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How Can I Get Some New Books for the Library?

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Dear Dr. Laura,

I’m at a new school and have zero budget. Zip, Nada. I’m so depressed because I pictured my new job as something where I’d be like Oprah. Books for you! Books for you! And more books for you! What can I do to get books into the hands of my students?

Signed, Budgetless Librarian

Hi, Budgetless Librarian


I can only imagine what it feels like to not have a budget. I was always blessed to work in a district where central office provided per pupil book budgets that could only be used for books in the library. It was amazing. Of course, I never felt like it was enough. But, after I heard the stories of librarians from other districts who had no book budget, I was thankful for what I got.

Two things immediately come to mind. 1) Get more money and 2) Find some freebies. Let’s do a quick overview of these.

Find some money.

This can mean a lot of things. Depending on your administration or school board, it could be as simple as running a collection analysis and surveying your teachers and students about their needs. If you can show a true academic need, you may raise awareness that you need a book budget for collection development. You can look for some guidance on this by reading To Weed or Not to Weed That is a HUGE question! Or by listening to Esmeralda Majors’ podcast interview where she talks about building a collection that reflects your student body.

writing a grant

It could mean writing a grant. I’ll admit the first few times I wrote a grant I was not successful. But after a while I got the hang of it and was awarded several grants during my time in the library. Some things I learned include getting straight to the point. The person evaluating the grant is looking to see how well your plan matches what the grant wants to fund. So, if you make it to “flowery” they may never be able to see the great match your ideas to what they are funding. If you make it too long, they can be so lost in your words that they never see where you answer the question asked by the grant. I also learned to set up the body of my grant in the same order as the scoring rubric and to match the words they use in the scoring rubric. That way there is no doubt that you are a great match! There’s a lot more tips I could share, but that will need to be another post.

Perma-Bound has a great grant search tool you can use for free.

You can do other things to raise money like have a fundraiser like a book fair or use something like Mackin Funds where 100% of your donation goes to your library.

The other idea is to find some freebies and believe it or not, there are actually some free things out there!

Be careful with taking donations from the general public. Be sure you have something in your collection development policy about donations. You don’t want to be stuck with a pile of books that you don’t know what to do with. Search online and you should find some good examples to model your policy after.

If eBooks are acceptable to you (and I hope they are) then you have several options to go with. Start a collection of resources on your library website or find a platform like MackinVIA that will give you a single sign-on option. One login and the students will have access to everything you gather for them. They offer a little starter set of ebooks when you first sign up for the service. But, from then on it’s up to you to grow the collection. Be sure to look at the promotions on the admin side of their portal. There are always free eBooks and things to add to your collection.

ebook reader

Some links you might want to consider adding are:

So don't worry too much right now. Get a good feel for your collection. Clean it up if you need to. Seek some outside funding and take advantage of the free stuff. Before too long you'll have an awesome collection!

Dr. Laura

The Librarian Influencer of the Week is librarian Jeanette Walter from Pennsylvania. She hesitantly moved into the school library world and loved how she got to reach every child in every school and bring out their curiosity.

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