A Librarian’s Responsibility to our Youth and Adolescent Literature

Adolescent Literature and Library Collections

This week I have been assisting a K-12 librarian with re-organizing the stacks so that her collections are not only easier for students to access, but are up-to-date with current material.  My focus has been on the junior high and high school fiction collection although I have also assisted with their non-fiction section.  Since I am currently working on completing my library endorsement to be a library media specialist, I decided to discuss adolescent literature and how librarians need to keep on top of the weeding and organizational process to make sure students have relevant information.

While working through the stacks over the past three days, I noticed that although the school provides many new titles, there are great deals of books that are very old and dusty.  It was obvious that students haven’t checked them out in a very long time.  In addition, instead of shifting books to accommodate new books, many sections have books either lying on top or in front of other selections.  This system definitely limits easy access to materials for staff and student use.  The librarian that I am working with is very open to new ideas.  She believes that a “fresh set of eyes” can be very beneficial, and help her with finding “new and improved” ways to organize materials.

Libraries can definitely be a huge asset to schools and getting books to into the hands of our youth.  I have taken the past couple of days to move the most popular books into more accessible areas of the library.  I shifted the remaining books so that they are in different places so that students will need to look for books instead of getting stuck going to the same areas of the library and getting stuck in a rut of sorts.  Also, I have repaired books that were slightly damaged as well as “weeded” books out of the circulation.  It is important to have current collections.  When I got home from working in the library, I decided to complete some research on what is currently considered to be “best practice” for deciding what books should stay and what books should be removed from a library collection.  The following information is what I felt was worth mentioning.

1.  Professional responsibility when weeding collections:

Librarians in all types of libraries must weed.  Avoiding weeding degrades the appearance of the collection and creates the opportunity to spread dangerous or misleading information.

As professionals, we need to make informed and responsible decisions so that the information that we provide to our patrons is up-to-date and accurate.

2.  Getting rid of items that are weeded from a collection:

Make sure that after you make a decision, that the books are removed from your OPAC system to avoid any confusion for patrons and staff.  When getting rids of books, librarians need to be thoughtful in regards to what to do with the materials.  Having a plan and following library policy will help diffuse patrons that may be upset by the process.  Once decisions are made as to what to get rid of, there are different options for disposal.  Items can literally be thrown away.  This may be difficult, but it might be what is deemed best.  Some libraries may choose to have a book sale, give them to other organizations, or transfer them to a storage site of a special collections area.  There isn’t one solution that will work for every library.  Librarians need to be cognizant of policies within their own library and follow those guidelines.  The school library that I am currently volunteering in has a couple of ways to deal with the removal of books.  Students always have the option to take these books for free and give them a new home.  Any books that have not been taken home by students at the end of the year are taken to a recycling facility.

On a personal note, I love the idea of donating books to soldiers.  I have MANY military people in our family, and I know that they appreciate reading anything that they can get their hands on to pass time while overseas.

3.  When to weed a collection:

Weeding should be a continual process.  If we wait to complete it once per year, the process is too overwhelming and probably won’t be successful due to time constraints and volume of work.  By breaking the work down over the course of the year, this process remains manageable.

4.  Five different weeding plans:

                1.  MUSTY guide.

                2.  CREW principles.  (Continuous, Review, Evaluation, Weeding)

                3.  Heinemann and Sunlink websites.

                4.  Gail Dickinson’s 3-Step Plan  (One-shelf-per-week procedure)

                5.  Karen Lowe’s Resource Alignment:  Providing Curriculum Support in the School Library Media Center.

5.  The acronym MUSTY stands for:

                M – Misleading information

                U – Ugly

                S – Superseded by better works

                T – Trivial – may have been more valuable to the collection years ago.

                Y – Your collection has no use – (irrelevant to curriculum, student, or teacher needs).

6.  A weeding plan that I would be most inclined to follow and why:

I actually liked a combination of the weeding plans.  Gail Dickinson’s 3-Step Plan makes sense to me as it has a plan for continuous weeding so that the job doesn’t get too overwhelming.  By taking that approach combined with the CREW approach though, I think that a good process could be worked out.  I am the type of person that likes to keep up with things as I go through life.  I am not a procrastinator and feel that people wouldn’t get so overwhelmed with tasks if they would just make a commitment to tackle jobs from the start and not put them off until later.  Every time that I choose to put work off, I tend to end up feeling very overwhelmed and it makes it harder to produce a successful project in the end.  The library is a place that I feel should be relaxing not only to patrons but to the staff as well.  By tackling this large job one bite at a time, it shouldn’t have to be so dreaded.

 CREW = MUSTY + the following:

                1.  If the book fits the MUSTY standard.

                2.  If of a certain age determined by subject category.

                3.  And has not been checked out in several years.

                4.  THEN THAT BOOK WILL PROBABLY NEED TO BE WEEDED!

I constantly encourage students to find a type of book that they can enjoy.  It saddens me when students say that they hate to read.  Each time I hear that comment, I visit with the student about how with so many books available in the world that there is something for everyone.  Librarians need to be cognizant of how they make selections and organize their collections to assist students with finding materials.  If stacks are “pleasing to the eye” and accessible, that is a great start.  Encouraging students continually is also important.  One of my non-readers at the high school was hooked on reading once he started reading graphic novels.  Although this is a type of book that I have never been terribly interested in, I decided to read a couple for my adolescent literature class to see if they might be beneficial for me in a classroom setting.  I just completed reading Maus & Maus II.  During my student teaching experience, my 6th graders studied the Holocaust.  Some of my readers struggled some with getting into the books that were assigned to them.  A few of my kiddos would have definitely benefited from the graphic novel selection, and I will definitely keep these in mind for future students.

It is my hope that all librarians take into account why and how they make selections for our children.  Also, I hope that they keep on top of the weeding process so that the information students are exposed to is current and relevant to their needs.  It would be a shame for a student to study about a topic that is so outdated that they are receiving inaccurate information.  Librarians can be the first line of defense in making sure that doesn’t happen.

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One thought on “A Librarian’s Responsibility to our Youth and Adolescent Literature

  1. I love the U for Ugly! In my classroom library, I noticed that when books had dated or old-fashioned covers, students wouldn’t read them–even if they were absolutely great books that got my highest approval rating. The very newest books were always the most appealing. I wonder if that’s much more true for adolescent readers than other readers? In any case, weeding is an essential part of library work. I enjoyed reading your post and learning more about it.

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