Why We Buy What We Buy
by Sherry V. Neal, Librarian, David T. Howard Middle School, Atlanta, Georgia
The school library is a dynamic space where students, staff, and the extended community gather to read, study, work on classwork and projects, socialize, research, learn, and grow! The school librarian serves in three primary roles: 1) administrator of the school library and its programs, 2) developer and sustainer of a reading culture at the school, and 3) instructor of information literacy skills. In fulfilling each of these roles, the librarian performs the vital task of evaluating the contents of the current collection based on national and state educational standards, identifying gaps in the collection, and selecting new materials to acquire.
The school library collection serves three primary Interests:
Curriculum support - The school library collection should provide teachers in all content areas with a wealth of resources to support their instruction based upon state and national standards. Curriculum standards guide many decisions about materials selection. Materials that support the curriculum may be nonfiction materials directly tied to content standards as well as fiction materials that extend student learning and deepen student understanding.
Promoting personal interest reading - Research shows that students develop and grow as readers when they have choice among a range of materials of interest to them. The school librarian strives to provide materials that students find meaningful, fun, engaging, and even challenging across a wide range of genres and formats.
Supporting requests from the library community - Students and staff (and sometimes even parents) tell the school librarian what they would like to see in the library. Sometimes those requests do not jibe exactly with the factors and considerations set forth in this document, but school librarians encourage requests and strive to fulfill them whenever possible.
To support these interests, school librarians consider a range of factors when reviewing potential acquisitions:
Likelihood of a book to appeal to the community and support the curriculum goals based upon:
Target grade level (e.g., K-5, K-8, 6-8, 9-12)
Target age group (e.g., 4-12 in an elementary school or 10-15 in a middle school)
Target reading level – most schools support a full spectrum of abilities from emerging readers to highly proficient readers
Genre (mystery, SciFi, horror, historical fiction, etc.)
Format (novel, short story collection, narrative nonfiction, primary source collection, graphic novel, ebook, database, audiobook)
Ability of existing collection to fulfill need and likelihood of acquisitions filling gaps in the collection
Promoting diversity and inclusivity of collection (race, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic class, family status). School librarians use information from a variety of resources including the following blogs that focus on literary diversity (but definitely not limited to just these examples):
Positive recommendations in trade publications and scholarly journals like School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Knowledge Quest, and School Library Connection
National awards for children’s literature like:
Not every book is for every reader, but every reader should be able to find a book in the collection that meets their needs. As a result, school librarians also take into consideration their specific student community. For example, in my urban middle school, we have a wide range of student ages, interests, reading levels, maturity levels, and backgrounds. Additionally, the middle school years are a critical transitional time when readers may progress from children’s materials to middle grades materials to YA materials (or be reading at any and all levels). My students have different needs and interests than do students in elementary schools or high school. Finally, the community’s access to materials through other sources also shapes a school librarian’s decisions about which books to acquire. My community also has access to an exceptionally wide range of materials - print, ebooks, audiobooks, audiovisual, music, and more - through our partnership with the Fulton County Public Library, so I may acquire fewer digital materials than would a librarian in a school lacking such access. Based on all these considerations, the collection in my library may look quite different from a collection in a rural Wisconsin middle school or even from the collection in one of my feeder elementary schools or in the high school my students go on to attend.
Have questions? Reach out to your local school librarian to find out more!
Book Award and Book Selection Lists
Curated by Stacy Collins, Curriculum and Research Librarian, Simmons University
Youth Lit Review Blogs & Resources for Underrepresented Identities and Experiences
Youth Book Awards and Book Lists
The Youth Media Awards are children's and young adult book, media, and creator awards that are administered by the American Library Association and its affiliate library organizations.
Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
Youth Lit Book Finders
A selection of "notable children's books" lists, compiled by various literary, education, and library organizations.
CBCA Book of the Year Notable Booklists (Multiple Age Categories)
IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities
A selection of "mock award" blogs for various children's & YA book awards, managed by various magazines and library organizations.
The CSK Blog: The Blog of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards
The Sydney Taylor Shmooze: A Mock Award Blog for Jewish Children’s Books
The Starred Reviews spreadsheet collates the stars from six different journals: Booklist, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The spreadsheet covers 2011 to present and is updated monthly.
A selection of US-specific and international youth literature awards, bestowed by various literary, education, and library organizations.
Bank Street Children's Book Committee Awards
Josette Frank Award for fiction in which young people deal with difficulties in their world
Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction
Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry
Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award
CCA Governor General’s Literary Awards -- Young People's Literature
CCA Governor General’s Literary Awards -- Young People's Literature, Illus Books
Nebula Awards -- Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
Junior Fiction (Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award)
Young Adult Fiction
Non-Fiction (Elsie Locke Award)
Illustration (Russell Clark Award)
te reo Māori (Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award).
Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature
*Read this blog post by K. Allen McNamara to understand why librarians refer to books as mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors, and prisms.