Let’s be honest: You buy what you yourself like to read. Those big fat fantasy books about courageous females rather than the less well-written football stories or street “drama.” Or you collect those precious picture books with the gossamer fairy illustrations. Or you just love the ebooks with the cartoon characters. Sometimes the review magazines are filled with good reviews for the type of items you like and you sigh in total contentment. Life is good in Libraryland.
But it’s not right – this comfort zone of yours. It doesn’t serve the students well and it isn’t really in anyone’s best interest. You have to get over yourself.
Your charge is to “ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information” (AASL, 2009). One method of sharing ideas and stimulating thought is to allow students choice in their reading material. Consequently, providing breadth and depth of current reading material is your job in the school library. As the variety of formats increase so do your challenges in providing a diverse collection within each format. And it is necessary to find a way to balance out your own reading biases (and perhaps those of your staff) in selecting materials for your school population.
As you get ready to add a title to your order list, consider the following questions:
- Can you think of a reader for this book right now?
- Will this book provide a mirror for students in your school to see themselves?
- Will it provide a window for students to see others that are not like them?
- Will this book provide a doorway for a student to step through to become a change maker?
- Will this book broaden horizons and still fit your community?
Nudging the boundaries and providing vicarious experiences is what we are all about. Set your own reading interests aside and get to it.
AASL. (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library programs. Chicago: American Library Association.
Author: Karen Perry
Former school library media specialist. Reviewer. Online instructor for Old Dominion University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the school library program.