Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

I can get that from the library!?

with 2 comments

Justine Larbalestier blogged about borrowing books from libraries and how authors benefit from this.

On the big scale, borrowing books is good because that’s what keeps libraries alive: the more people who borrow books from libraries the more likely they are to be funded. And the more libraries there are the more people who are reading.

love is hell - surely not Scott Westerfeld had blogged about Love is Hell [1], which includes stories by him, Justine and others (eg. Gabrielle Zevin a remarkable writer, who loves her pup almost as much as i love mine). One of Scott’s loyal Westerfeldians lamented she would have to wait months before she could find it at a used book store. Justine suggested:

Maybe you could get your local library to order it in?

This idea is surprising to many teenagers, but every teen librarian grapples with how to entice teenagers into their library. I’ve written a literature review on the topic [2]. (Amira-la does know how rocking libraries are and like me is waiting (im)patiently for Love is Hell to arrive on a library shelf, altho our respective libraries are half a world from each other.)

The forty teenagers I spoke to rarely chose to go to a library (names have been changed to ensure confidentiality). They were likely to go to their school library because they had to in class. (And if this class involved choosing a book and reading it, this was a good time to pretend to read but actually talk to friends.) After talking about graphic novels with one group, the conversation turned to libraries.

Researcher: Would any of you go to the library and think, “Oh I want to get a graphic novel. I want to read one.”
[all talking at once]
Kylie: I wouldn’t even say I want to get a novel.
Researcher: So you don’t think much of going to the library?
Kylie: No, only if I have to do like, a research thing [for school] I’ll get like
Researcher: Yeah
Teresa: I just use the internet.
Kylie: Yeah I just
Researcher: What about you guys, do you ever go to the library?
Jason: Sometimes if my mum’s working late, she makes us go to the library.
Researcher : Uhmm. The public library, not the school library?
Jason: Yeah, the local one.
Researcher: Do you ever come to this [school] library and get?
Rita: I do.
Ryan: Every second Friday.
Kylie: [laughing]
Researcher: What? Oh you have to come in the class.

Cassie (age 14) provided her reasons for disliking libraries.

Cassie: I don’t really like libraries.
Researcher: Yeah?
Cassie: But, I get, yeah, mostly get my books from there, when I get books.
Researcher: From the school library or the public library?
Cassie: Um, both
Researcher: Yeah? But you’d rather not go to them?
Cassie: Yeah. They’re too quiet and all.
Researcher: [laughing] If you could make lots of noise, would you like it better?
Cassie: It [pause]
Researcher: If it was like a book shop?
Cassie: Um, I dunno

During another session Liam (age 13) said what he thought.

Liam: I’d never go to the library, like outside of school.
Researcher: No? You’ve got better things to do?
Liam: Nah, I just [pause] I dunno. I used to with my mum, but I dunno, I just kind of like, I never really can ever really find a book that I will actually keep reading.

When Liam was in the library during class he needed recommendations of books he would enjoy from his teachers, librarians, and friends. Exactly what Leah’s classmates provided during their focus group session, held in a corner of the school library.

Researcher: What are you guys talking about?
Melissa: The Paris Hilton book [3]
Tanya: The Paris Hilton book
Leah: Is it over there [in the school library]?
Melissa: Yeah
Leah: [incredulous] They wouldn’t have that here.
Melissa: Yeah
Researcher: So are you going to take it out of the library now?
Leah: Are you serious?
Melissa: Yeah
Researcher: You’re gonna have to take it out at lunch time.
Leah: I know
Tanya: Yeah
Leah: I’ll beat you to it.

Read more about Leah’s love of Paris.

Misconceptions about what libraries offered were common. Mia (age 14) didn’t know she could ask her library to purchase books.

Mia: Shall we recommend them [the library] to buy them [manga series]?
Researcher: Yeah. I don’t know for sure whether they’ll buy them, but they might. Because I used to work in a public library and if people said, “Oh this is a good book.” I’d think about buying it.
Ellen: No what you do is, you like get lots of people saying, so you get all your friends to go in and say
Researcher: So if all your friends like manga, tell them to all go to the public library and say, “Get this series.”
Mia: Are you serious?

Not everyone ignored libraries. One group of students were avid readers, including manga aficionados Amy and Mia, and their insatiable reading requirements were fulfilled by libraries. Their local public library had an extensive graphic novel collection (began in the mid 1990s) where Amy and Mia could get their manga fix. From another group Melissa (age 14) was also a refreshing contrast.

I go to my local library sometimes, like especially when I’m doing assignments for school. I find that sometimes I don’t get enough time here in the [school] library. I go to my local library and get books out [for the assignment] and usually I get two or three books, like for me to read.


  1. Marr, Melissa et al (2008) Love is Hell New York: HarperTeen
  2. Snowball, Clare (2008) “Enticing teenagers into the libraryLibrary Review, vol.57, no.1, pp.25-35
  3. Hilton, Paris (2004) Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek behind the Pose Milsons Point, NSW: Random House

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Written by ClareSnow

3 December 2008 at 2:20 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hey, what a great thing that you’re sharing dialog with teens about going to and using libraries! I really liked this post!

    And thanks as well for Linking to my blogsite on yours…



    Lee Wind

    4 December 2008 at 3:45 am

  2. thanks for reading :)


    5 December 2008 at 1:01 pm

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