By: Salman A. Kureishi
The big picture
The bottom line simply is that libraries are generally considered a boring place and therefore we find young boys shying away from visiting one. Since boys tend to like active involvement, the solution should be to make libraries a fun place – half of the task is related to actually taking practical steps towards this end and the other half is related to “perception management” – changing the archetypical perception of a library as a boring place.
The bitter taste of truth
The truth of the matter is that a library nowadays should be expected to do more than just shelve books because every book ever written is readily available over the Internet (I personally have over a thousand ebooks and audio books on my PC right now – and I can double that in a month if I want). If libraries want to attract young boys, the people running those libraries have got to take a good hard look at the libraries and ask themselves:
• Where do we want to be ten years from now (whats the vision for libraries in general)? And
• How can we really add value to the young boys who visit (besides just being a quiet place with tall shelves, plenty of books and a shushing librarian; how can we get young boys hooked on reading)?
The people running the libraries have got to understand that they are competing for the attention of the young boys – and they are competing against the likes of the Internet, the ipods, 300 plus TV channels, WWE and TNA wrestling, the Xbox and about 600 movies released annually – you have to agree that the libraries today have got their work cut out.
A gutsy Idea that just might work:
I have always supported the idea of a library being a place which encourages boys to explore their passion – that could be anything from aerodynamics to starting up an online business. The libraries should have coaches (or guides) who are responsible for picking up on what a kid is looking for and then pointing him towards the resources available within that library – there should be a minimum interference policy (which means that the guide would stay out of the kids way until and unless the kid needs help with finding the right books and DVDs).
Similarly, there are plenty of practical ideas that, if applied, could revolutionize the role of a library. If you can think of any such ideas, please share it with us by posting your comments below – after all, coming up with a renewed vision for the libraries of the future is a collective effort.