I was recently looking through some old photo albums when I came across this gem.

You can see my mother wrote the words “My bookworm” under this photo of me, age 7, reading “The Horse That Had His Picture in the Paper” by Helen Stone. I have always loved fiction.

Of all the people in the world, I am certain I really don’t have to explain to my readers why fiction is amazing. You work in a building stuffed with fiction!

But, if I were to ask you what you’ve read lately that will help improve your work skills, my guess is that you would not name a work of fiction.

Of course, your work will be improved by reading a great business or career-oriented book. I can think of a few inspiring examples, like Ann Handley’s Content Rules, which literally changed my life, or Unmarketing by Scott Stratten. You can get a chance to read books like these and talk about them with other library staffers if you join the Library Marketing Book Club on Facebook. There is a lot of value in reading advice on marketing.

But reading fiction will also make you a better marketer. Here are the six reasons why reading fiction will improve your ability to promote your library.

Fiction is good for your brain. A study by researchers at Emory University, published in the journal Brain Connect, found that reading a novel can increase connectivity in the brain and improve brain function. Lead researcher Gregory Berns concluded, “At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—reconfigures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us.”

Storytelling requires the work of different areas of your brain in order to help you understand the dialogue, plot, and characters. A work of fiction will train your brain will do a better job of processing complex problems in your library work.

Fiction teaches you to empathize with your community. That same study from Emory University found that reading fiction improved the readers’ ability to view the world from another person’s perspective.

Researchers theorize the act of reading forces the brain to process the emotions and physical actions of the protagonist. That processing leads to a greater compassion.

Activating compassion will cause you to create better service for your community. When you can put yourself in the shoes of your patrons, you are more likely to see their needs and find ways that your library can meet those needs.

Fiction activates your imagination. Reading fiction improved the imagination of the Emory University study subjects. It teaches you to think outside the normal boundaries of your life. It shows you the possibilities that exist when you don’t constrain yourself. It’s also a great way to forget your troubles for a few hours, and we could all use a little of that!

Fiction expands your vocabulary. A novel will expose your brain to a larger variety of words than you might run across in normal conversation or emails. The more your brain is exposed to this increased mass of vocabulary, the more you absorb it and incorporate it into your own work.

That doesn’t mean you have to write in a verbose manner in order to prove how your vocabulary has expanded. Rather, it means you’ll have a greater bank of words in your native vocabulary to choose from when you are trying to convey the perfect sentiment in your marketing pieces.

Fiction teaches you the difference between a great story and a terrible story. When’s the last time you started reading a novel and couldn’t stop? (For me, it was last month.) Now, when’s the last time you started reading a book and had to quit three chapters in because you couldn’t stand it anymore? (Again, this happened to me last month!)

The more fiction you read, the more you understand what a great story looks like. You’ll start to recognize good stories you can use as marketing for your library.

Reading fiction from your own library gives you a sense of your patrons’ experience. In the business world, companies and entrepreneurs are encouraged to go through the buying process for their own products to get a sense of what their customers experience. Library staff should do the same.

Look at the whole experience through the eyes of your community. Is your catalog easy to find on your website? Are there plenty of reading suggestions on your website, in your emails, and social media platforms? Can you find the books you love in the genre you prefer? How long do you have to wait to get your holds? Does your catalog suggest read-a-likes to keep your readers engaged while you wait for your holds? Is the process of checking out a book easy and painless?

Using your own collection can give you valuable insight. Your patrons’ delight and frustrations become your own delight and frustrations. The delights can become promotional tools for you to use in your marketing pieces. And the frustrations will prompt your library to make improvements that will increase circulation.

What are you reading right now? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction books? Why or why not? Share your thoughts about reading and books in the comments section.

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