Among all the jobs that school librarians have, collection development often falls to the wayside. Lesson planning, teaching, decorating the library, book fair, reading promotion–all of these often get my attention way before I am ready to order books. Here are some ways that have worked for me to keep ordering books in the front of your mind.
To me, a collection analysis is the first thing to think about when ordering books. Hopefully, you have an easy way to obtain one from your book jobber. Running a new report every academic year is so helpful. You will easily and quickly see which areas need “help” in your library. To be honest, I am shying away from replacing books in the 510s in my library. Year after year, they are just not getting checked out, despite my enthusiastic book talks. I can’t say I blame them; I don’t want to curl up with a book on graphs or algebra, either. So while I say you can see areas of need, also keep in mind what is actually getting circulated, too.
In my district, we use the book jobber Mackin to order books but this tip might work with other vendors. In August, I try to create a list that I title 2018-19. In this list, I add titles that catch my eye, whether because of an author interview, book review, colleague recommendation, whatever. Then when I have a deadline in which to submit an order, my list is ready.
I also tend to place two or three very big orders in a typical school year. It is easier for me to take some time and place a large order of books than to chip away at my budget with small orders throughout the year. I try to place an order before November and again in March. You may have different rules in your district, so make sure to check your ordering dates.
I love reading School Library Journal. Because of time, this is the only professional journal I read. The last page is particularly worthy. On the last page, SLJ lists all the books that got a starred review that month. This page is helpful because if you are short on time, you can look on this page and quickly add them to a book list for order. I am not advising that you don’t do your homework in terms of the appropriateness of the book for your school and your population. This quick list helps me because I know that they are quality titles.
If you don’t use the Goodreads app personally for your reading goals and logs, consider using it for book ideas. The app has a scanning feature that makes it very easy to be in public library or other school library and scan books into a list. Then you can review your list at a later date. Using this app is much easier than carrying around pen and paper.
What books in your library are worn out and still wildly popular? This is a great list to start when you are looking at your shelves. I hope the day never comes when Elephant and Piggie, No, David!, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid are out of print. These books and many, many more need to be replaced often due to lots of wear and tear by my readers.
Don’t eschew Costco or Amazon or Target or stores like them for the latest Dog Man title. The cost is usually cheaper than a book jobber and the gratification much quicker! I am not permitted to buy more than a few copies this way by my district, but it is fun to buy them over a weekend and be the hero of second grade for a few minutes!
In elementary libraries, kids love to read series. What new books in those series were published since your last book order? A good online resource is the Mid-Continent Public Library’s database located at: https://www.mymcpl.org/books-movies-music/read/juvenile-series-and-sequels.
What other tips can you share with us about collection development? How do you carve out time for it in your schedule?
Author: Elizabeth Kyser
H!! I am the lucky librarian at Ettrick Elementary School, located in Chesterfield County, Virginia. I graduated with a degree in History from Allegheny College, received a Master of Education degree from Loyola University in Maryland, and my library certification classes were taken at Longwood University. I was a classroom teacher for fourteen years before I became a school librarian and I am so glad I was. Please feel free to find me on social media. I am energized by sharing ideas with colleagues from around the world!