Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors, and Prisms*

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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:

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

A selection of "notable children's books" lists, compiled by various literary, education, and library organizations.

A selection of "mock award" blogs for various children's & YA book awards, managed by various magazines and library organizations.

Honorable Mention

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.

*Read this blog post by K. Allen McNamara to understand why librarians refer to books as mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors, and prisms.

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