No Dogs Allowed

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

shutterstock_97865519I’ll never forget the childhood trauma induced by the Peanuts animated feature “Snoopy Come Home.” Before the uncontrollable sobbing begins, the major theme/gag involves Snoopy learning of all the places he can’t go: the beach, bus, hospital, and yes, the library.

“No Dogs Allowed” policies are definitely needed in public places, as there are multiple liability issues. As an animal-lover, though, I like that hotels, restaurants, and other businesses seem to be embracing dog culture more and more. But every time I see it, I wonder how these establishments get away with it. Apparently corporate “service dogs only” policies are subject to local enforcement.

In my experience, you have to tread carefully when introducing animals into library environments.

While I’ve worked at libraries that participated in Take Your Dog to Work Day and even allowed staff to bring their dogs to work regularly, this may or may not fly in your community. Similarly, we all know the stories about resident library cats, many of which eventually get evicted.

Early in my career, a regular would bring his dog with him to the library almost daily to pick up books and chat with the staff. The dog was older, leashed, and mild-mannered. They generally visited first thing in the morning when the library was usually pretty empty. shutterstock_211047994But everything changed one day when another regular witnessed this act and became outraged, proclaiming that this revered institution was turning into a kennel. I’m sure you’ve encountered similar Jekyll and Hyde scenarios, where your best friend—a vocal library supporter—can become your worst enemy, threatening to report you to the director, library board, county commissioners, etc.

Not everyone is into animals, and some are downright afraid. Furthermore, allergies present mild to life-threatening problems for many people. Shared public spaces need to be sensitive to these issues. And public libraries are different from retail in that patrons often spend longer periods of time in relatively close quarters.

Behavior policies need to include wording for dogs in the library and unattended dogs outside the library. Unless it’s a service animal, patrons should not bring them inside. It’s also a bad idea to permit patrons to leave animals tied outside, even for a minute or two. We need to look out for the health and safety of pets and patrons, alike.

shutterstock_247398190With all of this being said, how can you jump on the bandwagon and invite furry friends into your library? The keys to success are: make the animal’s presence predictable (and therefore avoidable); limit the amount of time and the location to minimize allergens; and utilize certified therapy animals.

Many public libraries host therapy dog programs for reluctant readers. Practicing reading aloud to a dog can help alleviate the stress that accompanies reading aloud in school. And I recall at least one parent who brought their child not just to get over this fear of reading aloud, but also to alleviate a fear of dogs.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have long recognized the soothing effects of companion animals. And I know of many academic libraries that regularly incorporate therapy dog sessions during finals week.

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Therapy dog programs are a much easier sell because the predictability factor is coupled with shared liability with the certifying organization. Service animals—even those in training—know how to behave. Alas, Snoopy didn’t.

Oftentimes, “animal-friendly” translates to friendly all-around, which is something all libraries aspire to be. With lots of science and studies to back you up on the “why” and solid policies to enforce the “how,” perhaps you can develop your own program.

 

Further Reading:

Sit, Stay, Heal

Therapy Dogs Work Wonders for Struggling Readers

Dog Therapy 101

Studying for Exams Just Got More Relaxing (PDF)

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Graphic Novels and Literacy Programs

Making an Impact

By Kat Kan, MLS

In my 35 years of working in libraries, I have always advocated for including graphic novels in library collections. Back in the early 1980s, that was not a popular position. People regarded comics as “kids’ stuff,” trash reading, or—influenced by Dr. Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent—a pernicious source of juvenile delinquency. The publication of such comics as Watchmen by Alan Moore and Batman: The Dark Knight, by Frank Miller, led still others to think of comics as only for adults and not safe for children. I was obliged to battle those wrongheaded perceptions as I tried to introduce comics and graphic novels into the libraries where I worked.

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Over the past three decades or so, things have been gradually changing, as more librarians and teachers have embraced the graphic novel format. Some library professional journals include regular graphic novel reviews, ALA conferences include at least a few panels and programs on comics and graphic novels, and teachers are using more graphic novels in their classes—not just as supplemental reading.

lady with comic_534338989So why comics? The format of art, together with smaller amounts of text (usually in word balloons), generally arranged in panels that show the story’s progression, looks a lot less intimidating to a non-reader or a struggling reader. The trick is, so much of the narrative is reflected in the art. My own mantra is “Exercise Your Whole Brain – Read Comics!”

Comics are now being published on just about every subject you could imagine, from language arts, to math, to science. Comics are especially beneficial for literacy programs due to their visual nature; the combination of text with pictures helps to reinforce memory of the content, and helps all kinds of students, not only those who need more help in building reading and comprehension skills.

Recent immigrant teens who came to the library where I worked in Fort Wayne, Indiana, told me they loved reading manga because the art helped them understand what was going on in the story, and they were learning more English by reading them. Some of my current students at my school check out lots of graphic novels because they think the format is fun and the stories are great. The teachers have told me some of those students struggle to read prose, so they don’t mind that the kids read comics.

Then there are kids like my younger son, who has been reading since Kindergarten (just like his mom!), but who never really enjoyed reading fiction. He did so only when required for class, and thus was branded a reluctant reader by his middle school language arts teacher. The summer before his freshman year in high school, I gave him Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, a graphic novel by Tim Hamilton, and I asked him to try it. He came back to me that evening, bubbling over with excitement about the story and asking the kinds of questions any teacher would love to hear from students. He did read the novel his junior year, and he told me that having read the graphic novel adaptation, he found the prose novel much easier to understand and therefore more enjoyable. Now, as a college student, he actually reads some novels for fun.

TV_372377596Graphic novels also tend to boost library circulation, a topic discussed in a Publishers Weekly article in 2013: “How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library”. In my own school library, graphic novels account for 25-60% of circulation per week, depending on the class (4th graders borrow more often than any other age group). I conducted a small survey in my public library teen department of circulation statistics for some of the graphic novels, comparing them to bestselling prose fiction. I found that most of the graphic novels circulated at least three times more than any prose fiction (aside from the super-popular titles, such as the Harry Potter books). This means that graphic novels have a high return on investment for libraries. In my library, only the nonfiction picture books about animals out-circulate graphic novels—and some of those are in graphic format, too!

As you may have detected, I am passionate about comics, manga, and graphic novels. I love to sing their praises. But don’t just take my word for it (apologies to LeVar Burton). Here are some sources that reinforce what I’m saying.

Check out CBLDF Raising a Reader, especially pages 9-10, where Meryl Jaffe discusses multiple learning skills, including memory, sequencing skills, language, language usage, and critical thinking.

Educator Tracy Edmunds has a lot of great material on her blog. In particular, read “Why Comics?” from June 2, 2016 and “Why Should Kids Read Comics?” from June 21, 2016 for lots of information and sources you can use to justify using comics in your library.

Gene Luen Yang includes a story in his TED Talk about what happened in an algebra class when he started writing and drawing the lessons in comic book form. He points to two major reasons comics work so well: their visual nature and their permanence. Past, present, and future are all together on the page.

Other sources you might want to peruse are Pop Culture Classroom and Diamond Book Distributors’ online newsletter Bookshelf, which includes lesson plans from Dr. Katie Monnin, who is now Director of Education at Pop Culture Classroom.

On a final note, at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference, the ALA Council passed a petition to convert the existing Member Initiative Group into the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table. According to ALA, this “will allow for organization-wide engagement with professional and collection development, public outreach and advocacy, and internal mentorship, as well as furthering the cultivation of industry partnerships relating to the sequential art format in schools and libraries.”

Graphic novels are here to stay!

final_kat_caracatureIf you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.