On the final day of this summer’s American Library Association conference, Lao Meng and I had an open chat with librarians in the conference’s Networking Uncommons. The conference was winding down, but people were excited by the prospect that children’s libraries arise spontaneously–even without the intervention of the government.
A private, non-government sponsored library that operates as a business is a very foreign concept to American librarians. Sure, we have private schools that have libraries that are not open to the public. Public university libraries don’t provide equal services to all comers–they concentrate on their students. And corporations and other sorts of institutions have libraries devoted to their own constituents. But a consumer choosing to pay for a membership in a borrowing library is a difficult concept for Americans–even though everyone knows that we pay for our libraries through our taxes. Government libraries–whether for the general public or in schools–are so much the norm that they seem like the only way to do things.
Also at the ALA conference, I attended sessions organized by the Association of Library Services to Children for the first time. Guerrilla Storytime gave him some great tips on interacting with kids, and he hopes to translate this training program into Chinese. Stay tuned!