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All in a Day’s Work

September 5th, 2016
Carole · Staff Recommendations

Lots of interesting and challenging inquiries come to a public library reference desk. This remains true even in the age of Google.

Recently, a young man in his late teens approached the desk with the request, “I want to be more social. Do you have books on that?”

We had just received several new books on the topic of “increasing your social,” that is, how to be more visible on social media. This has become an increasingly important issue, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Some of these include The Rise of the Platform Marketer, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Facebook AdvertisingLikeable Social Media and Maximize your Social.

I told the young man that we have several new books on the topic of social media. He replied “No, I want to learn how to be more social in real life. With people”.


My reference interview 101 skills immediately emerged. As I probed a bit I learned that this young man was not shy and had plenty of friends. But he noted that they were a homogeneous bunch with similar interests and demographics. He wanted to expand his circle of friends to include a more diverse crowd. He wanted to know how to attract a wide variety of people. He believed this was something he could learn to do. Were there books to teach him?

I loved this question! This young man wanted to move beyond his own interests, personality traits and social comfort zone. He recognized that there were skills that could be acquired to attract others. He believed that by exposing himself to a wide variety of people, he would become a more interesting person himself. I was also so pleased that he trusted a librarian to come up with answers for him.

The first title I introduced him to was the classic by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally written in 1936 but often updated over the years. The most recent version is entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. He was amazed that such a book even existed. From there I gave him The Art of Mingling by Jeanne Martinet, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Larry King and The Art of Speedreading People by Paul Tieger.

What transpired in this reference question is what often occurs. The initial query leads to a deeper analysis of related topics. In this instance, as we dug deeper we came across: Friendship: An Expose by Joseph Epstein, Social: Why our Brains are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman and Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives by Theodore Zeldin. All of these offered some insight. Interestingly these books came from various subject areas, including self-help, interpersonal communication, and business leadership skills and communication.

Clearly there was no one book that would give this young man the answer he needed. It is the librarian’s role to pinpoint books throughout the library that may have bits and pieces of information that can be drawn on and assist in research or offer a clearer understanding of an issue. The young man understood this and was excited to browse the options I pulled off the shelves.  Although called Library Science, the successful handling of a reference query is more often an art (including a healthy dose of customer service).

For me, this day was an encouraging reminder of the library’s unique role. We are more than a repository. We combine raw information with human experience and interaction to open minds and offer new possibilities. We offer direction to help navigate the vast sum of human understanding. That’s a vital, valuable resource that must be appreciated and protected.

Additional books on this complex topic available at Harrison Public Library:

The Discussion Book
by Stephen Brookfield
People Tools
by Alan C. Fox
Leading with Questions
by Michael Marquardt
The Art of Mingling
by Jeanne Martinet
Own the Room
by Muriel Maignan Wilkins
by Theodore Zeldin
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