Media for Children and YA Manifesto 2011

For the third year now, I set aside some time in our last meeting of SI 624: Media for Children and Young Adults for students to reflect on what they have learned in the past term. Perhaps it will coincide with what I believe, and perhaps not, but it’s important for reflection to happen in a quiet, unhurried way. And because the end of the term is so chaotic, the classroom feels like the place to allot that time.

So … here’s what I believe in 2011:

I believe in the power of story transmit, transform, and transcend. I believe that stories impact us in various ways and that we can no longer expect a single canon of works or a single format to satisfy everyone. That being said, I find myself more and more concerned that we are losing a sense of common literary, musical, or cultural heritage. As four-part harmony hymns give way to contemporary unison songs in church, something is lost for me. Similarly, to grow to adulthood without having experienced some of the authors and works who have impacted those who came after feels like a truncation. Trees need both branches and roots, and I continue to question how we develop our children’s literary roots without privileging one culture over another.

I believe in the power of information to impact lives. I want better K-8 database interfaces with better content. I want those paid subscriptions to be better than the results brought in an open Web search: more visually rich, more customized, more multimedia. I am worrying that we, as librarians, privilege children’s database content that is not developmentally appropriate or reading-level appropriate just to say that we use databases. Most K-8 databases have not had a face lift in years; and while they may have updated some of the articles, they remain focused on text, much of which is more sophisticated in style than the reader needs. Database content should be wondrous. Open Web searching by the very young means they begin brand affiliations at a very young age. Right now, they choose Google or Bing as their brand of choice, and while those are merely portals to content, they are seen as easier and more barrier-free. I want to see database companies do what Capstone did and create digital media that meets children where they are, that celebrates the unique needs of the young researcher. Invest now, or lose users later.

I believe that we are living in a time of unprecedented change in society, technology, student interactions with schools and community, and culture. I am excited by the possibilities of a digital life but also believe that we will eventually settle upon a world where there is a place for print and a place for digital. I recognize that many in our nation lack the digital access and tools that I have, and that to pull the print world out from under them, like the proverbial rug, would be a dramatic setback. I believe that, like today’s kitchens that have both stove and microwave, we do not need to choose one or the other.

I believe that libraries are important community centers. This morning, on my way to school, I stopped off at the library just as it was opening. At the opening hour, half of the patrons’ parking lot was already full. My home library matters to people. I also recognize that patrons do not understand the pricing of serials or the costs of eBooks (both to the library and, in the case of Kindle and Overdrive, in the cost of their long-protected library privacy) and that new conversations are needed in order to secure the ongoing funding necessary for thriving, vibrant intellectual neighborhood hubs.

How about you — what do you believe this year?

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