The School Board was briefed Aug. 9 on the process used for selecting books in school libraries in preparation for the upcoming debate on the creation of a policy on parental notification concerning sexually explicit content. The General Assembly has required the policy to be in place by Jan. 1.
Assistant Superintendent Ashley Ellis said that the Virginia Department of Education’s model polices are under review at the state level and will be used as the basis for the first draft of Loudoun’s policy. The board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee is scheduled to take up the issue Sept. 22.
Ellis pointed out that the VDOE model policy states library books don’t count as instructional material unless they are used for the completion of an assignment or as part of an academic or extracurricular activity.
Ellis and librarians Elissa Moritz and Sapna Venkatachalam presented the book selection process to the board, highlighting the process including community demographics and interest level of books, getting multiple perspectives on books, researching books and reading them when possible. A new feature added this year for ordering books is a note section to be added for books that are above the grade level of the school. If an order is placed for a book above the grade level without a note, it will be returned for review. Additionally, the central office will make sure requests for resources above the grade level are being done thoughtfully. Once the orders arrive at the school, librarians are supposed to review them to make sure they are appropriate for the school’s collection before they are placed into circulation.
The presenters also listed ways parents can be actively involved in the choices their children make at the school libraries including talking to their children about book selection, logging into LCPS Go with their child and looking at Follett Destiny, the library management system for all schools, to see what books their child has checked out, as well as going through the library catalogue through Follett Destiny to see what books are available. Parents may also go to Novelist, Goodreads and Common Sense Media to check information on books with which they are unfamiliar.
When asked by Tom Marshall (Leesburg) if it was safe to assume there were no sexually explicit books in elementary schools, Dr. Ellis said “yes.”