Book Buzz

Better living through Friends

Why I’m not a morning person:  the tendency to awaken with sudden realization of yesterday’s missteps.

The first conscious thought the day after our Book Buzz event:  Robert–our Penguin Random House rep and speaker–hadn’t been supplied with a bottle of water and probably hadn’t been urged to partake of the appetizers and cheesecake we served.   This is no way to treat someone who drove miles to get here, provided book bags and galley copies for a crowd, and did a great job talking up forthcoming books.  But our unusual task completely preoccupied us.

When Robert arrived, the four of us were decanting platters of gourmet appetizers just delivered by the caterer.  Beholding the elegance of the hors d’ oeuvres, we joked about the rarity of the experience (and indeed of an occasion to say “hors d’ oeuvres”).  For us, fancy catering resides squarely in the Not Part of My Life category.  We devised serving patterns, juggled trays, and dispensed goodies while Robert shared publishing back stories and plot hooks with the mocktail-sipping audience.

Ultimately, the food and presentation got rave reviews–and we avoided lobbing pesto-coated mozzarella skewers onto anyone’s favorite jacket or shoes.  Knowing the hazards of food service, we invited guests to pick up their own beverages.

The advantage of using reference librarians for wait staff is that, should spillage occur, we’d know where to find the best stain removal tips.  But without Friends of the Round Rock Public Library we’d have had no such worries.  We’d also have had no refreshments.

As one library patron commented, “Children’s programs are very important–I get that.  But we grownups like to have our share of the attention, too.”  With this in mind, and given attendee swag from Penguin Random House, we shared our vision of a memorable adult event with the Friends group.  They furnished the money for the rare catering treat.

In recent years, Friends of RRPL has funded summer reading program prizes (really good ones), a staff appreciation event, hired presenters for children’s programs, extra shelving, eBooks, movie licensing fees, the popular Book Page handouts, and many other enhancements that benefit youth, tweens, teens, and adults.  Thanks to FOL, these are made available to taxpayers without additional taxpayer expense.

FOL inspects, sorts, and carts thousands of donations up to the Book Nook, an enterprise furnishing new homes for books, fabulous bargains for savvy shoppers, and proceeds to improve the user experience at the library.  How they accomplish so much so quietly is beyond me.  While their profile is understated, their impact is anything but.

Actually, that’s a great premise for the next National Novel Writing Month—imagine a super-high-profile Friends organization emanating the glamour and power of a secret society (think Da Vinci Code) or covert operation.  They’d be whispered about, even feared!  Everyone would hope to infiltrate, or—better yet–join them!  I’ve read (and certainly written) worse.

In the meantime, RRPL’s nonfictional and thankfully mild-mannered Friends group is planning some very entertaining fundraisers for next month…

The buzz stops here

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Have you heard about Book Buzz yet?  On February 17, our Penguin Random House library rep will be on hand to share the insider publisher scoop from New York City, forecasting popular titles for the months ahead.  PRH is sending enough “Keep Calm and Read” tote bags, advanced reading copies of forthcoming titles, and catalogs for everyone (which is why we must limit registration to 75; you can register here.)  The ARC you take home could be the next Gone Girl or Gray Mountain.

AND staff will be circulating among attendees with trays of goodies and “mocktails”.  Those nonalcoholic treats were a hit when we served them before.  It’s fun to sip colorful beverages and pretend they’re upscale concoctions at a fancy New York venue.

As long as we’re imagining– just think what diverting library programs we could expect if our favorite fictional characters were presenters.  What if one of these protagonists from recent popular fiction were the speaker for a future library event?

Matt Biggs from Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon:  The first thing you’d notice would be our guest lecturer’s disheveled appearance. However distracted, incoherent, and sleep-deprived he might appear, he’s better off than most of the population; they’re unable to sleep at all and currently shambling about in red-eyed derangement (also seeking to destroy anyone suspected of not sharing their fate).  Hmmm, before we share further insights about Mr. Biggs, I’ll just step over and check the lock on that exterior door…

Claire Frasier from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (most recent, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood):  Claire’s 20th-century medical know-how impresses–and rescues– characters in earlier centuries; her encyclopedic knowledge of herbal remedies and contributions to the Revolutionary War and other landmark events would dazzle audiences here.  One caveat:  should the persuasive Claire need to intervene in some distant era, she’ll depart for the nearest stone circle on another time-traveling mission before she’s finished her presentation–and some audience members will have acquiesced to the “loan” of their engagement rings.

Tsukuru (from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage):  However much the audience may long to engage Tsukuru in an empathetic de-briefing of his so-called friends’ wrongful accusation and shunning, let’s not.  Instead, we should bolster his self-esteem by rapt attention to his lecture on the intricacies of train station architecture.

Sarah, the housemaid from Jo Baker’s Longbourn:   This servant’s unvarnished below-stairs reportage of the Bennet family (of Pride and Prejudice fame) will keep attendees riveted–and we will not invite the poor girl to serve the refreshments.   Gossip generated by a houseful of marriageable daughters, inheritance worries, the handsome new footman (and let’s not forget family secrets) will tide us over until the next Season Five episode of you-know-what on PBS.

Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy (most recent, The Book of Life):   Vampire Matthew could enlighten us on numerous topics:  many centuries’ worth of eye witnessing historic events; his close personal relationship with Christopher Marlowe; wine; stonemasonry.  But aren’t we primarily interested in just getting a good look at him?