/detective novels, horror, science fiction. No fantasy though (from experience most of the library’s fantasy collection is stored in the cheap paperback section, which may have something to do with it). There were also three big ring binders with similar “If you like X, you might like A, B, C, and D” guides on a big table in the middle of the room, prominently marked. Another patron was using one of them.

      Problem was, these are all for fiction books only. Turns out that my Nanna and Grandad don’t really read much fiction. They like non-fiction. (A shame we weren’t with my other grandparents who love detective novels!)

      So, we approached the librarian, who was just finishing up a chat with another patron, and asked her if she could help with some reading recommendations.

      The librarian is a very sweet older woman who is very cluey and has a great talent for asking the right questions to see what people need, in a very conversational way, without ever making them feel like she’s prying or anything. She asked them what, broadly, they were interested in. She’d guessed they were mostly interested in non-fiction but asked them to make sure. They said they were interested in politics, and she asked what sort – Obama, Abbott, history of politics, etc? My Grandad rattled off a list of old Labor PMs and big-name unionists, as well as Menzies. I think that must have put the librarian onto something (“one of these things is not like the others”) and she expressed some surprise at this and asked why they were interested in Menzies. My Grandad replied with basically “Know your enemy!” and that he was fascinated by him as a wartime PM, and Australia’s involvement in the wars during his (my Grandad’s) lifetime was interesting to him. The librarian asked WW2, the Korean war, the Vietnam war? (Basically, any particular one?) And my Grandad said “Yes” (so, basically, all of them). I think the librarian had a bit of a brain wave because she connected some of the comments my grandparents had made that indicated that fitness and health were very important to them, with the WW2 theme, and suggested a book about a person’s experience recently walking the Kokoda Trail, which was greeted with much enthusiasm!

      Eventually the librarian was able to get four books off the shelves for my Grandad to have a read of while he was visiting: the book about the Kokoda Trail, a biography of Gough Whitlam, a book about Australia’s involvement in the Korean War, and a book about the union history of Australia. The Korean War and union books were a bit dated by most standards (80s), but she asked and found out that currency wasn’t as big a deal as interesting content for my Grandad (judging by his home book collection, I can confirm this :P). We got them out on my Dad’s library card for two weeks, which should be more than enough time for them to have a read while they were visiting my parents. The librarian also wrote down the names of the books and a few she found on the system so they could try to look for similar ones when they were back home.

      My Grandad was very pleased and felt he’d got a good selection of books! He had many nice things to say about the librarian on the walk home and thought she was very cluey as well as a good conversationalist, and looked forward to coming back next time.

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