Thursday, November 10, 2011

May we suggest . . .?

Readers at the Main branch of RPL are busy folks, dropping in on their lunch hours or on their way home from work, with just enough time to pick up a hold or seek out a recently reviewed release. But what if they don’t know what they’re looking for? When confronted with aisle after aisle of books differentiated only by the color of their spines, lunchtime browsers often limit themselves to the “New Releases” section, or may leave empty-handed. That’s when the display table just inside the General Collections department seems to help. Recent displays have attracted a surprising amount of attention, and prove that RPL readers have wide-ranging tastes and interests.

A display of the books described in September’s ”What Are You Reading?” blog post as “A Bibliography of Human Fallibility” included books such as Daniel Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Joseph Hallinan’s Why We Make Mistakes, and Duncan Watts’ Everything is Obvious, Once You Know The Answer. The topic must have struck a nerve: two weeks after the display went up, one lone book out of 21 was left on the table.

Fiction readers enjoyed the next display, a tableful of Man Booker Prize winners going back to 1975, some of them coming up from the stacks for the first time in decades. Paul Scott’s Staying On (1977) was checked out for only its third time. Two readers rediscovered the magic of The God of Small Things (1997), by Arundhati Roy. One reader was perhaps surprised to see that Schindler’s List was an award-winning book by Thomas Keneally before it became an award-winning movie by Stephen Spielberg, and was originally published as “Schindler’s Ark.” Four of this year’s six finalists were read several times before the winner, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending was announced on October 18th. In twelve days, Main patrons checked out 24 of the 36 titles displayed.

In October, RPL was host to the traveling exhibit Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times and held a month-long series of Lincoln-related films, programs, and special events. We gathered two dozen books--some popular (Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, on which is based a movie currently being filmed here in Richmond), some scholarly (Henry Winkle’s The Young Eagle: the Rise of Abraham Lincoln), some whimsical (Adam Gopnik’s Angels and Ages: a Short Book About Lincoln, Darwin, and Modern Life), some polemical (Mario Cuomo’s Why Lincoln Matters, Today More Than Ever)-- all related to Lincoln. Surely this was too serious a collection to attract the same attention as British literary fiction! On the contrary - readers checked out 11 of 24 titles.

Currently on display is a collection of both fiction and nonfiction inspired by “Bonjour Paris!”, the most recent installment of our Vicarious Traveler series, presented by Richmond author Karen A. Chase, whose new ebook is Bonjour 40, A Paris Travel Log (soon to be available through RPL’s eBook catalog). Paris has been the setting for classics by Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, and Dickens; memoirs by Ernest Hemingway, Julia Child, and Adam Gopnik; and recent novels by Julie Orringer, Muriel Barberry, and Dan Brown. Its history delights as well: David McCullough’s latest book, The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris, is a New York Times best seller; Parisians, An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb, was a 2010 Notable Book. This display has been up for less than a week, and patrons have already snapped up 11 of the 32 Paris-themed selections.

What’s next? You tell us - what do RPL readers want to see usfeature at Main?

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