Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

Opinions of Middle School Students Who are Frequent Users of BOTH Their School AND Public Libraries

So I’ve been thinking a lot about our “frequent fliers,” those kids who visit our school library often.  Sometimes they come because they read nonstop and they tear through books like tornadoes, and sometimes they are in the library because the library is their safe space.

I decided to reach out to the kids who use BOTH our school library and one of our local public libraries and see what appeals to them about their libraries and why they use them both.

I created a short google survey and emailed it to our students, just over 650 kids in grade 5 – 8.  I wanted to know what they liked about each library, and what they’d like to see done to improve each as well.  Students’ responses were anonymous, so no one was forced to give a name or email address that would identify their identity. I received 45 responses, which is pretty good considering I was looking for a very specific type of kid.

This is not a scientific survey, but rather an opportunity for young people to say what they like and what changes they’d like, too.

So what do these frequent fliers like about their public library?

  • They like that they can find all kinds of reading materials, including books for adults and picture books.
  • They like that the public library is big and offers lots of places for them to read and work.
  • They like that the collections are large and they can explore and dig on their own.
  • They like book sales, free wifi, comfy seating, and computers for the public.

What do they like about their school library?

  • They like how easy it is to find something to read (I genrefied both fiction and non-fiction in the last five years).
  • They like that there is always an adult in the library to help them.
  • They like that we will ILL books from other schools for them.
  • They like the niceties that we offer, like a chromebook hospital and comfy seating

What would they like to be different about the public library?

  • They would like it to be easier to find things (a few mentioned they would like series to be shelved in book order, with labeling).
  • They would like it to be easier to find an adult when they need help.
  • They would like more items that appeal to them, especially graphic novels, YA novels, comics, and even pop-up books.

What would they like to be different about their school library?

  • They would like more books, especially for older teens
  • They want even more comfy seating!
  • They want new books available for borrowing sooner…especially books that are part of a series.

The results are really interesting to me, and remind me that kids are very sophisticated…and they really do pay attention. As a school librarian, I can definitely look at my collection development practices to see how I can get more of what they like…and get those books into their hands sooner.

If you were to poll your young patrons, what do you think they might say?

David Saia is the librarian at Heim Middle School, part of the Williamsville Central Schools, in Williamsville, New York, and is chair of the Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

This post addresses ALSC Core Competency I: Commitment to Client Group.

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