November 2008


henrymusicHere’s a great idea that I never thought would work well, but obviously seems to – at least it does at the Forbes Library of Northampton, MA. They’re circulating a ukulele. Read about it in this LibraryJournal.com article.

The inexpensive uke was donated by a local music store. Here are the details:

Any library card holder in 6th grade or older can check out the ukulele for three weeks and then renew it once. “If someone loses or damages it, or the instructional DVD, we will charge for replacement the same as with other circulating materials,” [the FPL’s Art & Music Dept. head Faith] Kaufmann told LJ. It is worth about $50, on a par with many audiobooks, for example. So far patrons have taken excellent care of it.”

There’s a waiting list of 24, which I find pretty amazing.

I don’t know if I would like to see what would happen in a bigger city library, but I think circulating a uke is an extremely cool idea, especially if several of of them could be provided for kids and a community volunteer would be willing to hold, say 30 – 60min programs each week to teach kids and adults to accompany themselves on simple songs. With so many kids unable to have music lessons through school any more, it could be a really appropriate service. More libraries should be taking chances like these.

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A boy readingIt’s kind of funny how writers keep sounding amazed that boys have such problems motivating themselves to read, and wondering, gosh, how to motivate them. Here’s an article from Library Administrator’s Digest, called, “Why aren’t little boys reading?” There’s not a whole lot of substance to the skimpy advice given here, which is a shame.

The article focuses on the findings of some focus groups of elementary-aged boys conducted by the Toledo-Lucas County (OH) Library, but they don’t reveal much of anything useful. The article says:

Early in the process, the library hosted two focus groups with local boys between the ages of 7 and 10. There were few surprises from these honest energetic youngsters. Boys tend to like nonfiction, action, adventures, graphic novels and stories about sports. The information gained at these sessions will help guide the library.

Um, well, duh. Any of us who have worked with boys knows these things. Wow – boys, in general, need brief, punchy, fact- or fantasy-oriented stuff. (As opposed to “real-life fiction” kinds of books, which many girls love, but boys not so much.) No surprise.

Then, as you can see if you read the article, they give several recommendations, such as “Construct library displays that will be of interest to boys,” without saying specifically what those displays might involve. C’mon – Superheroes? Inventions? Wild animals? It isn’t hard to come up with ideas, so why don’t they offer any? Is there a bias against nonfiction, and against comic-book-style fantasy, and another bias favoring “real-life” fiction, on the part of many librarians? I won’t say, but I’ll leave it to anyone reading this post to decide.

I think that there must be a lot of librarians who are still uncomfortable that lots of boys don’t want the same “easy” things that lots of girls want, and aren’t happy that boys need to be lured into things that are “bookish.” It really isn’t that difficult, though, to make the right kinds of books appealing.