If I were her librarian, I would make sure I had some football books ready for her next time she came into the library. But that would not have been what I would have thought of if we hadn't had that conversation. The literature all says what boys and girls want when it comes to books. Boys like graphic novels, humor, sports, war and non-fiction, while girls prefer novels, mysteries, realistic fiction, and animals. My own experiences have shown me that these gender divisions play out every day in libraries. In fact, one girl came into the library today and told me she wanted a humorous book, but not a "boy humor" book. My lead librarian and I have talked about the fact that we need a better representation of girls in the "Sports" section of the library, but that would include more sports books with female protagonists and predominately girl sports. If that girl had come in and just asked me for a sports book, I might have immediately leapt to a book about Gaby Douglas, or Hope Solo. The Pittsburgh Steelers or a football book might not have crossed my mind.
By thinking through a gendered lens, I would have missed real opportunity to connect with a student, and get a meaningful book into the hands of a child. It is so important to connect the right books to the right kids, and often that means making assumptions about the child based on outward appearances and things like gender. And this works. Knowing and respecting a boy's desire to read graphic novels can help that boy become a lifelong reader. But how do we deal with the fact that not every child can be generalized to what we know about most children? Ideally we would know every student well enough to know just what they need, but that is sadly unrealistic. One librarian working with 800 students could never know every child no matter how hard they try. I am still trying to figure out what it is that we can do.