Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Sometimes we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done them….. it seems to work, everyone else does it this way, but sometimes it pays to have another look at our what we are doing and measure up against best practice and the “big picture” of what we know is really important and what we want to achieve.
I’m talking about library borrowing limits. How many books can your students borrow from your library and what happens if they have an overdue or lost book?
We know from research that:
I suggest if you haven’t already done so, think about your school library borrowing limits, talk about it in your library team and with all school staff, then abolish limits, or at least make them GENEROUS.
Consider what is most important
A library that is really well used will lose some books, but our most important goal is to create readers by giving all children as many positive reading opportunities as possible, not to end the year without any lost books.
flickr image by librarian in black
Increased numbers of books means variety and volume.
When children borrow more than one or two books they are able to select a variety; take a risk on something they may or may not like; have a hard book and an easy book on the go at the same time. The can try a new genre; follow a friend’s recommendation; read what they are in the mood for; choose fiction and also some non-fiction. It takes the pressure off choosing a single “just right” book, it provides plenty of reading until the next library visit, and it might provide a book for parents to read them a chapter at bedtime. From the experience of a practicing teacher, read this great Nerdy Book Club blog post about self-selected reading
Don’t work to the lowest common denominator
Imagine 20 children in a class. Five of them are reading like rockets and always bring their books back, eager for the next one; another ten children are regular readers and their books usually come back. There is an occasional overdue or lost book, but on the whole no problem. Then there are five children who for one reason or another struggle to keep track of their books – they forget them or lose them or a younger sibling scribbles in them. Why bring the whole class down to that level? Start off with high expectations and trust, and have strategies to use if needed such as a chat, an incentive chart, or a book limit for a term to see how it goes.
Proportion of the collection being borrowed
How many of your books are being borrowed each year, and how many are sitting on the shelf? If you have a collection of about 8,000 books and a roll of 200 students and every child is borrowing 2 books maximum that means about 5% is being borrowed at any one time. 95% is sitting on the shelf! There will probably be class or teacher loans too, but 90% of your collection sitting on the shelf isn’t really fulfilling its role!
Sometimes it’s the librarian, sometimes it’s the teacher
Sometimes it is the librarian who has to be persuaded that abolishing or increasing borrowing limits is a good idea, being loathe to risk precious books carefully chosen for the library, duly processed and promoted from a stretched budget. Sometimes it is a teacher, despite the librarian’s best efforts, who insist on limits for their students as a way of managing things, perhaps driven by a fear of losing books.
Sometimes it is simply how it has always been with rules like: “One book for juniors, two books for seniors”, “One fiction book, one non-fiction book”, or even “You have an overdue book so you can’t borrow another one until it comes back”, or “You lost two books last term so you can’t borrow any more until they are paid for.”
Either way, school libraries exist to support student learning and there should be a real conversation about benefits and learning outcomes. Then if necessary, have a trial period with more generous limits to see what the issues (!) really are.
This is an opportunity to use evidence to inform your practice. Your library management system can give you many reports about borrowing statistics: who, how many, how often, and you might want to survey students and staff too. Consider how you can use this information to investigate what is happening, identify trends, and report the impact of any change or initiative you make, and then build on it further.
Stories from other schools
I know schools which have abolished their borrowing limits and relaxed about over dues, and they report that children tend to find their own borrowing level – some more, some less, and that over dues are just the same as ever they were but no more of a problem. Issue statistics always go up, so you could extrapolate that reading mileage is going up too. Conversations in the library tend to be more about books and reading than allocations and over dues.
You may wish to retain limits on high demand areas such as graphic novels, or books in a particular popular series, but these can be managed by manners rather than rules, and strategies such as reserves.
Add a comment here about what you’ve done at your school with borrowing limits. Have you reviewed and relaxed your borrowing limits? What sort of impact that has had? Or what conversations you are planning to have in your school about making a change? Ask any questions you may have… I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
Do we still have a responsibility to follow up on what happens to our bright eyed, excited students when they have departed our schools for the next step in their education at one of our tertiary institutions?
Do we have to? Research tell us that around four out of five of our students will make a successful transition to tertiary education and they will eventually graduate from their chosen courses.
But, what about that other student?
Research also tells us that 19% of students starting a bachelors degree in 2007 failed to complete that qualification or higher and did not re enrol in the following year. Some groups are more inclined to drop out than others. In 2007, first year attrition was highest in Maori over all qualification levels, with Asian having a significantly lower rate than any other ethnicity. The biggest difference was found in bachelor level study with Maori students at 28.8% flowed by Pasifika at 25.6%
Do we have a role to help decrease this attrition by our work with students before they leave our schools and libraries?
What are some schools do already to support their transitioning students?
Is there a role for school library staff?
What could we be doing more of? Or less of?
Read more at Education Counts.
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