Developing Content Collections by ProQuest

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Currently, the ALA website discourages libraries from shelving books by grade level; I wholeheartedly agree, as ambitious young readers should be encouraged to challenge themselves. [...] the organizational system described in this article does not physically shelve materials by grade level; rather, it incorporates beginning books at various "reading levels" and places these materials on the same shelf, allowing library users both young and old to browse at their leisure. [...] it is important to remember that this is an imperfect system, meant to act as a guide for library patrons.

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The Library Catalog as an Early Literacy Guide
We have attempted to create a more searchable online catalog, utilizing MARC subject
  fields, to assist patrons in finding accessible materials for early elementary children.

           he Slater Public Library, of which I am di-



T          rector, serves a central Iowa community of
           approximately 2,000 people. This town,
           like many Iowa towns, is but a small boat,
thrashed in winter by icy winds. But in summer, it
is surrounded on all sides by a sea of green fields.
Though the country landscape is idyllic to many, the
residents of Slater and the surrounding area share
many concerns with the metropolitan. These concerns
include the desire of parents, teachers, and librari-
ans to locate reading materials that are appropriate
to the varying reading levels of beginning readers.
    It seems, at times, that a frantic race persists
to ensure that a child, in the crucial learning stages
of early elementary education, acquires the appro-
priate reading level before he or she “gets behind.”                       by
Though there are obvious issues with branding a
book “Grade Level One” or “Reading Level 2.2,” it                          Jeffrey
is nevertheless helpful for a library to provide par-
ents, teachers, and children with a generalized
                                                                           Meyer
reading-level scheme, so as to aid in the literacy of
young children; in fact, it would be strange to walk
into a library that didn’t differentiate between
picture (“easy”) books, juvenile books, and adult

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                                                                           www.infotoday.com « APRIL 2009   | 19
   COMPUTERS IN LIBRARIES
   the library catalog as an early literacy guide




          books. The Slater Public Library has attempted to create a      rather, it incorporates beginning books at various “reading
          more searchable online catalog, utilizing machine-readable      levels” and places these materials on the same shelf, allow-
          cataloging (MARC) subject fields, to assist patrons in find-    ing library users both young and old to browse at their leisure.
          ing accessible materials for early elementary children.         Yes, the organizational system I described in this article at-
                                                                          tributes “grade level” tags to the MARC records of these ma-
                                                                          terials. But like all subject headings, these electronic tags are
          The Impetuses to Change Our Catalog
                                                                          to focus, and not inhibit, the patron’s search.
              “My son is in second grade, but he reads more at the first-     Of course, fantastic library catalogs do exist, especially
          grade level.”                                                   at larger institutions. Many catalogs are getting closer to
              “My daughter devours books. She’s only in first grade,      the Amazon model, which has become a Holy Grail of sorts
          but she reads as well as my 9 year old.”                        (check out the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library cata-
              “It’s not that he doesn’t like to read—it’s that he’s bored log at www.toledolibrary.org/encore.html). In the catalogs
          with the books at school. He really likes the Star Wars books   of such libraries, the MARC records are richly inscribed,
          we have at home.”                                               and the detailed notations provide many accurate and rel-
              “Do you have really easy books for my 6 year old … maybe    evant keywords to aid in the selection of accessible mate-
          something that rhymes?”                                                                               rials. Unfortunately, not
              These comments and                                                                                all catalogs are so thor-
          requests are all too famil-
                                           We humans are much too complex ough. And I presume li-
          iar. And depending on the                                                                             brarians at other small,
          consistency of a library’s      and interesting to be stamped with
								
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