Friday, July 06, 2007

A little more on leisure reading and academic libraries

As I am clearing my saved clips in one of my aggregators, I came across this post by Barbara Fister, writing for the ACRLog, on "Reading in the Vulgate." For me, this is sort of an update note for an article note I did on the article Professor Fister refers to. Fister points to a blog post by the Librarian in Black where the LIB is irritated by libraries having summer book clubs. Her argument is that libraries should promote the other services they offer. I can't really disagree with that, but to be irritated over a summer book club? I think that is taking things a little to the extreme. She thinks that those using other things should be getting points. So, in that view, if a kid signs in to use MySpace (to pick on something that many people may raise an eyebrow over), that kid should be getting points. I am not terribly convinced that ogling MySpace profiles or playing Runescape, two of the favorite activities at my local public library, again to pick on that something, would qualify as a learning experience on par with reading an actual book. As open-minded as I can be, playing online video games or pimping your MySpace are not exactly the same as reading.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say I am not a fan of Oprah's Book Club, but I am a believer that if more people read (or listen to. Yes, as far as I am concerned an audio book is a book, and listening to it is reading it. It's just someone reads it to you) as a result of Oprah's or any other book club, then more power to them. Personally, I am more of a genre reader myself. As I learned when I took readers' advisory, don't apologize for your reading tastes. I guess the thing that irks me at times is the fact that some people would prefer to forget that libraries have books. That is our brand, so to speak. Sure, we offer all sorts of wonderful things, but we still offer books. Why the need at times to make reading seem like a lesser endeavor than getting online with the latest 2.0 toy is beyond me. In my case at least, I blog. I have some profiles in some social sites. I do a few other things online. I am not plugged in 24/7, but I am certainly savvy. In addition, I read books (and other texts). I read a good amount of books. I read fiction and nonfiction. I have always enjoyed reading, and there are days when I get the impression that one should lessen that if one is to follow in the gospel of progress.

I am encouraged however. My library has set up a leisure reading area, and we are gradually buying a few more books that would fall under the leisure heading. We are even adding some graphic novels. Does it mean we give up other things? Does it mean we promote them less? No. We still have a small but nice computer lab to meet students' online access needs. And we are still getting those academic titles (print and online) that support the educational mission of the university. We just figured out that adding an element of pleasure reading is part of that educational mission. It must be working since the leisure reading collection here is circulating. It's a start.

As a note, Marc Meola, also writing for ACRLog, wonders "Why Do Students Read?" and hopes someone will do a study on it.

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