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Children's Collections

The children's collections are intended primarily for children from birth through age 13. These collections include fiction and the entire Dewey range of nonfiction. Books and other formats such as periodicals, DVDs and CDs are collected. Older formats such as VHS, CD-ROM and audiocassette are disappearing as newer technologies make them obsolete.

While children are the primary users of these collections, teens and adults also use them. Parents, teachers, budding and experienced children's authors and illustrators, library school graduate students, students of children's literature, preschool teachers, adults and children learning a new language, adults studying for their early childhood accreditation, and children's literature researchers all find much to use here. Popular interest topics, children's classics, materials with great child-appeal and materials needed by children to complete school assignments comprise the majority of these collections. Multiethnic and gay-friendly books are purchased heavily to reflect the interests of this diverse community and to meet education-related requests in this area. The Library relies on parents or guardians to decide what is appropriate for their family to read or view. Works by local authors and illustrators are considered, applying the same criteria that is used for all other children's materials.

Most materials are examined by at least one children's librarian before they are purchased. Very few titles are purchased "sight unseen," solely based upon written professional reviews. This reflects the expectation that a children's librarian will be able to make specific and tailored reading, viewing and listening recommendations to children of many ages and reading levels.

Children's Board Books

This collection consists of books with sturdy, laminated cardboard or plastic pages. Selected especially for babies and toddlers, this format is important in introducing books to the youngest child. These titles have clear, uncluttered drawings or photographs and are wordless or accompanied by very brief text.

This collection has very high usage and wears out quickly. Many titles have a short life in print and will not be replaceable after they are withdrawn. They are intended for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Selection and duplication will depend on budget, the number of young children in a neighborhood and other population characteristics. The collection is built to meet current needs only.

Children's Picture Books

Picture books are often the child's first introduction to books. They are usually written for pre-readers and beginning readers and are typically shared with the child by an adult. Illustrations play an especially large role in picture books, and consideration is given to both the text and illustrations and how the union of the two makes an integrated whole. Illustrations in picture books should extend and interpret the story, supplying what paragraphs of words in a novel do for older readers. The inclusion of non-stereotypical illustrations is especially important because of the lasting impressions that can be made by illustrations. Picture books intended for older children (ages eight and up) is a subgroup also purchased and placed in this section. These books can be distinguished by their greater sophistication and higher reading level.

Picture books are selected individually for literary quality, quality of the illustrations, and subject appeal. As the picture book collection is typically a very large part of children's collections throughout the Library, and has high circulation, multiples of especially good books are purchased. Classic and older titles are purchased continually to retain depth.

Children's Readers

Readers are written for the beginning reader, using a controlled vocabulary. Children learn to read at different chronological ages, but usually, within the range of five to eight years, they begin to decode words and start to read by themselves without adult help. Readers help a child to practice the skill of reading and decoding while controlling the frustration level. Readers have large print, ample white space, illustrations and large margins. Pre-primers, basal readers and textbooks are not collected.

Readers are selected individually for literary quality, attractive illustrations and subject appeal. The number of readers published is small, so purchasing is often done in multiples. This collection is meant to meet current needs. Classic and older titles are purchased continually to retain depth. Nonfiction readers are also purchased. They are classified in their subject areas unless their content is too general to be useful in a nonfiction collection.

Children's Fiction

Fiction books, or novels, make up a significant part of the children's circulating collection in all libraries. Fiction books are those written for the child who has the reading skills, attention span, ability to form mental images and the capacity to enjoy longer, more detailed stories. These books range from the easiest chapter books (designed for younger readers ready to make the transition from heavily-illustrated beginning readers) to sophisticated fare for younger teen readers. The range of fiction includes realistic stories, fantasy and science fiction, animal stories, historical fiction, mystery and adventure, and sports stories. The collection includes titles popular with today's children, recreational reading and school-assigned classics.

Fiction is selected individually using the same criteria used to evaluate adult fiction: consideration of theme, plot, characterization, setting, and style. Good fiction offers an appealing story, smoothly told, with freshness and originality. Positive racial, ethnic and sex role representation are important factors for consideration, as are appropriateness of length and format for the intended age level. Series, which are often formulaic, are sometimes evaluated individually, but are more often selected for their popularity with children. The Library acknowledges that there are many more series than can practically be purchased. Many series are treated as ephemeral and are purchased in paperback format only. Duplicate copies of classics and other titles that appear on school reading lists are also frequently purchased in paperback format, to supplement hardcover editions. As a general rule, abridged or adapted editions of classic fiction works are not collected.

Children's Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are fictional works that are unique in their pictorial presentation of the story line. This collection has grown dramatically in recent years.

Graphic novels are selected for their quality of illustrations, story line and popularity. This ephemeral collection is constantly changing as reading tastes change. It is geared toward children ages six through thirteen. There is no effort to collect deeply or broadly, but rather to keep a popular reading collection that is responsive to readers' preferences.

Children's Magazines

The children's periodicals collection offers a wide range of age and subject appeal to attract readers and to complement the book collection, especially in areas of current popular interest. Magazines also reflect the many diverse cultures, languages and interests of San Francisco's children. Included are general interest, literary and special interest titles on a variety of reading levels. Periodicals dealing with children's literature and the review of children's materials are also included. Some of these are purchased as reference materials for the use of children's librarians.

Significant children's magazines are indexed in Readers Guide to Periodical Literature or Children's Magazine Index. A number of these are bound and housed in the Main Library Children's Center. These include magazines that teachers often request (such as Plays) and magazines of multicultural interest (such as Faces) or historical interest (such as Boys' Life and St. Nicholas). Each library tries to maintain magazine issues for one year. If space and physical condition permit, back issues may be kept longer. Periodicals for children in languages other than English are purchased depending on availability and need. While most magazines are in print format, selection is not limited to this format. Magazine titles are reevaluated annually.

Children's International Languages

Fiction and nonfiction titles in languages other than English are collected with an emphasis on picture stories, easy-to-read fiction titles, single, illustrated folk tales, popular subjects and picture dictionaries. The Library strives to collect books published in the country where an international language originates in order to preserve cultural authenticity in storyline and illustrations. Books published in the United States and translations of popular English-language titles are also collected. The collection represents the most common languages spoken or studied in San Francisco. Small collections of Chinese and Spanish language materials are available at all libraries. In-depth collections of language materials in Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish are collected at Chinatown Branch, Western Addition Branch, and Mission Branch, respectively. Small collections of language materials in Russian and Vietnamese are collected at the Main Children's Center. Other languages are represented in branches as needed or requested. More than 50 languages are represented in the Main Library Children's Center, and more challenging or in-depth materials are also collected there, including a reference collection of basic dictionaries. Collections are comprised mainly of books, but periodicals and audiovisual materials are also represented.

Users of the International Languages collection include children and adults who are more comfortable reading in their native languages or who are learning, or hoping to maintain their reading ability, in another language, as well as teachers and students of English as a Second Language and other languages. Changing population patterns are taken into account in developing and maintaining language collections. Books in international languages may be borrowed by branches from the Children's Center for use on a short-term or long-term basis.

Children's Nonfiction

j001-j099: This area contains materials on general topics, library services to children, children's literature and general encyclopedic works. This collection focuses on guides to outstanding children's materials, critiques of children's materials, and bibliographic tools, such as A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children's Picture Books, all of which assist librarians, parents and teachers in selecting appropriate materials for children. Since this area includes many reference tools, non-circulating items usually outnumber those that circulate. Almanacs, books of facts, world record books and books of quotations, all popular with children, are also included.

Emphasis is placed on reference tools, such as Children's Catalog and Best Books for Children, so that children's librarians can do in-depth research for parents and teachers as well as for assessing their own collections. An effort is made to acquire the latest editions of children's services research tools and encyclopedias. General encyclopedias are essential resources in this area. Libraries regularly circulate one to four sets in addition to retaining a current set for reference purposes. No general encyclopedia older than five years is retained. Titles about the internet are kept only if current, with no attempt to retain titles of historical interest.

j100-j199: This area contains materials on psychology, philosophy, the occult, death and grieving, and ethics.

A well developed circulating collection on the occult is necessary to meet continual demand. Materials on witchcraft, ESP, and optical illusions are especially popular and require constant refreshment. Titles on ethics, behavior and feelings, and topical issues such as animal rights are kept up to date to reflect current thinking.

j200-j299: This area contains materials on religions of the world and mythology.

Greek myths are perpetually in high demand and multiple circulating and non-circulating titles are purchased. Emphasis is placed on collecting broadly in non-Western religions, especially those practiced in San Francisco. Illustrated Bibles and bible stories also figure strongly in this section.

j300-j399: This area contains materials on storytelling, children's rights, conflict resolution, ethnic groups in America, family structures in society, women's and civil rights history, education, labor, law and politics, environmental issues, public safety and services, standardized test preparation books, money, holidays and customs, etiquette, weapons, and costume and clothing history. The trend has been to increase the number of circulating titles as more works are published on these topics than previously.

The collection of African American, Asian American and Latino titles is broad and is used to support class assignment requests. Many titles, once no longer current, are moved to the Effie Lee Morris Historical Collection. The storytelling collection is aimed at adults who want to tell stories to children. Multiple circulating copies of holiday materials are purchased for a wide variety of holidays. Special attention is made to include holidays of particular importance to San Franciscans, such as Chinese New Year and Cinco de Mayo. Mummies and pirates are popular topics, and these areas need constant refreshment.

j398: This area contains fairy tales, myths, legends, folklore, nursery rhyme collections, and proverbs.

This collection is quite broad and deep. Effort is made to locate and purchase folklore from the many ethnic groups represented in San Francisco, with care given to include those from non-European countries. Current children's folklore collections tend to have richer, more colorful illustrations than past collections, but a priority is also placed on retaining older titles that are classics (such as collections by Courlander, Colum, Grimm, Pyle), or that allow us to have as many renditions or translations of a tale as possible.

j400-j499: This area contains language titles. Focus is on titles that are designed for children learning languages, including those learning English. Grammar and writing for homework are also collected. Dictionaries and thesauri are bought for both circulating and reference.

Special attempts are made to collect language-learning materials that reflect the many languages spoken in San Francisco. Emphasis is also placed on purchasing language-learning materials to support those immigrant children who are learning English. Non-print formats are preferred, where available, as they are proven to be especially effective in learning a spoken language. Sign language titles are also purchased, although the Deaf Services department maintains the most in-depth collection in this area.

j500-j599: This area focuses on the natural and pure sciences including science experiments, the history of science, seasons, mathematics, astronomy, time and calendars, physics, chemistry, geology, weather, biology, botany and zoology. It is one of the most-used sections of the nonfiction collection. This area does not include textbooks, but rather books that will be helpful to students wishing to improve their math and science skills.

Children in elementary and middle school heavily use this area to complete their science homework. This section also contains many topics that are very exciting to children, such as dinosaurs, snakes, insects, sharks and wild mammals. As a result of its great popularity, this collection needs constant attention to insure that current titles that reflect the ever-expanding knowledge in the sciences are included. Most books should not have a copyright date over ten years, since it is critical to make a child's first exposure to science as accurate as possible. Of course, the goal of complete accuracy is not always met, as new discoveries are constantly being made that affect the information in current books. Topics such as dinosaurs and astronomy require constant updating because not only are they popular, but information about them is constantly changing.

j600-j699: This area contains titles on inventions, how things work, technologies such as bridges, means of transportation, robots and computers, farming, gardening, pet ownership, food and cooking, diseases, health and the human body, puberty and reproduction.

Attention is placed on keeping technology and health books as current as possible. Pets and pet care is a very popular section and requires constant updating. The cooking section focuses on international cuisines as well as on American historical and classic cooking. An effort is made to acquire materials about AIDS and AIDS prevention. Regular weeding is imperative to keep the health and illnesses collection accurate. An increased demand for information on birth and reproduction suitable for younger children has recently been met by publishers, allowing the Library to provide more books with straightforward information for this age group and their parents.

j700-j799: This area contains materials on the fine arts (such as music, sculpture and painting) and folk arts, as well as on theater, dance, photography, architecture, riddles, and sports and games.

The Library has developed an in-depth collection in the fine arts, focusing not only on the Western masters, but also on art from around the world. Attention is given to music titles because of an ongoing collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Education Department. The music collection has great depth in its collections of children's songs, many of them folk songs from around the world. An emphasis is placed on collecting materials on local sports teams and players as well as local performers, when available. Emphasis is also placed on arts and handicrafts (especially origami and drawing), riddles and finger games. Books on popular sports need constant replacement. Due to their short-lived popularity, biographies of many athletes and music stars are purchased in paperback editions when available.

j800-j899: This area contains children's literature, poetry collections (including older editions of nursery rhymes), and international and Native American literatures. Books about writing and illustrating children's books are also in this area.

Emphasis is placed on poetry. An effort is made to represent the rich variety of international literature in the best possible translations. Multiple copies of popular poetry titles by Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein are purchased annually. Quality adaptations of Shakespeare's plays are also collected. As a general rule, abridged or adapted classic fiction works are not collected.

j900-j999: This area includes history from ancient times to the present, geography, explorers, collective biographies, country studies, state books, as well as California interest and San Francisco interest titles.

Special effort is made to find both circulating and reference titles on California Indians and California missions. These materials are in constant demand for school assignments. Books about countries of the world are purchased and not retained when they are over ten years old. Books about individual states of the United States are purchased frequently and constantly updated to make sure that no book is over ten years old. Children's atlases are also discarded when they are over ten years old. American history is a much used section, and all periods of this history are represented in the collection. Care is taken to avoid materials that present stereotypical views of other countries and cultures and to withdraw titles that have stereotypes. A large part of this collection reflects current school curriculum. Biographical information about children's authors and illustrators, and collective biographies of people from various ethnic groups, are important parts of the reference collection, and more of this information is now purchased in an electronic format.

jBiography:This area contains biographies of historically important, currently significant, and historically overlooked people.

Biographies are a consistently requested topic since many grade levels at many school have required assignments on the lives of significant people. Thus, this section is updated constantly, though older titles are retained unless they become factually incorrect. An attempt is made to select more biographies for the youngest readers since requests for them continue to increase. Special effort is made to find biographies of people who represent the many different ethnicities of communities served by the Library. High demand subjects include explorers, presidents of the United States, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Fictionalized or undocumented biographies are not purchased. Biographies of musicians, composers, artists and sports figures are cataloged as j700s.

Children's Media

The media collection consists primarily of DVDs and CDs. The children's DVD collection includes educational television programs and children's movies (educational as well as popular, box office titles). Children's audio encompasses literary works, folktales, drama and music.

This collection is very popular and circulates heavily. It requires constant refreshing to compensate for loss and damage. Much effort and money is spent to replace copies of popular materials, such as Disney movies, which are often unavailable for purchase for many years at a time. Videocassettes and audiocassettes are no longer purchased, and this format is slowly disappearing from Library holdings. Attempts are made to purchase movie adaptations of quality children's books as well as original works of quality that are produced for children. No attempt is made to collect most commercially produced, current children's television programs nor compilations of such programs from previous decades. The music collection is collected in greater depth in works for younger children as well as in titles that will be useful for librarians planning lapsits and storytimes. Audio renditions of classic and popular children's fiction are collected, as are audio versions of children's readers (which assist children in their mastery of reading). Audio versions of picture books are also collected. Very little audio nonfiction is collected, except for folktale compilations, since they bring the spoken tradition to life in a way that books cannot.

Children's Software

The children's software collection is a small group of computer programs aimed at educating and entertaining children. Most programs are Windows-based and available as CD-ROMs.

The children's software collection is small and shrinking, collected on a very limited basis. The collection focuses on nonviolent games as well as learning products, and is intended for children ages four through 13. Rapid technological changes make it likely that this collection will disappear as more children's software is replaced by Internet-based programs, downloadable web sites, and smaller computer platforms.

Early Childhood and Parenting

This collection contains titles intended for parents and teachers of young children (up to age eight). Some of these books are also collected in the adult department, but the children's collection is more focused on items that are useful for teachers, home schooling parents and parents interested in education.

This collection has a rather limited scope and is not intended to be exhaustive on the subject of early childhood issues. There are a small number of titles on pregnancy, birth and children's health, though these topics are also included in the j600s. The early childhood and parenting collection focuses on issues addressed by most parents and on subjects (such as phonics and classroom projects) studied by teachers of younger children. There are some titles on behavior and learning issues that typically occur during early childhood. This collection does not contain education textbooks. Areas devoted to early childhood and parenting materials are increasing in size as many children's departments are placing these collections near the books for younger children in order to aid parents and caregivers in conveniently locating these materials in the same area of the library.