Maureen Mann presents this week’s Blog. Maureen was the recipient of the 2006 Tasmanian Teacher Librarian of the Year Award and in 2008 was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Tasmanian Branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA), for her tireless work with children’s literature.
While reflecting on what to write, now that my blog responsibility has come around again and thinking that I would do something other than my usual commentary on what I have read, I visited my grandson’s local library. He lives in an ethnically diverse part of greater Toronto in Canada.
It’s part of a vibrant forward-thinking library organisation with several branches. Walk into a bright, welcoming environment where the stock is up-to-date and appropriate for the cultural needs of the community, across all ages. I picked up a 24-page booklet full of ideas for everyone – kids, teens, adults, newcomers as well as long-term residents. The summer reading program for children, just about to get under way, includes prizes for the school with the most enrolments. For teens, the challenge of collectively reading two million pages together and then creating a book trailer for the preferred book(s). Of course, these can be e-books not just paper versions. There’s an invitation to go on a blind date with a book; a brown-paper-wrapped title with no clue apart from a genre suggestion. Magazines are available for free download and there is access for music downloads. The central branch has a professional 3D printer, apparently the only one so far available in a public institution in Canada.
So after a very positive visit I started thinking about the inappropriate stereotypes still promulgated about libraries. Let’s look at a few:
· Staff, who are old women with buns going: “Shhhhhhh!” No. Staff are often young and hate the idea of silence around them.
· Dark and musty spaces. No. well-patronised and successful libraries are bright, airy, warm environments where all members of the community are welcomed.
· Old, out-of-date stock. No. Modern readers expect the best of the most recent publications, whether in electronic or traditional formats.
· Only readers need to visit. No. Everyone is welcomed in an environment where all information needs are catered for using all kinds of technologies, whether traditional paper or the most advanced developments, such as 3D printers.
· Libraries are superseded by Google and the like. No. Libraries support this technology especially for those who don’t have the skills to access and assess the wealth of information now available.
· Libraries don’t need support. No. Many members of the community see the library as an essential for their environment but forget that to maintain them the funding bodies need to be given that message. The best way to do this is to visit and use your local library very regularly.
I happened upon a great article from The Rotarian magazine – and, no, not because I am a Rotarian. http://therotarianmagazine.com/in-praise-of-libraries. The article and the resultant comments make for thoughtful reading.
For fun support of libraries have a look at this online poem from Scroobius Pip, a spoken word poet and hip hop artist. http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/scroobius-pip-crafts-poem-in-praise-of-libraries/95423
What do libraries mean to you? How can we get rid of the unacceptable stereotypes? We’d love to hear your views.