To celebrate the last week of our monthlong Seattle school library tour, we thought we’d ask a pair of librarians to share in their own words what books their students are reading right now.
Elaine Harger is a school librarian at Washington Middle School. She’s also the author of a new book titled Which Side Are You On? Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990-2015.
Janet Woodward is a school librarian at Garfield High School. She also graciously offered a little insight into how she’s integrating e-books into the collection.
The most popular book right now at Washington Middle School is Panic, by Sharon Draper. One of the characters is abducted from a shopping mall, and the book follows her story and those of her friends, with special attention given to different kinds of relationships. I always tell the students, “this is a heavy-duty story,” and it is.
Students like it for its realistic treatment of both abusive and loving relationships. I believe the fact that Draper resolves the horror of the abduction story with full human compassion also adds to the popularity of the book, although middle school students don’t articulate this reason. Most of the book’s readers are girls, but a fair number of boys have read it too.
At one of our high school librarian monthly meetings, we compared titles that have been most popular via check-outs in the last 2 years and found some similar titles. We are able to use our circulation system to generate such lists. My top two books at Garfield High were The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I think these are popular because they deal with such difficult and tragic topics as death, prejudice and stereotypes in a stark but sensitive way. Both books also feature male and female protagonists so that they don’t appeal to one gender over another.
Social justice is emphasized in our school through student participation in a variety of clubs and through curriculum that faculty have developed in a variety of classes. I think these stories touch on how to face personal and societal challenges and are realistic yet hopeful. They are written by young adult authors who know how to craft a meaningful tale and both have also been produced as films.
It is hard to choose just one book, of course, and our Kindles and Nooks have been popular as well. If we don’t have a title in our library, then I download the book electronically onto the device and check it out to a student. I have 20 of these in the collection and more than half are gone at any given time.
Thank you so much to all the librarians who agreed to speak to me for this series. It was an absolute delight. And we will continue to talk about the terrible inequality issues facing Seattle's public shool libraries in the weeks and months ahead. #SPSLibraryEquity is very important to us, and to our readers, and we'll keep letting you know how you can help.