School libraries these days, often called multimedia centers, and are equipped with computers, video screens, art supplies and games. But amidst all the new gadgets and high-tech equipment are books. Shelves and shelves of books.
From nonfiction works to mysteries and graphic novels, books continue to play a critical role in District 75 schools. They are the reason that “libraries” are considered the hub of learning at Washington, Mechanics Grove and Carl Sandburg Schools. While Lincoln School doesn’t have a library, it has a schematic lending library this year where preschoolers can check out books from an accordion shelf in the hallway.
“We’re really focusing on the vision of what the library is going to be,” said Jill Unger, District 75 Teaching and Learning Coordinator. “The library is a place that inspires kids to read and write and pursue their interests. It’s a place where they’re building their reader’s identity.”
That’s exactly why there’s been a focus on updating the book collection in District 75 schools. The key has been collaboration between library information specialists Carl Sandburg’s Sarah Duncan, Mechanics Grove’s Rita Washburn and Washington’s Laura Wilczak. Since the pandemic, they have been working together to make sure students had access to the literature they wanted - and needed.
Now the team is working to keep the collection current and diverse and introducing a new way to organize the books.
In a process called genrefication, the team is focusing on grouping books of similar genres together. It’s an opportunity to customize how the books are organized. District 75 library staff are creating a system that fits their specific needs.
Not only have they agreed to what genres will be used, but they label the books with the same identification stickers. This way, as students age and advance to the next school, they will find the same system in use. In fact, it’s the same system in use at Mundelein High School.
The three library specialists have refreshed the book collection. They worked with a children’s book company to perform an audit of the libraries’ collections, creating a database which includes the number of books, their genres, and reading levels.
They set aside duplicate copies, outdated books and anything that was worn or tattered. With the help of federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds, they replaced parts of the collection with fiction and nonfiction titles in Spanish and English that will enhance the curriculum across all content areas. The idea is to expose students to a variety of titles and genres.
“They’re really proud of all the work they’ve been doing and they’re seeing the benefits for the kids,” Unger said.