One other gift I received for Christmas was a lifetime membership to LibraryThing. (Check out the widget in the left sidebar -- that's LT!) While a basic membership allows me to list up to 200 books on my LibraryThing account, a premium member's listing limit expands to 5,000. Both annual ($10) and lifetime ($25) memberships are available, and my personal elf happened to pick up my gift from the LT holiday sale at only $15! There was a little hiccup in getting the membership code applied to my account, but an email exchange straightened that out.
This is such an excellent gift because now I can add all of the book titles that were donated to the HMCRA Read Aloud Program in previous years, and have them all in one place. Keeping a catalog at LibraryThing helps me (or any other volunteer for the program) in the following ways:
-It shows what books have already been donated, to avoid duplication when I purchase new material.
-It shows which grades received the books, so that those books or similar books can be assigned to higher or lower grades based on volunteer reader feedback.
-It shows the date of donation, so that if a particularly good title is repeated, it's spaced out in the memory of the students (preferably assigned two or more years apart, and to the other classroom for that grade level).
-It's a centralized location, so that if someone new takes over the program, they'll have full access to the records. That's much better than one person holding onto a spreadsheet or list that would be vulnerable to loss or data corruption, and it ensures a smooth transition in leadership when necessary. Also, it allows multiple people to make changes that are carried across the centralized catalog, or allows the same person (me) to update from multiple locations.
-It garners recommendations from the system and from other LT users who can see what titles and types of books are already in the collection. Examples of authors or specific titles are often more descriptive than a simple statement of theme. When buying upwards of a hundred books each year, new suggestions are very helpful!
-It provides suggestions for other readers and educators -- for example, Molly's Pilgrim is a great story to read at Thanksgiving, and Megan's Birthday Tree introduces the topic of open adoption to younger students. Many users post reviews when they come across a book that's been read. When listing the Read Aloud program books, I include the discussion questions I provided the volunteer readers, so those are available to anyone browsing the catalog.
I'm very excited about continuing the LibraryThing project for the Read Aloud classroom collections. I'm also starting a 100-book challenge on my personal LibraryThing account (still a basic membership). I hope to have others join me! Your suggestions are welcome.
P.S. As a little bonus, I received a check from the American Library Association. Back in September, I signed up for a student membership to get involved in the library services profession -- before I knew that all first-year students in the SLIS program at SJSU receive a free year's ALA membership as part of the LIBR 200 class. It took some time to process the free membership (which SJSU sent to ALA for all eligible students), but when that went through, ALA sent me a refund! Those funds go right back into my grad school savings. :)