NOTES ON CURRENT READING
I don't know if you've discovered a brand new publication called Book: The Magazine for the Reading Life. The July-August issue has a feature on teenage readers, with some interesting data on teen reading habits. The good, and counter-intuitive, news is that a survey of 2000 teens found that 61% of them did read for pleasure, and that they spent nearly 4 hours a week doing it. The article includes information about favorite authors, and how kids allocate their reading time between books, magazines, newspapers and the net, and finishes up with a nice set of sites for reviews of YA fiction. [For more information on the magazine, check it out on the net at http://www.bookmagazine.com/]
Which raises the question whether we are doing enough to cultivate the reading habit in our teenage readers. Are we buying the kind of books we know they like? Are we displaying them prominently?
The article pointed out that most teen magazines don't publish book reviews, so kids have a hard time finding out about new books they'd like. Are we doing all we can to help them? Are we publishing book reviews and reading lists to let kids know what's new? Have we created a place on our library web page where we can not only share our own reviews of new YA material, but maybe let kids tell each other about their favorite books? Do we have lists of teens' favorite books (or top circulated teen books in our own collection) posted in the library or on our web site? Are we sponsoring any kind of author events for YAs? I'd really like to know about good working programs that bring young adults into the library -- they are, after all, our future taxpayer support.
There was also an article called "A Town Buries the Axe" in the July issue of Smithsonian, about the Quincy Library Group http://www.qlg.org/. In a logging town, deeply split between environmentalists and loggers, a local librarian helped the two sides get together to talk to each other to see if they could find common ground.
The library's involvement was actually an accident -- the librarian's husband was one of the original participants in the group, and when things got a little testy and voices were raised, she told them to come to the library and talk, because they couldn't shout at each other in a library.
But a library really is a wonderful place to bring people together to discuss community problems. We have the community rooms, we have the tradition of decorum, and we have the ability to supply information that can help communities resolve their problems. It's a service we might want to consider offering deliberately, in our quest to keep ourselves an integral part of the communities we serve.
I also had the opportunity to review a brand new Information Today publication, Design Wise by Alison J. Head. I strongly recommend that any of you involved in designing your library's web site read it. It is filled with questions to ask about your purpose in creating the web site, and your users' purposes in accessing it, which, as the author points out, are not necessarily the same.
She demonstrates that web sites can offer task support and/or usability, and that these are not always the same thing, witness the disappointment professional database searchers have in using the friendlier web databases which lack the familiar command structures they are used to that allow enormous richness and depth in the query.
Her advice on accessibility for the handicapped is enough to make me go back and tear up Best Information on the Net and start over again, except that those pages are not my responsibility anymore. I am recommending this book to my colleagues who are now maintaining BIOTN. It also gives me lots of food for thought about how I might redesign these pages.
The book's argument is persuasive, and even moreso because it is punctuated with illustrations of good and bad design, interviews with leaders in web design and professional searchers. I recommend it to your attention.
COOL LIBRARY QUOTE
"Mary Kay is one of the secret masters of the world: a librarian. >They control information. Don't ever piss one off."
Spider Robinson. The Callahan Touch
Once again, I'd like to remind you all that my experience is limited to being an academic reference librarian -- which means that eventually, I am going to run out of things I know enough to talk about, and will then be forced to go on simply to things I have opinions about anyway.
PLEASE, contribute. The item above about young adult reading cries out for young adult librarians to write an article about their YA programming for ExLibris. I'd like to hear from people in technical services about their challenges -- in cataloging the net, managing serials, creating databases, etc. Tell me how you are making decisions about what serials to buy in hard copy and which ones to rely on full-text databases to supply. I'd like library managers to tell me about how the internet has changed the kinds of problems and decisions they need to handle. Tell me about your state library and your local library networks and how they support your work. I'd like articles from public librarians and corporate librarians and independent information professionals (next week, I'll be printing my interview with super-searcher Reva Basch). I have readers overseas, and I'm very curious to know how you do things in your country -- what kind of state support you have, what kinds of expectations your users have for your services.
I've had people write me over the years who thought they'd like to become librarians, and wanted to know what the job was like. I wonder if we couldn't come up with a composite answer, an FAQ file for young people who'd like to join our profession.
If you'd be interested in writing an article, please drop me a note at: marylaine at netexpress.net. I'll be in Michigan until next Thursday, but I'll answer e-mail when I get back.
If there are features you would like to see added, or other ways you think Ex Libris could be improved, I would be interested in hearing from you as well.