Burns library manager Sandy Jenkins and library board president Cecilia Kennedy faced a delightful dilemma recently.
With the help of $175 gifts from Burns PRIDE and the Lions Club, the library qualified for about $1,000 of new children’s books from Oregon-based Libri Foundation, an organization dedicated to serving small, rural libraries.
The dilemma the pair faced was figuring out how to select 64 books from the foundation’s list of about 350 available titles. To solve it, they looked to the community.
“We have children in this town that go to three different public school districts, we have our Mennonite school, and we have several families that homeschool,” Kennedy said. “We decided to make a committee to give all these people some input.”
One of the volunteers was Jolyn Schmidt, who is on the library committee for Eden Christian School, which serves 26 children in first through eighth grades.
Another was Amy Pearson, a mother of five who has been homeschooling for 12 years. She also has volunteered weekly at the library for about six years, and that experience provided some insight when she helped with the reviews.
“We don’t get a lot of public school kids because they have their school libraries,” she said. “The homeschoolers use it a lot, and the Mennonite school library isn’t large, so they want to be able to utilize our library.”
Kennedy, Jenkins, Schmidt, and Pearson met at the library to pore over separate book lists for younger and older children, Schmidt said.
“Amy and I took a list and a pencil and just started going down the list,” she said. “We tried to choose books that were good healthy reading, good history, preferably non-fiction.”
Pearson said she kept her children’s studies and individual interests in mind as she made selections, which meant going through the list multiple times.
“I can’t think about all five of them at once,” she said. “I went through it thinking about one child, then another. They each have their individual tastes.”
Pearson and Schmidt also looked for books that were either supportive of Christian-based teaching, or presented objective information, which Pearson illustrated by contrasting approaches to writing about sea lions.
“I didn’t want to learn about saving the sea lions, I wanted to learn about the sea lions themselves,” she said. “We wanted to be able to offer something that would be widely acceptable to all viewpoints, and we found the majority of books to be like that.”
Homeschooler Ann Selley also got the chance to go through the list. As a member of Marion County Home Educators, Selley was aware of resources commonly used by homeschoolers, but admitted she gave weight to her children’s interests as she picked.
“I knew other people were having input, so I could be a little biased in what I wanted,” she said. “Some of the books we’d actually read, so I knew they were good books.”
Kennedy and Jenkins ordered books that showed up on multiple lists, but they got more than they expected.
“We ordered 64 books, sent all that in, the books come a few weeks later, and there’s 81 books,” Kennedy said.
The extra books were alternate selections that were included after the foundation received an additional donation, Kennedy said. The $350 from the library also wasn’t needed.
“We got almost $1,500 of books for free,” she said.
Children got a formal introduction to some of the books Saturday during a story time at the library, but not all of them were available for checkout.
“I have some of them right here waiting for me to read on my couch,” Schmidt said. “They are beautiful books. I finally had to stop because I thought I should leave some there.”