Keeping Up With Trends

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Libraries have widened in access toknowledge even as their collections have shrunk.

    That’s how Audrey Joyce explained it, and she has seen that processfirst hand during her 34-year tenure as the Brookhaven High Schoollibrarian.

    Joyce describes herself as a “book person,” presumably a necessityin a librarian. She can demonstrate easy familiarity with theapproximately 12,000 volumes in the high school’s library.

    “We still keep copies of about one-third of the titles that werehere when I first came,” Joyce said, scanning the shelves as shespoke.

    If anything, however, the library’s physical holdings have”contracted since I began,” Joyce said.

    “We don’t buy as much as we used to because so much is availableonline,” she said.

    As elsewhere in their circulation, magazines and newspapers havesuffered the largest losses to the Internet at the BHS library.

    Early in Joyce’s career there were student workers at the librarydedicated to organizing and archiving the school’s 30-34 periodicalsubscriptions. There is no need for such student workers anymore.

    And the latest copies of The DAILY LEADER and The Clarion-Ledgersitting in the library are the last survivors of a time beforenewspapers moved much of their content online.

    “We used to get the Sunday New York Times,” Joyce said. “There werea lot more newspapers here then.”

    Though it may seem odd, computers are not that new at thelibrary.

    “There were two Commodore PETs in the library a few years after Icame,” Joyce said.

    Only a handful of students used those early computers, primarilyfor programming practice.

    Since then, the Internet has made dramatic inroads. Now, a row of21 computer workstations fills a small room in the library.

    Joyce is thrilled by the increased access to knowledge students nowhave.

    “They are no longer limited by whatever periodicals we can affordto have,” she said about student access. “It’s wonderful.”

    That increased access has brought with it a change in the waystudents approach information. Some of those changes are relativelytrivial.

    “Kids don’t know how to find things alphabetically any more,” Joycesaid. “They are not used to seeing data organized physically likethat.”

    Other consequences seem more serious.

    “They wants things quickly and don’t discriminate in sources,” shesaid. “I’ve noticed few students are reading the larger books. Theydon’t have the attention span for it any more.”

    But no matter how prevalent the Internet sources are, it’s thephysical books that Joyce remains fond of.

    “Some of the kids have Kindles now, but I prefer the physicalbooks,” she said.

    Joyce grew up in the Lincoln County School District in a time withsignificantly less access to even physical books. She said sheremembers eagerly awaiting visits from the Bookmobile, which cameto a little store near her house.

    That love for the physical product is still apparent in her work.She keeps a close watch on what is moving off the shelves atBHS.

    “Students follow the trends. Dystopian and apocalyptic literatureis very popular right now,” she said.

    This means students are reading titles like “The Hunger Games.””Twilight” and other vampire-themed titles have fallen out offavor.

    The variability of student interest, like the development oftechnology itself, is part of the librarian’s trade, according toJoyce.

    “Things are always changing,” Joyce said. “Even the physical books.Titles may wear out or get lost and must be replaced. In a librarythere is constant change.”