Friday, April 01, 2005

My ideal state...

one of my colleagues asked me today.. what i would work as if i wasn't a librarian... the first answer that was out of my mouth was, "tai-tai!".. she rolled her eyes at me and cried, "that's not a job!".. hrrmmppp.. i'm sure that the tai-tais would think otherwise... you need lots of time management skills to schedule your time to go for facials, manicures, pedicures, fund raisers, coffee and tea sessions, not forgetting high-tea... but honestly.. i wouldn't know.. don't think that i will have the fortune to be one.

Since my first choice was rejected.. i told her.. hrrmpp.. maybe in a bookshop.. or with book publishers or something... i think that i would still like to have something to books ultimately.

i always had the idea that being in the book retail can be interesting... but i wouldn't know much given that i don't have much insight into it. i'm sure that there are frustrations... about the type of customers who abused the new books (i would get extremely upset)... the long hours, shifts, idiotic customers and such. But i would enjoy helping customers in picking up a book and recommending titles.

i had fun last christmas at kinokuniya. i was in the shop browsing with one of my friends... and while i was looking at some books... i overheard one gentleman asking the kino staff if the book he choose was any good and if it be suitable as a gift. It was kinda like straight out of the movie, "You've Got Mail." Well.. the staff didn't know anything, giving a "duh" look and just like wat happened in the movie, (as i did read the book).. i went and introduced myself... and told the customer was the book was about... and told him whom i thought whom the book appeal to... turns out that he's got a few presents to buy.. and he didn't know what kind of books to purchase... so ended up.. i made some recommendations and helped him select the books to buy for his recipients (the staff quickly scampered off when she discovered that i was more than capable of helping the gentleman).

i would love having a job like that.. helping people select at buy books as gifts... presents.. or even for themselves. Granted that this wouldn't happen often even in the bookstore.. but if you can have a personal clothes shopper.. why can't you have a personal book shopper?

i think that it is different in libraries... in my years of working there.. i have never had anyone come up to me to ask if the book that they have chosen was any good. maybe cos most of the time.. people do their own selection.. and know what books they want.. and just zoom in and rush to get the book... other times, people just want you to point them in the right direction.. often.. even before i finish telling them the call numbers.. they are off and running... most of the time.. they are simply not interested to hear more. If not... there's a whole long queue and you can't spend more time.. cos you are constantly being interrupted by people asking for the toilet, photocopiers.. or just directions.

sometimes i'm really really tempted to walk up to someone who's holding a book that i have enjoyed reading and just say, "hey.. that's a good book that you have there... have you read it? or "What do you think of the book"..... have a bit of sharing...etc. And i'm really tempted to recommend other books (when i'm able to)... to build on a particular theme or something. things that i do with my friends, colleagues and peers.

to a certain extend... i'm only successful in generating interest in books on a one-to-one basis. i feel that reading is very personal... and each one relates to different books differently... you kinda have to know what each reader likes to read before choosing a book for him/her... kinda like a customisation... or pitch the book in such a way that it makes the person want to read the book. If it is on a group basis... sometimes it can be difficult. Just like in book talks.. when speaking to a class full of pupils. Often i wonder.. after i give a book talk... how many people in the audience would truly be motivated in picking up the book and borrowing it... more than often... it's like a shot gun approach.. pitch the book that will appeal to the broadest of interests... and hope that some points will hit a few targets. Sometimes i really wonder how effective i am in such settings. we don't get any follow-ups or feedback to see if the students did read any of the books that we recommended. at least you still run into your friends or colleagues to see if they did read the book.. and if not.. you could bug them.. har har har.

Recently... i discovered that one of my friends was reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. i read that book last year and was able to share with her some of my thoughts on the book. (spoilers ahead)

it was a pretty easy book to read... and the author was pretty successful in getting the readers into the head of Christopher, letting the reader understand why Christopher was behaving the way he did as much as he knows that his father doesn't like him to do it. he just can't control himself. At the same time.. the reader slowly uncovers the frustrations of Christopher's father.. and what he has to put up/accept cos of his son's condition and being a single parent and all. But how i related to the book was the loss that Christopher felt for the dog and why he felt that he had to solve the mystery as i lost my dog a couple of years back too. In solving the mystery.. Christopher finds that there's lots of things he is capable of doing and is good at despite of his condition.

After my friend read the book.. and knowing that she's a poetry and dog lover as well... i then pass her my copy of Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. A very original poignant and touching novel of short verses and poems written by Jack who lost his dog in a hit and run accident.... even though she enjoyed the book.. i have no doubts that she actually related to the book differently from me.. given that she hasn't face the loss of a beloved pet before. .. kinda related to the post i previously wrote on must reads A to Z.. .. the type of insights one would get if they ever get hold of my reading lists... hee hee hee

hrrmmpp.. so where do i go from here now?? How about Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul by Jack Canfield or even Dog Dogs by Elliott Erwitt... or should i go the other way.. and link it to Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.

Decisions.. decisions.. maybe should start on something new... hee hee hee... just give me more hours in a day for me to indulge in my reading.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Working in book retail has its pros and cons. Yes, you do get to approach customers a whole lot more, but then again, it really depends on your personality as a 'bookseller', as well as the type of library you're at. It's actually something you can start at your library (just have to make the time I guess :-) I agree with you, having someone walk off with books you've recommended really warms the heart and makes your day. I used to do it all the time at OCCL, and now at EP.

The downside would be similar to that of the library - the long hours and dealing with over-demanding customers. Bookshops, in my opinion, are also a lot less organized (in terms of management) and they don't train their staff all that much (in terms of collections, and sometimes even customer service, *shudder*). That's speaking from personal experience - working in bookshops, and dealing with booksellers now.
- wrkshy (I have a little blog of my own if you want to see - http://www.livejournal.com/users/queerlibrarian - Stop by and say hello...

Anonymous said...

Sorry that should be
http://www.livejournal.com/users/
queerlibrarian

Tiny Little Librarian said...

I had a similar experience in a bookstore last year. The woman wanted books like Captain Underpants for her 4 year-old. As I was getting over the horror that she feels that's appropriate reading for a 4 year-old (now, the books are great for older kids, but hello, picture books?!), the clerk starting making all these suggestions about books about poop and stuff. Hello, even less appropriate in both age level and subject. I'd just read a Captain U clone about a little mad scientist girl and was able to recommend that (I still thought it wasn't age appropriate, but it was better than the [literal] crap the clerk was suggesting). I was so delighted when she bought it! :)

QQ*librarian said...

I share your sentiments. I've attempted to create the ideal state you described previously which could be known as fiction readers' advisory. It was a feeble attempt granted, becoz I realized that setting it up is harder than I imagine - what with no funds, no support and even frequent discouraging words from fellow colleagues and bosses.

Perhaps I wasn't in the right position to make a difference, and perhaps it's simply becoz I wasn't good enough. In the end, I realised that there's no way my organization is going to let me do this full-time, so I opted to now do this on a "part-time" arrangement where it becomes not as a core duty, but something else which I can develop professionally.

But nothing's stopping me to approach strangers (when I feel thick-skinned) when I spot a good book they're holding onto, talking to library customers, conversing in books yahoo/google groups and sharing often with friends, colleagues and family. In the end, I don't even know what is driving me anymore (not just a job) except my passion in books.

Don't give up yet. The ideal state may not happen becoz we accept the fact that there'll always be areas in our work which we don't like that much. But that should not dampen our passion for books and connecting with others with books.

QQ*librarian said...

I forgot to add something in my previous post. Actually, I'm starting to wonder about whether I'm too idealistic in thinking that a fiction readers' advisory service can be sustained in Singapore. I've spoken to a few folks who read a lot and they seem to feel that they don't need to talk to anybody about what they want to read next. Instead, I found book discussions lively in cyberspace - more so than bookclubs... I'm wondering if going digital might be a more appropriate apparatus for fiction readers' advisory.

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Strange devices these computors are. I type in merchandiser and My ideal state... shows up so here I am. This is my first time in a Blog and do not know the proper protocols so please excuse me if I do something wrong. It was fun to read posts by people from alll around the world and getting new ideas. Hi from Canada. Thank you for letting me onto your wonderful site.
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