Q&A: Patron's Ask; Librarians Answer: I'm out of time, can we do this later?

My hands are full, my meter just ran out, my kids are knocking things off shelves, I can't remember if we read that already, I have to take the little one to the bathroom...but I need your librarian skills - HELP!

Q: I love coming in to my local library to get one-on-one help from a children's librarian, but I only have a few minutes! A clock - meant to show time is running out.How can I get your expert help faster?  My middle-school-age daughter is dyslexic, her younger brother is an avid reader of comic books - exclusively, and my toddler has just figured out how to undo her seat belt on the stroller. I need book recommendations for all three of them, and I have to get to the market before dinner. Actually, forget it, I have to take this call from the pediatrician. We'll come back next week!

A: We love it when you come in person to the library, because speaking with you one-on-one allows us to be our most effective. Getting to know you helps us figure out which materials will be right for you. First of all, thanks for making time to bring your kids to the library!  I know it's often a challenge, but observing your child's responses when I hand her one book helps me figure out which book to try next.  Please keep trying, and don't worry about offending me if you run out the door in mid-sentence.

Here are a few ideas to save time and keep track of what you want to read:

Use your phone to snap a photo of any book that looks interesting. Maybe your son's friend's book, or a book your daughter's teacher had on display at back-to-school night. That's enough information to find it later. Show me the photo on your phone, and I'll grab it for you. After you take it home, you can figure out if it's really right for you. ("You" in this case meaning you or one of your children.)

Use our online catalog to put a hold on a book you want - if you have time on the internet. (Does that ever happen? Maybe when everyone else is asleep?) Then, you can run into the library, grab the book, and run out again. While you're in our online catalog, looking at any specific book, take a quick peek at the feature "You Might Also Like..." - and put a hold on one of those, too.

Logo from Biblionasium webpageUse an online bookshelf like Goodreads or LibraryThing, or (for kids) Biblionasium. With these, you can keep track of books you want to read and ones you've already read, and also find related-reading suggestions. For younger kids, Beanstack will suggest titles, and keep track of your reading. If your phone supports either email or the apps that go along with some of those websites, you will always have a book suggestion at hand.

Talk to your local children's librarian, if & when you do have a minute. Get the one-on-one help that is most effective - by telling me what you've been reading, what's been driving your reading, and which direction you'd like to steer next. Even if we get interrupted, we can get started, and build on our familiarity over time.

I can email you the reading suggestions that were not readily at hand if we get interrupted, which makes it super-easy to place holds on the titles, in which case you can grab them quickly when they arrive.

Sometimes the best thing about your children's librarian is the fact that she accepts wherever you are with regards to literature. There is no curriculum and no pass/fail grading system, because there are infinite variations in readers. 

We are here for you even if you only have 5 minutes to spend at the library.