Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Library Card Sign-Up (copy)

The beginning of the school year is one of my favorite times. Amongst all the new student confusion – where do I go for this, what do I need for that – appears the readers for the year. Without help from the staff, they search the online catalog and begin to read book spines to find a certain book. The reader then strolls confidently to the circulation desk with a couple of fictions in hand and a shy smile on her face.

I like imagining why the little smile accompanies the patron. I pretend I am them, seeing the library for the first time, and finding that great book to read. It is common for the latest in a series or current bestsellers to sit on our shelves waiting for readers while at the public library one has to wait in line for the same books. Naturally, all books are due at the end of the semester and sit ready to read by the beginning of the next.

I like to think the students have found favorite authors that afford the library some sort of cool points. Yes, it is my pipe dream to see them smiling because they are happy with our collection.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of students who come to the library as recreational readers. More often I stand in front of a group of students during orientation who are just realizing our college has a library. I want desperately to place a book in the hands of these students that they will enjoy. How do you make the average student fall in love with books?

This is the question facing more and more librarians in the state of Mississippi. In an article in The Commercial Appeal by Dorothy Johnson, executive director of Shelby County Books from Birth, titled “Reading is powerful fuel for child's growth” she cites facts that make me excited. One such fact I now use during orientations. “Children exposed to books and reading during preschool years enters kindergarten with a listening vocabulary of 20,000 words, versus 3,000 words for those who don't have this exposure.”

Imagine the change our great state of Mississippi would undergo if we placed books in the hands of our kids before they ever hit kindergarten. Imagine my joy if I got 20 more readers at the beginning of a semester then 20 more the following semester.

Okay citizens of Mississippi. Gather your young ones in the car and head for the nearest public library. Go, get out there and celebrate Library Card Sign-Up Month in September. We need more readers!