Collection Development

Empowering Student Voice in the Library

Book display of new books

We’ve come a long way from the passive classroom model, where students sit and listen to a teacher talk, then take a test on what they talked about. Today’s classrooms are full of students finding their own voices, contributing to classroom discussions, and practicing the skills and thinking strategies they will need in their future careers. I believe the same should be true in today’s libraries.

A student examines new books on displayEvery year at David C. Barrow Elementary, a group of students volunteers their time to select new books for the library to purchase. They meet during lunch and/or recess a few times per week to select books students have requested. They work with an allotted budget that comes from grants, book fair profits, and rewards points. The money is completely under the control of these students, but they must base their decisions on what the rest of the school wants to read.

Looking at titles to select in a catalogTo determine this, they create a Google form survey, which we email to the upper grades in the school. For the lower grades, each student on the book budget team chooses a class to go and survey with an iPad. Students then analyze their results to identify top-requested genre categories, as well as specific books.

The committee then meets with vendors, creates consideration lists, and narrows down these lists to a final order. This year’s book budget group purchased more than 150 new books for our library. This year’s committee also had to sort the books, labeling them with the correct genre and then scanning them into our barcode system. Students then arrange the books for display all over the library.

A book display of new booksEvery year, some new interest or connection arises for a student. For example, one year a student had the creative idea to start putting the books on the little ledge in the wall of windows that faces the hallway, facing out. That way, people would see them as they walked down the hallway, and it would entice them to come into the library. It was a great idea, and within the day that the books were put on display, almost all of them were checked out.

Student voice matters in the library, and every year I value this process of seeing students take part in the process of collection-development, instead of just requesting books to be purchased. When they take part in every step of the collection-development process, they see the thought that goes into each book on our library shelves, and they see that their interests and requests matter because they immediately see them represented in the books on our shelves. On top of that, one of our vendors, Capstone, allowed each of our committee members to choose a book that was their personal choice for the library. These books were donated to us, and students got to put a personalized label on the inside cover to show that they were the selector of the book.

If the library is to be a true community, then one person can’t decide on all of the books in the collection. As the media specialist, I certainly have a major role in collection development, but when my students work alongside me in this process, we all become members of our library, rather than just consumers.

(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)


Headshot of guest blogger, Andy Plemmons
Photo credit: Craig Ramseyer

Andy Plemmons is the media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA. He is also the 2017 American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice, a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, a Google Innovator, and an NSBA “20 to Watch” honoree. Find him on the Barrow Media Center blog, or on Twitter at @plemmonsa.  

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


One comment

  1. Dave Dayanan

    Books always play a great part on our children. Gadgets causes emits radiation that is harmful to our kids which book do not.

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