Friday, September 29, 2023

The Wrong Bus

I made my coffee with pumpkin spices this morning -- cinnamon and nutmeg -- in celebration of autumn. I started the coffee-with-cinnamon thing several years ago when we had an overload of cinnamon and I was trying to figure out how to use it up. We're down to a jar and a half now, which isn't too crazy.

Some more street scenes this morning. That's Abbey Road above, of Beatles fame, a few tenths of a mile north of the famous crosswalk and Abbey Road Studios. When I take this route to work, I usually join Abbey Road at this point and walk north. I don't pass the crosswalk.

Last night I was returning from a pub outing with my fellow librarians, so I decided rather than walk, I would take the bus. I grabbed a bus at the stop above...

...and sat on the upper deck. I thought, "Why is no one else on this bus?!"

That's when I realized I was on the wrong bus, so I had to get off at the next stop and get on the right one. My bad.

I waited across from the stadium-like Alexandra Road Estate, a Brutalist architectural landmark on Abbey Road built in the 1970s. I've always thought this was an intriguing design and I've photographed it several times.

Anyway, from there I came home uneventfully.

Yesterday was another busy day at work. No blog reading for me! I don't know what it is about this year, but I feel like I always have so much to do. More so than usual. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, because the workday goes pretty fast, but it's bizarre. My job hasn't changed, so what's different?

The head librarian is considering ways of dividing up our fiction section to help kids find books at their reading level. Right now all fiction is shelved together, with books for our youngest readers (Grades 5 & 6) marked by a red dot. She's thinking about moving adult fiction to its own section. I have my doubts about this, and if I start enumerating them all this post will be huge -- but they're mainly logistical. I don't know what we'd do with books like "The Catcher in the Rye," or "The Handmaid's Tale," or "The Bluest Eye," or classics like "David Copperfield" that are staples of high-school reading yet were written with adults in mind. And what about books like "Divergent" that are technically YA but read by adults as well?

Having said all that, it's certainly not an unprecedented idea. The library at the school in Vienna where I went for training in April was divided up that way. In fact as I recall, there were three sections there -- kids, YA and adult. I believe this is often true of public libraries too. (At our school, books for the youngest readers, fourth grade and below, are already in a whole different library in another part of the building.)

I think I need to better understand why we're doing it, and what the goal is. A conversation still to be had.

One thing I've learned about sunflowers is that even if they don't grow well, they will crank out a blossom. This little sunflower was planted at the same time as my others, and for some reason it only grew to be about a foot tall. Maybe it didn't like its location or the soil or something. But darned if it didn't bloom!


Rachel Phillips said...

If it ain't broke don't fix it comes to mind. Sounds like the colour coding system has been working well for years so leave it as it is and it covers the exceptions of some books to age as you describe in the post.

gz said...

The colour coding system is better..otherwise are you preventing avid readers from moving on ?

River said...

It's probably a different variety of sunflower, there are so many.
Public libraries here are divided into children, YA and adult and then there's the non-fiction section with books on gardening, biographies, history etc.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Not sure where I stand on the re-division of the fiction section. I immediately had an argument in my head for not doing that. I'm curious to understand why, as well. I also find that brutalist estate intriguing. Too bad about the paint-patched concrete.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The Mellon Library is not a democracy. If the boss says - this is what we are doing - then the underlings need to jump to it without question.

Jennifer said...

Cinnamon in coffee? No, no, no!!

If you have all those spices to use up, may I suggest cinnamon toast with lots of butter? Then you can leave your coffee pure like the good Lord intended! LOL!

Peter said...

As a (retired) librarian I say don't break up the fiction section. In a public library it makes sense because they are usually in different rooms. However in your library keeping them together allows for kids to read at whatever level if a book interests them.

Andrew said...

I heard a bus route along Finchley Road has changed. But maybe it was your bad.

The Alexandra Road Estate is public housing?

Perhaps you need shelves for 'classic books'? That goes against the grain of normal library arrangements, but normal is for adults I suppose and you have to think of young readers.

Bob said...

Even before I read what you wrote about Alexandra Estate, I thought it looked like a stadium turned into housing.
Odd but interesting.

Ed said...

I guess every library I can remember has had a separate section for kids and YA's together and then the rest for adults. As a YA, I often read from the adult section because I was well ahead of my peers in reading level. These days, books have been politicized, especially at your school, so I can see some of your headaches.

Ms. Moon said...

Brutalist architecture hurts my head, my heart, and my soul. The sight of that building literally makes me feel ill.
I like Jennifer's idea of cinnamon toast but then I'm one of those people who only wants coffee flavor in her coffee.
As to the filing system of books- my main concern would be that truly, there is no "reading level" for so many readers. Seems like it would dissuade the kids from reading some books that they would not have been exposed to if the different levels were in different areas.

Janie Junebug said...

I guess splitting the books into sections might make it easier for the students to find the type of books they want, as long as the scheme doesn't lead to restrictions on the books they're allowed to check out.


Catalyst said...

Maybe your decision to take a bus and then get on the wrong one was influenced by how long you and your fellow librarians spent at the pub! 😏 That brutalist estate is, to me, reminiscent of Berlin right after it was bombed to rubble. Ugly!

ellen abbott said...

I do not understand the appeal of brutalist architecture. cold, stark, unwelcoming, no joy in the building itself. I hope the apartments are a little more appealing but I would never want to live there. so depressing.

Thursdays are my days to miss reading blogs.

I think the point of separating YA and adult (since the kids have their own library) would be to make it easier for the kids to find the book they want instead of having to winnow through the whole collection. I don't think it would impede crossover reading.

Boud said...

Our local library removed all age differences in the nonfiction section a long time ago, and I was so happy to find "kids" nonfiction which was what I was looking for, but would never have ventured into the children's section. I think that's true of fiction, too. A lot of good reading is what you find browsing.

Which reminds me of a third grade teacher friend who took her class to the school library in the course of learning library skills, either for borrowing or, new vocabulary, browsing. She asked one little kid if he was planning to borrow. He hesitated then said, nooo, I'm, uh, doing that other thing!

Red said...

I would not divide the books by age. Many 5 and 6ers are reading far above their age level. Yes, I know that if divided by age kids can still look at high school books. Shelving is just extra work.

NewRobin13 said...

That Alexandra Road estate is so strange. My first thought when I looked at the photo was that it was a weird giant cement cruise ship.
I love that sweet little sunflower.

Ellen D. said...

Yes, I thought the same as Robin. Giant cruise ship!

Margaret said...

What a very strange building! I like the idea of having the different sections but categorizing some books would be a pain.

Jim Davis said...

YIKES! That Alexandria Road Estate looks like Albert Speer meets Cold War Eastern Block architecture! What a horror.

jenny_o said...

I have no advice on the reorganizing as it's beyond my knowledge set! But I wondered if the kids are taught how to find a book within the sections? I shop mostly at thrift stores and community sales where the books aren't organized very well. The choice is overwhelming unless you have a strategy. Mine is to scan for a title that grabs me, read the blurb on the cover, and read a page at random. It seems like a skill that is worth teaching alongside the other question of how to organize for easiest access. It's not helpful for your current dilemma, though. Good luck. Even good changes involve growing pains, but change that is not thought through is just chaos for no good reason.

Sharon said...

I love today's street scene and the brutalist complex. I've seen that place used in different British TV shows.
On my past visits to London, I had a fear of getting on the wrong bus and not know where I was. That seems silly now. Now I just wonder what I'd see on the wrong bus.

Kelly said...

I don't remember studying Brutalist architecture in school. Thanks for sharing the link to the Estate. It's very interesting!

Linda Sue said...

I sort of like that awful building! It is interesting! Looks like a cruise ship. Made in Siberia.yes, I like it. The wrong bus could have been the right bus depending on your sense of adventure, I am finding this to be true for me! Oyster card is my best friend. Love your cheery sunflower, a very cute face.

Tasker Dunham said...

I remember the public library when I was at school had a separate children's section. The James Bond books were in the adult section, and they would not let you borrow them until you looked old enough. I'd read them all in paperback long before I would have been allowed to borrow them.

Jeanie said...

I could see both sides of the library thing -- maybe multiple copies of the books that could go either way? And separating for the very young (if you have very young who use the library or just older kids.

Brutalist-- I couldn't agree more!

Steve Reed said...

Rachel: That's my vote!

GZ: Well, that's what I wonder. Stronger readers might WANT adult books without thinking to go look for them in a separate section.

River: Yeah, that's basically what we'd do. It's a common model for libraries.

Mitchell: Yeah, the whole place needs some sprucing up, but councils in England are short of funds these days so aesthetics have been allowed to slip!

YP: Yes, Vladimir!

Jennifer: Ha! I'm surprised with your culinary and hosting skills that you hold such strong opinions about coffee! LOL

Peter: I tend to agree with you, but I guess in essence even though we are housed in a school, we ARE a public library because we serve all ages (except very young) and all levels of readers throughout the school community.

Andrew: Yes, Alexandra Road is a council housing estate (public housing). But what books are classics? Where's the line between classics and well-loved older fiction?

Bob: It was built that way because it's adjacent to railroad tracks. So the back of the "stadium" faces the tracks and the flats face each other.

Ed: I read many, many adult books when I was in middle and high school. I think that's why I'm so hesitant to make this change.

Ms Moon: Many people have that same strong reaction to Brutalism -- partly because if not well-maintained it looks terrible in not too many years. I agree about the kids not coming across books.

Janie: Well, that's the plan, but there ARE some restrictions already. The "red dot" readers (5th and 6th grade) aren't allowed to get YA or adult books.

Catalyst: Oh, I definitely think the time at the pub influenced my carelessness about the bus! LOL

Ellen: Well, that's what my boss says. I'm not convinced but you could be right.

Boud: Ha! Kids say the darndest things, as Art Linkletter once reminded us. Our nonfiction is completely blended, though we're considering age restrictions on sex ed and true crime books.

Red: Yeah, the shelving would be a nightmare!

Robin: Ha! It DOES look like a cruise ship! I never thought of that.

Ellen D: I guess it's all those "decks" stacked up on one another.

Margaret: Yeah, I would struggle with that, both initially and when re-shelving, until I learned it all.

Jim: Ha! And yet it's considered an architectural landmark. I believe it has protected status.

Jenny-O: Oh, yes, we spend a lot of time talking to the kids about how to find appropriate books (and ones they'll like). Everybody ultimately has their own system!

Sharon: Yeah, one good thing about London is, even if you wind up in the wrong place, it's usually not a big deal to get where you need to go. The public transportation system is so comprehensive!

Kelly: It was a widely used style here in the '60s and '70s, with a lot of exposed concrete and pebbling. Sometimes it works, as in the National Theater or the Barbican, and sometimes it's more dubious, as in these buildings being demolished.

Linda Sue: A cruise ship made in Siberia! Ha! Yes, it can be fun to look at public transport as a big adventure, as long as you're not late for an appointment. :)

Tasker: Ha! That is EXACTLY the situation we face now with some books. High schoolers and even upper-level middle schoolers could borrow our Bond books, but no one does.

Jeanie: I guess it's not too much of a problem as long as high schoolers (and even 7th and 8th graders) can also peruse the adult section. It's more to help them find books at their level than to keep books away from them, I think. (Am I talking myself into it?!)