Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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A quick fix

Posted by lpearle on 19 June 2011

I’ve been going through my personal library with an eye to – gasp! – weeding out those books I don’t absolutely love/would want to re-read/would want to loan to like-minded readers.  As I’m doing so, I’ve been thinking about a number of the libraries I’ve seen recently and conversations I’ve had with other librarians about displays and reading.

One of those conventional wisdom things is that high school students are too busy to read (they’re worried about their GPA, they’re building their college résumé, there’s no time thanks to sports and afterschool clubs, etc.).  Here’s the thing: that’s nonsense.  This year our non-fiction circulation among grades 9-12 skyrocketed, and you can’t convince me that these students were any less studious, any less interested in getting into a good college or any less involved with sports and other extracurriculars than their peers.  What changed?  We put fiction front and center.

In a number of the libraries I saw this year, fiction was hidden in the back or upstairs.  What greeted the library visitor?  Reference.  Now, perhaps my students are different, but they don’t need to be reminded that the reference books exist (we’ve interfiled them in the collection, which has led to their being used more during research than before).  When they’re working on a project on the Cold War, they’ll look at the relevant shelves and use the books there. Some students use the non-fiction for personal reasons, but the vast majority go there because there’s a grade involved.

But fiction?  That’s something they want to read – and they’re always looking for the next new great thing.  So why hide it?  Why keep it tucked out of the way?  Remember when Brian Jacques died?  We immediately did a display of all the Redwall books, and many students stopped to look and remember how much they’d enjoyed the series.  Some even borrowed a more recent book!

One librarian asked what I’d change in their space and my immediate response was “I’d move the fiction to the front”.  Not just the Middle School fiction, but all of it.  It’s summer now, and if you make the same switch, I’m guessing you’ll also prove conventional wisdom wrong.

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