Jazz by Walter Dean MyersIt’s hard to find much time to blog while you’re running around ALA Annual, but I did want to post a couple of things I heard in sessions. Last night I went to the Odyssey Awards program that Booklist puts on to honor youth audiobooks. The winner was Live Oak Media’s version of Walter Dean Myers’ Jazz. Children’s author and audiobook producer Bruce Coville was pretty funny giving us a mini-history of kids’ audiobooks.

He told us how American educators have long been of two minds about audiobooks, because Americans expect kids to be working hard to get their literature, and listening to an audiobook seems kind of, well, cheating, especially now in the era of No Child Left Behind: “Teachers and librarians ask, ‘Is that child suffering enough? Working hard enough?’ Teachers are being told not to read aloud so much these days.” Coville, on the other hand, wants families to listen to books read aloud, and it sets his teeth on edge when kids are constantly watching DVDs in the back seat: “Every time I see a family going down the road with a damned DVD player in the car,” he said, “I know it’s wrong.”

Instead, Coville pushes hard for us to listen together: “Every great teacher knows the story is the most important thing. We’re a vast and diverse culture in the US, in danger of flying apart at the seams. Stories help us understand each other, and audiobooks are a way to get more stories in our lives.”

He also joked about his experiences driving across the country with his then-14-year-old daughter, saying “when you’re driving through Kansas, I learned that Pride and Prejudice is riveting.”

Today I attended several sessions, but the one that sticks in my mind the most is the one about Maricopa County (AZ) Library’s Dewey-less branch library. Instead of “973.2,” the label on a book’s spine says simply “History.” During the questions, one librarian sounded a little hot under the collar when he asked why the library couldn’t simply put the Dewey labels on the books and put them into a section marked “history,” but the librarians from Maricopa County replied that their users didn’t know Dewey and didn’t understand Dewey.

The feeling I got was that in the era of Google, Dewey wasn’t necessary any more. If people came to the library and were looking for a subject for an assignment, they’d find it more easily in a face-out display of newer, shinier, subject-related books. They say it works for them. The name of the session, by the way, was “Dewey or Don’t We?”