This week you can find me talking about libraries, literacy, and immersive play on Corin Haines’ Library Chat podcast.
Corin is head of digital services with my current employers at Auckland Libraries in New Zealand, where I’ve been encouraging youth librarians to embrace play, performance, and forms of literacy which needn’t involve books on shelves.
One of the first things I did on arrival in Auckland is arrange for the library to purchase a number of Nerf guns – toys which shoot foam darts – with the aim of encouraging librarians to create activities which combined literacy with more boisterous forms of action and adventure.
The message I’ve been trying to get across is that roleplay and activities which immerse you in a story are just as valid for libraries as anything involving books on shelves.
UNESCO’s Missions of the Public Library don’t even use the word ‘book’ once – but they do mention providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts, stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people, and providing opportunities for personal creative development – alongside reading!
Corin has been, to his credit, an early adopter of the Nerf gun in Auckland – that’s him in the final frame of this YouTube video, which shows staff getting to grips with the toys:
But Corin did ponder the moral implications in a blog post on gunplay and libraries at his own website, concerned that we were encouraging children to celebrate violence through this kind of activity.
This is the kind of problem that keeps a decent librarian awake at night – especially in the light of recent news from the US.
When creating Heroes and Villains activities for the school holidays, how scary should we dare to go?
Should we be allowing kids to identify with explicitly villainous figures? (Somewhere in my mum’s house there is a photo of me dressed as Darth Vader – but I alternated that costume with Spider-man pyjamas and my favourite hero outfit, Batman).
If kids use play to make sense of the world, do we have the right – or the power – to stop them thinking through violence and its consequences using play?
In the light of recent events, I’ll be following up on these questions after a pause for contemplation and acknowledgement of the tragedy in Massachusetts.