I spent yesterday afternoon hanging out with the reference librarian at Haverford Township Free Library in Pennsylvania. Although spending time at a library is not a new experience, this was a special event.
As a member of Sisters in Crime, an organization that promotes writers and readers of quality crime fiction, I participated in this event in order to find out how librarians solve mysteries everyday. Haverford Township is in suburban Philadelphia, and there was a steady stream of library clients of all ages during the three hours of the Saturday afternoon whenwas present.
(At left is Keegan Fink, reference librarian at work.)
While sleuths in mystery fiction often rely on their hunches to solve a crime, I soon found out that librarian frequently rely on that same intuition to figure out what a client wants when he or she asks a question. For example, people often approach a librarian saying, “I’m looking for a good book. What do you suggest?” The librarian then needs to ask a few questions to direct the reader toward a book that would be of interest, because everyone has a preference of what they like or do not like to read. They are often just looking for something new.
I also learned that at the Haverford library a client can “book a librarian” for an hour for help with a specific problem. Some common topics are writing a resume and help with technology. Many people who have new e-readers come to the library for help in learning how to use these devices.
I loved the lively atmosphere of the library, and the willingness of the staff to answer questions and just generally be of help. When a client asked, “Do you have a magnifying glass?” Sure enough, the reference librarian pulled one out of a desk drawer.
My conclusions: People are reading more everyday, both traditional books and e-book. Libraries are on top of the newest technology, but still maintain a wonderful person-to-person outlook.