"Storytime" and Other Atrocities

I don't normally get assigned to work in the children's department at the bookstore, but today I worked 9-5. Which apparently included a "Storytime" [sic] in the morning. The manager told me to read a couple of books. No problem; I've done that in the school library. I wasn't so much uncertain about my ability to read as I was what to read to these kids, who obviously were not yet school age.

It may sound weird, but I drew on my observations of the autism support classes at the elementary school library--and fortunately I found at least one of the books that the students liked to check out. I even asked the little girl who insisted on sitting next to me on the "stage" to turn the pages for me. (She came up to me afterwards and asked me to read her another story. That was enjoyable.)

Some of the moms/grandmoms, however, were really pieces of work. After I'd read two books and wanted to stop, one asked in an irritated manner, "I was led to believe 'Storytime' was thirty minutes." Whoa. Whatsa matter, lady, can't keep a kid occupied on your own?

I kept my cool and told her that's all I had picked out, but I could read another one if she had a suggestion. She then irritated me further by asking bluntly, "Can you read one that's more for girls?"

You know what, lady? I picked these stories more for the illustrations and the comprehension level. Most kids your daughter's age like the Cat in the Hat, trucks, and farm animals. Except in your sexist world, a story doesn't require mention of a purse or ballet shoes to appeal to a girl.

Again, kept my cool: "Do you have a suggestion?" This one. I didn't know it, so it wasn't exactly my best reading. . . but it took me to over the thirty-minute mark, and that was all that mattered. Reading to that little girl who came up afterwards helped mitigate that irritation, thankfully.

Seriously, though--"storytime" at a bookstore? This is the kind of thing that libraries do. They have websites and flyers to advertise them--there's a really good one not far from the bookstore, in my hometown. Parents/grandparents should get to know the local libraries.

Instead, I've got people showing up and treating the bookstore like a library. They hang out for hours and never buy a thing, and leave the place a mess, including damaged books, in their wake. Heck, they go a step further and spill coffee everywhere. They wouldn't dare do that at a library. Do they have the wrong idea about what goes on the library? Or do they just think it's too declasse to go to the library?

A lot of people wonder why prices go up, and the economy falls on hard times, and libraries close. So many don't have a clue, when one thing that could go a long way to making the local economy better is a little interest in being a regular library patron and a genuine consumer. Decide what you value, and act on those decisions. Otherwise, you have little right to complain.


Ashley said…
Are you kidding me!?


I was just leaving the library yesterday and thinking about a friend who hasn't gone to the library in years.

I realized there hadn't been a YEAR of my life that I haven't used a public library.

Even when I was in Hawaii for just 4 months, I got a library card! :)

I don't get why people aren't flocking to the library.
Kate P said…
Thanks, Ashley--I went to bed wondering if I'd been too simplified in my rant, but I think your comments show the real dichotomy between library users and non-users.

Admittedly, for a stretch of time not too long ago (and in the case of some branches, to this day, unfortunately) libraries were not exactly giving good "patron service." I avoided my own hometown library for that reason in my teens/college years. I also found the collection inadequate, and the staff not exactly eager to do Interlibrary Loans. Additionally, there's the problem, especially in cities, of an increased number of homeless people and/or people with mental problems (Happy Villain has mentioned some interesting characters at her "If I Ran the Universe" blog) hanging out at the libraries--although there are similar people who come to the bookstore. It can be disturbing, especially to people who want to bring their children in.

So, libraries have a PR problem. People don't know they exist, don't know how to use them, don't know what libraries can do for them, etc. All I know is that, even if I had gone to grad school for a different subject, I couldn't have gotten through the program without libraries, and I don't mean just the university's libraries--I mean the local branches I could run to on my lunch hour, or after work. I probably wouldn't have been as well off had I not already known how to take advantage of them.

I'm hoping that when I do start working in a school library, I'll be able to teach students to use the library--and not just the school's library, but any library. The buzzword nowadays is "information literacy," but we're never going to reach that goal if it totally ignores the library as it exists today.
Anonymous said…
Perhaps I am bit biased (as a library lover) but I do not get it either.
I cried when the children's librarian of my local library retired. I think I was maybe 20.
I even liked the crabby old reference librarian who generally disliked most children.
Libraries tend to keep employees a bit longer than bookstores. Maybe pinkalious' momma has rubbed more than just you the wrong way.
Ashley said…
I totally dedicate my post today to you. ;-)

Check it out!

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