CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Collection Management & Diversity

The aim of a library within a secondary school is to provide access to information and ideas to support learning and teaching across the curriculum and crucially to promote reading for pleasure. Key to this is a library with as broad a selection of materials as possible. This however is dictated by budget allocation, space restrictions and the existing and planned use of the library. All these factors play a crucial role in managing a collection.

Many school librarians have a Stock Management Policy that they share with the Senior Leadership Team and/or their line manager within the school. It covers many of the aspects noted in the following. If there is not one in your school already then think about creating one. It helps to have a document in place to show senior management and departments how you manage your stock in the library and why.

CILIP and the School Library Association have released a statement on Censorship and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries. This is in response to the growing movement towards censoring library books in the USA and makes essential reading.

Ideally the librarian should be working in collaboration with subject departments and meet with them at least once per year to discuss the requirements for the school year ahead. The librarian should have a comprehensive knowledge of the existing resources and have the ability to plan the acquisition of resources to address any gaps highlighted by these planning meetings.

The management and selection of stock should consider the following aspects:

  • The school curriculum and lesson plans for the coming session
  • The learning needs of the pupils within the school
  • The leisure interests of pupil  

Guidelines for Secondary School Libraries produced for the School Libraries Group of CILIP, suggest a standard of:

  • A minimum of 13 items per pupil
  • Ratio of fiction to Non-fiction is 1:4 or 1:5
  • Around 10% of resources are replaced ever year

Although this standard has not been updated for a while it is a good standard to work towards within your school. It will be useful resource to support discussions with senior management about the stock a school library should have and can be used to support any applications for funding.

As a school librarian we inherit our book collection when we take up post in a new school. Every librarian will have quite different views on what should be available to pupils and what books to buy. Developing a vibrant, useful, and contemporary library collection takes time and planning, it does not happen overnight and can be made more difficult by budget constraints and limitations on where you can source materials. In the current climate of financial constraint, we often have our budget cut year after year but are still expected to provide the same level of service. This can make providing all the materials we need for our distinct groups of customers seem like an arduous task. Taking time to plan and have a collection development policy can make this a little easier. For example having a rolling programme of purchasing materials to support departments, one year social subjects the next science.

Another way of supplementing your library book stock could be by building a relationship with your local public library service. Often they will have children’s and teen books that have been withdrawn from stock that are still in perfect condition. They may be willing to allow you have them rather than having to dispose of them.

Where to start? – Weeding your stock

Start by weeding your collection, this will allow you to remove any out of date materials that no longer reflect the world we live in. Some items will be suitable to be kept for historic reasons, even though they may no longer reflect the current accepted views. E.g. books on the history of slavery. Removing the unappealing and damaged books allows your pupils to better see the quality books that are on your shelves but do not get borrowed.

Criteria for weeding books:

  • Is it relevant to the current curriculum and the interests of your pupils and staff?
  • Is it up to date and accurate? Ideally the books would not be older than the pupils
  • Are materials free from bias and stereotyping?
  • Is the content and the language appropriate for the needs of the school?
  • Are materials visually attractive and in a reasonable condition?

When you are selecting new materials for your library it is useful to keep these criteria in mind, think about any gaps in your stock and think about your library users and their needs and interests.

Diversity in your Library Collection

We all know that we should be making a committed effort to provide a diverse collection, with all our pupils represented. This includes disabled, ethnic minorities, LGBT and neuro divergent. It is important that our pupils can see themselves represented in the books they read as this helps them to find their place in the world, build empathy and understanding. Even if your library is not in a school with a diverse pupil population it is important to reflect the world we live in. CILIP and SLA guidance states that it is the responsibility of the school librarian to provide materials that represent different views and beliefs on controversial issues, that we should provide materials that reflect diverse groups within society and their contribution to the national identity.

LGBT Teens require access to information on a range of topics including: Sexual health; coming out; self-acceptance; rights & activism; LGBT history; Access to support networks; Fictional stories with LGBT characters; real life LGBT people; mental health.

School libraries have a role in providing and signposting our young people to reliable and safe sources of information. Many schools undertake the LGBT Youth Scotland Charter where having an LGBT book collection is a key objective.

Mental Health Collection

Over recent years there has been an increase in awareness on the importance of young people’s mental health. Various agencies have launched initiatives to support this and they all provide book lists. The Scottish Book Trust and Reading Well are reliable sources of information.

How to shelve?

Where you keep your special collection books is a subject of much debate. Do you have them in separate collections and labelled so that they are easily found and identified? Do you interfile them with the general book stock so they are anonymous? Do you just add identifying labels? Do you have a list so that they can be found but keep them on the main shelves? All these options have their pros and cons. Some pupils would not want to be seen taking an LGBT or Mental Health book from an obvious place and would rather take something from the main collection so they blend in with their peers. Other need signposted to the books they need and having them shelved separately allows for this. Consulting with your pupils will help you to decide what would work best for your library.

Useful Websites

There are many useful organisations that offer book lists and guidance on creating diverse library collections:

Best children’s books about diversity | The Independent

Themed booklists for children | BookTrust

Anxiety & Wellbeing – 60 Books to Help Children Nurture Good Mental Health | LoveReading4Kids

BAME reads for secondary schools – Peters

10 Children’s Books that Celebrate the Windrush Generation | LoveReading4Kids

Anti-racist toolkit for teachers – Scotdec

Black History Month books for children and young adults – Scottish Book Trust

30 Children’s Books Celebrating Neurodiversity | LoveReading4Kids

20+ Brilliant Books Featuring Unforgettable Deaf or Hard of Hearing Characters | LoveReading4Kids

30 Books with Positive Images of Disability | LoveReading4Kids

LGBTQ+ inclusive books for children and young people (

Great LGBTQ+ books for teens – Scottish Book Trust

LGBTQI Literature celebrating 50 Years of Pride | LoveReading4Kids

Mental wellbeing books for teens – Scottish Book Trust

Young people’s mental health | Reading Well booklists | Books | Reading Well (


Managing a School Library

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