Saturday, 18 April 2015

As librarian I buy the books for

our Handknitters' Guild. I keep a watchful eye on the major publishers of craft related books and read a number of websites. I look at the reviews and ask questions. 
Members of the guild can also make suggestions. Sometimes they will bring a copy another library has and show me or they will tell me about a book they have seen or heard.
I have over the past decade or so come to thoroughly appreciate some of the stories in Jen Campbell's "Weird things customers say in bookshops". All too often I get things like,
"It's this book about scarves..."
"You know that book by that designer who..."
"No, not that one. It's a book with a...I don't know this sort of..."
"I saw it at my library and it has a red cover with a picture of this girl on the front..."
I sometimes ask them whether it is British or American. And yes, it does make a difference. It means that, if they don't know the name of the book or the author, I have some idea where to look. British and American knitting terms are different. The patterns tend to be written in a different way. Not all members of the guild are sufficiently aware. Oh yes, I also act as "interpreter/translator" as well. There will sometimes be two different editions of a book as well - one with "English" and one with "American".
There are also books translated from various European countries - mostly Scandinavian and Baltic countries, occasionally Holland or Germany and - even more rarely - France, Spain or Italy. Some of these will be what I consider to be "mainstream" in that they will be picked up by a well known publisher in the UK or USA. Others may have English side by side with the first language. Most of those come from Estonia or Latvia. They tend to be valuable but specialised and expensive - books about lace knitting or collections of folk patterns for socks and mittens are the most likely. I don't buy these for the guild. I can't justify it.
There are also books from Japan. I have bought three excellent stitch directories at the request of other people. The Japanese have an excellent, standard charting system. Even their actual patterns are charted so well that an experienced knitter can follow them without being to read Japanese.
I like to think that I have built up a good collection over the years. And yes, people borrow books from the library. It's a popular collection. People will join the guild simply to access the library. I am well aware of that. 
So why is it that I will look around at the meeting this afternoon and realise that almost everyone in the room is knitting a straightforward pattern from a commercial pamphlet supplied by a major yarn company? I feel as if I am failing as a librarian. How do I get people to cease just looking at the pictures and start to read the words? 
I haven't used a commercial pattern for years. I can understand that  it may well be comfortable to use one and that there is a fear of "wasting" the materials. But when people say to me, "Yes, but you know how to do it..." or "I'm not as clever as you..." or "But you can do the maths..." and other similar comments - I want to shout at them. I have told them I will help. I am not particularly clever and I am self taught. The maths is basic - and there are always calculators if you are worried about making an error. For the most part knitting can be undone if you make an error so nothing will be wasted.
The most recent book I have been asked to get is about getting knitwear to fit. Yes, it is a potentially useful book - but I suspect that it won't be used.


Jan said...

I would back your suspicion about the use that book would get. I have seen it and there is a lot of measuring and arithmetic in it. I thought that while it is probably useful, some editing would have helped. The author knows what she is talking about but did not seem to have the skills to explain it easily.

Anonymous said...

And I would concur with Jan. It's why we didn't get it for the local library, Ros

catdownunder said...

Thanks for that Jan, Ros - nice to have my views about the book confirmed.

Anonymous said...

Even if it was a very easy to follow book, most people wouldn't follow! They prefer being spoonfed.