What an eye-opening experience this was!
I was a little excited and nervous as I headed for my secret assignment - what if they could tell I'm a librarian? What if I come across sounding weird or unnatural? I reminded myself to just act casual.
Well, there was no need to be concerned, the librarian certainly wasn't. I went in and there were several people standing in line at the circulation desk while a young high school girl helped them checkout their books. I browsed around waiting for an opportunity to approach someone. A middle-aged woman finally appeared at the desk, so I went up and initiated my question. I explained that I love Mary Roach's books, but I've read them all and wondered if she could suggest a similar author. She replied, "I don't read adult books. I'm a children's librarian." She did look it up on her computer, but I have no idea what database or site she was using. She then said, "I don't see any listings here." She didn't make any eye contact, and was very dismissive in her attitude. I tried to engage her in more of a conversation, but she just started helping someone else, and said (sideways while not looking in my direction) that she'd call if she heard of anything. She didn't even end the conversation, just sort of ignored me. Wow.
She didn't find anything for me and I left feeling very unsatisfied. I've been to that library once before, last year, and the people working that day were very nice, but after I left I remembered hearing from a friend that they were very rude to her. I wonder if it was the same lady. In any case, I've certainly learned how NOT to do Readers Advisory! Even if she was unable to find a good suggestion for me, I think she should have taken the time to ask more about what I liked about Mary Roach's books and at least try more than one quick (30 seconds at most) search in only one place.
I did a search myself (less than 5 minutes) and found that Mary Roach is not listed on Novelist at all, but when I looked her up on Goodreads, I scrolled through her author page and found titles that she has rated and voted for. One that sounds like fun is "Best. State. Ever." by Dave Barry. I've read some of his other books and his humor is just the kind of wacky that I like. This gave me the idea that if I can't find an exact match for someone, finding out what that patron's favorite authors like to read may inspire them. Another tool for the toolbox.
A quick Google search also revealed this read-alike graphic by Waukegan Public Library (www.waukeganpl.org). I was interested to see the Bill Bryson book listed here as that was one I had in mind.
I generally expect that other librarians are more knowledgeable than me and have all kinds of secret library wisdom. This was a very enlightening exercise in many ways!