[DWJ] DWJ in the school library (or not)

Eleanor Joslin eleanor at dreamvine.org.uk
Sat Sep 26 20:29:30 EDT 2009

Today I went to an open day at my old school -- which was two  
buildings, with the lower school (ages 11-14) and upper school (14-18)  
in different parts of town.  They're about to knock both buildings  
down and move everyone into a single brand new building.

In the 13 years since I left school, the upper school library has  
changed beyond recognition.  I think every single book is new since my  
time, and what really bothers me is that they seemed to be almost all  
mainstream adult fiction, nothing "trashy" or "genre".  I didn't spot  
any fantasy except "The Lord of the Rings".  I didn't spot any  
children's or teen fiction at all.  I don't think they ever had very  
many DWJ books -- there were a few, "Hexwood" was one, but I didn't  
pay much attention once I had acquired my own copies of them -- but I  
remember borrowing Tolkien's "Tree and Leaf", some Brian Aldiss, some  
Jack L. Chalker (which made my eyes pop out with sexual ideas I wasn't  
ready for) and various other fantasy and SF books from that library,  
none of which look as if they'd be welcome there nowadays.  It all  
seemed calculated to put 95% of students off reading.

The lower school library also has all-new books since my time, but at  
least they had plenty of YA, which means plenty of fantasy.  There  
were about 10 DWJ books, a similar number to when I was at school, but  
mostly not the same titles.  It's sad to think that their first  
editions (I think) of "The Time of the Ghost" and "Archer's Goon" and  
the copy of "Fire and Hemlock" with the "face in the sky" cover are  
gone.  I hope the new copies will be just as special to someone, but I  
checked one of them and nobody had ever borrowed it.  At the same  
time, the library seems to no longer have any adults' books or  
anything that would have looked difficult to me as a 13-year-old.  I  
borrowed "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (guess why) and "The Silmarillion" while  
I was there.

At least, now the two sites are amalgamating, students of 14+ who are  
still hooked on YA will have access to the books from the lower school  
library again, while those in lower years who want to try something  
"older" will be able to find Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan and all the  
other fashionable Booker shortlist type stuff that the upper school  
library largely consists of now.


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