Let me start off by saying that what I am going to talk about today may be controversial to some people, but it is my belief that we need to start thinking about why these policies are in place and how are they benefiting students. My hope is that this blog post will start to really spur a conversation within the librarian community and hopefully change some people's minds on some of these policies.
The new school year is about to begin and with that comes the opportunity for each librarian to ask, are the rules and policies currently in my library breaking down barriers and making it easier for my students to access information and materials?
If you have any of the following three policies in place it is time to rethink them:
1. Students can not check out a book without an ID card - If students are required to wear ID cards at all times or if the ID card is used for multiple purposes in the school like for your lunch account etc than I have no problem with an ID Card being used for book checkout. If the ID card is only really only used for book checkout than I believe it is time to rethink this policy. Yes, I know the policy in most schools, especially High Schools is that students are supposed to have IDs on them at all times, but when the policy is not enforced and the ID card's only real purpose is for book check out, how can we really expect our students to have their IDs on them? In circumstances like this making students need an ID card to check out books is impractical and puts up unnecessary barriers for allowing students access to much needed books and materials.
2. Students can not check out books if they have a fine - Why are we denying students a chance to read due to the fact that they have not paid a fine for an overdue book? By enforcing a rule like this you are unintentionally making it so that students who might be economically disadvantaged are the ones who suffer the most. Lack of money and resources should never be a factor in access to information and no child should be turned away for checking out a book because his or her family can not pay a fine! In my over 15 years as a librarian, I have seen way too many students be afraid to take out a book because they did not want to lose it or pay a fine. Things have gotten so much easier for me once I moved to a district where there are no fines. I highly recommend looking into the idea of eliminating overdue fines for your library. Here is a great article in Slate about how some public libraries are eliminating fines. If public libraries can do it surely school libraries can also do so.
3. Students can only read certain level books or "just right books" / labeling books with level stickers - Library books should never be shelved by reading or grade level, by doing this you are unintentionally singling out students and potentially embarrassing them. I also believe that we should never make kids take out books within their "levels". Let students read what they want! When students are forced to read within levels or limit what they can read, the joy of reading soon begins to disappear. I completely agree with AASL's position statement on labeling books especially where it states "Student browsing behaviors can be profoundly altered with the addition of external reading level labels. With reading level labels often closely tied to reward points, student browsing becomes mainly a search for books that must be read and tests completed for individual or classroom point goals and/or grades. School library collections are not merely extensions of classroom book collections or classroom teaching methods, but rather places where children can explore interests safely and without restrictions. A minor’s right to access resources freely and without restriction has long been and continues to be the position of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians. Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels. Only a student, the child’s parents or guardian, the teacher, and the school librarian as appropriate should have knowledge of a student’s reading capability."
This is by no means a complete list of all the ways that libraries policies can have unintentional consequences. Please feel free to add to the list and I would love to know your comments.
7/26/2017 06:19:33 pm
7/26/2017 06:31:14 pm
Kate I love that idea! Does the Napa County Library fine students or have they also gotten rid of fines? We really need to figure out a better way.
Thoughtful post, and good topics to consider. I'm not sure I understand the ID card issue. In Destiny I can find a student by name, why would I need the ID?
7/26/2017 07:05:35 pm
I hear you Corey, I don't understand the ID issue either but it is being done all over the place including in my schools High School. As for the bringing books back I also struggle with it. Most of the time it the locker, under the bed thing works but I do charge a fine for lost books. Though I check with team leaders to see if the family really can afford to pay for the books.
7/26/2017 08:00:57 pm
Look at the San Jose Public Library oops page shel.org/oops
7/26/2017 06:49:44 pm
Great post. Number 3 gave me a jolt. I always considered the library as a place where the student could take a risk, or seek comfort, and choose the the book themselves. Their choice. Here in Australia, I hope we never see a library full of levelled books.
7/26/2017 07:10:32 pm
Thanks for reading this all the way from Australia. I am happy to hear you have never seen leveled books in the libraries there. Sadly we have them here. I can't wait till they go away! I will admit to having one librarian here in the states come and tell me that one of the best things they ever did in the library was to make all the YA books only for 8th graders. It was hard for me to hold back and not explain to them how wrong I thought that was.
7/26/2017 09:03:08 pm
Agree completely! I always tell kids they can bring their ID card, tell me their number or just tell me their name and then I wink and say, you know your name, right? Another school in our district requires ID cards... I also disagree completely with the idea of leveling or limiting books. If it's in my MS library and you're in MS then you can read it. Period. If your parent has an opinion, then that's another matter, but I don't have a special section for 8th graders. I also let kids keep getting books when they have fines and regularly forgive fines given certain circumstances.
7/26/2017 09:55:19 pm
This past year I printed patron barcode labels and these were placed inside the back of their agenda. This made checkout much quicker but if they didn't have their agenda they could still check out books. Agendas are required to move in the halls so we did ask for agendas during breakfast checkout. The students would scan themselves in if they had a barcode but had to sign in a notebook if they didn't have a barcode (so we did accept them without an agenda anyway).
7/27/2017 02:27:38 am
I don't require ID cards. We need the ID # but I'll look it up for students. I have a keypad for them to enter it easily.
7/27/2017 08:48:36 am
Interesting thoughts. I'm responding because you said you'd be interested in our thoughts, so I hope you read this in the spirit on which it's intended. You are right, these can be controversial topics, and we should also consider the reasons these policies are in place to begin with. However, we also need to consider the entire context of the situation.
7/27/2017 02:05:08 pm
Thank you so much for your comments. I do understand that everyone has a different situation and it seems that what you do works for you. You do seems to have something in place for students who can not check out books which I think is a great idea. I hear you on the use of the word never. I could have used a different word to get the same point across. I do realize everyone has a different situation and I thank you for the points you made.
7/27/2017 08:47:53 pm
Susan, I agree with you on needing a place for lower level readers so they don't get intimidated by a wall of books they struggle to read. We created a smaller section near fiction that we call QR for Quick Reads. The books are a mix of hi-lo and shorter books. I bill it as a place to go when you need something quicker, and it's used by many students without them feeling a stigma. It includes fiction, nonfiction and bios.
8/25/2017 10:52:14 pm
Completely agree with these! In my 10 years as a TL I've always been against these three policies. An additional policy I cringe at is limiting students to a certain number of books. When students ask how many books they can check out, my response is "how many can you be responsible with? How many will you really read, take care of, not lose, and bring back?" Giving them that choice and responsibility is an empowerment they need and deserve. For younger children, I send home a note encouraging parents to discuss with their children how many they think they can be responsible for, and then ask that they return the note filled out. It's not a guarantee, I tell them, that we will always "police" it, but is to encourage them having that discussion with their child.
10/30/2017 11:11:32 pm
Yes, I agree with you. The open system is obviously the best. The foundation of the library is to enable students to read, without so many restrictions.
1/19/2018 12:32:56 am
I enjoyed your article and agree with all three points. I particularly like your point about the school library not only being an extension of classroom learning and reading programs. Here in Western Australia I am happy to say our curriculum provides scope for giving students a wide range of opportunities to become independent life long readers. Unfortunately one of our biggest issues is the loss of trained teacher librarians in many primary school settings.How fortunate are the children who experience an open welcoming library setting run by trained professionals who provide a balanced collection and are able to guide students as they learn. Sadly many school systems and administrators in our country lack foresight in this area and so primary schools often lack a trained professional teacher librarian.
1/20/2018 01:30:38 am
We have the no ID no borrow policy, and I think it stops borrowing, and makes students scared of us. But I cannot override the head. Also I agree with levels, we do have some books , in our secondary school, that are more suited to older students, due to the themes. In this case we will determine if the student understands the content of the book, and let them make the decision. Finally I agree with the amount of books limit, we do have limits but we are also flexible on this, depending on the student. Most of the time they want to know the book limit, because they are borrowing for another student who doesn't have a card. Which causes issues when chasing up overdue books.
1/21/2018 06:17:08 pm
I know this may not help you but you could quote this ALA policy to your head about IDs “library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights.” ALA Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2014).
1/20/2018 04:08:58 pm
In a Primary Library (ages 8-12/13) there are some books which are really not age appropriate for younger readers. How do you manage this? As a parent I know I would have preferred my child read what is appropriate to their maturity level.
1/21/2018 06:24:35 pm
It hard when you have multiple ages in the library and I believe you need to know if a child is ok reading a more mature subject level. But I do not believe we should make separate mature student areas etc. I think you can label books with YA but I don't think we should have areas for only say 8th graders.
Leave a Reply.
Elissa Malespina is the High School Librarian at Verona High School and a Presenter, Author and much more. The views are my own. Find my full resume above.