Friday, April 30, 2010

Comic book bonanza

Every library has comic book fans and this weekend they may be able to get a freebie of one of their favorite items. Saturday, May 1, is Free Comic Book Day and comic book stores across the country will be giving away a free comic book to anyone who comes in. The YALSA Blog gives details about this event. Children's and YA librarians may be able to make new friends by telling kids about this opportunity. Now that almost every library has become accustomed to including comic book formats in their collection, there's no reason not to celebrate them. Comics are great for drawing in readers, not only reluctant readers, but many of our best students enjoy the format. This is short notice, but you can get the word out in your library and mark your calendar to publicize it next year. The day is celebrated on the first Saturday in May every year.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No end to e-books

The controversy about e-books set off by the release of Apple's i-Pad last month continues on and on. Charlie Rose interviewed Ken Auletta, who wrote an article about e-books in the New Yorker. If New Yorker readers, who must be more print-oriented than almost any other Americans, are fascinated by e-books, you can imagine what the general run of young readers must think. The Los Angeles Times book festival last week featured a panel on the future of e-books, which according to the report in Publishes Weekly was a lively discussion. The pricing of e-books continues to be a factor in their popularity because the average reader cannot fathom why an electronic file should cost just as much as a heavy, print on paper creation. The work of authors, editors, and publishers is unseen and less valued by people who think of the book as a commodity. Of course, the erosion of editorial work on many books, leading to sloppy typos, factual mistakes, and misspellings that litter many new books, has lessened everyone's respect for the traditional craft of copy editing and fact checking. And the insistence of publishers on producing outsized, hard covered editions that are inconvenient to read or to carry around, irritates many potential readers. Instead of insisting loudly on their rights, all participants in book production ought to look to improving their services and the value of their products. Then perhaps readers would be willing to pay for a well-crafted, well-edited, and attractive reading experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keeping up with the flow

Once again we can thank the Pew Research organization for giving us useful information about how young teenagers (13 to 17) use communication media. As reported in School Library Journal, the research group found that social media sites are the most popular place for young teens to post. Blogs are fading in their appeal, perhaps because blogs are based on the idea of longer posts, which might strike some teens as almost like an assigned paper for school. Facebook is filled with short twitter-like posts, although the twitter site itself is not a favorite choice for teens. As usual, what librarians probably want to take from this is to be sure to keep up a Facebook, or other social media, presence until the trend turns. And whatever you do, don't turn in love with any one format. When the kids move on to something else, we have to be ready to move too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Keep your eyes open

Children's librarians struggle to keep a broad range of books and other materials on the shelves for children. Both school and public librarians do most of their purchasing from large wholesalers, but very often less high-demand items are purchased from small suppliers. If a recent move in New York City spreads very far, this source of targeted materials may dry up. According to a recent story in the NY Times, the large wholesalers have offered city schools a 30 percent discount on all materials and thus insured for themselves a monopoly on school purchases. While this arrangement is not for library materials but for classroom supplements, it may cause ripples across the system. Small suppliers often handle foreign-language materials or those aimed at special education students. If they go out of business because of this decision, as some are saying is likely to happen, that source will dry up for libraries as well as classrooms. Decisions made in remote administrative offices often affect the day-to-day activities of children's librarians. It's important to watch what is happening and to raise the alarm through professional associations so that our children will not be shortchanged because of being overlooked by those at the top.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another giant passes

As the years go by, many of the great authors and illustrators of the late twentieth century are leaving the scene. Today's news is that John Schoenherr, the honored illustrator of Owl Moon, which won the Caldecott Medal, has died. Most libraries still have copies of Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen, on their shelves so a new generation of children can continue to see the mysterious, unforgettable illustrations of a night in the woods. Knowing there won't be more books from John Schoenherr makes a librarian realize how irreplaceable some of the children's books in their collections are. I'm a fan of e-books for many purposes, but having a digital copy of a classic book still isn't the same as a beloved paper copy. I wonder how John Schoenherr felt about his legacy. He was also an illustrator of science-fiction books including the classic Dune series so presumably he kept his eyes on the future and welcomed changes, but there are some works of art that shouldn't change too much. John Schoenherr's illustrations were among the keepers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Are picture books migrating?

The release of the i-pad has unleashed a lot of excitement in the children's publishing world. At last it seems possible that children's picture books could go online without losing the illustrations and idiosyncratic fonts that make many of them so appealing. Publisher's Weekly outlined the plans of some of the largest publishers. There is no doubt that authors and illustrators will be watching to see whether these first ventures are accepted by parents and children. Anyone who has watched young children in cars or airplanes busily watching DVDs of children's books knows that young children are not opposed to seeing books on a screen rather than in print. And think of the convenience of a long road trip or family vacation on which parents could take dozens of picture books and alternate reading them instead of going over one dog-eared copy of Curious George fifty or sixty times. The i-pad may be a boon to several generations.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The joys of blogging

Starting a library blog is a favorite activity in many children's departments these days. Blogging librarians might want to read about the success of a New Jersey family--mother, father, and two daughters--who started blogging about the books they enjoy and have attracted thousands of readers. According to the NY Times in "A Family that Reads and Reviews together" the Lateiner started because they enjoy sharing the books they love with others. Their success has led publishers to send them review copies of new books, so their enterprise grows. Perhaps some energetic librarian will start a neighborhood or school blog that could be equally successful. Check it out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where is Mom anyway?

The absent or dead parent has been a long tradition in children's books. Many of the favorite characters have adventures in a world free from parents. Think of Tom Sawyer or Alice who never gives a thought to her parents as she wanders in Wonderland. But as the N.Y. Times book review editor Julie Just points out, in the past parents weren't pictured as being bad parents, just absent ones. During the 1990s and 2000s, however, parents became more problematic. Teen novels in particular began to feature parents who were too preoccupied to pay attention to their children or were lost in mists of drugs, alcohol, or mental illness. Should librarians worry about this trend? Surely it does not reflect the true state of parenting today when many schools (though surely not all) worry more about hovering, interfering parents than about negligent ones. Most likely the portraying of parents in a popular book like Coraline who are too preoccupied with their computers to notice their daughter leaving, indicate that many children love the idea of such independence. Unlike authors of a century ago, authors today no longer kill off the parents, but they still manage to get them out of the story. This frees up the young protagonists to enjoy the independence they crave.