Have you ever had the privilege of building a collection from scratch? It can be daunting—where to start, what to include, what to pass by. In most cases, though, it is what librarians dream of, especially when faced with outdated titles, lack of shelf space, and lack of funds.
At the beginning of the 2018–2019 school year, I was met with a mostly empty wall of shelves in our young adult section and a high school population that would grow 25% each year for the next four years. After gathering the Sarah Dressen, Scott Westerfeld, and Kwame Alexander books from the middle school fiction section, I still had a great deal of space. And more shelves in storage. To fill out the collection I started with finding funds, which led me to the AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant.
I am honored to have been selected for an AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant. As I communicated in my application, my plan for filling these shelves has two parts. The first part is to focus on developing a nonfiction core collection that supports the classroom instruction. Working with the high school faculty, I compiled a list of books used during instruction. I have begun to add alternate formats of those texts, including e-books, audiobooks, large print, abridgements, and translations. These alternative formats allow students to approach the text using different competencies, and allow teachers to differentiate instruction. The second initiative dovetails with the first: a collection of complimentary titles to allow students to expand on the ideas and themes covered in the texts used in the classroom. With this second part of the project, the aim is to engage students beyond the classroom. The titles are more likely to be published by mainstream publishers and created for the consumer market. The plots are scandalous, the photographs will be glossy, and the words will have readers saying, “Hey, listen to this!”
In practice, what does this look like?
One of the texts the 10th-grade English class is tackling this year is A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The library will purchase 12 books to support this work, in three categories: alternate formats, literary criticism, and popular fiction. Each book was chosen based on industry reviews, relevance to the text, and appeal to 10th-grade students. Here is the list of texts we’re adding:
Over the course of the academic year, the teaching staff keep the library informed about current topics and book studies. Using this information, we create eye-catching displays related to that theme and pull from the books purchased to correspond. For students not in the library, book covers and enticing descriptions are posted in the entryways.
The long-term goal for this style of collection development is to have students more engaged in the classroom. By building background knowledge and popular culture references, students have more experiences to attach new knowledge, creating a wider web of understanding.