Tending my library garden

Newly weeded and transplanted, my garden flourishes.

Newly weeded and transplanted, my garden flourishes.

Any librarian worth their poetic salt has explained the process of evaluating a collection and making decisions to keep or discard materials as akin to weeding a garden. In fact, “weeding” is actually the term we use, as evidenced by the title of this 2006 publication, Less Is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections by Donna J. Baumbach and Linda L. Miller.

But I have yet to hear extending the garden analogy to include another essential garden chore, that of transplanting or, stated another way, “moving things around.” And that, I posit, is equally important to maintaining a healthy library collection.

Gardeners’ decisions to transplant are influenced by several factors. Some involve the health of the plant. Is it too crowded where it is currently located? Does it need to be divided? Does it need more sun? More shade? Other times the decision is based less on the individual flower and more on the garden itself. Design criteria such as height of plant, color and season of bloom all must be considered. A well-laid out garden is one that will be more appealing to the eye.

And so, as I was weeding and transplanting in my flower garden, I was thinking about my library collection. I had been contemplating several adjustments as the school year ended but it was not until this Zen time among my flowers that I was able to see the beauty of my decision to transplant some books to a newly created section of the library.

Just as gardeners are inspired by visiting world class gardens, this idea was inspired by a visit to the library of Newton, MA school librarian Jennifer Reed. She had a small shelf of books labeled “Moving on to Middle School”, which featured books best suited for fifth grade. I had been considering such a designation for a while, not to restrict or censor, but to highlight books best appreciated by students age ten and up.

Books just for fith graders.

Books just for fith graders.

Choosing books to be transplanted to this section would not be based on a strict objective set of criteria, but would involve a thoughtful subjective process which would consider the book’s reading level, interest level, maturity of content and author’s writing style.  The ultimate goal would be to create a space in the library “garden” where these books would flourish and grow (in circulation, that is!). I am hoping that by drawing attention to these hand-picked titles, fifth grade students will be more inclined to borrow books set aside just for them.

Since this is a novel (pun intended) idea for me, I would love to hear your feedback. Elementary librarians, do you have a special section for your fifth grade students or restrictions on what younger students can borrow? Teachers, do you think the exclusivity of this section will entice fifth graders to borrow more? Parents, what is your take on this? Fellow “gardeners”, please comment and let me know what you think.