Feckless Friday: I Cried at the Library Edition
I didn’t really cry, I just got choked up a little bit while relating a story about my reluctant reader who used to check out piles of nonfiction books and now doesn’t check out anything.
Some backstory, perhaps? Our library, the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, moved the junior nonfiction into the adult section, totally intermingled with all the adult books, making the formerly-easy-to-access-and-super-awesome junior nonfiction books completely difficult and overwhelming for children to browse. Many moms I know have complained about the change, so I set up a meeting with some administrators, the branch manager, and the children’s librarian to see if we could figure out how to fix the issue. Here I give a huge shout out to the moms who came with me and the moms who were there in thought. You guys rock.
Turns out, the library people know that easy access to books is an important part of promoting literacy. They also know that the junior nonfiction is not easily accessible when it’s all mixed in with adult books. We wanted to make it clear that the most important part of a child’s library experience is that magic that happens when a she’s wandering around the stacks and she just stumbles upon something that she didn’t even know she was interested in. That’s where true life-long, self-motivated learners are born.
The administrators told us that circulation has gone up since they implemented the interfiled system, but everybody knows that the recession is a huge reason for increased circulation. Even in Ohio. Yes, every one of those links is to an article pointing at all of those libraries with increased circulation as further proof of the recession, so I’m pretty sure the interfiled system has nothing to do with the better numbers. Also, Charity pointed out that the CML website has vastly improved, making it easier to reserve books online, which we all do all the time. The administration also pointed out that separating the junior nonfiction from the adult is super hard for the people who re-shelve the books. That teeny little “j” in front of the numbers is overlooked.
Of course, none of us were happy with those explanations and we told them so. Basically, they’re going to implement some interim things, such as more nonfiction displays in the junior section, but they seemed unwilling to make the changes that would give kids easy access to the entire junior nonfiction collection, which is a shame.
I love the library and I hate being the one complaining about the library, but circulation in this house has gone way down since implementing these changes and I know we’re not alone. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined any scenario in which I would write angry letters to the library. This is an uncomfortable situation for me. Extremely uncomfortable. But I can see that this is affecting my daughters’ literacy. There is nothing better than the independence a kid feels when she gets lost in the stacks and grabs a book that looks interesting, only to find a new passion that leads to more learning and more discovery than she ever could have imagined. That is a whole different level of learning that is only possible with easy access to those books. Searching through all of the adult books and trying to figure out which ones are relevant to kids and which ones aren’t is too overwhelming for kids.
If you feel like supporting our cause, click on the “contact us” button at the library’s website and let them know. Just a couple of simple sentences: “I support encouraging literacy in children by making junior nonfiction accessible to young people. Separate the junior nonfiction from the adult nonfiction.”