Biographically speaking…

As mentioned in the prior post, every librarian has a unique vision for developing the collection under his or her stewardship.

In my case, when I started in the library from which I am retiring, I appraised the collection, and determined that “beefing up” the biography section for intermediate students was tops on my list. (In case you’re wondering: “beefing up” is not a technical library term).

Although the collection I inherited held as many biographical titles as did other libraries in which I served–surprisingly, based on eyeballing, which totally belied the actual number of titles!, there were fewer individuals whose life stories were part of the collection, given the number of multiple biographies, particularly of pop culture stars.

With increasingly limited funding, my preferred commitment was to add titles that presented the lives of persons of “enduring significance” (to borrow a phrase from a favorite fourth grade teacher), and not to invest further in the biographies of celebrities here today/gone tomorrow.

(I admit there are those colleagues who feel differently, favoring to invest in biographies of pop stars whose lives, admittedly, the students might be more interested in reading. I prefer the “students will rise to the level of expectations” theory. If they are going to take the time to read someone’s life story, I’d rather it be a life that has stood the test of time—a life worth youngsters’ emulating or admiring. Others might strongly disagree. Ergo: differences in collection development.)

My vision in mind, I added more substantive biographies, always in heavy demand and short supply, to meet student needs to learn about influential individuals whose lives are particularly celebrated during the winter months, under themes of Black History, Inventors, Women’s History, and Individuals with Disabilities. (Though not in response to a winter month theme, I also favored biographies of children’s authors and illustrators. Wonder why?)

Most gratifying were students’ reactions to biographies of lesser-known individuals who met—or continue to meet—various challenges, whether physical, emotional, or intellectual. A particular favorite biography was Bethany Hamilton’s. In fact, students were so invested in talking about her remarkable attitude toward sharks, in general, and the shark who bit off her arm, in particular, that our Principal interrupted her walk through the library to enjoy the conversation.

Because our library serves significant numbers of special needs students, it was particularly noteworthy and rewarding to me that the special ed classes of students (who were more aware of their own challenges, perhaps, than are other students, who also have challenges—which living human being doesn’t have challenges?) were the ones who most visibly and vocally resonated with the lives of individuals who have overcome various kinds of disabilities.

In addition to strategically expanding the biography section to increase diversity among the subjects of the biographies, I introduced, and then continued adding to, a biographical series that the students clamored for: a series that included individuals from a wide historical and geographic span; namely, the Who Was [famous person’s name]? series.

Students loved that biographic series so much that they begged that those books not be integrated with the other biographies, but kept separate. Despite my initial “purist” druthers not to set those biographies apart, the student-centered, practical me acquiesced. And most weeks it was hard to tell that such a series was even a special part of the collection, since the books were constantly out on loan to third through fifth graders—and even to some second graders!

Among the boxes on route or already in the school building awaiting the new LMS, are those that hold yet more life stories of African-Americans, women, and individuals with disabilities, as well as more Who Was titles.

Although she might have opted for other biographies if she had been the librarian doing the ordering, I hope my replacement is happy with the ones chosen.

Oh, and speaking of biographies, would it surprise you to learn that these past few years, biographies topped the list of nonfiction titles read by our students? (For my predecessor, folk and fairy tales, of which there were nearly as many titles as biographies, were the most heavily circulated.)

I wonder what will top the list under my successor’s tenure? …Bet it’s something she’s particularly interested in! A librarian’s enthusiasm is contagious.

Oh, and did I mention? …As a reader, I really love biographies!

Is there anyone whose life story has “stuck” with you? (“Stuck,” another non-technical, non-library term.) Is there any biography that has been well worth your reading?


About bakrawiec

Grateful 2 God 4 His continued blessings. Honored 2 have DJT as our POTUS 2 #MAGA. #ProLife, US Constitution. Definitely #StandWithIsrael Pl. #Pray4DJT every day! Share prayers and memes at #Pray4DJT
This entry was posted in Books, Children, Education, LIbrarians, Library, Library Media Specialist, Reading, Retirement. Bookmark the permalink.

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