Thursday, June 14, 2007

Some call it leisure . . . we call it literacy!

Just when I was planning to promote our revitalized arrangement of new and popular books in the library (and our nifty Playaways), a possible crisis in literacy came to my attention. Zounds! Coincidence? . . . . I think not!

First, the library has long been committed to providing recreational or leisure reading opportunities along with our more scholarly fare. We have formed a new location for you to browse these items right by the blue chairs in our reference area. Since the 1971-72 school year, the library has leased the "McNaughton Collection" of popular fiction and non-fiction books. Ably chosen by Belinda Martindell since 1990 (or thereabouts), the McNaughtons offer over two hundred titles for your reading pleasure. They are inter-shelved with our New Book collection, a selection of titles ordered by faculty and staff members and managed by Diane Miller.

In addition to these books, we have a growing collection of Playaway digital audio devices. We are just about to nearly double the size of this collection by adding 40 new titles. You can browse the Playaways right next to the McNaughton and New Book area. You can also run a keyword search for "playaway" in the catalog. It's mainly popular adult fiction, with some children's fiction and a few non-fiction titles.

All right, now the potential literacy crisis: are college graduates growing less literate? Are they reading less for personal enjoyment? The following articles were suggested as background reading for an upcoming discussion at the American Library Association annual conference next week, entitled "Aren't There Any Good Books Here? (Un)Required Reading and the Academic Library":

• “A First Look at the Literacy of America’s Adults in the 21st Century” (NCES) at

• Dillon, Sam. “Literacy Falls for Graduates from College, Testing Finds,” The New York Times, December 16, 2005 at

• Elliott, Julie. “Academic Libraries and Extracurricular Reading Promotion,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 46:3 (Spring 2007): 34-43.

• Feller, Ben. “Johnny Still Can’t Read – In College,” The Globe and Mail, January 20, 2006 at

• MacAdam, Barbara. “Sustaining the Culture of the Book: The Role of Enrichment Reading and Critical Thinking in the Undergraduate Curriculum,” Library Trends 44:2 (Fall 1995): 237-63.

Is there anything we can do about this? Well, fear not . . . the above resources can help. We all need a little relaxation, stimulation, and satisfaction that can be gained from reading or listening to a good book.

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