Saddam Hussein remains at large; in fact, Kuwait has not been invaded by Iraq. India rejoices in the election of Indira Gandhi but does not yet know of her tragic assassination. Apartheid is the rule of law in South Africa. The U.S.S.R. is governed by the Communist Party. These are just a few examples of outdated information found in books in the Samuel M. Ridgway Middle School library.
I was hired with the intention of rebuilding our school library. In a time when so many school librarians are left having to justify their budgets and position, I was relieved to find a district that was moving in a positive direction and had an administration that believed in the power and worth of school libraries. The district was preparing for a budget referendum vote, which ultimately passed, and remodeling an unused and unsupported library was going to be part of the project.
Once I started evaluating the collection, I was struck by how outdated the materials were. I was new to school libraries, having previously worked in a public library with a regular weeding schedule. As my professional network grew, I learned that having materials this age is not uncommon for school libraries, and librarians are often faced with the dilemma of weeding materials knowing they won’t be able to replace them, or replace even half of what should be weeded. With the support of my principal and encouragement from my PLN, I set about developing a plan to update the collection and weed anything that was outdated, offered inaccurate information, or had antiquated cultural ideals. When I saw the posting for the AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant, I knew I had to apply.
As my third year at Ridgway began, the physical renovation had been completed, and I ordered the first new books the library had seen in years. The focus, however, was on popular reading materials to generate interest in using the library from the students who did not previously have access to library materials. For my grant application, I decided to focus on updating the history and geography collection. The books in this collection were woefully outdated, including titles about countries that no longer existed or have new names. Additionally, this was an area I wanted to target so that I could start to provide more materials to support our social studies curriculum. When preparing my grant application, what I discovered is that the sets of books about countries of the world advertised in so many of the catalogs I received often had publication dates that were already close to ten years old. I just couldn’t stand to spend money on materials that were already becoming outdated. I shifted my plan and decided to subscribe to a database to provide information about the countries of the world and the United States, and then to focus on books that interested students by targeting the heritage of our diverse student body and provided support for the social studies curriculum for grades 5-8. Using a database appealed to me because of the frequency with which they are updated, as well as the desire to add electronic resources that were not widely used for research in my small school district. With my new direction set, I submitted my application and anxiously awaited a response.
While stunned to be selected, I am so grateful to AASL for this opportunity. Our school library will be much improved as a result of this grant. We will be making our purchases in the fall, and I am excited to show our staff and students all of the new resources we have to offer.