February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Who’s to Blame for the Demise of Libraries? | Feedback

While I heartily agree with John Owens’s “Soapbox” column, “Not as We Remember It” (Sept. 2013, p. 20), I have to point out that librarians, whether school, public, or academic, have no one but themselves to blame for the demise of libraries. The unquestioning embrace by librarians of every technology that comes down the road has led us to this unfortunate situation. In my home school district, all high school students are receiving an iPad at taxpayer expense. What does this tell students? It tells them that the school library is unnecessary and don’t waste your time there. In another local school district, professional librarians are a thing of the past as a cost-cutting and technological measure. What does this say to students about the library?

For public libraries, both the latest ALA State of the Library Report and the Pew Foundation report on public libraries state emphatically that users overwhelmingly want books on their library’s shelves. So why the rush to spend exorbitant amounts of scarce money on ebooks, laptops, iPads, and iPods for users when the vast majority want books? Why provide database access from home? Why push services and technologies that are a disincentive for using both the school and the public library? Part of the reason is because this profession has allowed itself to be overrun with techies who walk around with a device in each hand and another stuck in their ear!

Keep this up, librarians, and you will find yourselves marginalized and relegated to the ashbin of history…and you will have no one to blame but yourselves.

Harold N. Boyer
Springfield Township Library, PA

Top 100 Kids’ Books

When SLJ published The New York Public Library’s “100 Great Children’s Books” list, it elicited a lot of comments about other titles that could have been included.
Anyone with enough patience and thought to assemble such a list gets kudos. Thanks to librarians for keeping books alive in our world. Here are some additions to consider. From the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, start with Little House in the Big Woods. I’m partial to Marguerite Henry’s Justin Morgan Had a Horse because it is such a fine piece of Americana. Kids love Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me. And you simply have to include the first novel with an animal narrator, Black Beauty. Anna Sewell’s novel was responsible for the creation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And from a child’s perspective, it’s just a great book and a must-read.

Melinda Watts
Calabasas, CA

There are a lot of great books on this list—ones that I loved as a child and ones that I never read until adulthood. That said, I’m surprised by how the books are predominantly from 1950 until now, with special reference to books published since the 1980s, and only a few from 1913 to the 1940s. I have some other favorites, but since those were from just around the turn of the century or before, I’m not surprised that they aren’t here.

I also wonder how this list would be different if it was created by either Canadian or British librarians, since I know that many of the books that I grew up with aren’t represented at all here. It’s possible that they were never published in the U.S.; I know that American kids would’ve loved them, too.

Melissa Montovani
Marketing Manager, YA Bookself
Toronto, Canada

Ebook Directory Correction

The MackinVIA entry in “SLJ’s School Ebook Market Directory” (Sept. 2013, pp. 34–37) incorrectly stated that content can’t be downloaded. The content can be downloaded for offline reading on multiple devices.

The revised entry, also featured in an updated version of the directory on our Digital Shift website, is as follows:


This free portal facilitates access and management of PreK–12 ebooks, databases, and other digital content purchased through Mackin Educational Resources as well as some other publishers. MackinVIA offers nearly 200,000 nonfiction, fiction, popular fiction, and interactive ebook and database titles. Pricing and licensing terms vary by publisher and resource, but perpetual licenses for many titles are $30 to $50. While most content allows unlimited simultaneous use, some stipulate a one-ebook, one-user model. TumbleBooks and some other publishers require annual subscriptions. MackinVIA’s main appeal is that it presents a single interface for searching and accessing digital content purchased from a variety of publishers and database providers. Content can be downloaded for offline reading on multiple devices. The “My Backpack” feature lets students collect titles in one place. Teachers and librarians can also make custom lists of ebooks and databases. A new suite of nine free proprietary ereader apps for Apple and Android devices include various features, from bookmarking, highlighting and note-taking to an integrated dictionary, text-to-speech functionality, EasyBib citations, and linking to Accelerated Reader quizzes.

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Dear Harold Boyer of Springfield Township Library,
    Your profound misunderstanding the school librarian’s role speaks more to your own obsolescence than any in our profession. School librarians are instructional innovators, they partner with classroom teachers to enhance student learning across disciplines, they are organizational leaders, curricular experts, readers’ advisory specialists, and they are, in the words of Doug Johnson, indispensable. The notion that a school library program and/or librarian can be “replaced” by mobile technology is absurd. It may be that all YOU do is manage a print collection, but please don’t diminish the work of industrious, innovative school librarians by applying that tired and outdated stereotype to what WE do. If current library users want print books on their shelves, they have them. Proactive librarians are building collections for the future – one in which patrons can take their library with them – where they have 24/7 access to their library program and librarians’ services. The fact that you see that as a reduction of library services, rather than an expansion highlights a profound lack of vision on your part. Maybe you can be replaced by an iPad, but I sure can’t.

  2. Harold Boyer’s letter states that “The unquestioning embrace by librarians of every technology that comes down the road has led us to this unfortunate situation.” I definitely disagree. While I believe my response applies to all librarians, I am responding from the perspective of a school librarian. School librarians definitely DO NOT embrace every technology that comes down the road. Rather, they DO evaluate new technologies and share those that are worthwhile with their students and staff. Every good school librarian should be and is a technology leader in his/her school providing essential guidance in using technology effectively, efficiently, and responsibly to enhance learning, Students need our services more than ever to help them navigate the online world and the new technologies available to them. At the same time, we continue to maintain print collections and guide our students in balancing print and online resources as we prepare them for college and careers and to be lifelong learners.
    “Why provide database access from home?” Well, because a good library provides two things, both of which are essential:
    – the physical library: a great place for getting materials (both print and online) and guidance from a librarian in finding them
    – the virtual library: 24/7 access to needed resources that have been carefully selected by librarians, and the ability to contact the library staff for help
    To provide just the first would be a huge disservice to our patrons, limiting them to needed curation of materials and staff assistance ONLY when they can visit the physical library, and would help to justify those who want to cut library services.

    I, for one, do my utmost to model myself after what I learn from the lead teacher librarians in my field, and to make myself indispensable by keeping on the cutting edge of technology, guiding my users through both electronic and print resources, and providing both on-site and virtual support to my users. It is those librarians who fail to make that a goal who are sabotaging our profession.