Sunday, August 29, 2010

Try this at your library

An innovative approach to encouraging poetry writing is being tried in Long Beach, California where poetry boxes have been placed outside two coffee houses. The boxes are designed to look like green mailboxes, and the idea is for writers to slip their latest poetic efforts into the box. When enough good poems have been collected, they will be published as a book. Why not try this at your library? Teens and tweens often like to write poetry, although they are sometimes shy about sharing it A nice anonymous box to drop it in might attract them. A committee of teens could choose the poetry for publication. It wouldn't have to be printed in a book--it could be featured on the library blog, webpage, or Facebook page. Writers could have the choice of putting their name on the piece or having it shown anonymously--most will no doubt opt for the fame of being named. Who knows what talent might turn up at the library?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sometimes together; sometimes separate

I was talking with a children's librarian the other day and mentioned a great idea I had seen on the YALSA blog. Her immediate response was "Oh, I'm an ALSC person, not a YALSA" That remark has bothered me for days now. Maybe as librarians we do too much to categorize ourselves into little groups with different characteristics and interests. Of course we want to exchange ideas with people who have the same kind of job and the same problems we have, but there are times when it's important to look beyond the narrow precincts of the children's room. After all, our patrons don't stick closely to what we define as "children's materials" or "children's services". They go through a stage of trying to be a teenager, slipping back into childhood, and then trying again. There is no hard and fast line between a tween and a teen and we ought to think about both groups. Some of the most exciting advances in library services these days are coming from the teen department. If you haven't talked to a "YALSA person" lately, you ought to think about signing onto the YALSA blog and checking out what they have been saying. Many of the ideas there are just as applicable to younger children as they are to teens--and you'll get to hear ideas from some pretty nice people. It makes you proud to be a librarian.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More fuss about censorship

The optmistic way to look at attempts to ban particular books from libraries is to realize that if people didn't think books were powerful, they wouldn't bother to ban them. However, it's difficult to hold onto that thought when authors' works are being withdrawn from some schools and libraries and one YA writer has been disinvited from a YA Lit Festival. Ellen Hopkins was dropped from the Texas festival after a librarian and a few parents had expressed doubts about her books which deal with current teen topics such as meth addiction and prostitution. Several other authors also withdrew from the festival after reading the story on Hopkins's blog. It's sad that so many parents and school officials don't believe teens can handle mature subjects when most teens are dealing with them day to day. When are we going to learn to trust young people?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Historic graphic novels

Graphic novels seem like a new format to many librarians, but the early graphic novels in the U.S. date back at least 80 years. Lynd Ward, the distinguished illustrator of many children's books during the mid-twentieth century published his first graphic novel in 1929. Now the American Library is reprinting several of his books in a boxed set with an introductin by Art Spiegelman. These books don't resemble recent graphic novels very closely. They consist mainly of full page woodcuts, beautifully detailed, and with no words at all. The story is told entirely through pictures--black-and-white pictures at that. If you don't think such a book could hold your interest, you ought to take a look at these. They are remarkably beautiful creations. You probably don't want to order them for the children's collection, but for an adult collection they will be a valuable source for art students, writers, illustrators, and anyone interested in American literary history--or just a good read.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

E-books march on

Day after day new reports come out about how e-books are supplanting paper books in many readers' affections. Today the N.Y. Times reports that Barnes & Noble, one of the country's largest booksellers is switching its emphasis toward e-books. With many readers now switching to e-books downloaded from online stores, the standard old-fashioned book stores are desperately worried. Barnes & Noble recently announced it would devote more space in its stores to the Nook, it's e-book reader, and less to bookshelves. The N.Y. Times piece quotes several readers who prefer e-books to print, especially because they are cheaper to buy. One odd thing about the report is that no mention is made of libraries, where books area vailable free. We know that only a tiny percentage of all Americans buy any books at all. Far more use their local library. The switch to e-books will not actually affect the majority of Americans; losing support for libraries would be more damaging. The challenge for librarians is to decide how to make e-books and other online products available to their users. Journals have found viable business plans for moving online while remaining available in libraries, but book publishers do not appear to be thinking about that. Perhaps librarians should take the initiative and suggest possibilities.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Phone to library databases

Many middle and high school students are seldom seen without their iPhone in hand. Now they can use that phone to access the databases in their school library. A new app reported in School Library Journal recently allows a student to enter a password and be given access to many of the databases purchased by their school library. Of course they are limited to a ten-mile radius of their school but that shouldn't be a problem. More difficult for an adult to understand might be how they'll be able to read the references on the tiny iPhone screen, but no doubt many youthful eyes can cope with that. Teachers may find better documentation in homework assignments and essays as students learn about this useful new tool.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Writers and illustrators into the future

The Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) met in L.A. last weekend. This gathering of over 1,000 writers, illustrators, editors, and agents is one of the most important in the children's book world. These are the people who produce the content that keeps our public and school libraries going and introduce each new generation of children to the pleasures of reading. As reported in Publishers Weekly, the emphasis this year was on embracing the digital world.The growing trend toward using e-books means that childrens' writers and will have to produce more content than ever and produce it in formats that look good on i-Pads, Kindles, and other e-book readers. Librarians would do well to keep up with the writes and publishers and think more about how to integrate these new materials into all of our libraries.