Paula Grunseit is Sharing the Shallows

Paula and I first met on Twitter in 2009 where we were constantly in publishing and book tweeting conversations. We finally met a few years later and found that we get on in person as well as we get on online. We are both in the library industry, but like ships that pass in the night, we have yet to work together as librarians. Maybe sometime in the future that too will come.
Balcony reading nook
Paula Grunseit

Librarian and author

Can you describe yourself?

Paula is a librarian/reviewer/writer/editor who likes to read a bit of everything. Genre bias really makes her cross.

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

Physical books, online news, literary and other magazines (I prefer the physical items not the e-versions although then there’s my storage issues), selected Google alerts related to libraries, publishing, various online newsletter subs eg from my writers’ centre memberships, libraries, other library and writing – related things that land in my Inbox, Twitter feed and links from Twitter. Not as much time as I’d like to. I’d like to spend less time managing my inboxes! Continue reading

Wendy the Super Librarian is Sharing the Shallows

The first time I remember seeing SuperWendy’s name mentioned was in the early 2010s and someone was discussing a librarian who was running readers’ advisory training for Harlequin Mills &Boon category novels at her library. I just died of envy! I wanted to be at the training! I wanted to be the librarian that ran the training. I wanted to KNOW the genius who was able to run with this. At that point, I had been running readers’ advisory training in my own workplace for close to five years but never once did I have the opportunity to run any training that was genre specific, let alone on my favourite genre ever. Having discovered Super Wendy, I started following her on Twitter, chatted with her, followed her excellent blog, I take part in her most excellent TBR Challenge and one day, I know, we will meet in person. In the meantime, I am so happy that she has agreed to share my shallows today.

Avatar of a comic book super hero caped and masked womanWendy the SuperLibrarian

Wendy is a librarian, working in administration these days.  According to her Mom, she is a “big shot.”

Can you describe yourself?

Wendy fell in love with romance shortly after accepting her first professional librarian gig.  Prior to succumbing to romance, an addiction that took hold with frightening speed (seriously, like three books in and she was hooked!), she preferred her books with at least one dead body, by no later than page 50.  While she still reads suspense, it’s romance that truly has her heart and she reads it almost exclusively.  Wendy’s been kicking around the online romance community since 1999 – and her various scribblings have been on so more online walls (some defunct, some still in existence) that she can barely keep track anymore.  A Midwestern girl at heart, she now lives on the US west coast where, when she’s not reading romance, she’s obsessing over her Detroit Tigers baseball team, drinks more tea than is likely good for a person, and devotes way too much time to Law & Order (the original and best flavor) reruns. Continue reading

Repeat after me “I am the stereotype librarian and I am proud”

In which I go on a rant which has been building up within me for 25 years. Some librarians may get their noses out of joint. But I don’t care. For mine has been out of joint for far too long……

People who discuss librarian stereotypes and overcoming them annoy me. It is a tired, bleating sound that has turned into a stereotype itself. There is nothing new about this move to “reject the stereotype”. When I started my LIS course in 1988 some fellow students were discussing that they <insert disdainful tone> “weren’t the typical librarian”  and the need to <disdainful tone again> “challenge stereotypes”. This attitude surprised me in 1988 and completely spins me out that it still exists a quarter of a century later. I worked hard throughout high school to ensure I got into a library information course and my aim was always to be a librarian for the ones that I had come into contact from a young age were all brilliant people. My list below shows a broad mix of personalities that were the librarians I cam into contact with prior to going to uni:

1. My first children’s librarian – tall, skinny, long hippy hair and hippy fashions. Always wore wedged clogs, allowed kids behind the desk to help and always chatted about books.

2. My second children’s librarian – Curly black hair, male, always smiling but didn’t know how to rec books like our first one. This was dissapointing to us kids (but he was still cool and let us hang out).

3. My high school librarian had gnarled arthritic hands and was the antithesis of my local librarians. She was dour but always knew how to help us with school asignments.

4. My first foray into the adult library librarian was a cool chick. She wore funky clothes, had a funky haircut and loved Mills and Boon.

5. The librarian that cool chick librarian worked alongside with was male and only spoke to people who had literary tastes in reading. As a teen, this did not rule me out as I read lots of literature both in English and in Greek. He relished this and was always very nice to me (but was standoffish to others).

6. Desk Set. Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and a bunch of bright fabulous librarians being threatened with being closed down as computers can do a librarians’ work (sound familiar? This movie is circa 1957 – Knowledge trumps data in this one).

What I’m trying to demonstrate above is that I came in contact with a broad variety of librarians and I am sure that if you were to make a list of those you came in contact with, you too will have a similarly broad list. So, to still be discussing librarian stereotypes nearly 25 years later shows a lack of understanding of the profession and that there are some people who may have their own personal image problem with their choice of career. (I did say I was going to get ranty). It is like begging for acceptance. Hand up in the air, waving to the cool kids and saying “Hey I’m hip even though those before me weren’t”.

In my opinion, the only librarian stereotype is a person who is always able to help you locate the information you need and can usually be trusted to be objective. That is it.

For I don’t care if someone wears their hair in a bun, wears glasses or asks people to keep keep the noise down (actually I lurrrrve these librarians but here is not the place to write about my opinions on libraries and cacophony). I won’t pass judgement if a librarian is toting a book or e-device of their choice, is in a suit, is in jeans and a polo top or in a flippy skirt or a pair of cinos. I don’t care if librarians choose to wear sensible shoes or stilettos (well – in a workplace where you are expected to climb step ladders I do care but that is an OH&S issue not a librarian issue). I don’t care if the librarian wears converse, a cardigan, sports a beard, a mohawk, ponytail, support hose or has ink and piercings. That’s right, for the tattooed librarian is a stereotype too. Not because they have a tat but because they have delivered an information service.

What I do care about is the disdain with which librarians of the years gone by are being subjected to by proclamations of rejecting the stereotype. These are professionals who went through amazing technological changes in their libraries during the twentieth century, some of them as drivers of change and others who were implementers and, of course there were those who didn’t like the changes too. These “stereotypes” that image conscious information professionals are trying to not emulate were responsible for the transition of the profession from the 19th century industrial era library through the modernist 20th century into the digital information era of the early 21st century. These book peddling, knowledge sorting, program delivering librarians have inspired and changed people. They have delivered them from a tradition of taking on your family’s work to inspiring them to look beyond their personal experiences and to dream of the places that they have read about in books and magazines and movies that would not have been available in the home. The whole thing about librarians is that they are an agile profession providing information and experiences to an agile community.

So those of you who want to be hip and reject YOUR perception (not everyone’s) of librarians of a past era to show how alternative and edgy you are. Well here’s my challenge to you. How about being the alternative to the alternative. Rather than join the herd and rally against the stereotype – just be yourselves, work hard, deliver the information service, give a nod to those that went before you and a leg up to those that will follow.

No Touching Rule in a Touchy-Feely-Needy Library World

I love being a librarian. And as a librarian I will take up most causes, promotions, events. I will willing give you whatever information you want and don’t want (but hey! maybe one day you’ll realise I was right and you did need it and you’re welcome). I (humbly big noting myself here) am a dedicated librarian.

When the powers that be asked me to celebrate National Simultaneous Storytime. Great, I did it! When I was asked to take part in National Science Week – I was there with safety glasses on! Four years in a row now (but who is counting). When I was asked to take part in Public Lending Rights counting (in pre Online Catalogue days) I volunteered. And so the story goes from ALIA week, to Library Lovers’ Day to Heritage Week even threatening to make “Avast! ye’ll walk the plank, ye landlubbing, fine dodging curmudgeon” on Talk Like a Pirate Day. I am hands on!

Even when twibrarians get in the swing and start library #hashtags trending – I get involved. Yup. I’m there, in the midst of the #savelibraries, #followalibrary, #followalibrarian, #readit2011, #AliaIoc, #reading, #nswra, #hcod, #followreader, #spbkchat….you get my drift. I’m there with bells on. And I’m there with bells on because I want to be there.

But today, my lovely leaders in the ether whoever you are. Today, you declared the day to be the International Hug a Librarian Day. I’m sorry but I cannot support this program. I cannot open up myself to strangers throwing their arms around me, I cannot endorse this touchy feely program. With Hug a Librarian I feel that you have entered my personal bubble, that cone of silence that I hold sacred – my body.

I am quite happily a “No touching” type of person.

When I am with my family, I am affectionate. I hug my children, I kiss them and adore them. I hold my husband’s hand in public (really – I do!), I kiss him and adore him. But that is my “Out of work” personal life and even there I am not overly touchy, feely.

But in the workplace, I am a professional and a “No Touching” rule prevails. Affection does not come into it. As it stands, I really don’t appreciate having to approach the occassional amorous, horizontal teenage couple in the corner of the library to tell them to keep it vertical and frankly, I don’t want any of the 1000’s of borrowers that cross the library threshold to feel that I am in need of affection of any kind. I am happy in my answering questions objectively, contributing to someone-else’s information needs. And damn it, no one is walking around proclaiming it’s “Hug an Actuary” day or “Hug a Surveyor” day. Is this another stupid way of perpetuating the grim, spinster librarian stereotype?

So, please, leave me alone to do my job. Do not encourage strangers to give me unsolicited affection. I don’t want dead-pigeons-down-her-top lady hugging me, or the guy-who-exposes-himself hugging me nor do I want that over-perfumed-botox woman giving me “Mwah!”. I just want to do my job. And needy affection is not in my job description. Hell, I don’t know where members of the public have been and frankly they don’t know where I have been either. And we’re all covered with germy germs.

P.S I think that I would have accepted “High 5 a Librarian” Day. Though that too would have entailed touching.


Sex, love and passion: the appeal of romance novels: the moderator responds

On Friday the 11th of February, I moderated a Romance Panel for the City of Sydney at Ultimo Library.

Kick off your Friday night talking about Sex, Passion and Love with our romance panel discussion. Join Mills and Boon author Annie West, romance scholar Sandra Barletta and book blogger, Kat Mayo along with Ultimo’s romance reading librarians in discussing romance fiction in the 21st century…

It was a fabulous night with an engaged audience, a wonderful panel and fantastic discussion that ensued. So fantastic that Ultimo Community Centre staff had to push us out of the building as we went beyond their closing time.

As the moderator for the panel I had my questions prepped and I knew that I wouldn’t have to prepare meaningful answers (ever the shallowreader).

From the left: Annie West, Sandra Barletta, Kat Mayo and Vassiliki Veros Photograph courtesy from BookThingo

However, as the panel discussion progressed I found that I really wanted to give my point of view, too. I behaved and, with the exception of the last question and some library promotion, I left the answers to the panel. A transcript of the panel’s answers is available on BookThingo’s blog. I now would like to share my answers to the questions on the night:

Why do you do what you do in romance, of all genres (I’ll answer this in the vein of why do I promote romance reading as a librarian)

Public libraries are charged with providing equity and access of information to all.  My feeling had been that libraries and librarians were not treating genre fiction and it’s readers with equity. Throughout all my years as a librarian, romances not only were not purchased for library collections but there was also a certain attitude amongst staff and some borrowers that romance reading was secondary and that library budget money would not be devoted towards the genre. This annoyed me so I decided to support the underdog, climb onto my soap box and declare romance King until the shelves were populated and the staff accepting  of readers choices.

What have you observed as differences between romance in the past decade as opposed to romance in the 80s?

For me there are 2 standout differences:

1. Like Annie, the 80’s and prior were predominately written from the female point of view. During the 90’s and now in the 21st century there was a gradual shift to both the female and male point’s of view being written into a novel. In my opinion, this shift has been so strong that the way I personally categorise the books I read is that if it has both the protagonists’ points of view then it is a romance. If it is only a female or male point of view it is categorised as Chicklit or Ladlit.

2. The sex is much more explicit and, thankfully, turgid shafts and manhoods have made way for erections and dicks. A much more realistic reflection of contemporary language.

Some people think that reading the last page first is sacrilege. Do you?

I always read the last page. I  feel that “fairies must die” and have previously blogged about this.

Now about male leads. Why do we love rakes, rogues, cowboys, tycoons, sheikhs?

My favourite leads are Montana cowboys and the best friend/sibling’s best friend hook up. Journeys into someone else’s life, journey’s into a world quite foreign and the complete escape from the reality of our own lives. I tend to avoid romances set in Sydney and in Australia as I keep finding myself distracted by the setting of the book.

Kat, you said people get bored with just a kiss, but the obvious exception is Twilight. Can you discuss why it was successful?

As I haven’t read Twilight nor have I watched the movies I cannot answer this question. Though on a purely aesthetic basis – Team Edward.

Do you think romance has lost its stigma?

I think that some of the stigma associated with reading romance has dissipated for the following reasons.

1. Romance readers and romance publishers are leading the ebook revolution. This is acknowledged further by traditional book review magazines taking on romance reviewers.

2. The establishment of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and the Journal for Popular Romance have made inroads in bringing academic merit to the study of popular romance literature. Having been established for under 3 years it will be interesting the changes that will come forth over the next decade.

That said, there is still  a large amount of bias towards romance literature and a lot more work is needed from not only the reading and reviewing public but the publishers of romance, also.

What books would you suggest to a new romance reader?

My 1st question to the person venturing into reading romance would be: What do you normally enjoy and then I would select titles from there. I’m a strong believer in merging someone into a genre by using cross-over fiction titles though there are some definite titles that I never hesitate to recommend:

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

How come book stores don’t have a romance section? Where can we buy romance?

Unfortunately, romance isn’t stocked in most bookstores because it relates back to the stigma question and bookstores don’t value their readers. I get my romance books from 2 sources Kmart/Target and from overseas. Either the Book depository or Amazon. I also get most of my books from the library but, it too, has it’s biases.

Fave authors? (the only one I answered on the night)

Vassiliki: Anne McAllisterJennifer CrusieVictoria DahlSusan Elizabeth PhillipsSuzanne BrockmannAnne Stuart, Rachel Gibson, Julie James and Melanie La’Brooy)

It was a very successful event and I feel it is apt that my moderator’s cherry was painlessly popped at a romance literature panel.