Spontaneous Librarian Combustion and Other Sci-Fi Recommendations


There’s this thing we call the “information interview” at the library, focused on finding the right book for your customer. It goes something like this – what are you looking for, what do you need it for, in-the-house or takeout, etc.

And then there’s the “recommend a book to me” type of customer. And, believe me, those are harder.

But when the occasional sci-fi reader comes along, my colleagues usually find a way to direct them to me. And I go “kaboom”, at least in my head – spontaneous human combustion is not a thing well behaved librarians can get away with in public.

On those occasions, the interviews basically consists of one basic question – what authors/subgenres do you prefer? The answer is usually “all of them” – which cannot possibly be true, but hey, we’re all a little bit amnesiac at the library. Still, I like that answer – it means open season for me.

The next thing I always ask is – have you read the works of Lois McMaster Bujold? The answer is usually yes – she does have a strong following in Croatia, which even she mentioned herself a couple of times (most notably in this interview). Then I take them to Ursula K. Leguin. Where people usually freeze. Did they read her? Did they not? And, from my part – are her books too heavy/intellectual for the customer in question? Will random Croatians understand the things she tried to do with gender and/or sociology in her books? (You guessed which book I pull from the shelf first – nothing like a bit of Gethen to get you through the long winter nights.)

So far, not even once did I have to go further. Which does not mean people don’t read the classics – it only means that beginners ask for recommendations more often than those well versed in sci-fi. I still find it weird, especially since I know that the genre has been popular locally at least since the 80s, and maybe even longer. But yes! New adult sci-fi fans sprout regularly in my country. The only really important question – the one that remains – is will they come back for the next book, like our younglings do?

…and the answer to that question is one of the reasons I became a librarian in the first place.

(Meta: The Big Bad Mystery Trip #2 went really, really well – actually, that well it requires a few days for all the pics to find their way to me. I intend to savour them and compose them in a post in the days to come.)

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