Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The teenage male can be a very difficult customer for librarians to cater for. Getting young children into the library is not difficult for they are more often than not bought in by a parent or carer or even a teacher. However, once they are old enough to be accorded a greater degree of independence, many will decide that the library is not a place they will choose to be, and reading is not an activity that they want to be involved in. The difficulties of encouraging boys to read have been well‐documented, but making the libraries which hold the books and want these boys to read, more user‐friendly for this particular group is an issue that has not been widely addressed. Welch's study remedies this issue by examining the way in which policies, procedures and attitudes can be changed in order to create a library environment in which teenage boys will thrive.
The series of which this book is a part is aimed at young adult librarians, the next generation, and they in turn need to be focusing their energies on the next generation of users. In many respects those who already use the library need less convincing about its usefulness. They have already found something there that appeals to them, so why are so many of the – for example, displays – aimed at these users? Is it because it is easier to address those who are already there? This is part of the reason. Another explanation may be that many of the librarians are female and they – rightly – base their displays on material they are familiar with and know that their users will enjoy. So one remedy, one way in which more young teenage males could be encouraged into the library, is to have more male library staff. This resolution to the problem presents a Catch‐22, for if young men are not using the service, they are unlikely to train in order to work in it. Therefore an interim solution or preferably solutions is required – changing attitudes would be a positive first step. This is easy to do and should start with asking the question what are the needs of this group? How can these needs be met and how can the concerns of staff be addressed? Answers to these questions and more are provided by Rollie Welch in The Guy‐Friendly YA Library alongside an array of suggestions – developing a male friendly collection, teen advisory boards, teen area for design and display; consideration of the reading habits of young men and more.
Starting out by introducing the mind‐set of a teenage male helps the reader to gain some insight into how this section of the community may be feeling and how it may be appropriate to change one's own attitude as a first step in the right direction. If male teens are to be encouraged to use a library, it is essential to remember from the outset not to alienate the girls. Create a teen area rather than a male area, appoint a librarian who will spend dedicated time in this area and produce promotional materials in the same way that a children's librarian will. When these suggestions are considered, it becomes clear immediately that there is a discrepancy in the service provided – children have their own area, their own librarian an their own publicity as do adults, but there is something missing in the middle.
Progressing through the book and looking at the suggestions Welch makes, it soon becomes very clear that, although it may not be easy to change the library service and it cannot be done overnight, there are some very simple steps that can be taken to achieve a noticeable change. Welch does not dictate ideas; rather he offers a range of strategies that could be employed. There is a chapter providing an insight into the physical development and behaviour of the male teens followed by a detailed consideration of the reading habits of males. With insights into the lure of books with horror and violence as well as those on vehicles and sport (including a discussion of the newly emergent Manga books), there is a consideration of books by their genre explaining why they appeal. Ideas for activities within the library, outreach and redesigning the space all add to the usefulness of this book.
Each chapter contains short, easily digestible segments of ideas complete with a list of further reading suggestions. Where applicable, web site suggestions have also been included. An appendix listing “Essential Fiction Titles or Series for Teen Males” is particularly useful as a quick reference and is followed by a full index. Ultimately however, the book provides some excellent insights, anecdotes and practical suggestions that should help librarians encourage male teenagers users. Many of the suggestions are cost free or low cost ideas that will hopefully ensure newly introduced male teens will feel welcome and comfortable in the library. A must read for all public and secondary school librarians who have found themselves struggling to reach this particular audience.