Monday, November 24, 2008

Still more views of ebooks

Are we or are we not teetering on the brink of a major change in the format of our books? Almost every week, it seems, some author, publisher, librarian or teacher weighs in on whether children are likely to adopt books on machines. The recent issue of The Horn Book gives three useful viewpoints on the value of reading ebooks. All three have a favorable view of the idea of reading an electronic format and all three have experience with the gadgets. Stephen Roxbugh points out that the format in which we read doesn't matter nearly as much as the content. If children immerse themselves in the world of the Hobbit it doesn't really matter whether they do so on a page of on Kindle. For librarians this is probably the most important thing to remember. Our goal is to introduce children to literature--the magic of story and the fascination of facts--whether on a page or a screen is not really important. Whatever we do, let's not waste our time arguing about the life, death, or flourishing of books, let's consider how we can best offer them to children.

This blog, like the rest of the country, will take a brief vacation this week. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sharing good ideas

Media phenomena like the current Twilight stories now appearing on movie screens to thrill preteen girls offer a good opportunities for librarians to encourage reading. Somehow the books chosen for wild popularity seldom are the ones recommended by librarians and professional organizations, but series reading does bring patrons into the library and may even lead to further reading. The value of technology is helping librarians build on this interest increases every year. A recent post on a library mailing list offered a link to this attractive collection of quizes on the Twilight books posted on a library wiki. All of us owe gratitude to our colleagues who make the effort to develop these resources and take the time to share them with the library community. Once gain we have to recognize that technology is not our rival but our partner in reaching out to young people.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All children literate?

With the growth of audio books, large print books, and talking computers, Braille materials have been dropped out of many library collections. For children with severe vision difficulties, however, learning Braille is still important. A recent SLJ article describes a campaign to support Braille teaching for children. The "Braille readers are leaders" campaign will encourage all states to pass legislation requiring the teaching of Braille to all blind children. Many blind scholars report that being able to keep records and record ideas in Braille has helped them immeasurably in their work. As the teaching of Braille becomes more widespread, many library systems may find that Braille materials will become an important part of of their collections for a niche audience of blind individuals. More information can be found at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everything is different here!

Technology changes everything--we've all heard that many times over. But how much have school and public library children's spaces changed lately? Taking a fresh look at the problem of bringing children and information together has sparked some professional thinking of entirely new ways of operating a school library. David Loerscher's article "Flip the Library..." in SLJ this month suggests that school libraries be changed into Learning Commons where various educational professionals could offer learning materials and situations to children. Although the concentration in the article is on school libraries, it will cause public librarians to wonder how they can change children's libraries into Commons. Just as Google has made all of us think about technology in new ways, integrating it into our lives more closely than it ever has been before, perhaps the time has come to look at technology not as an add-on to library services, but as an integrated part of service. It's one more step in putting the emphasis less on bricks and mortar and more on experiential learning. The time to move is now before we lose our chance!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An electronic future?

Most children's librarians are so immersed in the world of books that they don't always recognize changing trends. How popular is the Kindle with teenagers and even middle-school students? Has anyone tried to study that yet? The N.Y. Times has tried to sum up some of the ways publishers are moving toward making books available in electronic format. Although the article doesn't specifically talk about children's books, we all know that young people are among the first to adopt electronic forms of recreation and information. Will book publishers avoid the problems that have beset the music industry? The Google agreement with the Author's Guild appears to offer a good model for offering profits to authors while also offering the convenience of electronic for mat for readers. It's important for librarians to be away of changes in publishing and to move to take advantage of trends that benefit libraries and children.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where do books fit in?

Although this article from the Los Angeles Times is not specifically aimed at the youth market, the behavior it talks about definitely apply. Both books and the Internet are important tools for searching and understanding information. Neither one is complete in itself, at least not for the 21st century. The knowledge base of the world has exploded in recent years and instead of searching out all possible information, the task now is to narrow down the barrage into usable chunks. As librarians we need to provide information in all formats and help children to learn how to use them all. Books are not going to disappear; they have new allies in the world of online sources and user-generated content. It's not a change to bemoan, but one to celebrate.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poetry and music merge

Another reminder of how the arts and popular culture intertwine has come out in a book called Hip Hop Speaks to Children, which combines hip hop lyrics and poetry from the past to offer children "poetry with a beat". The barriers between the high culture of the library and the everyday culture of the streets continue to come down. Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes seem at home among their young descendants of the hip-hop era and many children (and their parents) may be happy to learn they've been hearing poetry all along as they listen to their favorite songs. Although some in the media still view the library as a citadel remote from daily life, increasingly the energy of popular culture is being welcomed and reflected back to children at the same time that librarians introduce them to the vibrant worlds of the past. The value of libraries lies in their universality and the easy mingling of cultures and ideas from all times, all places, and all peoples.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Building skills with games

Even though many librarians and other adults deplore the amount of time young teens spend on video games, American Libraries reports on a conference that reported research supporting many games as skill-builders for young people. Speakers at the conference pointed out how complex many games are and how players must learn the weaknesses and skills of numerous characters in the games if they hope to win games such as Pokemon. The settings of some of the video games are related to real life history and may even encourage youngsters to learn more about the wars and other struggles that have shaped our world. Over the years, adults have fretted about the bad effects of children's recreational choices, but it may well be that once again the adults are wrong.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Children's Lit at the movies

One of the biggest names in comic strips, at least in Europe, is Tintin, a Belgian strip that is read by adults and children alike. Now the Tintin stories are about to be turned into not one, but two, movies--potential blockbusters that will doubtless raise Tintin's profile in American libraries. As this story from the business section of the N.Y. Times makes clear, Tintin is a valuable property being fought over by major studios. With Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson behind the films, you can expect a major impact on publishers and libraries, starting in 2010 when the first film is slated to be released. Publishers are no doubt firming up projects to capitalize on the expected popularity of the films and prudent librarians may look ahead and plan on fitting Tintin into their summer reading programs. It never hurts to be prepared and librarians who read the business pages are usually a step ahead of those who stick to the book review section.