Argue a point: Academic libraries should support their patrons' leisure reading

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    • #1267
      Katherine Lee
      Participant

      While a number of academic libraries in the US have demonstrated the benefits of leisure reading collections, academic libraries in Australia have been slow to establish such collections. Academic libraries should cater to their clients’ leisure reading for a number of reasons:

      1. Leisure reading collections support the mission of academic libraries by catering to users’ needs.
      2. Leisure reading encourages literacy in students.
      3. Leisure reading collections increase the circulation of library materials and the library’s client-base.

      It is the mission of academic libraries to support and encourage the intellectual needs of university staff and students. Currently, however, most Australian academic libraries do this by collecting books that relate to the university’s study areas. It is often argued that leisure reading collections fall outside the scope of an academic libraries’ collection development policy. There is concern that in having leisure reading collections academic libraries will encroach on the collection areas of public libraries. However, research has shown that if students do not have ready access to leisure reading materials through their university library they will not seek to fulfill this need by using public libraries. Therefore, having a leisure reading collection will not draw users away from public libraries but fulfil a need of academic library users.

      By promoting reading as a pleasurable activity, leisure reading encourages literacy and high-order thinking in students. There is concern that aliteracy in students is increasing. Aliteracy refers to a phenomenon where people are able to read, but choose not to because they do not enjoy it. The majority of reading undertaken by students is screen-based and involves browsing, scanning and other non-linear reading activities, and does not allow for contemplation. Encouraging leisure reading is the most effective way of combatting aliteracy and developing students’ critical thinking. Studies have shown that leisure reading makes students more articulate, improves comprehension and develops writing style. Gallik (1999) found that there is a positive relationship between student’s GPAs and the amount of time they spend reading for pleasure.

      In addition, a leisure reading collection can expand the client base of the library and improve circulation. Leisure reading collections strengthens regular student users’ connection to the library by catering to their recreational pursuits. For other students who may associate the library with the stress of assignments, leisure reading collections can help to overcome these perceptions and make them more likely to come to the library. Hallyburton et al. found that a greater number of staff, particularly from areas of administration and faculty management, began using the library once a popular fiction section was created. Additionally, in an extensive evaluation of their popular materials collection the University of Berkley, California found that books in the leisure reading collection circulate 4.3 times more yearly as books in the general collection.

      Due to the positive response to leisure reading collections in America, academic libraries in Australia should implement recreational reading collections to cater to their users’ needs, improve literacy in students and expand their client base and circulation.

    • #1282

      Excellent Katherine, I’m convinced!

      This is a great idea and I found your argument coherent, interesting and convincing. Increasing literacy, high-order thinking and the library’s client base and circulation figures are all goals that academic libraries already have. Giving existing users the opoortunity for pleasurable leisure time reading while at the same time promoting their own goals and metrics seems like a no-brainer now that I’ve read your reflection.

      How soon can we get QUT’s library on board? Looking forward to implementation asap 🙂

    • #1356
      Katherine Lee
      Participant

      Thanks Robyn! Before I started researching the topic I wasn’t sure myself, but once you think about it and do research there are so many benefits and relatively easy to set up. I would love to see a leisure reading collection at QUT! Hopefully some day in the near future 🙂

    • #1384
      Ruth McConchie
      Participant

      Yes I agree, it’s an excellent idea. I’ve noticed that campuses/ libraries that have education/ creative writing students studying there have the best leisure reading collections, like the Kelvin Grove Library at QUT. I guess it is hard to justify a leisure reading collection at say a Law Library when resource budgets are so tight. I know at the academic library I work at many of the Bonus books that are requested are leisure reading books.

      • #1727
        Katherine Lee
        Participant

        Thanks for the comment Ruth
        I love that people are using BONUS to borrow leisure reading books 🙂 I had never thought of doing it before, but why not?

    • #1386
      Shannon Franzway
      Participant

      Yep, I’m sold!  I’m guessing that the biggest reason that this isn’t something implemented across the board is budget, budget, budget 🙁

      I’m interested in the point you make about aliteracy – I think that is actually quite a concerning trend.  Perhaps I’m catastrophising a little here, but over a long period of time, entire generations could evolve where people who read for leisure could become a minority and I think that would be extremely sad!

      By the way, I clicked a couple of your links about aliteracy – they aren’t opening in a new window.  Might be a worth a quick review and edit!

      • #1729
        Katherine Lee
        Participant

        Thanks for your reply Shannon L)
        I definitely agree that there is potentially a risk that leisure readers could become a minority. I know that among my friends I am the only one who reads for pleasure consistently.
        Thanks for the heads up 🙂 I’ll see if I can fix them 🙂

    • #1554
      Kate McKelliget
      Participant

      Hi Katherine, I really enjoyed reading this! I remember I was once trying to find C.S Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy. I didn’t have any luck searching on the public library’s catalogue. It occurred to me, however that my university might have the book in their library due to its strong philosophy, religion and English literature departments. I still remember the feeling of guilt when I loaned that book from the university library! I felt like I wasn’t using the library in the correct way. I also remember, very distinctly, the feeling of realizing how many books were in this (enormous) library that I might like to read for pleasure. However, the habit never stuck. I think the habit never stuck simply because the culture didn’t exist. The way that you wove the argument of aliteracy into your post was really great and thought provoking – mostly because I’ve never thought about that issue before! Thanks.

      • #1730
        Katherine Lee
        Participant

        Don’t feel guilty! I don’t think the librarians would have minded, it increases their circulation stats 🙂
        I agree that there isn’t really a culture of borrowing out books from academic libraries for leisure reading, which I think is a shame. A leisure reading collection would hopefully change that, but I don’t think libraries will adopt it any time soon.
        Thanks for your post 🙂

    • #1734
      Deborah Fuller
      Participant

      Great post Katherine and thank you for making me feel less guilty abut my leisure reading. It’s good to know I’m improving my comprehension, articulacy and writing style, whilst I’m relaxing. I agree it would be good if academic libraries offered a leisure reading section, but I guess with so many demands on their budget that course texts take priority. Your post certainly has got me thinking.

    • #2191
      Paola Beretta
      Participant

      Excellent post, Katherine! A pleasure to read and reflect. I agree with you, academic libraries need to have more leisure reading titles for all the reasons you have given above. After all, learning, imagining, developing ideas and consolidating knowledge should not stop when we pick up great literature for leisure reading. On the contrary, a great book can enhance knowledge, change or add to the reader’s perspectives. To me that is learning…

      • #2693
        Katherine Lee
        Participant

        Thanks Paola! I completely agree.
        The thing that I think is saddest is that academic libraries currently have leisure reading materials in their collection, it’s just that they’re hidden amongst everything else and no one thinks to look for them because they feel that the academic library is just for study. I feel libraries could encourage a healthy life-study-work balance but having a dedicated space and collection for leisure reading.

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