Saturday, December 3, 2011

Overextending Babies and Libraries

Apparently, a sales team similar to the one that sold all the libraries in America on the need to install defibrillators in every branch has come up with another brilliant scheme.  It is called Babygarten.  Apparently it has been around for a couple of years.  It's the kind of deal that voters can't say no to, and that library administrators can force on a workforce that is already stretched too thin in the interest of good PR.

Not to be completely negative, there is a place for a program like Babygarten.  It is, apparently, an early learning program.  To be real, it is ridiculous.  It is smart marketing, is what it is.

Babygarten invites parents to come to the library with their "0 to 18 month old" and begin preliteracy training because it is "the emotional bond that is nurtured by a reading ritual".

In other words, it teaches parents to interact with their infants.

As a retired psychologist, I am suspect of "programs" that use big educational words and constructs (see, I just did it) to try to impress people.  Interacting with an infant does not necessarily come easy to a new parent.  But call it what it is:  it is teaching parents to look at, talk to, sing to, and touch their new baby.  If a parent does this from birth, that child will be likely to be more attentive, alert, content, and yeah, all those good things that are likely to make a child want to learn to read at an early age.

But not 0 to 18 months.

So why are libraries being reeled in like eager trout?

Because the government is scared.  We are begging our funding sources to please, please like us.  And we do that with children -- and the big library buzzword: programs.

And it works.  Tell the public you are going to increase children's anything in a library and they will love it, sight unseen.  Uncritically.

But the payback comes in the cost.  Staff is minimally trained and stretched even thinner.  Adult "programs" and materials, i.e. books, are cut to make room for more stuff for children.

This is what happens:

Our library director, who loves children, and all things children, has increased the purchasing of children's books, and decreased the purchasing in the adult collection.  This, despite the fact that circulating children's books now have to be "weeded" to make room for new children's books, far more than a good, growing library needs.  Ask the public, would you like more children's books in the library, and find one person who says no.

Additionally, because our director loves children so much, he has decided to drop fines on children's books on children's library cards.  Sound good?

Except that if you have an overdue children's book, you are no longer allowed to check out another children's book until that one is returned.

Oh, and it turns out that we now have experienced a precipitous drop in fine collection, for which our director has decided he will raise adult fines by $.05 up to $.20 per day.

Overextended?  Maybe, but don't you like us?

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