Friday Reading Roundup

By Mary Hendrie — March 14, 2014 2 min read
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As the week winds down, dive into some of the recent literary discussions you might have missed.

Libraries in the digital age

A study released yesterday by the Pew Research Center affirms the value of public libraries, finding that library enthusiasts reported higher levels of community engagement and socialization than their non-library-fan peers. Pew went on to report that over two-thirds of the more than 6,000 Americans age 16 and above that Pew polled were “actively engaged” in their public library.

Despite these encouraging numbers, however, school librarians still face challenges in keeping libraries relevant in the face of budget cuts and digital technology. In a School Library Journal online poll this week, 94 percent of respondents reported that they had paid out of their own pockets to buy books for their school libraries.

But the struggle to keep brick-and-mortar libraries relevant in the digital age may demand even more than generously shelling out for more books. In a recent Education Week Leaders to Learn From profile, one school administrator is featured for spearheading a shift from “teacher-librarians” to “digital-literacy teachers.”

Emerging technologies can also provide an expanded audience to appreciate the benefits of library materials, however. The recent viral popularity of a 16th century manuscript about “rocket cats” (yes, cats strapped to rockets), for example, has prompted The Chronicle of Higher Education to consider whether Internet audiences might provide a source of public support for underappreciated archivists.

New book awards

A slew of book awards were doled out recently, including the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award and the Folio Prize.

On March 10, the 2014 Folio Prize, and an accompanying sizable cash prize, were awarded to George Saunders for Tenth of December (Bloomsbury).

The National Book Critics Circle announced their 2013 winners, including best fiction to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Americanah (Knopf), best in nonfiction to Sheri Fink for Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown), and best in poetry to Frank Bidart for Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Women’s History Month

In honor of National Women’s History Month, BookPage, a book-related website, compiled an inspiring list of books about heroines geared toward young readers. A BookMarks post from last fall showcasing two recent books about women in the American Revolution might also be of interest to those looking for suitable March reading materials.

While women on the page might be gaining prominence, a striking gender disparity in literary criticism remains, as evidenced by the recently released 2013 VIDA count, an influential breakdown of the gender of book reviews and the authors reviewed. Although certain publications achieved remarkable gains in gender parity when compared with 2012 counts, the tally revealed that literary publications have a long way to go in achieving equitable gender representation.

In the meantime, feel free to loudly sing along to Beyonce’s “Flawless” (featuring a lengthy excerpt from a TED talk on feminism by the abovementioned National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.