Book Lists – To save or not to save, that is the question

Question – Part I:

Do you have a list of books you used for each project you do? Or some way to account for what you used for a project? Or do you do a search every time?  I’m trying to decide if I want to keep a list of the books I used from year to year or not.  It’s a ton of work and generally it’s just easier to search for things as you need them.

Wisdom according to Jacquie:

My answers refer to the Mandarin system, which is used by most of our area libraries.

Mandarin used to have a wonderful feature called macros.  It allowed me to string together a long array of search strategies into one search.  This meant that I could have a macro for every research project and simply run the macro every year.  Anything added since the previous year would automatically be added to the search and therefore also automatically added to the resulting booklist.  It was an awesome feature that – alas! – was taken away with a new version of the software.  It was a real nerdy feature that evidently few librarians were nerdy enough to actually use.  Imagine that!  I LOVED it and used it heavily – which pretty much tells you where I fall in the uber-geek spectrum!

Anyway – no sense crying over lost macros.  Here are 2 ideas that might help you.

  • I DO NOT save lists from year to year.  I DO save the searches.  It can take a long time to put together a series of searches that work well.  So, let’s say that all the 9th graders are doing genetic engineering.  To create a comprehensive list, I need to search under the following:  genetic engineering; cloning; stem cells; genetically modified foods; DNA and so on and so on and so on.  As I develop the search, I put all the search strings into a word document which I save in a computer folder that I have created for that project.  This way, when the project rolls around every December, I just go to that  folder.  From there I can update any materials that I need for the class, and I can also open my “genetic engineering search string” document and run those searches – modifying them if need be.  I print out the search results and then go to the shelves to pull the books for the reserve shelf.   Also – if I have a fair amount of resources for a project – I don’t pull everything.  For instance, for the genetics project, if I have 4 books on stem cells, I would probably only put 2 of them on the reserve shelf.  I’d leave behind the other 2 for enterprising students to find on their own.  If they are intent enough to follow through and find them – I let them check the books out.  The reserve books stay on the shelf for kids to use during class – or to take out overnight if they bribe us with chocolate and promise to give us their first born, should then forget to bring the book back the next day.
  • When I get around  to it  – I come up with a unique name for the project and enter that in the 690 (local subject area) of  all the books that we use for a given project.  So the genetic engineering project gets a subject “9th Grade Genetics Project”.  That way, I can search on that subject and get the whole list.  I have done that for a few projects – but not all of them.  For instance, I have done this for the Political Life in America Project – but have not acutally gotten around to it for the genetics project.  The drawback of doing this is that you must always remember what the unique name is, and you must remember to add the unique name when adding new books to the catalog.  Easier said than done….

Question – Part II:

I don’t know my collection that well and we don’t have resources for all our projects or none at all.  I wanted to come up with some easy way to account for what we do have that needs to be replaced or account for what we don’t have so that when it comes time to order I know what I need to order (or what I need to request for that project).  I hope this makes sense.  I was just curious how you manage it all because right now it’s a very daunting and confusing task for me.  I haven’t found a system that works yet.

Wisdom according to Jacquie:

This is something that will take time.  Once you have been through a year,  you will have a sense of what projects you need to support.  Then as the years go on, some of those projects will continue, some will go away and you will add others.  You will be such a wonderful librarian that you will attract teachers to the library like flies to honey.   They will be lining up to work with you.  Really!  The trick is to treat every request they have as if it were the most important request you have ever had.  If you don’t have print resources, you will gather online resources for them and make a note in your order consideration file to purchase books for that teacher’s interest.  For existing projects, you will also locate useful online sources and put them on your website.

But – I digress.  Remind me though.  I just discovered a WONDERFUL resource for creating web pathfinders.  I will get to it in another post.

The next pearl of wisdom?  WEEDING.  It is a painful process I know.  I will post a weeding form here as soon as I have time.

Essentially, you will weed your collection during a slow time every year.  I never have enough money to buy updated books for everything I weed.  But, I try to concentrate on half the non-fiction collection to build on every year.  Last year I weeded the whole collection.  And I weeded the heck out of 100-500.  That was the center of my ordering this year.  As I weeded the books in June,  I created a list of subjects that needed to be updated this year.  This year in June I will weed the whole collection again – but next year I will concentrate on re-building 600-900 & Biography.

Yes – I believe my non-fiction is probably shrinking.  Oh well.  Better to have a few good, up-to-date resources, than shelves stuffed with out-dated, unappealing books.  Besides – research is shifting to online resources anyway – so your web pathfinders and databases will make up for fewer print resources.  Wherever print books are popular for lesisure reading  – keep adding.  Sports, animal books, celebrity biogs – whatever circulates in your library.

So much for tonight.  I will go see if I can find that weeding form and post it.  It means I have to search my school network space  from home.  It is hit of miss if I can find things.  But – I am always up for an adventure.  I will see how it goes…

Hallelujah!  Here is the WEEDING FORM!  It just needs to be updated every year.  Keep in mind, when I am looking at 5 or even 10 year old books, it doesn’t mean I weed everything that is 5 years or 10 years old.  It just means that I consider them for weeding.  Many books are still OK even if they are 10 years old.  Once they get to be 15 years old – then they are more likely to get the old “heave-ho”.  Old books look outdated and dull.  Too many of them and the kids make a quick judgment that your library has nothing but old, boring books.  Not true – but it is the way kids operate.  Keep your collection looking attractive!!

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2 Responses to “Book Lists – To save or not to save, that is the question”


  • Encourage students to bribe librarians with chocolate…brilliant! I knew I picked a winner as a mentor! I’ll remember this important tip! Thanks Jacquie for sharing your wisdom! :)

  • Chocolate – my idea of heaven. We have a “chocolate drawer” in our library. Our “lunch bunch” gets to raid it. And usually on the last week before Christmas, Kathy scoops it up and throws it out into the library while I laugh myself silly. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting kids think it is raining chocolate!

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