A new mantra
Posted by lpearle on 6 September 2008
When you’re in library school, you’re taught Ranganathan’s Laws and you’re taught about the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. These are supposed to guide your decisions and actions as a librarian, no matter why type of library you’re in. There’s one thing “they” leave off, and it’s equally, if not more, important than those two credos: it’s not your library, it’s the patron’s library.
Why is this important? Because it’s critical that we remember that in terms of collection development and services, it’s not about us – it’s about them. I once wrote that being a school librarian meant that I needed to check my ego at the door, that I needed to read about, watch, and be interested in those things that appealed to my students and the needs of the teachers. That doesn’t mean that I neglect the broad-based collection in favor of a few popular series and supporting only those teachers that collaborate with me. Quite the contrary: keeping a full range of fiction and non-fiction helps all of the community, and may make users out of nonusers at any time.
The other day I visited Wyoming Seminary, which has just renovated their Upper School library. Their mantra mimicked mine – using their large cadre of students on the Library Advisory Board to assist in choosing new furnishings and the new layout. Their ideas were interesting and I’m already trying to find ways to incorporate some of them into our space (difficult, of course, because of the difference in the nature of the two spaces, but still…). At MPOW we don’t have an advisory board, but I’m going to try to set one up. My goal is to make our current, temporary space and our (hopefully completed soon) permanent space as warm, welcoming and used as theirs.
Over the summer I’ve also thought a lot about the Maricopa County Library District’s decision to go with BISAC and not Dewey. While Wyoming Seminary’s new decor is “Barnes & Nobel meets an Apple Store”, they’re still shelving by Dewey, rather than moving to LC (which is easier an easier system for catagorizing books). At MPOW, we have a 5-12 library so moving to LC wouldn’t work, and finding things in a bookstore is always difficult (where do you find C.S. Lewis’ “space trilogy“? Theology? Religion? Fantasy? Any and all apply).
However, in thinking about what works better for our students, we’ve made some changes. We’ve put all poetry and all plays into their own sections, rather than keeping them spread out between the various “by country of author” Dewey sections. We’ve moved the Reference collection out of its own section and interfiled it with the circulating collection, and when we move to the rebuilt space we’ll also interfile DVDs and Videos. We’re moving all the science fair/science experiment books into their own section to help the Middle Schoolers find things without searching through General Science and specific sciences like chemistry, physics and biology.
Talking to teachers and students about how to best serve them and making changes, without compromising our mission of helping them become independent readers, learners and researchers may be difficult, but we just need to repeat (and repeat and repeat and repeat) “it’s not your library, it’s the patron’s library“.