Sharron Smith has the perfect job for a self-professed book lover. As the Reader’s Advisory Librarian at Kitchener Public Library (KPL), she gets to connect KPL patrons with their next great reads. Yup, that’s right. She gets to talk about books to people who love books and want advice on what to read next. Not a bad gig for a person who as a young child read every book in the children’s section of her local library and then systematically started reading books in the adult section, working from A to Z.
Her KPL role stretches beyond the bounds of the library shelves. For 16 seasons, Sharron has been talking about books on Rogers TV Daytime. Each month, she presents books that are connected in some way: by themes, characters, topics or a popular favorite such as great summer reads. In her role as the Readers’ Advisory Librarian, her job is not to recommend a book she personally loves, but ask probing questions about what a reader enjoyed about a particular story to reveal their preferences. But on TV she laughingly says, “I can become an evangelist for some books that I truly love.”*
She is also great friend to book clubs who might need a little fine tuning to keep it thriving. She jokingly refers to herself as the Book Club Doctor. “Most people join a book club to read a book they might not have picked themselves and then reflect on it,” she says. But sometimes book clubs can go off the rails. She says most book clubs end up reading the same kind of book every time and that can cause members to lose interest in the group. “I can come in and act as a mediator, offer strategies for success, present tips on how to engage with the books and also suggest some undiscovered reading options,” she says. “I’m also deeply committed to Canadian fiction and particularly Canadian debuts, so I like to present those as alternatives.”
What makes Sharron such an expert? Well, she has written a book called Canadian Fiction: A Guide to Reading Interests, which is standard reading for librarians-in-training, part of her job is to help give all KPL staff the knowledge and skills to connect readers to the KPL collection and she also oversees the fiction acquisitions across the library branches. She also gets book street cred as a founding member of Waterloo Region’s One Book, One Community committee, the longest running community reading program in the country.
At the core of Sharron’s passion for books is storytelling. An avid fan of theatre (she heads to NYC twice a year for an overdose of live theatre), movies and the symphony, she sees these as another form of storytelling. But for her, storytelling at its most powerful is in a book.
P.S. Sharron’s favourite topic of conversation: (wait for it….) books!
*P.S.S. Because I know you’re as curious as I was about what books she has recently read and loved, here are some of her recent favs: Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness and Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny.
Tell me, what are some of your recent favorite books?