Selecting resources for your school library

Developing a well-resourced, relevant library collection involves ongoing liaison between the library team and teachers in your school, a good knowledge of your existing collection and of children's literature. This guide takes you through the steps needed to create a great library collection for your students and teachers.


Responsibility for resource selection
Factors that influence your selection decisions
Gathering background information for good selection
Selection criteria for library resources
Dealing with donations
Selection guides – reviewing journals and websites

Responsibility for resource selection

The key to developing a well-resourced, relevant library collection is the excellent liaison and consultation between your library team and your school’s subject specialists, class teachers and students. Based on this consultation, the library team will usually make the selection decisions.

Knowing your students' reading interests and staying in touch with teaching staff will ensure inquiry and research topic needs are met. Your library collection will then provide reliable support for your students as readers and researchers.

Factors that influence your selection decisions

  • Your school's demographic profile. Our School community profile form guides you through characteristics of your community to consider, such as ethnicities and languages, learning needs, and the range of reading levels across the school.
  • Gaps in your present collection – in curriculum topic coverage, and recreational reading needs of your students, both fiction and non-fiction
  • Impact of changing technologies, including smartphones, tablets, e-books and e-book readers, and whether yours is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school or not
  • Whether the school library is the only source of information and reading for your students, or whether they also have easy access to other libraries, or access to books and online information at home
  • The desired balance between print and online resources, especially for topics that require current information
  • Ensuring your collection includes fiction, non-fiction, magazines and reference materials, whether online or in print format.
  • Policy guidance outlined in your school library’s collection guiding statement.

Read about school community profile forms

Read about collection guiding statements

Gathering background information for good selection

1. Liaise with your school library users

  • Communicate often – ensuring that teachers and library staff can enjoy casual conversations that develop rapport and trust, resulting in strong partnerships and collaborations that help build strong library collections.
  • Student input is essential. Find out their reading interests, and involve your student librarians in helping select print and e-resources.
  • Teachers have specialist knowledge of curriculum areas, classroom programmes and student use of resources. Ask for their suggestions, and keep a record of these.
  • Consult with the teacher/s who analyse reading test results, and ask them to explain the summarised results. Discuss what this means for library buying.
  • A short online survey emailed to staff may produce better returns than pieces of paper. Ask about topic gaps for their teaching subject, as well as suggestions for print or online resources.
  • A library blog or other social media that students and staff can contribute to is another way you can attract comments and recommendations, as well as promoting what the library can offer.
  • You may be able to share the costs of some resources eg magazine subscriptions shared with subject departments.

Read more about library surveys

2. Seek reviews and recommendations

  • Refer to the list within this guide: Selection guides – reviewing journals and websites
  • Subscribe to a variety of reviewing journals, either print or online
  • Read reviews in newspapers, magazines, blogs, listservs and websites

3. Liaise with bookshops' and publishers’ representatives

  • Where possible, visit good bookshops, including specialist children’s booksellers and talk to experienced staff about their stock.
  • Arrange for publishers’ and booksellers’ representatives to visit the school with material that you have specifically requested - preferably supplied on approval prior to purchase.
  • Investigate whether the vendor has an alert service. This would allow you to submit your buying profile to the vendor, who will let you know when relevant titles become available.
  • Watch impulse buying, especially at sales or at book displays. Ensure that what you buy is up-to-date and meets an actual need.
  • Order New Zealand publications promptly as they are published in small print runs and can go out of print quickly.
  • Take advantage of free trials of online products.

4. Liaise with other colleagues

  • Consult the wider school library community. The Schoollib listserv is an excellent source of shared knowledge and ideas about successful titles and formats.
  • Check out your local community library collection, and ask the children's and teen librarians about what is popular.
  • Discuss reading needs with external reading specialists who visit your school, eg Resource Teachers of Literacy.

Selection criteria for library resources

Whether you are selecting fiction, non-fiction, e-books, websites, multimedia, or other online resources, the following questions can help guide your decisions.

  • Do you need the item? Does it fill a gap in your collection?
  • Is it relevant to the curriculum and / or learning needs / interests of your students?
  • Will your students be able to read it?
  • Is it up-to-date and accurate?
  • Is the information / narrative free from unacceptable bias or stereotyping?
  • Is it attractive to your readers – from the cover or homepage design to the standard of its visual content?
  • Is the information displayed and organised well for your intended users, easy to navigate, with help pages clear and concise?
  • Is the font size appropriate for the intended readership; and (for books) do the contents, index and page numbering allow easy access to information?
  • What level of use would you expect for this item?
  • Is it good value for money?
  • Which format would be more useful – online or print?
  • Is it physically durable?

Dealing with donations

  • Apply the same selection criteria to donated items as to other resources.
  • Ensure the donor understands that acceptance of donations is not automatic. Ask what they would like done with any donations the library does not want. They may ask for unwanted items to be returned, or they may leave it to the library to dispose of them.
  • Refer to your school’s collection guiding statement for guidance on handling donations.

Read about collection guiding statements

Selection guides – reviewing journals and websites

In addition to print journals, many reviewing journals are available online full-text. There are also many excellent websites that include reviews of books for children and young adults. The following list has been chosen not only for quality book reviews, but also for reviews of multimedia and educational websites, ICT trends, and professional resources for the library team.

Some titles and sites restrict access to subscribers, while others are free to use. However, the Internet is dynamic and websites can and do change without notice.

Select range of reviews of children's books at all levels. Extensive links to authors, illustrators and general book related blogs and websites.

Bob's books blog
New Zealand reviewer, Bob Docherty, former selector of children's and young adult fiction for the National Library's Schools Collection, covers primary to senior secondary titles.

Books for Keeps
Books for Keeps, the children’s book magazine online. Book reviews, articles and author / illustrator interviews. Thousands of reviews of children’s books archived on website.

Christchurch City Libraries
Look under the Explore section for the Kids and Teens reading lists.

Kids - Books and reading
Includes book lists, links to children’s literary prizes and interviews with New Zealand children’s authors.

Te Ao Māori for kids
Book lists of te reo titles, picture books, Māori stories for different age groups as well as online Māori craft resources.

The pulse Te auaha
You'll find booklists, reviews, interviews and links for teens under the Read link.

Services to Schools - Create Readers blog:

A social networking site for readers and book lovers. Includes book lists and reviews, children’s books and young adult books.

Guys Lit Wire
Reviews focussing on books for teenage boys. Includes categories such as Books that kick ass, Everyone’s got issues and Tell me a funny story, as well as links to other reviewing sites.

High Interest Topics (HITs)
The High Interest Topics list, from the National Library's lending service, offers a short list of selected e-resources and books under each curriculum topic.

New Zealand reviewers. Focuses on reviewing books for children and teens written by New Zealand authors.

US reviewing website for children’s literature. As well as indepth reviews the site includes author information, upcoming titles, and links to reading lists.

The Literature Base
Four issues per year: Feb, May, July & October. Practical ideas for using children’s literature in the classroom, as well as children’s literature articles, book lists for topic areas, and book reviews.

Australian publication. Five issues per year: March, May, July, September, November. This invaluable selection tool includes indepth ‘Know the Author’ interviews and a wide array of book reviews. Includes an 8-page New Zealand Supplement.

Reading Matters
This site “for intelligent young readers who are keen to choose their books” is written and produced by Jill Marshall, former lawyer and teacher, UK. Includes detailed book reviews, articles on ideas and concepts behind selected books, themed book lists, as well as an interactive Bookchooser function and a Lucky Dip.

Reading Time
Journal of the Australian Children’s Book Council. Its brief is to review books for children and young adults published in Australia, as well as many from New Zealand, and selected titles from other countries. Includes author / illustrator information and reviews.

Published by the NSW Department of Education and Training, Australia. An excellent resource for teachers and school library staff, covering information literacy and supporting reading, with articles on integrating ICT in teaching and learning, research columns and book reviews, as well as practical ideas for school library management.

Schoollib listserv
A New Zealand email listserv for school librarians and others interested in education and libraries. Members of the list offer suggestions and recommendations for resources.

The School Library
The New Zealand Book Council’s Education site links to their e-journal The School Library (formerly BRAT) with book reviews and interviews with authors participating in the Writers in Schools programme. Reviews published in The School library since 2000 are archived on the website.

School Library Journal
Twelve issues per year. Extensive book review section, principally covering the North American market, as well as a wide range of articles on reading, information literacy, ICT and learning. It also includes reviews of online and multimedia resources aimed at librarians and media specialists who work with children and young adults in US schools and public libraries. Also available full text on EPIC via EBSCO’s Australia New Zealand Reference Center.

Schools Catalogue Information Service, from Australia, has the largest database of catalogue records for schools in the Southern Hemisphere. SCIS adds new educational websites to its listings each month. These can be searched on their WebOpac.

SLANZA reading website
Themed booklists which come up in discussion on the Schoollib listserv are archived here, along with lists from the secondary English email list.

The Source
A useful online tool for picture book and fiction selection, The Source provides a reference guide to children’s books, poetry, short stories, and awards. New Zealand content included, compiled by Trevor Agnew. From the same publisher as The Literature Base and Magpies. Requires a separate subscription.

Teacher Librarian
Five issues per year. Also available online as Digital Teacher Librarian. Includes reviews of books, multimedia and internet sites, Web 2.0 and 21st century literacy tools. Includes articles on constructive use of the Internet in education, information literacy and problem solving. Full text available on EPIC via EBSCO’s MasterFile Complete and Gale Cengage's General OneFile, and Student Resources in context.

Teen reads
US reviewing site. As well as indepth reviews, this site includes author information, upcoming titles, and an Ultimate Reading list with 400 must-read titles for teens.

Wellington City Libraries
Check out Stuff for Kids, which includes book reviews sent in by children, and Things for Teens pages. Homework help pages include many useful links.

image: Read, by Farrukh on Flickr