Here is the summary of the secret shopper assignment.
My secret shopper assignment went well, but not perfect. I chose a small library that had only been open for just under an hour. They library was not busy. As instructed in the PowerPoint slides provided by Professor Cataldi I looked around for any signs for readers’ advisory. I was not surprise that there were no signs. With a library this small I did not expect them to provide a special section or person for a readers' advisory. It would not make sense financially. There was a reference desk, but no one was there.
After looking around the library I went to the circulation counter and said “Hello. I am interested in finding something new to read. Do you have a reader advisor available?” The lady, Lisa (no real name), smiled at me and apologized about not having someone in that position. I asked if the reference librarian was available and unfortunately the person was not there. However, after informing me that she does not know how to do reader’s advisory she offered to help me. I said “thank you” and followed her to the other end of the circulation counter. She again informed me that she does not know how to advise people on what books to read, but is willing to try. Over the course of our five minute discussion Lisa mentioned three times that she does not know how to do reader’s advisory. At first I respected her refreshing honesty, however after three times of doubting herself I did not feel like I was in capable hands. It was like she was setting herself up to fail.
Lisa asked if there was a book title that I could give her. I replied “I am looking for a certain genre. I love graphic novels and have recently been on a horror kick. I would like to find more graphic novels in this genre.” Lisa quickly told me that she does not know anything about graphic novels and offered to take me to the areas where they are shelved. As we walked toward the books Lisa told me that the branch manager Genevieve (not real name) orders the graphic novels and would be able to help me if I had any further questions.
A few minutes later I walked back to the circulation counter and asked Lisa if the person who orders the graphic novels is available? Lisa cheerfully said yes, and asked me to wait a few moments while she gets her manager. Genevieve came to the circulation counter and asked “so, you are looking for a new graphic novel to read?” I replied “yes” and then she started asking questions. Her demeanor was very friendly and inviting. I did not feel uncomfortable asking her questions. She started the question session by asking me what kind of graphic novel I was interested in. I explained that I like a variety of different genres, but recently have been on a horror routine. So, I was looking for more in that field to read. Genevieve nodded her head and said “have you read any of the Walking Dead books? They are popular right now.” I acknowledge that I have read some of the stories, but I was not in the mood for something so gritty and deep. She acknowledged my response with a simple "ok" and asked me to tell her the name of a horror graphic novel that I like. I answered her question with “well, I am a big fan of the Hack/Slash series. I have read the omnibus series and I think that I have read the recent trade. Oh’ I can’t think of the name of the book; it came out last year and I am not sure if they have come out with any new ones. Have you heard of the series?” Much to my delight Genevieve has read some of the series and asked me what I liked about it. I informed her that I like that the stories have a tongue-in-cheek cheesy kind of dark humor mixed with a 1980's slasher movie vibe. I also like that the main characters of Cassie Hack and Vlad developed throughout the series. It is an involved series, but not a really heavy one.
Genevieve asked if I had heard of Warren Ellis' series Transmetropolitan. I informed her that I have heard of it by title only, but know nothing about it. She explained the main story line to me and I informed her that it is too political and science fiction sounding for me. I wanted something more in the line of horror. She told me that she will check on the computer to see what is recommended. I was about to ask her what website she was looking at and then a boy came up behind us and started talking to her. Genevieve politely told the child that Lisa could help her at the opposite end of the circulation counter. After that interruption she asked me a question about a book and I forgot to ask her about the website that she was using. The question that she asked me was if I had read anything by Emily Carroll, especially the book Through the Woods. I told her no and asked her to describe the book to me. After her description I told her that it sounds something like the early trades of Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales. She told me that she has read some of those trades and this book is similar in style and tone to those books. I said that that sounds like a good book for me to read.
The reference interview only took about 10 minutes and while I found a book to read it was not what I originally asked for. I wanted something more in the line of Hack/Slash. She did not find me any books like that. I was not sure if the latest book in the series was published last year. She could have looked up the series at Amazon, Image comic book publisher, or a fan sight that lists different books in the series. Maybe there are a couple of one-shot trades that I have not read.
A couple of book series that I would have suggested that is similar to Hack/Slash is the Army of Darkness and Evil Dead series. These series are based on cult horror movies and have cheesy dark humor that would fit my criteria nicely. There are currently two comic book lines featuring the character Ash from the movies; Ash and the Army of Darkness by Dynamite publishing and Evil Dead 2 by Space Goat publishing. Of course, I suggest these books based that I have already read books from all three series, so I have prior knowledge of them. Without being a fan of the books my suggestions would not have come as quickly or easily.
Genevieve did a good job with readers’ advisory and I would like to go back to her for assistance, however she did not get me a book of the specific criteria that I originally asked about. I will take partial blame for this, because looking back I could have been more assertive and asked more direct questions. It seems that I may have been too agreeable. This is something that I will have to keep in mind when helping future patrons with readers’ advisory, because some patrons are shy and do not like to disagree with the librarian. I have helped very few people at my job with reader advisory. Usually, they just want to find out what other books the author has written. What I learned from this secret shopper assignment is that it is not easy to help someone find the perfect book. Nor is it always easy for the patron to describe what they want. For this assignment I knew what I wanted, but I had a hard time choosing the correct words to tell the librarian. This makes it harder for the book advisor.