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Checking out library books

November 22, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Man has been to the moon.

So books in school libraries should reflect that and do, said Lynn Miller, supervisor of instructional technology and library media services for the Washington County Board of Education.

Science and technology are two sections in school libraries where library media specialists especially need to check to make sure books are up-to-date, Miller said.

Fifteen to 20 years ago, there was more of a "warehouse mentality" to keep every book in school libraries, Miller said.

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Not so anymore.

Each year, library media specialists in the county's public schools evaluate a specific section or two to make sure books are up-to-date and in good shape, Miller said.

Out-of-date books or books that aren't circulated a lot, say once in approximately five to seven years, are weeded out, said Miller and Pam Rubisch, library media specialist and technology coordinator for Emma K. Doub Elementary School in Hagerstown's South End.

"You don't want to have a book on the shelf where Sputnik has just gone up," Miller said.

While Rubisch is a 10-month employee, she said she works 11 months or longer to make sure the library's books are in good shape.

When the school year ends, Rubisch will evaluate inventory in two sections. She also does some weeding throughout the year as she or students discover books that are in bad shape or out of date.

Rubisch said the average age of the school library's books is quite good, with many around 10 years old.

Miller said that probably is typical in the county's public school libraries, especially in the elementary schools. The high schools have larger collections, he said.

The age of a book is not to be confused with the original copyright of a book because books get reprinted, Miller said. The school libraries do contain classic literature or children's books.

When a book is in bad shape, Rubisch will try to repair it with book glue or tape. If it's in really bad condition and is circulated a lot, she might replace it.

Judi Hofmann, chairwoman of Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District's elementary library department, said if books are beyond repair, librarians will replace them. It's cheaper to send them to get rebound, but some books aren't salvageable.

School libraries often buy hardback books or books with better bindings, such as Bound-To-Stay-Bound Books, Rubisch said.

"I see what they go through," Rubisch said. A school library book could end up on the floor, in a book bag with leaking water or chewed by a dog, she said.

"I've put an entire roll of tape on 'Waldo,'" she said.

It's what's inside that counts, she said.

Tri-State area school librarians interviewed said they consult professional journals, online resources, lists of award-winning books, teachers and students when determining what books to buy.

"(The students are) my main users, so I want to appeal to them and give them things they want to read," Rubisch said.

Some of the more popular titles are "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket, the Mary Kate and Ashley Adventures and "Junie B. Jones," about the adventures of a first-grader, Rubisch said. The binding on some of the library's "Junie B. Jones" books has frayed because they are checked out a lot, she said.

Miller said school libraries have begun carrying Anime or Japanese graphic novels, such as "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters Inc," which tell stories like a comic book to show the action.

The graphic novels are used to encourage reluctant children to read, especially boys, Miller said.

Teachers let her know about specific subjects students will be researching in the upcoming year so she knows to have those books in stock, Rubisch said.

Lynda Mills, coordinator for library media specialists in Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools, said the county also adopts a reading series of recommended titles.

By the end of the school year, each school should have Follett software installed that allows librarians to analyze the libraries' collections to determine if books are needed in a specific section, Mills said. Musselman High School uses a different software system that is tied into the public library, she said.

How much money each Washington County public school library gets for library materials each year depends on the number of students enrolled, Miller said. Doub received $3,177 this fiscal year for library materials, he said.

Rubisch said she uses profits from book fairs and donations from the PTA to buy library materials, too.

Miller also keeps money in reserve for libraries with exceptional needs.

In Berkeley and Jefferson counties, the principals decide how much of the school's operating funds go to the school libraries, said Mills and North Jefferson Elementary School Principal Chuck Hampton.

Schools sometimes receive donated books, said Rita Bostic, North Jefferson's librarian.

Last year, Keep Jefferson Beautiful Inc. gave the school 20 hardback books about recycling and environmental issues, she said.

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