Friday, September 14, 2012

On Collection Building

Every library has a formal collection policy, and the Paideia Library is no different.  The entire policy is online, but to paraphrase, we collect books, videos, audio books, and electronic resources to support the information needs of students (school as well as non-school learning) and the teaching and life-long learning needs of teachers.  I'm pretty sure that it's very similar, if not almost identical to the collection policies of many other school libraries in Atlanta.

Any useful and used library reflects the personality and interests of its community, and is also shaped by the personality of the collection builders, and their understanding of the community.  Most libraries' circulation computers beep or bomp, but ours make a unique sound to indicate a successful transaction -- I call it the "Go-ahead Goat."  There's also a sheep for "Oh, shoot, something didn't work right," and a crowing rooster to call attention to a pop-up message on the screen.   I thought it was funny.

One little bonus from the post-summer pileup of returned library books is that it creates a mini-snapshot of our collection all in one place.  This fall begins my 20th year as Paideia's junior high and high school librarian, and on the one hand, it's kind of cool that I've personally purchased a majority of the 15,000+ books and videos in the collection.  On the other hand, 20 years is kind of scary!  As I check in each book, swiping barcodes one at a time (and waiting for the goat to signal the go-ahead), I marvel not only at the range of the collection, but also the range of our community, and I think about when and why the book was added to the library.  Some of the titles that have just come back from the summer are:
  • Rocket Boys, a memoir by NASA engineer Homer Hickam.  I bought this for the library when it was published in 1998.  It was pretty easy to "sell" after it was made into the movie October Sky.  Did you know that "October Sky" is an anagram of "Rocket Boys"?  Cool, huh?
  • It's a Boy! Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth Through Age 18 - This is a book from our PRF (professional, aka "parent/teacher") collection.   Paideia brought in author Michael Thompson several years ago for an all-levels faculty development session.  We have a really good collection of books "for grownups, about kids," and this book was Thompson's third in a series specifically about boys' development. Of course we had to add it as soon as it came out.
  • Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence, a collection of short stories about gay and lesbian teens, all written by well-known writers for young adults.  Wow, another early purchase (from 1994), and it's still fantastic.  One thing that most likely distinguishes Paideia's libraries from many other school libraries is the number of GLBT-themed materials for young people, from novels to histories to DVD documentaries.  This reflects our community and our curriculum (a GLBT history course is often taught in high school short term).  It also always reminds me of a senior student who was really interested in understanding the gay and lesbian experience while she was in junior high. Over the course of a couple of years, she read every single GLBT novel we had.  I added lots in this genre to keep up with her!
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amigurumi, added just last year to the handcraft & art section.  This one makes me happy because it was checked out by a junior high friend who decided to teach herself to crochet over the summer.  I showed her a few tips on getting started, and she took off, crocheting little critters all summer long and posting them to a blog she created to show them off.  Her first amigurumi was a lavender hamster, from the pattern pictured on the cover of the book.

Now that we're back into the swing of the academic year, I'm remembering why and when we added all those books and DVDs on Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece, the Salem Witch Trials.  It's all part of the life cycle of a school community.