What Middletown Read tracks borrowing records of Muncie Public Library patrons from 1891 to 1902 and shows how library use is not a lonely act but “part of the complex story of the social nature of reading.”Add a Comment
What Middletown Read tracks borrowing records of Muncie Public Library patrons from 1891 to 1902 and shows how library use is not a lonely act but “part of the complex story of the social nature of reading.”Add a Comment
We just finished celebrating Halloween. Your children dressed in wonderful costumes, you walked from house to house getting candy, your schools had parties and ton of candy was given away. This holiday was celebrated all over the country and probably in other countries as well. Last post I shared with you where Halloween came from and the folklore behind it but today I will take a larger step. I will look at how public libraries celebrated this holiday.
A few days ago I did a massive survey on a list called pub lib and asked a very simple question How does your library celebrate Halloween. I got a massive response to this question and have decided to give a list of 10 most unique stories that came from this list. This post will not have any book reviews and lets say I will catalog this under Cool Stuff. Please enjoy my list of 10.
1) The year we had the ground breaking for our building the same day as the Halloween parade so that as soon as that parade was over we had our parade from the old building to the new site. Thus the community band that played for our parade and ground breaking ceremony did it dressed in Halloween costumes. The last two years of the Optimists Halloween parade we entered a book truck drill team. The first year we each dressed as a story book character and put pictures on our book trucks to fit our character. The second year we all wore black with bright colored boas and decorated the carts for Halloween.
Eric Hellman has an interesting post on his blog "go to hellman" (great name, incidentally).
He postulates that by 2020 "the number of public libraries in 2020 would be half of what it is today. (And) the number of public library locations would increase by 50%." He goes on to describe a world with smaller, cheaper to run library outlets in different locations, and shuttering of some of the larger edifices. He thinks that the e-content revolution and the need to consolidate public services in times of restricted funding will help bring this about.
Hellman makes a pretty good case. We have already seen a lot of constriction in library budgets during the past few years, and given the state of the economy and the big black holes in government budgets, things aren't going to be rosy for a while.
So is the big box library a tool or a principle? If the building is a way to create a hub in your community, any space where people are willing to gather and share could work as a tool. If the building is a secular monument, a tourist attraction, or a way to keep a small town from sliding into oblivion, then the principle is a lot different.
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Specifically, the following will take effect after the close of business, October 2, 2009:
- All branch and regional library programs, including programs for children and teens, after school programs, computer classes, and programs for adults, will be cancelled
- All Parkway Central Library programs, including children programs, programs to support small businesses and job seekers, computer classes and after school programs, will be cancelled. We are exploring the possibility of relocating the Philadelphia Author Series programs to other non-library facilities.
- All library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers and other community centers will cease.
- All community meetings at our branch and regional libraries, and the Parkway Central Library, will be cancelled.
- All GED, ABE and ESL programs held at Free Library branches will be discontinued, students should contact their teacher to see if other arrangements are being made.
In addition, all library materials will be due on October 1, 2009. This will result in a diminishing borrowing period for books and other library materials, beginning September 11, 2009. No library materials will be able to be borrowed after September 30, 2009.
Even as we remain hopeful that the State Legislature will act and pass the enabling funding legislation, we wanted to notify all of our customers of this very possible outcome.
Setting Up a Tool for Knowledge Sharing in a Public Library
December 2, 2008
works on knowledge management at the Public Library of Vlissingen in the Netherlands
the Library also provide service for the local hospital and have opened services in elementary schools
they want to be a two-way library where their users are, adapted to the needs and wishes of their users
digital library is becoming more important because fewer people are coming in for books
have to share knowledge efficiently, making use of hidden staff talent
did a “knowledge scan”
found that the intranet wasn’t meeting staff needs
their wiki is internal only because they want to excel internally before they might open it up for users
six steps to implementing a wiki
1 - planning the wiki
actually the most important phase of all
many important questions need to be answered, including is your internal culture ready for something like this
are people stimulated to share their knowledge or are they prevented from sharing it?
what do you want to get out of it?
which users do you want to contribute to it? what will the scope be?
they decided to involve all of their users because sharing knowledge is important to everyone
early involvement of future users is important - involve them as soon as possible
also gets you feedback
use wikitmatrix.com to find appropriate software for your project
decide hosted vs on your own server
they started out on their own server but went to a hosted service when they realized they didn’t have the in-house technical knowledge they needed
2 - designing the wiki
used an external visual designer to make the wiki use their current brand (he happened to be the son of a staff member)
created the initial structure of the wiki but let it grow organically
seeded it with initial content (no “empty box”)
created documentation and policy rules for the wiki (”wikiquette”) but don’t focus on the rules
created a sandbox area where people could experiment and play without feeling like they could mess things up
3 - Testing the wiki
used early adopters who were already familiar with wikis
test basic functions, proofreading initial content, test links and wiki usability
let future users test the wiki
4 - Launching the wiki and training users
found it important to do this officially so need to communicate it to everyone in an official way
have lots of “communication moments”
tell people what the wiki can do for them and integrate it into daily work practices
pay more attention to “slow adopters”
create a good handbook
5 - Managing & maintaining the wiki
appointed a “wiki gardener” to be responsible for moderating discussions, reviewing content, reviewing wiki structure to makke content easily accessible by everyone
important distinction that she has no effect on actual content - she isn’t a “wiki dictator”
technical support is maintained by the hosting company in their case
6 - Wiki evaluation
they’re in this stage now
using statistics and user surveys
showed a screenshot - it’s simple because it’s focused on the content
“teams & clusters”
they are now developing new software that will complement the wiki by handling reference inquiries from the public
answering questions will become based on team expertise, not individuals
this is a revolutionary new way of working in a Dutch public library
they will see the first demo of the system next week, so just in the initial phase
wiki lessons learned (practical tips)
- the success of a wiki depends on user contribution and enthusiasm
- involve your end-users from the beginning
- reward people for contributing to the wiki, acknowledge experts who share
- a wiki complements, but does not replace, face-to-face sharing; it’s not about the technology or the tool, but the people
- seed the wiki
- integrate the wiki in daily working practices
q: which software did you use?
a: moin moin was their first choice, but installing and configuring it required more technical skills than they had, so they moved to Plone; users don’t need any technical knowledge
q: was the goal to replace or complement the intranet? and can you give examples of making the wiki practical for staff when explaining it?
a: the Library has different geographical locations, so it can be difficult for teams to meet physically, so they are also implementing a chat function within the wiki
For one of my classes, I had the opportunity of creating a seminar presentation about consumer health information and the public library. While researching for this presentation, my group and I visited numerous public library websites to see what public libraries were doing in regards to health information. There were several trends that were apparent, but what I found the most intriguing was that many public library teen websites did not have links (or at least I could not find them and if I can’t find them when I am actively pursuing this information, will teens be able to find these links?) Several questions became apparent to me as I began to reflect on the information found on library websites for teens.
Do you think that public libraries need to be providing access to health resource links on their teen websites?
I haven’t yet decided where I stand on this issue – I think that there are many different items that should be considered. For example, when I was searching for health information on library website teen spaces I was not including the databases that are offered by the library. Some library websites for teens did have links to their databases; for instance, the Stratford Public Library has links to their online health databases. Would this be sufficient for teens?
I don’t know if this would be sufficient for teens. Are teens using their library card to access this information online? I know that when I was a teen, I was not using databases to access this sort of information. But then again, I was a teenager a number of years ago. However, I don’t know if I would have used this to search for information if I hadn’t grown accustomed to searching databases in this program. Also, what about the days that you are just too lazy to go find your library card to get the barcode to be able to access the information?
Another interesting point about searching for health information on library websites for teens is where the health links on the websites are found. Understandably all libraries do not place health links in the same location, but are there spots where the links would be more easily found? Personally, I found it easiest to find the health links when they were located under Internet Resources or a similar title. But when library teen websites had categories like “my life” and “homework help”, it could be difficult to determine where to find the resources I wanted. However, I could always find the information.
Would a teen that was looking for health information look under the homework help for links to Internet materials??
For me personally, I thought that I would find the health links under the life section that included life Internet links. However, I can see the reasoning behind placing the health links under homework help for teens that need the resources for school work. However if I was looking for health information because I had a particular illness or a question about a specific issue, I wouldn’t necessarily think to look at the homework section. Perhaps this point is moot if teens are regularly using the teen library website, as they may already know where to find this information.
I would be interested to hear other opinions on this topic.Posted in Health Information, Library Websites, Public libraries
It is possible to define adulthood using factors such as chronological age, financial and/or domestic independence as well as the nebulous concept of maturity. There was a discussion at the beginning of the course about how to define “young adults.” Is the label best applied to the traditional age range of 13 to 19? Or is it necessary to expand the parameters in order to reflect a social shift?
Statistics Canada reports that there has been a significant increase in the “the proportion of young adults aged 20 to 29 who resided in their parental home” (Human Resources, 2008). It is interesting that they exclude teenagers altogether from this category. The decision to return home can be the result of graduating from university, changing or losing a job, planning marriage or a divorce. All of these life circumstances often include some form of debt. They have been referred to as the “boomerang generation” or going through “adultescence” (Powers, 2007).
Consequently, young adult librarians may find themselves answering as many questions about resources for proper resume formatting and child custody as they do for high school projects on the solar system and the life cycle of trees.
In most cases, the aforementioned scenarios are temporary and individuals will resume their independence once their situation has stabilized. Unfortunately, there is a more worrisome trend that has been a focus of research by sociologists in recent years.
“Boys are in serious trouble. Doing worse in the classroom now than they did ten years ago. Hard to talk to. Unaware of their emotions. And the most violent in the industrialized world” (Thompson, 2008)
This can lead to a life characterized by endless drifting and insecurity. Many young males are abandoning or delaying responsibility as much as possible. They do this in favour of a life of recreation. This has most recently been addressed in State University of New York professor Michael Kimmel’s “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.”
In it he describes “the wasteland between ages 16 and 26″ (Tucker, 2008) (an echo of the Statistics Canada figure that seems to be the common redefinition of young adulthood) when:
The guy is in no hurry to shed youthful egotism and hedonism and take up the mantle of adulthood. The Guy mentality is rooted in resentment, drenched in booze and dedicated to pervasive, sometimes violent denigration of women and gays. It’s a perpetual carnival of pornography, violent video games, hypermacho music and blustering talk-radio hosts who stoke resentment by constantly reminding Guys of the lost paradise that should have been theirs (ibid).
One of the problems is a lack of suitable role models for boys as they grow up. This problem is recognized in the school system. In a report by Ontario educators, the province was urged to “act immediately to boost the already low and rapidly shrinking number of male teachers” (CBC, 2004).
However, I believe it is equally important to have male representation in public libraries, particularly in youth services departments. These males can be available throughout a youth’s academic career, whereas exposure to a teacher typically lasts only one year. Furthermore, boys are required to go to school. Yet it is often observed that boys are not physically present in the library. There is some exciting and innovative library programming to address this issue. The ALA awarded its 2007 Diversity Award to Break-4-Boys: Male-2-Male Mentoring in which men speak and do activities with tweens and teens (ages 11–18) on a consistent basis. Mentorship is performed free for males by males (Nichols & Wilcox, 2007).
This is is no way intended to deride the contribution of women to librarianship. However, at a time of decreasing literacy, particularly for recreation, the value of male staff in the library as role models for boys cannot be overstated.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2004, November 13). Ontario urged to counter drop in male teachers.
Retrieved October 23, 2008, from: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2004/11/12/male_teacher_041112.html
Human Resources and Social Development Canada. (2008). Family Life — Young Adults Living with their Parent(s) . Retrieved October 23, 2008, from: http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/indicator.jsp?lang=eng&indicatorid=77#MOREON_1
Nichols, K.D. and Wilcox, L.J. (2007). Male-2-Male Mentoring Is Working in Chicago Libraries. Information Today, Inc. Retrieved October 23, 2008, from: http://www.infotoday.com/mls/nov07/Nichols_Wilcox.shtml
Powers, G. (2007). What to do with boomerang kids. Sympatico MSN Finance. Retrieved Retrieved October 23, 2008, http://finance.sympatico.msn.ca/retirement/gordonpowers/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5767869
Thomspons, M. (2006). Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from:
Tucker, C. (2008, October 5). ‘Guyland’ by Michael Kimmel: No girls or gays allowed. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved October, 23, 2008, from: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/DN-bk_guyland_1005gd.ART.State.Edition1.269f7db.htmlPosted in Community Outreach, Library Programs, Public libraries, Reading and Literacy, Representations of Youth, Research, Underserved and At-Risk Youth, YA librarianship
NEW YORK - A new study suggests young adults are the heaviest users of public libraries - despite the ease with which they can access a wealth of information over the Internet from their own homes.
That’s especially true for those who had questions related to health conditions, job training, government benefits and other problems.
The U.S.-based study shows 21 per cent of Americans aged 18 to 30 with such questions turn to public libraries.
That compares with about 12 per cent among the general adult population with problems to solve.
Education-related tasks such as making decisions about schooling, paying for it and getting job training are the most common problems drawing people to libraries.
The data comes from a joint study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For more information, see the Kitchener Record http://news.therecord.com/article/288997
I want to point you all to this news article from the BBC. For those who want a quick one sentence summary of the article, it basically talks about the big issue of books being lost or missing in public library systems in Wales, UK. Among the most often titles reported missing are best-sellers like works from JK Rowling, Ronald Dahl, Terry Pratchett, and Jacqueline Wilson (a popular children’s author in the UK).
Does it say something that all of these authors write books targeted towards children and young adults? Is it really the kids and teenagers who are stealing these books from the library?
What do you think?
My view on this issue is that it cannot be assumed that teens alone are the ones who are keeping all the Harry Potter books. Just because they are materials for teens does not mean that other segments of the library community are not looking at them as well. Adults have to be held partially responsible too. Many adults like to read young adult literature, whether it be for their own pleasure, or to have something in common with a teenager.
I wasn’t able to find out and information about who was checking out these books that were never returned. And there aren’t really any statistics about who is right out stealing these books because if they knew who was stealing the books, it wouldn’t happen. I was able to find statistics on the number and the cost of books stolen from Wales public library systems since 2006 here.
Why do people steal materials from the library? Well there are plenty of reasons. Someone does not have the funds to spend, or does not want to spend, $30 on a book that he/she might only read once. While the library does loan out material for free, the library expects to see these back on the shelves or in the hands of another patron.
Someone checking out a book and never returning it can have plenty of excuses as well. He/she could have taken it to school and it was misplaced or stolen there, friend borrowed it and lost it, or it was actually returned to the library on time and the system made a mistake. That last point may actually be true in some cases. I’ve had a friend who have returned a book, only to get an e-mail saying that she had an overdue book. To prove the library wrong, she went up to the stacks, got the book, and showed the librarian that the book was returned and shelved!
I was witness to a circulation staff (pseudo name Melissa) at a public library ask a patron if she had some library material in her bag. It was an elder lady who was there with a child who must have been the granddaughter. The child had gone up to the circulation desk ahead with a few library books in her arms that she wanted to borrow. She had a library card, so that wasn’t the problem. The card and the books were scanned by Melissa and everything was handed back to the young girl, but she didn’t walk away. She looked at Melissa like something was wrong. Melissa asked her if they had more books, but the girl didn’t say anything; she just looked at grandma’s big bag. Melissa asked the grandmother if she had something in her bag, but she didn’t seem to understand English very well. The girl went to open her grandmother’s bag, and sure enough there were a few magazines inside. Melissa didn’t say anything about there being any fines or blocks on the card, so that wasn’t a problem either. Maybe grandma wanted to keep those magazines, so she hid them in her bag. Maybe she didn’t know how the library worked, although her young granddaughter did. Or perhaps they had been at the library for a while and she simply and innocently forgot about the magazines. No one will ever know the real reason they were in the bag.
Melissa told the girl that she did the right thing in telling someone that there were library magazines in the bag. The magazines did go home with them that day. She tried to communicate to the grandmother that it wrong to take materials home without checking them out first, but there was a language barrier.
Has anyone ever confronted a patron about stealing library material?Posted in Collection Development, Public libraries, YA Literature
Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)
DOPA was introduced to the US House of Representatives in 2006 by Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. This Act is a result of the rising percent of children who are solicited online by sexual predators. The Florida attorney General says 1 in 7 children have been solicited, and the “secure-kid” website says 1 in 5. The University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center says that 4% of all children online will be solicited with sexual images.
Florida Attorney General: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/DF75DF6F54BDA68E8525727B00645478
In light of the recent website evaluations we discussed in class and to compliment the subject I discussed in yesterday’s blog post, I thought I would do a review on a sexual information website for teens. I will first make a few comments about RAMP, the Toronto Public Library’s teen webspace. The second part of my post will review Spiderbytes, a sexual information site for teenagers recommended by RAMP.
Links to sexual health information are listed in the “life stuff” section of the website. Considering that the search function in RAMP is not very good (I actually couldn’t get it to work at all and kept getting error messages), “life stuff” is not necessarily an intuitive place to look. The importance of sexual health and young adults’ curiosity about sex justify better labeling and a more direct link to this information.
I think the sex information links in RAMP could be organized better in general, particularly since the different pages lead to many (if not all of the same links). I could go on critiquing this site but I think we already discussed it enough in class.
Spiderbytes was created by Planned Parenthood of Toronto, a community based, pro-choice agency.
Besides its terrible name (what exactly does Spiderbytes mean?), Spiderbytes’ design is lacking in usability. I think the design goal was to be different and attractive and although it achieves that, it is not great to use because you have to figure things out. Although the persistent navigation is consistent, you have to scroll over the buttons in order for labels to appear. Additionally, there are two persistent navigation bars/icon groups, which is disorienting and confusing to the user. The main navigation bar, housing information about sex, relationships, puberty, etc., leads to pages that look blank until you figure out that the little lists on the right-hand side of the pages are links that you have to click on to have the information appear in the center of the page. The font size here is way too small. Perhaps a young adult would find this design refreshing and enjoy exploring how the site works (I venture to guess that may have been the goal of the designers), but Jakob Neilsen, the usability expert, would disagree. Neilsen reports that studies of teen website use reveal their patience levels and attention span to be even lower then that of adults. If a user is looking to quickly access information, they would not be able to on this site.
However, the site does score some positive points with its design. It is not too busy or flashy with a lot of distracting animations. It does not require a lot of scrolling and does not use colours that bother the eyes. Rather the design is quite simple and clean, if not conventional and intuitive. Additionally, it contains interactive elements such as quizzes. For instance, in the “puberty” section, teens can fill out quizzes about getting hairy and periods. These short multiple choice quizzes test the knowledge of users and provide information (and answers) in an engaging way. Another good example is in the “sex” and “virginity” section where teens can take a quiz to let them know if they are ready to lose their virginity.
Thus the site offers great content. When I was a teenager we didn’t have access to this type of information, in this format. I think it would have been kind of cool to explore sexual health information through interactive, online quizzes. The inclusion of sexuality and sexual orientation in the content is also important and useful. The inclusion of disability issues is great but these are located in the “sexuality” section which is probably not the first place that people would look for this information. Although the information is generally straightforward and succinct in the main sections of the website, links to clinics, phone lines, etc, are located in a small pop-up window that requires a lot of scrolling. This information is thus not very accessible in terms of the website’s ease of use.
The site provides very informative content in an interactive and interesting way, but the design is ineffective and impractical, taking away from the overall experience. It is a good example of the ways in which information providers sometimes defeat their own purpose and put up unintentional barriers to accessibility. It is important for librarians to be aware of these issues and to critically evaluate the information tools they provide to their community.
Although Planned Parenthood of Toronto is a very reputable and authoritative community health organization, if the city’s public library is compelled to include a link to this site, I would recommend they ensure links to websites with more usable designs as well. As it stands, RAMP does not offer links to more then four sexual health websites in total. If I was a teenager (maybe not the best way to make this judgement… ) and clicking through all the links led to sites that looked and worked like Spiderbytes, I would likely leave the library site and look for more straightforward information elsewhere.
Several weeks ago, a friend sent me the link for the Real Public Librarian blog. It happens to be the blog of Debra Burn, who was so instrumental in developing the verbYL Youth Lounge/Youth Library I blogged about yesterday. She blogs about lots of different library issues, but one particular post that I found interesting was “Youth in libraries—are you really ready to let them in?”, which I used as the title of this post. After reading glowing accounts of the wonderful teen library spaces out there, I recalled this post and started thinking about its very real relevance for all libraries. Even in the midst of our desire to provide appropriate spaces for our young adult patrons, we need to examine how we deal with them in the library, particularly when their behaviour is somewhat less than stellar.
Burn’s post centres around a hypothetical separate young adult library, but I believe her comments apply to regular libraries as well, whether with separate teen space or without. Burns asks us to imagine the creation of a successful new teen library space, which achieves the desired goal of drawing in masses of eager young adults, ready to enjoy the library and its facilities. What happens, she asks, when you as the librarian find yourself faced with a group of “at risk” young people who over time establish a pattern of disrupting the library? Their behaviour goes beyond the normal thoughtless exuberance that can sometimes characterize youth; some of the youth “show little regard for adults and authority”, and some “are downright scary”. Her question: do you ban them from the library or do you stand firm that all are welcome and continue trying to work with them, keeping in mind that by so doing you may alienate some “good” patrons?
My first instinct, pondering this situation, is to kick the troublemakers out. Yes, access for all, but unacceptable behaviour may mean one loses that privilege. But what does that accomplish? Relative peace in the library, I suppose, but how do I reconcile the fact that I have denied access to some? Obviously, in some extreme cases, this may be the only way to go, but, as Bernier and Herald stated, “Zero tolerance fails every day all over the country…criminalizing [youth] does nothing but perpetuate useless and costly cycles of recrimination and retaliation. Nor does it help bridge the service gap between libraries and disenfranchised youth” (1997, p. 47). And as one youth services librarian put it: “I don’t believe that there are bad kids, but that every kid can have a bad day, week, month, or span of years” (Farrelly, 2007, p. 41). I’m simplifying a complicated issue, but these quotes would seem to suggest that banning “at risk” youth should be a rare exception.
Burn gives rational arguments for both sides of the question, as obviously it is a decision libraries need to come to on their own. She goes into more depth in discussing the second option, which she believes requires the assistance of human service professionals in order to provide optimal support to “at risk” young adult patrons, which obviously is tied to her experience planning for and implementing verbYL. Once again, I was struck by the genius of community partnerships. It would be asking a great deal of librarians to require them to deal with such patron behaviour on their own, but if the library worked in tandem on a day-to-day basis with human service professionals trained in dealing with such issues, think what could be accomplished. It wouldn’t be easy, and it may not work everywhere, but in the quest to be truly accessible to all, it might at least be worth exploring the possibility.
Bernier, A., & Herald, D.T. (1997). Rude and crude? School Library Journal, 43(8), 47. Retrieved September 27, 2008, from EBSCOhost.
Farrelly, M.G. (2007). Unleashing your inner man. Public Libraries, 46(2), 40-41. Retrieved September 27, 2008, from ProQuest.
“Real Public Librarian” blog www.paradigmlibrary.blogspot.comPosted in Accessibility, Community Outreach, Public libraries, Teen Spaces, Underserved and At-Risk Youth, YA librarianship
My always-on source of interesting, relevant material just sent me another tidbit of fascinating culture:
Pecha Kucha Night
Basically, it's a way for up-and-coming architects and visual designers to show their hot new ideas off, but not get bogged down in the nitty-gritty. Each person gets 20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide.
This could be a great way to draw creatives and artistically-inclined cultural mavens into your library on a biweekly (fortnightly) or monthly basis.
I say fortnightly because I've been at Members Council the past 2 days and am feeling quite global. Or wishing I could express myself less U.S.-centrically... Read the rest of this post
Check out this article in today's USA Today and consider. They are mixing books, digital downloads and their inevitable coffee shops in a single concept store. A quote from the article:
...follow the table of books snaking off to the right, and you'll come face-to-face with Borders' newest retail strategy: a digital center where you can download music or books, burn CDs, research family histories, print pictures and order leather-bound books crammed with family photos — with help from clerks who know how to do those sorts of things and won't embarrass you if you don't.
Part 1: First, some background on the problem novel…
In recently thinking about the children’s problem novel for another project, I also wondered: what is happening on the YA problem novel scene these days, since teens were the original target audience for problem novels? Are problem novels increasing in popularity? Are the problem-topics in YA fiction growing in variety and frequency, and how are authors and publishers dealing with censorship concerns from the public? And what is the opinion of the youth who are reading these books? Do they criticize the writing? Praise it? Find it engaging?
The teen problem novel, a sub-genre of realistic fiction, is also referred to as the social problem novel, the American problem novel, new realism, and problem fiction. Sometimes problem novels are viewed as ‘coming of age’ novels. But no matter what they are called, the primary criteria is that the core of the plot involves the protagonist facing a substantial problem, conflict, or dilemma that must be dealt with and cannot be avoided. Sheila Egoff (1980), a critic of young people’s literature, suggests that in the typical problem novel, “conflict is integral to the plot and characters, and resolution of conflict has wide implications growing out of the personal vision or experience of the writer” (p. 67). In an interview with Aurora Online, Egoff offers some further reflections on the problem novel, including her opinion that problem novel writing has improved over the years: Interview with Sheila Egoff.
Here are a few problem novels you may have heard of: Queenie Peavy (Richard Burch), The Summer of the Swans (Betsy Byars), Forever (Judy Blume), Dicey’s Song (Cynthia Voigt), Dear Nobody (Berlie Doherty), Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt), We All Fall Down (Robert Cormier), The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier), Throwaways (Ian Strachan), Stone Cold (Robert Swindell), The Silent Storm (Sherry Garland), A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), Tell Me Everything by Caroline Coman, I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This (Jacqueline Woodson), Peter (Kate Walker), and Out of Control (Norma Fox Mazer).
A bit of history on the problem novel: While many children’s problem novels are being published in today’s literature, the problem novel was originally aimed at the youth audience, and dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. It has been suggested that the birth of the problem novel occurred in 1964, when Emily Neville’s It’s Like This, Cat was awarded the Newbery Medal. These novels introduced a trend towards a new level of ‘hard reality,’ or a painfully honest and truthful portrayal of life problems, such as divorce and separation, nontraditional families, alcoholism, drugs, sexuality, alienation, illness, death, poverty, homelessness, foster care, domestic violence, abuse, and so forth. Many problem novels began to portray parents more honestly, letting go of the “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Brady Bunch” portrayal of parenting, and recognizing the reality of abuse, abandonment, divorce, and other family problems and dysfunctions.
What do problem novels offer youth? A chance to feel connection with other youth experiencing similar problems, an opportunity to build empathy and compassion toward other youth with problems, and a chance to identify with the protagonist’s emotions and struggles. In dealing with the subject of death, for example, the problem novel allows youth to encounter grieving patterns and realistic emotional responses and coping strategies. The problem novel can also be praised for its ability to subvert the idea of teens as passive and powerless, and show them instead as resourceful, resilient, and active individuals who are capable of coping with their problems.
But, does everyone share a positive attitude towards the problem novel? No, definitely not. There is an undeniable controversy surrounding the content of some problem novels; opinions and reactions are varied, depending on the writing style, types of problems, and extent of detail discussed in each novel. Barbara Feinberg, for example, has posted an article online which takes a more critical approach to the problem novel, in which she states her concerns that some problem topics such as incest, domestic abuse, and death are simply too difficult for young readers to deal with, and that these readers are being taught to abandon fantasy and are instead led towards a stark and difficult reality before they are ready (Barbara Feinberg: Reflections on the problem novel). Of course, Feinberg is writing more about children here, but many parents share similar concerns about their teens’ reading choices. In Publishers Weekly, the novel Junk (about teenagers and drug/heroin addiction) was criticized by parents who found it “frightening and even morally wrong that a children’s book should deal with these issues.” For further reading about opinions on the problem novel, check out the ALAN review article “The Problem Novel in a Conservative Age.”
Much literature written about the problem novel is written from the perspective of adults, but leaves out the readers themselves; what would teens have to say on some of these topics? Much of the current research does not seem to take their opinions into account, and focuses more on what parents, librarians, and educators feel is best for young people to read about. What about the teens? They are active readers, they are information-seekers, and they are creators of experience. Does this not also apply to their interaction with the YA literature?
It seems that one of the important factors to remember is that there is a difference between a poor sub-genre of literature, and poor writing itself. As Egoff (1980) points out, it’s not the problem novel or the problem topics she is opposed to, but the poor writing that they sometimes contain. It can be difficult to mimic real-life problems and achieve successful verisimilitude in fiction, and to write a deep, sensitive, and honest portrayal of today’s youth’s problems. Problem novel writing that is overly-dramatic, simplistic, or naïve, with a lack of realistic emotion, believable plot, strong setting, and in-depth characters is never going to be able to realistically portray problems in a way that will be engaging, believable, and deeply moving for youth.
One of the most frequent bits of advice found in the literature about problem novels? Don’t be didactic! Teens don’t want to be lectured and they don’t want to be talked down to. Chris Lynch, author of Shadow Boxer, Iceman, Gypsy Davey, and Blue-Eyed Son, suggests that “writing about the great lurch from childhood to adulthood is just as frightening, exhilarating, complicated and dangerous as living it was (remember that?). If you talk down to your audience it does not matter if you get ten pages of glowing press. They will reject you. Soft-pedal your message, and they will reject you. Think for one moment that younger readers will accept dishonesty or half-hearted work, and see what happens to you. Anyone who thinks that writing for younger readers is an easy way of breaking into the game, should just stay on the bench” (Donelson & Nilsen, 1997, p. 100).
Here are some interesting websites that offer further perspectives and information on the problem novel:
http://aurora.icaap.org/index.php/aurora/article/view/42/55 (Aurora Online)
Stay tuned for Problem Novel Part II: A closer look at Newbery Medal winner Richard Peck, who offers a personal perspective about his writing process and views on the problem novel…
Burch, R. (1973). The new realism. In V. Haviland (Ed.), Children and literature views and reviews (pp. 281-287). Dallas: Scott, Foresman, and Company.
Donelson, K. & Nilsen, A. P. (1997). Literature for today’s young adult (5th ed.). NY: Longman.
Egoff, S. (1980). Thursday’s child: Trends and patterns in contemporary children’s literature. Chicago, American Library Assocation.
Hamilton, M. (1988). Aurora Online with Sheila Egoff: Outspoken critic and companion of children’s literature. Aurora Online. Retrieved March 4, 2008 from http://aurora.icaap.org/index.php/aurora/article/view/42/55.
Peck, R. (1992). Problem novels for readers without any. In Monseau, V. R. & Salvner, G. M. (Eds.), Reading their world: The young adult novel in the classroom (pp. 71-76). Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers.
Hi everyone, I hope it’s ok, that I post this here. This weekend, Saturday between 1-5pm, the central library is hosting an Indie Media Fair, with lots of great stuff on display and for purchase. (zines, music, film, photography, silkscreening etc.). It sounds like a fun event, and something adults and kids might both enjoy, also it might spur some programming ideas for kids and teens!
Although American, The Nation became one of my favorite reads when I first began working in libraries because the articles are so different than so much of main stream journalism. It totes itself as offering “unconventional wisdom since 1865” (thenation.com). After some of our discussions in class I began searching around on the magazine’s website to see if they had anything geared towards the next generation of voters. Student nation can be found on the main page and is geared towards youth. It showcases political pieces written by students and has some useful links. I found this article (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060717/domonoske)there posted in June of 2006 by a junior in an American high school named Carmila Domonoske. Carmila’s article earned her a finalist position in the running for a writing contest supported by The Nation. I think her article outlines a common frustration among youth in the pre-voting years. It confirms for me something that I have always believed, and that is that the public library should not shy away from politics. Creating awareness with the youth population can often be a great start. Especially during the years before they are able to vote but old enough to be frustrated by policy makers. Sources like The Nation offer a wealth of ideas, showcase student work and can be a springing board for discussions with community youth regarding the issues that are troubling them and what sort of programs or projects they’d be interested in. If you want to read a more recent piece, here’s a link to this year’s winner of The Nation’s writing contest:http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071022/thoreson
The concept of the library and the coffee house has been linked for quite some time. Thinking back to the work of Jurgen Habermas, around the time of the Revolution Habermas articulated the importance of the coffee house as a place for meeting, discussion and debate, before freedom of speech was the norm. Historically, and even today, the library is seen in the same manner, as somewhere patrons can go to access educational tools and become informed citizens. Perhaps political discussion is not as common in the library, but many still meet there for programs, to study, or simply to hang out. The following information will discuss the recent merging of coffee bars and libraries, as a marketing strategy to reach patrons- especially teens.
A 2006 study of teens reports a 25% increase in the number of teen coffee drinkers over the course of 2 years. This number is really quite staggering! When asked why, many replied that they like the caffeine and the taste, and they enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of a place like Starbucks. Bookstores have already jumped on this notion, encouraging customers to linger a while and enjoy the books, One study showed that some teens were using a local Barnes & Noble like a library- reading, studying, asking for reader’s advisory. When asked why, they gave the following reasons:
Academic libraries (who typically have more funding and are in competition for students) are latching onto this trend perhaps more quickly, by placing coffee shops in or close in proximity to their library. Wireless computer access allows students to move about the library, in a way that wasn’t possible only a few years ago. A study on this topic sought to gage college/university students library usage, study habits, and coffee consumption. The library was listed as the number 1 study location, and studying and using email were the top 2 library behaviours. In terms of coffee consumption, convenience was listed as the number 1 factor in choosing a coffee bar, and students reported drinking 1-3 cups on average per day. 33% of academic libraries in the overall sample were said to be amending their food and beverage policies to make the library a more relaxing place to be.
Coffee shops were especially a good idea in cases where libraries had extended hours. One university turned their coffee house into a place for poetry readings and open mic nights on certain nights of the week, which I thought was a great culturally enriching move. The libraries in the study reported an average of 24% more people coming in after installing their coffee bars and/or vendor. So, this service was tested to work well with college/university student, who are studying intensively and require a relaxing atmosphere to conduct their studies. Will this be as effective to bring teens into public libraries? It remains to be seen, depending on what kinds of coffee service/snack service is offered - a full service facility, variety of snacks, staff run/contracted, vending machines, etc. are all considerations. Below are a list of pros and cons to coffee houses in libraries, based on the research I have conducted.
Either way, this is an idea many libraries are considering, and I believe it is valid to consider why. I welcome any opinions on whether or not you think coffee bars/cafes are a good idea for public libraries, specifically for teens.
Anonymous. (2008). A cafe or coffee bar in the public libraries. realistic or not? Retrieved March 24th, 2008 from http://members.tripod.com/~robyn64/Page.htm
Marshall, M. (2006). The teen coffee drinking trend. WBZTV.com. Retrieved March 24th, 2008 from http://wbtv.com/Caffeine.Teen.Coffee.2.575920.html
Schott, K. (2006). Libraries with coffee shops the ‘in’ thing at area universities. BNET.com. Retrieved March 24th, 2008 from http://findarticles.com/p/articesl/mi_qa3652/is_200608/ai_n17191828/print
Singh, G. (2002). Evolving space: an examination of coffee shops in academic libraries. Retrieved March 24th, 2008 from http://www.ils.unc.edu/MSpapers/2813.pdf
I found that video we viewed about Coolhunting was really interesting, and it got me thinking about new and different ways that we as librarians could market to teens. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to get away from that stereotype of being uncool and boring, without compromising our librarian integrity? I think one of our best assets is to keep informed, whether it be with the news, with literature, with library issues, and for youth work especially, with new and upcoming TRENDS!
Granted, it could be difficult and expensive to insert new trends into the library atmosphere (ie. It may be practically impossible to replace furniture constantly or computer technology) but online environments could be enhanced by keeping up-to-date, as well as programming, and art displays, etc. I found a trendhunting site from a journalist in Toronto named Bianca Bartz. I will post the link on the blog for future reference.
Bianca posts constantly about the newest, hottest things, both for teens and in general. I thought I would use this blog space to point out some new things that have been identified as “up and coming”, as well as illustrate the importance of using this kind of tool to stay current.
These crazes may be short lasting or long lasting, no real way to tell. However, I do think that trendhunting sites would be a fresh new way for librarians to keep on top of the ever changing world of teens! Even if we can’t possibly do everything, we can at least keep up to date on what’s going on and be able to talk about it. Here are a few of the things I found most intriguing, and that I think could be incorporated into libraries in some way, shape or form:
“Manga is becoming hugely popular in North America, but we’re missing a whole genre,” Pink says. “In Japan, there’s manga for adults on business topics. We don’t have that here. So I decided to create the first business book in manga for a western audience.”
Pimp My Flats: Shoe Decorating Making a Comeback (Cool Programming Idea?)
A plain, white pair of tennis shoes provides way too much creative potential to leave them as they come. Case in point, the Pimp My Flats exhibit has some stellar designs, showcasing ordinary plimsol shoes that have been taken to the next level of hip. Each pair of Lazy Oaf shoes has been decorated differently, from designs that are wearable, even seriously desirable, to others which are just plain hideous.
Net Video Buzz Site (Under ‘Links’ on the Teen Web site?)
A really great site for finding out what videos are creating buzz on the net is ViralVideoCharts.com. Before you think it’s just another time waster, consider that, if you’re already into watching clips on the internet, this site could actually make it faster and more efficient. Surfing YouTube for videos can fun, but it can also be difficult when you don’t know where to start, which is where a site like this comes in handy. It’s also a great source for people searching for current events or wanting to be in the know when it comes to internet culture.
Electric Origami - LED Foldie (Might work as a program, especially in Toronto!)
Placing LED lights inside origami creations can be an interesting way to bring origami into the modern ages! Makes great ornaments!
Cyber Makeovers: A Big Hit With Teen Girls?
http://www.taaz.com Upload a good facial photo of yourself and you will be able to try on makeup and hairstyles and no one has to see you until it’s just perfect.
Comic books have become more and more influential for the 20th century art.
Italian designer Giuseppe Canevese brings to light the most important works of Guido Crepax in the form of furniture which can be brought into our homes.
Virtual Boyfriends & Girlfriends - V-Boy & V-Girl (Websites and Dating Trends)
Ladies, are you tired of searching for that perfect man? Instead of just settling for someone to ease the sting of loneliness, protect your heart and preserve your dignity and scoop up a sexy V-Boy instead. (Oh yeah, and guys, there’s V-Girl.com for you.)
What a fun addition to your walls. Tetris is one of my favorite games, so the prospect of having an adjustable tetris mirror is definitely exciting for me. The Tetris Mirror by UK designer Soner Ozenc is constructed out of thirteen interlocking mirrored acrylic panels. The mirror can be arranged to form a traditional rectangle, or broken apart into their individual puzzle blocks which give you a multitude of designs to come up with. The mirror comes in both A3 (11.7″ — 16.5″) and A4 (8.3″ — 11.7″) sizes, in either silver or gold reflective surfaces.
Super Web Mobiles - LG Touch Web: The New Must Have Communication Device for Teens! Web mobiles have a strong new competitor in the shape of the just announced LG Touch Web phone ‘LG-LH2300’ that sports a new “Hello UI”.The advanced beauty features a 3-inch wide full touchscreen LCD with 800 x 480 (Wide VGA) resolution and delivers full optimized Internet browsing experience. The Touch Web phone adopts Quick Search Icon providing direct access to main portals, Internet hot key and jog wheel.The mobile also features a 3M camera with auto focus, face recognition and anti-shake tech, T-DMB, Bluetooth 2.0, and Micro SD memory slot.The Touch Web is expected to be available early April in Korea for between 600,000 and 700,000 (KRW) ($600 to $700).
At Trend Hunter, we’re obsessed with eco innovation. In particular, we get our smile on whenever we see garbage recycled into art. It seems that every week there’s a new addition to this category. As a result, we’ve compiled 50 of our favorite uses for garbage in this super gallery. Top 50 Pieces of Garbage Recycled Into Art (SUPER GALLERY)I hope you have enjoyed this trend hunting experience! Perhaps we’ll see some of these in the library very soon! References:Bartz, Bianca. (2008). Trend Hunting. Retrieved March 25th, 2008 from http://www.trendhunter.com/bianca/Add a Comment
This second part will attempt to provide some direction for librarians who agree that public libraries should strive to offer balanced resources to help youth who are seeking materials about spiritual or inspirational issues. This can definitely include books that are atheistic or anti-religious as well because, it can be a strengthening experience to be aware of the views opposing your own to see if your beliefs are defensible. However, knowing what materials to include in the collection likely is a greater challenge as more and more religious movements appear within Canadian society. Librarians really do need to remain aware of user needs of the teens of their library and may feel personally uncomfortable at times in working on collection development and RA.
As was mentioned in my first post, the LPL offers a webpage for teens with links to various on-line resources discussing spiritual issues. This site offers resources that could be helpful with school reports such as demographics on religion along with other links to websites for a range of faiths and spiritual practices (”Spirituality.” (2008). London Public Library. Retrieved March 30, 2008 from www.londonpubliclibrary.ca/node/303).
YALSA also offers some direction for librarias who are searching for direction in regards to collection development. Their page on teen spirituality (http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/profdev/teenspirituality.cfm) suffers from too many links are no longer functioning, especially in regards to booklists. They do however, offer some general links to sites presentating generals statistics, summaries and further directories about religious sites such as belief.net, adherents.com, as well as to the Internet Sacred Text Archive (http://sacred-texts.com/index.htm) which offers free access to a wide range of sacred texts in electronic form.
YALSA’s page on teen spirituality presents links to two model websites in the U.S., that of Missouri River Regional Library (www.mrrl.org/teens/spirituality.asp) and Westport Public Library (www.westportlibrary.org/teens/interest/spirituality.html), for offering teenagers direction towards resources on spiritual matters. I found LPL’s site to be the equal to both these libraries in regards to the variety and clarity of the links to spiritual resources pages that are presented.
One online reading list of teen fiction with religious themes that is still available is offered by Plymouth District Library. The list was last updated in 2006 and offers mainly stories with Christian and Jewish content (”Religious fictions for teens.” (2006). Plymouth District Library. Retrieved April 1, 2008 from http://plymouthlibrary.org/godbib.htm).
In regards to visual resources, there is the video “What do you Believe - the religious and spiritual lives of American teens.” It is was a YALSA best video in 2003. The film features the lives of teens of several faiths from North America as they discuss a range of topics relating to their faith. YALSA provides a link to its site where more information can be found regarding how the film can and has been used in school courses, film festivals, etc by various organizations (Retrieved April 2, 2008 from www.whatdoyoubelieve.org/).
Finally, here are a few publications that may be useful to librarians for providing guidance when it comes to materials with spiritual themes.
Booklist: the first issue in October each year is on religion and spirituality.
Publishers Weekly: quarterly issues on religion appear in February, May, August and November.
YALSA. (2008). Teen spirituality and religion. Retrieved April 2, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/profdev/teenspirituality.cfm.
Apologies to lola2008 for piggybacking on this time slot, but as it turns out I need to post Friday-Saturday instead of Saturday-Sunday as I will not have access to a PC on this weekend! Now on to the nitty gritty of this blog post…
One of the reasons I decided to take LIS 780 was that I felt I needed more practical guidance when it came to providing teens with information services. As I am about to begin a job as an official Reference Librarian, while at the same time having been invited to take on the added responsibility of developing better teen services (a result of my opening my big mouth and pointing out that a library whose programs stop at Grade 7 is woefully underserving a giant part of the community), I am always looking for tips and tricks no matter the source. To this end, various librarians have recommended several titles that might help any new librarian develop practical services for youth. And so I offer you a book review on Get Connected: Tech Programs for Teens. Library 2.0 is certainly a huge trend at the moment (just look at this year’s OLA seminar schedule for proof), and this book offers some interesting ideas in that regard.
Get Connected: Tech Programs for Teens by RoseMary Honnold. New York: Neil-Schuman Publishers, 2007. 149 p. $45.00 USD. ISBN 9781555706135.
If a librarian were asked to identify one overwhelming trend in public library service today, there would undoubtedly be debate about whether the biggest trend was 2.0 or service to young adults. In RoseMary Honnold’s Get Connected, this Young Adult Services Coordinator at Ohio’s Coshocton Public Library has combined both topics to offer a guide to providing young adults with technology-based programs.
Divided into three major sections (Connecting for: Fun, Education, and Teen Advisory Groups), Get Connected recognizes that “today’s teens are digital natives” and that “one of the best ways to foster information literacy is by offering programs that appeal to teens’ interest in technology.” Get Connected therefore offers a range of programming suggestions that attempt to cover several of the most popular trends in tech/2.0 such as video gaming, podcasting, ebooks and audiobooks, and online research skills.
Teen services librarians from several American public libraries have contributed program descriptions to Get Connected, thereby providing the reader with practical suggestions that have already been tested successfully in the public library setting. Each chapter examines a particular topic in detail, giving the reader background information on the topic (e.g., “What is a Podcast?”), further resources for learning about the topic (e.g., “Sites for Podcasting”), and a case study explaining an example program (e.g., “Podcasting at Cheshire Public Library”). The text is enhanced with photographs of case study participants, images of promotional flyers and posters, and relevant tables and graphs.
The book’s extensive appendices would be useful to librarians serving in the United States as several concern the Bill of Rights as it relates to children’s rights to access electronic information, but Canadian librarians may not find these tools as valuable. Special audiences are also briefly addressed in this work (e.g., Earphone English at Berkeley Public Library is examined), but for the most part Get Connected assumes that its readers work in a medium-sized public library with teens without special needs.
Get Connected would be a worthwhile read for any new young adult librarian looking for tips on how to run a successful tech program aimed at young adults as it offers practical, proven suggestions on a range of tech programs both fun and educational. More experienced librarians, however, may find that the step-by-step tips and technical information are a little too basic, while librarians working in smaller libraries may find that the programs often exceed their capabilities (as many programs require a number of computers or after-hours space).
Last week in class we were asked to think a little bit about our experiences of being a young adult using libraries. “Aha!” I thought. “Blog post!” So, following is a case study of one.
My very first reliable memory is of the library. I haven’t been back to the Winnipeg public library since I was two, and in my head it is the biggest library in the world. In elementary school, school libraries were my havens. I read constantly, voraciously: mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, classics, even some non-fiction, books for kids and then books for adults. The school librarians were really good to me and would ILL things for me once I’d made my way through everything I was interested in locally. Things seemed to be shaping up for me to have a long and happy relationship with libraries.
Then, high school. I hated the high school library. I don’t know exactly why. I remember it being in a fairly inaccessible place in the school. I remember it being huge, and unwelcoming, and smelly, and full of books, but I cannot remember for the life of me a single book that was in that library. And I do remember that the librarian was terrifying, of the “cranky old white lady” variety, who did not deal with teenagers well at all, although I think she thought she did.
During that time, probably shortly after I started high school, I stopped using the public library too. And this was, in large part, because I stopped reading. Almost entirely. There was lots of stuff to read for classes, and I read that. I sometimes read books that people gave me (our family is big on the book gifting). After I started to drive, one of the places I would go to hang out with friends was Chapters, and I bought books there, although I bought more specialty coffee. I just really didn’t read like I had when I was younger.
I had other interests. Yes, boys and friends. I spent hours of my evenings on the telephone. I was heavily involved in the extracurricular drama club. We didn’t really have much in the way of tv, but when I was 15 we got a computer. With dial-up. And games. I spent a lot — a lot — of time playing computer games. I didn’t read for fun. Therefore, I didn’t go to the library.
As some of you know, I also didn’t willingly set foot in the university library for the first full year of my undergrad. My life would have been easier if I had, but there was something extremely intimidating about it, even though I went on the mandatory tours in a couple of my classes. It took an essay assignment in second year that required ten whole scholarly citations (oh, woe!) to get me to walk into the library of my own volition.
Once I had, I loved the library, and spent lots of time there. It took me getting up the courage to actually go in, use the catalogue, take the elevator, get the books, and sign them out. I remember being petrified, and my adult brain cannot possibly fathom why that would be. But it was a very real fear. Once I had accomplished it, I was so darn proud of myself.
And pleasure reading? I have started again, about two years ago, over a year after I was finished my undergrad. Slowly. Now I use the local public library regularly again, browsing the stacks, taking full advantage of holds and ILLs, and even recommending purchases I think the library should make. It feels like seeing an old friend again. We’re picking up where we left off.
There is, you see, a teenage-sized gap in my library patronage. At this stage, I have to wonder whether it is a chicken-and-egg sort of situation. Did I stop using the library because I wasn’t reading? Or did I stop reading because the library ceased being a place I wanted to go? The public library certainly wasn’t anathema in the same way the university library was, but it also wasn’t a destination for my teenage self. I don’t know the answer, and I have thought long and hard about this for years, wondering why I stopped going to a place where I felt safe, and where I always felt like I fit in. If I could go back and ask myself as a teenager what happened, I’m not sure I would have understood it even then.
I’m curious to know if my experience is similar to others’. I’ve always felt that it was kind of weird. But then, what teenager doesn’t think they’re a little bit weird compared to everyone else on the planet? The interesting thing about my own experience is, it suggests that public libraries might find attracting young people extremely difficult if we rely on pleasure reading as the staple draw, for example. It suggests that it’s a lot harder work to get teenagers to come in to the library than it appears, because before I hit high school I would have considered myself the ideal candidate for a teenager who would use a library. If I take my own experience, I would say that marketing library services to teenagers is probably futile… so, as a librarian-in-training, I have to say, I hope I was indeed weird.
Hello, my name is Amy, and I play videogames.
By now I’m sure most of you are familiar with the fact that libraries are using video games and gaming programs to reach the younger segments of their community. Some librarians, myself included, think this is a fantastic way to reinvent our selves and our services to reach a segment that is historically underserved. Others are skeptical, wondering why libraries are encouraging kids, who already spend way too much time in front of screens, to plug in even more.
Should libraries be in on gaming? Should we be encouraging, supporting, and enabling young people to play?
My answer? Yes.
The fact is, lots of people play videogames, and it’s not just the wee ones. The latest stat from ESA shows the average age of gamers is 35. So you’re thinking, yeah, okay a 35 year old doesn’t really fall into our pre-teen to early-twenties YA services age group. And yeah, you’re probably right.
But what this does mean is that those 35 year old gamers have and are having children who are born into families where gaming is not only the norm, it’s a family past time. Shouldn’t libraries, then, get with gaming now so that when in a few years down the road that kid, who has grown up with gaming in their family, walks into their local public library and sees their values reflected there?
The average age of the gamer might be 35, but that doesn’t mean the age stops there. There are scads of young people, boys as well as girls (yep, it’s true!) who play videogames all the time as a hobby, way to kill time after school, or as a way to interact with friends.
To be honest, I don’t see what the big deal is. I’ve read a ton of pro-gaming and anti-gaming arguments, and I’m sick of the media driven fear-mongering that says video games make kids fat and lazy. With today’s innovative gaming technologies—such as the Nintendo Wii and its active-style of gaming—we could argue that videogames make kids skinny and active. Then there’s the videogames make kids violent argument… but on the other side, there’s credible thinkers and researchers that debunk this myth.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that for every negative argument for videogames, there’s a corresponding positive to balance it out.
My question? Which side are you on?Posted in Gaming, Library Programs, Public libraries, Teens and Media
Well, I’ve really enjoyed putting these few blog posts together and I hope I’ve given you some good information and some stuff to think about. I thought I’d wrap up my time as daily-blogger with a little story.
Before I came to library school I worked as a reader’s advisor at a public library. I had the urge to put on a gaming program for teens; we had never done one before and had no idea how the turn out would be. I partnered up with another staff member at the library and together we rounded up 4 PS2s (one was the library’s, 1 was my own, and 2 we borrowed from our pages) and 4 digital projectors (2 were the library’s and 2 we borrowed from the school district who graciously let us borrow them for free.)
So, at the time we decided to do this, Guitar Hero 3 had just come out and my partner and I were busy rocking out at home. We happened to own all 4 versions of the game (GH1, 2, Rock the 80s, and now GH3) but only had 2 of the guitar controllers ourselves. With a stroke of luck, the two pages we had borrowed the PS2s from also had 1 GH controller each, so we were set to have 3 of the 4 PS2s playing Guitar Hero. For the fourth, we decided to set up the library’s 2 DDR mats and the DDR game so people could get their groove on.
We put the word out via our web site, posters, and flyers that we handed out at a regularly attended high-profile Lego program just 2 weeks before the gamer day was scheduled to take place. Who knew if advertising such a short period of time would be enough?
The program was scheduled to take place for 2 hours in the afternoon on a professional development day, a Friday, when kids were out of school. I arrived early and my co-worker and I set up four separate gaming stations in separate areas of the room, 3 with different versions of Guitar Hero, and 1 with DDR.
It was still almost an hour before the event was scheduled to start, and I was informed by one of the ref. desk staff that some boys were already here and asking if we needed help to set up!! They were chomping at the bit to get in the room and get rocking.
We finally decided to let them in when it got closer to starting time, and didn’t look back. Older kids, teens, aunts, uncles, parents, grandmas and grandpas poured in and challenged each other to DDR dance offs and rocked out to Guitar Hero. People sang, people played along, they danced. It was dark, loud, and the atmosphere was great. For a first ever gaming program at a medium-sized library with mostly borrowed equipment and 2 staff who’d never done anything like this before, we smashed it out of the park. I counted 45+ people that day, which was amazing for our program attendance numbers, especially considering we had advertised it so late and were in competition with other Pro-D events happening throughout the city.
Some highlights of the day:
An uncle who exclaimed, “This is awesome! Can I play too?” who had brought his 3 nieces into the library that day not knowing our gamer day was planned
2 very confused-looking teen boys who had never come to the library before. Guitar Hero brought them in, and our CD collection got them browsing. “I didn’t know the library had CDs!!” You can bet I gave them a library tour!
2 young brothers who were Guitar Hero rock gods and who blew everyone away. They couldn’t have been older than 9, but they were shredding on expert level and everyone was amazed!!!
And finally, my personal favourite, 4 of our “usual boys” who come to the library in the morning and don’t leave until it closes and are on the computers all day long. As the program was ending, they begged me to leave up one system so they could battle each other in GH3. I literally had to kick them out of the room 15 minutes before closing so I could dismantle everything in time to go home. As I ushered them out the door, they asked, “When is the next gamer day?”
How can I argue with that?Posted in Gaming, Library Programs, Public libraries, Teens and Media