November 29, 2017

AMA with Nancy Pearl

This year, NoveList is thankful for the chance to have legendary librarians visit with us. First, Joyce Saricks, NoveList’s first customer, then famed librarian Nancy Pearl stopped by the office on her way to the local library. We’re an office of readers-advisory librarians and we’d be lying if we said the office hadn’t been full of excitement since both visits were announced.

Fans might be a more appropriate word than librarians to describe us during the visits. Nancy hadn’t been here but five minutes when she was asked to pose with her action figure. Two other fans just “happened” to be walking by at the right time to tell her how much they admire her work.

Luckily for those fans, Nancy spent two hours with us. First she learned how NoveList operates:

  • Where do we get our records?
  • How do we apply appeal terms?
  • Who does the cataloging?
  • How are our recommendations created?

Then staff got a chance to ask Nancy a plethora of questions. She shared fond -- and often hilarious -- memories of her time working with patrons, the true story behind that action figure, and how she came to be on National Public Radio.

Here’s what some of our staff had to say about the visit, revealing just what big fans we are:

I’m not sure exactly why but I couldn’t help but smile the whole time. Although I know she had to have answered some of those questions a million times, it seemed altogether fresh and she seemed to love being there. It felt like an honor. --Lisa Chandek-Stark, Metadata Librarian

I thought the discussion about regional readers was very interesting. My take-away is that folks like to read geographically local authors but that these authors are just a component of the reader’s overall reading.

Also -- her emphasis that you don’t have to have read a book to suggest it. The focus is on the reader, not the book. --Duncan Smith, NoveList Co-Founder and General Manager

I loved learning that Nancy Pearl is a sports enthusiast and filed away her suggestions for two podcasts. And I’m going to check out Backlisted, especially after hearing her story about being a guest on the podcast next year. --Kathy Stewart, NoveList Consultant

I particularly liked her story about the “disgusting” language in The Grand Sophy. It reminded me of the very difficult time I had explaining to a woman why she wouldn’t find any audiobooks about sign language. --Krista Biggs, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

It was my first time hearing Nancy Pearl speak, and I really enjoyed myself. Though I have known her name and her esteemed position among professionals for years, I was surprised by her story that her fame as a library and readers advisory spokesperson came about quite by accident on local public radio. She makes the sometimes tricky business of recommending books look easy, and does it with enthusiasm, wit, and humility. (Side note: In 2003, when the Nancy Pearl librarian action figure was new, and years before I even thought about becoming a librarian, I was a musician in Portland, OR working in a great record store as a “lifestyles buyer,” meaning that I brought in all the gift-shop items whose profit margins helped support the store’s music purchases. The Accoutrements company was much younger then and less well known, but our store bought the action figures, so I probably handled some of the first off the production line!) --Clay Boyer, Metadata Librarian

Nancy was so personable. She shared not just thoughts about reading, but stories of her past and legacy as a library professional. I thought she also had some good thoughts about what NoveList could do to take things in a different direction. --Lindsey Dunn, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

I enjoyed learning that she considers Discworld a comfort read; I do, too. --Lauren Kage, Metadata Librarian

I loved the back story behind the Nancy Pearl action figure doll. I also really enjoyed hearing about her early experiences with libraries and librarians. Also, we need to know more about Duncan’s book!!! --Renee Young, Technical Metadata Manager

I enjoyed learning that her original action figure is specifically wearing Eileen Fisher! --Autumn Winters, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

I enjoyed hearing her explanation of "doors" into reading enjoyment. I think I had heard her use the term before, but it was good to get the background on why she chose to limit the number to four. She mentioned that she thought a simple system would make it easier to help readers, as opposed to readers' advisory librarians. --Katherine Johnson, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

Nancy shared some book recommendations with us and we took copious notes, adding them to our to-be-read lists, as well as our to-be-given lists (‘tis the season!). Need suggestions for your own lists? Snag and share this printable flyer.

*Nancy's action figure photo source here

Shauna Griffin is the Content Strategy Manager at NoveList, and sends out monthly email updates on Keeping Up with NextReads as part of the Book Squad. Hear more from Shauna and sign up to receive updates, info, and helpful tips each month. 

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