The Mixed Blessings of Book Donations

Following a heated discussion about book donations on Twitter over the new year, Barbara Band who is a School Library, Literacy and Reading Consultant and a retired school librarian with many years of experience behind her, wrote this piece for Heart about what do you do with inappropriate donations? and should you have a policy for donations at all?

School libraries need to be well-stocked with a wide range of resources for all ages and abilities. Not just fiction books but also non-fiction to support the curriculum, provide inspiration for students’ interests and exploration of whatever piques their curiosity. School libraries cater for very specific needs, some of these will be the same in every school but each with have its own peculiarities: the curriculum, the interests of students which can vary wildly – a town with a local ice hockey team is likely to have a large proportion of the student body interested in the sport and I’ve worked in schools where there was a huge interest in fishing yet none of my local colleagues reported the same – and every school librarian will have a wish list of specific titles; the next book in a series, a new publication by a popular author, something they’ve seen in a bookshop that will fit in well with the collection.
In a time of budget constraints stocking a school library that fits all these parameters can be hard to achieve so donations can be useful. However, I would often find that the donations turned out to be inappropriate, nevertheless I still said “yes” every time somebody said “I’m clearing out some books, would you like them”?
Why? Because you never know what gems you might find – after all, one day there may be a Harry Potter first edition that you could sell for vast sums (I wish!). But alongside that yes would be the caveat that the library had a stock selection policy* and that anything that wasn’t suitable would be offered to departments first and then given to charity. I never had a single person say they weren’t happy with that.
So how did I decide what to keep?
• The first assessment would be on the condition of the book or magazine. Was it in a reasonable state with no sticky substances or pages falling out? Was it damaged or defaced?

• Fiction – if it was a popular book then I would keep it for additional copies. If it was something that I didn’t think would be borrowed (for example, where I already had the book with a more up-to-date cover or it was by an author who was no longer read) then I would use it for the “reading boxes” that I stocked in every tutor group or put it in my regular book sale to raise funds for new stock. If the book was recent and “as new” I would consider it for a library competition prize.

• Non-fiction – these were assessed for relevance to the curriculum, accuracy and whether they were up-to-date. School librarians struggle to get others to understand that we constantly need to weed our stock. As librarians, our task is to help students find the information they need, to guide them to a book they may enjoy, and the ultimate aim is for students to become readers for pleasure and independent learners, finding what they want without our intervention. We cannot stand over every student and check what they have taken off the shelves – if a student does their homework using an out-of-date library book and gets it wrong, who is at fault? Facts change over time – we no longer have nine planets – and even recipe books have to be treated with caution. Older ones would not give guidance regarding unpasteurised products and pregnancy.

• Basically any book I added to the shelves from donations had to supplement or enhance what I already had. After that, any surplus fiction that I didn’t want I would pass to the English department for their classroom libraries although rather than dump piles of books on them, I’d catch staff when in the library and ask them to look through them.

• Likewise, if there were any books that I felt would be useful to the SEN department (fiction and non-fiction) then I would pass on these too.

• Non-fiction books would be distributed to relevant departments – again, I would remove anything that was horrendously out-of-date or in poor condition. Departmental libraries are different from the school library. Teachers are able to direct students towards particular chapters where the information is still relevant, for example, the section on gravity in a science encyclopaedia is unlikely to date whereas information about space travel would need to be checked.

• Some books, whilst not suitable for any of the above, could still be used – for papercrafts in the library, as backing paper for quotes, I’ve even used falling-apart graphic novels to create bookmarks (the Simpson’s ones were very popular!).

• The (hopefully) diminishing pile left would be taken to a charity shop – I know my local one collects books not suitable for sale and sells them for pulp so I feel that not only am I helping the charity but also the environment. However, there were always some books which wouldn’t even be suitable for this so those would be put directly into the recycle bin.
School libraries have limited space and each book needs to “earn its keep” on the shelves; keeping old and tatty books in case somebody might want to borrow them means no space for the new books. I’ve weeded sections before and been asked by students and staff whether I’ve bought more books – the old stuff hides the new! School libraries also rarely have store rooms so books that are removed usually have to be disposed of and we can’t stock a book on every single possible thing we may be asked for. Do continue to think about your school library when donating books but please don’t expect them to keep everything and maybe have a sort out of them first to save the librarian that trip to the charity shop?
* A stock selection policy should give the rationale for why stock is selected or rejected. A statement such as: “Resources are selected to ensure stock is of a high quality, current and appropriate. They form part of a balanced collection, providing cultural diversity, differing perspectives and viewpoints, without bias and stereotyping. Resources include a range of formats to support each subject as well as individual learning styles. Any donations will be considered in the same way.”

Barbara Band
School Library, Reading and Literacy Consultant

Christmas TV 2017 – Books into Film

This is the most eagerly anticipated and read post every year!  The wonderful Helen Smith from Eckington School in Derbyshire produces a guide to Christmas TV every year, linking films to books.  A great opportunity to promote reading!  Helen provides this for free every year, and she allows free distribution.  However, please ensure that you acknowledge her as the author of this guide.  Also, Helen asks that if you enjoy this guide you consider donating to the page she has set up for the National Literacy Trust.

Author Giveaway! – Cliff McNish

In one of those wonderful emails I sometimes get, author Cliff McNish contacted me with an amazing offer this week.  He wondered if I would like to offer all of you his six writing guides – for free!  These are the guides that are normally given to schools as a part of his author visit, but Cliff felt that in this time of shrinking budgets he would like to offer these out to everyone. Of course I said yes!

Cliff is the author of the chilling novel for teenagers Breathe, and the fantasy Doomspell trilogy, as well as books for younger children.  You can see the books he has written, and learn more about his school visits on his website here.

The six guides are entitled The 4 Basic Stories, Five Easy Steps to Creating a Great Story, Creating great Heroes/Heroines in your stories, Creating Great Villains in Your Stories How to Write a Fantasy Story and How to Write a Ghost Story.

I hope that you find these really helpful to your school.  Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or go to his website to find out more.

 

 

Poetry kites at John Lyon School

As the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day was Freedom, Librarian Rita Halsey wrote to share the activity she set up in her school.   She says: ‘We celebrated National Poetry Day on Thursday 28 September, with a lunchtime event in the Library. As the theme was Freedom we used kite templates for our budding poets’ compositions, enticing them in with a tasty selection of cakes, sweets and biscuits.’

 

Her Marketing Department tweeted about the event, and it generated a lot of interest – as it would, being such an unusual event! National Poetry Day twitter account was very enthusiastic, as you can see.

Twitter is such a good medium for reaching people – anything you want Heart to retweet, just copy me in on @HeartOTSchool and I will do so.

Bear Hunt Summer Reading Challenge

Librarian Rosie Pike from Bishop’s Stortford College wrote to me about the wonderful Summer Reading Challenge she ran.  It attracted 25 entries from pupils between years 3 and 6. She writes:

‘It was based on We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and there were 8 different challenges to complete. Photos of the work have been displayed in the library since the beginning of the term.Photo diaries of travelling bears have seen them captured  in places as far afield as the top of Ben Nevis, theatre shows in London, Lanzarote, and an unknown journey which looks remarkably like being back at school!  Equally impressive are the many different versions of the Michael Rosen poem, which see them going on a ghost hunt, a person hunt or a hare hunt. All of the pupils were awarded a certificate and prize.’

 

The day Claire Balding came to King’s, Worcester

As told by librarian Annabel Jeffery:

‘On Tuesday October 3rd we were absolutely delighted to be chosen to host an author event with none other than Clare Balding. Pupils from all three foundation schools were present, along with children from three local primary schools. With so many young pupils queueing for signing and needing to be organised, we could not have done without the help of a group of U6 who enjoyed a rather different key Skills session to the Research Skills that was timetabled!  They were all fantastic on the day. 

From the moment she arrived -to be greeted by a very excited and delightful U6 Reception Committee – to the moment she left after entertaining 500 children and staff in College Hall and signing 100s of books, she created a buzz wherever she went.  (Even in the cathedral cloisters where lucky visitors may have noticed her whilst passing by her as she ate her lunch and chatted to Sixth formers.) 

Clare’s talk was full of enjoyable anecdotes about her childhood spent surrounded by animals, many of which taught her valuable life lessons (as well as being the inspiration for her new children’s books about racehorses), such as the importance of belief in yourself, doing what you enjoy, trying everything without fear of failure and not worrying about being different.   But the highlight was the way in which she engaged and interacted with the children. 

College Hall will never see the likes again of Clare Balding cavorting with great drama and commitment on stage, to re-enact great sporting moments of recent times with the help of King’s St Albans children who were brilliant.  Firstly she re-staged the final of the triathlon world series in September 2016 when Jonny (played by Henry Hawes of KSA)  was helped over the line by his brother Alistair, thus illustrating the power of selflessness in sport.  Fen Harper and Martha Burden from St Albans (by chance in their hockey kit) then had the chance to act as the favoured Dutch hockey players in the Rio Olympic final, taking on Clare as Maddie Hinchliffe.  Despite their skill, Clare (as Maddie) proved that belief and preparation can help you to win against the odds. 

She was also very brave in inviting up on stage young writers of the future from each school to interview them about their ideas for a story.  I don’t think she was expecting to have the kind of complex synopsis such as that given by Amalie Prewer-Jenkinson! 

The line of pupils queueing patiently with books seemed to be endless, but Clare waited until the last book had been signed and the last pupil hoping for a selfie (each one granted) had turned up. She was even happy to give Miss Jeffery’s spaniel a birthday hug!  

Clare Balding was a passionate and inspirational speaker, who will have left many of us with unforgettable memories of the day that she came to King’s.’

 

 

Celebrity authors and World Book Day books

It cannot have escaped your notice, if you are in the UK, that there is a lot of fuss about this year’s World Book day £1 book offering.  The problem centres around the fact that four of the books are by celebrities and one is a Marvel Comic.  Librarians and authors have been incensed by this, pointing out that in the past these WBD books have been successfully promoted as tasters, and children have gone on to read and love the authors represented – authors such as Malorie Blackman, Cressida Cowell, Robert Muchamore, David Almond to name but a few.  This article from the Guardian sums up the situation perfectly.  I know my Facebook feed and Twitter feed have been full in the last couple of days of people really angry about the fact that WBD isn’t about encouraging children to read books by excellent children’s authors, but seems to have fallen prey to the cult of celebrity instead.

This isn’t a new thought.  There have been questions about Zoella’s book club before, with opinion divided on what her choosing criteria are.  But this is different.  First World Book Day is turned into Dressing up Day – mostly by primaries and often nothing to do with books – and now there are fears that World Book Day is becoming just another outlet for already overexposed celebrities.

What do you think?  Do you think it is harmless, that children should just read? or do you support the authors who feel that their talent is being degraded by celebrities writing children’s books because, after all, how hard can it be? Very hard – judging by the Carnegie and Greenaway Award Winners!

Join in the debate!

Roald Dahl inspires WBD fun in Fulneck School in Leeds

To celebrate World Book Day, we decided to hold a Roald Dahl inspired event for our year 8 and 9 students. Beforehand, students were handed golden tickets to get them through Willy Wonka’s factory gates. Once inside, they were put into teams for the afternoon. Each group worked their way around the different themed stations, the Dirty Beasts live animals proved to be a hit with the students! Other stations included Willy Wonka’s Bean Boozled Beans, BFG’s Dream Jar Creation Station, George’s Slime making, Willy Wonka’s Blind Chocolate Tasting, BFG Breakout puzzle and the Roald Dahl Quiz. There was a real buzz about the afternoon, student feedback included:

‘I mostly enjoyed petting the animals. I especially enjoyed handling the bearded dragon’

‘I really enjoyed the dream jars and the animals. It was really fun to pet animals that you don’t normally see!’

‘The animal corner was my favourite; I especially enjoyed holding the snake. The jars were also very fun, however messy!’

‘My favourite parts were holding Monty the Snake and the puzzle station.’

 

Southwark Book Award 2017

 

 

Top to Bottom: Alex Wheatle, MG Leonard, Taran Matharu

On Thursday March 9th 2017, selected children from several different schools around Southwark packed into Canada Water Library to find out the results of the Southwark Book Award 2017. The Award had been relaunched this year, with six shortlisted books published during the school year 2015/2016, and voting was open to children in Years 7 & 8.

Three of the shortlisted authors – Taran Matharu (The Novice)  M.G.Leonard (Beetle Boy) and Alex Wheatle (Crongton Knights) were present at the ceremony, which caused an extra frisson of excitement amongst the children present. The three other shortlisted books were The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne, Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss and The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell.

The pupils had already voted for their favourite book online, but once at Canada Water Library they were split into groups to discuss and rank each book in terms of its style, characterisation, plot, setting and theme. Later, they were treated to a short talk from each of the authors present.

The highlight of the morning was the presentation of the Award. Jo Mead, Learning Resources Manager at Harris Boys’ Academy, East Dulwich, first announced the results of the morning’s discussion – which saw the honours for the different elements of the books fairly equally divided between the six titles. The overall winner of the Southwark Book Award 2017 however, was Andrew Norriss, for his book Jessica’s Ghost. Sadly, the author was unable to be with us on Thursday, but he sent a video in which he professed himself “absolutely delighted” and thanked all the students for their votes.

Before leaving to return to their respective schools, the students swarmed the authors present with requests for books, posters and bookmarks to be signed – a sure sign that a love of reading is alive and well in Southwark!

The Southwark Book Award is organised by the Southwark Education Librarians’ Forum, and we’re looking forward to making it even bigger and better next year. Southwark schools who would like to take part in future awards should contact Jo Mead (J.Mead@harrisdulwichboys.org.uk) to join our mailing list.