Monday, 29 September 2008

Youth Libraries Group rocks.

I need (yes, need: it goes beyond want) to blog about the YLG conference in Lancaster a couple of weekends ago. It was my first taste of children's/young people's librarianship, and it was awesome in many and varied ways.

Children's librarians are really into what they do. It's almost scary, in fact. They know their book stock and their audience better than any other group I've come across so far, and they're genuinely passionate about what they do. It's infectious, but in a good way.

This is going to sound stupid, and there's no way around it: I've never been to another library conference which was so profoundly about books. Authors, publishers, illustrators, all talking about their books. It's abundantly clear that children's librarians know what their agenda is, and they're pretty clear about it.

There was some genuinely powerful stuff about raising boys' achievement, and the importance of reading fiction as a part of that. A lot of the emphasis on getting boys to read is/has been about non-fiction, which is more likely to encourage short attention span behaviours like dipping in and out of the Guinness Book of Records, without actually reading, understanding and enjoying a narrative thread.

The publishers were excellent. Obviously, they're there to sell me their product, but I appreciated the effort they went to all the same. I'm a noob, so I don't know the first thing about what children and teenagers read. Being told, "this book is for teenage boys, it's a bit like [insert well-known series here] and it's going to be pushed by booksellers in November" is really helpful. Plus I got tons of free proofs, all of which are sitting in two teetering piles in my living room at the moment, getting in the way of my shiny new bike (more on that later, when I've taken some pictures. Just humour me and act like you care!).

The conference fired me up. I want to start some teenage book groups, and I don't really care if they stray off-topic every now and then; I want to get more manga, so I've got a collection as good as Matt's; I want to spend more time talking to people about what they read, and what they want to read.

And last but not least, the YLG people were lovely.