Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Librarian's Smile: An Invitation to Delight

What do you do when a nicely dressed, intelligent-looking woman smiles at you? Smile back and wonder where you know her from?

That’s what I found myself doing the weekend after I got back from Portugal. Local librarians had organized a book signing at the Canadian Library Association’s convention held at Montreal’s Palais de Congrès. When I entered the grand entrance hall, I found myself face to face with a woman in her late 40s, who was headed out for a break in the sunshine (or so I decided later.) She smiled at me and I smiled back automatically.

Then I tried to figure out who she was. She looked vaguely familiar, and I thought maybe she was someone I’d met at a literary event. But my musings were interrupted a few steps farther on when two equally pleasant-looking women who had been talking to each other, smiled at me as they passed. Same thing over and over again, until I found the place where we writers were to sit.

As we waited for the hordes who wanted signatures (which never materialized, sad to say) I began to notice that everyone was smiling. That’s when the penny dropped: librarians are supposed to smile, they’re supposed to be welcoming.

In my travels,, one the premises on which I operate is that I greet all women I meet on the street and ignore all men. Doing that opens up the chance of conversation with locals, but avoids being hassled by men who misinterpret my openness. Librarians, on the other hand, operate on a corollary: that a smile is a great first step to hooking someone on their great passion—reading.

How lovely! What a great déformation professionelle!

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