Written by Karen Gedeon, Media Specialist, and Amanda Gedeon MLIS student Kent State University
*Image from: https://imgflip.com/i/15k379
Dictionaries and encyclopedias and the hot new checkout items in my libraries. Really, I’m not kidding.
Several years ago I dismantled my reference collections (I serve two middle schools). The survivors – an encyclopedia set and some dictionaries – were moved to nonfiction instead. My thought was they would probably never actually be checked out, but students still need to learn the skills that come with using physical reference books so I hung on to them.
Fast forward to now, March of 2023. So far this year, I have had multiple encyclopedia volumes checked out. Their circulation has been steadily increasing each year. One volume was (unfortunately) so loved that it came back covered in gum. I’m currently debating its future – the set is from 2009!
But more surprising still are the dictionary checkouts. Sometimes two go out at a time, to different kids from different classes, and the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary– yes, the 5-inch thick one – is by far the most popular. The English Language Arts teachers just shake their heads in disbelief.
At first we thought it was the novelty of checking out the biggest book in the collection, but that’s not quite it. It’s a print book – a physical, tangible object instead of a search box. Kids are starting to appreciate the ability to flip between pages, easily go to exactly where they want to be and see how small pieces of information compile into a larger unit.
What we used on a daily basis back in the day had fallen out of fashion, but now it’s making a real comeback. To tell the truth – I’m just happy that the kids are always so excited to check them out.