How graphic is too graphic? A library director in Greenville, SC has taken a graphic novel, “Neonomicon” by award-winning author Alan Moore, off the shelves after a patron complained about its “offensive” content. The library went through its formal process of review by a committee who recommended that it stay in the library’s collection. But the library director has the final say: she opposed the committee’s recommendation and chose to “de-select” the book.
Is this library director right? Should she go against the committee’s well-thought-out and well-researched decision to keep the book? Having the book on the shelf is not the same as reading it. There are many controversial books in libraries, ie. Fifty Shades of Grey, that patrons can make their own decisions about. I believe that libraries have a duty to their patrons to provide stories that are from all areas of life, whether or not they may be offensive to some groups of people. Now that I am working in a public library and on the front lines of service, I see that it may be very tricky to decide on objections to the collection. For example, should we keep books that are about Neo-Nazis and their beliefs? On the one hand, it could be a very objective look at Neo-Nazism for people who may be doing a research report or project on hate groups in America. On the other hand, the book may be seen as subversively promoting Neo-Nazi values which I suspect many people would object to. Where’s the line? It’s hard to tell.
My favorite research organization, the Pew Research Center, has come out with a new study showing the reading habits and library use of younger Americans aged 16-29. I was pleasantly surprised to see that older teens and young adults are reading more than I thought! A whopping 83% have read a book in the past year. Let me guess how many of them read The Hunger Games….
Older teens (ages 16-17) in particular are very interested in reading e-books on e-reader devices like the Kindle or NOOK. More than 50% of these teens who have not read an e-book don’t even know that they can borrow e-books from their public library. This is something I hear often from adults — “I had no idea I could get e-books here for free!” — but I don’t hear about from teens. In fact, I don’t hear much from my library’s teens about e-books at all, so I’m curious if they are as interested as the report says and they just aren’t vocal about it.
The report states that “some 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.” I was just thinking about this concept of pre-loaded e-readers the other day. In Lafayette Hill, PA, the William Jeanes Library has 12 NOOKs pre-loaded with books that they loan out. I would love to find out how they financed this and how its working so far. It could be a big hit here at my library too.
So why, then, are some teens drawn to the idea of e-books and e-readers? It could be the idea of not having to lug around yet another book in their bags, what with all the textbooks and such they carry around at school all day. But there’s something inevitably cool and futuristic about an e-reader device (or any tech device that fits nicely in your hands, for that matter.) Who wouldn’t want to try it out? If you can’t buy an iPad or other tablet, the next best thing is an e-reader, which seems to be morphing more into tablets lately anyway. I also wonder if teens want to give e-readers a shot because they secretly like reading but wouldn’t be caught dead in public with a print book in their hands. Like a print book says “I’m a nerd” but an e-reader says “I’m trendy.” This is just speculation but I’m willing to bet a few teens think of it this way.
I’m going to ask my Teen Advisory Board about it, get their opinions, see if they are even interested in e-books at all. The TAB has started off very well, by the way, with our first meeting having 13 members! And they had excellent ideas for the library. I noticed I was talking too much at the beginning and steered the conversation so that they would be running the show. What a great bunch of teens! I’m really pumped to keep the meetings going and start putting their ideas into action.
I cannot get enough of the fantastic tips mentioned in the “Cool Tools” column of School Library Journal. Written by Richard Byrne, he also has an excellent blog, Free Technology for Teachers. Here’s a few of my favorite posts from SLJ‘s “Cool Tools” column.
Unfortunately, the SLJ website doesn’t make it easy to find the “Cool Tools” column. What’s up with that, guys???