Mary Klucznik is a library media specialist at Chittenango High School in New York State. Over the past year, circulation for graphic novels there has increased three-fold, and a lot of it is due to the fact that she has enlisted students (now called The Gurus) to help with collection development. She shares her success story with us here.
One definition of a “guru” is a leader, mentor, or one who advises. Our high school library is filled with them: GRAPHIC NOVEL GURUS! Simply put, these students share a passion for graphic novels. They would swarm the stacks in the graphic novel section of the library, and I made it official by bestowing the group with the distinguished name The Gurus.
There are no special membership requirements, no tests to take, required reading, or projects to complete. They are one branch of our Bibliotec Club and currently are the most active and consistent reading group in school.
These readers have an insatiable thirst for graphic novels, and I quickly learned that I could not keep pace with their demands for more books. I reasoned that the best way to meet their needs was to enlist their help to expand the collection. Over the past three years, the Gurus have been working on a Collection Development plan. The plan contains a budget, materials selection policy, selection tools, book processing, and marketing. The information and financial literacy skills they are acquiring will serve them well.
The budget helps students realize that there are financial constraints and that to operate within a budget you sometimes have to make difficult choices. The second order of business is to select appropriate titles. Appropriate in this context means books that meet library and district policies, titles that are suitable for our school and community, and finally and perhaps most important, books that represent the broad spectrum of student interests. This past year, we created a video to help illustrate the materials selection criteria for our school.
During the Gurus’ first attempt at choosing books, they exceeded a generous budget within minutes. Then the difficult work began. They had to prioritize their wants versus needs. Some students felt it was important to order titles that were missing from a series while others wanted to expand an existing series and still others wanted to order new series titles. In other words, they had to compromise.
The Gurus have been increasing the collection for a few years now and they employ a variety of collection development tools to help them with their search for new books. They are encouraged to ask their friends for suggestions, read reviews on the vendor sites, and check out online book stores and blogs. They maintain a purchasing list using Tidalwave, a collection development search tool by Follett Library Resources. The Gurus have their own group user ID and password and together they quickly chip away at the budget.
The Gurus volunteer when books arrive and are enlisted to help ready the collection for shelving. They stamp, label, display, and shelve books. This year we’ve added one new element, a Graphic Novel Librarian and an Assistant GN Librarian. These two students are responsible for maintaining the order of the collection, recommending replacements for lost or missing titles, improving access to the collection by adding the volume number to the catalog record, and creating displays.
The Gurus are obviously a very creative group. They suggested a “character of the month” display. Each month one of the Gurus volunteers to create a “bio” with pictures of a character they think deserves recognition. The only stipulation is that the character cannot be one that’s widely known. Their objective is to help readers find new series and learn about different characters.
This year our merry band held their first ever graphic novel convention. They kept the scale on the small side, limiting invitations to fellow Bibliotec Club members and our middle school Library Club. Although the number of participants was small, the level of enthusiasm was high. They invited a local comic book store owner to speak, set up the types of games, created a drawing area for aspiring illustrators, displayed student artwork, encouraged students to bring their own hand-held games, and held a book swap and COSPLAY contest. They are already looking forward to next year and are planning an even bigger event.
Their name is The Gurus and I’m proud to call these students my mentors and count myself fortunate to have such passionate readers!