Tag Archives: Books

Canada Reads inspires the reader in all of us

7 Feb

Canada Reads is an annual competition where celebrities debate on the “best Canadian novel”. The goal of the Canada Reads debate is to put a spotlight on Canadian literature and, perhaps more importantly, it also ambitiously attempts to get Canadians to read more. It seems of course like a natural reaction for anyone who listens to an hour-long discussion/debate on the merits of a few specific books to then be enticed to go out and read them. The proof that Canada Reads truly does increase the readership of the selected titles is demonstrated by a noticeable increase in their book sales. Bookstores will usually jump on the promotional bandwagon and market these books as contestants on Canada Reads (in the bookstore where I used to work we would use special stickers to identify the Canada Reads titles). Equally from a public library perspective, the exposure creates a rush on these titles and consequently all of the copies in our provincial system are currently checked out and the reservation list grows longer as the debate intensifies.

Today was the first round of the three days of debates hosted by the amazing representative of culture in Canada Jian Ghomeshi. The five books voted to be included in this year’s competition and whose winner is supposed to represent the essential Canadian novel of the past 10 years are Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Birth House by Ami McKay, The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, Unless by Carol Shields, and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. Now here I must shamefully admit that I have not yet read any of these five books. In fact prior to Canada Reads, I had never even heard of Essex County or The Best Laid Plans. This is particularly embarrassing considering that I’m a public librarian and that prior to my MLIS I worked in the book industry and have always had a keen interest in promoting Canadian literature.

I perhaps should not be too embarrassed though considering that the whole point of Canada Reads is to say to all Canadians “Wake up! Canadian authors produce amazing literature and you should read their books!”. Apparently librarians are not to be exempted from this wake-up call. As librarians we should not pretend that we know everything about popular books and authors or what people should be reading. We are often too guilty of reading only the genres that interest us or we simply regurgitate the recommendations that we’ve heard from others. What I love about Canada Reads is that it entices people to explore books outside of their regular reading habits (this year for the first time a graphic novel was included in the competition).

Tanya Abramovitch, director of the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc library gave the assignment last year to her students in McGill’s School of Information Studies Public Libraries’ course to read three books from a genre that they would not normally chose. I think that this assignment is a brilliant idea and that more librarians should be encouraged to read outside of their comfort zone. Canada Reads provides a cultural spotlight for Canadians to discover amazing titles and authors that they might not have otherwise read but that are worthy of our attention. Librarians need to be actively promoting Canada Reads as a way of tapping into the media attention surrounding these titles to increase readership. However, we cannot simply rely on Canada Reads; we need to be at the forefront exploring publishing catalogues, literary magazines like the Quill and Quire, websites like Goodreads, and our own library’s book stacks searching for the next great book to recommend.

I encourage everyone, even those not in Canada, to follow Canada Reads on the CBC Canada Reads website.

I also would really love if people posted below their own recommendation of a book they feel is worthy of a national literary competition.

Happy reading!

Thoughts on This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

29 Mar

Many librarians have already heard of Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all and despite my end of semester crunch I decided that this title was well worth reading amidst working on my final assignments. This book particularly interested me because of the non-librarian identity of the author. Since starting library school at McGill, all of the reading I have done on librarians and about libraries has been written by librarians or academics in the field of information studies. Marilyn Johnson’s journalistic observations allow a unique perspective on what an “outsider” considers the most interesting aspects of the world of librarianship. Recently I read that librarians should be more concerned about how libraries fit into the lives of their users rather than how users fit into the make-up of the library and I felt that reading Marilyn Johnson’s book would help me to adopt this approach. I read through This Book is Overdue very quickly and my interest and enjoyment varied greatly depending on the content of the chapter. Marilyn Johnson is without a doubt a great storyteller. In her book, she paints a picture of modern librarianship by sharing the individual stories of “modern librarians”. This personal touch is endearing and the reader feels compelled to care about the concerns of the librarians and their attempts to help users to the best of their ability. Probably the coolest part of reading this book was realizing that I already knew a lot of what she was sharing. Although, there were some very interesting stories about librarians who I had never heard of and who are working hard to provide great service to their patrons, I was extremely excited to realize that I knew many of the people that Marilyn was referring to as example librarians. Seeing people who are close to me like Graham Lavender (The Blog People, pp.52-53) and Amy Buckland (Wizards of Odd, p.149) appear in this book on “Librarians who can save us all” totally blew me away! I was enthused at the prospect that not even out of library school and I am obviously already running in circles with the right people (I already knew how cool they were but now their coolness is out there for the world to read about)! Hopefully their awesomeness is rubbing off on me so that I will also be able to “save the world”! Regardless, of whether you are associated with anyone in this book, the fact that it presents librarians in such an optimistic and positive light is such a breath of fresh air. Knowing that library users can see past stereotypes and appreciate the work of librarians is extremely encouraging and I hope that this book will demonstrate to the general public how cool librarians are and, to the librarians who read this book, I hope it will provide motivation that people are paying attention to our dedication and that with the right attitude we can really save people!

Small Pleasures in Libraries

14 Sep

It’s the small pleasures in life like finding a book called “Modern marriage and family living” published in 1957 on the shelf of the library where I work that make me laugh. Chapters include how to select a suitable “mate” based on social class, religion, and race as well as info on what to expect from the wedding night including the sexual organs of both sexes. Wow, I’m so glad that this was never weeding out of the collection just so that I could find it and laugh!