Reader's Exchange

September 2013 - Posts

May the choice be with you

Wish someone had caught this on camera for Youtube.

Scene related by reliable witness:  an attentive mother and two children (daughter a couple of years older than the son) indicated the selection of puppets available for checkout at the library.  "Which one do you choose?" she asked both.  The young man didn't wait for his sister's preference before declaring, "I want the one she wants!"

Was the little boy so certain of his sister's astute taste that he knew he'd covet her choice?  Or is he, even at that tender age, already convinced of the joys of sharing?   Does it matter?

Either way, the wisdom of children again illuminates adult life.  Modeling oneself after an exemplar; enjoying communal experience--both are so rewarding.

Had it been published online, this scenario could have invited footnoting in consumer behavior studies.   Trolling the library's Academic Search Complete database for the subject, you'd note how frequently terms like "confidence", "loyalty", "narcissism" and "dissatisfaction" describe content, along with the expected "market analysis", "green marketing", "brand", and so forth.

Product selection is as emotional as it is intellectual, partly because we're offered a mind-boggling array of choices.  "I'll have what she's having" is a practical solution.

Word of Mouth Marketing or WOMM (which to me sounds like Luke Skywalker's lightsaber) doesn't just inhabit Lunchbox with lightsabersbusiness literature.  At the library, it's a favorite customer service strategy.   The overwhelmed patron confronted with banks of shelving can note with relief our approachable book "towers" with a few hand-selected titles.  If that month's topic proves not to be a favorite, at least it's clear that focus and assistance are obtainable.  The reference desk slideshow of What We're Reading Now highlights a dozen or so options; we offer handout lists narrowed to recommended Christian fiction, Sci-Fi classics, critics' choices, readalikes, etc.

More library WOMM:

Fondly recalling a novel read years ago, the customer had wished to re-connect with it for a long time-- difficult without knowing title and author. "It's about a Confederate hero," she remembered, "actually, no, more about his wife...." That's all I needed to hear. I'd seen a review of Allan Gurganus' forthcoming Local Souls earlier this week, so his 1989 The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (I loved it, too) immediately came to mind. Anyone passing by the ref desk and hearing us gush about it received a massive dose of WOMM.

Hoping to locate the book inspired by Beth Terry's My Plastic Free Life blog, another patron was delighted to find Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can, Too available. She also recommended Rick Smith's Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things.

Customer enthusiasm for PBS' Call the Midwife series on DVD inspired a favorite viewing experience at my house. So here's a WOMM prompt for other Midwife fans fascinated by depictions of British life in the 1950s: David Kynaston's wonderfully informative Austerity Britain, 1945-51; Family Britain, 1951-1957; and Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59.

Betwixt and between

If you're a grownup (especially thirty-plus and a parent/guardian/aunt or uncle) you, too, may have savored a sandwich meal involving no sandwiches.

A recent lunch--if that's what you call chugging a homemade smoothie--found me checking emails on my iPad. My daughter had inquired about supplies for the curtains I was sewing for her; my mother reported that that the Etsy gift card we'd sent for her birthday was yielding mixed results (wonderful merchandise, yes; easy credit redemption process, no).  

Ultimately, the curtains turned out as hoped; the Etsy snag was resolved and the desired product delivered.  For those of us in the Sandwich Generation, these are
the problems we'd choose to sort out--happy ones, easily within one's capability.

Questions we're asked at the reference desk remind us that life in the Sandwich lane often involves weightier issues, such the one advised by U.S News & World Report's nursing home assessmentMedicare's Nursing Home Compare, and the Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator.  And the oft-heard "how can my son/daughter and I speak the same language and still not communicate?" can be addressed with, among other options, the annually eye-opening Beloit College Mindset List.

Sandwich people feel doubly responsible, but on good days we celebrate successes on two fronts.

Another bonus:  tips and memorable anecdotes from two diverse vantage points.  My daughter recommends films and apps that I wouldn't discover soon (or
ever).  And as for the parent angle, you know how a chance remark can trigger the unspooling of a dramatic episode starring you but previously not on your radar screen due to your very young age when it occurred.  Chatting with my mom recently, I observed that whooping cough is on the rise again.   Her resulting memory suggests that I was one those rare children scarier as an infant than as a teen. 

1940 Census posterAnd that incident pales in comparison to distant ancestors' travails.  As this Bloomberg article observes, the release of 1940 census information hasn't merely attracted researchers; it has created a volunteer bonanza.  Because the initial census format is not generally searchable by name (yet), thousands of volunteers are assisting with indexing.  Whether motivated by altruism or the chance of winning an iPad or Kindle, participants demonstrate massive multigenerational power.

Also at their best: favorite authors with new or soon-to-be-released family sagas.  Philipp Meyer's The Son, termed "heartstopping", "magnificent", "stunning", "volcanic", and "masterly" by critics, also garnered raves from readers at last month's Barnes & Noble (Round Rock New Neighbors) book discussion.  Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement (coming in November) rises to Tan's previous standard--high praise.

One of many readers who loved Leila Meacham's Roses and Tumbleweeds, I think that Meacham gets better with each new title (watch for Somerset, prequel to Roses in February).  Jhumpa Lahiri's much-anticipated The Lowland will be released on September 24; The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), deemed "sweeping" and "rich", comes out in October. Jonathan Lethem's "illuminating" and "provocative" Dissident Gardens has just arrived at the library. 

Why not represent the first generation in your clan to get your hands on these?