Keeping your school library up to date

15 April, 2021

Most people would agree that providing access to a range of high-quality and relevant titles lies at the heart of promoting a culture of reading for pleasure. But with so many new books being published and school budgets stretched to the limit, how do you decide which ones to choose and how do you keep the flow of fresh new titles coming?

Every school is different so there is no one right answer, but here are a few ideas for you to consider and, more importantly, the resources that you can draw on to help you.

Money, money, money

There are ways of getting books for your library without spending money from the school budget (read on to find out more) but, as with most things, you will probably need to dedicate some cash to the project. Whatever the size of the budget, don’t forget to tell other members of staff that there is a pot of money specifically set aside for books so that they know that this is a priority area.

Bear in mind that, while publishers are releasing new titles all through the year, the autumn is always a particularly busy time, with lots of big name titles coming out. If you want your books to be hot off the press, it might be worth planning your spending to coincide with this publishing cycle.

Creating your wish list

The next step is to decide which books to buy. With so many books to choose from, that can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there’s a whole range of book review and book recommendation sites that you can turn to for inspiration. From a bimonthly online children’s book magazine like Books for Keeps to teachers’ reading groups, you can choose the format that’s right for you. Or perhaps members of staff could each choose a different review site and then share their suggestions?

The shortlists for the many children’s book awards are another good source of recommendations and can help you ensure that you always have the best of the latest publishing on your shelves. Some of the awards also have shadowing schemes, which are a great way to encourage your pupils to  read, discuss and then vote on their favourite titles.

Something for everyone

When you are creating your book lists, don’t forget to include non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels and picture books for older readers so that you can appeal to all reading tastes.

Magazines, comics and newspapers are another good way of providing a variety of reading material, and a subscription will ensure that there is something new in the library every week.

You will also want to make sure that the the books in your library reflect every child’s reality. Click here to find a range of resources to help you build an inclusive library.

Expert help is available

Don’t yet have the in-school book expertise to create your own book lists? Then why not talk to one of the specialist school book suppliers? From curated book packs of the latest fiction titles to bespoke book selection services to match your budget, they have a wealth of expertise and book knowledge that you can tap into.

If the cost of buying in all these new books starts to feel a bit overwhelming, a cheaper option might be to borrow books from your local or neighbouring Schools Library Service. Services vary from one SLS to another, but many loan reading for pleasure collections as well as the more traditional topic boxes. The SLS is another great source of help and advice when it comes to refreshing your library stock.

The School Library Association provides training, advice and access to resources to support the running of school libraries. Your school can sign up to become a member, which will allow all staff members to use their services, but non-members can still access some of their online training courses and publications, such as this Get Everyone Reading guide from author Alec Williams, full of tips and ideas on promoting a reading for pleasure culture.

Complete library revamp

Sometimes a library may need more of a revamp than a simple injection of the latest award winners. Or perhaps you now have space to create a library for the first time? Again, the Schools Library Service and several of the specialist school book suppliers such as Peters, Norfolk Children’s Book Centre and Madeleine Lindley can help. They offer library consultancy services that will include weeding out titles that are no longer relevant, identifying gaps in provision and recommending new titles.

 Books for free

And now, as promised, here are a couple of ways of getting books for the library without dipping into the school budget.

  1. Run a School Book Fair: As well as providing your pupils with the opportunity to buy their own book from a curated selection, you will be earning commission to spend on books for the school. You can choose from a range of school book fair providers here.
  2. Set up a fundraising page: You can raise money from your parent body and local businesses by setting up a fundraising page on the Support Your School website, run by Peters. The website is free and helps schools raise funds that can then be used to buy books from Peters’ extensive selection.
  3. Apply for a grant: The Siobhan Dowd Trust Fund was set up to bring the joy of reading to young people who need it most. Schools can apply for a grant to spend on a #BookshopSpree where a group of pupils visit their local bookshop and select new books for their school library. The Foyle Foundation runs the Foyle School Library Scheme that awards grants to schools for books and libraries. Priority is given to primary schools, although secondary schools can also apply.
  4. Set up a Wish List: Work with your local bookshop or one of the online children’s booksellers such as Bookwagon and A New Chapter to create a wish list so that parents can donate a book to your library. You can find and support your local independent bookseller with this map created by Jon Biddle (@jonnybid). Once you have your new books, a nice way to thank people for their gift is to paste in a ‘Donated by’ bookplate. My Home Library has a selection of bookplates, all created by top children’s illustrators, that you can download for free.

While we all benefit from a vibrant children’s book scene, keeping up to date with the 6500 titles that are published every year is no mean feat. The good news is that there is lots of expertise and support that you can draw on to ensure that you have books that cater for the reading interests of all your pupils.

Boy looking at library shelves