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Love A Librarian Interview: Vassiliki Veros

Today our librarianlicious guest ninja is Vassiliki Veros, librarian and Shallow Reader. She is on radio station 702 ABC Sydney the first Tuesday of every month, when she joins radio host Linda Mottram for the program “The Blurb” to talk about libraries and reading in all its varied forms! You can listen to the show live online at the link

And Vassiliki loves to talk romance novels, hurrah!

Tell us who you are and tell us why being a librarian, romance reader, PhD Candidate, Shallowreader and radio guest on 702ABC go together so well.

That's quite a list there. Now I feel overwhelmed by own self! I am a librarian (though a friend calls me Librarianlicious—I guess I am lickable...or is that likable?). I always knew that librarians are not necessarily bookish (contrary to popular opinion) but are smartasses who understand information in all its guises. I do love reading romances (more about that later). I am accidently doing a PhD. I say accidently because my whole life plan was to never, ever, ever again go back to study after I graduated but then one day I started writing on twitter, and then on my blog, and that wasn't enough so I presented at conferences and seminars as a practitioner, but that too wasn't enough and then I found myself doing a Masters by research and then last year I found I had signed away the next three years of my life by upgrading to a PhD (which I am still thoroughly enjoying). It's like breaking a window and saying “No! I didn’t do it! I promise it was my imaginary friend, Erato!”

As for radio station 702ABC—I am just pleased that they have given me an opportunity to talk about libraries and books and reading once a month. As for how they go together so well—let us call it serendipity. A most perfect mashup of a life.

Why are you a “shallow reader”?

Because “deep and meaningful and oh-so-reflective, critical and smart” reader was too long a blog title.

Why romance and why not westerns or slash fiction?

Because you can't buy westerns or slash fiction in the Scholastic Book Club. It was a fifth grade lucky dip book purchase that added Elizabeth Ogilvie’s Beautiful Girl to my book stash and I fell in love. I then moved to Sweet Dreams and Mills & Boon in the space of 2 years. I have been addicted ever since. I think it is because I love melodrama and humour and romance seems to excel in both these areas. As for Westerns: Give me a cowboy romance and I’m in heaven.

In general, what are library and librarian attitudes to romance writing and readers?

Mostly, librarians are open to all readers and all writing so they are open to romance readers and to romance fiction being available in libraries. Historically though, this has not always been the case. Libraries used to debate whether romances should be included in their general collections and there was a strict adherence to the literary collections and books that were considered to improve the reader. As romance fiction were not seen as “improving” or “literary” this did impact on collections and librarian attitudes. It is a 20th century attitude and one that is slowly diminishing.

What are some myths about libraries and librarians. ALL kinds of librarians (is there a librarian hierarchy?)? Give us the gossip!

There is only one correct answer for the lowdown on librarians:

a) That all librarians kick information ass is NOT a myth.

b) That all librarians do evil, wicked voodoo to your library record if you have overdue items is NOT a myth.*

c) That all librarians want you to shut the fuck up in their library is NOT a myth.

d) That all librarians wear cardigans and sensible shoes and own at least 4 cats is NOT a myth.

e) That all librarians have an image problem IS a myth (only librarians who judge books by their covers suffer that problem)

* If you read this and somehow didn't realise it was a joke, I can reassure you that no librarian ever would tamper with a library patron's record. Sheeeeeesh!

Somehow I don't think I answered your question.

Yes, there is a librarian hierarchy, it’s like the song says:

Poor librarian wanna be rich

rich librarian wanna be king

and king librarian ain't satisfied till they they own everything 

…because it is “LibraryLand”, you gotta live ‘em everyday…

In all seriousness, most people expect librarians to be all literary, critical and analytical. But in actual fact, you don't need to have any literary qualifications to be a librarian. Most librarians will have an information or library science qualification. You need to be literate –and by that I mean information literate, which differs somewhat from the ability to dissect Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Digital literacies are much more important and providing information to all library users in the medium that best suits their needs is key to librarianship. That all librarians read is true—but not all librarians read fiction or even read books. We tailor our reading and information needs accordingly.

How can romance writers and readers (or the ninja community) put their library to good use (i.e. can groups organise readings, meetings etc at libraries)?

Way too serious a question. BUT, I recommend you contact your local library. Find out if they have writing groups, reading groups, if they offer author talks. Many libraries collect local author works so you could talk to the local history librarians or the readers advisory staff and events and programming staff. There are endless opportunities but it is important to find the correct person to speak to in the library. Often, desk staff can refer you to the librarian in charge of certain programs.

Do you have favourite librarian characters in fiction?

Lilian Peake’s The Library Tree was ever so romantic. The library manager teaching the library assistant to catalogue a book on historical steam trains was hot hot hot (not)! Also the whole boss with staffer—no! But it is classic Mills & Boon circa 1972. Career girl finds a partner and holds her ground. I also mostly loved Steven King’s short story The Library Police. I say mostly because it was horror filled about evil librarians that did unspeakable things to people with overdues but the conclusion was not very satisfying *spoiler alert* Rather than just being evil people, it turns out the librarians were bodily possessed by evil aliens. It was more IT, whereas I wanted more Misery. Eoin Colfer's The Legend of Spud Murphy is about an awesome Ninja Librarian. Colfer schooled me in how to punish recalcitrant borrowers.

Please tell us about Shallowreader

Shallowreader grew out of a conversation I was having with my friend, Jo Butler, who is a literary publisher (and also responsible for calling me librarianlicious). We were laughing about how she is all deep and literary and erudite, and I am in awe of her publishing skills, and how, in comparison, I am a shallow reader. The words stuck in my head. I don’t like analysing books. I don’t want to do a critical analysis and, in actual fact, I get so lost in a story I forget to analyse. When it comes to reviews I tend to write, “Wow. Loved it, but the shoe description is lacking for such a fashion conscious character”.

How did you get involved in writing a PhD about romance, and how much ninja skill is involved?

Do I need ninja skills? I write by stealth. I steal time from sleep and my sons and husband to do it. Is that ninja enough? My PhD at UTS is on "The Marginalisation of Romance Fiction by Cultural Institutions".

On your blog, Shallowreader, you say more romance heroes need a ‘stache. Why?

Well... um…because it makes me think of the hot construction worker in The Village People. And Tom Selleck. Mmmm…Tom Selleck. And the hairy chest trumps the ‘stache.

Thanks for your time, Vassiliki.