Thursday, March 24, 2011

Get off my lawn! Those new kids and reading

Well, maybe the title exaggerates a little bit... I was reading the latest (April 2010) Cites and Insights by Walt Crawford. His "Perspective" piece this time is about reading. ("Writing about reading" is the title.) I admire both Walt's gathering of viewpoints and his analysis. I was moving along just fine, until I got to his discussion about a piece by Barbara Fister and the reading styles of the current college student crowd. Barbara's article is called "Reading: Outmoded or a la Mode?" It is in her column called "Peer to Peer" which appears as part of Library Journal's Academic Newswire. (It took me a moment or two to find it.) It is dated October 28, 2010. Both talk about the "myth" of non-readers and short attention spans among the "next generation." First of all, let me say that while there are probably some generational differences (and certainly frames of cultural references), like Walt, I am not a fan of overly broad generalizations. Barbara notes early on in her article: "You know how kids today don't like to read? Can't focus for more than five seconds? Are so intent on multitasking, visual stimulation, and interactivity that they turn their noses up at books?" She then goes on to later reveal "So my youthful and avid-reader colleague Julie Gilbert and I did something radical: we decided to ask students what they think. ... The student made arrangements to administer it anonymously in dozens of classes spread across the curriculum from first through senior year, collecting responses from a sample that is representative of our student body, and then we crunched the numbers. ... A whopping 93 percent of our students reported that enjoy reading for pleasure. All kinds of reading: books, magazines, newspapers. Reading on the Internet (though that scored lower than reading in print)." One of the most salient points (that I can even see in my personal life) is that it is sometimes hard to find the time to set aside to read. After more discussion and surveys, Barbara found out that "the problem is that students have piles of assigned reading to complete and very active social lives and more often than not a job as well as athletic and music commitments, not to mention that often significant relationships are developing—that's what you do when you are starting adulthood—and they say, with good reason, they simply don't have time." Towards the end she tells an anecdote about a recently retired English professor who now had the time to read for pleasure. That is echoed in Walt's comment "I'm reading more books now than I have in a long time..." I certainly see that in my life. I have maintained a reading log since sometime in the 1980s. (It was recommended by Joyce Sarricks to help with readers' advisory work.) If I look at various times when I read more and when I read fewer books, there are life events related to them. Even now, I listen to more books than I read because I can do that during the 3+ hours each day that I spend commuting. Bottom line...KTD (kids these days), do like to read, and do it when they have the time. Those of you who think otherwise: Get Off My Lawn!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Post #501 - ALA Elections 2011

Wow....I have done 500 posts since July 2005.

ALA Ballots are out. In past years, some colleagues would ask my advice on voting choices. Here are mine for this year.

First, for ALA President, I am voting for Maureen Sullivan.

For ALA Council this is the year we will elect 34 Councilors. There is one vacancy, so the person who is 35th highest in votes will fill out a 2 year term. I commend:
  • Diedre (Dee) Conkling
  • Martin L. Garnar
  • Charles E. Kratz*
  • Diane R. Chen*
  • Linda Mielke
  • Matthew P. Ciszek
  • John Carl Sandstrom
  • Jenny Emanuel
  • JP Porcaro
  • J.Douglas (Doug) Archer
  • Kate Kosturski
  • Shirley Ann Bruursema
  • Roberto Carlos Delgadillo
  • Pamela C. Sieving
  • Andrew K. Pace
  • Margaret L. Kirkpatrick
  • Em Claire Knowles*
  • John DeSantis
  • Bobbi L. Newman
  • Bill Turner
  • Patricia A. Wand
  • Eric David Suess
  • Mike L. Marlin
  • Barbara K. Stripling*
  • James K. Teliha
  • Toni Negro
  • Ed Garcia
*These folks are all former members of the ALA Executive Board, and bring a great deal of experience to the association.

Others on the list are folks who have served on Council, and whose work and opinions I respect. There are yet others who are newer to the profession, have started working their way up, and deserve the opportunity to participate in the governance of ALA. [This latter group includes: Bobbi L. Newman, Jenny Emanuel, Andrew K. Pace, JP Porcaro, and Kate Kosturski.]

I want to specifically note that Shirley Ann Bruursema is a Trustee, a group under-represented on Council, and she has served well as the ALTA/ALTAFF Division Councilor. I also want to note that Mike L. Marlin is a well-spoken advocate for special users of libraries, especially those with vision issues.

So...those are my recommendations.

Searching v. Discovery (and ALA) [Post #500]

In looking at my list of posts as I edited this one and a couple others, I noticed that this is post number 500.[Actually there are three older posts in draft form that I need to edit...this weekend, I hope.] I started on July 5, 2005. At that time I never thought I would get this far, and certainly not in 5 1/2 years.

Andromeda Yelton, in her ... blog, talks about these topics. In chronological order, she starts with "The structure of ALA seems to me like a controlled vocabulary." In that post, she admits that she understands the strength and power of controlled vocabulary, but in moving the analogy to ALA she shows some insight:
I see people (including, but not only, Gen Xers) talking about the disconnect between ALA and younger librarians, they’re talking about the divide between a slow vetting process and a system that’s nimble, fast, long-tail-friendly, decentralized — chaotic, uncertain, unpredictable, emergent.
She ends with a great question:
You want to know what I spend a lot of time thinking about these days, it’s this: how do you cultivate the metaphoric parallels of tagging in a controlled-vocabulary world? How do you get there from here?
A day later she talks more about the fallacies of tagging (i.e. discovery) and less about ALA.

And finally, she gives her answers to some of the questions Andy Woodworth raises about ALA.