or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




Romance Novels Bad For Your Health

   July 14th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Romance Novel coverI know this is a little random, but it is book-related. I was listening to NPR last weekend, when I heard a story claiming that reading romance novels is actually bad for your health.

There's a write-up on the Common Health blog, and it seems they are considered unhealthy because of all the unrealistic imagery and situations they contain. Not unlike magazines airbrushing the already almost-flawless supermodels, romance novels create a nearly-impossible fantasy world. If romance readers aren't diligent about separating fictional fantasy from reality, their expectations can get skewed, which can lead to unfulfillment, disappointment, and depression.

The article also referred to non-consensual sex, and the excitement of women being "taken" by dominating alpha-males. And that safe-sex is continually portrayed as unromantic. It seems that most of this would be counteracted by simple common sense (I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny growing up, but never tried to walk off a cliff or drop an anvil on someone), but their findings indicated that there is a correlation between frequent reading of romance novels and a disregard for healthy sexual practices.

Which is especially worrying in the ebook era, as the introduction of ereaders has increased the popularity of romance novels. Anecdotally, they're less embarrassing to read now that ereaders allow them to be read in public without anyone being able to see what your reading by the cover - although to be totally hidden, readers also need to keep their heaving bosoms in check.

Whenever I hear of something like this, my first reaction is for the library to try to somehow protect patrons from it. But you cannot protect people from themselves, and it's not really the library's place to restrict what people read - we can provide information, but they need to make their own decisions.

But wow, it would be funny if we had to ration patrons to no more than two romance novels a month - I'm sure our circ stats would take a hit.



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Books – That Is Exactly How They Work

   May 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This image was recently making the rounds - I saw it on BoingBoing and really like it:

Books - This Is Exactly How They Work poster

For a completely different take on how books work, or rather, for an informed academic/programming look at how they will work as ebooks evolve, read Eric Hellman's post on The Object-Oriented Book.

Incidentally, Eric's post came on the same day Cory posted the image above on BoingBoing - I love coincidence.



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Book-Related Interestingness

   April 21st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Apropos of nothing, here are some interesting things to look at:

Optical Illusion Bookshelf
As if Dewey isn't mystifying enough. Spotted at There I Fixed It, and more photos at Neatorama:

Optical Illusion Bookshelf

 

"Become Someone Else" Bookstore Ad Campaign
This series of posters were developed to promote a used bookstore in Lithuania:

Become Someone Else poster

 

Bibliochaise Book Shelf Chair
I think this bookshelf chair looks great, but I'm not sure how comfortable it would be:

Book Shelf Chair

Thanks Chris - keep them coming.



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Bookshelf FAIL

   January 20th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This just makes me laugh...
Bookshelf FAIL



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Fictional Books, And Where To Put Them IRL

   January 18th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Sterling's Good book coverLast month, the Huffington Post linked to a story on Flavorwire about books that originally started as an element of a fictional story, but then were later published as a real book.

I know that sounds a little confusing, but I did recognize most of them*. For the most part, books like this are fiction, and libraries shelve them as such. As the article mentioned though, television shows have also spawned real-life books - Richard Castle's books, from Castle.

However, one of these books recently(ish) caused a bit of a debate in my library - Roger Sterling's character from Mad Men wrote a book titled Sterling's Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man. The points of the debate were these:

  • Since this book is "by" a fictional character, should it be shelved as fiction?
  • Since it is about the character that wrote it, should it be in autobiography/biography?
  • Since the topic is business advice written by a successful businessman, should this be shelved with the business books?
  • Since this is derived from a television show, should it be shelved in the television section?
  • Since it is humorous, should it be shelved in the humor section?

We ultimately chose the last option, and shelved it at 818.6 (which was also the C-I-P suggestion). According to WorldCat, that seemed to be the most common Dewey number, but not the only one:

  • Hamilton/Wenham (MA) Public Library: 659.10207
  • Greenwich (CT) Library: 659.1
  • Syosset (NY) Public Library: 817.54
  • New York Public Library: 818.5402
  • Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library: 818.602
  • Greene County (OH) Public Library: 791.457
  • Anderson (IN) Public Library: 817

And those were just the libraries on the first few WorldCat results pages that were using Dewey.

But you know, within this genre, I'd actually like for Dewey to write his own book.

 


*My favorite book-within-a-book is the Books of Bokonon, from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. It never fully made it to real book status, but it has come close.



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Seeding Book Displays

   December 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Book display missing one bookOne question I get asked all the time, by patrons who were attracted by one of our book displays and then spent a few minutes looking at all the books, is, "can these books be checked out?"

The answer is of course yes (that's why we put them on display). I don't actually mind answering the question, but any time I'm repeatedly asked the same question, I think there has got to be a better way to communicate the answer.

Signs are always the first option, but signs can go wrong quickly.

Then it struck me to use the same trick that restaurateurs and buskers use - you know when you see a tip jar with money already in it, you're more likely to put some in yourself versus a jar with nothing in it?

To translate this theory to book displays, we could start using dollar bills as bookmarks in display books, but I thought a better idea would be to always leave one of the display stands empty. It's subtle and non-verbal, but if someone sees that someone else has already checked out one of the books from the display, it might communicate to them that it's okay for them to check one out, too. Which is what we want them to know, especially if no staff person is around for them to ask.

I did this on all the displays around the Reference desk last week, and I'm waiting to see if anyone asks about checking out a display book. Usually it happens a couple times a week - so far so good.

What do other people do to let patrons know it's okay to check out display books?



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