="Title" content="Issues and challenges of a small library">

Friday, February 17, 2006

Culling in progress

17 February, 2006

What do I think about culling?
I spent another day getting resources in order. The target this day was the fiction section. Many resources were still out of order and crammed into shelves as a result of the move. As I was reshelving, cleaning and putting into order I culled the books that were no longer serviceable. This is quite a mundane task as it is easy to dispose of a book that is tatty and mouldy, the questions that came to mind as I was culling and I could see what was on the floor as a result of the cull, was ‘Was I culling because of age and was I keeping some books, equally as old because they were books I enjoyed reading?’ I found I kept some Joan Phipson and Ivan Southall, and I kept all the Susan Cooper books. I was disappointed to see no Cynthia Voight and Tamora Pearce in the collection though. These are books I read and enjoyed and re-read as I did my teacher-librarianship training, and subsequently recommended to young readers. I have not seen reprinted editions of these titles. Do I keep them because I enjoyed them, even though they are still not being borrowed by the students? Do I ditch my culling criteria because the books were enjoyable to me? Will these books hold the interest of todays 11,12 and 13 year olds? Even though the new books look nice on the shelves I think we run the risk of collecting resources with a certain sameness when we present students with series such as Aussie Nibbles, Aussie Bites and the like. While I am not against this type of resource for the library, I think they lack a bit of diversity and they seem to be so carefully moderated as to produce certain sameness.

When GST was introduced the Australian Government made a special grant to schools over a 3 year period to encourage the purchase of Australian literature and publications. In many schools the administrators cut the library budget by the same amount thus restricting the type of books that school libraries could purchase. The purchases had to be Australian authors and Australian publications, and we had a little sticker to place on the book to prove it! This has created less diversity in school library collections and the availability of overseas award winners (Caldecott and Newbury for example) has been less available and become less publicised by book sellers. In fact to get these resources is now by special request to the book sellers to get them for you.
In the culling process I was still not able to resolve my own questions as I pulled books from the shelves and created a pile on the library floor.

The result of culling the Fiction Section – now to dispose of them!

I did come to the conclusion at the end of the day that the collection is also a reflection of the interests of the person who manages it, no matter how unbiased they try to be. The gaps that I see in the collection are in some ways a reflection of my own interests, and the things I would like to see children reading and enjoying.

So what gaps have I seen so far and if I had access to the right funding where should the purchasing focus be for this library?
Books for
There is not one Graeme Base book in the library!

The Junior Fiction needs
Reprints of some old favourites – Eric Carle, Lynley Dodd, Pamela Allen (although there are a few titles by her in the library), Anthony Browne, John Burningham (we have 3 titles), Mem Fox (we do not have Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge! And a few others I could mention), Chris Van Allsburg, Patricia Mullins, Margaret Wild, and anything with Julie Vivas illustrations and I would love to have ‘Going on a Bear Hunt!’

At this stage still awaiting pennies from heaven to bring this collection to one that represents the best literature we can present to our students.

Culling is hot, dirty, sweaty work especially in 32 degrees and about 80% humidity - no breeze except that of the fans whizzing at top speed, and it uncovers the dust and grime of years of being hidden, including the cockroaches, hornets nets and at times mice nests, if you decide to move some bookcases while you are at it. Schools in our sector do not air conditioning as part of their fit out, it is up to each individual school to budget and install air conditioning as it sees fit and can afford it. The buildings are designed to make maximum advantage of the winter, which is when they are quite pleasant. Pity we only have about 2 weeks of cool weather for our winter here. At this stage, with the budget as it is, the only air conditioning provided will be when I blitz from one side of the room to the other. So what will it be on completion of the day - a swim or something cold? Both after this boiler and probably simultaneously!

So the next job is to dispose of all the books I culled. That is to remove them from the database, and to recycle them I will need to remove the covers and over stamp the school stamp with one that reads something like ‘No longer required for library use.’ We are required to dispose of such books completely – that is we cannot give them to someone or sell them at a fete etc. I think they could be sent overseas, but really if they are not suitable for our students are they suitable for other students on another continent? And it incurs a cost to us that we cannot afford. That is a question to ponder on another culling day!


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