Where to Start? Common Core and Collection Development
By Peg Glisson
Collection Development! Boxes and boxes of new books arriving! Hurriedly unpacking and gazing at the covers! Paging through a new book and knowing it is exactly what you need! Is there anything like it? Truly, those are the positives of collection development.
Then, there is the downside: weeding. I dare venture a guess that it is one of most librarians’ least favorite parts of the job. Indeed, it is hard to set on the discard cart books that were carefully selected years ago, especially titles that are “old friends” and old favorites. But time marches on; new ideas and interests emerge; book design changes, occasionally, even, what was thought to be scientifically accurate proves not to be so. What a disservice to our patrons (school or public) to have overcrowded shelves, significantly full of old and/or out-of-date materials. In this day of “I’ll google it,” it is more important than ever that the printed information on our shelves be current and correct. That is not to say historical perspectives aren’t needed, but accuracy and currency are paramount.
Common Core, with its emphasis on reading rigorous texts across the curriculum, brings added incentive for school and public libraries to trim their dead wood and beef up their collections. The emphasis on nonfiction or informational texts will tax most libraries’ current collections. With fourth graders expected to be reading a 50/50% split of fiction/nonfiction, middle schoolers looking at a 45/55% split, and high schoolers a 70/30% split, and the expectation that students will gain information from multiple sources and perspectives, how can it not?
So what’s a librarian to do? Seize the moment! Look at your selection policy and see if it needs changes or additions based on Common Core. Build the case for funds to bring your collection into the 21st century by gathering data about the current collection. There are free online tools for collection analysis; use them!
Next, go to the shelves. Take a good, honest look at your nonfiction collection. Put emotion aside and take an objective look at what is on your shelves. What is the average age of your books in Dewey categories? Are there books that haven’t circulated in 3 years? In 5? Do many of your books present just the facts, without multiple points of view? Are there books that are outdated in content or style (illustration, graphics, sidebars, etc.)? Are stereotypes or bias present in any books? Are your books on an appropriate reading level, given CCSS guidelines? There are many guidelines and resources for weeding available online; for starters go to ALA’s list of resources on weeding. Review the CREW method, then actually block out time on your weekly schedule to weed section by section. Load your book truck up with books about which you have concerns or questions. Use CLCD to help you remember the strengths or weaknesses of the books on your truck by checking reviews and lexiles. Use sticky notes to remind yourself why a particular book should be pulled.
Don’t be afraid of empty shelves. They make a stark statement of your needs. Full shelves make administrators think you are well-funded. Would you really rather have inaccurate, out-dated, or inappropriate materials on your shelves than allow them to be only partially full?
Now it’s time to schedule a meeting with your director, principal, or department leader. Create a visual such as this one on the state of your collection-its size, currency, balance, books per student, etc. Armed with the Core Standards, a few articles on the shift to non-fiction, your weeding results, and your collection analysis, collaboratively discuss how to make your collection become what it needs to be for today’s students.
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