Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Children's and Young Adult Service: Like a Box of Chocolates

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Children's and Young Adult Service: Like a Box of Chocolates

Article excerpt

In the competition for time, space and dollars in public libraries, the children's and young adult service often does not get its appropriate share. In most communities the 0-18 years age group is 25% - 35% of the constituent community yet the expenditure often does not reflect this. Decision makers must identify the place that the 0-18 year olds occupy in the scheme of things. Hard thinking about the kinds of collections and services which will be offered to this age group is needed. The library environment which undervalues this need will itself become undervalued

Life is like a box of chocolates. So said Forrest Gump in the very successful movie of a couple of years ago. It was one of those productions where most people forget the story but a quirky little phrase passes through to become a part of verbal folklore. It expresses the serendipitous aspect of life where the very surprises, changes and variety that confront us, are to be invited as welcome guests and to be accepted as part of the wonder of life. Like centred chocolates, some are good. Others we prefer not to choose again but because the externals may all look similar, we do not know the final outcome until we have experienced the inside flavours.

This analogy is very apt when reading and thinking is directed towards the provision of a relevant future library service for children and teenagers through the public library system. It is very important for decision makers to apply thought now as to the kind of service provision which should be offered to productively serve the youth of today in the world of tomorrow. This paper suggests that the `box of chocolates' approach is an appropriate one.

Current reality vs future probability

It will not be good enough to merely be offering more of today's collections and services in the future. It certainly will no longer be enough to be 'keeper of the books'. Children and teenagers will not respond to duplicates of the chocolates they have seen for years. At the other end of the extreme, conversely it will not be good enough to assume that the world of tomorrow will be technocentric and that simply moving into technology will be the solution. All the same flavours in the box will be inadequate, boring and irrelevant in a very short time. Not only do consumers (including children and teenagers) need new products (different kinds of chocolates in the box) to fit new situations but the intellectual, social, emotional, educational and recreational needs of growing youth demand variety in the products marketed.

There needs to be a constant reevaluation of not only the changing nature of the child/teenager and their world but also cognizance of the changing world at large in terms of literacy in all its forms, educational philosophies, the volume of information, the methods of information retrieval and society's expectation of the library service as a whole. Thus there is a microview and a macroview covering a time span from now into the future. Overlaying this field of the child/teenager and their world, is the technological world which increasingly plays a part in almost every aspect of life. This trend will continue exponentially, but not exclusively.

The world of youth will comprise a much larger range of experiences than has been the case. Not only will the child expect a relevant kind of library experience in its information seeking and recreational reading behaviour but the community at large will carry these expectations. It could also be the case that there will be an ever widening gap between the information rich and the information poor which will add another dimension to the outreach efforts of public libraries.

A reality check shows that local government decision makers, public library managers and staff in general are not analysing or preparing for this future. Budgets are not expanding, professional training is reduced, economic rationalism prevails even though it has almost gone from management styles overseas. …

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