Durango Public Library connects tattoos to literary interests – and we put them to the test

by Patty Templeton

Libraries ain’t shush zones anymore. They’re vibrant community centers where you can rent everything from books to movies to board games – for frikkin free. And. AND! Now, they even give reading recommendations based on your tattoos. You heard me. The Durango Public Library will take a gander at your tattoo and give you book suggestions based on the style and subject of your art. If you got one of those sexyass underboob tattoos or some sorta ass-ink, you can tell them about it, rather than show them. Can’t be flashing folks, ya pervert.

Assistant Director Colleen Galvin had a sit-down with us to explain more about book-to-tattoo matching.

So what’s the deal? Someone has a tattoo, they walk into the library, and …“In a nutshell, we started the program because we wanted to challenge our readers’ advisory skills, but we also wanted to reach new audiences. We wanted to change the perception of the library, a little bit … Everybody who works a service desk can recommend books. We thought, ‘Well, maybe not the children’s department,’ but then we noticed so many of the parents here have ink. So we kept it open to every desk in the library. You can ask any desk staff to take a look at your tattoo and they will recommend a book, movie, or music. We also wanted to respect people’s privacy. So we never said, ‘Hey, I see you have a tattoo. Tell me about it.’ We wanted to make sure people felt comfortable coming in and talking to us instead.”

Are there a lotta folks who’ve come in seeking recommendations? “We had maybe one person a day when we started [in the fall]. Now, we get someone here and there. But, it really touched the imagination of the entire country. We received national press. Which is funny because we borrowed the idea from Multnomah County Library [of Portland, Oregon]. Libraries are so collaborative and we give Multnomah credit wherever we can.”

What were some of the out-there recommendations you’ve given?“I thought of “Master and Margarita” when somebody gave me the tattoo example of a cougar. “The Master and Margarita” cover struck me. It has a dark, brooding cat on it. The customer was like, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ And I said, ‘It’s a bizarre, bizarre book. Try it. See what you think.’ There was also the recommendation of “Catch-22” for a man with military tattoos. He showed me his tattoo and it was slightly absurdist. The most absurd war story out there is “Catch-22.” Then, I also gave him “Jarhead,” a more traditional war memoir.

Does the Durango Public Library want to expand on the idea at all? “After we were done with the original rollout, the readers’ advisory team looked at each other and said, ‘What could we have done differently.’ We came up with this great idea that next time, if we have the staff, maybe we could have a staff member in a partnering tattoo shop. Just hanging out with a laptop. We like the idea of doing on-the-spot recommendations … Or maybe when the [Four Corners] Motorcycle Rally comes into town, that would be a great place for outreach … We like the idea of going to where the people are rather than making them come to us.”

And now … live-action recommendationsColleen Galvin is a GD professional, a booklover, and patient, so she didn’t kick us out of her office when we sprung a test on her. Varying tattoo styles were picked to see what recommendations she could bounce off the art style. Here’s what Galvin recommended based on American traditional, watercolor, tribal, and illustrative tattoo styles.

American Traditional“The first thing I’m thinking of is “Where the Wild Things Are” because of the animals. Let me think. I also see Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” It is a historical fantasy with battling magicians.”

Illustrative“This is really dark. I can see someone with a tattoo like this enjoying H.P. Lovecraft. Anything like Lovecraft. Fantasy and mysticism. Also, China Miéville. That might be it. A lush and dense author.”

Tribal “This is where I’m gonna go for a cheat sheet. We had cheat sheets for our staff. We went into mythology and fantasy for this kind of tattoo. Probably, I’d go for, mythological things. Right off the bat, I’d say “Game of Thrones.” I also think of Ursula K. Le Guin, to tell the truth. Her “Tales from Earthsea.” I think that that would be a lot of fun. This has an old-fashioned, historic feel, in a way … Joe Abercombie fits or maybe nonfiction like “How the Irish Saved Civilization.”

Watercolor“Immediately, I’m thinking of Hemingway. Of “Old Man and the Sea.” I can’t help myself. I see Americana here. Mark Twain would fit, too. It has that feel. Or, the movie “On Golden Pond” is a possibility.”

Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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