Selecting and purchasing resources

Finding new collection resources
Selection is part of your collection management cycle. Well-documented procedures that can be applied to all items are helpful when it comes to choosing materials for your school library. This outline helps you find, select, and purchase materials.

Responsibility for selecting resources

The final responsibility for purchasing items varies from school to school. The school librarian is generally responsible for selecting most of the resources, sometimes in collaboration with class teachers or subject specialists.

Developing selection criteria for library resources

When you choose resources for your collection, having criteria that guide your decisions is helpful. These questions can help you develop your own criteria for selecting resources.

Curriculum and reading

Consider how the item fits with your collection requirements with regard to learning and literacy.

  • Is it relevant to the curriculum, and learning needs or interests of your students and teachers?
  • Is it up-to-date and accurate?
  • Is the information or narrative free from unacceptable bias or stereotyping?
  • Is the content, language, and terminology appropriate for the intended readers — will your students be able to read it?
  • Do the design elements of the publication, including text, layout, and navigation, make the material visually appealing, as well as clear and accessible for the intended readers? Would it work for students with a print disability?
  • Can it be used across a broad context or cater for a range of reader interests? If so, it may be more useful in the longer term than very specific, one-off purchases.

Practical considerations

Think about how the item will be used.

  • Is it durable enough for the level of use you expect it to get?
  • Is it good value for money?

Working out your library's collection requirements

Adding resources to your collection

Selecting quality materials that will be well used by your school community is important work that can be complex and time-consuming. You'll need to:

  • apply the background knowledge you have about your collection, your library users, and literature in general
  • keep up with information sources for young people
  • consider information from many channels, all offering potential resources
  • reach informed decisions that make the best use of funds in your budget.
  • Gathering information about new resources

    Build up a network of sources to inform your decisions and keep up-to-date, including:

    • following other libraries, publishers, and booksellers websites through social media
    • checking book recommendation sites
    • accessing publisher's catalogue sites and requesting advance review copies
    • staying in contact with local booksellers and other suppliers
    • networking with other school library staff
    • subscribing to reviewing journals and websites.

    Besides print journals, many reviewing journals are available online. There are also many excellent websites that include reviews of books for children and young adults.

    Useful websites for school library collection development (LiveBinder) — includes links to reviewers, publishers, booksellers and other sites curated by Carole Gardiner of Queen’s High School in Dunedin

  • Gathering information about new resources

    Build up a network of sources to inform your decisions and keep up-to-date, including:

    • following other libraries, publishers, and booksellers websites through social media
    • checking book recommendation sites
    • accessing publisher's catalogue sites and requesting advance review copies
    • staying in contact with local booksellers and other suppliers
    • networking with other school library staff
    • subscribing to reviewing journals and websites.

    Besides print journals, many reviewing journals are available online. There are also many excellent websites that include reviews of books for children and young adults.

    Useful websites for school library collection development (LiveBinder) — includes links to reviewers, publishers, booksellers and other sites curated by Carole Gardiner of Queen’s High School in Dunedin

  • Assessing available resources

    Start by assessing what you currently have in your collection. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the materials, the assessment will help you decide what you need to add to your collection.

    You can use our template to help you decide what you need in your collection.

    Assessing your school library collection

  • Assessing available resources

    Start by assessing what you currently have in your collection. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the materials, the assessment will help you decide what you need to add to your collection.

    You can use our template to help you decide what you need in your collection.

    Assessing your school library collection

  • Selecting a range of materials

    Your library collection provides a range of resources that meets teachers' and students’ needs within and outside the curriculum.

    Curating content

    Building an inclusive collection

    Materials that support the curriculum

    When choosing resources to support the curriculum, think about underlying learning area and achievement objectives, rather than specific topics. For example, if you want something on the topic of bullying, think about the curriculum area of Health and Physical Education — Relationships with other people, or if your topic is metals, consider Science — Material World.

    New Zealand Curriculum: Achievement Objectives by Learning Area (pdf)

    Non-fiction resources

    Non-fiction texts — including digital resources and magazines — are important to support the curriculum and for recreational readers who prefer real-world accounts of people, places, things, and events. They spark curiosity, help students develop a greater knowledge of the world, find out more about what interests them and what's important to them.

    Fiction resources

    A balanced collection will appeal to a wide range of reader interests and abilities. Aim to include:

    • literary fiction — what you might think of as contemporary and older ‘classic’ titles — as well as a broad selection of commercial mainstream fiction
    • a diversity of genres, points of view, settings, themes and writing styles
    • light reading as well as texts that extend and challenge readers
    • a range of formats — picture books, graphic novels, novels, and perhaps digital works such as eBooks, audiobooks, and film.

    Children's and youth literature

    Alternative formats and sources

    Instead of buying new materials, you might be able to use:

    • inquiry and reading engagement loans from the National Library
    • high-interest topics in the Topic Explorer on the National Library website
    • websites and other materials available online, including Open Education resources that you can share with teachers.

    School loans

    Topic explorer guide

  • Selecting a range of materials

    Your library collection provides a range of resources that meets teachers' and students’ needs within and outside the curriculum.

    Curating content

    Building an inclusive collection

    Materials that support the curriculum

    When choosing resources to support the curriculum, think about underlying learning area and achievement objectives, rather than specific topics. For example, if you want something on the topic of bullying, think about the curriculum area of Health and Physical Education — Relationships with other people, or if your topic is metals, consider Science — Material World.

    New Zealand Curriculum: Achievement Objectives by Learning Area (pdf)

    Non-fiction resources

    Non-fiction texts — including digital resources and magazines — are important to support the curriculum and for recreational readers who prefer real-world accounts of people, places, things, and events. They spark curiosity, help students develop a greater knowledge of the world, find out more about what interests them and what's important to them.

    Fiction resources

    A balanced collection will appeal to a wide range of reader interests and abilities. Aim to include:

    • literary fiction — what you might think of as contemporary and older ‘classic’ titles — as well as a broad selection of commercial mainstream fiction
    • a diversity of genres, points of view, settings, themes and writing styles
    • light reading as well as texts that extend and challenge readers
    • a range of formats — picture books, graphic novels, novels, and perhaps digital works such as eBooks, audiobooks, and film.

    Children's and youth literature

    Alternative formats and sources

    Instead of buying new materials, you might be able to use:

    • inquiry and reading engagement loans from the National Library
    • high-interest topics in the Topic Explorer on the National Library website
    • websites and other materials available online, including Open Education resources that you can share with teachers.

    School loans

    Topic explorer guide

  • Keeping track of potential resources

    Keeping track of the titles you're considering buying can help with your purchasing process. 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 resources on suppliers' websites by:

    • using their ‘wishlist’ function, if they have one — you can often make notes about titles you're considering
    • adding items to your shopping cart and leaving them there until you’re ready to buy.
  • Keeping track of potential resources

    Keeping track of the titles you're considering buying can help with your purchasing process. 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 resources on suppliers' websites by:

    • using their ‘wishlist’ function, if they have one — you can often make notes about titles you're considering
    • adding items to your shopping cart and leaving them there until you’re ready to buy.
  • Purchasing new resources

    Ordering and purchasing materials — referred to as acquisition — is usually spread across each term. This helps ensure a flow of new materials throughout the year and that you have materials on hand that are relevant to topic and curriculum needs.

    Acquisitions process

    These 5 steps help you manage your ordering and purchasing.

    1. Before ordering, check that you don’t have the item or that you haven’t ordered it already.
    2. Decide on a supplier. Make price comparisons and weigh up other factors such as how soon you need an item against its availability and their delivery times.
    3. Prepare your order and submit it to the supplier. Make sure you follow your school’s procedures for getting approval to purchase items. Check if you need an order number. If so, record the number on all documents related to the order.
    4. Track and confirm delivery against your order. When it arrives, check the order against the invoice to see that you've received everything you ordered. Chase up items you didn't receive (back orders) as early as possible.
    5. Process materials as soon as possible so that invoices are paid on time, discrepancies are followed up quickly and new items are available to users as soon as possible.

    Keeping records

    You must keep accurate records for every purchase.

    Your Integrated Library System (ILS) may include an acquisitions module for managing your orders. If so, refer to the ILS documentation available from your software vendor for further information.

    Keep a record of:

    • all the items you've ordered or received, including copies of the purchase order and invoice with any approvals or signatures you need, and any notes or related correspondence
    • all expenditure — reconcile this regularly with information from your school's accounting system.

    If you use a spreadsheet for recording expenditure against your budget, include all acquisitions spending in the appropriate section of this file. You can also note any items purchased using funds targeted for a specific purpose.

    Library budget with Google docs (VIDEO, 5:16) — how to set up a simple Google Docs spreadsheet to track your library budget

  • Purchasing new resources

    Ordering and purchasing materials — referred to as acquisition — is usually spread across each term. This helps ensure a flow of new materials throughout the year and that you have materials on hand that are relevant to topic and curriculum needs.

    Acquisitions process

    These 5 steps help you manage your ordering and purchasing.

    1. Before ordering, check that you don’t have the item or that you haven’t ordered it already.
    2. Decide on a supplier. Make price comparisons and weigh up other factors such as how soon you need an item against its availability and their delivery times.
    3. Prepare your order and submit it to the supplier. Make sure you follow your school’s procedures for getting approval to purchase items. Check if you need an order number. If so, record the number on all documents related to the order.
    4. Track and confirm delivery against your order. When it arrives, check the order against the invoice to see that you've received everything you ordered. Chase up items you didn't receive (back orders) as early as possible.
    5. Process materials as soon as possible so that invoices are paid on time, discrepancies are followed up quickly and new items are available to users as soon as possible.

    Keeping records

    You must keep accurate records for every purchase.

    Your Integrated Library System (ILS) may include an acquisitions module for managing your orders. If so, refer to the ILS documentation available from your software vendor for further information.

    Keep a record of:

    • all the items you've ordered or received, including copies of the purchase order and invoice with any approvals or signatures you need, and any notes or related correspondence
    • all expenditure — reconcile this regularly with information from your school's accounting system.

    If you use a spreadsheet for recording expenditure against your budget, include all acquisitions spending in the appropriate section of this file. You can also note any items purchased using funds targeted for a specific purpose.

    Library budget with Google docs (VIDEO, 5:16) — how to set up a simple Google Docs spreadsheet to track your library budget