Thursday, January 17, 2013

Checked Out on Checking Out Books

A library without books. Looks a bit sterile doesn't it?

Last fall I watched an episode of MTV's  sitcom "The Inbetweeners." The show chronicles the lives of four high school boys who reside on the outskirts of all social circles at their public high school. This particular episode featured an energy drink company sponsoring a makeover of the school library. When the new library was unveiled, the students and distraught librarian discovered that all the books had been removed. In their place were vending machines for the energy drinks, video game monitors and a bunch of Art Deco furniture.

I certainly had a few laughs when I watched the show and felt especially proud that some of the students protested the absence of the books. Then I forgot all about it.

Well I'm not laughing today.

This week the library world is a-buzz talking about a high school that has in fact removed its print collection from the space. It's now a learning center with tables, chairs and computers. The few print books that remain on campus have been distributed to classrooms for teacher supervised lending libraries. You can read the details here.

When I Google searched to find the article again for this post, I was shocked at how long it took me to find it because this bookless library thing is happening in several places.  Rather than being seen as a cause for public concern, this new model is heralded as progressive.  The word thriving is thrown around a lot.

I'll spare you a rant here (you can read my thoughts in the comments section of the article) but I will show you what isn't happening in these libraries but is happening here in the HHS LMC.

One English class has begun their poetry unit. Every day this week we've had students coming in looking for a poet to read and study. Because we are a full service LMC I was able to do this on Monday-

First I asked the student what type of fiction she enjoyed. Using that information I suggested a contemporary poet, Lucille Clifton.  I handed the young lady a copy of Ms. Clifton's work and then referred her to You Tube, where she could view video clips of Ms. Clifton reading her work. The student sat down at a computer and fifteen minutes later she return to the circulation desk and declared, "I really want to read this book now!"

And I was able to let her take it with her that very moment.

Yesterday a boy came in with an list of classic novels. He needed to pick one to read and did not appear too happy about it. He admitted that he rarely read for pleasure. The only descriptive word I could get out him to describe the type of book he might enjoy was adventure. So I took him to the stacks (where the books are) and we wandered up and down the Classics section. At first I wasn't sure what to recommend, but being near the books immediately put ideas in my head and within a few moments I had four suggestions. He took home a copy of Frankenstein.

A school library is a gathering place, an information source and a support center. We would be half a library if we offered only digital materials or print materials. I was able to give my students exactly what they needed because we have integrated all platforms for materials here in the LMC.

So why care about what's happening in a Catholic school library in the Midwest? Because if we don't pay attention to trends in libraries, if we don't advocate for the services and materials to make students successful, the people who make decisions will make one without all the facts.

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