Yorio, K. (2018). Success of student-curated collection. School Library Journal, 64(3), 15.
This brief School Library Journal article is about student choice when curating a high school library's collection. Laura Fleming of New Milford high school in New Jersey used a radical new method to adding books to the collection: she had the student choose. When Laura first started, the collection had been out of date, hardly weeded, and not interesting to the students. She cleared out almost all of the books. Then using the standard book ordering process, she ordered books she thought the students would like. To her disappointment, they just sat of the shelf. When it was time to add more books to the collection, Laura and the director of curriculum instruction went to Barnes and Noble. They left empty-handed. Instead, Laura thought, why not bring the students to the bookstore to choose for themselves? 20 students of different reading levels, as well as some reluctant readers and non-readers, were chosen to select books that interested them as well as books they thought would interest others. They had a $6,000 budget and paperback was encouraged due to its short shelf life. The students requested that the books be organized by genre and face outward on display. The result? It has been a success. Books fly off the shelves in this library now. This student curated collection helped increase circulation and revive the library.
Opinion: As a school librarian, I feel that decisions about what materials to purchase should fill a community need and/or a curriculum need. These high school students were given complete control over their collection and I feel that fulfills a community need. Teens have specific interests and opinions on what they want to read. Allowing them to have a say in their library collection was probably an empowering experience for them. Additionally, having new, high interest books in the library probably means that reluctant readers or non-reader would be more apt to pick up a book and start reading. In my experience with elementary school students, I ask them to participate in curating the collection but in a very different manner. I have a “Suggestion Box” where they can add any titles, authors, or series they would like to see in the library. It’s not the same as driving to Barnes and Noble, but it does give them some ownership in the process.