In-Depth: How Does the GWL Choose What Books to Add?


If you ever go into the George Woodruff Libary, you will see a section displaying all of the new books, with anything from historical graphic novels to sad contemporary romance novels. But do the librarians have to read every single book that they add to the GWL? Michael Jacobs, the new Head Librarian, explains that while they try to read as many books for the GWL as possible, they do not have time to read every single one of them. “I can’t read every single one of them because it’s too many books, and there aren’t many librarians out there that can do that,” Jacobs says. “So, we rely on our professional reviews and conversations with other librarians. And we try to read as many as we can. I don’t get to read during the school day, so it’s on my own time . . . You just have to make the time.”

The librarians get review magazines every month which helps them keep up to date with new releases and bestsellers. They always have a running list of books to order for the library, and based on the budget throughout the month they will order the books. From the review magazines, they try to find quality selections of books that are popular for 6th and 7th graders to read. For example, they definitely buy all sequels for series that are popular in the GWL and books that have recently been made into a tv or movie adaptation. The GWL librarians also try to round out genres and topics, by ordering books for underdeveloped collections. They also like to buy books that are requested by Westminster students. 

The librarians love to get requests from students. So far this year, they have gotten two requests for books. And as long as the request fits the criteria—and is appropriate for everyone in the Middle School—they will go ahead and order the book.

Although it can be hard to pick out books for middle schoolers because they grow up so much in three years, the GWL librarians have found a way to easily pick out books for our library. Middle school is a lot about transitioning from elementary to middle school and then from middle school to high school. In the library, Jacobs notes that middle school librarians need to add books that have a fair amount of age range, but luckily many books do have the age range covering 11-14 year olds. “There’s transitional years; like 6th graders this year were just 5th graders [last year],” Jacobs states. “When a book is written, a reviewer will determine what sort of audience this is for and . . . a range of years that the book would be good for. So, there is a lot of overlap, because an 8th grader could enjoy a book as much as 6th or 7th grader.” 

Although the GWL tries to have a range of books that interest all middle school students, 8th graders tend to be ready to start exploring the Carlyle Fraser Library. Luckily, the Middle School likes to get the 8th graders used to the CFL and start to feel more comfortable in Upper School spaces. 8th graders can go to the CFL during recess—morning or lunch—before school, or after school. However, this privilege does not extend to 6th and 7th graders, as there are more age-appropriate books for them in the GWL than in the CFL. 

In the GWL, middle schoolers should know that they don’t have a limit of books they can check out. However, students are required to talk to a librarian if they want to check out more than ten books. “There’s actually technically not a limit,” Jacobs starts. “Really the limit is how many books can a student be responsible for, and generally if it’s more than ten it requires a conversation with a librarian about why they need so many, what they need them for, and how they plan to keep track of them all, because people lose library books.” 

How does the library get so many new books every month without having to add more shelves? Instead of constantly renovating the library to add more shelf space, the librarians go through a process called weeding. Based on the inventory they have in the library, weeding takes place when the librarians see what books they have and what books need to be replaced. Additionally, if a shelf is too full, they will look for nearby shelves that have fewer titles on them so they can shift the books down to have room for every one. They also take out titles that haven’t been checked out in a long time to replace them with new, more popular choices. So, if you find that there is a missing book in the GWL, that selection could be checked out, in the process of being replaced, or has made room for a newer book. But don’t worry, because the librarians will not purposely get rid of any book that a student has shown interest in. However, if they want to add more titles to a collection but have no space on the shelves, then they will order more copies of the ebook for students to have access to.