Over the next few weeks, Team Read libraries will be delivered to our 17 program sites across Seattle and King county. Each library contains 640 fiction and non-fiction books, broken down into 16 different reading levels. On top of that, each site has a separate collection of about 50 books chosen specifically for coaches to read out loud to their students. That adds up to a whole lot of books, and keeping track of them all has not been an easy task.
A longtime goal has been to better organize our many books, which we knew would require some special skills. We were lucky to find Laura Franco, a University of Washington student who is working towards her Master of Library Science degree.
Over the summer, Laura got started on a project to organize and catalogue our dense collenction of books. Her work with Team Read is helping her fulfill a fieldwork requirement for graduation, and also allowing her to be immersed in something she’s passionate about: ensuring that kids have access to reading materials that engage and inspire.
Cataloguing our collection has been a major undertaking, with a lot of moving pieces. Our books rotate between program sites, so they’re never in one place all at once. To start, Laura connected with our coaches, so she could start to find out what’s in our collection and what she has to work with. Coaches took an inventory of books at their program sites to share with Laura. She started keeping a spreadsheet of books in the collections, noting what themes are reflected in each, and what ethnicities and races are represented. One of her overall goals is to audit our collection and ensure that our student population is properly reflected in the reading materials we make available.
After several conversations with librarians and cataloging experts, Laura determined that Library Thing, an online cataloguing tool, would be the best way to store her findings before it’s all wrapped up and moved to an internal Team Read database. “Having seen the program in action, I can see that this project will lead to a long-term impact for both readers and coaches,” Laura shares. “That’s something that brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction.”
“Over the years, we’ve built our libraries through purchases, donations, and gifts. This is the first time we’ve created a true inventory of the books in our collection,” says Team Read Executive Director Melissa Pailthorp. “We know that providing our readers with books they love and in which they see themselves is enormously important to their joy in reading. We asked Laura to help us gain a clear picture of what materials we have available, where our collection could better represent our students, and how we can use those materials to support our readers.”
As books are logged into Library Thing, Laura will be completing a landscape analysis and diversity audit, so she can assess where any holes exist in our collection, and we can make sure they’re getting filled. “It’s been a challenge to build as we go,” Laura reflects, but she looks forward to helping Team Read have the best possible selection of books for the readers in the program.
Laura has a particular interest in working with families and ensuring that parents have the tools they need to help their children become successful readers. She sees her niche in working with families who don’t speak English as a first language, as well as low-income families who might be short on the time and resources they need. Her goal after graduation is to work in a library, school, or nonprofit setting to build more engagement opportunities for these families.
When asked if there are any books she would recommend to Team Read supporters, Laura had two suggestions: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, and Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. Both of these novels tell the story of first-generation immigrants and capture their family relationships in a way Laura finds moving and inspiring. In turn, we’re all inspired by her work, which will make a lasting impact on Team Read’s readers and coaches for many years to come. Thank you, Laura!