Working in a school library has afforded me one of life's guilty pleasure...18,000 books at my disposal. As books come in and out I look at them, read the back cover and maybe make a mental note to read it. For years I was in a bit of a reading rut. I was stuck on certain authors and genres, never really straying. Now with all of these books I have spread my reading wings so to speak, and tried new and different books with gusto! I have often found that at first glance I might not like it but then end up loving it, and vice versa. With our varied collection and my new found vast book empire I am able to make better decisions when I help students look for books.
When new books arrive it is like Christmas for me. Really I am reduced to an eight year old waiting for her parents to wake up to open presents...its quite sad. When the box is opened I immediately start to compile my list of must reads! I attribute this new found joy to our librarian who is really in touch with building a very diverse collection for our school. I have on occasion helped with ordering new books. I am in awe of lists of potential books...award winners, Teen Read Nominations, new releases, research, biographies, science, history the list goes on forever and it could become overwhelming. How does she know what to order? She understands the needs and wants of our students. She does not limit our collection to what she likes, but expands it to include interests for all. If she senses that a certain group does not have books of interest to them she orders them. She is also not shy of getting rid of books that are no longer being used, outdated or can be found on an e-book or database. She used our automated library system to look at book history, if a book hasn't been checked out within a certain time period out it goes. Her reasoning was would you want to read a book that smells and looks like it is older than dirt?
Haycock and Sheldon stated"When unused, a collection is just so many objects and really of little or no value." (p.95) We want our library to be a living, breathing space that evolves with our students. You can see the ebb and flow of interest on our shelves. The shelves that Twilight and Ellen Hopkins books reside will be empty by the end of the first week of school and remain that way for the rest of the year. But now Harry Potter and Dan Brown stay for awhile.
The ability to find the right mix of wants and needs is a talent indeed. One that I will have to learn. It is a fascinating process that goes far beyond just ordering a book from a list!
Evans, G.E. (2008) Reflections on Creating Information Service Collections. In Haycock, K., & Sheldon, B.E. (Eds.), The Portable MLIS Insights from the Experts(pp.87-97). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.