#TVFH | Larissa Schwenk | Reading Is Exciting!

Larissa Schwenk, head librarian of the Montevideo, Granite Falls, Clara City and Milan public libraries, talks about one particular genre of books that inspired a whole new group of people—some people who had never gone into her libraries before—to be excited about reading.

"When I'm interacting with a patron and I know that they read erotica or they come in and they're like, "I want the spicy books." ... I think for anybody that's interacting with patrons, it's a knowledge thing. It's just like mystery, which is one of our top genres. You may not know the mystery writers and you may not read them, you should know some of the mystery writers. And it's the same thing with erotica. If someone comes in and says they want the spicy books, great find them some spicy authors."

Transcript

When I'm interacting with a patron and I know that they read erotica or they come in and they're like, "I want the spicy books." And they whisper and it's like, I feel so bad because people are still ashamed to even say that they want erotica.

And I think for anybody that's interacting with patrons, it's a knowledge thing. It's just like mystery, which is one of our top genres. You may not know the mystery writers and you may not read them, you should know some of the mystery writers. And it's the same thing with erotica. If someone comes in and says they want the spicy books, great find them some spicy authors.

So I have a master's in library science. So when I tell people that, they're like, "Oh you need a master's to be librarian?" And I'm like, "Yeah, you do." It's ALA accredited, which is the American Library Association. And I went to school for six years for it. So it is a thing.

Obviously we're a library, we get challenged books all the time. But erotica as a genre has brought so many people into the library because it is something different than what people were expecting. And the "Fifty Shades" book and series was probably the best example of that. They were like the first ones to become popular and it just was like, bam! It was everywhere. Yeah, it was like, "I exist, read me!"

I still remember hearing about "Fifty Shades" and being confused because people were talking about it, but they weren't necessarily using the term "erotica" because it wasn't necessarily coined at that point. And so it was like, "Okay, so this book is about what?"

"Fifty Shades" really was the first one to be erotica. But they drew so many people, I mean it was on the national bestseller list. So you can't say, "Oh this was like a fringe thing." Like, no it wasn't. Your aunt, your grandma could have been reading it. I had people who had never been to the library in their life, come in and sign up for a card just for that book. You may not understand why they wanna read it, but that doesn't matter. They're reading. You can't judge people on what they wanna read. And as a librarian, especially, we can't judge people because there are such a wide variety of genres out there, where you have like space erotica.

I can't buy books on like what I personally wanna read because it'd be very narrow and no one (laughs) is gonna read it. So I buy books based on, like, what the population wants to read. And I think that as a library, that's one of our requirements, I think, even though it's unsaid, is you have to adapt to your community and you have to adapt as a library and you can't be like, "Alright, all four of my libraries are gonna get the exact same books and from the exact same authors," because it doesn't really work like that. Each community has a different population base and they wanna read different things.

So we are the warehouse of books, but at the same time, we are a gathering space. We're providing needs, providing spaces and programs for needs in the community that aren't necessarily addressed by others.