Random selection & reader behaviours


I increase the excitement and joy of reading by randomly selecting library books. Often I take home books displayed by Library staffers in the non-fiction entryway shelving. Random selection has its positive and negative effects. While there are a lot of amazing fiction and non-fiction books in the free section, there are of course some dogs.

The book cover is not always a reliable indicator of the contents. I’ve looked into some with superb cover design but unreadable stories. Normally a couple of pages lets me know if I’m going to be reading to a close. Occasionally I’ve opened an unprepossessing cover and found an outstanding and moving read; publishing commercialism however means this isn’t a regular occurrence.

There are local readers who like to leave a permanent reminder that a book has been before their eyes. Little ticks, crosses, dates etc in prominent places in the front of a book. (If you ask the Librarian when you’re taking any book out, they can tell you if you’ve taken it out before.) There are also readers who haven’t seen the regular supply of Tauranga Art Gallery exhibition promotional bookmarks on the Library counters by the checkout machines. They like to ring particular page numbers or turn down into dog ears pages they were last reading. Then there are those who would have loved a career as a proof reader: – crossing out redundant words or amending spelling. I’m disinclined to thank you. I wonder how Shakespeare would read if you were taking him out of the Library.

My admiration (of sorts) is however reserved for the readers of the free Library books who having laboured to the end of some dog book; leave a critical comment. My favourite this year was a murder mystery in the front of which, in large letters was written the warning “This is sick”. The back cover revealed a story theme of a missing wife. As a femme sole who’s only recently and reluctantly acquired a geriatric cat, I felt it wise to heed the warning and returned the book, unread. Did I alert the Library staff to the supposed dangers of this fictional work? No, that would elevate those front of book comments into censorship.

I don’t know who you (plural) informal critics and potential censors are but you’ve given me two ideas. Firstly, don’t write in the front of the books – become an ARTbop WORDS, From the Tauranga Library book reviewer!! And secondly, if the Library doesn’t already have one, it could establish an online informal comment and review section for its readers and a monthly noticeboard – readers could write up their own comments or the Library could print out a summary of that month’s online reader review comments.

Rosemary Balu


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