Librarian of the Year Nancy Pearl To Give Talk Nov. 3

“What should I read next” is a question that is asked by those who love to read and turn to the nearest librarian for inspiration. Nancy Pearl, 2011 Librarian of the Year, from Seattle, is a one-woman missionary working to help both the reader and the librarian. She will answer that question on Nov. 3 at 7pm at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Nancy Pearl is the Oprah among librarians and connects with her fans through www.nancypearl.com, Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads and NPR’s Morning Edition. Book Lust, More Book Lust, Book Lust to Go, Book Crush, and the Book Crush Journals are Pearl’s books many of her peers use as the ultimate reference manual when trying to answer the “what should I read next” question.

“I do a Tweet every day about a good book to read,” Pearl said. “This is very important because there are so many books out there that are under the radar.

How do I find the books? I ignore the bestsellers list and look at the author or something I have heard about,” Pearl explains. “I probably start 12 books for every one that I finish.”

In 1998, she developed the idea for “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book” program to help readers discover the books that don’t make the bestsellers list and encourage them to read books they wouldn’t have otherwise.

“The books chosen for the whole community to read weren’t on the bestsellers or on a college reading list,” Pearl said. “We picked books that made good discussions; we wanted to introduce people to books that wouldn’t have chosen them on their own. We wouldn’t have done Marley & Me.”

The popularity of community reading programs has spread like wildfire since that time. (Our community has hosted six: Rocket Boys, When the Emperor Was Divine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Maltese Falcon.) Pearl sees it as a way to build community.

“It gets people together who otherwise would have nothing to do with one another,” Pearl said. “Different ethnicities, different religions, different ages, and you give them something to talk about that isn’t political; it’s something that their response comes from deep within themselves. And you give them the chance to talk about the book and have the arsenal of ideas.”

Nancy Pearl retired from the Seattle Public Library in 2004 and spends her time and talents teaching others these days. She travels the U.S. and Canada as a presenter and consultant at libraries and bookstores. She is also an instructor at Washington University Library Information School, teaching courses in reader’s advisory and in genre fiction. She owes much of her skill for finding good books and helping others find books to her years working in retail bookstores.

“Working in a retail bookstore was the best thing I ever did,” said Pearl. “I know that is why I am doing what I do now.”

Pearl’s books will be for sale at the event starting around 6:30pm. A signing follows her talk.