My library is beautiful. It has one, large west-facing wall full of glass windows. It has traditional blonde oak stacks with matching tables and chairs. It also has many of the original books purchased in the 1950s and 60s.
When I was chosen to be the new librarian three years ago, a Titlewise report showed just over 9,000 books in the collection with an average age of 1984. Over 1,400 of those books, 15.6% of the collection, held copyrights pre-1950.
My first thought was, “Wow, I already have a community history project here and a full archive!” As I moved many of the older books to the Reference Lounge, I found that about half of the books had been weeded but left on the shelf. Okay, first order of business: find out which books are in the system and if they aren’t, get them off the shelves! Secondly, start looking for additional funds to update this collection. I love it, but do my students?
My principal was generous and gave me every penny he could spare. Thank goodness, the school system had been awarded a state literacy grant, so I was able to get a little there too. By the end of the first year my Titlewise report showed 7,846 books in the collection with an average age of 1990. I was pleased.
During this time, the majority of circulation, well 99%, was fiction. I like a good fiction book myself, but the real meat of a quality education lies buried in Dewey. What could I do to get some science, math, and history books circulating?
Back in year one I “remodeled” the whole library. It’s amazing how much a room opens up when you remove the centerpiece of plywood from a two-sided stack. Between that, and rearranging so that the vibe was open, airy, and welcoming, students actually commented on how pretty the windows were! Sitting in front of them while working or reading is now the hotspot.
Circulating Dewey, that was where I left off. The numbers needing the most work were the 000s, 100s, 200s, and 500s. My 500’s, SCIENCE, had 359 books with an average age of 1980! I think a few items in the field of science have changed in the last 40 years, maybe just a little. No wonder teachers weren’t requiring the use of books in their projects and papers.
Now that I knew what the problem was I began looking for more money. The Inspire Collection Development Grant sponsored by Marina “Marney” Welmers was a perfect match for my needs. An itemized budget was required for submission of the grant. I wanted to be very specific with what I wanted and intended to purchase. To save time I used TitleWave to create my lists specific to the Dewey section in need. I created two lists for each section, one below the 1000 Lexile and one above. By creating so many lists, I could better see where I might need to thin or add. It would also allow me to solicit specific dollar amounts from donors if my list went over the $5,000 awarded with the grant.
No sooner had the grant recipients been named than schools were closed due to COVID-19. I am truly thankful some people continued to work. My check was received just as scheduled, and I began submitting orders shortly thereafter! As I began the paperwork process of ordering my bookkeeper and I decided that ordering each list separately would have far-reaching benefits when it came to record keeping and documentation. An unforeseen benefit was that I was able to look at the lists again and chose lower-priced versions of the same titles. In my grant narrative, I stated that I would purchase 272 new titles but the amount needed to do so was going to be $6,278.22. I was actually able to order 263 titles for $5,008.55!
Most of the books have arrived. We are waiting on a few titles. I was lucky enough to get six wonderful senior girls this year to be my media aides. They have stayed busy stamping books and affixing labels. Yes, we opted for no processing to make that money go further. You do what you have to do because we don’t have enough Marina “Marney” Welmers.