The St. Vrain Valley School District opened its first bookstore model library this August

(  This was the  most difficult and time intensive collection I have assembled. It required 500 hours to select 6000 titles. SVVSD attemped this to get students to read more books and to empower them as searchers and users of information.  I was a Dewey Librarian all the way until I toured the Anythink Public Library system with my cataloger, Norm Birt. This visit was the beginning of a paradigm shift for me and potentially for the libraries of the St. Vrain Valley School District.

We met with Anythink’s Collection Development Manager, Rachel Fewell. One of the first things she mentioned was the ILS system was not a factor.  It was the same system we used, so obviously that was not a deal breaker. We discussed the increased circulation and the decreased reference desk questions.  She mentioned once they pulled out the biographies, circulation increased 300%.  The tour ended with the picture book section.This section interested me since we would be opening our 26th elementary school in August 2011.  This school was going to be a complicated collection because it would be our first dual curriculum school.  

Anythink’s fiction section was grouped by genre.  Graphic novels were broken out.  I expected to see this.  I did not expect to see the picture books broken out the same way.  Using the bookstore model with picture books, keyword thinking and searching begins in  Kindergarten.  In this age of digital natives, making this connection between  the library and the Internet is crucial.

With my cataloger, the principal of this new school, my boss, and a vendor on board it was time to begin.  My cataloger designed the grid to be used.  This was based on the grid used by Maricopa Publlic Libraries and Anythink Libraries.  I worked with Ann, the same Opening Day Collection Coordianator I had used for the 4 previous schools.  

The defining moment of the whole process came when Ann asked me “Are you aware, you will have to assign the classification code to each title you purchase?” By this time, the principal had blogged about this innovative new library.  No turning back. My boss quoted John Maxwell to me over and over again, “If you fail, you will have failed forward”.  This was my mantra for the next 9 months. We typically place approximately 6000 titles in a new elementary school library. I would have to assign the classification for each of them.

The bookstore model solved some problems our students had with Dewey, but not all of them. We used the major classification categories such as art, music, biography, science, history, etc.  What was the criteria for a sub category?  We made the arbitrary decision that a subcategory had to have a minimum of 15 books. What about those categories that did not have 15 books but needed a subcategory? Snails and Mollusks are an example of this.  Pirate books are still a problem.  

The students and staff love the new arrangement of the library.  Circulation statistics have increased.  After the first week,  17% of students checked out a nonfiction book in a new category. 38 percent of students checked out a fiction or picture book in a new category. Use of the online catalog has decreased.  

Will this model be deemed a success? Time will tell.  This will be a year of data collection and analysis.  Was it worth attempting? Absolutely.

Holli Buchter

Media Services Coordinator

St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, Colorado


Keep the above essay paired with the one below for contrasting opinions, per convo with author


Although Dewey wasn't exactly  "broke," we still wanted to "fix it."  “Why?” you ask.  Because informing a six year old that she’ll find books on magic at 793.8 didn't feel entirely helpful. And even more challenging was explaining that while Goldilocks certainly learned valuable lessons after her unlawful break and entry, she can be found at 398.209242: among the other non-fiction shelves.

This kind of mulling lead our team of librarians at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City to lay to rest the respected but rather antiquated Dewey Decimal System, and create a whole new one that we have named proudly, "Metis."

In Greek Mythology, Metis was the goddess of wisdom and deep thought. And it was exactly "deep thought" that we found ourselves steeped in…knee deep actually, for the last 8+ months.  Our task was to figure out where the location of each and every book in our collection of 20,000 would make the most sense to students between 5 and 12 years old. Our goal was to create a user friendly, flexible, and intuitive system that would enhance the naturally inclined reader's experience in exploring and locating books of interest, while also reaching out to the less inclined, and create a supportive and enticing environment.

Upon reflection, we had been grappling with Dewey's system for quite some time, making modest attempts to simplify and improve accessibility for the children.  But it wasn’t until December 2010, when one of our librarians shared an article about a public library in Connecticut that had done away with Dewey and created a broad subject based system for ages 0-5, that the quest truly took hold. We stood around our colleague's desk as she read the article out loud, nodding our heads in curious agreement, while interjecting occasionally, "Hmm.  Nice.  Cool. But it wouldn’t work here."

If you know anything about librarians, you know this: they are generally helpful, pleasant, kind, well mannered, and patient.  In addition, they tend to be inconspicuously adventurous and sometimes…they can be…well, overly ambitious.  

Throughout the spring sections were created by sorting through and integrating both fiction and non-fiction books based on their topic.  The lower library’s (pre K - 2nd grade) experiment began with clearly defined sections for "celebrations" "scary" and "transportation" books.  In the upper library, fiction was broken down into genres such as "humor" "mystery"  "science fiction" etc. serving as litmus tests for ease of browsing, statistics on circulation, and overall enjoyment of the library space.  The feedback from students was strikingly positive and enthusiastic, leading us to commit to spending our approaching summer realizing this vision in full.

Holding on to our convictions we arrived day-by- day, and sorted book by book.  Some days were fun and exhilarating, while others were stressful and downright overwhelming. Thankfully however, almost every day was made up of rich and thoughtful conversations contemplating the most sensible and useful place for each book. Admittedly, by the last two weeks of August, as we stood in our maze of piles and piles and piles of books, we too, with tears, questioned, "Why?" But when students arrived on September 8th, 2011, not only was Metis up and running, we librarians had never felt more ready and excited about opening day.  

We have yet to determine thoroughly if our system works.  We believe it does but will remain open and committed to adjusting as we observe our students in action.  The library belongs to them, and Metis was created to show them just that.

Next, we tackle the website!

Andrea Dolloff

Assistant Librarian

Ethical Cultural Fieldston School, New York, NY



The future of school libraries is uncertain. In this ever-increasing digital world, will there be a need for a physical library?  What role will the library and librarian play in the education system?  Will there even be a need for school librarians?

In a recent article I wrote for School Library Monthly (Volume XXVII, Number 7, April 2011), I emphasized that current education reforms, like the Partnership for 21stCentury Skills, STEM, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative, could lead to a renaissance for school libraries.  The innovative ideas and philosophies contained in these important reforms dovetail perfectly with the experience and expertise of school librarians.  Inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking, and information literacy have been the pillars of school library media programs for many years.  As we say, “It’s where we live.”   But the opportunities provided by this innovative approach to education will not simply be handed to librarians; we need to stand up and claim our place at the educational table.  We need to educate teachers, administrators, parents, and students about our expertise and the value we can add to the emerging approach to education.  We can no longer “tell our story” to each other; we need to stand up and demonstrate the important role that we can, and will, fill in the future.  

One of the shifts contained in the new Common Core State Standards Initiative is a focus on incorporating informational texts into the teaching in the core content areas.  Having quality informational texts in the classroom will be a key component of implementing CCSS.  However, numerous studies show that classroom libraries are outdated, inconsistent, and dominated by fiction. (Jeong, Gaffney, and Choi, 2010, p.445) Yet, down the hall, most school libraries contain wonderful, relevant collections of informational texts.   Most classroom teachers simply lack the time and the skills necessary to manage classroom libraries.  What can librarians do to assist teachers in the management of classroom libraries?   Most librarians are concerned that they don’t have the funding necessary to run the library, much less take on the management of classroom libraries. One possible solution is to have librarians lead the effort to create and manage digital classroom libraries.

Most publishers now offer subscriptions plans that allow unlimited access to e-book collections.  Librarians should establish digital classroom libraries for their teachers. These collections can be managed centrally, but shared with every classroom.  Each classroom can create its own digital bookshelf that fits specifically with the units of study.   The digital bookshelves could contain books that are “at,” “above,” and “below” grade level.  Every student would have access to an updated, complete, and well-managed library, assessable in the classroom, library, or at home.  

Schedule a meeting with your administration and explain the cost-saving benefits of centrally managing digital classroom libraries.   Sharing collections across several classrooms is more cost-effective than having each classroom purchase its own resources. Show them how effective classroom libraries support the implementation of the CCSS standards.  Point out how librarians can add value and relieve teachers from the burden of managing classroom libraries. Creating a centralized e-book collection, managed by a certified librarian,  could save the school thousands of dollars while providing classrooms with quality resources vetted by professionals,  trained in collection management.


If we want to save our profession, we need to market our services to teachers, administrations, students, and parents.  We must insert ourselves into the planning and implementation of current curriculum reforms.  The future of school libraries does not need to be uncertain. In this ever-increasing digital world, students, teachers, and administrators need certified librarians now more than ever.  Let’s work together and claim our place in the digital school of the future.


Ben Mondloch


Cherry Lake Publishing, Ann Arbor, MI




Jeong, J., J. Gaffney, and J. Choi. "Availability and Use of Informational Texts in Second-, Third-, and Fourth-Grade Classrooms. " Research in the Teaching of English  44.4 (2010): 435-456. Research Library, ProQuest. Web.  7 Oct. 2011.





1.             The free world wide web is vast, but solid research is not free. Your library offers valid online resources and an array of subscription services to help learners and researchers sift through information.


2.             Searching the free world wide web requires lots of time for one to sift through the gazillions of links.  Try school library pathfinders instead, or use smart searching strategies you have learned from your school librarians.


3.             A school library with a certified librarian ensures quality control. As patrons use the Internet, they are taught and reminded to evaluate each site.


4.             What you don’t know really does hurt you. Ignoring evaluation tricks or search strategies can lead your research down a treacherous path.


5.             The Internet does not replace having books in the library. In pathfinders for projects, we strive to include print resources as well as web links to enhance the resources for a project.


6.             While eBooks are a growing trend, there are still many issues with format and cost. It’s too early to rely strictly on eBooks at this time, especially in our school libraries with shrinking budgets. Yeah, cost is an issue. Check your school’s collection of eBooks,  specifically chosen to meet research needs in your school.


7.             Schools can be successful even if “library-less” now that the Internet is widely available? Not true. The role of the library and the librarian is much more than physical space and books.  We are instructional partners, collaborators, research and information specialists, and we strive to ensure our students are getting their needs met by educating the school community on best practice in terms of instruction AND resources/collection development. We are the Google of our schools.  An added bonus–a school library is not just a place to offer Internet access or books. It is a place designed for learning, either self-directed or collaboratively.  School libraries of today are places where students can come to read for pleasure, study, research independently or with classes, and even delve into being a creator of information.


8.             But a Virtual Library ensures continued service, no?  A virtual library just one facet of a program. What is lost?  Lost is the total instructional component of this picture.  Who exposes students and teachers to new virtual library resources?  Often these resources are complex, confusing, and just plain messy.


9.             The Internet: a mile wide and an inch (or less) deep. Yes relatively speaking, the Internet is young and not fully developed. And much of what is available free is shallow.  To gain more research worthy information, one will have to seek out sources that are provided by experts in the respective fields of research.  Librarians are trained to select print and digital resources that meet the needs of the curriculum in their school. .


10.           The Internet is ubiquitous, but books are portable. Many true readers prefer hard copies of books to an electronic site, device, or gadget.  This has not changed despite the Internet becoming a major part of a school library program.  School libraries are beginning to dabble in eBook devices, which is breathing new life into programs, but this is still a significantly uncharted territory for school libraries that have little to no budgets.  Comparing the Internet to hard copy books does not make sense. We must work in tandem with both. Our goal as librarian is to evolve our programs as time changes while new methods and resources change the landscape of today’s libraries.


A school librarian ensures the school library program evolves to meet the varied needs of today’s learners, and ensures it continues to support the needs of the learners in the “learning commons.” As the landscape of information changes, school librarians are on the frontlines embracing the changes and preparing their programs for the school and community of learners.


Cathy Jo Nelson

School Librarian

Dorman High School, Spartanburg District 6 Schools, Roebuck, SC




This essay is an abridgement of a longer blog post available at .



Herring, M. Y. (2001). 10 Reasons the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library. American Libraries, 32(4), 76-78. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.




“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – rather sums up my relationship with collection development these days.  When Charles Dickens wrote these classic opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities, he described a time of new beginnings, emerging from within a period of uncertainty.  Revolutionary turmoil aside, the school library is undergoing a similar period of dramatic change, where there is great opportunity for learning, amidst challenges that force us to rethink how we can best serve today’s learners.  When so much is expected by students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards, how do school library collections persevere and remain relevant in the future?


For many reasons, the future of collection development in school libraries promises “the best of times” – where increased accessibility to both print and electronic resources is  providing new opportunities to select materials that satisfy the needs of many different types of learners. The ubiquity of the Internet also means that the school library collection is no longer defined by its physical space – “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” is the new expectation. Portable devices such as e-readers, iPads, and laptops certainly demand our attention and engage students in wonderful ways.  They enhance and enrich our options for collection development because, like their paper predecessors, they have the potential to build community, aspire to integrity, provide equity, and appreciate diversity.  

Collection development in the future should continue to become a more collaborative activity whereby stakeholder participation is essential to the process – but with responsibility, also comes accountability when selecting for others.  Authentic opportunities for students to browse online, read reviews, consult peer recommendations, supports more informed choices based on independent research and developing a critical eye.  

The popularity of social cataloguing websites is also emerging as a popular tool with tremendous potential for collaborative collection development.  Sites such as Shelfari, LibraryThing, and Good Reads make it easy for both students and teachers to manage personalized, virtual collections that can be developed, shared, and discussed.  Connecting school library personnel through these sites not only supports richer collection development, but also encourages a strong professional learning community.

As much as it is an exciting time to be reinventing our school library collections, it is also a very challenging time.  There are questions as to whether or not school libraries are even necessary in today’s high-tech world and the vulnerability of school library budgets often results in juggling more with less.  When times are tough, school library personnel continue to explore creative solutions to provide equity, and to ensure that the communities they serve have access to the instructional materials and technologies they need to support learning and teaching.  Ongoing assessment of the learners’ needs both informs and refreshes the integrity of a collection.  As student populations represent an increasingly global clientele, it is essential that school libraries recognize the importance of expanding resource collections to celebrate, rather than homogenize, human diversity.

The essence of responsible collection development does not reside in reading text or images from either a book or a screen, but in those big ideas that a collaboratively designed collection offers – balance and choice, appreciation for human diversity, and the inclusion of multiple perspectives. It is clear to me that the school library is poised to play a key leadership role in how students learn in the future – and how school library collections are transformed and customized to meet the emergent needs of future learners, may be a “far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.”

Kathleen Atkin

Coordinator of Library Services

Louis Riel School Division

Winnipeg, Manitoba  Canada