Center and Satellite Collections: connections between classrooms and the library

School context determines the relationship between classroom libraries and the main library. 

 Mandala of Guhyasamaja, Akshobhyavajra, Tibet; 14th century - from the Rubin Museum of Art

Mandala of Guhyasamaja, Akshobhyavajra, Tibet; 14th century - from the Rubin Museum of Art

Every primary school classroom has a library, as do most (I trust) middle and high school English classrooms. 

But where do these books come from? Who selects them?  Who pays for them?  Who manages them (in terms of checking books out and in)?  Who inventories them?  Who refreshes them?  How are they organized (virtually and physically)?  How much consistency across classrooms is there?

At some schools, a grade or department is given money to buy books for the classroom -- and those books are labeled in some way as school property and listed in some spreadsheet for inventory purposes.  At other schools, classroom libraries are pretty much private collections, consisting of books a teacher brings with them or inherits from the previous tenant of the room.  The first situation makes it hard to know the full picture of resources across grades and departments, and the second raises equity issues. 

At our campus all resources -- whether library books, textbooks, or classroom library books -- no matter what budget has paid for them -- are barcoded, cataloged, and given a location code in our library system (Destiny).  So anyone can search and see what resources are being used where.

creating Core/CLASS Libraries

At first our MS English curriculum used the whole-class novel assignment model, so the priority was selecting and buying a set number of titles in large quantities, and the issue of setting up class libraries was postponed (with teachers using the main library as their classroom in the meantime). Then two years ago we began the switch to the Reading Workshop model, where independent reading and self-choice from a wide range of books are key.  It was time to tackle the issue of class libraries.

There was a pool of money.  And we already had some multiple copies of books (from the old model).  So each teacher began to make lists of books they wanted in their classrooms.

But what made it interesting was that the teachers had come together from a variety of cultural backgrounds -- Australia, the UK, the US, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland -- and our school, though Anglo-heritage, is not tied to any one national curriculum.  So the authors and titles on one person's list of favorites for teaching middle school were potentially unfamiliar to another.

The solution was to develop a Core Library for each grade, consisting of 30 titles -- to be agreed by the group of teachers. (NB: The use of the word "core" does not mean any connection to the US "Common Core" curriculum initiative.)

These Core Libraries -- for Grade 6, Grade 7, and Grade 8 -- would be a negotiated list of the "best books" for that grade, i.e., the books kids shouldn't miss, the books to booktalk first, the characters and stories you want as a common reference point, and mentor texts.  (A manageable list of recommended books also helps with the anxiety related to the paradox of choice, especially for reluctant readers.)

Each classroom -- and the library -- would have multiple copies available of these Core Library titles.  And English teachers would commit to reading their way through the 90 titles, in order to create a shared literary experience.

The selection process involved several sessions in the library where the list was physically constructed by filling in a bookcase in the Middle School Zone that conveniently holds three 5x6 arrays of (90) books in a face-out display. 

Teachers drafted their core libraries by literally placing books on the bookcase, until all 90 slots were filled with what everyone agreed was a good balance of texts -- within a grade and across the middle school (while also taking into consideration key texts used in grade 5 and grades 9, 10, etc..)

Every year the core lists are reviewed. Last June about six books were changed in each core library.  New ones were added, some were moved to a different grade level, and others were relegated back into the multiple-copy recommended reading collection in the MS Reading Zone in the library.  (I need a better term for those titles -- but I mean books we prominently display (see below) and for which we have 3+ copies.  In some ways those books are like the Mega-Core Collection for Middle School.)

A valuable contribution to potential new Core titles or just the Mega-Core Collection comes via the Red Dot Book Awards, as the library always buys multiple copies of each title.  This year the head of MS English is buying 20 copies of each title on the Older Reader and Mature Reader shortlists to be distributed between the class libraries.  We work closely in deciding what multiple copies we are each buying -- as those are the books we also want to be promoting.

It is important to note that the MS class libraries contain far more than just the Core Library titles.  That first year teachers identified 100+ titles that they personally wanted in their classroom library, beyond the core library.  And they keep buying more each year.  Is there an upper limit?  There are certainly physical limits of what you can reasonably display and manage in a classroom. 

To see all the titles (not just the Core Library) that are in our middle school classroom libraries, search the tag "MSCL" in our catalog; likewise, to see all the titles in our high school classroom libraries, search the tag "HSCL".

Links to lists of classroom libraries for individual teachers are available via this Libguide page - Classroom Reading.  Of course, all these one click links are only possible because all the resources are included within the library system.

NOTE:  A key component of this system of distributed libraries is the Follett Destiny mobile app that lets teachers perform circulation functions on their iPhone or let students check their books in and out on the class iPad.  It also allow us to collect circulation data on books -- and to know where they are.  Having gathered all these wonderful resources, we don't want to lose track of them.

See my previous blog post on "Your mobile Destiny" re the Follett app.

See also my previous blog post on liberating your "book cupboards" -- re our management and display of multiple-copy books in the library.