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The beginning of 2015 has sparked the thirst for a good battle with my library’s youth — requests for items on the Battle hermionish.BoBof the Books list have been ever popular!

In Michigan, with school media specialists being laid off and media center budgets being decimated, the importance of communication between the school district and the public library is key to providing quality services to youth, teachers in the classroom, and parents. This being my first BoB year (as a practicing librarian), I wanted to make sure that my library had an up-to-date collection.

I’m all for being proactive and doing my own research — not having things handed to me; however, I kept hearing that Deckerville doesn’t use the national Battle of the Books list. Thanks to a wonderful teacher at Brown City Community Schools, who helps coordinate the county project, I was able to obtain the curated book lists for all of Sanilac County.

This week, I’ve spent a chunk of time in expanding and improving our special BoB collection. Previously, all of the spines read, “BATTLE BOOK.” With the books in the collection targeting 4th to 6th graders, there’s a bit of a reading range — some books are much more in depth, and thicker, than other items on the shelves. It was especially easy for the skinny, quick reads to get lost in the jungle. Looking for a specific book, when all of the spines were identical was problematic considering the various size disparities involved. During the process of inventorying that part of the collection, several items were marked as ‘lost,’ when in fact, the books were right there on the shelf.

The BoB collection, as it stood, was in direct “violation” of S. R. Ranganathan’s 4th law of library science: (4) save the time of the reader. Patrons should be able to find the materials in which they seek — quickly and efficiently.

Litmus test: if staff can’t easily find materials, then how can they expect their patrons? Especially the younger patrons. JCB to Houston: your library has a problem.

The spines have been changed to the following schema:



A book on the 6th grade list, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, would have the following spine label:



With this schema, patrons aren’t required to consult their BoB list while perusing the collection. It’s definitely more patron-friendly and time saving, as well. While changing spines, I’m also re-classifying books which are no longer on the BoB list — and there are quite a few! (AHHHHHH!)

Further, I’ve created “Resource Lists” within my ILS to help facilitate staff when searching for BoB requests. By accessing a list for a specific grade, staff and patrons can see all of the BoB books and immediately know which ones are available. I created a new circulation type — Battle Book — and limited check-out to 2 books with only 1 renewal allowed. When I do my next MeL data drop, the BoB collection will be marked as non-requestable. I’d hate for them to go out on ILL for 30+ days while someone local needs the item for the competition. I also plan on publishing the lists on my library’s website — maybe create a seasonal Battle of Books page? We’ll see.

Schedule permitting, I’d really like to attend the Battles in March and cheer on the Deckerville groups.

Very straightforward stuff. Nothing earth shattering here; however, it feels amazing to exercise my library powers and make a difference not only within the walls of my library, but out in the community and in the lives of our young patrons. I hope Battle of Books inspires quality, cerebral conversations amongst their peers and subsequently encourages them to become lifelong readers.