Monday, May 01, 2006

Lots of Reading!

This weekend, I cleaned my apartment, hung out with some people, took my computer into the shop... but mainly, opened all the windows, and laid on my couch in a patch of sunlight and READ.

First off, I (finally) finished Moll Flanders. I kinda liked it? Maybe? I think after awhile, it was just the same thing over and over and over again... I would have liked it a lot more if it had been half as long.

The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts: The Library and the Young Adult by Margaret A. Edwards was phenomenal. When reading it, you must remember how *old* it is and how things have changed since its initial publication. Little things like the use of "Negro" and "gay" (for light and carefree)... Obvious things like the not far-fetched but still a long way off idea of one day ocmputers answering our factual questions... and the weird, like when she was talking about books that we aren't required to read in school but should be reading... like Hemmingway, Remarque, Huxley, and Dostoevsky... all things that you now have to read in high school!

I was also very struck by the change in reading levels. She includes several book lists and there are several titles on the "Adult Titles for Good Readers" and "Advanced Reading" that are now standard fare at the junior high and highschool levels-- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye , and The Grapes of Wrath...

There is also a strong "us" vs. "them" mentality when she discusses the challenges of librarainship in an urban setting (in this case the highly-segregated Baltimore). But it is very much middle class white folk bring literature to poor black people...

But Edwards speaks a lot of truth that librarains, as a profession, still haven't owned up to. We are obsessed with cataloging and not with customer service. In our obsession with processing and cataloging, we see the book more and more as a mere object and forget the ideas in it that are so necessary... "We do everything to the book but read it."

She also hit on some very good points-- do we librarians hate the stereotypical image of a proper old ladying shushing everyone because it hits a little too close to home? AND is one of the main reasons we're so bad at customer service because anti-social bookworms are who is drawn to the profession? I don't think our anti-customer service attitude is nearly as bad as portrayed by Edwards, but I think there are still issues.

But more than anything else, my head is swirling with thoughts on how to improve service, and different types of programming we can do and more than anything-- HOW TO GET PEOPLE READING. Because really, that's what it's all about, right?

Also, The House of Dies Drear just survived a challenge in Rockingham County, VA.

1 comment:

Irina Sazonova said...

Hey there,

I found this post of yours with the help of Google Blogsearch which, to my surprise, it turned out to be quite helpful.

The object of my search was Erich Maria Remarque, I’ve been quite into him lately and simply can’t stop myself from reading all of his books.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that though you now have to read Hemmingway, Remarque, Dostoevsky, Huxley in high school, how much use is in that? I wonder how many students actually understand the issues discussed in these books..? I’m not trying to diminish the nowadays students’ intellect (though I should), but I consider these things to be too hard and challenging for teenagers and “young adults” to understand.

I know this from personal experience. We had to read Gogol and Pushkin (Eugene Onegin, for instance) at the age of 15 and Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment, The Idiot) and Tolstoy (War and Peace) at the age of 16. While Pushkin is my favorite Russian poet and writer, I understood very little when I was 15, though I fell in love with his writing style the moment I opened Eugene Onegin. Reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy was regarded as torture by many students of our school and indeed it was, their literary works are not for teenagers. While there are certainly students who can understand what the author is talking about at the age of 16 and even earlier, most can’t and I have to say that, in fact, many students never finished these books and quite possibly never will as adults too, because they were put off by them in a way. I just think it would be better if everyone discovered such literature for themselves and not upon scholarly need, so to speak.

Anyway, that’s just my $0.2. Nice blog you have here.