A Breath of Fresh Air

By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

Have you ever noticed that in most sitcoms there’s an episode where characters go camping and…it’s a disaster? A hilarious disaster, but still a disaster. The great outdoors can be a tough place. As I write this, mosquitoes are waiting just outside my back door for their next meal.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little preparation, some expert advice, bug spray, the right gear, and a favorable weather forecast, Nature can be a fun and friendly place. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, about half of us spent some time outside in 2017. This doesn’t include mowing the lawn or going to a baseball game, but does include jogging, fishing, biking, hiking, and camping. Camping encompasses sleeping next to your car, or in the backyard, along with backpacking and RVing.

If you’re new to camping, or you’re introducing newbies to the great outdoors, don’t be too ambitious at first. Take advantage of venues that will allow your first venture to be successful and fun. Many schools host campouts on their athletic fields, and state park camping features rangers, bathrooms, and (sometimes) showers. Also, let’s not forget the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Both organizations have introduced millions of kids to camping—and if Mom and Dad just aren’t up for it, the kids can camp with other kids and knowledgeable adults. The real outdoors will be waiting patiently for you to get comfortable with sleeping on the ground and hearing strange noises in the dark.

Readers of our blog will recall the article about “The Library of Things.” Camping gear is one of many types of items that libraries now loan. Maybe this is something your library can consider as well. On a more traditional library note, there are plenty of books available on all sorts of outdoor activities such as camping, rock climbing, canoeing, geocaching, and so on. There are also books about the outdoors experience, such as Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, or Jon Krakauer’s cautionary tale Into the Wild. I think a guy named Thoreau wrote something about this, too.

Patrons who are interested in outdoor activities may also be interested in the current debate surrounding climate change. Recently, large numbers of young people skipped school and rallied in public to let us adults know that we’re not being very good stewards of our planet. A 16-year-old from Sweden named Greta Thunberg spoke about this problem at the United Nations. She’ll be receiving the Rachel Carson Prize in Norway soon. Carson, an American nature writer, warned us in the early 1960s that the widespread use of pesticides was not good for the environment.

Both Thunberg and Carson are the subjects of several forthcoming books. Make sure your library has accurate and balanced resources for all the kids who are going to be writing their next school papers about these women and their cause.

No matter where your library is located, you are sure to have at least some patrons who either are avid campers or considering expanding their horizons into the great outdoors. Why not offer titles to support those interests?

Brodart maintains a wide array of collection builders, including this one on environmental topics. And here’s a list of recent titles about outdoor activities, adventure narratives, and the environmental movement.