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100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Endangered Series #3: American Girl

Popularity comes, popularity goes. As librarians we’re always balancing between what will circulate like crazy and what we need to have in the collection. And we’re not the Library of Congress – we can’t (and shouldn’t) keep everything.

An endangered series is one that appears to be waning in terms of popularity. But popularity isn’t everything. Should it stay, or should it go? Or think of it this way – if you were starting a library today, would this series make the cut? Let’s discuss.

I feel like I’m opening a can of worms with the latest Endangered Series candidate…

American Girl (original series) by various authors

Did you know there’s an American Girl war going on? Oh yes, it’s happening. As The Atlantic points out in their article American Girl Dolls Aren’t Radical Anymore, there’s the original series (see above) which wasn’t afraid to tackle some big issues in American history (slavery, The Great Depression), and then there’s the recent reboot, which focuses on more modern time periods and, well, smaller issues.

The Case for Keeping:

Strong female characters, often persevering through difficult times in history.

The Case for Not:

The originals definitely have a dated look now, and the dolls on which they are based have evolved – some have been “archived”, meaning they aren’t around as much. So if the books were popular because of the dolls – what happens when the dolls change?

Refresh?

You can still purchase the original series, with updated covers:

My Verdict:

We had duplicates (or triplicates) of just about every original book – that speaks to how popular they were during their heyday – but have weeded things down. Now we have one copy of each original book, and continue to add the more popular reboot books.

How are you handing this series in your library?

Previously…

Endangered Series #1: The Boxcar Children

Endangered Series #2: The Hardy Boys

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

Comments

  1. You know, my first reaction to this post was WHAT?! NO! There are super popular at my library!!!

    But as I thought about it, I realized that they take up MASSIVE amounts of room on our shelves (we have many multiples of every one, basically), which means that they’re probably NOT actually checking out as much as I think. Maybe it is time to weed down some of those multiples!

    • Travis Jonker says:

      I know what you’re saying Abby – I’ve had that feeling about different sections of the library as well.

      • I’m so glad you posted about this, Travis. I looked at our American Girl books today and did some weeding. I discovered we had SEVEN copies of Meet Felicity (all on the shelves) and NINE copies of Meet Molly (all on the shelves), some of which hadn’t circ’ed since 2010. The series still takes up a lot of shelf space, but at least now we’re down to just two or three copies per title. ;)

    • I had the same thought — ours still circulate moderately (I just ran through the first title for each girl: many were checked out and all had circulated within the past three months or so), but we do have a lot of duplicates of some of the books. Might be worth giving them another look to see if those are all really necessary.

  2. Still crazy popular (and regularly reordered/replaced) especially because 18 months ago, we started circulating some dolls (even the archived ones, due to some very generous patron donations!) which drove demand from slow/steady to brisk.

  3. I did a huge weed of these at my previous library about 2 years ago. We had basically been subscribed to the notion that they were SO popular and then when I looked at the circulation data–not so much. So we cut way back on the multiple copies. When you have them all in the same spot, you really notice how much room they take up (a whole bay of shelving!).

  4. My local library also circulates the dolls, which I think is an amazing idea and I wish it had been around when I was a kid. Alex Petri over at The Washington Post wrote another great piece about the newer books and why they are inferior to the original series.

  5. Ugh, don’t get me started on the whole “American Girl isn’t ‘radical’ anymore” baloney. (Some thoughts in a nutshell: a. Were they ever truly radical? b. There are new historical characters being created as old ones are being “archived.” c. Showing “girls of today” making positive changes in their schools and communities is a wonderful thing. etc.) In any case, AG books continue to be popular at my library. I actually was noticing just last night that our AG shelves are crowded — partly because there are so many new characters and books to accommodate. I do think we can stand to reduce from 2 or 3 copies to 1 in many instances. Some girls are more popular than others; Rebecca seems to be a favorite in my community. But I don’t see this series disappearing any time soon.

  6. Did you know that they’ve recently updated the look of the books again? They’ve sort of re-branded the whole series with the title “Be Forever,” and they’re selling three volumes for each girl: the original books in two volumes and a third book where a girl from today goes back in time to meet the American girl. These new third volumes are choose your own adventure books, with multiple endings. And, of course, these new volumes have new cover art. At my library, our copies check out moderately well. I would be interested to see how the choose your own adventure AG books would circulate.

  7. Not shocking, based on my responses to the previous 2 series, these are still super popular with our community, and it has nothing to do with the dolls. I don’t think the girls in our community even know the dolls are out there. They also are very fond of the movie adaptations. In my community I think once again it comes down to parents feel these are “clean” books for their kids to read.
    In terms of the dolls, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that all the girls out there who are crazy for the American Girl dolls, don’t read the books. I think the majority of the dolls that are sold are the ones made to look like the girl, rather than to be a specific character from a book…

  8. This series is limping along at our library as well. I did a heavy weed and just kept the copies in the nicest condition and am considering eliminating the rest next year.

  9. Madison Funbrarian says:

    I weeded my collection last year, and I am down to 1 copy each. I don’t think we are at the point where I will completely weed them, because we still do have some interest, however I would not be surprised if it does happen in the next few years.

    • I did the same in my school library. For now, one of each seems to be enough, but if they don’t circulate in the next year or so, I’ll reclaim the shelf space.

  10. My problem is that all the American Girl books are still popular in my library, but my copies are showing a lot of wear. I want to provide fresh clean copies for my students, but I also want to spend my meager budget on new titles rather than replacement copies of old titles. The eternal dilemma!

  11. The originals are so-so for me – the most popular are the newer books, the Girls of Today. I’m wondering if replacing the older copies with the new reboots will make them start circulating again – I’ve only had adults gushing about the new reboots though, so either the kids don’t know or don’t care.