Aug 30 2012
by Madelyn Folino, Director, Florida Public Library
A few days ago, I was passing the book trucks that hold the school summer reading list books and stopped to straighten them up and re-alphabetize them. Sorting, it is an occupational hazard that carries over into a librarian’s off time, too. My colleagues will recognize the impulse, call it a compulsion, which makes us tidy shelves at the supermarket and in retail stores. Fortunately, our loved ones haul us off before we get too deeply invested in restoring order. I often tell people who want to work at the library that it helps to be a little OCD.
In the case of the reading list books, it was heartening to see them in disorder as that meant that they were being browsed and handled with a view to checking them out and using the waning days of August to start required reading. Over the years, we’ve seen different school reading lists come and go and we’ve seen the requirements change. Currently, our local K-5 students may choose from a long list of suggested titles, many of which are award winners. For our middle and high school students, one book is assigned and provided at the end of June and one other title must be picked from a required list for each grade. And there’s the rub…
Many years ago, we at FPL made a commitment to the community to have at least two copies of each book on the lists. In fact, we have many more copies than that for most titles and if we run out, can quickly acquire extra copies through Inter-Library Loan. That means that if a book is not right on the shelf in front of you, we can probably get it in a day or two. That’s important for parents and kids who will realize in a few weeks that book reports will be due the very day school opens. Procrastinators: don’t despair and leave without talking to us. The book you must have may just be sitting quietly waiting to be shelved.
Looking at the book trucks, one sees that there are plenty of reading choices for elementary students and the books we’ve pulled out for display are only a small selection of the great titles on our shelves. For students in MS/HS, the size of the books left tells the story. As you might guess, the slimmest volumes, like The Pearl by John Steinbeck and Siddartha by Herman Hesse are the first to disappear. Heftier American classics like Tom Sawyer and Catch-22 and The Grapes of Wrath languish until late readers pick them up.
We get our share of complaints from parents and kids about the reading lists. There’s nothing that’s on my kid’s reading level – these are too hard. ~ There are no boy books. ~ There are no girl books. ~ Who wants to read these old things? ~ My child is an advanced reader and these are too easy! ~ Kids should have the summer off so why do they have to read?
There are many answers that one can give, but let me advise that arguing against reading is a non-starter in the library. So, why read in the summer? Librarians are fond of citing studies that show that students who don’t read over vacation suffer a lag in skills. Very true, but there’s also the fact that sometimes you just have to do what’s required and trust that it will be of benefit down the road. It strikes me that reading two books in ten weeks is a pretty minimal task, barely sufficient to keep the brain cells working.
Our children need to know that choosing a book is a delicious, not an arduous task, that librarians are always here to help, that saying Yes to a book may change their lives in ways they can’t imagine, that it’s a great good of our democracy that books are free, that literate citizens can and should share knowledge of great books and ideas, that reading classics and excellent modern fiction will give them a boost for taking SATS and college learning, that the leisure to read on a summer’s day will be a fond memory in just a few years.
I was mulling over these thoughts at a recent family reunion (we’re all great readers and love to discuss books) and my brother said “Why read books? Tell those kids because some kid their age in China or Korea is reading those books right now and in English, that’s why!” There’s the global economic competition argument for you (readers are leaders) and what job today that pays a decent wage doesn’t require huge amounts of reading?
I prefer to believe that reading’s biggest benefit is personal development. Reading is surely the ultimate subversive activity. No one knows what or why you read and what thoughts it may inspire. Reading a book, that wonderful invention of ink on paper, is a deeply private act, unlike reading online which may not be as private as you assume. Reading allows us to truly be and think for ourselves and isn’t that freedom worth everything?
May 25 2012
by Madelyn Folino, Director, Florida Public Library
Our staff members have thought hard, labored long and obsessed for hours over what information you need about FPL and how to organize and arrange that information so that it’s just exactly where you’d expect to find it, clearly written and easy to update. Now, it’s up to you – our patrons, residents, taxpayers, colleagues, visitors and serendipitous seekers of cyberspace who have just happened to find us – to let us know what you think of this new thing called www.floridapubliclibrary.org.
Our goal was to make our new face to the world both functional and aesthetically pleasing. We expect that you’ll be able to view our site comfortably on a variety of computers and mobile devices. Please let us know if we hit the mark and how we might change and improve the content and style of our format to meet your needs.
The start-up costs for our new website were provided by the Friends of the Florida Public Library and we thank them for their excellent support for this initiative. We told them we didn’t know what it would look like, but that it would be great and they sponsored our effort completely as they have with so many past projects.
Susannah Devine of DevineDesign was the midwife for this new creation and tried to make its birth as painless as possible. She was divinely agreeable and patient and handled the huge gobs of information we flung her way without flinching. It’s not her fault if you can’t find the kitchen sink here.
FPL offers a vast array of programs for all ages (over 400 last year) and now you’ll be able to register for them online. We’ll be saying good-bye to our old way of signing up for programs – a three-ring binder with color-coded cards for every age group. Staff members will gladly walk you through our new registration process and we’ll even have teen volunteers trained to help out in this transition to paperless sign-ups.
So, please roam around, explore our site, and don’t forget to drop in for a visit often, either in person or online. Hope to hear from you soon. Keep on reading!
May 19 2012
The Florida Public Library Page Turners Adult Book Club meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Read and discusses popular literature to classics. Author visits throughout the year. Refreshments are always served.