Most of us would agree, I hope, that libraries strive to be as user-friendly as possible. In light of this important mission, why do we make it so difficult for kids to find resources?
As Kelley has pointed on multiple occasions on this blog, the way we organize books on shelves doesn't usually make sense to kids. It might be time to ditch Dewey in the children's department, like Darien Library in Connecticut did last year, to create better shelves. You probably already know that most people look for books by age and subject matter, rather than call number or even the author's last name. (See James Patterson's ReadKiddoRead for another interesting organizational structure.)
Speaking of searching, the organization of our OPACs is even more confusing than our shelves! Most library catalogs are very kid UN-friendly, and ACLA is no exception. Just look at what happens when you start a from the (very cool) CLP Kids' Home page. A default keyword search for "Winnie the Pooh" leads you to a chaotic mess of 650 results. A librarian who is trained to use the system might be able to untangle these results, but this is extremely difficult for kids (and most grown ups) to navigate.
What can we do? I see two possible answers. First, we can teach kids (and their adults) how to more accurately search the library catalog. Second, we can help design a new catalog. Several companies are making efforts to design kid friendly interfaces, taking into account children's information behavior studies, which includes research confirming that kids like to choose books based on the cover. Here is a neat example by The Library Corporation followed by another called Kid's Catalog Web.
Some designers have even worked with kids to design a search interface for kids, like the International Children's Digital Library. Below you can see a search for books with "Blue Covers." You can also search by other nontraditional facets like "True Books" (or what adults call "Nonfiction") and for books with "Imaginary Creature Characters." It's definitely worth visiting the site.
Why does this matter? At the very least, I think it's encouraging to know that there are people working to make our OPACs a kid-friendlier place. There are probably ways for those of us working on the "front lines" to help. It's good to remember that the way libraries organize materials is not intuitive. Then we can empathize with kids, educate them how to navigate our systems for their information needs, and advocate for better design. Any other ideas out there?