Secret Shopping: Readers’ Advisory Interview:

I finally squared my shoulders and ventured into my neighborhood branch in an area of Indianapolis most people strive to never be caught in after nightfall. I was surprised to find a welcome atmosphere with very friendly staff. Given the experience most of you had in your secret shopping assignment, I braced myself for brush-offs, eye rolling, or at least a lot of hiding behind a monitor. I wasn’t prepared for the most pleasant RA experience I’ve ever had, which includes my talks with the librarians at my former place of employment.

When I walked up to the Information Desk, I was given the usual, “Can I help you?” When I told the woman, who I later noticed from her name tag was the branch manager, that I wanted her to help me find a good book to read, she literally squirmed in her chair with excitement and enthusiastically told me to take a seat. Her first questions were: “Do you have a specific title or author in mind?” I told her that I was looking for a Mystery, and that I’m not familiar with the genre at all. She asked me what I normally read, and I gave her my list of usual genres (Literary Fiction, Fantasy, and some Classics). She immediately surmised that I wanted a book with very good writing, as I’m a fan of Literary Fiction. (Bingo!) After asking if I wanted a Classic novel, I indicated that I’d like something more contemporary. She asked if I was opposed to Historical Fiction, and I’m not. After another series of questions, she gathered that I’d like something more serious (she’d asked if I wanted a funny mystery) and nothing too forensic.

She personally led me to the hardback Mystery section, admitting that she doesn’t read a lot of Mysteries, but would try her best to find me some titles. She pointed out Janet Evanovich, though she wasn’t recommending them because of their humor, and said that if I ever wanted a funny mystery, those were good choices. The first book she recommended was the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline McCall, explaining that they were very well written, award-winning, and popular; she gave me a brief plot description, as well as her opinion of the series. After that, she showed me the Alexander McCall Smith section, explaining that his books were also award-winning, and personal favorites of hers in the genre. Before taking me to the paperback section, she stopped and handed me a copy of the Book Pages newspaper, urging me to read it later. In the paperback section, she found me the first of the Maisie Dobbs books, and pointed out the “New Book” section, where she said I’d find some good reads. She pulled a copy of “The Leopard” by Jo Nesbo off of a to-be-shelved cart, and told me that it was excellent. At this point, I took her word for it.

She couldn’t find a copy of the Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and asked me to come back to the desk with her. I told her I had a Kindle and knew how to use Overdrive, though she’d already offered to show me. She tilted her computer, showing me the catalog and Overdrive, then jotted down the name and author of the novel, as they were available for ebook checkout. She also showed me the library’s Book Lists, as well as staff recommendations. I thanked her, told her my name, and told her I’d be coming back soon, which I will. It was hard for me to not show my hand here, as I wanted to say, “This is the best Readers’ Advisory experience I’ve ever had. I was doing this for an assignment, and you were great!” I left with both books she’d pulled for me, a slip of paper with another book recommendation, and a copy of Book Pages.

I may reveal down the road that I’m a SLIS student and tell her anyway, as you all know I’m terribly chatty. All in all, it was a really good experience, and I’m no longer scared to go to my local branch.


1 Comment

  1. carricee said,

    February 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Yay! That’s awesome.

    I have never heard of the Maisie Dobbs books, I will have to look them up. If you like literary and funny I would also recommend the Flavia de Luce mysteries – not quite literary but kind of a parody of literary and very silly.

    Sometimes I find it is harder for me NOT to recommend books than to recommend them, like just now. I love that the manager was squirming with excitement. Glad you had such a great experience!

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