Sponsored by Your Library: And Now, an Important Message about Imaginative Play

By Johnson, Abby | American Libraries, September-October 2013 | Go to article overview

Sponsored by Your Library: And Now, an Important Message about Imaginative Play


Johnson, Abby, American Libraries


What does a commercial-free space mean to you? With corporations doing their best to surround children with advertising from birth, providing commercial-free spaces is essential to our continued democracy, which depends on creativity and critical thinking, skills that pervasive marketing can repress. Libraries, with our continual campaign for intellectual freedom, are the perfect places to provide a commercial-free space for children.

At this summer's ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) described how pervasive corporate messaging aimed at children is. Many corporations want to surround children with advertising, creating brand loyalty and imprinting on their psyches that buying things will make them happy. A movie or TV show is no longer simply a story but a platform from which to launch an entire line of toys, games, books, and (often unhealthy) foods plastered with character images. These branded character products actually discourage creative play, an essential element in children's healthy growth and development. Character products come predefined with roles, storylines, and even catch phrases, eliminating the need for children to use their imaginations.

Should we include these branded characters in our libraries? Librarians need to find a comfort able balance, of course, and it's unrealistic to expect a library to expunge their shelves of all TV-character books. We serve our communities and need to respond to patron demand. But could we stock less commercially generated fare?

In a May 14 post on the ALSC Blog, children's librarian Sara Patalita of Allen County (Ind.) Library's Georgetown branch said she decided to rid her storytimes and play area of branded characters. There are still character books in the collection, but staffers are encouraging imaginative play by providing noncommercial toys and coloring sheets.

Consider, also, sponsorships for events such as the Summer Reading Club. Many libraries have limited funding and may depend on donations of prizes or funds from large corporations. …

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