The Cambridge Dictionary defines an astrologer as one who uses “the study of the movements and positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars in the belief that they affect the character and lives of people” to to tell people how “they believe it will affect their lives”..
While the role of the teacher librarian might not be dependent on the alignment of heavenly bodies, sometimes predicting what it is that our clients will want to read or access is as nebulous as trying to predict the future. I well remember having the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone come across my desk and while it was accessioned, I looked at the cover, which was not particularly eye-catching, and wondering who among my students would read it and having assigned it F ROW, assumed that it would be a shelf-sitter.
Then the chatter on the UK librarians’ listserv started and rather than being a shelf-sitter, it was centrepiece of a Fancy-a-Fantasy display complete with Hogwarts made with a cardboard box and plastic cups, Christmas lights and swathes of starry fabric. I scoured local stores for related merchandise, and snagged some unique pieces because Warner Bros had not yet bought the rights and I even had permission from Bloomsbury to create an online quiz activity which was extremely popular! As was I LOL!
But series like that which become a world-wide phenomenon are rare and so as mere Muggles we need to use more concrete cues and clues as to what is likely to be in demand with our readers this year.
Luckily, they are more plentiful than we might realise, and not only can we be ready to meet the demand we can even shape the fads and fashions.
Here are some suggestions…
- Look at the calendar for perennial events such as back-to-school, Easter, ANZAC Day, Christmas and look to build up your collections for displays to celebrate these.
- Literary events such as Library Lovers’ Day, National Simultaneous Storytime, World Book Day and Book Week also offer opportunities to introduce new titles, authors and genres to broaden students’ reading horizons, taking them down pathways they might not have even thought to explore.
- Any special occasions that will be happening in the school or the community, such as the commemoration of an historic event, also provide a platform to be proactive with topics and genres to shape choices and perhaps start trends.
- Websites such as IMDb and BookRiot provide advance lists of books that will be released as movies in the upcoming year (Artemis Fowl , Doctor Dolittle, and Little Women are among those for 2019) enabling the astute teacher librarian to not only acquire original and updated editions of the books but also other titles in the series, by the same author, about the same topic or in the same genre, and perhaps even prepare some critical literacy lessons which compare the various versions.
- Similarly, other sites offer insights into books that are likely to be adapted to television and with the variety of streaming services now available, this can be a rich resource for connecting kids and books.
- Superheroes, particularly those based on the Marvel and DC comic characters, continue to be blockbuster movies and as well as the spin-off series that accompany the releases, DK have published a number of non fiction titles that not only provide behind-the-scenes information that enrich the movie experience but also support the reader who prefers factual texts.
- Award lists can also be indicators of what could be trendy although it is important to determine who has compiled them and why – adults determining what children should read because of literary merit may not select the same titles as those who are tuned into what young readers are actually enjoying and demanding. Among my go-to sites for suggestions and reviews are The Nerdies because Donalyn Miller and John Schu are particularly in tune with what kids want to read.
- Complement promotion of popular titles with displays of “If you liked that then try this” to capture current interests, broaden horizons, engage readers while they wait for their turn for the in-demand book, and avoid being left with 20 unwanted copies when the faad moves on.
Just as astrologers put cues and clues together with their experience to make predictions and develop horoscopes for the future, so we, as teacher librarians need to use whatever we have to make our collection development and promotion as effective as possible, particularly in this time of diminishing budgets. Sometimes our predictions may miss the mark, but at the very least we will have promoted a lot of titles, genres and authors and just like a horoscope, someone will nod in agreement.