“Please, can you get some more of these books for the library?”

How do students at your school let you know what they’d like you to buy for the library? We look at some options for adding readers' voices to your collection development.

Getting student input

There are many ways to gather ideas and information for developing the library collection — bookshop and online browsing, reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, collection assessment strategies and more. There are also many advantages in having enthusiastic student input into what to purchase for the library collection. Think about how these things happen in your library:

  • How do students — or staff — make recommendations for titles to buy?
  • How do you record these suggestions and collate them to assist with your buying?
  • How do you give feedback on those suggestions, for example what the library has already, when an item is likely to be bought, or if not, why not?

Some schools use a suggestions book, with space to record:

  • the student's name and class
  • title or series and author of the book(s) they're recommending
  • comments or notes about the request
  • the librarian's response to the student.

This is a simple and accessible way for students to help with collection development. It's often a wonderful way to capture compliments about the library too.

StudentletteraboutafunnybookEncourage young readers to recommend titles they'd like the library to buy.

Gathering readers' suggestions

Use the technology available to gather suggestions from your readers, and to respond to their requests.

  • Post to your library blog asking for suggestions — readers can reply in the comments.
  • Add a page to your blog, with a form for gathering suggestions — like the way a 'contact' page works.
  • If your library is on Tumblr, change your blog settings to "Let people ask questions".
  • See if your integrated library system's online catalogue has options for capturing readers' suggestions.
  • Use a Google form shared with readers to collate suggestions into a spreadsheet. Elementary school librarian Travis Jonker describes how this works: Build your own magical book request machine (School Library Journal)

Library surveys can also be a useful way to gather information for collection development. This may be something student librarians could organise and manage.

Public libraries are often interested in gathering suggestions for purchase from their young clients. You can promote this by linking to the public library's website from your school library website.

Keeping track of suggestions and purchases

One of the things you need to manage as part of the selection process is how you keep track of the titles you're considering. For example, you can use a simple spreadsheet to record information about resources you're interested in — sometimes called a 'consideration file'. Make a note of:

  • title and author
  • who has recommended or requested the item
  • potential suppliers
  • price
  • other helpful information about the item.

You could also track potential purchases on suppliers' websites by:

  • using their ‘wishlist’ function, if they have one — you can often make notes about titles you're considering, such as the name of the person who recommended them
  • adding items to your shopping cart and leaving them there until you’re ready to buy.

Or you could use social reading sites such as LibraryThing or Goodreads to collect recommended titles.

Share your ideas

If you've got a good system in your library for capturing students' suggestions, our readers would love to hear about it. Comment on this blog post and let us know:

  • strategies you find most helpful for gathering and managing requests and recommendations for purchase
  • how you share the collection development process, budget availability, and priorities for purchase so that library users are aware of the opportunities and constraints
  • how you encourage and empower students and staff to have a say in shaping the collection and having a sense of ownership of the library
  • how you celebrate the new books bought and make connections with the people who recommended them, letting them know 'their' books have arrived.

Services to Schools' support for collection development

In Term 3, we're offering our online professional development course Building a responsive collection through collaboration, with options for primary and secondary school staff.

The course aims to develop your competence and confidence to build a responsive collection. You'll examine an existing collection, learn about collaborating with others, how to offer a range of quality print and digital resources, and support inquiry-based learning.

The course begins on 31 July — find out more or register now

There's also a section of our website dedicated to collection management.

Collections and resources

By Jeannie Skinner

Jeannie is a Facilitator in the National Capability Services team with Services to Schools.

Post a Comment

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Jane Boniface July 6th at 12:09PM

If anybody is after book recommendations specifically for the Year 7 to Year 8 age group, then you might want to sign up for the "NZ Intermediate School Librarians" group on GoodReads:

Miriam Tuohy July 11th at 9:53AM

Thanks Jane! GoodReads is such a useful tool for recording your own reading, and for 'readers advisory'.

Great to see the discussions and sharing going on in the NZ Intermediate School Librarians group. I've always found GoodRead's Lists (e.g the Newbery/Mock Newbery), and the recommendations engine to be really valuable selection tools too.