The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

Thoughts from a Future YA Librarian

Kansas City Public Library

“The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They are mean, conniving & rude and extremely well read…” -Leslie Knope

So, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it much (or ever, for that matter) here on the ole’ blog, but one of my top Castle-in-the-Clouds dreams in life is to be a lead children’s and young adult librarian in a public librarian setting. I mean, it’s books, and it’s serving the public, and it’s search strategies and information discovery and all kinds of things that I love to picture myself doing one day (including looking like Rachel Weiss in The Mummy, where she legit played a librarian). Which is why, when I’m not chatting it up with all you lovely blog folks, or reading the books and writing the stories, I’m usually studying for one of my Master’s in Library and Information Sciences degree: on the plate this semester? Introduction to Management (blergh) and Resources for Children and Young Readers (a RESOUNDING yay!), which is the class that is basically responsible for this entire post.

The very first chapter of our textbook for my Resources class discusses and makes a very important distinction between a reader who is engaged and a disengaged reader. A reader who is disengaged doesn’t absorb material, reflect on the activity, or gain the same ground that an engaged reader would given the same time and material. And one of the primary ways to enable someone to disengage from the material at hand? To assign it to them, or to provide them with some kind of external catalyst. The same kind of results can be seen when we enable disengaging by making reading too technical, from turning a story into a vehicle for a ‘theme’ or ‘simile’ or ‘voice’ or one of the thousands of other qualities that we ask students to parse their reading material for. So, I read all that and my thoughts went like this:

1.) Duh. Assigned reading blows. Any book that’s assigned is immediately one I don’t want to read. Until it’s not assigned. Then it’s amazing.

2.) Oh. My. God. Maybe this explains why I serially DNF – I parse, I disengage, and then I toss the book and say ‘peace’, blaming the book.

And then it all made sense.

grumpy catGrumpy Cat hates assigned books, too.

SO SO SO many times I seem to not be able to stop my brain from reading in ‘student’ mode, from looking for things like extended metaphors and Tragic Flaws and foreshadowing and then I highlight and I make a note and…that’s it. It’s one the books I don’t do those things to that I love, the ones that I read and think “where would I start highlighting that? It’s all too beautiful to pick a start and stop point” that end up making their way here, in to my reading journal, and in to the long term memory I’m creating of my ‘reading experience’. So I’m going to labor to stop doing this, but then I wondered: how could I have stopped from becoming this way?

Maybe others had a different school experience? If so, I invite you guys to leave a comment telling me how it was for you! But for me, I was the kid that did my homework, so I read the books and did the dialectical journals and invented the ‘discussion questions’ I didn’t care to discuss – and then spent my hours at Borders with friends, discussing books that had nothing to do with class. So I don’t have an answer as to how we do stop this from happening, but I can’t help thinking that, in our efforts to educate our children, we’re turning them in to adults who can’t necessarily see the big picture, who can’t see the story for the trees. Is there a way to still teach a child about metaphor and Tragic Flaws without making them forget that what they hold in their hands are stories – are magic? Are the possibility to do and see and be and experience differently? I’m hoping to do find a way to do that one day, and I hope I’m not the only one, but still: I worry a bit. Have we taken the story out of our stories? Thoughts?

PS: That library in the top picture? The Kansas City Public Library – my home library. Sometimes, I really do like where I live.

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