My Worst Good Idea

It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. We were shifting books to move the language/literature section to the other side of the library. So I suggested that we make a small ‘leisure’ reading section downstairs. It seemed logical. We have students who have been assigned pleasure reading for their learning support classes and sending them up to the rows of P’s often overwhelms them. So I decided to bring some ‘fun’ books down for those students.

Then the trouble began. How does one decide which books go into such a category? Years ago, a cataloger apparently tried to make the distinction by having a PZ category. At least that’s what we assume the person was doing. There were many popular novels (or those popular in the 70’s), but there were also some in that category that were just as obviously classics. In fact, it was so confusing that I asked our current cataloger to reclassify them.

But as I proceeded, I certainly sympathized with that unknown cataloger’s dilemma.

Everyone had an opinion:

  1. I hate that you’re excluding classics. I want students to know that Dickens can be as fun to read as a mystery novel.
  2. You’re including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch? That is definitely not leisure.
  3. You don’t have very much nonfiction. Lots of people read nonfiction in their leisure time.

I actually agreed with everyone. I love Dickens. I’m pretty sure no one is going to pick up Tartt’s 770-page novel for a reading assignment. And many of our weaker students would probably prefer a nonfiction book. And as I was upstairs shifting books, I saw book after book that I wanted to move to that section, books that I could imagine reading on a rainy afternoon with a scone and a cup of tea.

Still, the leisure section, as imperfect it is, provides nervous students with a place to start their search. If they don’t see anything they like, they can ask us for some suggestions. 

And if it’s a failure . . . Well, the nice thing about library work is that we can always start over and try something completely different. Maybe a whole leisure section of nothing but Dickens?



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