Top 5 School Library Pet Peeves


1.  An un-weeded collection.  

Weeding is an essential part of collection development.  It is not something you should do eventually; it is something you should do regularly.  We all know why we need to weed- so why don’t some librarians do it?  Yes, it’s tedious and it can be dirty.  But it’s part of what we signed up for and neglecting to weed is a form of incompetence.  I’m not saying you have to weed your entire collection every year.  But at least weed something.  Your students (and the people who inherit your library when you retire) will thank you.

2.  Fiction sections that should be labeled “Old Lady Fiction” (or “Christian Mom Fiction”)

Christian schools’ fiction sections should include Christian fiction- for sure.  But let’s make sure our fiction sections have appropriate secular fiction and updated (keyword: updated) Christian fiction. I cringe when I see Christian school libraries whose fiction sections are filled with Christian romance novels and Christian chick-lit from the 1990s.  Please make sure you choose titles that are appealing to both boys and girls, and that they’re recent titles.

3.  Tech-terrified library staff

We all have varying levels of technology expertise and experience.  We may not be that confident about learning new technologies.  But there’s a difference between being a little hesitant and being tech-terrified. You don’t have to be a tech genius, but we need to be open to improving our existing skills and experimenting with new technologies.  Don’t be too proud to learn from your students.  Many students will blossom when given the opportunity to teach something to an adult.

4.  Librarians who don’t like kids.

Why are some school libraries staffed by people who appear to dislike children and teenagers?  If you don’t like kids, or if you can’t deal with some noise, then why did you take the job?

5.  Dirty, dusty libraries.

I’ll admit I’m not the neatest person in the world.  I struggle with keeping my home and workplace clean, just like everyone else.  But there comes a point when the level of uncleanliness I’ve seen in some libraries can be dangerous to your health and your students’ health.  If you’ve never dusted your desk or your shelves, you need to start.  Set up a reminder in your calendar, and do it on a regular basis.  You don’t need to dust the entire collection every week.  But perhaps you can dust one row of books each week.  A cleaner, less-dusty library makes for a more attractive and healthier space for everyone.

What are you library pet peeves?  Please share in the comments section below! ThisShare on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInPin it on PinterestSubmit to redditSubmit to StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Twitter Share

Printable Selection Rubric


Collection development can be one of the trickiest thing a Christian school librarian does.  We want to provide our students with great resources, but we also want to make sure we’re honoring our faith and our school’s values.  Sometimes it’s hard to make a decision about a specific book, so I developed a rubric that may be helpful in those instances.

Click the image above to download the rubric.

The rubric guides you in looking at different selection criteria to evaluate the book as whole.  Here is a breakdown of each section:

Reading & Interest Level:  I was surprised when I learned early in my career that reading level and interest level are not the same.  Reading level relates to the amount of reading comprehension and skill the reader needs, while interest level lets you know which age group the book is generally appropriate for.  You can usually find reading and interest level information in the product description on sites like Amazon, Follett’s Titlewave, and most library book suppliers.

Awards: There are dozens of different literary awards, both Christian and secular.  It’s always a good idea to see if a book has won awards and if so, what is it being praised for?  (See this post for a list of Christian book awards and check out YALSA’s and ALSC’s lists, too).

Reviews:  Good sources of reviews include School Library Journal, Booklist, and Amazon.  If you’re looking for reviews from a parental point of view, you might consider Junior Library Guild and Common Sense Media.  There are Christian review sites like Christian Library Journal, Redeemed Reader, and Faithful Reader, but I find that they usually have a smaller selection of reviews and aren’t very current.

Bibliographies:  Many states have state-approved reading lists for each grade level.  Check your state’s department of education for reading lists.  YALSA and ALSC are also great resources for bibliographies.

Demand:  Be sure to take demand into consideration.  Will your students be clamoring to check out this book or will it most likely sit on your shelves?

Curriculum:  This should be one of the biggest factors in your decision.  Whenever I find a book that directly supports my curriculum, I will always purchase it if finances allow.

Discussion Potential:  Christian school librarians are often afraid to add controversial books to our collection.  But we need to be willing to take a look at the controversy.  Does it really glorify and encourage sinful behavior, or could we use it to engage students in an age-appropriate conversation that points them towards Christ’s truth, love, and mercy?

You can download the rubric here or you can click on the image above.

I hope you enjoy the rubric!  If you found it useful, please leave a comment below or pin this to Pinterest. ThisShare on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInPin it on PinterestSubmit to redditSubmit to StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Twitter Share

Censorship and Christian School Libraries

Censorship is a touchy subject for Christians in library work.  It’s one of the reasons I decided to start this blog, and if I’m being honest, one of the subjects I’ve been avoiding.  My next few blog posts will discuss this issue in depth.  I’ll touch on the need for collection development policies and handling tough conversations with parents.  I’ll also talk about the two censorship questions Christian school librarians are afraid to ask.

photo source

I think most Americans (Christian or non-Christian) would say they believe everyone should have the right to read whatever they want.

But those ideals are put to the test when we find ourselves facing questions and criticism from parents, teachers, and even our supervisors about the books on our shelves.

I won’t pretend to have it all figured out.  And I must acknowledge that everyone’s school and situation is unique.  But I do believe I must wrestle with this issue if I truly want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul (Matt 22:37).

Collection Development Plan

If you want to be prepared when concerns arise about the materials in your library then you must have a collection development policy that contains guidelines for book challenges and is approved by your administration and/or school board.

A collection development policy is one of the most important documents your library needs.  It lays the foundation for how you build your entire collection, and provides protection for you and your school in the event of a book challenge.

A collection development policy also provides you with accountability.  It’s tempting to overload our collections with purchases that suit our own personal tastes and interests.  A collection development policy keeps you on track by making sure you purchase according to the school’s mission, values, and goals.

Getting your collection development policy approved by your administration and/or your school board is equally important as creating the document.  It gives credibility to your actions and may lessen any liability you might face in the event of a challenge.
If your library already has a collection development policy, make sure you review it regularly.  You may need to update it to reflect changes in your school.  If you don’t have a written policy, you need to start writing one right now.  Don’t wait until you have a challenge.  Get one in place before you need it and have copies readily available.

I’ve listed several resources for writing collection development policies below.  They should provide you enough information and additional links to get you started on writing your own collection development policy.

  • Collection Development (from ALA)
  • Essential Links for Collection Development (from AASL)
  • Workbook for Selection Policy Writing (from ALA)

Working With Your Administration

I suggest you approach your administration after you’ve completed the first draft of your policy.  Most school administrators have busy schedules and would rather you approach them with a finished project instead of an idea.  Of course, you may end up having to re-draft portions of your policy after your administration reviews it, but the idea is to make sure you initiate the approval process after making sure you’ve covered all your bases.

Some administrators may see the importance of having an approved collection development policy while others may not.  Make sure you approach them with a spirit of collaboration, flexibility, and unity.  This is not about getting them to agree to your plan.  It’s about creating policies and guidelines for the best interest of your school and your library.

On Thursday, I’ll talk about how to handle conversations with parents who express concern about specific books in your collection.

What are your thoughts and questions about censorship and the need for collection development policies? Please leave a comment below. ThisShare on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInPin it on PinterestSubmit to redditSubmit to StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Twitter Share