Developing Your School Library

'Be a little careful about your library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you?' - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take a hard look at your collection and ask yourself Mr. Emerson's question. What will your collection do for your school? Do the reference books offer accurate, up-to-date information? Will the nonfiction books support the reference needs of the curriculum? Are there quality biographies of honorable men and women? Do the fiction shelves hold a wide variety of titles? Are the reading levels of the books consistent with the abilities and needs of your students?

The answers to these questions will help you develop your long-term acquisition goals. Determine the urgency of each goal, the funds or donation sources available, and then begin to develop your school's collection.

Keeping reference books current is one of the costliest areas of acquisition. A set of hardcover encyclopedias can cost several hundred dollars. Kister's Best Encyclopedias by Kenneth J. Kister is a helpful selection aid, offering a comparative analysis of a wide variety of encyclopedias. Quality encyclopedias are available on CD-ROM at prices lower than hardcover editions, but keep in mind that the number of users will be limited to the number of computers and multi-user licenses available.

The skeleton of the reference section should include a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible concordance. Develop this section by adding an almanac, an atlas, a rhyming dictionary, a book of quotations, and other specialized reference books.

Familiarize yourself with the topics addressed in your school's curriculum and build a needs list for the nonfiction section. Find books that will support the curriculum, provide useful research information for student writing, and answer the healthy curiosities of growing minds. Select books that present accurate information in an attractive format.

Stay on the lookout for well-written biographies. The lives of patriots, inventors, and explorers are available in hardcover bindings from major publishers. Books on the lives of Christian statesmen and missionaries are more likely to be released in softcover; consider sending these books to the nearest bindery to make a more durable volume for your collection. The local public library should have information on the bindery it uses to bind periodicals.

Search out a wide variety of fiction titles. Find books that will meet and challenge the reading abilities of your students. Be certain the content is appropriate for Christian children. Read widely. Avail yourself of book reviews in periodicals. Read catalog annotations. Find teachers and librarians who can share good titles with you, and welcome suggestions from parents and students.

Weed your shelves regularly. Pull books that need to be repaired or replaced, and then fill your shelves with a vast array of interesting, appealing books. When you have done all this, step back and ask again what this collection will do for your students.

 by Nancy Lohr. Updated October 21, 2015.

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