Marina Ten Have
During activity period and the latter half of lunch, the library is chock-full of people. Look around, and you’ll see students socializing, students studying, students playing video games, and students sleeping. Conspicuously absent, however, are students reading. From 2013-2018, fewer and fewer books were checked out from the High School Library. In spite of an overall increase in the HS student body, the library’s circulation had declined over 25 percent, from 12,570 to 9,209 checkouts annually. However, this school year, the library’s circulation figures have increased to the levels of three years ago, to 11,250.
Though no one can be sure of the reasons behind the original decline, sophomore Saga Wihman notes, “Students seem to be taking more and more AP classes every year, so, when they have time off, they’d rather spend their time on easily accessible forms of entertainment like Netflix and social media.”
Research regarding the reading habits of teens supports this observation. According to a study conducted by Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, 60 percent of high school seniors in 1980 read a book, magazine, or newspaper that wasn’t assigned for school. In 2016, that figure stood at only 16 percent, including digital forms of books, newspapers, and magazines. Another sad fact is that SAT Reading scores across the nation are at their lowest ever. On what can we blame this precipitous drop in reading? The addictive nature and constant availability of social media. Twelfth graders in 2016 spent an astonishing average of six hours a day browsing the internet and using social media outside of school.
Considering these disconcerting trends, the library’s feat is especially impressive. New HS Head Librarian Mr. Bell believes that prominent displays and more promotions may have reignited borrowing, adding that the library staff has been “working hard to update the collection, as well as making it considerably easier to find books in the library. We are also experimenting with creating an environment that is visually engaging.”
The HS Library has undertaken a number of initiatives to publicize the library and the resources it offers. Also, they have explained these changes in the library and have promoted books and research resources by visiting all grade 9 and 10 English classes. In October, the library introduced the apps Sora and Overdrive so that ebooks and audiobooks can be borrowed via smartphone. Genres such as sci-fi, fantasy, and romance now have attractive visual displays. The library has also begun a recommendation system in which students can fill out a card detailing a book they’ve read recently and why they like it. Names of the recommenders are then entered into a raffle, with a chance to win Amazon gift cards.
Another reason to pick up a book from the library: Studies show that reading fiction for just 30 minutes increases one’s empathy and ability to relate with others―yet another way for us to live ASIJ’s core values of character, courage, and compassion.