I am sick of reading lists with titles like “Ten Books You Need To Read Before You Die if You Are A Literary Snob, But, Like, Only Books Written After 1945.” If my literary Googling doesn’t give it away, I need a great librarian, and I’m miffed that Bobst doesn’t have any.
The reference librarians are wonderful at coming up with bibliographies for my papers (and sending me research on quirky questions I think up in the middle of the night) but when I tried asking for a book recommendation, the librarian at the desk looked slightly concerned.
Did I want to read for fun? Yes. Had I tried the leisure collection, the area on the second lower level that hold popular novels and non-fiction books? I had, but I want more than shelves with books — I want recommendations from people who love to read. The librarian ended up recommending a website. The whole conversation was depressing. We were surrounded by books, but there was nobody to help me pick one out.
About a year ago, my father and I decided to buy my kid cousins novels for their birthday. I went to the local bookstore and picked out my old childhood favorites, hoping the stories of friendship and animals would inspire a life-long relationship with libraries and bookstores. A book doesn’t look so exciting to a kid that pulls off its wrapping paper, so my dad made sure to talk up the novels. “This is a special kind of present,” he told the kids. “I still remember when somebody gave me some presents like this.” He then handed it over to me to provide just the teeniest teaser into each book’s story. We’re still not sure if it worked.
It’s times like that when I remember that half the joy of reading is the recommendation. My friends and I lend each other books like we’re giving away our favorite ideas. But there’s a special role for the librarian who knows your tastes and seems to have read every book in the library. She knows when to hand you a hard book you’d never have tried on your own. She knows (even when you don’t tell her) that you just got dumped and that you need the silliest, most distracting book known to man. She knows because she asks each time what you thought of the last book. Really, the librarian is a full-time conversationalist.
Bobst isn’t much for conversation. There are so many resources — an Escher floor, research librarians, headphones to borrow, ITS printing, statistics software — but so few places that encourage patrons to talk. Where are the Bobst book clubs? Where is that teensy bit of connection with a librarian who hands you her favorite book off the shelf? Where do the other people who love books sit? And where is my ideal librarian?