Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top Three Librarian Skills for Connecting with Readers, Patrons and Authors

Booktalk Interview with Allison Tran – Part 1
An interview I conducted with Allison Tran, teen services librarian in Orange County, California, children's and YA book reviewer for the blog Reading Everywhere, and co-host of the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast.

How do you hope to make a difference as a librarian?
Allison: Almost everything I do with my blog, podcast and as a librarian have to do with getting people—and especially young readers—excited about literature. There are so many great books being published for children and teens today, more than ever before. It’s so exciting and readers are really getting into it more and making it more of a social thing. So, I want to build on that excitement and keep them getting excited. And maybe even introduce non-readers to something they might like. I really want to connect readers to books that they’re going to love; books that are going to speak to them and help them develop a lifelong love of reading.

Why do you feel reading is so important?
Allison: Reading is almost like breathing to me. I believe reading is important because it provides a window into another world. It can make us feel like we’re not alone. It can reaffirm our own experiences, or show us new experiences and new worlds that we might not otherwise be able to see. Faraway places, people in different situations, and people who are different from us. Reading also provides a shared connection between people. When you find someone else who has read and loved the same book, you’re instant best friends. You have something to talk about.

You co-host a podcast called Authors are Rockstars! Tell me about that.
Allison: Authors are so interesting and insightful. They always have interesting stories about what drives them and how they got published- but a lot of people haven’t had a chance to meet authors and hear their stories. So, my friend, Michelle, and I decided in our spare time to do this podcast where we feature author interviews and share our love of YA literature. It’s so much fun to be able to create a venue for authors to share a more personal side of themselves with their readers in a medium beyond the written word.

How do you typically conduct the author interviews for your podcast?
Allison: We like it best when we can chat with authors in person, but we also do Skype interviews. Sometimes we do the interviews at events like book signings and get comments from people at the event, so our listeners feel like they were there, too. It’s really fun to connect with other book lovers that way.

What advice do you have for today’s librarians, especially those who are just entering the field?
Allison: There are so many different kinds of librarians, but in general for those who work with the public, the three most important things newly minted librarians should be savvy with are 1) Technology/social media, which has become so important with its ability to connect us with other professionals, our patrons and authors. 2) Teaching. Librarians are educators. We’re always teaching people. So we need to feel comfortable and empowered in that role. 3) Marketing or advocacy. Libraries offer so many great resources, but sadly, a lot of people don’t know what we offer. We should constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to tell people what we offer, whether it’s through the Internet, social media, or through partnering with community organizations.

Are there any unique experiences you’d like to share?
Allison: I’m really privileged to be able to help people all day. That’s one of my favorite things about being a librarian. I’m there for people. One of the most unique experiences I had as a librarian was back when I was a children’s librarian. A pregnant woman came into the library and wanted to find a classic picture book. As I was helping her, she explained that she wanted to make a video of her husband reading the picture book because he was about to get shipped off with the military to Iraq and was not going to be there for the baby’s birth. Of course the implication was that they were worried that he might not make it back. My heart just dropped. I wanted to hug her and weep all over her, but that wasn’t my place to do that. She wasn’t looking for someone to make a big reaction. But I felt privileged as a professional to be able to respond appropriately, telling her how meaningful that would be, and then finding some wonderful book for her. I wish I knew the end of the story, but I assume all went well. And I am so grateful that I had the privilege of being able to help her get what she needed at that time.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

Allison: It’s such a great thing to have the opportunity to connect with people and connect them with books that they’ll love. It’s really my dream job.

Watch for part 2 of this booktalk interview in the coming days.

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