Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles empire. When I began my first stab at weeding the juvenile* fiction section at my library, I was thrilled to discover a set of TMNT picture books in pristine condition. Yet no one had ever checked them out. As the turtles would say, "BUMMER, DUDE."
Ranganathan was right. Let's go through his Five Laws of Library Science:
Maybe the Turtles were past their prime? I decided there was no harm in trying to get them more attention. If in the next year, they were still on the non-circulating report, they were goners. But I suspected that even if actual kids were unfamiliar with the Turtles, there had to be some nostalgic parents out there excited to relieve their childhoods.
The first thing I did was change the books' cataloging from J fiction to Easy**. Then I gave them their very own spotlight in the picture book section. And they have combined for more than 80 checkouts in the time since being re-cataloged. That's pretty solid for books that were shelf-sitters before.
- Books are for use.
- Every reader his [or her] book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism.
And maybe we can re-write them to be the Five Laws of Ninja Turtle Library Science:
- Ninja turtle books are to be read.
- Every reader might enjoy a ninja turtle book.
- Ninja turtle books have readers.
- Save the time of the reader by putting the ninja turtle books where someone might find them.
- Ninja turtle books are growing organisms. They need to be cultivated: acquired when there is demand and (sniff) weeded when there is not.
So what did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles teach me about being a librarian?
- If your patrons can't find a book, you might as well not have it. Market them!
- Keep series books together even if they have separate authors. ESPECIALLY if they have seperate authors.
- Never underestimate Turtle Power's appeal to multiple generations.
- "Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza." --Michelangelo
*Libraries should not be calling kids juveniles anymore. It only encourages them to be delinquents.
**I don't think we should be calling picture books Easy either. Kids learning to read struggle and labeling something as Easy is destructive to their efforts. I would prefer Picture Books or Beginning Readers as appropriate. And even that isn't perfect because I frequently pull books for adults learning to read as well.