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Cataloging websites through OPAC

Page history last edited by Dianne 10 years, 9 months ago

Critically discuss if the SCIS method of classifying websites is the best option of providing our users with effective access to the internet.


Dianne McKenzie

Written for course requirements for the M.App. Sc. in TL through Charles Sturt University. 2000. Updated 20 May 2002


The internet is a relatively new medium of information retrieval, each day it expands at a previously unknown speed in the information organising world, with any individual or organisation having the power to publish with little or no expense or expertise or standardisation, which leads to much more information being available quickly, relatively easily but with varied standards and usefulness. Since the inception of the internet, the end user of this information has been the one who has been responsible for locating the resources required by them, sorting through the menu of what is available and selecting the resources they deem most appropriate for their uses, in many cases not considering the quality and legitimacy of the resources found. Users appreciate the new freedom with regard to locating information, however, due to its size and rapid growth the internet has fast become unwieldy for the casual information seeker and there are many attempts at organising the internet to make retrieval easier and more relevant.


The internet allows schools to increase their resources infinitely with little cost, (Harden 2000 ) however these resources need to be organised into a system which facilitates accessibility so that students can find what they are looking for both in traditional mediums and the new medium of the internet. The librarian needs to let the users know what is in the collection, regardless of the format of the materials (Campbell & Cox ). The catalogue with the advent of the OPAC has become an avenue for provision of resources rather than a catalgue of ownership of resources, and as such needs to include such resources as relevant websites and other internet based resources. (Morgan 1995)


Many students in schools have internet access from home, and use search engines to find resources for their work in preference to looking up a book for various reasons. (Anderson 1998) These reasons include the novelty of the internet, the convenience of doing it from home at any time that is possible, the infinite scope of information available to choose from, the currency of the internet information and there is the perceived notion that it is quicker to look up the internet using a search engine than it is to visit a library and sort through the traditional mediums. The latter reason has in fact been proven incorrect, that the internet can take longer to find the relevant and necessary information,(Anderson 1998) the initial searching may be quicker but the sifting through the sites and irrelevant information takes time. At this point children do not have the information literacy skills to benefit in great degrees from the internet and they need to be steered toward appropriate sites to save both time and frustration, and to ensure they stay on track. This is where the listing of websites on SCIS OPAC is a useful tool for all librarians.


Web sites are like any other resource which is added to the library, they must be selected according to the selection policy criteria to ensure quality and reliability of information to users, with selection based on the same care and attention given to any other resource. (Anderson 1998) The websites which have been catalogued by SCIS have been selected for their usefulness in the educational setting, to save time, librarians could accept this criteria, however they should still investigate the site to see its usefulness for their own clientele. By SCIS providing the website address, time is saved in the searching process for the school librarian. Many librarians use the SCIS OPAC to search for new resources, and the provision of websites on the OPAC gives it a new dimension with the websites readily available for use at no further acquisition cost with direct access from the SCIS OPAC for selection and immediate use. In this way the SCIS OPAC becomes more of a dynamic working tool than just a catalogue of available resources that have been catalogued correctly.


The use of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system by SCIS to catalogue the website is the most user friendly method of cataloguing and organising the resources than any other system currently available. More schools and libraries use the Dewey System than any other system in their physical library collection , it is already part of the organisation, retrievability and access systems of schools, and it would also appear to be one of the most applicable systems to the internet based resources. (Olson n.d.) One of the major factors in using the Dewey system is the familiarity it has throughout the world for both users and librarians and hence a new system of organisation does not need to be learned.


Through the SCIS use of the DDC system and standardised subject headings all resources will be accessed when a subject search is utilized on the school OPAC,with all resources treated equally, without the searcher having to look into another part of the OPAC or even go to another database such as an external database or search engine to find the websites required. This equal treating of resources allows for more effective browsing , and allows users to look for related items that may not previously been identified as relevant and may even turn up traditional resources which may not have been considered but are of greater value than the possible websites. (Olson n.d.) The DDC also allows for broader and narrower searches and keeps all the subject in one context. In the case of the internet it is possible for more than one call number to be applied to a website due to it not having a physical nature that needs to have a place on a shelf. (Kajosalo 1997) This is particularly useful when the website is so multifaceted that it could apply to many subject classifications and would also increase its accessibility. See the example in Appendix A, this videorecording is classified under mammals, however, if it was a web site with so many diverse subjects covered, it could also be classified under each subject, making it searchable under DDC as well as keywords for each of these topics. Using classification numbers makes the search more powerful and eliminates irrelevant hits, and reduces time in scanning through unrelated topics.


The DDC system has been proven over a hundred years to be consistent, applicable and flexible enough to keep up with information trends and new developments. It has a sufficiently wide topic coverage for classifying internet resources (Vizine - Goatz 1998) and has sufficient depth of coverage in the schedules and tables to be considered a viable tool for accessing internet resources. It is a universal system which can be used for foreign language classification, useful for websites that complement foreign language study of for students for whom the English language is not their first language. (Olson n.d.) It allows for specific searches and because the web site needs to be assessed for the Dewey number and subject headings, at the same time it can be evaluated for information integrity and appropriateness for the intended user. The Dewey system is well supported and is well maintained and updated to keep up with trends in information processing. It is a simple system which is being simplified further for the internet application (Olson n.d.)


Cataloguing and classifying websites does have problems that are specific to the internet which include defining where the multifaceted sites begin and end, with the inclusion of hyperlinks to other sites and hence where best to classify it. (Campbell & Cox 1997) There is also the problem of website addresses changing or ceasing to exist due to the fluid nature of the internet, and the problems of sites themselves changing content and becoming less useful or not being maintained and the information becoming dated and again less useful. (Anderson 1998) The other problem identified is that most internet sites will require original cataloguing and classification, and that descriptive cataloguing techniques and standards are difficult to maintain due to the more informal nature of the internet. (Sandberg - Fox 1998) These problems impose a heavy burden on catalogue maintenance and time for the SCIS cataloguer, but if it is done through a centralised cataloguing system and made available to all SCIS subscribers it is time saving for the librarian offering the website from their OPAC, and multiply this by many thousands of school librarians trying to organise and catalogue their own sites, it is many hours saved by the librarians as a collective body. One of the major problems which limit the potential use of the SCIS website records is the limitations of the school computers to take the user from the catalogue page straight to the web page, there is still the necessity in most schools to record the URL by hand (increasing the margin for error) and then access it through the internet or smart terminal. For the SCIS records to be fully utilized, smart terminals need to be an integral part of every school library and OPAC. (Morgan 1995)


When compared to other methods of website accessibility the system adopted by SCIS is currently the most efficient with the use of the DDC, SCIS subject headings and descriptive cataloguing techniques giving many access points available for retrieval. (Sibley 1998) The reliance on the use of the search engine for website retrieval, where keywords using Boolean strings are used in non formal language to locate the resource have limited success in accessibility because the resources retrieved are selected on keywords which are selected by the web site author and in many cases this leads to repetition and a low standard of resources, and in some instances, the more relevant and quality sites are not selected by the search engine for 'commercial ' reasons (Anderson 1998). In many instances the web site had to be registered with the appropriate search engines - time consuming and biased. Use of the search engine for all research leads to different sites being accessed at any time and is reinventing the wheel and time consuming both in terms of real time and internet time and tying up resources. (Vizine-Goetz 1998) Also,the librarian is surrendering their selection policy to the web masters and organisers of these utilities. The metasearch engine where many search engines are searched by a mega search engine, and the most relevant sites selected, are a little better but still have the limitations mentioned above, in many cases just amplifying the problems. The inherent problems with these systems is that the language used to search by the user is usually not specific enough to access the most relevant resources, and then the user is left to wade through the irrelevant sites to find something they need. They also do not given any indication of the quality of the resource and the user is left to their own judgment as to whether a site had credibility and was based on fact, this is a difficult skill for children. (Olson n.d.)


Utilization of front pages for the search engine 'manufacturers' who place web sites that are registered with them under subject headings and making them accessible this way is also unsatisfactory. This makes the search one step easier but still leaves the problems of wading through massive amounts of irrelevant information, and the quality of the site could still be questioned, as the selection process is usually commercially based, and each engine is so different in their selection criteria. It also limits the number of possibilities of web sites when there is obviously so many more to choose from. The subjects are listed alphabetically and sometimes are annotated to give an idea of what the site is about. The problems are that the list needs to be constantly rearranged to remain alphabetical, and the lists can become long and tedious to browse through, particularly seeing the internet is still growing very quickly. (Sibley 1998) The home page of Yahoo Australia is an example of this. http://au.yahoo.com/


There are also many sites which attempt to organise different sites into subject relevant structures such as Australia's Cultural Network http://www.acn.net.au/websites/sitelist.htm which attempts to bring together and organise web sites which are about Australia. This is organised in a heirachial way but is still based on the alphabet, however it does have a search facility which overcomes the searching time, but still is not conducive to effective browsing. The link to this comprehensive website still needs to be catalogued somehow to let students know it is available.


The bookmark system can work well if there are not many resources to file, however it requires movement through many levels, is not searchable and is very time consuming to browse through when there are too many levels, it also does not allow for annotations or other information to be added to it and cannot be transferred to other machines or formats without visiting the web sites individually. (Anderson 1998)


Another system which has been implemented is the school library website where useful websites are organised into useful subjects areas, some have a search facility such as Trinity Grammar PL Duffy Library (http://www.students.trinity.wa.edu.au/library/) and others do not. These are not linked to the OPAC and hence need to be searched separately when looking for resources on subjects. They can also take time to browse to find the most suitable subject heading for the topic the user is interested in and require more time to create new topic areas.


Other sites such as BUBL Information services (A national information service for the higher education community http://bubl.ac.uk/) have organised their list of internet sites on the Dewey Decimal System, without giving the number on screen, but all the relevant topics are grouped together according to the specific nature of Dewey. This is a site which is easy to browse and also provides a search facility by title, author, subject similar to an OPAC. This resource is useful in that the cataloguing information has been supplied and can be used as an addition to SCIS to download websites. There are also many other useful sites who have catalogued the websites according to descriptive cataloguing techniques and Dewey Decimal Classification.


The method that SCIS is using to introduce websites into the school OPAC is at this time the most efficient and applicable method available. It is a proven system and one which is adaptable to the current requirements, being transportable and flexible. It is imperative that internet resources are incorporated into the school OPACs so that students and teachers are educated to understand that all resources are equal in access, time can be saved through using the school OPAC rather than using the search engines and the sites that have been selected are the best the librarian can find on the topic. The end users need to learn that the internet can be harnessed and life made easier through the library OPAC just as physical resources are.




Appendix A


SCIS No: 774566

Title: The common threads. 2. Section 6A [videorecording].

Call Nos: 591 COM a12

591 COM 20

Physical Description: Videorecording

Subject(s): Mammals.


Nervous system.

Body temperature.


Publisher: Melbourne : Educational Media International, [1980?-1989?]

Description: 1 cassette (67 min.) : sd., col.


Notes: Title from cover.

Contents Note: Contents: Desert hopping mouse - Mate location by a moth - Investigating the nervous system - Regulating body temperature - Why plants bend toward light.





Anderson, C. 1998, Cataloguing of Internet Resources (online). http://www.yprl.vic.gov.au/yprl/cantintres.html [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Australia's Cultural Network 2000, http://www.acn.net.au/websites/sitelist.htm (online) [Accessed 10 Nov. 2000]


BUBL LINK 2000 Catalogue of selected internet resources. Last modified July 2000. http://link.bubl.ac.uk:80/ISC15 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Campbell, D.G. and Cox, J.P. 1997, Cataloguing Internet Resources (online) May 1997. http://magi.com/~mmelick/it97may.htm [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Harden, R. 2000, Collecting Internet Resouces - the issues for UK public librarians (online). Last modified June 9 2000. [accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Kajosalo, E. 1997, Issues related to Cataloguing of Internet Resources. A paper prepared for LIS598 - Applications of Technology in Libraries at the University of Alberta (online). 20 Mar 1997.www.slis.ualberta.ca/598/erja/rep_html.htm [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Morgan, E.L. 1995 Adding Internet resources to our OPACs. (online) http://www.lib.nscu.edu/staff/morgan/adding-internet-resources.html [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Olson, N.B. (Ed) n.d. Cataloguing Internet Resources: A Manual and practical guide. (online) http://www.oclc.org/oclc/man/9256cat/toc.htm [Accessed 7 Nov.2000]


Sandberg-Fox, A. 1998, Task Force on metadata and the cataloguing Rules, Final report 21 August 1998, Appendix: cataloguing Problems with Web Sites. ALA.http://www.ala.org/alcts/organization/ccs/ccda/tf-tei9.htm#bibl [Accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


SCIS 2000 Cataloguing of Internet Websites:Report on the SCIS website cataloguing trial, May 2000. http://www.curriculum.edu.au [Accessed 9 Nov. 2000]


Sibley, B.P. 1998, Cataloguing Internet Resources: Organising the Web in the local library and beyond (online). July 7, 1998. www.geocities.com/SoHo/Coffeehouse/3231/catweb.html [accessed 7 Nov. 2000]


Trinity Grammar PL Duffy Library. 2000, http://www.students.trinity.wa.edu.au/library/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2000]


Vizine - Goetz, D. 1998. Using Library Classification Schemes for Internet Resources (online). http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/ebook/aw/oclc/man/colloq/v-g.htm [Accessed 7 Nov 2000]


Yahoo Australia 2000. http://au.yahoo.com/ (online). [Accessed 10 Nov.2000]

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Popular Literature in the School Library, does it have a place?


Dianne McKenzie

Written for course requirements for the M.App. Sc. in TL through Charles Sturt University. 2000. Updated 20 May 2002


The debate on the inclusion of popular literature has been going for as long as popular literature has been a part of our culture. From its inception it was shunned as trash, poor in quality and unfit for consumption by children, and certainly not of a calibre worthy to be included in a public or school library.


Popular literature first made its appearance in the late 1800's, serving the masses with its fast action plots, easy to read dialogue and most importantly, its low cost. With the introduction of the dime and magazine novels, everyone could afford to read, and have a collection for themselves. It was a little later that public and school libraries became a part of society, and in all cases, the popular literature was not included in the collections, even though it was and still is the most popular genre of reading. Still the argument rages into the 21st Century with even more popular literature to censor from school libraries. The arguments both for and against its inclusion are compelling and strong, that one must firstly define what popular literature and quality literature is so as to know what is being discussed, then examine the benefits and disadvantages of including popular literature in the school collection, and then to offer strategies for librarians on how popular literature can be managed if it is to be incorporated into the collection without detriment to the works of quality..


Popular literature is that which is massed produced, usually separated by its simple language, possible use of illustrations with mass appeal. Coming under this heading are newspapers, magazines, readers digest, simple novels, series novels,condensed novels, comics, books based on screenplays and other 'popular' media characters.It is generally described as being written in undemanding language, a repetitious style, with stereotypical character and formula plots with a predominance of dialogue over description. (Foster 1997) Popular literature can include fiction and non fiction and is generally regarded as a light read as in it doesn't require the reader to examine too much within themselves, nor is it too taxing on the intellect. In the case of non-fiction, the simplified language and reliance on pictures which sets it apart from 'quality' non -fiction.


Quality literature has been described as having more descriptive language, presentation of more abstract concepts, dealing with deep and controversial issues and development of character through the circumstances they are challenged with, allowing the reader to become one with the character. (Richards et al 1999) It involves sophisticated syntax and vocabulary with compound sentences. where the authors are not scared to introduce 'hard' words and vocabulary into the story. In fiction the reader is challenged to empathize with the emotional and mental state of the characters. with the author taking great care in setting the scene and mood of the story, such as found in Ruth Parks novel Playing Beatie Bow (Saxby 1999) The language can be figurative and abstract, (Swartz 2000) with the book able to incorporate visual as well as literary challenges, added decoding skills are required to participate fully in this type of literature. (Saxby 1999)Examples of this visual and intellectual challenge is found in My Girragundi, where simple change of font sizes sets a different tone for the pages. Also 'All my Dangerous Friends' (Harnett), where the same story is told through the book by two different characters, giving their versions to the story, using different fonts and page colours to distinguish between characters.. Saxby 1999 states that quality literature "challenges the reader intellectually and should pose tough philosophical questions, feed the soul, quicken the spirit and challenge any reader to embrace life in all its fullness". In essence in a work of quality everything is made believable including mood, plot and characters. Lindsay (1999) believes that books should 'nourish, enlarge, enrich childrens souls by promoting enquiry as well as enforcing readers self esteem.' Quality literature is thought provoking, allowing the reader to measure their own reaction to the situations and characters presented. Quality literature can change peoples perception and understanding of life.


Put simply, popular literature is simple and easy to read with not much in the way of intellectual challenges where quality literature is complex and requires more skill with higher cognitive processes utilized in its reading. With this extremely simplified separation of the two types of literature, where does the place of both stand in the school library? The school library needs to be a dynamic place. with an aim to encourage the love of learning and reading, and to be a place where students can learn new skills and knowledge and be a place of excitement and interest where they want to visit. With this in mind I believe that popular literature has a place in the school library alongside the quality literature.


One of the main draw cards for popular literature is its high interest, children like to read these books and it has been shown in many studies that interest is the key to why children choose to read. (Krashen 1993, Greenlee et al 1996, Worthy 1999) Worth (1996) states that interest is the key element in learning, without it , low to no learning occurs. When students have an interest in what they are reading they will frequently transcend their so called reading level. This is due to the interest motivating and facilitating the reader to go beyond the surface level of information and move to a deeper level of understanding. Worthy (1996) in another study found that the factors of both interest and access improves learning motivation, effort and attitudes to reading. It is an important resource for learning that is related to cognition. Intrinsic motivation and inherent in interest is choice. Choice is affected by interest, which is influence by individual needs and background. (Swartz and Hendricks 2000) Krashen (1993) found that self selected reading leads to more volume of reading and generally the books that the children choose are harder than those that are chosen by influencing adults. Swartz Hendricks (2000) found that for students to become independent readers they need to choose and respond to literature. Factors influencing choice include topic/ subject matter, author, writing style, cover appearance, recommendation from others.The relationship between popular literature interest and the school library is an important one. Part of the processes of finding resources one is interested in is having access to it. Worthy (1999) found that students have very specific individual preferences, and schools, in a many cases, do not have what they want with. this mismatch being most marked for reluctant readers. This implies that school do not cater for students interests and hence their needs in literature to become proficient readers. Empirical evidence suggests that more boys than girls are reluctant readers. Pritchard (2000) found that when boys are interested in what they read, they read as much as girls, and that boys motivation to read is greatly affected by their interests whereas girls are more likely to give something a try even if it is not their main interest. Pritchard also observed that there were three key factors which are critical for boys to begin to read voluntary at school and home - choice, opportunity and access, the latter two factors being areas which can be provided by a well stocked library of materials which will allow the choice to be a real choice.


If children want popular fiction, and the school can provide it, what benefits beside interest, choice, opportunity and accessibility can popular literature provide? It has been censored because it has been perceived as being of no benefit to the reader, yet research has shown that it does play an important role in the development of avid readers. Popular fiction offers a starting point, and in the case of series fiction, these are most often the the first chapter books that children read by themselves due to their easy vocabulary, style and syntax. The reader gains confidence in being able to master these 'big' books and this easiness makes the transition from being read to to reading solo easier. (Ross 1996) If children enjoy their first book, they will look for another similar. Series books and other popular literature offer this choice, and makes selection less traumatic, risky, confusing and time consuming as the reader knows what to expect from the story. (Ross 1996) This expectation gives the reader a guarantee of reading satisfaction before they start.


In the case of author series books, the repetition of the formulaic storyline minimizes the time required to be submerged into the story, and provides a balance between safety and danger with a sameness and novelty - with each story different but the same. (Ross 1996) Examples of this type of story can be found in the Goosebumps, Graveyard School, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew Series..Children like repeatability and the familiar. Very young children ask for the same story to be read to them over and over, the popular fiction allows this repeatability with familiar characters but with different stories, giving a new dimension to what is actually being repeated. From an adults perspective this repeatability detracts from the possible quality that the book may posses.


The series fiction allows children to not only practice reading but to learn and practice the skills of skimming, chunking, skipping,and visualizing as the text and plots are familiar and easy. (Ross 1996) The readers also learn how a story works, which characters to follow, learn that it is OK and good to have a response to a story, which details in the story to remember, the connection between characters and an understanding of semantics and markers of significance in the story. The mystery horror stories, in particular Goosebumps and Graveyard School, set particular but subtle markers which do not come together until the hurried end, similarly for the Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High series.


The highly patterned fictions give children an initiation into the rules of reading (Ross 1996) and they will develop proficiencies through practice. (Reid and Cline 1977) The reader will have an increase in general knowledge, vocabulary and syntactic knowledge through the act of reading, however quality literature is able to make a more substantial contribution on this front than the popular literature as the text in popular fiction is simple and not very challenging, with the reliance of dialogue being limiting for descriptions, higher order information and harder words to be added to increase vocabulary. (Greenlee et al 1996)


Pritchard (2000) explains that the popular fiction provides practice in the processing of making patterns, putting stories together, extrapolating, confirming and may provide a crucial step toward more substantial reading. Richards et al (1999) support this by stating that popular fiction can develop reading fluency and the child can learn to read for enjoyment and entertainment through the exposure to and reading of popular fiction. Richards moves onto to state that reading is an essential skill for the information processing and problem solving tasks required for success in our changing society - there is a need to have readers absorbed if they are to develop the motivation to improve their skills.The higher the interest, the more books read, the more practice, the more skills learnt. Through this increased motivation and confidence in their skills as fluent readers, the child will become more comfortable reading more challenging texts. (Reid and Cline 1997)


One of the concerns of children reading too much popular literature is that young readers will never move on from popular literature onto more quality literature. Greenlee Monson and Taylor (1996) found that reading popular fiction does not interfere with the appreciation for higher literature of higher quality. In their study 56% of the surveyed students preferred the recommended book over the popular fiction books and, in other subjective questions, the children preferred the recommended book all round. In Hearne (1991), a study by Susan Roman was cited, in which she found when students are given enthusiastic guidance and choice between quality fiction and formulaic series books, most young readers choose a mixture of both. Ross (1996) found that the simplified formulaic nature of the series books limits their continued appeal, whilst through the reading of these books, the children have identified the genres of literature they prefer, and will tackle quality books in their chosen genre. It was also found that accomplished readers will occasionally slide down to the less challenging material due to circumstances of travel, sickness, lack of time, fatigue - the same reasons that adults would revert to lighter reading.


Another aspect of the popular fiction is that it performs a very important social function where kids swap, collect and discuss the books they have read - similar to what adults take pleasure in doing. Krashen (1993) found that what students read is influenced by what their peers read, and that reading of popular fiction is something kids can do on their own or with a friend - a show of independence from their parents. Krashen (1993) also found that hearing stories and discussing them encourages reading, and Richards et al (1999) found that there was a significance amongst children in trading stories and books and owning and having read the complete sets - reading had become cool. The disadvantage of this is that many good books can be overlooked because they are not part of a set. (Hepperman 1997) Lewis (1998) found that books can become status symbols and become the basis for social groups. This phenomena is currently apparent with the Harry Potter series of books, with the children engaged in animated discussion and participatory actions such as acting out the stories, basing their clubs on the houses at Hogwarts and becoming the characters themselves, and keenly anticipating the release of each new book.


One of the underlying benefits discussed in much of the literature is that popular fiction is most important as a confidence booster which gets the children into the habit of reading and keeps them reading. (Saltman 1997, Nilsen 1993, Perry & Butler 1997). Some children will move onto better literature quickly, some later and others not at all, but through the experience of reading they are learning more about how to read. Saltman (1997) agrees that popular fiction particularly series books give the reader release and security but that quality fiction offers a deeper enjoyment of a story with a profound and universal pleasure and the beginning of literary discrimination and wisdom. The quality literature will stay with them longer. There are a number of quality works which can be promoted to be read instead of popular fiction.as they meet many of the requirements that young readers are looking for in this new experience of reading - brevity, simple language, but are more complex in the subject covered, syntax, and the characters have more depth, examples are the Insomniac series by SR martin, , Bob the Builder and the Elves by Emily Rodda, Crazy Tales series and The Aussie Bites series by various authors.


Through popular literature there is an attempt to by some authors to expose children to important societal issues such as prejudice, divorce, eating disorders, friendship, death all at a safe distance, and a superficial level with a security in the knowledge that a happy ending will await the reader. (Pennebaker 1994) At the same time there is usually no sex, serious violence, swearing or teen speak, or heavy issued discussed where a stand needs to be taken. For parents, popular fiction is safe reading where issues brought up are not too complex or controversial, and the parents need not have to read the book first to ensure it is appropriate for their child, or what they want their child to be reading. This is total contrast to some of the young adult literature such 'All My Dangerous Friends' with its shocking ending and very controversial subjects of peer group, values, taking a stand and life changing events.Even some of the picture books which can be read by all ages, but particularly by young children, can carry controversial and poignant messages, such as John Marsdens 'The Rabbits' where the controversial issue of white settlement of Australia and other countries is very graphically depicted. Other picture books which, although the story is cute and 'appropriate' it can become controversial due to the illustrations, an excellent example being Mr McGee and the Biting Flea, where the issue of male nudity is presented in a comical, yet natural way, but is too controversial for many schools to carry it. Another case in point is Hello Baby, where the issue of birth is addressed in a soft, poignant and natural way, yet has become a book of controversy because of the theme it presents and the illustrations which are indicate the process of birth without being too graphic. These are dangerous grounds for many adults, of whom many cannot cope with the possibilities the themes may lead to , discussions and knowledge the child may gain through participating in the experience. The attitude that popular fiction is safe is reflected in the study by Greenlee, Monson and Taylor (1996) where it was found that the givers of books would choose popular titles, especially series books, as a gift. This could also be a convenience and time saving device, but could more likely be put down to being a 'safe' choice.

Popular fiction is escapist, cliched, formulaic and in many cases, poorly written. It does have undemanding language,a repititious style, stereotypical characters, and is criticized further for being racist , sexist and that it supports classism. (Foster 1997) These criticisms are based on the fact that many of the most popular fiction is based in a middle class, white American family groups, who do not need to struggle for money or other hard life issues and who do not interact with 'minority groups'. Saltman (1997) mentions that that the shallow characters are reflective of images and stereotypes that are familiar from the mass media and that there is dumping down of text. Greenlee Monson and Taylor (1996) suggests that there are either implicit or explicit messages within popular fiction, particularly series books. Some of these messages include a dominant patriarchal society (Goosebumps), romance saves the day (Sweet Valley High), that reading is for white and affluent children as nearly all the characters are white and affluent - (Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew,) and that all problems that appear can be solved by the characters themselves with no help from adults and there is always a happy ending. Too sanitised.


The reasons that children read more popular fiction than recommended books are - availability, the social aspects, the relative easiness of the reading experience with the brevity and easy language, the familiarity, the sense of accomplishment, and the paperback format which is preferred by children. (Krashen 1993)


Popular fiction has many benefits to support it but it also has a strong argument against it, which is why it has remained controversial. The implications for school librarians in choosing to stock popular literature are many, but with active management they can be successfully incorporated in the collection to the childrens and libraries benefit.


Krashen (1993) states that the more print rich the environment , the better the literacy development.Swartz and Hendricks (2000) suggest that libraries need a number of books across genres as the more books available the more choices the children have. Worthy (1996) supports this, and adds that librarians can use the popular texts to satisfy students initial preferences while introducing sophisticated works for read alouds and topic work. Reid and Cline (1997) mention that making room for popular fiction will help students make room for other reading in their lives and accommodate the constantly changing interests and abilities of the readers. Interests and abilities constantly develop and readers move on. Chance (1999) proposes considering series books, comics, magazines as their own genre with their own strengths and weaknesses. Genco (1991) supports this by suggesting librarians evaluate the mass media based books within the perimeters of their own genre - each genre contributing something different to a collection, and the same child may enjoy all or only one.

The teacher librarian needs to encourage a print rich environment with a great variety of books to cater for all reading levels and interests (Ross 1996) this includes popular fiction as this is what children want to read. (Foster 1997) Librarians need to work with the students in the selection of books and other media - give ownership of the library to the students, set limits on the popular fiction titles and let them choose the good books as well. Encouraging this student choice leads to better attitudes towards reading, learning and the library. (Pritchard 2000) As Worthy (1999) points out, children have three choices with regard to accessing books that they want but are not supplied by the library -. read outside their interest, obtaining the preferred reading materials themselves, or not reading at all. If the student cannot afford the books they want, they only have two real choices. Student preferences must be addressed in order to capture their attention, enjoyment and foster conditions to learning. As Jacobs and Tunnell (1996) expressed, 'if the kids read nothing then the opportunity to alter their taste and judgment about books is non existent'. Crome (1998) uses the expression to have 'milk before meat', in this way to use the popular fiction to hook non-readers with high interest, fast paced novels that might lead to more reading or more quality in the future. A part of this is to have multiple copies of the more popular books so that students are not discouraged from borrowing if their preferred choice is already on loan. (Pritchard 2000)


The librarian needs to have read many of the books in the library, across a wide selection of genres or at least to know about them. The librarian needs to be aware of what the books are - their readability, suitability for different ages, the subject base, the genre. (Foster 1997) Saltman (1997) suggests that librarians should know and love childrens books, need to acknowledge different reading tastes and choices and be aware of those books which will satisfy the different children's requirements. There is also a requirement to know the students and personalise the library experience for them by engaging students in conversations about their books and their interests (Lewis 1998) The librarian needs to give the time to help find the books the students like. Greenlee Monson Taylor (1996) found that students value the teacher librarians recommendations and help in selecting a book if the teacher librarian shows a genuine interest and knowledge of the materials. Greenlee Monson and Taylor (1996) found that students will read quality books but need assistance to find quality literature that will meet their personal needs and interests, so it is the librarians responsibility to provide this assistance.

As MacDonald (1991) points out 'children will always opt for something familiar, it is up to the librarian to seduce them with better work.' The teacher librarian needs to also supply experiences to help to provide students to begin finding books on their own these can include library exploration exercises, treasure hunt activities, read around the world experiences, book raps, literature circles, peer reviews and teacher reviews among others.


The teacher librarian needs to be aware that rows of books are intimidating for children and displays should be set up where different genres or themes are highlighted on a weekly or fortnightly basis, where children can browse and borrow from these displays. (Greenlee, Monson and Taylor 1996) As Worthy (1999) points out, accessibility is a crucial issue to encouraging children to read, and if the quality books are more accessible than the popular books, then the quality books will enjoy a higher readership.


Librarians must be at the forefront of initiating or continuing and promoting a free voluntary reading program in the school setting, establishing it as supplementary to the instructional program. (Pritchard 2000) they need to have literature available that the kids will choose - whether it be a classic novel or a Garfield comic, it needs to be a free choice that is appropriate for the child and needs to be accessible and available, and if required the teacher librarian needs to be a frequent visitor to the classroom or playground, either as a team teacher or as a visitor to read a book, or talk about a book. This will make the library a familiar place, and the library a real person whom the know out of the library setting, and whom the children will respect as an 'expert of books'.


Teacher librarians need to make sure they avoid giving the message that students can read what they want but only from the selection that the librarian thinks is worthwhile to read.(Lewis 1998) This is a form of censorship, and it is presumptuous for the librarian to know what is the most appropriate for a particular child, as each is himself no matter what the generalisations about reading patterns and his age may be. The way to truly help a child become an avid reader is to provide them with what they want to read and usually they will be very good judges of what is appropriate themselves. The teacher librarian needs to be ready to support their selection policy for the inclusion of the popular fiction and any other controversial material into the school library, so they need to understand what marks a book as being both meritous and worthy of being placed in the school collection, and the reasons why popular fiction should be included.


Popular fiction can have a place in the school library alongside the quality literature. The children will choose popular literature first because it is a presold brand, that is familiar to them so the teacher librarian needs to make an effort in encouraging children to move on from the popular literature and experience the deeper satisfaction from the quality works, however, it does come down to the individual choice in the end, and a child will move on if and when they are ready. The popular literature does have a role to play in helping children to learn the skills of reading, instead of being shunned its merits need to be respected and used to our advantage in getting children hooked on reading.





Butler, R., Perry., L., 1997. Are Goosebumps books real literature? Language Arts. Oct. Vol.74:6. p. 454. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Chance, R. 1999 review of Serious about series: Evaluations and annotations to teen fiction in paperback series. by Silk Makowski. review in the Teacher Librarian. Oct. Vol.27:1.p. 50. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Foster, J. 1997. The good , the bad and the ugly:Series fiction for primary readers. In Unsettling certainties: Language learning and culture. Conference proceedings (Vol. 1) from the First Joint National Conference of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the Australian Literacy Educators' Association (ALEA), and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA). Darwin 8-11 July, pp.105-112. Reading 11 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.

Lindsay, Nina. 1999 Packaging the Past. School Library Journal, July Vol.45:7 pages 34-35


Genco, B.A., MacDonald, E.K. and Hearne, . 1991, Juggling Popularity and quality. School Library Journal. March, pp.115-119 Reading 27 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Greenlee, A.,Monson, D., Taylor, B. 1996. The lure of series books: Does it affect appreciation for recommended literature? The Reading Teacher. Nov. Vol. 50:3 page 216.retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Guthrie, J.T., Alverson, S. and Poundstone, C. 1999 Engaging students in reading. Knowledge Quest, 27:4, pp.8-16. Reading 25 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Hepperman, C. 1997 Reading by the number: Paperback series fiction. The Horn Book Magazine. Jul./Aug. vol.73:4 pages 432-436 retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Jacobs, J. and Tunnell, M.1996. What is a good book? In Children's Literature, briefly. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. pp.14-19. Reading 4. ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Krashen,S., 1993. The cure. In the power of reading:Insights from the research. Englewood, CO:Libraries Unlimited.pp.33-68. Reading 3 ETL 402. Charles Sturt University.


Lewis, C., 1998. Rock and roll and horror stories: Students, teachers, and popular culture. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Oct. Vol. 42:2.pp.116-120 retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Nilsen, A. 1993. Big business, young adult literature and the Boston Pops. English Journal. Feb. Vol. 82:2.pp. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Pennebaker, R., 1994. Why girls can't get enough of the Baby-Sitters Club. Parents. Jun. Vol.69:6 pp.92.retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Pritchard, L., 2000. Understanding the reluctant male reader: implications for the teacher librarian and the school library. Access. May. page 11-14


Reid, L., Cline,R.,1997. Our repressed reading addictions: Teachers and young adult series books. English Journal. Mar. vol.86:3. pp.68-72. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Richards, P. Thatcher, D., Shreeves,M., Timmons, P., Barker,S. 1999. The Reading Teacher. May. Vol.52:8 page 830-840 retrieved via Proquest HKUST.


Ross, C.S.1996. Reading series books:What readers say. School Library Media Quarterly, 24:3. pp.165-171. Reading 10 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Swartz,M., Hendricks, C., 2000.Factors that influence the book selection process of students with special needs. Apr. Vol.43:7 pp.608-618. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Saltman, J., 1997. Groaning under the weight of series books. Emergency Librarian. May/Jun. Vol. 24:5. page 23-25. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Saxby, M. 1999. Challenging the Young reader? Changing perspectives in Australian chidren's literature. Bookbird Basel 37:1 pages 6-12 retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Worthy , J. 1996. A matter of interest: Literature that hooks reluctant readers and keeps them reading. The Reading teacher. November 50:3 page 203. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Worthy, J., Mooman,M., Turner,M., 1999. What Johnny likes to read is hard to find in school. Reading Research Quarterly.Jan-Mar. Vol. 34:1 page 12 retrieved via Proquest HKU





Burke, J., 1993. Cannon Fodder. English Journal High School Edition. Feb. Vol.82:2.p. 56. retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Coppell, V. 1998. The 'goosebumps' in Goosebumps: Implications and R.L. Stine. Papers, 8:2. pp.5-15. Reading 9 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Crowe, C. 1998. Young Adult Literature. English Journal. 88:1 page 120-122 retrieved via Proquest HKUST


Fleming, J. 1999. Encouraging an addiction to fiction. In Bytes, Books and Bolards by the Bay: Information Management for the third millennium, 16th Biennial Conference of the Australian School Library Association, January 18-21, 1999, Deakin University Woolstores Campus, Geelong. Richmond: School Library Association of Victoria, pp.141-145. Reading 23 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.


Harris, C., 1999. In defence of series fiction. Magpies. July. Vol.14:3


Larson, C.R. 1999 Stratmeyer's writing machine. The World and I. April. Vol. 14:4 264-269.


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Nimon, M. 1993. Fiction, political correctness and teacher librarians. Access. Vol.7:2 , pp. 19-21. Reading 28 ETL 402 Charles Sturt University.






Children's Books read


Allen, Pamela. Mr McGee and te Biting Flea

Disher, Garry. The Divine Wind

Harnett, Sonya, All My Dangerous Friends

Park, R.(1981) Playing Beatie Bow

Marsden, John. (1996). The Journey. Pan Macmillan:Sydney

McDonald, Meme & Pryor, Boori (illus Meme McDonald) My Girragundi

Parry Glynn (1998). Sad Boys Hodder Headline: Sydney

Pignaro,Anne (writer Colin Thompson) The Staircase Cat

Rodda, Emily. Bob te Builder and the Elves

Rowling.J.K. (1998) Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone,

(1998) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

(1999) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Tan, Shaun (writer John Marsden) The Rabbits.


Series Books or Books within a series

Pascal, Francine. (1988). Kidnapped. Sweet Valley High. Bantom Books:New York

Wrightson, Patricia. (1997) Rattlers Place. Aussie Bites.Puffin Books:Melbourne Mattingley, Christobel. (1997). Ginger. Aussie Bites. Puffin Books:Melbourne

Martin, S.R. (1997). Cold. Insomniacs. Scholastic:Sydney

Martin, SR. (1997). The Tunnel, The Dark. Scholastic:Sydney

Fienberg, Anna, Feinberg Barbara. (1997).Tashi and the Genie. Little Ark. Sydney.

Betancourt, Jeanne. (1994). I want a pony. Pony Pals. Scholastic. New York.

Stone,Tom,B. (1995). The headless bike rider. Graveyard School. Hodder Headline: London

Keene,C. False Moves.(1987)x The Nancy Drew Files, Case 9. Archway Paperback, New York.


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Comments (1)

Lesson Plan Cloud said

at 11:30 am on May 6, 2010

Great resources. I was writing my lesson plans for this year and came across this page and thought it might be helpful and interesting to your readers and to add to a resource area.


Hope all is well

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