Friday, June 06, 2008

Article Note: On Chick Lit in Academic Libraries

Citation for the article:

Davis-Kahl, Stephanie. "The Case for Chick Lit in Academic Libraries." Collection Building 27/1 (2008): 18-21.

Read via Emerald.

In the interest of disclosure, I will say that I am not the demographic for chick lit, nor have I any academic (or otherwise) interest in it. With that out of the way, I will say that it makes sense for academic libraries to do some collection development in this area, especially if the campus has a healthy popular culture program and/or women's studies program. What this short article does is lay out the case for such collection development. Useful if your administrators are a bit unsure whether to pursue this area of collection development or not.

Some notes:

  • The scope of chick lit has expanded. This discussion is in the context of looking at how chick lit differs from romance fiction; yes, there are differences. Read the article to get a sense of the issue: "'We've expanded our list to include chick lit, meaning mother-daughter relationships, anything that's centered [on] women' (James-Enger 2003). The expansion of the genre into 'mom lit' and 'work lit' also sets it apart from the romance novel, and the growing number of voices and perspectives through books written by African-American, Latina and Asian authors is another significant difference" (19). As I look at that, I wonder if the definition of chick lit has expanded to include a few authors and works that one might not usually think as chick lit. I am thinking some of the works by writers like Julia Alvarez or Cristina Garcia (both of whom I have read) that deal with relationships, often between mothers and daughters or the daughters and the family.
  • For academia, in part, the significance is that this is becoming an area worthy of scholarly attention. "In short, chick lit can be a starting point for discussions of why women's writing matters, the evolution of women's writing, and the importance of women's perspectives in fiction, whether it is popular or literary. Developing a collection of chick lit would connect students to those discussions and may help spark their intellectual explorations into the genre by lending credibility to the works and their authors" (20).
  • Further significance: "Chick lit firmly belongs in the history and evolution of fiction--fiction in general and fiction by women--because of its popularity, its accessibility to the reader, and because it represents issues that modern women face. A collection of chick lit is especially key for those libraries that support popular culture studies, a field that has undergone much growth and is accepted as a legitimate field of study. The study of popular culture and chick lit is well-matched, as the former explores how our pastimes and entertainment define and shape our society, and chick lit is both a product of and influence on our society. Women's studies is another area that may be interested in chick lit, as the genre is one of expression of how women see each other, themselves, their relationships, work, and family life" (20).
Only thing missing would be a bibliography or list of works. But I am sure that would be a separate article. The article is a quick read, and for collection developers and bibliographers in humanities areas, worth a look.

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