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You’ve Gotta Have Friends! (But Maybe Not for Reading Recommendations)

Post by Duncan Smith
Posted August 23, 2012 in Readers' Advisory News

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A good friend of mine -- lets call her Susan -- makes sure I read at least one book written by a Canadian author every year. She is adept at knowing exactly what might interest me and over the years, has managed to move my love of Canadian literature beyond the Guy Gavriel Kay novels that I believe everyone should read. 

book jacketOf course, Susan is not only a librarian, she is a skilled readers’ advisor. She starts our book conversations by asking what I’ve recently read and enjoyed. She then uses that information and her knowledge of books and readers to lead me to my next great read. Susan has consistently suggested titles that deliver the perfect reading experience. In fact, one of them -- Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden -- is now on my personal top 10 novels list.

Unfortunately, not all readers are so lucky. Take Ann for example. The last time we talked about books, she told me about the reading suggestions shared by friends in a neighborhood running club. There are several high-volume readers in this group and many of them urged Ann to read The Help. Ann read it and enjoyed it but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Ann’s friends are popular fiction readers while Ann’s reading tastes tends toward biographies, especially those that deal with powerful women. Whenever the conversation in the running group turns to books, Ann listens attentively but she doesn’t say much. In fact, during one of our recent conversations she confessed to me that two of the things she values most about our time together is that she feels she can talk about what she likes and that she knows my suggestions will be based on her interests -- not the last book that I read and enjoyed.

Libraries certainly can’t replace the friends who share reading interests and suggestions.. But we do, however, have an important role to play when a person’s reading interests diverge from that of their social network. We should make sure that those readers know that when it comes to the library -- they’ve got a friend.