My Impromptu Teen Reference Interview

I went to the library today.

I was standing in the teen section with 4 Orca Sounding books in my arms when another patron – a real teen – walked over to the shelf beside me. She looked over at me and I smiled, and she surprised me by asking, “Are those any good?” I thought: How can I turn this into a reference interview?
“I’m not sure yet. What kind of books do you usually like?” And she absolutely lit up.  It was as easy as that.

I ended up having a very enthusiastic 10-15 minute long conversation with her about teen literature: trends in supernatural romance, books similar to Tamera Pierce, the Golden Compass controversy, adult fiction for teens, and even how YA Lit is/should be defined.

By the end, we had both recommended many authors to each other, and each walked away with new books in our arms.

I’m still not sure if she thought I was a fellow teen or a librarian, but I don’t think it matters. I learnt a few things today:

  • Teens who love to read LOVE to talk about reading
  • Showing sincere interest in a person’s reading habits might be the most important part of a reference interview
  • Smiling at strangers is key
  • People who enjoyed Tamara Pierce, but want to move to a more mature fantasy series should try Mercedes Lackey
  • Library users might sometimes be the most valuable experts when it comes to niche library collections.

Both the patron and I seemed to thoroughly enjoy our conversation. This has really further solidified my decision to pursue a career that involves a large portion of public service work. I’m glad it happened.

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