Category Archives: Library Management

Statistics Prove Relevance of the Library

A question from my administration, briefly and poorly answered in the rush of ‘clean-up day’ has led me to take a closer look at our circulation statistics. Rather than giving a realistic impression of our library usage, I inexplicably ended up promoting our fantastic partnership with the local public library! Thinking on my feet, especially when my mind is overflowing with unrelated details, is not one of my talents.


Wade M from San Francisco, USA

The question was about reference materials, by which I believe was meant nonfiction in general in this age of the Internet.

Yes, reference material is truly a thing of the past in its traditional form and a few attractive volumes decorate the unreachable shelves in the library. When it comes to nonfiction in general, it’s true that many topics have been superseded by online resources. However, there are still a great many areas that are relevant and well used. A quick look at this year’s circulation stats and anecdotal evidence show that, with careful collection development, we are still in the business of promoting reading for pleasure and information.

In my K-12 school of under 200 students, 6,802 books were checked out from the student collections in our library this year.

  • 2,963 were from Easy Street – picture books and primary nonfiction – both as student loans and classroom themes.
  • Readers among our young adults, Grade 7 and up, checked out 496 books from the YA section, (which is a gratifyingly significant number this year).
  • 20927056The top Island for Grades 3 & up is Arts & Entertainment, with 975 graphic novels, craft, drawing, sports, cartoons, joke books and ‘game’ books like Guinness World records and computer gaming books being the most popular in the library.
  • Accelerated Readers accounted for the next biggest section, mostly as required but often as free choices.
  • 490 books went out of the Fantasy section, mostly fantasy fiction as well as ghost stories and nonfiction about ‘the unexplained’.
  • Nature nonfiction accounted for 375 books.
  • Realistic fiction along with Modern Life nonfiction  (health, domestic arts, etc.) was at 271.
  • In Canada and the World, which includes the Indigenous collection, loans totalled 163, (and may have been more, but some teachers do not allow their disappointed young students to check out books on war).
  • Science and technology is a small collection as it’s very difficult to keep it up to date, but 131 nonfiction books were still checked out from it, which includes sky science, building, vehicles, evidence & investigation, etc.

Elementary classes love books. Up to Grade 6, virtually every student checks out books every week. Fiction and nonfiction are equally popular. By junior high, they are more selective and by grade 9, only about twenty percent of them check out books. I don’t see the high school students regularly and only a few continue to borrow books.

It is always a challenge to keep the collection up to date and to anticipate demand, and there are areas of nonfiction that are I no longer collect. Anything that is quickly outdated and is more likely to be ‘Googled’ is no longer purchased. For unanticipated or rare requests, I use interlibrary loan or direct students to the public library.



There is still a need, however, for as much as we can practically purchase and shelve. In the classroom, teachers appreciate supplementary materials for curriculum units from The Needs of Plants and Animals in Grade 1, to Sky Science in Grade 6 and the Aztecs in Grade 8. Provincial directives have recently lead me to analyse and develop the collection for diversity. Character development is another perennial topic.

It’s also still important for students to be given the opportunity for discovery among as wide as possible a variety of materials. Browsing, a skill I promote, can open up doors that students never knew existed. A few from many possible examples will illustrate this.

  • There’s Billy, who discovered dictionaries this year – not just the standard dictionary, but the math dictionary and the science dictionary as well.
  • From a book I read in library class, Riki got a hankering to read up on Indigenous people and checked out picture books and Easy nonfiction, then graduated to legends, general nonfiction and a novel, Sweetgrass.
  • Several students monopolized the survival books and supplemented their learning of skills with survival fiction.
  • Cameron has read everything I can find around Greek mythology, nonfiction and fiction.


We all know that children have an innate sense of curiosity, a natural thirst for knowledge,  the wonder at and obsorption of which is at its most powerful when the discovery is made on their own.

I wholeheartedly believe that students need to become comfortable with the public library for potential supplementary and summer reading, and life-long learning. We have a very effective partnership with our local public library, which is doing a fantastic job of getting the kids in the door. Through local sponsorship, all of our students and staff get public library memberships, through which we are able to direct our students to online resources including ebooks and audiobooks.

However, it’s clear that our school library is still providing the primary resource for reading and the discovery of new interests, especially since a large majority of our students are spending so much of their free time at home on digital devices. Our collection, while necessarily changing, is still relevant and important.


Filed under Education, Library Management, Reading

Pick-up Lines

I’m very excited and had to share this really not-beautiful but really successful YA Display. I got the idea from the Johnson County Library via Pinterest. (Thanks for sharing, JCL!)

First Lines Display Sign

I decided to go with the black and white theme and added some intrigue by calling it “Pick-up Lines”. There’s so little time at the beginning of the year, I did this as simply as I could. I had planned to lay some black paper and decorate the shelves a little more, but this is all I got done before the first classes came in.

I found a frame and a bunch of first lines, printed them out and set up the display. The first two junior high classes checked  out half the books! That’s a pretty good number here as most of my displays in that section are barely noticed. One Grade 9 student even let me know that it’s a really fun display!


I gathered the first lines from all over the place including books in my library. I’m still working on more, hoping this keeps going for a while. Feel free to use the sign or covers, for which you’ll also need the first lines list to identify the titles.

  • Print 2 quotes side by side on 8.5″ x 11″ paper landscape-wise.
  • Cut the sheets and glue each quote to the right side of a sheet of construction paper.
  • Attach a label to the reverse, with the title, author & call number.
  • Laminate the sheets.
  • Wrap sheets around the book so the cover is hidden (some books are too big but so far I’ve made it work).
  • Crease it a little to square off on the spine.
  • Attach a piece of clear tape from the back to the front, folding the end over to make a pull tab for removal.
  • Design a sign (or print mine if you like) and set up the display!

I have now made a second batch from books gleaned from my shelves including some older gems to encourage some new circulation for them. I reserve the books for myself when they are borrowed, so I can set them back up on display once they are returned. I’m keeping track of the circulation on the master list as well and may remove some that don’t end up going out at all.

Like all displays, I’m sure this will have a limited shelf-life, so I will have to keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t get stale. In the meantime, I’m happy with its effectiveness. If you try it or have tried it, let me know in the comments how it went for you. I’d also love to hear if you have any other successful YA display ideas.


Filed under Library Management, Library Programs, Rethinking My Library

Franklin Expedition Book Display

Book Cover of Buried in Ice: The Mystery of a Lost Arctic Expedition linked to Goodreads listingBuried in Ice has often caught student’s attention with its graphic pictures of the “perfectly preserved” body of John Torrington discovered in 1984, 140 years after his death in the frozen north. The recent discovery of one of the ships from the Franklin Expedition inspired me to create a book display with our related books and some borrowed through our regional library. A former student, now a father himself, generously delivered a close replica for the display. A QR code in the poster leads students to find out more about the find and research going on around it.

Swan Hills School Franklin Expedition Book Display

Swan Hills School Franklin Expedition Book Display

Franklin Expedition images labeled for reuse

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Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Education, Library Management, Reading

Text Polling on Reading Habits With Grades 7-9

The kids were surprised that I asked them to bring their mobile devices to library classes and they surprised me too!

Hands holding phone texting

By Jhaymesisviphotography on Flickr

Mostly I was surprised that only about half of them had devices with them and a few of them were not text-capable. So the sample in my poll was quite small, although I did get some more answers by a raise of hands.

Not Enough Reading For Fun

I used PollEverywhere (a free and friendly site) and embedded the questions in a Power Point. I found that only about half of the students often read for enjoyment, and some did rarely or not at all, which was a little disappointing. Although I know that reading for fun is not part of some kids’ lives, I guess I had always hoped that most of those who were not checking out materials from the library were finding their reading materials elsewhere.

I also discovered that print magazines are still more popular than those online, however there is a possibility that some students weren’t identifying some of their online reading as ‘magazines’ and I will have to show and discuss more of this medium in the future.

Asleep with book in hand

By Quinn Dombrowski
on Flickr

Most of the readers did most of their pleasure reading in bed, which didn’t surprise me and is why I encourage parents to set bedtime at least a half-hour earlier than they expect their children to be asleep, and allow reading-only during that time. Most readers like series and most still buy from bookstores in spite of the fact that there is not one within 200 km. of our town. A few buy online or get from the public or school library and (another surprise) none swap with friends or buy used books.

Books/Movies Divide

When I asked the question: “More than anything else, I want stories (movies & books) to be: exciting, funny, realistic, romantic or supernatural”, there were choices across the spectrum. But curiously, most chose “funny”. However, when I asked them to name some funny books they liked they had no suggestions! It turned out that most thought only of movies when they answered the question. I do wonder then whether I need to purchase and promote humourous teen fiction. I also need to either rephrase the questions or ask it about books and movies separately.

Teenager reading by window

By Demi-Brooke
on Flickr

So, although the sample was too small to be really instructive, I did learn a few things. There are still students who are not reading for pleasure at all and some rarely. Since research is showing that reading for pleasure is one of the most important factors influencing life skills and academic success (one source), even one in that category is too many. I need to identify and target those kids. These non-readers tend to put up a brick wall when approached directly with book suggestions so I need to find out why they’re non-readers and then find some kind of back-door to sneakily get them to open a book that will grab their attention. Are they ‘reluctant readers’ or just too busy with other things?

What to Do?

I touched on teens and home reading in my September newsletter but maybe there’s more I can do. Junior High library classes have always been their book exchange and silent reading time. With their teachers’ approval, this year I will be showing online resources, book trailers and discussing books more as a group for part of their class. I’m also printing QR codes to attach to books so students can access trailers, reviews and series lists on their mobile devices.

By  Jayel Aheram on Flickr

By Jayel Aheram
on Flickr

Here is some of the reading I’m doing to strategize my approach to those kids who haven’t discovered or have forgotten the joy of reading for pleasure. If you know of any great tips or sites to share, please do in the comments.


Filed under Education, Library Class, Library Management, Library Programs, Online Resources, Reading

Yellow Everyone!

Today is our first official day back for staff meetings and professional development before the students return on September 2nd. I’ve been in for a few hours here and there to get some decorating done since it’s always hard once the teacher’s dig in and the kids have occasionally come back to a very dull library.

I’m not a huge fan of books behind glass but until I get some classroom projects to display, something had to go into the entry-way display cases.

Yellow Everybody!

Yellow Everybody!

Orange You Glad to Be Back?

Orange You Glad to Be Back?

Yes that’s me dressed oh-so-professionally in my orange hoody. You can also see the bulletin board behind me covered in black paper with a bookish border. I was quite proud of myself to have the foresight to snap these shots before I cluttered up the bulletin board. I didn’t predict the reflection I did get.

Here’s the bulletin board finished.

Grow With Great Books

Grow With Great Books

I kept it quite simple to showcase these great posters that I believe I got from Carr McLean.


Filed under Library Management

Oh Those Impossible Requests


One Big Happy – January 14, 2014

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Filed under Humour, Library Management

Responsible Reader Rewards Program

Overdues are just a drag. I don’t charge fines for overdue books but for each class, I have to print out and distribute notices and tell students that they can’t take out another book until they’ve returned or paid to replace their overdues.

Overdues are also inevitable – it’s a very organized child and/or family who never looses or forgets to return their library books. Sadly I am not included in that honourable club and I really admire those that are.

I believe that good organizational skills and attention to responsibilities are traits that will serve students well throughout their academic careers and personal lives and so should be recognized and encouraged.

Six years ago I decided to try something to reward those students who regularly remembered to bring their books back. At the same time, it might just motivate others who just needed a little nudge.

As a result – we still have library cards. When a class is coming in for a visit, I lay them out on the counter by the circulation desk. Students pick them up as they’re coming through to check out their books and they are returned to the file after book

Monthly Stamp

On the back of the card is a chart. Starting in Grade 1, at the beginning of each month, I stamp their cards if they have had no overdue books in the previous month. (I’ve posted the library card template here.)

photo (2)

Three Month Award

After three, not necessarily consecutive months, the number at the bottom of the grade column goes up by one from the previous year, allowing the student to check out one more book. I tell them they have proven that they are responsible enough to take care of another library book each week. They always cheer for this! They also get a little prize.

photo (3)

Originally I had the barcodes switched around as you can see by this nearly full Grade 6 card.

All the prizes are purchased with money that I’ve raised through our annual Scholastic Book Fair.

SHS 3-Month Prizes

This year, those that have earned three stamps in Grades 1-3 are receiving a ‘Books are Dino-mite’ bookmark, a dino sticker and a mini-dino that grows when placed in water. Grades 4-6 get a new bookmark and chose from 3 different Readers are Leaders pencils.

Six Month Award

After the sixth stamp, they’re given a little bigger prize. For example one choice in the upper elementary will be from posters saved from Pop Star Magazine that I’ve laminated. I’ll also have a set of free posters from the book fair.

Annual Award

At the end of the year, if their entire card is full they are presented with a “Responsible Reader” certificate as well as a prize that I’ve had imprinted with our school name and “Responsible Reader”.

SHS Annual Responsible Reader Award

This year’s Grade 6’s are the first to have participated since Grade 1. I may have students who have never had an overdue book! I consider that an incredibly admirable feat of organization and responsibility so those students will be recognized somehow specially at the end of the year.

Monthly Class Award

This Award is to be Granted Monthly to the Elementary School Class with the Best Record for Returning Books.

This Award is to be Granted Monthly to the Elementary School Class with the Best Record for Returning Books.

The monthly class library award was created several decades ago prior to my time at the school. It was dormant for some time but I revived it when I started this program. It recognizes the elementary class with the best record for returning library books during the past month. Our principal or I present it at the monthly assembly and the winning class is always very excited to receive it. To some extent, it is recognition of teachers who are really good at motivating their students with reminders and agenda entries to get their books in. Students take it proudly back to their classroom and display it prominently for the month.

The Kids Love It!

Writing it all out here makes the program seem like a lot of work but it’s not really once it’s set up, and it’s so-very-worth it! The kids love it and it brings a huge positive to one of the two drags of library – the hassle of remembering to return your library books. (The other potential negative is the necessity for quiet but that’s a whole other discussion.)

Students watch the back of their card carefully, are excited when they’ve made each milestone and are disappointed if they miss out on the first stage of awards. Those that do, strive to earn it the following month so we sneakily get to encourage them to hone their organizational skills and give them an extra pat on the back when they succeed.


Filed under Education, Library Class, Library Management, Library Programs

Seasonal Slogans for Bulletin Boards and Displays

‘Tis the Season to Be Reading

Hibernate With a Good Book

Chill With a Good Book

Reading is Cool

Seasons Readings

Reading is a Gift

Reading Lights Up the Mind

Books Yule Love to Read

Books Make You Bright

Click each image to go to the original poster’s page.

See also: Great Site For Library Ideas and Printables

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Filed under Art & Design, Library Management, Reading

Nothing to Do With Shelving Books

Sarah McIntyre is offering this poster free for downloading.
Click on the image to go the post.

Warning: Short Rant…
There’s that ‘trained’ part again. I’m busting my butt as basically an Experienced library clerk because I know what could be done but I’m shooting in the dark; wishing there was someone I could turn to, someone truly trained. (And then /or at least, someone to do the clerk stuff so I could do/learn more…help students more.) Read About Survival above if you’re into the topic.

Watch this…We Need This!

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Filed under Education, Library Management

Bookworm or “Bookie Monster”?

Insect Lore Europe

I used to have a little bookworm finger puppet just like the little guy on the left that I used in combination with the Mr. Wiggle books when talking to the kindergarteners about the library and book care. Kids would keep asking for our resident ‘Mr. Wiggle’ to talk to them right up to Grade 3.

Unfortunately, one day our own Mr. Wiggle went away. I don’t know where he went. He just disappeared and took his book with him. I guess he found someone that needed him more than we did.

This one is ONLY US$795.00!!!

I kept thinking that he might come back one day; that I would peek in the No, No Never pail where he used to sleep and he’d be there, safely tucked inside his book-home.

But no, that hasn’t happened so I’ve decided it’s time to search for a new bookworm friend to cheer the children and help them learn to love books as I do. The only exact replica (above) that I could find is a little pricy, especially since it would ship from the U.K., so I’ll have to find a distant cousin.

While I was looking however, I ran across a very interesting site that explained, with photos, all about ‘real’ bookworms.

Just what they do to books (and why)

… and what they Really look like

Check out The Bookie Monster: attack of the creepy crawlies! on the British Library’s Collection Care blog. It’s quite fascinating when you think of the problem in a historical context.

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Filed under History of Books & Libraries, Library Management