Sunday, 20 February 2011

Are libraries, like, so uncool, to teenagers?

This BBC article obviously caught my interest:

Stack of Books
Stack of books stock.xchng
A student at John's mentioned it to me in passing yesterday morning and brought up a very valid point.  The top 10 books make it clear that young children and adults are using public libraries.  Indeed the young children will presumably be using the libraries because their parents introduced them to it.  There is a distinct lack of representation of teenage and young-adult fiction.  

The public library, in which I worked, had a dedicated young adult section and I certainly don't think that it is the case that public libraries are in some way under-catering for this generation.  The library service must not be 'cool' (or indeed 'hip' - a term I am a tad too young to remember the first time round but like all the same) and it is this stereotype that recent events like 'Save our Libraries' and services within libraries such as excellent computer facilities, art exhibitions from local schools as at Norwich Millennium Library and author and illustrator visits as at Cambridge Central go some way to smashing.

Perhaps such events are somewhat preaching to the converted and once again we hit upon the wikiman's Echo Chamber.  I offer no solution but merely wished to flag up this under-represented group as a means of making myself think about it!


  1. I think I used public libraries a lot less while I was a teenager because for the first time I had a good library at my secondary school rather than the shelf of ragged old books in the corner of my primary school classrooms. This morning there was some council leader in Oxford going on about how if libraries closed down then schools could just open up their library facilities to the community. That's all well and good, but school libraries are being cut just as much as public libraries it's just there is less about this being shown in the media...

  2. Good blog. However I think the data are a touch misleading. Kids tend to be susceptible to all things that come in 'crazes', and books are no exception. Once word goes round in school that there's a great author, the teacher usually adopts it as a class text and everybody reads it. This helps explain why children's books come out much more frequently than adults' books: because children move on so quickly to new things, the authors keep pumping out new work before they are forgotten. As the BBC article says, 'Daisy Meadows' is the nom de plume of no fewer than four authors (!).

    I suppose my point is that, when apportioning resources as per demand, it should not be assumed from the high number of 'top-ten borrowed authors' that children / teenagers really are swamping our libraries - more likely it is that adults have a much broader range of tastes, and hence don't feature on such lists. Caveat bibliothecarius?

  3. Annie - indeed school libraries will probably be a more convenient place for teenagers to pick books. This wasn't the case for me since my school didn't even have a library until my last few years and even then it was poorly stocked. Let's hope it has improved! At home, Biggar public library (South Lanarkshire) has recently opened in Biggar High School so that it serves both members of the public and teh school with separate entrances - perhaps this is the way forward.

    elGoleador1+8 - good point about children having a narrower range than adults - I hadn't considered that! Presumably teenagers and young adults 'grow out' of the 'crazes' as they discover the breadth of material available and graduate into the more varied adults readers, whom you mention.