2012-01-11 / Front Page / Schools
42 books per child in Garrison, but many are old
School Board reviews status of library collection
The Garrison school library has a lot of books, but many are too dated, a new study shows.
The library was the focus of discussion in Garrison at last week’s board meeting. Along with Principal Stephanie Impellittiere, Deborah Earle, who is a fifth-grade teacher on half-time special assignment in the library, gave a thorough review of the school’s library that was facilitated by Follett Corporation, which in their own words, helps“PreK-12 school libraries stay current, focused and empowered to bring maximum value to the learning experience.”
“This is a springboard conversation,” Earle told the group, “for what the Garrison library will look like in the 21st century.” She emphasized that better libraries lead to better schools and better test scores.
Earle explained to the Board that the library is somewhat outdated, with an actual average publication date of 1983, and an average of 42.47 books per pupil, which by Follett’s criteria is far too many. Encouraging schools to use a process called “weeding” they recommend a library with 10 books per child for their “emerging/basic” library standard, which is what Garrison is shooting for. By Follett’s recommendation, Garrison should be getting rid of about 3,600 of its approximately 9,000 to 10,000 books.
Earle explained that “weeding” is important because it improves the accuracy of information being offered, particularly in reference and nonfiction books; it makes room for new books; the library can continue to support the school’s curriculum; and it allows the library to display books in ways that will attract students to them.
In what Follett terms “sensitive Dewey areas”—that is library categories that are most affected by older copyright dates the category is followed by the date that is the average at Garrison and the date that the average should be, by Follett’s standards: Data, Computers: 1998 / 2009; Science, Social: 1981 / 2007; Sciences, Natural: 1984 / 2007; Technology: 1989 / 2007; Sciences, Math, Medical: 1991 / 2007; Maps, Atlases, geography: 1975 / 2007.
In order to achieve a library with an average of 10 books per pupil at a copyright age of 15 years or fewer, Garrison would need to purchase 7,420 books at an average cost of $24.97 per book, or $149,280. Over a three-year period this works out to $49,940 per year, or $29,964 per year for a five-year period.
Still, more than one audience member and a board member or two noted that Follett is in the business of selling books, and their recommendations should not be taken as gospel. Trustee Anita Prentice, in particular, displayed a small stack of “classic” nonfiction books that she had pulled from the shelves just that evening, and wondered aloud if, among others, an early 1900s volume from the “Oz” series by L. Frank Baum was really obsolete.
Trustee Charlotte Rowe noted, “It all should have been being overseen,” particularly with respect to reference books. She added that in her view digital books might represent a better investment: “I’d rather have an accurate e-book than an inaccurate print book.”
Trustee Raymond O’Rourke said that an overall needs assessment with input from the teachers would make sense. He also asked how long the process of assessing/weeding/editing would take, and Principal Impellittiere responded that it should take about a year.
Trustee Christine Foertsch and several others suggested that there would likely be community and parent support for fundraising for this type of purchase.
Prentice noted that 42 books per pupil was just fine with her, and one reason that there are so many books per child “is that Garrison is a community that values reading.”
Impellittiere tried several times to steer the discussion towards the library space itself and how to make it more user-friendly and contemporary. A former gymnasium, the room has extremely high ceilings in part of it, and a glassed-in computer lab along one wall. Because of the positioning of heating units along some of the walls, shelves cannot easily be placed there.
Regarding the problematic school bus stop on Route 9 and Winston Lane, Superintendent Gloria Colucci reported that even with large flashing signs and a Sheriff’s detail stationed nearby, it’s just too dangerous to continue bussing children to and from that location, so two new alternatives have been created: one at Diamond Hill and one near the county line parking lot where a hot-dog stand typically operates. Parents in that area have been given the option to use either bus stop, but no children will be dropped off there if there is not a parent there to meet them.
Colucci added that the state’s Department of Transportation was cleaning out drains on Route 9D, and also cleaned the drain that was causing water to back up on the athletic field across from the school.