Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Times Do Change
I can definitely remember when things were different in libraries with respect to teenagers. In Pocatello, where I grew up, there was a kids library in the basement and there was the 'main', which is to say 'adult' library on the upper two floors. My guess is that they would have preferred that the teens stay underground reading Nancy Drew until they were old enough to vote and drink, except that the library didn't stock Nancy Drew books because they were not fine enough literature for children. Whatever, indeed.
Eventually, however, the librarians had to let us go upstairs and read their books, which we doubtless would not take care of. We would write in them or dog-ear the corners to mark our places or not bring them back on time or even lose them. There were any number of vices that teenagers could bring to an adult library. I still remember indulging in one of those vices (well, I doubtless indulged in all of them, but there is the one that was rather special). Books that had bad words and unsavory activities (at least bad and unsavory for teenagers to be reading about) were in the adult library and they were definitely not in the children's library and if the teenagers came upstairs, they might be finding those books and reading those words and about those activities. And I did. I distinctly remember leaning in a corner and wandering through the pages of Forever Amber, as well as the pages of The Amboy Dukes. The former had the unsavory activities and the latter the words and the activities. Smooshed in the dark corner (no reading lamps for us), I could read here and there in the book although I never actually read either of the books from beginning to end. At least not at that time. Later. I read enough at 14 to get some idea of what it was all about.
The Amboy Dukes was a famously tough novel about delinquents, gangs, in New York, I think. It was written by Irving Shulman. I read at his novel leaning in that corner. And the next time I ran into Mr. Shulman, ten years later, it was to replace him as a Teaching Assistant in the Dept. of English at UCLA in 1961. Shulman had run out of writing steam and had decided to get a Ph.D. But then he ran out of Ph.D. steam and decided to return to writing. His job came to me. And then, more or less unrelated to Mr. Shulman, but definitely related to that English Ph.D. pursuit that I was still pursuing, I put in some time testifying as an 'expert witness' in pornography trials with respect to 'Contemporary Community Standards.'
Which only goes to show that you need to pay attention to teens in libraries. Who knows what will come of their being there with all those books? At the very least, they should have a table, a chair, and a good reading lamp. What happens next is probably beyond the control of librarians, though.