Barriers, Freedom, Stickers?


Stop Sign Montage
Originally uploaded by JaypeeOnline.

I have recently been working on a presentation about intellectual freedom. Interesting in life when you are focusing on a subject or idea so many “illustrations” of it begin to appear around you–some monumental, some mundane–all mental-note worthy.
Picture me wading through manuals, articles, and online material in preparation to present information on intellectual freedom…when…poof…real-life appears before me. Real life in the form of a series of emails in which I find out that a few public libraries within hollering distance of where I am located are starting to sticker and/or relocate parts of their collections to designate them into levels to support the reading lists of a particular for-profit “incentive-based reading program” (er, let’s be fun and a little coy here and just say that the program starts with an “A” and ends with an “R.”) Cut to me, like a bolt of lightning out of the Library Heavens, running to find my intellectual freedom file of information. Pouring through my notes and print-outs I find the small phrase that cuts to the chase–“psychological barriers.” Think: it is not the intent of the Public Library to support or construct any psychological barriers for any readers. Easy enough to buy into right. And yet, alas, the thought of a collection of blue spine-stickered books (for the 4.5 readers) and yellow spine-stickered books (for the 2.4 readers) has psychological barrier written all over it.
An aside from the my-school-days memory box: Did we not learn anything from the “SRA Program” in the 70’s and 80’s? As a student who endured this during that time, I can say that yes, I learned one big lesson from it: Reading = Taking a test to prove you did the reading! Is that what we wish to support? How about Reading = discovery of self, the world, new information in the method, at the level, in the time that is right for the Individual and not at a $tandardized pace (yes, the “$” is intentional).
So, can a few hundred stickers really be barriers to reading freedom? Can’t they be seen as a support–as short-cut–for users to find what is required by their schools? Answer this question: If a user has 10 minutes to find books on a busy evening will they take the time or find the resource to lead them to that book on “coins of the world” their child really wants or choice from those which are pre-selected and marked or stickered with an “authorized” company’s leveling system? Are we talking about barriers or support here? Perhaps it’s a pretty grey area…but it becomes more clear to me with the stickers come out, a small psyco-barrier goes up.
Let reading freedom ring!

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