Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Betrayal of the Children's Dept at the Library

I feel the need to bewail, lament, complain and otherwise grieve (I love synonyms!) over a painful subject with someone and since almost all of you are far away or far enough that I don't see you in person regularly and since I don't like the phone very much either, this is my best option.

The serious and most painful subject that I wish to bring up is: The local library in our new town has only a handful of children's board books and the few titles they do have are not of high quality. The feeling I felt when I saw this small selection and then later looked online to see if a large quantity or the quality board books were just checked out (they weren't, they just don't have them), was one of betrayal.

Melodramatic? Maybe.

But here is the rationale behind my feelings of betrayal.

First, for there to be a betrayal there must be deep roots of loyalty and love:
The library is my place of refuge, a place that brings peace and happiness to my heart. The place, that for years I have visited religiously at least once a week, if not more. On those visits I have always spent some time in the children's section even before I had a child to take there. But now that I do have a child I consider the visits to the children's department and the time reading books to my daughter there and at home as some of my best moments as a mother. The library is the place where I am surrounded by shelves and shelves of friends for myself, my husband and my daughter. And like all good friendships, it’s free.

Secondly, for there to be a betrayal I believe there also must be a "need" that must be fulfilled to give opportunity for the betrayal:
I am absolutely thrilled that my daughter already loves books, loves to be read to, loves to turn the pages, and loves to look at the pictures by herself. If she is in mid-cry and I hand her a book, she is immediately soothed. If she has been wriggling and squirming around so much that I can't put a diaper on her, I hand her a book and she stops. If she is determined to type her own message on Momma's blog, I hand her book so I can finish up. The list goes on and on of the situations where a book is my most valued and trusted mother's aide.

So my need is for books.

But not just any type or kind of book; for we do own a nice-sized collection of board books but I am so very tired of our titles right now. And it can get expensive rather quickly to buy books weekly instead of checking them out from the library weekly. We do get tired of our new purchased books pretty quickly because we read so much (again most valued and trusted mother's aide in my household). It is important to read books that you can enjoy too because that’s part of the process of how the love of books and reading is transmitted.

So my need is for a variety of free books of enjoyable quality.

I acknowledge this library has a very large selection of picture books (larger than any of the branches in Lexington) that will fit our needs wonderfully and magnificently when Aurora is 3 or so. But what do I do now and over the next year or two? Despite that Aurora loves books; most books do not love Aurora back. At least not at this stage, not yet. Only board books can withstand the love of a 13 month old.

Every now and then I do try reading a more fragile children's book to her but it doesn't work. Reading is supposed to be a hands-on experience for a child her age. I refuse to interrupt our story times with stressful outbursts of "Let Momma turn the page!" "Be careful!" "Don't rip it!" "NO!" "Books are friends, not food!"

So my need is for a variety of free board books of enjoyable quality now. (Not later child development stages).

Are you beginning to see why I feel betrayed?
Am I asking for too much?
Or am I just being  picky, greedy and melodramatic?

One more thing, to add salt to injury. I've always participated in summer reading programs at libraries, as a kid and as an adult. I'm not really sure why I love them but I do. I signed Aurora up last summer and I would just write down the titles and authors of the books that I read to her on an official summer reading card and turn it in for prizes.
It usually doesn't matter if the book is your own purchased book, or borrowed from your great aunt's twice removed cousin's neighbor, or checked out from the library-- you can just read any ole book. For the program here, the book has to be a library book to count towards the summer reading program. You check out the library books and then you return them to a librarian at a special station who checks the books back in and denotes how many points each book is worth on your summer reading card. If you accrue enough points then you can get a prize or be eligible for one of the cool big prizes. (They really do have cool prizes here…the best I’ve ever seen). But because of the lack of selection in board books Aurora and I won't be participating in the program much this year since we can’t turn in all the books we read from our own collection.

I feel sad.
I feel betrayed.

Melodramatic? Yes, thank you.

Aurora reading a book with her friend Andrew

Aurora looking at books on her own.


  1. No as I fellow reader I totally get why this is so frusterating to you. I am sorry I don't really have any solutions for you, but I do feel your sadness.

    On the other hand, great parenting getting Aurora started loving books all ready. My mom read so much to me as a little girl I know that is part of the reason I adore reading so much now as an adult.

  2. I would feel the same way. That is really frustrating. We go to the library once or twice a week also, in fact, yesterday Hallie came over to me and said, "Go a library? It's not raining!" Because a week or so ago we got poured on when we went and that was not pleasant. So I said, Ok Sure! Let's go. Then I looked at my watch and the library didn't open for another hour. She didn't really understand why we weren't leaving... after all, it wasn't raining...

    They don't even have other branches in the area that you can request books from? That's been a saving feature of some of the local branch libraries we've gone to that had small selections...

  3. As a previous worker of the children's dept of the public library, I will tell you all about the board books:

    People check them out, don't teach their children respect for books like you do, and then never return them. The combination of a restricted budget, higher demand in other areas, and the short lifespan of board books make for a consistent shortage.

    Leave comment cards, send letters, write emails. If they know there is a demand, they will do their best to fill it.

    Keep taking your kids. The thrill of my job was getting to see children's faces light up when they got to find and read books and develop unique interests and passions for literature. You're an excellent mother!

  4. Are you involved in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library? If not, google it to see if your county is eligible. Ours is, and Caylor has been getting 1 children's book every month since he was a month old - for free! It is awesome and some of his favorite books have been from that program. Sometimes they send you non board books, but they are still usually age appropriate when it comes to the story and so on. And I used those free books like that to teach Caylor not to rip or eat them. He is very good with his books and treats them with respect, he is so good that I sometimes let him "read" some of my big girl books. :) He has been like that for a while. Good luck and I hope you find a solution soon.

  5. What a bummer! Can you do ILL's on board books? May not be wrth the effort, but just a thought...