I'm not sure excatly what I was supposed to be observing, but I did notice a few things that I would like to write about here. If I am completely off course, let me know. I read the “Teenagers Talking about Reading and Libraries” studies right before I went.
Perhaps lead on by the study, I mostly noticed how some books are displayed and categorized in bookstores. And I have to say, most "big"/commercial bookstores are the same. Perhaps I don't know better, but marketing seems to be the reasoning behind categorizing the sections of books, not that it is a bad thing, mind you. But sometimes marketing doesn't make much sense. I always remember from my Children's Literature class from my undergraduate English degree. Most of the "children's books" that we studied were too complex for the marketed 8-12 year old range. Why were they marketed as children's literature? Because their protagonists were children. Lyra from Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy is 12, and I’ve never encountered the books for that trilogy outside of the children’s department. If I had read that trilogy when I was 12, the “real world” religious context would have been lost on me. I read them two years ago for the first time and they blew my mind.
In one of the “big” bookstores, I asked an employee what guidelines are used to categorize books. All I got was a “head-office says so” type of mumble. I wanted to say that I wasn't done questioning him, but a tiny part of my brain knows that it is inappropriate to torment other human beings, for my personal amusement or for my academic blogging. I was hoping that he would have offered to get the manager for me, but it never came up and he shuffled away.I noticed in used bookstores they had different ways of organizing and categorizing books. Sometimes they seem to be in some semblance of alphabetical order. I have, in the past, been in really unorganized used bookstores where books were just piled up on the shelves. Nothing really stood out today as being fantastically categorized or abnormally bad. For used books they must have to use their own subjective judgement. In “big” bookstores, I would like to know how much of their own judgement is involved in categorizing their books. I tried to get my little sister some books one Christmas when she was 8, and the bookstore in the city I was living in, a “big” bookstore, had what I considered to be baby books section, then a “12 year to-” ( I can’t recall what the age went to). But where does she fall into? I bought her two books, one was “too hard” (perfectly fine) and the other, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which she liked.