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Dear Realist Librarian

Dear realist librarian,

Every library I’ve visited categorizes their children’s picture books by the author's last name. I get it; this is the way it’s always been done, it works in the adult fiction section, and it’s a great way to keep an author’s whole body of work grouped together. But, I also get that my six-year-old doesn’t care who wrote the book. He’s not looking for everything by Mo Willems or Eric Carle. He just wants as many dinosaur, train, and fairy books as he can get his hands on (he’s autistic and those are his three very serious special interests). Why doesn’t the library organize their picture books by subject??

Signed,

I Swear I’m Not a Karen

Dear Not a Karen,

I totally get you. Seriously. I run into this situation almost daily. Last week, an about-eight-year-old came up to the children’s reference desk and asked for books about dinosaurs. I asked my standard follow-up question: do you want stories about dinosaurs (fictional picture books) or facts about dinosaurs (nonfiction)? I crossed my fingers under the desk, hoping for the easy answer and a short walk to the 560’s, but of course this kiddo was not interested in facts.

Since we didn’t currently have any dinosaur displays up, I had to begin the usual series of tasks: open the library catalog website, type in the keyword “dinosaur,” toggle the filters to find children’s picture books that are currently on the shelf at our location, and write down a handful of the titles and their authors on a sticky note. I am pretty quick with this process but it still took about five minutes, and five minutes is a lifetime to a kid who desperately needs dinosaur stories to live. Then, sticky note in hand and impatient/bored/frustrated child trailing behind, I approached the picture book section and spent at least another five minutes singing the alphabet song under my breath as I searched for each author. By this time the kid was probably questioning every single life choice that led him to this moment and wondering how he could get out of coming to the library again.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. My point is, I agree with you, and I believe you’re not a Karen. It only makes sense to organize picture books by section instead of author. That situation could have been so much easier if I’d just been able to point the child in the direction of the currently nonexistent dinosaur picture books shelf.

The public library is a slow-moving system, but it’s not standing still. If you request this change on a regular basis and get other parents and kids to do the same, your branch might decide it’s in the best interest of their patrons to consider some rearranging.

For more information, visit the banned books page on my blog MillenniaLibrarian or my Linktree.

My tik tok is @surpriseitsjes


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