Professor Emerita, Texas Woman’s University
My mother always displayed a sampler in her kitchen with a simple ditty: “Use it up/Wear it out/Make it do/Do without” as a proud reminder of her WWII home-front efforts. And while it certainly recognizes admirable traits, this verse does not define the way to run a library in the twenty-first century.
And yet, many of us find ourselves living in that situation, lacking the general funding to properly stock our libraries. There’s only one answer to updating our holdings: more money. Yes, there are several grant agencies, such as The Laura Bush Foundation and web donation programs ranging from Donors Choose to BTSB’s own Support Our Library, but often librarians must request additional funds from their governing organizations – either the school district or campus principal or city government. The following strategies may help.
First, weed. Although this suggestion seems counterintuitive, do it. (See The Crew Manual for a detailed discussion and suggested procedures.) It’s difficult for non-librarians to see the need for books when a casual glance shows shelves crammed with volumes.
Second, note those egregious examples of unsuitable books. Collective presidential biographies should at least contain Barack Obama, books on elephants should not tout the joys of hunting these animals and selling their ivory, and books about early settlers should avoid references to European superiority.
Third, save those books in disrepair and show them to potential funding sources. We can’t expect children to respect our institutions if we don’t give them the respect of clean, intact materials. It’s a good bet that perennial favorites such as The Polar Express or Wonder or The Fault in Our Stars will show wear and tear. Typically, adults know such popular items and recognize the importance of having them in usable condition.
Fourth, make targeted lists, either in terms of subject matter; or genre; or type (such as early chapter books). Among other companies, Bound to Stay Bound can provide limited help. Upload your collection to their site and ask for a free collection analysis and lists of books missing from specific Dewey areas. In order to make a list of books in special formats, such as those for emerging readers, you will have to massage these lists, but they provide a good starting point.
You can also check series and see immediately where your gaps appear. As an added bonus, you can sign up for alerts to new releases in series. Prioritize those specific request lists, with the first (Tier I) indicating the most need and subsequent tiers representing the next most crucial areas. Individuals (the principal or city manager) or partners (PTO, Friends of the Library) like to point to a concrete addition, such as the development of a graphic novel section, that shows a specific result of their funding.
Last, feature pictures of children reading and circulating these books on your library website and include prominent attribution to those who granted the funding. Sponsors will enjoy a moment of pride in what they’ve accomplished and respect you in the process.
Green, John. The Fault In Our Stars. New York: Dutton, 2012.
Palacio, Raquel J. Wonder. New York: Penguin Random House, 2012.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Polar Express; illustrated by the author. Boston: HMH, 1985.