Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Books, books, books

It's National Children's Book Week.

Our library chose to celebrate by quizzically cancelling their regularly scheduled story time in favour of "special" story times, which meant that when we went to the library for story time this morning I had some rather disappointed children on my hands because there was no story time.

Weird flex, public library, but...okay.

They're going to have a special "Princess Story Time" on Wednesday (and later in the week they will have "Dinosaur Story Time") but that's during preschool and I'm teaching this week so we're going to have our own special story time. In fact, I went through the trouble to find a whole lot of call numbers for stories around a certain theme (spoiler: we're on the letter Z and Zoë has been dying to have a pyjama party with her friends (after seeing her siblings have pyjama day at school) so we're going to read books about sleeping and snoring because ZZZZZZZZ).

I'm all torn up about how the library is organized because I kind of like when things are pulled out thematically. It can make browsing for the right story so much easier. But on the other hand, deciding which category a book fits into can be difficult when it comes to picture books. Our library has a section for bears and a section for cats & dogs and a section for bugs and a section for knights & dragons. But what if a book features a dog and a bear. Where does it go then?!

Our library has a holiday section with a shelf for Christmas and Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and Halloween and Thanksgiving. But if you want a book about Easter (as I did not too long ago) or Hanukkah you're stuck rummaging through the stacks.

And then there's the frustration of the non-standard call numbers. For the most part, if a book is in a "special" section it will have that listed first. So, for example, the call number "BUGS P ST3 STEIN" alerts a patron that this book will be on the bug shelf, not in the regular stacks. But sometimes the call number will be reversed and will read something like this: "P ST3 STEIN/BUGS."

In that case the patron will spend several minutes wrestling with two (disappointed) children, who'd much rather wander off, while they scour shelf P ST3 for STEIN/BUGS, perhaps muttering under their breath just as a librarian walks by, "This library drives me batty!" only to realize shortly after that the /BUGS means that it will be on the /BUGS shelf.

Not that that happened today (okay, it did).

I can't even remember what call number it was that was reversed now (because there's no system for me to log into to check which books I have out and because I tossed the paper I had all those call numbers written on) but it was a tense couple of minutes in the stacks.

JUST KIDDING! I couldn't let it go and found the offending call number: P J29 Jarvis /DOGS/CATS (The book is Lazy Dave by Jarvis). In fact, it seems the entire DOGS/CATS shelf is a mess, with the category sometimes being DOGS/CATS and sometimes being, in the case of Dogs! Dogs! Dogs! by Leslea Newman, CATS/DOGS (P N46 Newman/ CATS/DOGS). I am actually having a hard time finding a cat/dog-themed book with the CAT/DOG or DOG/CAT category label at the front of the call number. But other sections (bear stories or bug stories, for example, seem to have the category come first 100% of the time). So that's going to bother me a bit.

I guess I don't know which system is best (because at BYU I sort of wish that they did have things organized by category at least a little bit, though I'm certainly seeing that there are limitations to a system like that), but I do know that this library often has me wringing my hands and wondering whhhhhy they do things the way they do.

But they're just a little library, so I'm sure they're trying their best.

Deep breaths. 

We checked out 20 books from the library today and over the course of the day read all of them. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother checking books out at all. I should just make daily trips to the library with my kids, let them loose in the stacks to read whatever they'd like for a couple of hours and then leave the librarians to put everything away. My house would stay a lot tidier that way!


I read a chapter of By the Shores of Silver Lake to Benjamin and Zoë after they were tucked in bed. I know the way Native Americans (and other groups, really) are presented in Ingalls Wilder's books are at times problematic (read: extremely racist by today's standards), I still enjoy her books and several times have used such problematic portrayals as a springboard to discuss race issues today (see, for example, here). In fact, last year the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal was renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because her legacy is "not universally embraced."

Which I totally get.

But also, I find her writing beautiful, so I'm a little sad that her name isn't part of the award any more (whose writing is universally embraced, anyway?). She describes things so well, with such intricate detail, that I can read the book to my children tucked into their beds. Garth Williams' pictures are wonderful, but not necessary because Laura paints crystal clear pictures with her words.

I wonder if part of this skill came from Laura's years of "seeing aloud" for her sister Mary.

Anyway, I understand the reasoning behind the change of the award name, but I still think Ingalls Wilder is a talented author (or that she and her daughter made a talented writing team).

1 comment:

  1. If you are interested in the difference in writing styles, read "Let the Hurricane Roar" by Rose Wilder Lane. Same stories, different writer. I was able to purchase a copy from our library used book sale. I found it quite interesting, but I'm a nerd like that. I love that you've used the problems as a springboard for discussion about changing cultural standards.