Now suppose that this grumpy narcissist with massive attention deficit issues walks into your local library.
Just what advice should the librarians offer about both books and ways to enjoy them? Simply for the purpose of the exercise, we’ll assume that a know-it-all like The Donald would be open to guidance.
I posted the question in ALA Think Thank, a Facebook group for librarians and friends, as well as the ALA group on LinkedIn, while asking librarians to treat the new patron respectfully and not impose their politics on him. If nothing else, we could explore how librarians would treat a megalomaniac with a flea-short attention span:
Reassuringly professional on the whole
Not all the answers fit—my favorite outside-the-rules response to the hypothetical patrons was, “Webster’s Dictionary. Dropped from a great height”—and I would have welcomed more mention of ebooks and audiobooks.
Still, most of the answers were reassuringly professional in the opinion of this nonlibrarian. My favorite was from D.W., a retired librarian and prolific commenter within the LinkedIn group:
“First of all, Donald Trump has written (or has written with assistance) several books, so I assume his first request would be to find out if my library had books (or ebooks or audiobooks) written by him. After searching the catalog, I would advise him of our systems holdings. Next I would ask if he was interested in other items on personal finance. Then I would ask if he was interested in items on his opponents in the race, on past presidential elections, on U.S. foreign and domestic policy, and on U.S. and world history. I would take him to the locations of any books he requested.
“This is meant to be an answer as if I were conducting a non-fiction readers advisory for any library client. I would do the same for any other client.”
Donald Trump probably would care more about business books than those on personal finance, and his name appears on the covers of many more than “several” books; but otherwise, I’d buy D.W.’s response completely.
Here are some of the other answers from librarians and friends, most within the be-professional rules but not all:
- B.J.: “I would provide the same level of service I provide to everyone. I’d ask what his interests are, what he’s read in the past, does he like fiction vs nonfiction, genres, etc. I don’t do readers advisory generally since I’m in an academic library, but I have been asked for recommendations on occasion.”
- M.E.: “I’d recommend some reading on the events that led up to WWII. His adversaries are making comparisons to Hitler, so I’d recommend that he read Hitler’s 30 Days To Power and draw his own conclusions. I might toss in The Diary of Anne Frank (book version) and Schindler’s List if he wants a movie, if he wants to dig into the human experience of WWII.” I’ve added Wikipedia or other links for this and other titles.
- M.A.: “Poky Little Puppy is appropriate by historical precedent and lexile.”
- H.M.: “Seriously? The US Constitution… and because he doesn’t seem to be particularly worried about what the president is actually allowed to do.”
- A.S.: “I read one of the articles about the guy who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal. He said that Trump said All Quiet on the Western Front was his favorite book, but couldn’t really remember what it was about (and I suspect he read it in high school). He also had a collection of Hitler’s speeches on his bedside table but he said it was Mein Kampf b/c apparently he hadn’t even noticed the title, much less picked it up. So. There’s his prior reading history.” The speech collection, as identified in The New Yorker, is My New Order (full text).
- E.J.: “As an inexperienced librarian, I would first have to reign in my a) shock and b) every bias I have….Hopefully I would ask enough clarifying questions to override any unconscious bias and assumptions I’m projecting.
“To be honest, I need to do some research on ways to help people with attention deficit challenges. Right now my main course is to ask the patron how they prefer to read. Can she or he handle an article densely packed with information or would multiple articles be easier?
“This is a great thought project/practice piece. It’s so easy to forget that a Senator or Governor may come to us for information, and with politics the way they are, it’s super easy to form a biased opinion of them. Thank you for bringing it up.”
- M.B.: “Audiobooks might be a good way for him to go. He could listen in the car or while he’s on the treadmill/exercising, which I would say he likely does with some regularity.”
- A.P.: “I would treat him as any other reader, because all the readers are important; in a democratic society we must make the library relevant to the community, and in this case providing access to books, audio-books, but also to information databases, to periodicals, and in subjects of business, and economics; the subject leadership is also important, for this reader, and audiobooks to listen; entrepreneurship, psychology, etc…the librarians play an important role in the political and civic life..”
- R.G.: “So the president and first ladies are honorary chairs of the annual National Book Festival. Wonder if that would change with a possible Trump presidency…”
Of course, the real question is, “Would the First-Nonreader-in-Chief push for less library funding, as well as a Chinese level of censorship?”
The Trump attention span or lack thereof: Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal, said in an interview: for The Good Morning America TV show: “I wrote every word of it. Donald Trump made a few red marks when I handed in the manuscript, but that was it.” Having spent 18 months with Trump, Schwartz concluded: “He has an incredibly short attention span. He was unable to do interviews with me past ten or fifteen minutes. So that finally I had to sit in his office and pick up the phone eight feet away from his desk to listen in on his calls so I could turn this into a book… My two-year-old grandson has a longer attention span than Donald Trump.”
Photo credit: Here.