Week 1 of 2017-2018 at my new school is in the books. But before the lessons and teaching, here’s a bit about how I got there. It is with careful thought and hard work that Week1 happens. If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start. Tears were shed as I struggled to learn the school culture, ramp up on the new technology AND sort the library. But we must start.
The library space is different this year, but notably in that there is no place for a mobile white board for lessons to be written (and I LOVE a white board) and no wall space. There is an AppleTV, which will be used to display a daily PowerPoint of our lesson. Sharing our daily plan gives students a heads-up on what is happening and often answers any questions (like “are we checking out today?”). It builds accountability to the library program.
Something new I’m trying this year: a no-limits policy in regard to circulation. Called “take what you need”, it allows children to do just that: take the books they need for the week. Some weeks, children need more books. Some weeks, less. Overall, it’s about meeting their needs and giving them full access to the library collection. I’ve not done this before, though it’s been percolating for some time. Look for a mid-year update on how this goes – especially in regard to getting books returned.
Speaking of self-checkout: we’re going for it, even though it’s never been done in this school I believe in giving students control over their own account, starting as young as possible. This hasn’t always been the case, but time has been a lovely teacher. How does it work? With preK/K/1st grades, I’ll be alongside them as we scan their barcode pass and their book(s) together, taking a moment to find their name on the computer screen. With 2nd/3rd/4th grades, I’ll be nearby as they scan their own items. From past experience, it’s with a hushed awe that they’re “allowed” to do this by themselves.
In order to facilitate self-checkout, children get library passes. Constructed of heavy posterboard (railroad board), they’re about 3″x11″ in size and have the child’s name and barcode printed on an Avery sticker (the student barcode report can be exported in Destiny, sorted by homeroom). Passes are sorted by grade and color: grade K gets pink, 1 is aqua, 2 is green, etc. Teacher names/numbers are written in pen in the upper corner to further sort. Some people laminate them to further their life, but I leave them as paper. The library pass doubles as a shelf-marker, too.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING / LIBRARY RULES
Self-checkout gives children a chance to practice our most important words in the most meaningful way: they Do Their Best and Help the Rest. When someone is stuck, another child usually comes to the rescue. If they forget the order of scanning (pass first, books second), a child often steps in to assist. Building a community of engaged learners and kind helpers is the most important to the success of the library. Social-emotional learning is vital to the success of my library program. I’ve “borrowed” the words from my former school to incorporate into my new library:
These words are part of every lesson for every grade for the first two months. They’re framed and displayed throughout the library. We’ll use them as critical thinking stems as we begin to read and think about books. They’re ways to behave, both in school and in life.
Students and teachers often ask if there are any “library rules” aside from the phrases above. The closest “rule” in the library is “Act Like You’re in a Library”. With an international community, it’s a chance to talk about if libraries are the same across the world. Students will be asked to explain what these words mean to them.
As for the books, there’s a lovely collection that’s been curated – from series to I Can Read titles to world languages to fiction to picture books and more. On (good) problem: there’s no wiggle room on shelves and books are bursting out of closets, awaiting shelf-space. Weeding is Job 1. Along with weeding, books are being streamlined into fewer categories, rearranged, and given similar call numbers. Library barcodes are to be in the same spot on all books.
All of this is done for one reason: to best meet the needs of the students. Self-checkout is easier when a barcode is in the same spot every week. Finding fiction/nonfiction titles is easier when they’re all in the same general location. Books are easier to find when the shelves have some space in which to browse and display. Behavior is easier to manage when we’re all on the same page regarding expectations and value the social-emotional learnings. The library experience and learning should be enjoyable and memorable because the child and his/her developmental need is at the heart of every decision.
Again, I write this to share that it’s with careful thought and hard work that Day 1 happens. If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start. So pick one thing and START. It’s not magic, and it’s not pretty. It’s messy and sweaty and time-consuming. And it will take a long time. But START. You can do it. And if I can help, please ask.
Cheers, y’all! –arika