7B: Reflections on Reading

Reader’s Advisory Articles relating to Academic Libraries

Barriers to Extracurricular Reading Promotion in Academic Libraries

Did you know over 10 percent of academic libraries do not consider the promotion of extracurricular reading their job. In this article, Julie Elliott explains why those particular libraries are looking at things the wrong way. Understaffed and underfunded are unfortunately normal phenomenon in many different types of libraries. In academic libraries, many believe they should use their budget to support teaching, learning and research rather than extracurricular or leisure reading. Elliot points out that these libraries do not consider the positive impact extracurricular reading would have on these more traditional goals in academic libraries. Less time leisure reading is shown to reduce a students ability to preform a search, comprehend, and use the information from texts. Additionally, students who have this ability (called prose literacy) are more likely to be civically engaged and gainfully employed than those who lack prose literacy or those who spend less time leisure reading. In this very systematic and logical way, Elliott shows us why we should care about extracurricular reading promotion in academic libraries.  Elliot advocates for a closer relationship between academic and neighboring public libraries as a way to mitigate various barriers to library directors promoting leisure reading.  Various suggestions include academic libraries giving booklists and promotional materials from public libraries available to students and libraries donating weeded out titles (not appropriate for Friends at Library Book sales) to the academic library.

How to Be Engaging: Recreational Reading and Readers’ Advisory in the Academic Library 

Undertakes a brief history of reader’s advisory in academic libraries. Up until 50 years ago, readers advisory in academic libraries was an integral part of the collection; librarians were devoted to helping students develop as readers. Interesting reasons beyond the fiscal constraints and shift to focus on academic pursuits. While fiction did give way to period research in library collections in part due to budgets, Nicholson suggests other compelling reasons as well. Up until 1950s university students more homogenous and librarians able to confidently recommend “good” materials. The 950s brought shift to academic pursuits. An elitism that brought censor to book choices and an elimination of books not sufficiently intellectual. Additionally a broader rage of students as universities became more accessible. The article goes on to explain research that shows how leisure reading contributed to a persons intellect and success both academically and professionally. It also suggests some ideas for reintroducing pleasure reading into academic library collections with minimal effort and funds. These include a Public Library Partnership, Campus Reading Campaigns, and Small Investments. With these small changes, Nicholson hopes students will apply the knowledge gleaned by leisure reading to their educational goals to develop better critical thinking and writing skills

Giving Pleasure Its Due: Collection Promotion and Readers’€™ Advisory in Academic Libraries

This article is situated within the bounds of combatting not only the decline in reading among college students, but the nation wide decline that was the subject of The National Endowment for the Arts’ Report in 2007. This article sights numerous studies that show how pleasure reading, not just in-class/assigned readings, strongly correlate to better test scores in reading and writing. It also brings up the subject of non-traditional pleasure reading sources, such as blogs and other unedited sources as valid extracurricular reading outlets. Instead of going in depth into the history of reader’s advisory in academic libraries, Smith and Young move straight to suggestions to promote reading and collections in academic libraries. The authors undergo a very unique and subtle differential between readers advisory and collection promotion; where readers advisory is an individual and immediate process, collection promotion draws attention to certain individual items and parts (DVDs or rare books) that already exist in the library. Both are critical to the authors goal of promoting reading in the university community. Suggestions for this task highlight practical solutions, including emphasizing genre to encourage students to use the existing collection, improving the immediate appeal of books by keeping jackets on or use those jackets in displays, and employing extracurricular reading books in existing curriculum. All these options advance the underlying goal of the article to establish that leisure reading is crucial in the academic library and should be promoted in various small practical ways.

Discussion

Reading has always been a part of my life. My mom read to me every single night, until I took over for myself. And while I may have missed a day or two over the years, it is still cherished morning and evening ritual. Additionally, I have no doubt it has helped my academic pursuits. The news of these articles improving various aspects of a student’s academic and professional careers are not surprising to me. However, I am surprised that any librarian, academic or otherwise, could begin to discount reading of any form in any setting. However, I cannot deny the fact that they have for over fifty years. What all of these authors and articles offer is hope that we can turn this around, despite budget constraints and collection availability. Each article (with some overlap) offers several solutions that are almost deceiving in their simplicity. Each of these solutions tackles the problem of promotion, budget, collection breadth and depth, or the desire to exert minimal effort. In fact, many of the solutions require minimal effort. I believe it would be hard for the most against extracurricular reading librarian to oppose a campus reading campaign that costs them neither effort nor funds. Even if they can’t oppose it for purely political reasons (who wants to be known as the librarian that opposes reading?), the goal is advanced. For those that do want to help their students in what is simultaneously a traditional and innovative way, can find several ways to immediately improve leisure reading among their academic charges.

One thing the articles do not mention is the benefit of decreasing stress and anxiety that leisure reading provides. I understand why they situate their arguments within existing qualified scientific data that shows reading improves very measurable and concrete areas of a students life. Despite that it would be difficult to prove empirically, I believe in reading for readings sake. No matter how much time we have or how busy our lives are, there are windows that we can utilize. We wake up an hour earlier. We turn off the tv an hour early. We read on the bus (for those of us who do not become unfortunately car sick). I believe it is not only important to promote the fact that their are books to read and they will help your academic life, but to let people know that they can find the time to read. And that in doing so, they can improve their lives on multiple levels beyond the academic or professional.


Elliott, Julie. “Barriers to Extracurricular Reading Promotion in Academic Libraries.”Reference and User Services Quarterly, 48., (2009): 340–346. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Nicholson, Heather. “How to Be Engaging: Recreational Reading and Readers’ Advisory in the Academic Library” How to Be Engaging: Recreational Reading and Readers’ Advisory in the Academic Library 8.2 (2012): 178-86. Taylor and Francis Online. Public Services Quarterly, 18 May 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

Smith, Rochelle, and Nancy J. Young. “Giving Pleasure Its Due: Collection Promotion and Readers’€™ Advisory in Academic Libraries.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.6 (2008): 520-26. Science Direct. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

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2 thoughts on “7B: Reflections on Reading

  1. Yes! Reading does help to alleviate stress. I only know this from anecdotal evidence and personal experience, but I agree. It seem interesting in that there seems to be a lot of discussion surrounding the stress and anxiety students experience as the result of academia, but there does not seem to be a lot of discussion on how reading could combat this. Academic libraries are posed at a perfect intersection to provide a unique service here. They are in direct contact with students and if they promoted a browsing collection or a pleasure reading section, they might be able to help support students in stress management and supplement the mental health services colleges and universities provide. So happy that you pointed this out!

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts (and those of the authors you summarize) on preserving a place for readers’ advisory//pleasure reading in the context of academic libraries. While there are undoubtedly days when I cannot cram any more text through my eyes as a full time student, most days I find it not only diverting or relaxing, but co-curricular or augmentary to the educational content of my schoolwork. Poetry tops the list during heavy academic weeks because of its combination of brevity and sheer stylistic distance from academic prose, but other kinds of recreational reading find their way into the mix too.

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