If You Have It All, They Probably Won’t Come

The Having-It-All Mentality

By having it all, I’m not referring to individuals with a perfect life. Instead, having it all is the old-school librarian philosophy to have a print collection covering every topic and issue known to humans. 

Having-it-all librarians don’t weed. 

They don’t throw anything out. 

They tell you they need to keep that book about sewing from 1990 because that imaginary student who needs it may come into the library one day, and what would the student think if the book they wanted wasn’t there?  

That student does not exist. 

The students who do come in and see a cluttered space with old, dusty books, yellowed pages, overstuffed shelves, piles of paper, art projects from graduates collecting Social Security, and posters with celebrities who are no longer celebrities are not going to come back. If your students don’t see the books they want, the subjects they need, the titles that reflect their identities, they won’t go into the library. If they don’t feel connected to the collection, why would they think it has anything to offer them?

The Stuff

I recently went into a neglected school library to weed and organize the cavernous space. The previous librarian never discarded anything but kept stuffing new purchases with older ones like a website with endless links. His focus was on having the stuff as if students will learn by osmosis. Many educators believe the right curriculum, technology, and resources will make the difference. It won’t. 

The stuff exists to inspire creativity, collaboration, instructional insights, and learning objectives.

Like the designer who transforms fabric into fashion, the forward-thinking educator translates the stuff into successful student outcomes.

The Person Is Who Matters

I have been to too many libraries where administrators don’t want to see empty shelves. Why? Does it show neglect? Not at all. 

Make the case that the collection quality is what matters. Having resources students can access and learn from is vital. And explain the best resources in the world won’t make a difference if the right librarian isn’t there to develop a stellar program.  

Having outdated books won’t spark inquiry or discovery for our students, but having dedicated and dynamic librarians, collections, and programs will.



Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Collection Development

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