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Library Love 2009: From a Librarian’s Perspective

Justyna Zajac, Publicity

In honor of National Library Week 2009, OUP will be posting everyday to demonstrate our immense love of libraries. Libraries don’t just house thousands of fascinating books, they are also stunning works of architecture, havens of creativity for communities and venues for free and engaging programs. So please, make sure to check back in all this week and spread the library love.

Maura Smale, is the Information Literacy Librarian at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. She lives in Brooklyn and takes her 7 year old son, Gus, to the library on the weekends. Her Favorite Library Blogs are ACRLog, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, LISNews and she hearts Jessamyn West’s blog librarian.net. In the post below she discusses how her love affair with libraries began and how she tried to pass along that appreciation to her son.

One of my favorite things about being a parent is watching my kid learn. It’s so interesting and enjoyable to see that “aha!” moment when his brain really grabs onto something new.

By the time he was 6 years old my son was a competent reader, but he hadn’t yet developed the enthusiasm for reading that I’d always hoped he’d have. After all, his mom’s a librarian and the walls of our apartment are lined with bookshelves. It’s his destiny to love reading, right?

I remember being a voracious reader as a child. One summer when I was about my son’s age, my mom took me to our local library to sign up for Summer Reading. I felt so confident when the librarian said that I would only have to read six books to earn a certificate at the end of the summer. Six measly books? I could do that in a month, never mind a whole summer. But I loved getting the certificate all the same, and hung the shiny blue ribbon on my bedroom wall.

Watching my son read last summer I realized that while he’d mastered the basic mechanics of putting the letters together and sounding out words, he wasn’t quite reading fluently yet. Sure, he could read the beginner books easily, but books with the level of plot required to hold his attention were still too much work to be truly enjoyable. So he shied away from chapter books and only read when we asked him to.

Driven by my own nostalgic memories of Summer Reading (and armed with statistics from my time in library school about kids losing ground on their reading over the summer), I marched us off to the library to sign up for summer reading. The incentives were enough to convince him to sign up, and they were much more luxurious than mine were: no minimum number of books required, just bring in your list each week and show it to a librarian to get a small prize of stickers, tattoos, pencil sharpeners, and the like.

I love the classic kids’ books, but it was clear that my son needed an extra push to get him over the hump, and that push could only come from his favorite characters: Star Wars, Spongebob and Pokemon. Over the course of the summer we settled into what has become our usual library routine: we find one book together, then he sits on the bench next to the window and reads it while I browse the shelves, bringing back more and more books that pile up in a stack next to him. When I’ve finished hunting and gathering we look through the stack together and pick out the books that he wants, then he digs his library card out of his pocket and we take them up to the desk to check them out.

And it worked! By the end of the summer my son’s reading had vastly improved, and he moved on to reading chapter books on his own without complaint. As he’s become a better reader the library has become increasingly valuable. Of course we do still buy books, but there are many that I can’t possibly buy at the rate he’s reading them. Magic School Bus, Beast Quest, Ghosthunters, Pokemon (still): the library has, thankfully, acquired them all. And my kid’s already a pro: he knows that we can request a book that’s not available in our branch, which he tells me is his favorite thing about the library. (Me, too.)

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