Magazine article American Libraries

New Kind of Library Launched in Scotland

Magazine article American Libraries

New Kind of Library Launched in Scotland

Article excerpt

New kind of library launched in Scotland

A TEENAGE LIBRARY, DESCRIBED as "a complete anathema to many librarians,' has proved so popular in Johnstone, Scotland, that young people are traveling as far as 25 miles to use its facilities.

Johnstone, near Glasgow, is a town where unemployment among the young currently stands at 82 percent. To provide a service for the unemployed and attract an age group normally passive about libraries, the District Council's Library Service decided to go out on a limb. Last February it opened the experimental Johnstone Information and Leisure Library (JILL) in a classroom of a former elementary school.

The building already housed a training workshop for unemployed youth and an information service on welfare and housing. The library was meant as an extra resource.

Although specifically aimed at the 16-to-19-year-old age group, the library's appeal proved wider. At the end of the first six months, 3,500 young people from 12 to 20 had joined as members.

What makes JILL popular is that it breaks so many rules of conventional library collections and management. And this is the chief reason why head librarian Monica McBride describes it as the type of place that would make many librarians flinch.

Noise part of the scene

First, she points out, there is "the noise level.' In the background, the noise comes from a hi-fi system and its speakers, blurting out a continuous stream of pop music, some played by special request. There is foreground noise, too, either from groups of teenagers gathered around the hot-beverage vending machine, or around a table and a lively game of Monopoly. "Everyone anticipated problems with behavior,' says McBride, "problems with vandalism or hooliganism. But, touch wood, we've had no problems yet. Even if they sit and swear we don't interfere, because that's the way these kids talk to each other. But if they become abusive, they are asked to leave.'

Leniency pays off

In a library without controls such as fines or other fees, one would expect to suffer vanishing stock. Surprisingly, this hasn't proved the case. Some early troubles, such as false names and addresses appearing on membership cards, were easily resolved by requiring new members to provide proof of their address.

Lending rules are lenient. Members may check out library materials for one month. This includes two items from the library's collection of cassette tapes, computer games, and long-playing records. (Singles from the Top Twenty, which the library keeps up to date, are allowed out for only one week.)

JILL doesn't distinguish between fiction and nonfiction, or between juvenile and adult. All the books are shelved according to subject category, and each category is identified with a symbol on the spine of the book. For example, "Magic and Supernatural' has a witch on a broomstick; "Family and Home,' a house; "Space and Fantasy,' a rocket ship; "War,' a tank, and so on. The category of "Sexy Books,' with its distinctive heart symbol, includes new-wave paperback romances and titles by Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann.

One of the benefits of displaying books by category is that teens with literacy or numeracy problems are not made to feel out of the ordinary. Easy-reading books have been unobtrusively included in relevant categories.

Materials strategically placed

The library's policy of "face-out' display --an attempt to attract reluctant readers --is also credited with capturing a new audience. …

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