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Some time ago on Facebook there was a discussion about whether teen nonfiction materials should be put into their own section to protect teens from potential predators. And I'm like - lots of these kids are going to be in COLLEGE in a couple of years. Reading adult-level nonfiction (if not Baudrillard and Foucault-level nonfiction!) is part of the skill set they're going to need. Interacting with adults is part of the skillset they're going to need. There isn't enough teen nonfiction to provide a decent-sized collection for browsing and research at most public libraries, anyway, unless you have millions of dollars to just duplicate the adult collection.

And then another discussion came up about teen-only areas in libraries. And, you know, I think it's a nice idea to have a place for teens to hang out with comfortable chairs, that doesn't immediately get taken over by 10-year-olds, or by adults running small businesses out of the library. (But let adults BROWSE THE COLLECTION, please, even if they're not allowed to sit down!) However - it does bother me when this is positioned as a measure to protect teens from sexual predators. Safety is something you achieve through good sight lines and adequate staffing, not by imagining that everyone 17 and under is a potential victim and everyone 18 and over is a potential criminal.

I think that when we talk about 'helicopter parenting,' one of the things we're really talking about is the kind of suburbanization that makes it impossible for a child to go to a friend's house or the movies or the convenience store without begging an adult for a ride; it makes independence harder. I think that as a librarian, it's really important to protect teens, but it's also important to foster their independence, their curiosity -- their young adulthood, really.
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I would like to stop getting asked for grade n books as if that were a thing, as if all the children in the same grade could be provided with the same books and read them with equal ease.

I would like people to recognize that the best measure of what a child is capable of reading is not their grade, or their performance on a particular test, but what they want to read and what they're interested in reading and what they feel is within their abilities.

I would like kids to stop getting caught between a rock and a hard place where their parents and teachers decry the books they want to read as too babyish, but the books at the mythical "appropriate grade level" are actually too hard for them to read. If you're behind grade level in reading, you can't get over that by reading hard books. You can get over that by reading easy and fun books in great quantities.

You can only start where you are.

Parents seem fairly adept at tuning out the loud screech of a toddler in one's ear; I find it difficult to do reader's advisory under those conditions.
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Via Racialicious: Jeff Chang's In Defense of Libraries is a must-read.

When music is determined to hold no more monetary value, it is deleted. That is where most of our recorded history lies. In the cut-out bin. In the Trash file. Locked behind the copyright fence. Lots of it belongs there like the Eagles. But what about when it doesn’t?

We change the culture, and politics follows.

The folks who are against us, who are against a vibrant vital public core, know this. The budget cuts inflicted we face here and all around the country are about laying waste to the public space and fencing it off. And they are about stopping cultural change right where it begins.

In the library, I am in a space beyond the marketplace, beyond consumption, beyond the money censors, beyond the noise. I am in a place where librarians have accumulated the knowledge and the stories important to me and my community.

The library is the embodiment and the refuge of our collective imagination.


And I've seen enough times when libraries have failed at being that, and -- still, this is the ideal that I have, this is what I believe in.
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Easily Distracted has a post on the privatization and deskilling of National Park services that is, I think, interesting in the context of librarianship. When people keep insisting that less government is better, it's harder and harder to convince taxpayers that it's worth it to pay people with Master's degrees to check books out and do storytimes (however bad librarians' salaries are, paraprofessionals' salaries are worse -- and I think they're more underpaid relative to the work they do).

And that's exactly the public conception of what librarians do. Most of my peers in terms of class/generation/education don't go to public librarians, at least, for research; they can look up the book they want online, search the public access catalog for it, place it on hold. You can go from being curious about a book to checking it out with no human contact whatsoever, if the library has self-serve holds and self-check, as some of the BPL libraries already do. The work that gets done in searching databases, tracking down that book that the patron isn't quite sure about, doing good reference interviews, etc -- it becomes invisible. It becomes visible only to people on the other side of the digital divide, who don't have the experience searching for information, and those aren't the people who have the power. People expect the librarian to know where a particular book is, or where the cookbooks are, and -- it's no more than they'd expect from a clerk at Barnes & Noble, so why is the city paying the big bucks for a Master's degree?

Hm. Maybe that would make a PR campaign for librarians.

"You wanted that green book. SHE FOUND IT."
"You wanted a picture of the kind of washing machine your mother had when you were born in the 1940s. SHE FOUND IT."
"You wanted the latest novel by Erin Brockovich. She found it... and it was by Janet Evanovich."

(Better than "Looking for a late night chat?", as a certain library has advertised their chat reference service...)
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Found, in the pages of a suspiciously bulgy Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness: two small bones, most likely from a chicken wing.
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I have begun doing an Awful Library Books sweep of the library's adult nonfiction.

We don't really have any "Someday, man may walk on the moon!" howlers -- a look at Bill Gates's management style that stops at Windows 95 is about the size of it -- but we have books that were bought in 2002 and never checked out.

And Real Moments For Lovers which is not up there in the stratosphere of Leonard Nimoy's poetry, but is surely in striking distance of it.

Awful Library Books is hilarious, but most weeding is about the edge cases: it's not a bad book, it's old but the information isn't out of date, the design is dated and I can't imagine anyone wanting to pick it up but we don't have anything better or newer on that topic.

I think there's a specific kind of educational nonfiction, the kind that exists solely for middle school and high school students doing research, that's losing relevance in this age. Not because the books aren't good, but because if you're just doing a three-page paper it's so much easier to find the information you need on the internet than to go to the library on the chance that they might have a book on it... and the books don't have anything extra to recommend them.

So even as I'm thinking, "Can I really get rid of this book?" I'm looking up how many times it's circulated in the last couple of years and thinking, "Yeah, I kind of can."


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All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer

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