Explaining Our Book Orders

               We’re finally starting to get some of our book orders in, and that’s always a happy time in the LMC. I don’t care how great technology gets, you’re never going to convince me that your electronic version of the book “feels” the same as the bound set of pages loaded with static text in my hand. I know the words are what we’re really after; that it’s the ideas that matter. But form also matters in this case. Perhaps I sound a bit defensive; a bit like the scroll makers at the sight of the first books. All I know for sure is that I’ve always carried something to read with me, and I’ve never needed batteries or a plug.

               So, how do we decide what to use our valuable (and shrinking) book funds for*? Many of our book orders are recommendations from teachers and students, along with our own choice titles. We pay close attention to the conversations we hear all around us, so that if there’s an interest in a title or a writer, we make sure they find their way onto our shelves (That explains how Potter, Twilight, Da Vinci Code, and many others arrived). We also recognize where our collection is lacking, and try to improve those weaknesses. Needless to say, this is not an easy or simple task, trying to consider and balance all of the resource needs for a school as large and diverse as Haverhill High School.

               Thrown into the mix, of course, there are my own biases combined with my educational philosophy. There’s no sense in having this much power (to fill the shelves with ideas) and not trying to shape it in some meaningful way. Looking through the book orders, it should be clear that I have an agenda, and here is some of it, along with examples of books I ordered for our collection.

 

  • Expand notions of “literacy”: I openly admit that I loved reading comic books as a kid. Even now, a good graphic novel or a cartoon in Mad magazine can be just as satisfying as a text only book or a magazine article. Nowadays, many educators are finally beginning to rediscover that there is more than one way to tell a story. We’ve been expanding our graphic novel collection for years now. Among our current collection you’ll find titles such as Maus I & II, Citizen 13660, Yossel, and Persepolis. We’ve also just received graphic novel adaptations of two classics; Fahrenheit 451 and Darwin’s Origin of Species.

 

 

  • Promote non-fiction and pro-science reading: I fell in love with reading primarily through fiction but by the time I was in high school, I was reading much more non-fiction. I still love a good novel, but if I can choose a book about the history of pencils or rats or heartburn or the color peach instead, I do. Fortunately, there are many capable and entertaining writers telling all kinds of fascinating stories about the world. Recent arrivals include The Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage, Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, Language and the Internet by David Crystal and Snake Oil Science by Barker Bausell.

 

  • Support AP students and courses: One thing that was lacking when I first started working here were study materials for students to check out. Our collection did not have any test prep material for students taking AP courses or preparing for the PSAT, SAT or ACT. With competition for college entrance getting tougher every year, we felt it necessary to develop a collection of these books. We try to order 4 or 5 test review books in the various AP subjects, keep one for the library and pass the rest along to the classroom teachers.

 

  • Continue sharing TED Talks: This isn’t at all about the book orders, but about great free online videos. I’ve known about this site for at least a couple of years, and I am always amazed that I can still find some new fascinating talk, told in a different way, in under twenty minutes. This time, I found an animated talk titled, “A Darwinian Theory of Beauty”.

That’s all for now. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you found something interesting.

* There is a formal selection process outlined in the LMC information and policy handbook.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.

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About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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