In the landscape of elementary education, school libraries and classroom collections have tremendous power to shape student reading preferences and development. Classroom teachers and school librarians can partner to create rich reading opportunities for students. Let’s consider some of the dynamics of school libraries and classroom collections.
- The Perils of Abundance:
A generous budget for a classroom collection is a beautiful thing. It can also occasionally be a double-edged sword. When teachers have an extensive collection within their classrooms, they may be less inclined to take advantage of the school library. This can be especially damaging in schools with librarians on a flexible schedule. Under-utilizing the school library limits the diversity of books available to students, as even the most fabulously well-stocked and current classroom library can’t have the breadth of a school library. If the classroom collection books are only to be read at school, which is a common rule, students will also miss out on the valuable experience of selecting and bringing home books to share with their families.
- The Content Conundrum:
Teachers, with their keen understanding of their students’ reading levels, often curate classroom collections with high quality books at an appropriate Lexile© level for their class. A common challenge arises when the content or themes of these books do not align with the developmental stage of the students. Librarians, who read tons of children’s books and professional reviews regularly, should be well-versed in diverse genres and age-appropriate content. Librarians and teachers can work together to strike a balance between reading levels and content relevance in the development of classroom collections.
- Navigating Trends and Best Practices:
Librarian job descriptions generally include staying current with trends and best practices in collection management. Collaboratively, librarians and teachers can identify gaps in classroom collections, weed out outdated or irrelevant material, and curate targeted book lists that align with educational and DEIB-related goals. At my school, we advertise these services to teachers at end-of-year and beginning-of-year faculty meetings, and they are used heavily!
- Partnerships for Diverse Literacy:
Despite occasional challenges, the interplay of school libraries and classroom collections can create a rich tapestry of reading opportunities for students. By viewing these two resources not as competitors but as complementary elements in a broader literacy strategy, teachers and librarians can collaborate to offer diverse books for students to explore in various contexts—at school, at home, independently, or with a grown-up.
When we foster a symbiotic relationship between school libraries and classroom collections, we can offer students varied and enriching reading experiences. What is the relationship between your library and your colleagues’ classroom collections? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Written by Mallory Weber, Lower School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute