Thursday, July 12, 2007

Collection development: Juvenile books

As previously posted, I have been working with a backlog of review journals preparing to select and process juvenile, education, and general title orders for the library and resource center. Even with journal selections whittled down to three basic publications, Booklist, School Library Journal, and PW Children's Bookshelf, the amount of reading time required to make quality selections is astounding. Quite simply the titles seem to blend together; both figuratively and realistically as there are a finite number of titles reviewed during any period of time and in some cases all three publications reviewed a given book. To that point, I honestly found the number of duplicate books I chose from three different resources slightly unnerving. Luckily, we use B & T Link Online for juvenile purchases and it has a duplicate check option enabling librarians verify if a title was previously ordered. After three days of scouring reviews three carts of primarily juvenile books (picture book, easy readers, graphic novels, and young adult), currently totaling 151 titles, are pending processing by the acquisitions librarian.

An editorial by Brian Kenney, editor-in-chief of School Library Journal, Sex, Drugs, and Reading Levels, discusses the significance of book reviewing and SLJ's stand on what is included in their reviews:

"What we do at SLJ is review literature for children and young adults. What we can't do is keep you safe by imagining how any number of adults, with any number of agendas, might construe a novel. Our reviewers consider the elements of good literature: pacing, plot, character development, mood, language, and style. We ask "is this a good book?" and "who is the likely reader?" (Kenney, SLJ, 6/1/07)

Kenney presents a valid point, especially with his article subtitle/talking points: "It's your collection, your community. You make the call." Minutes prior to reading this editorial I was discussing this topic with another librarian, specifically how we tend to read book reviews.

It is not possible to read every single review in a journal. There, I said it out loud. Shortcuts are taken; I read the first sentence and last two sentences in each review considered. Generally speaking that provides basic information regarding both book topic and the reviewer's final recommendation. If those elements are of interest, they contain specific topics I need for my collection (and make no mistake, right now it is my collection), I read the full review and make note of the ISBN for my list. Additionally, there are general things I look for when reading reviews. Broad topics include sport sciences and health, math, language arts, children's and young adult literature, and possibility to be used as a read-aloud. I look for topics specific to current course assignments requiring students to find picture books and children's literature for math, special education, music and art appreciation; juvenile and young adult titles featuring historical fiction; and growing genre of graphic novels. I will also be brave and admit sometimes the book just sounds fun - or has been written or illustrated by one of my personal favorites. Yes, I said that out loud as well.

Journals and their reviewers have specific readers, or audiences. Librarians have differing purposes for their selection agenda's, more appropriately termed collection development policy, when making juvenile selections for their collections. When those things successfully meld together, I get a great book for the library. And while no selection process is without an occasional poor choice, even these books serve purpose as teaching tools for the children's literature classes. Each time I fill a cart full of books I take the chance; with choices in hand I try to enhance the collection

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