Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A study to watch for

Although the full report hasn't yet been released, Scholastic's survey of 2000 children about their attitudes toward e-books seems to have some interesting tidbits. According to a N.Y. Times report today, the report shows that not very many kids have access to e-books, but they would like to read e-books. Many of them say they would read for fun more often if they had e-book readers and could use those instead of print books. At the same time, they express a liking for the old-fashioned print on paper books--but then, don't adults have the same dual response to e-books? It seems to me most readers enjoy reading e-books for their practical advantages, but the tug of emotional attachment comes from print books that we have read over the years. Probably both formats will survive for many years to come and those of us who are lucky, including libraries, can have the best of both worlds--as long as we can pay the price.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Miss Spider at the Grocery Store

The latest PW article about Digital Publishing for Children makes a good point and one that librarians should note. Buying a book as an iPad or iPhone app does not necessarily mean a family won't buy the same book in print or borrow it from the library. A popular story like "Miss Spider's Tea Party" makes a perfect bedtime read at home when sitting in Mom or Dad's lap is part of the enjoyment, but as an app it can also be enjoyed over and over again sitting in a grocery cart or in a subway car. All librarians and parents know that children love to return again and again to the same story, so why not have it available in convenient format for many occasions? Several publishers believe that owning multiple copies of books in different formats will become an important factor sales. For less affluent families for whom a hardcover children's book is too expensive, a library copy to supplement the inexpensive phone app will be a likely solution. Everyone connected with publishing these days is making predictions about what the future will hold, some will be right, but not all. To catch up on what the industry is thinking, librarians will want to check out the new issue of PW, which also lists the forthcoming books for the fall.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Anyone for a rainy Sunday?

I hope you planned on a quiet Sunday this week, because the N.Y. Times produced an issue of their Sunday magazine that deserves some thoughtful reading and mulling over. One article that could get you started is Kevin Kelly's piece on "Achieving Technoliteracy". It starts from Kelly's experience home-schooling his 8th grade son for a year, but it raises issues that affect every teacher and librarian. In helping his son learn about the world around, Kelly and his wife found that technology was essential but not sufficient. A computer, camera and other technology can help students learn, but they are not sufficient. Librarians could think of themselves as a type of home-schooling teacher, because they encourage young people to lern at their own pace and they supply the tools to help them do it. Teachers are great at leading a group into learning experiences and helping them to master skills, but the time comes when individuals must take responsibility for their own learning. None of the facts and figures children learn in school today will be enough to get them through their working life, and many of them will turn out to be false and outdated. Children need to learn how to learn, and learn how to use technology as well as books and experience to help them to do this. Librarians can offer a wide range of materials from which individuals can pick what is useful to them. In a learning society we will all be teachers and we will also be learners. So curl up in a comfortable chair today with the print edition, or fire up your laptop, and read this article and others in the NY Times Magazine to start your ideas flowing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scattering libraries around

Airport bookstores are the despair of many frequent flyers because the book stock is often limited to bestsellers and business books aimed at travelers with their minds on work. Now, according to a N.Y. Times report a new library has opened at the busy international airport in Amsterdam aimed at a different audience. The library books are chosen to show Dutch culture and thought to the world through a variety of books--short stories, essays, poetry--with the idea that travelers who often spend four or more hours between flights will be able to dip into the life of the Netherlands even if they aren't able to travel into the city and see the sights. It seems to work. The library has attracted a number of users, some of whom like the books so much that they take them with them and then return them on their next stopover at the airport. The Times article doesn's say whether any children's books are included in the library's collection, but it surely would be a good idea to have some. Many families heading for overseas vacations spend dreary hours in airports. How refreshing it would be to have a handy source of reading materials for impromptu storyhours, or just browsing. Perhaps American libraries could consider offering similar outposts in busy stopover airports. Surely with all our technology today, a library could even loan the books on someone's local library card and allow the patron to return the book at home. There might have to be a small postage charge added for the service, but what a wonderful way to introduce good books to children and their families.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Encouraging young scientists

An article in School Library Journal alerts all of us to an encouraging development at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, PA.The YA department there has created a new webpage called STEM featuring nonfiction books in science, math and technology for teens. Publishers are producing slick, attractive books with intriguing titles on a multitude of science-related topics these days and the Carnegie PL has found a way to encourage teens to find them. It will take some time to see whether this site actually encourages more girls to study science, but it's a logical step to take. Librarians across the country will be watching to see how successful it is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Graphic novels going strong

Kids still love graphic novels, although some publishers find sales are dropping, perhaps as a result of the economic climate. As long as there are good graphic stories available, librarians will continue to buy them because they move quickly in libraries and keep children coming back for more. Lerner has become a leader in providing these books for the school and library market and according to Publishers Weekly has no intention of cutting back. Children are still delighted with stories about King Arthur and Greek gods as well as modern detective stories told in graphic formats. Perhaps it is their grandparents who harbor dim memories of the old Classic Comics who understand best the appeal of mythic heroes in strips of pictures and text. Whatever the reason, the elaborate artistic, and often rather static, illustrations of years past have given way to the stripped-down, action-packed style of comic books of today. Is this a genuine turn in aesthetic taste or a short-lived trend? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Librarians aren't the only ones

It's not just librarians who are fretting about how far to go in moving their collections toward e-books. What is going to happen to all those people who prefer paper and enjoy the feel of pages turning? A recent article in the N.Y. Times points out that publishers, editors, and readers are just as confusing. Some couples are becoming two-copy families as they purchase both the print and e-book version of a book because they differ on which version they like to read. It seems that for quite a while to come, librarians will have to have two versions of many of their materials (perhaps more than two) in order to satisfy the differing preferences of patrons. With budgets being what they are, this couldn't have come at a worse time.