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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

'There isn't....

a decent book on the library shelves.' is a cry I am now hearing every week when I do my library volunteer work. Volunteering sounds grand, but it simply means shelving books. It's an incredibly boring job because no matter how often one straightens the books, places them back in the correct Dewey order, and leaves each row tidy, one knows that two second later some reader will come and mess it all up again.

A volunteer is neither fish nor flesh for it's also made quite plain that one is not a librarian. One must not use the librarian's door, offices, chairs, mugs etc or help the public without pointing out that one is a volunteer. Librarians deal with the public.

This amuses me as the public want a quick answer to "Where are the cooking/craft/painting/war/history etc books?" Seems to me a waste of all our time for me to traipse people down to the librarian's front desk when I know exactly where the enquirer needs to be. I usually loudly proclaim 'I am a volunteer not a proper librarian.' and whisk Joe Public to the required section. The librarians haven't worked out how to tell me off when I do this.

However things are becoming tricky right now because the war cry from the fiction section of the library is "Why can't I find a decent book to read?" The library has an excellent turn over of new books which are bought and shelved almost daily. People can suggest a new novel and it will be bought. Nice! But as one dear old soul moaned today: "They're all peculiar." He was not happy to keep finding new novels full of vampires, or characters taken over by ghosts. Alternative History gives older readers acid indigestion and they have heart attacks when faced with same sex love triangle stories. The Baptist home schooling families want more Christian books and object to all the murder mysteries. The stalwart colonials are affronted by all the American novels. And so it goes on.

Trouble is now I'm getting to be a familiar face, and people know I write, I am being urgently requested to find something worth reading for a larger and larger number of readers. This is not on. I am NOT a librarian. Trouble is I review books for a fiction website and I am the world's fastest reader. When the librarians have to say they haven't read the book being waved under their noses, I have. This does not make me popular.

But Joe Public is right. The current crop of new novels left me reviewless. I couldn't finish any of them. Next week I will join the cry of "Why can't I find a decent book to read?" And hope the new batch of novels going onto the New Books Shelves contains something other than werewolves, vampires, gratuitous violence, rape and pillage.

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