Getting students involved in your school library
Regardless of the age of your students, actively involving them in the running of your library has multiple benefits. It can enhance reading engagement, help with developing a school-wide reading culture, provide students with leadership opportunities, and promote the role of your library within your school. Students like to be heard and will feel valued if you seek their opinions and then act on that information. After all, the students are your ‘customers’ so the library needs to be relevant and provide the things that they want, especially if you are trying to encourage them to be regular library visitors.
Suggestions for collection development
Reading engagement can increase when students are able to make their own choices about which books that they read (Merga and Gardiner, 2018), so it makes sense for your library to have as many of the books that your students want as possible. Providing the books that your students ask for will also ensure that your school library collection is relevant and reflects the specific reading interests of your students.
Try some of these ideas:
1. Invite students to add books to your library’s wish list.
- Cover a blank notebook in something bright and colourful and leave it in the library for students to write in their suggestions.
- Designate a wall or board where students can add post-it notes or write their suggestions using white board or chalk markers
- Create a simple Google form and share the link on your Accessit Web App and in other online teaching spaces.
- Buy the books suggested by students as soon as possible – this will make them feel valued and important, as well as making you look super-efficient!
- When the books arrive, make sure the student who suggested them is at the top of the reserve queue. In Accessit Library you can easily re-order the reserve queue if required.
2. Talk to your students about what interests them.
- Encourage students to add their favourite authors, genres, series, subjects and keywords into their borrower profile on your Accessit Library Web App, so that they can be automatically alerted to any new resources that match their interests.
- Keep an eye out for books with movie and Netflix tie-ins and add the movie trailers to your Accessit Library Web App.
- Find out if they’re into manga, audio books, graphic novels or high interest non-fiction – consider formats as well as content.
- If a particular series is ‘hot right now’, encourage them to let you know when the next book is released (some students will make it their personal mission to keep you updated with expected publication dates!)
3. Book buying can be one of the best parts of being a librarian, so let them share that excitement.
- Consider taking a small group of students on an extra special outing to the local bookshop to help you select new library books, or let students help you with an online order.
Conversations and recommendations
Try these ideas to get your students talking to each other about books:
- Give students shelf talkers, bookmarks or post-it notes to attach to the books they have read with a quick comment or mini book review.
- Encourage students to create book review videos and book trailers that they can upload and share on YouTube, and then add them to your Accessit Library web app Topic Boards.
- Print out some “Read this – we think you’d love it” cards with a space for the student recommending it to add their name, then slot these into the books.
- Encourage students to write book reviews in your Accessit Library web app. They might do this as a class activity, perhaps as an alternative to reading logs, or on their own just for fun!
- Once you have a decent number of reviews in your Accessit Library Web App, set up a new carousel for recently reviewed books. This will automatically update as new book reviews are published and is a great way to showcase what students are reading.
- Set up an online book group for your students using Goodreads – you can also embed content from Goodreads into your Accessit Library Web App.
- Consider buying multiple copies of popular books, so that students can read the same book as their friends at the same time and talk about their reading as they go along.
- Create displays where students can share their favourite books. You could have a ‘Books We Love’ display where students add a post-it note with their recommendations, like this one on a library window.
- Use online platforms like Padlet and social media like Instagram for students to share the books they’ve enjoyed, then add the links to your Accessit Library Web App.
- Play book trailers from your Accessit Library Web App on a big screen in the library during break times. Students will stop to watch and then share their thoughts with anyone else nearby who might be listening.
A space to feel at home
Give your students a sense of ownership by making them an integral part of the library space. Put their art and other work up on the walls (ask your teaching colleagues if they have anything suitable to display), get them to help create library displays, get their thoughts on the layout and find out what they like and what they don’t – then make some changes. The more your students feel a part of the library, the more they will enjoy being there and the more often they will visit!
Collection development starts with identifying existing gaps
Reporting functions in your school library management system are extremely helpful
- Popular author reports are worth checking to make sure you have all works published and show where extra copies would be worthwhile.
- Comparative reports across different age groups will show where engagement with the collection is lacking, or where a certain cohort is reading in a different direction.
- High or low use usage reports will show you what is being used in your existing collection and what can be replaced.
Collaborate with departmental heads
Encourage students to be involved in the library as helpers, workers, advisors, technicians and ambassadors. Get to know your students so that you can identify those best suited to various roles within the library. Make a point of publicly acknowledging their efforts with badges, certificates, and increased responsibilities. You can download certificate and badge templates from the Accessit Library e-Learning Centre (ALeC). The library can provide a safe place for students to learn to lead and be role models, enhancing the position of the library within your school.
Involving your students will also help to raise the profile of your library within your school. The more students are given a chance to have a say and to be heard, the more they will value the library and see it as their place, becoming some of your strongest advocates and biggest supporters. As library visits and student engagement increase, so too will recognition of the important role that the library plays in supporting learning and student achievement within your school.
- Holzweiss, K. and Evans, S. (2018). Hacking school libraries : 10 ways to incorporate library media centers into your learning community. Highland Heights, Ohio: Times 10 Publications.
- Merga, M. (2020). “We Talk Books”: Teacher Librarians Promoting Book Discussion to Foster Reading Engagement. English in Australia, [online] 55(1), p.22. Available at: https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A643530197/PROF?u=per_k12&sid=PROF&xid=dd9dacc6 [Accessed 6 Apr. 2021].
- Merga, M. and Gardiner, V. (2018). The Role of Whole-school Literacy Policies Supporting Reading Engagement in Australian Schools’. English in Australia, [online] 53(3), p.37. Available at: https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A578158050/PROF?u=per_k12&sid=PROF&xid=1623a4fa [Accessed 6 Apr. 2021].
- Ripp, P. and Miller, D. (2018). Passionate Readers : The Art Of Reaching And Engaging Every Child. New York, Ny: Routledge.