Each chapter of Children’s Literature in Action by Sylvia Vardell has a section called Authors in Action, in which a children’s writer of that particular genre is introduced, and then there is a short essay by that author. On page 51, in the Picture Books chapter, Janet Wong has written an essay entitled “Dumpster Diver Spirit in the Library” in which she discusses how one of her books was inspired by an artist who made a beautiful chair from old wooden skis. After discussing her book, The Dumpster Diver, which is a picture book with an environmental theme about reusing old objects, Ms. Wong goes on to recommend librarians to catch “the Dumpster Diver spirit” by delving into their own collections “to keep the widest possible variety of books ‘alive.'” She has a unique idea, wherein one could divide up a hundred gold stars between several librarians. She instructs us,
“Wander through your library, putting stars on the spines of your favorite old and overlooked books–especially the ‘ugly’ ones. Encourage kids to find these ‘Golden Treasures’ on the shelves, to check them out, and read them… While searching for Golden Treasures, your young patrons might just catch some Dumpster Diver spirit. They’ll find themselves browsing through bookshelves, walking up and down the stacks, looking for something that catches their eyes. When they stuble across something old, and find new value in it, you can both feel very proud.”
This idea, corny though it may sound, really struck my fancy. Currently, at the library where I work, we must weed so many books as a result of lack of use and lack of space. True there are times we must also weed for condition, and that is unavoidable, but wouldn’t it be great to able to extend the shelf-life of some worthy books, by employing the ‘gold-starring’ method? Better yet, it would be great to do it as a program with teens, wherein teens can star their own favorites from childhood. This would have double the impact — not only would we be engaging the teens in a meaningful and fun (and possibly nostalgic) activity, but their “work” would also be helpful to the next generation of children, in finding potential ‘book gold.’ Also, as children tend to trust the taste of older children more than they do the taste of adults, this might build more buy-in and trust from the children as far as the quality and desirability of the gold star books.
I am definitely going to try this out in my library!