or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 9/20/09

   September 26th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Middle School TextbooksOne service my library offers, that makes me absurdly happy, is that we have a collection of the textbooks used in the local middle schools.

I think it's a valuable community-based resource. If a kid forgets his book at school, the family can still come to the library up until 9pm so the student can do his reading, photocopy his assignment pages, whatever.

And they're very heavily used. I wonder if people consider them a homework last-resort (which they are in my mind), or if families who come to the library often just count on using them and so the kids always leave their books at school.

In either case, a woman and her son came to the desk this week and asked for the seventh grade history text book. No problem, I gave it to the boy, and they went off and photocopied what they needed. But when they brought the book back, the mom asked:

Patron: Do you have the workbook that goes with this?
Me: [checking the shelf] No, it looks like just that textbook.
Patron: Well, his older brother was in this class last year, and the teacher kept handing out homework assignments from a little workbook.
Me: Oh, sometimes textbooks come with teacher supplements, but those are only for the teacher.
Patron: I just thought that if you could get all the homework for us, I could have his older brother just do them all right now, so this one can just turn them in when they're due instead of having to work on them during vacations and weekends.

I'm not a parent, but if I ever become a parent, I never want to be this kind of parent.

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Ideas on Serving Students

   July 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog

stacks of textbooksTwo posts this weekend caught my eye, both being new (to me) ideas on serving kids and students.

Renting Textbooks
The first was a New York Times article about Chegg.com, a company that rents textbooks to college students. They use the Netflix model, which makes a lot of sense for something as temporary and expensive as textbooks.

I always try to imagine the long-term implications of things. For renting textbooks, if it really takes off, it could mean that fewer will be purchased, which may cause them to get even more expensive. If it impacts the publishers' profits, it might drive them faster towards ebooks, which are much more difficult than print books to loan/rent/use for lots of DRM and format issues.

Downside to Summer Reading?
The second was an article from a mother who homeschools her children, on why she doesn't enroll them in summer reading programs. My library's summer reading program is usually elaborate, and kids have always seem to love it - participating seems to make reading more fun.

I read her article and the comments, and I still don't see a downside. Summer Reading Programs are an incentive for kids reluctant to read, and for kids that read anyway, they are still a fun way for them to get recognition. But most important, it's participating in something bigger than themselves, and reading by suggesting books along with other kids their age. It's not just about inflating circ stats or even building reading skills and habits - it's also about the social aspect of being a part of a community of people who enjoy learning and imagination.

via LISNews and Slashdot/LibraryStuff

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