Saturday, January 24, 2009

Take no substitutes

Over the past few weeks I have witnessed a few fights over books over who was going to have the privilege of borrowing it first. Two boys in particular were almost in fisticuffs before I intervened. A couple of titles that evoke such strong emotions come to mind - "Diary of a wimpy kid", "King Dork", "Top Trump" small non fiction books, "Asterix", "Twilight" and subsequent books, any of the Star Wars graphic novels or non fiction books, The Fairy Meadow and Tiara Club series, Jack Stalwart adventures and Deltora Quest.

All of these favourites are returned and borrowed straight away unless they have a reservation on them. Some have a long list of patient readers waiting for their turn. If someone is denied borrowing due to having overdue books or too many books (we stop at 10 books out for the younger ones) they hide the books they want in the library - under the very large furniture we have, in the very large air conditioning vents (just don't ask why such things are accessible to young children) or they hide them in amongst other books until such time they have an opportunity to return the outstanding loans. They then retrieve the books from the hidden location and borrow as normal. Before we had our security systems they would simply take them out of the library without being processed and return them when finished. Others take library cards that are not theirs, or give other peoples names and borrow on these cards and names.

They are rarely found on the shelves.

So what makes a book so great that it brings out theft, deceit, and fraud in children?

It has to be either enjoyment, or a feeling of missing out. I can understand in the case of series, not wanting to miss out on the next episode, or just enjoying the authors style, but for books that have not been read, only been recommended, they do not even know if they will like the book.

The peer review and suggestion phenomena is so powerful it made Harry Potter a worldwide sensation and JK Rowling very rich. Why must children read books their peers have enjoyed? Why do peer recommendations carry so much weight? We have thousands of fiction titles in the library, but if we do not have the books these students want right now, they refuse to be coerced into reading anything else. Their mind is set, and there will be no substitutes taken.

I think this would make for an interesting research paper.

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