Cultivating and Maintaining Middle School Readers with the Inspire Collection Development Grant

In fall of 2018, the Andrew Lewis Middle School library (Salem, Virginia) looked very different than it had the previous academic year. Its transformation began during the previous spring and continued through the summer, thanks to the combined efforts of the ALMS media clerk, several of the English faculty, and one of Salem High School’s two librarians. My media clerk and I began the process by removing unused materials, and then I used Follett’s genre spec form to assign genres to our remaining 6,700+ fiction titles and calculate necessary shelf space for each new genre section. These measurements allowed me to carefully re-map the collection shelf by shelf. Once our new color-tinted label protectors arrived, our team worked over summer vacation and into the first weeks of school together to sort, re-label, and shelve fiction novels into their new sections. Once the library had been re-organized, our technology education teacher taught me how to program and use a Silhouette cutter to create vinyl wall letter signage for the library sections. Following this intensive makeover, the library collection looked inviting, organized, and colorful. Even better, students could browse their preferred genres with intention instead of aimlessly wandering the shelves in the hope that they might cross paths with a book that looked interesting. Genrefication helped increase circulation from September through January by 15% when compared to the same time during the previous year.

Genrefication of our collection allowed more detailed usage analysis that had been previously possible. Four fiction genres circulated at particularly high rates: humorous fiction, horror, sports fiction, and military/war fiction. These were also, notably, our smallest genre collections. I learned of the AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant later that year, and applied as it appeared to closely match our needs. We were awarded the grant and are now using the funds to create a larger, sustainable base collection in these highly popular genres than otherwise would have been possible without these special one-time funds. We placed emphasis on titles that are diverse, award-winning, and appeal to seventh- and eighth-grade students with the goal of maintaining readership throughout students’ time in middle school.

Grant funds will also be used to purchase materials supporting multilingual literacy of our growing population of English language learners. Our purchasing plan includes early literacy and bilingual materials for pleasure and academic reading that are appropriate for students’ reading capabilities (but also not embarrassing to be seen with), as well as books in a variety of languages to support and provide a literary refuge for students who are literate in languages other than English.

Once the new books are in house and processed, the ALMS library will host an unveiling to celebrate their arrival. The four grant-enhanced genre collections will be featured monthly following the event to promote the new arrivals across grade levels. Genre features will include social media photos and Remind (a school messaging app) promotional text messages to build excitement, in-library displays, and book talks to English classes as they visit according to the library schedule. I fully expect that all the new books will be checked out during their feature month! I plan on rotating featured genres by grade level each month to maximize availability for student checkout. For example, I may feature humorous fiction for sixth grade, military fiction for seventh grade, and sports fiction for eighth grade, and rotate for grade levels/genres the following month. Building on the confidence that students will have (hopefully!) developed in preceding “genre of the month” themes, we will promote other genres with the goal of expanding student reading interests.

We are thrilled to have been awarded an Inspire Collection Development Grant, and the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous as our administrators have placed a school-wide emphasis on reading this year.  We are looking forward to seeing our students’ to-be-read (#TBR) lists grow!

Author: Lauren Mabry

Categories: Awards Spotlight, Community

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