This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.
Need a new book to read? Librarians are here to help! One of the ways we provide guidance is through booklists. How does a booklist get created? Having just finished work on an immense booklist project, I can tell you exactly how it works. Warning: these projects can take anywhere from a a few months to a few years (and involve dozens of spreadsheets, meetings, phone calls and e-mails.)
Where to start? Let's say we're writing a recommended booklist for two year olds. The first thing to do is to think of all the books appropriate for two year olds. This involves reading the books that are brand new, browsing through the shelves, brainstorming with colleagues and remembering all of your personal favorites.
Got your list? Good. Let's divide it into categories. Take a good look at your list. Do you have several books about cars and trucks? Make a transportation category. How about a spot for books about animals, friends, family, etc? Next, assign a category to each book on your list. Now check all the books for age appropriateness. The best way to do this is by pulling every single book off the shelf and checking if it's right for two year olds (or whoever you're writing the list for.)
Once that you've eliminated several titles, go through the library's catalog. Check every last book to make sure that the title, author, and call number appear on your list exactly the same way they do in the catalog. Then get someone (ideally someone who hasn't been involved in the project) to proofread everything for typos and mistakes you may have missed.
You now have your beautiful and perfect list. But wait, aren't you forgetting something? You've got to print it. This involves designing it, laying it out on the computer, finding the cute pictures to go along with it, working with a printer, selecting paper size, type, color and quantity. Then you need to check the proofs from the printer and (assuming that you have the budget for it) get the lists actually printed. This is one of the hardest parts.
Finally, after months of effort, you're holding the completed list in your hands. What to do now? Pass it out to every single person you can. Then, start the process from the beginning in a year or two. It's important to update them regularly in order to keep the lists relevant and current.
Want to see the results? Click here and check out all of the Arlington Public Library lists for younger and older readers. For the younger folks, we've got Shower Your Baby With Books, Tales for Twos, 3, 4 Read Me More, and 5, 6, 7 Read it Again. For elementary school kids, take a look at our lists for kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade. But wait, there's more! We also have a Historical Fiction list for first through sixth grade.
Also, check out Terry's excellent post featuring suggestions of where to find many more terrific booklists for kids.