Recreational reading in college

I am taking on something several people have told me is hopeless at my new library: celebrating, supporting, and encouraging recreational reading at a university. I’ve had numerous people tell me students don’t read anything they don’t have to, and very little of what they do have to. Professors, I’ve been told, like to read in the summer but won’t read a thing for fun during the academic year.

Maybe I’ll find this all out the hard way, but I’m convinced that this isn’t exactly true. Maybe most students aren’t reading War and Peace for fun, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t consume any written words, in print, online, or in audio. Yes, I’m expanding my view of what reading is. I know a lot of voracious readers who also listen to audiobooks and no one questions whether that’s really reading. So aren’t podcasts like audiobooks? I think so. I know several (and am married to one) people who read magazine and newspaper articles, essays and short stories more frequently than books.So then, aren’t blogs like other short form writing? I think so.

Yes, I’m hoping people will read books, too, and I’m working on ways to promote our book collection, too. But even more importantly, I’m hoping to affirm this: whatever you have time for, whether it’s your favorite fashion blog or a true crime podcast or last night’s Red Sox scores, you are reading, and if you don’t have time for a book right now, the library will be here for you later when you do.

Stay tuned. And if you have ideas that have worked at your academic library to promote reading, leave a comment and tell me what worked.

 

Back to the beginning

Today I went to my local public library. As a patron, not a staff member. It was, admittedly, a strange sensation, not least because I couldn’t find my hold, which turned out to have been cancelled (yikes! I’ll have to read those emails more closely) but one I will have to get used to. I’ve left the public library world to return to the place where Nocturnal Librarian began — a small private liberal arts university where I’ll be the assistant director of the library. It’s a good move for me, career wise, and I will enjoy serving the academic community again. But of course, I will remain a champion of public libraries, and I’ll be in good company.  I know of at least two colleagues at the university who serve as trustees at their own local libraries.

Educators are big library fans, and at my interview I actually got into a great discussion with some professors about the future of public libraries and their role in society. I love that kind of discourse, which is one reason I feel good about making this change. I also love helping people find the information they need, and am looking forward to those “ah ha” moments with students that I remember well from when I was a night reference librarian at this same college a few years ago. Universities are pretty much entirely staffed by members of the book tribe, which I love. So I’m pretty excited to start!

Stay tuned to hear about my adventures in academia. And see what I’ve been reading between jobs over at bookconscious.

 

 

 

Pay as you read textbooks?

I recently came across a fascinating interview at Publishing Perspectives with Max Basaraba, founder of  bookstep. The company aims to help college students take charge of  textbook pricing with a pay-as-you-read model. You can see how it works at bookstep’s website. The basic idea: users get a free 15 minute preview of a book, then pay with credits purchased in increments to read more. The website says the average price of keeping a book in your “library” for a course is $22.41, for the whole school year, $38.77.

Bookstep has a “never overpay guarantee;” if you rack up credits approaching the term or annual fee for your text, you can roll what you’ve already spent into that price. Texts are accessible on any device connected to the internet, stored “in the cloud.” Students or teachers can also store, share or sell content (notes, lectures, study guides, etc.), and connect online with other bookstep users to study together or ask questions.

As a parent and a former student, I think it sounds brilliant not to pay thousands of dollars for textbooks. As a writer who tracks publishing trends, I wonder if this model could kill printed textbooks. As a reference librarian who sees college kids working to help pay for their educations and jockeying for time and space to study in groups, I believe bookstep is providing a needed service.

My son took a French class that covered only four chapters of a textbook which cost nearly $200. With bookstep he could have used just what he needed at a much lower cost. Printed textbooks are so expensive I can see debt-laden students and parents flocking to a truly affordable digital format.