Monday, August 31, 2015

Collection Development

So I've been in my new position for almost 2 months, and I'm finding that there is quite a bit of collection development to be done; more than I expected.  I just wish I had more time to work on it!  I am only part-time, so by the time I spend three mornings on the Storytime Bus doing outreach storytimes at daycares and one shift at the children's desk, that only leaves me one morning a week to work on all the planning, scheduling, and collection development for the storytime bus.  It really isn't enough, but I do not want to give up my shift at the children's desk, so the collection development will just have to go a little slower than I'd like for now.

By collection development, I'm referring to a very specific collection:  the themed "kits" that we use for the storytime bus.  A kit is basically storytime-in-a-box, a plastic bin filled with a selection of books the follow the given theme, as well as songs, rhymes, felt boards, and other activities to go with them.  These kits allow for a variety of materials in order to accommodate the varied ages and attention spans of the daycares we serve, the different tastes and styles of the presenters (myself and our volunteers), and to keep it from being overly monotonous for the presenters.  There are currently about 32 kits that were put together by the person who founded the program, and recently retired, plus another 10 or so partially developed kits and a shelf of books that may or may not need to be added to various kits.

I had initially expected the only collection development to be done would be the development of new kits for new themes.  But as I started going through the existing kits, I realized they needed some work, too.  I found that some of the books in them are just too long and not engaging enough for the age of the kids we are serving and some may need to be weeded or put in the general Outreach collection.  I've also found some kits are missing some very good books that I know are perfect read-alouds for this age, and some kits just don't seem to have very many books that I would typically use.  I realize tastes and styles vary, so I will only remove the books that I am certain are too long, and mostly just add books to each that are more my style and more what I think is appropriate for this age.  Additionally, I have discovered some of the books in the kits do not actually belong to Outreach and were borrowed from the circulating collection and need to be returned to their respective home branches and re-ordered for Outreach if deemed necessary.

To go through all these kits to inventory and evaluate the contents to see what is needed will take quite a bit of time.  Then researching and selecting books to order and add to the collection takes even more time.  For now, I am going through them as I use them and trying out books I'm considering adding.  I will also have to evaluate the extension activities in each and work on adding some new activities and making additional flannel stories to go with them.  And at the same time, trying to develop at least a couple of new kits before the end of the year.  So as you can imagine, this will be a slow and time-consuming process.  I could probably easily make a full-time position out of it with all the collection development that really needs to be done, but that isn't an option right now, so I will do the best I can.

I do really like doing the collection development, though, particularly starting new kits from scratch with themes that I choose.  I like the idea of having a little bit more of "me" in the collection and feeling more invested in the whole thing.  But the most important thing to remember in collection development is to meet the needs of the community you serve, not to use the collection as your personal repository.  The mission of the storytime bus is to promote early literacy skills by taking storytimes out to the community via area daycares.  In my opinion, the most important early literacy skill that all others build upon is the appreciation of books and reading.  If a child doesn't perceive reading as being enjoyable and useful, they won't get very far with the other literacy skills. 

So my goal in my collection development first and foremost is to make storytime fun and engaging, to give children as many positive associations with books and reading as possible.  If they learn any "concepts" such as letters, numbers, shapes, etc., along the way, that's just gravy.  I don't care if books are considered classics, are by well-known authors, or are award winners.  I just care if the kids will be engaged and will enjoy listening to them, so I often use books other people overlook, and I don't try to force books that don't really work just because they are by a beloved author.  The great thing about being a former children's page is that through shelving and shelf-reading I have literally handled every book in our collection, and I often find hidden gems that are great read-alouds that no one else seems to know about that make great additions to a storytime collection.

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