Having outlined my beliefs about reading, I want to consider how reading occurs in library contexts. (At this point, it is important to remember that libraries offer more than just books, but that is for a future post.) In this post, I will focus on the ways in which libraries provide for readers through collection development.
There are two types of libraries that support children’s reading: school and public libraries. The ways in which they provide for readers is different, because of the beliefs that underpin their approach to collection development. School libraries are focused on educating children and seek to support learning and teaching. The emphasis is on learning to read and reading to learn, sometimes at the expense of reading for pleasure. In addition, any local or national curriculum will impact on collection development, particularly in the area of non-fiction. On the other hand, public libraries concentrate on recreation, both in terms of reading for pleasure and reading for information. Unlike school libraries, they are not driven by government documents.
Books, books, beautiful books!
These different beliefs about the purpose of the library impacts on collection development, resulting in different resources being made available in school and public libraries. Because the collection development of school libraries is often driven by curriculum, this can result in a non-fiction collection which is tailored to support topics within subject areas. This is partly influenced by the limited budgets available to teacher-librarians, who have to make purchase decisions that will support learning and improve educational outcomes for students. This means that the non-fiction collection may be narrower than that of a public library and is more likely to change in response to amendments to the curriculum. Fiction may consist of ‘safe’ choices, particularly in denominational schools, and this can result in the omission of genres or formats that are considered less educational, such as comics, magazines and pop culture literature.
Collection development in a school library is often influenced by curriculum
In public libraries, collection development is primarily driven by user needs and interests. This means that the scope of a children’s collection may be broader than in a school library. Non-fiction tends to cover topics that may not appear in curriculum documents and will often focus on leisure reading, rather than reading to complete an assignment. Fiction is also more extensive, including graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Authors and series that are popular with children are included, rather than frowned upon, because they encourage reading for pleasure.
Public libraries may have broader fiction collections for children
It is important to note that this does not imply that public libraries are better than school libraries in providing for children. Both play an equally important role in supporting the development of readers. They just do this differently. I will explore the ways in which libraries promote reading in a future post. This is something that school libraries do very well.