A Reading Break, Brought to You by Your Public Library

Librarianship | Jennifer Lohmann| July 09, 2019

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NoveList Director of Sales and Marketing Jennifer Lohmann explores the need for a true reading break, and the role that public libraries can play.

When you say you’re a librarian, you probably get asked if you read all day. Now that I work for NoveList, a company that helps librarians engage with and inspire their readers, I still get asked that question.

We all know that librarians don’t read all day. In fact, we change the lives of the people in our communities in ways big and small. Being a librarian means libraries change our lives, too. We’re not only talking about how good it feels to help a person with a job application, to learn Excel or find the right picture book. We’re talking about the stories our friends and families tell us about the time the public library was there for them when they needed it.

My own story involves my brother and addresses the challenges I have had explaining to him what I do when I say, “I work at NoveList.” Back when I was a reference librarian, my conversations revolved around whether the internet has made libraries obsolete (of course not!) and shock that “my public library offers that?!” Now that I work at NoveList, there’s some head-scratching at the idea that a team of librarians puts together curated reading recommendations based on authoritative metadata so that readers can get meaningful reading recommendations, not just “also-boughts” or books that share similar publication dates. Of course, the head scratching is almost always followed by, “That’s so cool! I just read (insert book name here), can you recommend a book to me?”

We all know that librarians don’t read all day. In fact, we change the lives of the people in our communities in ways big and small.

Sometimes, though, there’s still head-scratching. My husband and I were visiting my brother last summer, and the two guys were bonding over my brother’s shelf of fantasy series (specifically The Wheel of Time, in case you’re curious). As they were talking, my brother said, “When I moved here and was poor and didn’t have a TV, I went to the library. They had this service where I could look up a book I liked, and I would find other books I might like. I read my way through most of their fantasy books that way.”

“Hey,” I interrupted. “You keep asking what it is I do. I do that! Those recommended books — that’s the company I work for.”

My brother looked hard at me, then shook his head and said, “No. I got the suggestions from my library.”

This story is an excellent way for a younger sister to gently razz her older brother and, make no mistake, it makes me giggle like a slightly evil sibling, but there’s so much more to this story and the role of the public library in one man’s life.

When I moved here and was poor and didn’t have a TV.

Of course, you don’t have to be broke to use the public library (and research shows that the public library is popular across income brackets), but when we talk about the public library and poverty, we often talk about job help, computer classes, etc. We forget that everyone needs a chance to unwind with a good book. Just because what my brother needed from the public library wasn’t service-oriented doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. Anyone who has ever had to make the choice between the electric bill and eating knows the importance of having a mental break from the stress of being poor. My brother got more than reading recommendations from the library — he got a much-needed break.

No. I got the suggestions from my library.

This is my favorite part of the story. For one, it’s the part where I get to tease my brother, and two, NoveList believes that books and libraries have the power to transform lives and we do that by empowering libraries to engage and inspire their communities. While I may shake my head at my brother still not understanding what I do for a living, his response means that what NoveList does is working. We want libraries and librarians to look like superheroes to their patrons who come in asking for read-alike suggestions for a fantasy series (even when the librarian hasn’t read one). If a ballot measure ever comes up for my brother’s small-town library, I want him to remember that the library helped him in his time of need, not some company his sister works for.

Because public libraries change lives.

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Jennifer Lohmann
NoveList Director of Sales and Marketing

Jennifer is a NoveList Director of Sales and Marketing, which means she gets to talk with librarians from around the world about projects they’re working on and brainstorm ways NoveList can help them. When she’s not working, she cooks, ignores her running shoes, and writes romance novels.

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