Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Historical? Or, merely old?

It's summer, so it must be time to weed the curriculum textbook collection. When doing so, it is usually a good idea to refresh my memory concerning the ACRL Guidelines for Curriculum Materials Centers (CMCs or IRCs) that suggests P-12 textbooks should adhere to the following statement and be no older than five years:

"Current textbooks in all major curricular subjects and in levels P-12 should be collected. Several publishers should be represented for each grade level in major curriculum areas. This collection may reflect the texts used in the public schools in the region, and schools in which the teacher education students receive field placements. The scope and depth of each subject area should depend upon each institution's needs." -- ACRL, ALA

The aforementioned five year date is a suggestion and often one that often, out of sheer fiscal responsibility, has to be extended. When I first began as a curriculum librarian six years ago, I was able to replace all of the existing textbooks at no cost to the library due to donations from local schools and publishers. This expanded my existing collection significantly; in some curriculum areas titles were previously unrepresented in the collection. However, in the last three years many local school districts began feeling the budget crunch and as a result purchased fewer new textbooks. Trickle down theory applies here as fewer evaluation and adoption copies at the school level mean fewer subsequent donations to the IRC.

Last summer it was necessary to weed a significant number of math, reading, and history textbooks from the collection. Replacing these items put a strain on my materials budget. A way around this is to purchase used or preowned textbooks. I've found two resources able to supplement my textbook collection development, Follett Educational Services and Academic Book Services. Not a perfect solution since getting a full grade run of a specific publisher, year, and edition is hit or miss, this helps my bottom line significantly when they may be used to supplement direct purchases from textbook publishers. Last year I spent close to $4000 to get teacher editions only for a set of teacher editions (no student) texts from Pearson education. As important as the titles are to the library and education curriculum, something else has to be eliminated to afford the purchase.

I have already placed an order in excess of $700 for used textbooks this summer. An aside, I would be remiss if I didn't mention at this point that used or preowned textbooks do not necessarily have old publication dates. I have purchased used books with 2007 copyrights for the last year. Go figure. So as I weeded dated history and civics textbooks from the shelves this morning, they are slated to be removed from the catalog and offered to students for free, I began wondering what the line was between old and historical?

How old does something have to be to be historical? Obviously, dated curriculum texts from 1995 are simply old and should be replaced. But there is a lot to be learned from research and historical textbooks. Would housing some of these books in a safe place for 20 years automatically make them historical? Or, is the mass production of the titles prohibitive to the historical value of the books in question? When I gleefully weeded this collection the first summer I worked here I was aghast seeing books in the collection I used in grade school, high school and college. Having students evaluate textbooks published before they were born seemed a poor curricula decision.

So, the books have been weeded. I am currently researching my used text resources to replace them with current editions. And, I will probably wonder again next summer what the difference might be in 20 years.

Historical Textbook Links:

Tags: , , , ,

No comments: