It’s not surprising to interact with patrons who have never read Shakespeare, or even a few who haven’t heard of him. It’s also understandable when people dismiss the bard as “boring” or difficult to understand. Hey, we all have our preferences. This week’s Reference Desk Interaction made us smile because of the unique nature of one patron’s Shakespearean fluency…or lack there of.
This happened in the late 1990s, in the small-town Connecticut library I still work at, when I was first starting out as a library assistant. One afternoon a young woman came in very dressed up, wearing a fur coat and lots of expensive jewelry. (Most of our patrons show up in jeans or what they wore to work that day.) She came to the desk and asked where she could find the Shakespeare books. I took her to the place in the stacks and pulled the ‘Complete Works’ and handed it to her. She opened the book, looked at it for a few seconds, and then asked me if we had it in English. I couldn’t say anything for a few beats, and finally told her gently that it was in English, and that we had Cliff notes and the film versions if she needed them. She ended up taking these things, and told me that her boyfriend was taking her to a dinner party and they would all be talking about the new Shakespeare movie that was out. She felt she needed to prepare because she ‘didn’t know any Shakespeare’.
I am not a literature snob by any stretch. I read everything including cozy mysteries, graphic novels, SF, YA lit, etc. But for someone around my own age to not have any knowledge of literature taught in every high school was amazing to me! It opened my eyes to the fact that social class has nothing to do with education.
~“Amber” Connecticut, USA