The Scotch College libraries are dedicated to the continued investment in new academic resources for our whole community. Our physical books remain an important resource and we continue to invest a significant mount of money into these every year.
An important philosophy applied at Scotch is that we don’t purchase books that we think we should have, just for the sake of having them. Some libraries think that a good library must have copies of certain books, but if the students don’t borrow them, money has effectively been wasted just for the sake of appearances and this is simply bad practice. Let's say, for example, we think we should purchase fiction books on the topics of poverty. I agree this topic is important and we would want students to read about it but honestly, fiction for a library needs to be engaging, interesting and adventure-filled. The topic, in this case, is best (and is usually) covered by a dedicated text to be studied in English or Humanities. Given that it's extremely unlikely students will read these books unless they're told to, stocking them on library fiction shelves is a poor use of resources.
At Scotch we continue each and every year to purchase high quality fiction books based on several different methodologies.
It is a critical role of the Teacher Librarian to be continually looking at new releases during each year and it is essential to the budgeting process that a specific amount is set aside for these resources. This ensures that those students waiting for the next book in a series or the next set of graphic novels are confident that you will have them as soon as they are released. At Scotch, we will often purchase these titles from local suppliers to ensure that we absolutely have them on the day of release.
- Fiction for us at Scotch is very boy-centric and as a result, our collection is significantly skewed towards the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Dystopian. Each year we evaluate the number of books we have in each genre to ensure that the personal reading preferences of the teacher librarians are not overly influencing or limiting diversity in the collection. This means that our current buying focus highlights Adventure and Mystery & Suspense as we have a need to expand this area of the collection.
- The definition of 'senior fiction' is a very interesting conversation for many schools. As a library we find more and more books potentially falling into this category, yet the academic rigor of senior school means less students tend to read fiction titles. It is only through viewing borrowing statistics that one can really see this trend. For senior fiction, this has meant that less is being purchased but any book directly requested by a student will be bought for them.
- If a fiction book is requested, it is purchased. It's pretty simple but if a student comes to the library and requests a book, that is sufficient justification for us to purchase it. The reality is that if a book leaves the shelf once and the potential for that student to continue reading is even 40%, it is worth the cost of the book as an investment.
- We recently tested a new model relating to the purchase of fiction books. We asked Dymocks to come through with a very large selection and Year 9 students were able to nominate books they would like the library to purchase. When they selected a book they placed their name on it, resulting in a reserve being issued for that title. This process worked moderately well and the overall concept was a success, but we would refine the way we handle this in future.
Non-fiction has been an interesting talking point in many libraries but the simple reality is that you cannot obtain all sources of information digitally and in some cases the book is demonstrably better. With this in mind, while we still spend a significant amount on non-fiction hard cover books, we also apply specific methodology for these resources.
- During budget time, we review our non-fiction collection in relation to the topics we have been ask to assist with during the year. How much we allocate to each department for book purchasing is very clear in our budgets and we do so in consultation with teachers and their assessments of need.
- In the senior school - as a general rule - we no longer purchase general interest non-fiction resources. We have found that any books that are general interest in non-fiction are rarely if ever borrowed and often date before they are actually used. What we do support, however, is the purchase of resources specifically for personal project assignment (International Baccalaureate) as these are directly applicable and often reused.
- Biographies are also interesting as we often think that students should be reading about significant people. Again, what we have found is that college sports and important current events books are often borrowed but usage is very limited in other areas. In short, we apply the same theory of purchase when we have requests or if we have a strong belief the book will be read.
As part of this we have also begun the process of reducing the collection on the floor of the library and increased the provision of 'on demand' access to non-fiction.
The simple reality about graphic novels is that we can never have enough of them on the shelf to satisfy demand. We do, however, limit the number we purchase because we want students to be progressing through traditional texts in the fiction collection. We purchase new sets every year, but in light of the extensive choice in this area we invite student requests to ensure they are getting the ones that want to read. It is important to make sure they are appropriate and at Scotch, we rely on feedback from students and graphic novel-reading library staff to help direct the purchasing.
At Scotch, library budgets revolve around the resources required for the boys to complete academic subjects. We have found that teacher resources in a library are rarely used and therefore money spent on a teacher resource stored in a library cupboard is wasted. As a result, we no longer purchase teacher resources and all of these requests are processed through the Director of Teaching and Learning who then provides these to the individuals seeking them. These materials are still cataloged but with the location recorded as the relevant departmental office or, for example, the Director of Teaching and Learning.
By the Numbers
At Scotch we currently operate a collection that numbers 36844 physical books from 1- 12 (specific to each library and located under that library's tab). The total investment at Scotch is approximately $500,000 and fairly stable around this figure as we weed and purchase each year. These numbers must be considered in the context of usage, as a large number of books with poor usage represents wasted money.