Obstructive libraries and librarians in children’s and young adult literature

I’d like to share some information with you about my Master of Arts (Writing and literature) thesis. I was very pleased with the mark and comments I received from the examiners. The texts I included for the research are:

  • The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling,
  • Lirael by Garth Nix,
  • The legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer,
  • The boy who was raised by librarians written by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed

Libraries in children’s and young adult literature can be hegemonic institutions that control young people’s access to knowledge. Using Foucault’s Discipline and punish: the birth of a prison (1979), a critique of Bentham’s Panoptic prison design as the theoretical framework, libraries and librarians in literature are investigated in terms of obstructing young people’s access to information, and thus knowledge and power. However, heroic protagonists not only require information to assist them with their journey, but challenges that hone their skills before their quest. Thus, challenging the pitfalls of obstructive libraries that employ Panoptic surveillance can actually be beneficial for the protagonists, by issuing them with (mostly) non-life threatening tests that can enable them to procure their desired information, while concurrently developing problem-solving and higher order thinking skills, and agency.

A textual and visual analysis has been conducted on a number of titles for young people and these were selected as representative of the depiction of libraries and librarians in literature for this implied audience. The majority of the titles provide an observation that, perhaps ironically, obstructive libraries and librarians play vital roles in the acquisition of agency for young people, and that knowledge should not be limited to and by adults.