Living in the Sticks-and-Stones Age
I should appreciate my colleagues in City of Round Rock's Communications division more. Sure, they've been kind and supportive of this blog all along, but now it appears that they've been bravely fostering a risky venture. Consider the case of a university librarian in Canada who's being sued for 3.5 million dollars.
The librarian in question, who initiated his blog for his students' benefit, describes that content as "mostly about my random thoughts on libraries, the media, and so forth". The controversial entry (later un-posted) concerns a publisher whom he allegedly deemed "dubious", judging some of the company's academic books to reflect "second-class scholarship".
As a fellow librarian blogger with similarly random content and a decent-but-not-spectacular readership, I commend his intentions. Like you, I'm a taxpayer. Anyone charged with spending funds on books and other acquisitions, as public librarians are, aims to gratify the audience's needs and interests and not expend dollars on unworthy materials. Expert opinions are essential, but a single one isn't going to rule the day.
Happily for me, I work with fiction, that wonderful and subjective universe which grants value for reasons beyond factuality or currency. An author who's been pilloried by the critics may be adored by the book-buying (and library-going) public. In the same afternoon we might overhear one patron grumble that he can't understand why the library would waste money and shelf space on Author So-and-So's "fluff" only to note another customer lamenting the interval before Author So-and-So's forthcoming installment.
Evidence that fiction offerings don't escape evaluation, the reviews I relish most involve less than flattering pronouncements. Reviewers devote especial creativity to those, as in the assessment of "too much wuthering, too few heights" or "extends the hackneyed into the realm of the ridiculous". Should I ever publish a novel myself, frankly I'd prefer a "what was she thinking?" reception over the tepid "somewhat enjoyable" verdict rendered in one of this week's reviews. Ouch.
Along with professional reviews, publisher marketing, forecasting at events like Book Expo America, social media, and bestseller lists, librarians heed customer preferences, even when our patrons disagree among themselves.
Last Monday, a purchase request for Cora Harrison's Chain of Evidence landed in my email. "You already have all of her previous books, and they are wonderful," the requester commented. "Please purchase it!"
We certainly will. Cora Harrison isn't a high-demand name here (yet), but her Tudor-era mysteries set in western Ireland are gaining a following. If you try and appreciate Ms. Harrison's series, you'd probably also savor comparable works by M.J. Trow, Cassandra Clark, Peter Tremayne, Priscilla Royal, and C. J. Sansom.
And then you can alert me should the library experience a series gap that should be remedied or updated. While attorneys parse one librarian's opinion, we're glad to focus on what readers think.