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Saturday, October 8, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 8-- A Library Worker Discovers Her Dark Side [Guest Post]

One of my favorite things about running this blog-a-thon is the number of library workers who reach out to me about their personal experiences with horror and horror patrons. These are people I would never have met without the work I do. I am so thankful for them.

Today, I would like to feature one of those library workers today. Below is a personal essay by Sarah Frost, a library worker in New Hampshire, who recently realized that she is a horror fan. But more important than just coming to this "horrifying" conclusion, she has also taken the next step and applied what she has learned to make an overall point about collection development and libraries in general.

I encourage you to read this. She has much to teach all of us here about making books available to all readers.

One quick note however, Sarah refers to the "ARRT reading evaluation" in her piece. For those unaware, that is a product that my colleagues and I on the Steering Committee of the Adult Reading Roundtable create for members and also sell to NoveList to include in their database. Please click here for details.

I would also like to personally thank Sarah for sharing her personal journey. Because of her willingness to open herself up, all of us now reap the benefits. At the end of her piece you can find links on how to connect with her. Please do so. She is a shining example of how one library worker can make a big difference to her entire community.

And now, here is Sarah in her own words...

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I've spent the greater part of 2015/2016 doing some self-actualizing work. I began work as a Library Assistant in 2015 and love it. I started library school in 2015 and quit after realizing that I cannot really afford it and the timing wasn't right for me and my family. In an effort to continue learning, even if not in the academic realm, and to become more effective at my work I took the ARRT reading evaluation to identify my reading gaps and what I found HORRIFIED, well...maybe astonished is a better word, me. I found that the bulk of my reading was in the genre of horror.

 I had never pegged myself as a horror fan.

To me, horror was guts and gore, hack and slash-- that's just not me. I don't watch horror movies for the most part. Okay, so I did watch Crimson Peak but I thought the plot was way too predictable. It took me 5 years to summon my courage to watch Pan's Labyrinth because I was too scared, and I tried to watch the first episode of the first season of American Horror Story and chickened out because it involved children in danger and that was too hard for me to watch. I just read my first Stephen King book this year. I avoided him, admittedly, out of my own snobbery because he was just too popular (Boy do I have some catching up to do...) 

 My point is, there was just no way I was a fan of the horror genre. Aren't they all Goth? (Turns out I am a closet Goth, if I cared more about clothes then maybe I would make the effort)...and I do have those Halloween vampire fangs. I guess horror fans don't all look the part. Hmm...maybe the ARRT evaluation is onto something here.

 Well now I have some digging to do.

My horror tended to be broody and taboo, it involved Anne Rice, David Mitchell, sardonic Vonnegut, weird cults straight out of Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin,  The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield. If it didn't have a bite it needed to have a dark, Gothic aesthetic and possibly a large forgotten crumbling estate looming around (currently gorging on The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters). 

So I had a look back at my personal interests, life, childhood, family, and experiences and realized that I have always felt on the outside of things. I have always been that oddball who has a secret interest in the macabre, taboo, subversive, and forbidden since I was very young hiding in the back of our church's private school sneaking articles from National Geographic about ancient Aztec sacrificial rites. Scared to be scolded for an interest in such flagrantly grotesque topics when really it's the psychology and the reality of it that fascinated me.

I grew up for most of my years as a PK (preacher's kid for those not "in the know") and did a 6 year stint down south where I saw real-life horrors aka the real Southern Gothic: teen and tween pregnancy by vastly older men, racism in a friends' home that involved a child holding a black housekeeper at knife-point, a local murder of a teacher at my grade school, freak accidents happening to siblings of people I went to school with. As the real world revealed its own natural horrors to me, the ones in the books didn't seem so strange or foreign and often they had much happier endings (and sometimes even subversive anti-heros and bad folks getting their comeuppance such as in almost every novel ever written by Neil Gaiman). 

In horror I find truth. I find the fragile and fleeting beauty of life and it teaches me to appreciate what is here and now. I find a safe place to explore meaning in a world that feels, at times, very existentially nihilistic. I find humanity, heart, community, and raw emotion. I often see people I know inside of horror books and it helps me to understand why they are scared to speak out, what they are running from, and what they are scared to reveal to the world. 

I often feel, even as an adult, still, that I don't quite fit in. When I found out that horror is my jam I felt kind of like a freak again. I work in a small public library and my coworkers are lovely ladies who seem to enjoy romance, women's fiction, historical fiction (which I also like), and high fantasy. Ah man, why do I have to be the weirdo with the spooky books?

Point being, you probably have patrons who like horror but they don't know it or think of themselves within the context of that genre. Or maybe they do, and they are hanging out with me finding their enchanted but terrifying childhood in a Ray Bradbury book, or finding their 32 year old self stumbling around in the woods of adulthood while reading "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King. Or maybe they are waiting for you to order that new weird fiction book or horror book you have been ignoring/deliberating over/think no one wants to read. Put it out there, invite them in. 

Let those of us on the outskirts know that we are welcome, we're pretty interesting folks and so are our quirky books.

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Sarah Frost
Belmont Public Library
Belmont, NH

You can connect with Sarah on Goodreads and check out the staff picks blog she has started for her library.

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