Not Your Mother’s Large Print

By Mary Kelly

Back in olden times, large print was hardly full of current best sellers.  When I was growing up, large print materials were relegated to one of the dustier corners of the library complete and with the occasional old person looking for something. It was a small collection and to be honest, kind of crappy looking. There was no real cover art and the selection seemed to be only romance. This is what I remember as a youngster. Well now I am one of the “old people” and we aren’t going to do that anymore.  I can only imagine that many people my age remember this as well.  

Librarians, particularly the ones that are of newer generations, need to help patrons understand that large print books are not just for “senior citizens”, but readers of all ages and interests. Large print is larger font size, it isn’t a scourge of old age and it isn’t just a place where old books go to die. As we Baby Boomers age, large print collections will need to be more responsive and broader than collections of tdyesteryear. Attractive covers, simultaneous release dates are essential to the health of your collection. Aggressively marketing large print and reminding people that it isn’t just back titles and flowery romance that are decades old. Large print should be a dynamic collection that covers the range of topics in the “regular” circulating collection.

The large print collection is particularly subject to neglect. I know that I have been reluctant to pull some dead weight in large print and other collections since I know that the unit cost is higher than regular books. It also makes directors nervous as well. When I first started putting my hands on large print, there were so many ridiculous dead titles in the collection, it was appalling. I even remember pulling books in a cloud of dust and a few cobwebs when I first took over the collection. Most of the titles were from the 1970s and 1980s and were gentle romance. They also had the worst covers. No wonder they didn’t circulate very well.

So, before you take to weeding and cleaning, take a good, hard look at how the collection is displayed? Are the selections mostly new books? (Feel free to traipse over to awfullibrarybooks.net  and get some ideas for weeding.) Are shelves easy to reach and well-marked? Does the collection get relegated to a high or low traffic area? Ask users what they like or dislike about the collection. Detail a strategy of improvement that includes staff and users. Pages, can be particularly helpful in sharing some of the logistics of the collection, circ staff as well can help you identify users and potential users.

One of my favorite ways to recruit new users is to use large print as a “backup” to the circulating collection. I also use this tactic with audio-books, eBooks and other media. Offering patrons the same book, only in large print or any other “new” format, presents an opportunity for a patron to try something different. More than a few patrons I have helped over the years have “accidentally” tried large print when the regular print copies were checked out and ended up preferring large print. Just getting these options into the hands of patrons can increase awareness and remove the myth that large print isn’t for them.

Create displays and promotions that feature large print options for reasons other than “low vision”. Large print is perfect for those who have issues with motion sickness and want to read while exercising on the treadmill or riding in the car. As a person who can get motion sickness on an escalator, this probably my favorite selling point.

As I now represent that demographic of aging baby boomers, I am imploring librarians everywhere to remember this group and our collective insecurities: we are often we are in denial about our age, hate being reminded about being like “our parents”, and sadly, we all like to think we are still “cool” even if we are shouting at the kids to “get off my lawn.”

So don’t show me any crap from the grandma collection of the 60s, 70s and 80s, step up and show me the latest and greatest in both fiction and nonfiction. In the meantime I will be in my basement with a cocktail and listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon convincing myself I am cool.


Some of the latest and greatest fall releases that might appeal to your users:


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