Meeting Nancy Pearl, the 2011 Librarian of the Year

Me and Marie Pyko, adult services manager, hanging out with Nancy Pearl, 2011 Librarian of the YearI met the librarian’s librarian today. Her name is Nancy Pearl, and she is the goddess of what we call readers advisory in library land. I know her books (Book Lust, More Book Lust, Book Lust to Go and of course, Book Crush). Any librarian worth his or her salt is familiar with her philosophy and advice on helping readers find books they will love.

She challenged us with the notion that the phrase we’ve used for decades to describe how librarians serve readers (readers advisory) is perhaps not the right one. We don’t really give advice on what to read. We try to help readers find books that they will enjoy and that facilitates the discovery of something they might not find on their own. Think of a librarian as your own personal reading consultant.

We’re developing relationships with readers, based on knowledge of each other and trust that we don’t judge anyone’s reading tastes or preferences. A “good” book is one the reader likes; a “bad” book is one the reader doesn’t like. It’s that simple.

Nancy Pearl, and some of the Celebrate the Book Reader's Advisory Conference Planning CommitteeNancy’s appearance was for our Celebrate the Book conference at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Celebrate the Book has become a must-attend for librarians throughout Kansas (and even a few neighbors from other states.) Several members of our adult services staff spend months planning this learning opportunity for their colleagues. They are experts in developing fascinating sessions that celebrate books and reading. This year that includes sessions on can’t-put-them-down reads for teens and tweens, vampire fiction and how to transition to the world of eBooks.

Reading is becoming more convenient and our choices on what we read, how we read, when we read and what form our book will take are expanding. Every time someone who doesn’t use libraries suggests that libraries are becoming irrelevant and that interest in reading books is declining, I smile and politely point out that libraries are more popular and busier than they’ve ever been.

Nancy PearlYou’ll never know where you’ll find that next favorite book. And, your choices can be overwhelming, but feel free to talk to our librarians. Not only will they assist you in finding a book you’ll love or a new author that writes like an old favorite, they’ll make you a personalized reading list just for you. Fill out a simple form on our Digital Branch and our reading experts will create a special list of books just for you. As Nancy Pearl says, “People come into the library and head straight to the section where they have found the most pleasure…. It is our job to take them around to the rest.”