Monday, February 11, 2013

"Circulate Everything"
and Other Thoughts on My School Library Collections

Thanks to the blizzard, I've been catching up on some professional reading, including past issues of Knowledge Quest. The May/June 2012 edition includes two articles that really struck a chord with me.

Weeding and Growing
I've begun rather ruthlessly weeding my two school library collections; if something is more than 30 years old and has only 1 circulation recorded in the past 10 years of online records, then it's out.

Maybe if I got a new edition of
the book,more kids would check
it out? They totally judge by
the cover. Source:
Goodbye, Hardy Boys. Goodbye, Boxcar Children. Goodbye, random coming-of-age novels that I enjoyed back in the 80s but can't convince anyone to check out now. (I will, however, admit to hanging on to Little Women and The Witch of Blackbird Pond because they are favorites of mine ... I know, I know, so much for being ruthless and objective. And before you say, "Newbery!" ... a subjective award does not a keeping criterion make.) Goodbye, nonfiction about how someday we might have computers in all of our homes. Goodbye, biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower that was written when he was still in office. Goodbye, 200-page book about Mozart's operas (how did THAT end up in a K-6 library??).

Even though I have a ludicrously tiny budget (unavailable until spring), I want to make room for stuff that I know the kids really do want to read. I stock up at Savers and at public library book sales. I ask for Barnes & Noble gift cards for holidays ... I should probably start making bookplates for the Rita Moore collection (my mom's generosity has enabled many purchases of new books). I am thankful to the parents' groups that each gave me a bag of requested books from their bookfairs.

I have personally read almost every item I've added to my collections since September. Which have included a lot of graphic novels, YA, and horror/suspense/mystery. Because that's what my kids want. I want to give them what they want. Because I want them to think that reading is FUN.

While I understand budget constraints, I am especially frustrated at the district's arbitrary decision that no school may spend more than $150 on periodicals. A magazine is not a book, but that doesn't mean it doesn't count as reading.

Most-circulated title at one
of my schools. By a LOT.
In her article "Showing You Care," Nichole L. Smith discusses how to build relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators. She stresses the importance of understanding and supporting student reading choices: "Classic novels are not necessarily at the top of students' reading lists; students are often more interested in reading magazines, newspapers, websites, lyrics, e-mails, letters, magazines, games, etc. In schools, these materials are not always considered reading materials, and what students read by choice is sometimes ignored." (p. 19)

She continues: "Reacting to a constant push from a school librarian to read books, adolescent students, especially males, can be turned off from reading. ... This feeling is especially evident when materials students self-select for leisure reading are rejected by teachers - and maybe even the school librarian - as 'not challenging enough.'" (p.20-21)

Heading Out the Door
At the same time, I've been letting kids take out pretty much anything they'd like, even from the reference section. (Note: I do require a note from home for anyone below grade 6 to take Twilight, and I reserve Wimpy Kid for third grade and up ... anything else is fair game.)

You're interested in reading the encyclopedia? Here you go. Want to bring home the World Almanac for Kids? As soon as the fourth grade is done comparing TOC and index searches. You only want magazines and drawing books? No problem.

A beautiful early nonfiction collection on bugs had been used for research lessons and never circulated ... I put it out for the kids, and they LOVE them. Yes, the pages are now wrinkled, and the corners are banged up, but the first-graders dying for more "books about real stuff" are happy.

In her article "The Transformative Power of Care," Olga M. Nesi provides this advice on p. 12:

  • Demonstrate that we care more about children reading than we do about the books and the damage they might incur by being read.
  • Refrain from imposing reading restrictions - genres, numbers of pages, "significance" of topic, etc.
  • Circulate everything.
  • Model good reading habits by reading widely ourselves, and by enthusiastically and systematically sharing our reading with students.

Did I mention that
it's getting made into
a movie? Source:
My new year's resolution for school this year was to do more booktalking. Among other titles, I purchased The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. One Friday, I held each new book up and described the plot; since the books weren't in the catalog yet, kids could either sign into the catalog and request from another school themselves or write out a slip of paper for me to place the holds on our copy. By the end of the day, I had SIXTEEN requests for The False Prince. So much more effective than sticking a new book on a "New Books" shelf. So exciting to me that the kids were excited.

Since I started in September, I've upped the circulation limits set by my predecessors (mainly for their sanity after all library secretaries were laid off a few years ago ... I've been recruiting student volunteers to put the books all back on the shelves) and use extra books as a PBIS award.

All of this takes time, energy, and money out of my own pocket. But more importantly, it shows the students that I care. I care about them having a vibrant collection of resources. I care about their interests. I care about them. I guess it's fitting that the theme of the KQ issue was "Caring is Essential."


stacied said...

an amazing philosophy! your kids are so lucky to have you. the accessibility you've granted them will foster a love of reading. and they will become nerds like us!

Melanie said...

Thank you for holding on to Witch of Blackbird Pond! I will take you on a tour of Old Wethersfield to show you where everything happened.
I agree with Stacie; your kids are lucky o have you. If you were my librarian, I wouldn't be afraid of the library, (Okay, I probably would be, but LESS so...)

Tanisha Christie said...

Hi Meredith, I envy you for your progress in book reading. With everything else that has to be done these days, I find it necessary to give myself a few minutes to read a few pages each day of my preferred book. I find your tips in doing this very encouraging. Indeed, kids are lucky to have you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom to them!

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