Thursday, April 19, 2012

Now What?

Have you ever seen a dying library?

Over Spring Break I had the chance to visit one, and it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

In a little town in rural Alaska there is a library that is just that, dying. It started out huge, thirty years ago. It took up a giant two story room and was the center piece of its school. It had a full time librarian, dozens of patrons, and all the newest books. Then its town started to shrink. The kids that used to visit it grew up, graduated, and moved on. There weren't as many kids the next year or the year after that. They couldn't afford to pay the librarian and it became an eyesore, "a waste of space," so they threw out half the books and moved it from its grand room to a double classroom at the back of the building.

Locked away at the end of a dark hallway it set, manned by a staff of volunteers for a decade, until even they couldn't hold on any longer. Then one day a senior needed to get some volunteer hours, so she got a key, opened the door, and hung up her shingle. For one year the library was alive again. Then, in 2006 she graduated, and for the next six years all but one elementary teacher forgot it was even there, with its shelves of two decade old books.

Then the girl went back home, started working at the school she used to attend, and went back to that library, now with only one classroom to its name. Then one day she took a group of students down to the end of the hall, unlocked the door, and they got to work.

That was last month, and this month my friend sent me two pictures. One was of boxes of unused books that had lost all relevancy to their students, and the other was of shelves with only a few dozen books left on them.

Her e-mail read "now what?"

And that's my question to you.If someone gave you a library, several years of stock piled budget, and told you to fill it with books that would draw 12-18 year olds to it like moths to a flame what titles would you buy?

- Aaron


Maria Zannini said...

That is one of the saddest stories I've ever heard. I don't have a clue what books would appeal to a 12 year old, but if I had a library, I would hold events and invite every author I could think of to hold readings and discussions.

I can't believe a whole town gave up going to the library. Do they do everything online now?

Very sad.

Bethany Robison said...

I think I would start with classics - To Kill a Mockingbird, Twain, HG Wells, maybe some Zusak :) (I <3 Zusak). Should probably get several nonfiction pieces, biographies (I remember enjoying Ben Franklin's autobiography when I was in school) - and maybe some multimedia items?

Anonymous said...

I am so very sad, now. I would buy every book I had ever wanted. That, my friend, would more than fill it up. At the very least, I'd start with the Potter books.

Jan Christiansen said...

That's about the saddest picture I've ever seen, but it's good to know that one caring person can make a difference. I hope this library thrives and once again become a hub of learning and enjoyment for students.

I would surely include anything and everything by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Love her books!

And my all time favorite. Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet - the book that "started it all" for me. ~Jan