Category Archives: Rethinking My Library

I Need YOUR Help!

Dear readers,

I thought I’d try crowd-sourcing this one, as I’m striking out with my searches.

I need your help deciding on a novel to read to my Grade 7/8 library class. Not just any novel though – there are so many great ones to choose from. This one has to meet a host of criteria.

They would like me to stay with Deborah Ellis‘ books, with which the grade 8s have been obsessed since grade 6 and the Grade 7s got a taste of last year with The Breadwinner.

Why do they love her so much? Because she writes about ‘real’ people with interesting lives – characters with whom they can identify, but who make them appreciate their own lives; their freedoms. Ellis’ novels have perfectly appropriate shock value to keep them fascinated, meanwhile enlightening them; leading them to feel they understand parts of the world that they had not previously given any thought to.

But as wonderful as her books are, and were fabulous for discussions on democracy, Deborah Ellis’ novels do not meet the criteria this time.

This class’ Social Studies teacher is focusing on a theme of cultural compromise: the compromises, (if you can call it that), that First Nations made when Europeans first arrived in Canada, and those made by those Europeans and other immigrants upon coming to Canada to assimilate into the first developing and now entrenched culture. Applicable also would be the Metis and French Canadians who found themselves minorities in western Canada.

So…I’m looking for a fast-moving, adrenaline-rich novel that illustrates that theme of cultural compromise, with (a) strong, believable and preferably teenage protagonist(s), set in pre- or post-confederation Canada, with a few age-appropriate, realistic shockers and cliff-hangers (I know when to stop a reading) among the adventures.

I won’t tell you what I’ve been looking at or why I may or may not have rejected them. I want your suggestions.

Enlighten me, please! You can post suggestions in the comments below or to @Missus_K on Twitter, or you can email me at MissusK76(at)Yahoo(dot)com, if that’s the method you prefer. I’ll compile them all, with credit, in a later post here.

Thanking you in advance,

Cindy

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Filed under Authors & Illustrators, Books, Education, Library Class, Library Programs, Reading, Rethinking My Library

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!

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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.

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Easy Street Gets a Makeover

Well, not a total makeover, but a pretty big one. When I first renovated the library, I kept the platform that the circulation desk had been on, thinking it would make a great little ‘room’ for elementary library classes.

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Easy Street 2012

Easy Street 2012

(More pics here and here.)

I loved it and for the most part, the kids loved it but after 2 years, I finally decided it had to go. A class of 27 Grade 2 students decided it for me. They were just too crowded. So after compromising with the maintenance department, my husband, my sons and I ripped the platform out and maintenance got the carpet relaid and fixed up the bottom of the walls. I purchased 3 book carts on casters with the profit from my book fair and this is what I have now.

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Easy Street 2014 (From Behind the wiring pole on the circulation desk)

Now there is much more space for the kids and a much more flexible space. I can roll the carts out for classes and can even roll up the alphabet carpet and place chairs for a sizable gathering. I loved the platform but I’m liking this even better.

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Jillian Jiggs says Hurrah! There’s room to dance.

Three more sleeps till the kids come back and still a list of things to do including getting textbooks ready to go and barcoding 75 new Chrome books.

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Dang! I’m Inspired Again

September is so busy. I shouldn’t have taken the day off of work to attend Yellowhead Regional Library’s annual conference.

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I shouldn’t have had a peaceful night in a lovely hotel – where the people-watching game was very satisfying.

I shouldn’t have listened to so many intelligent people, making so much sense…making me admit that I’ve had enough time to assess my project and now it’s time to begin to take it to the next level. Just when I was trying to convince myself that I might be able to coast a little, get that teacher resource room cleaned up, maybe repair some books…

Then along comes Lynn Shabada and Lori Bell, the administrators of Onoway Elementary School and then Twyla Lesko, Onoway’s Librarian, Karen Mason, from Centennial Elementary School in Wetaskiwin and Stacy Howse, from Westlock Elementary School. These amazing people are transforming their libraries into Learning Commons. The upshot of this combination of presentations was to remind me that my library, although open, welcoming, somewhat comfortable and as accommodating as I have been able to make it, it is still not the hub of the school.

Sessions: The importance of school libraries: an administrative perspective, and Transforming your library: inspiring the Library Learning Commons

Onoway’s ‘Dream Team’ of principal, associate principal and library manager share a vision of transforming the space, the service and the culture of the library to “Open it Up” and remove a miscellanea of subtle and not-so-subtle barriers to reading: rules and procedures that stand in the way of students’ natural curiosity and adventurous spirit.

Twyla’s advice: “Say Yes! Think We”

Twyla’s advice: “Say Yes! Think We”

Karen’s vision is to “To Bring Technology, Community and Learning Together in one Memorable Place!” Newly placed into the library from her position as a learning assistant, Karen immediately saw a crowded, dated and unwelcoming space and transformed it into a well-appreciated hub that supports her students culturally, emotionally and academically.

Karen's welcoming reading corner at Centennial Elementary.

Karen’s welcoming reading corner at Centennial Elementary.

Stacy’s project began with a tree. When a well-known member of the community and school board chair passed away, his family wished that a fitting memorial be placed in the school library. The upshot of collective brainstorming was a tree house where children could climb to reading nooks. The coming construction seemed to Stacy to be the perfect time to begin a transformation that she had had percolating in her mind since she started in the position over a year ago.

Westlock Elementary

Stacy’s journey has just begun with the reclassification of her collection but is fully envisioned. Her goals: successful browsing, improved curriculum support and increased visual appeal.

And that was all before lunch…

After a wonderful lunch of Shepard’s Pie and Peach Cobbler, (where I won a door prize of two novels on CDs), and visited the vendors’ booths, I attended another two great sessions. Mary Medinsky from Red Deer College gave an lively presentation on Teen Tech Trends and Jamie Davis, the coordinator of Learn Alberta’s Online Reference Centre showed us some of the exciting new resources in that collection.

Between all these fabulous presentations and chatting with lots of people, (like Janet from Warburg, another K-12 school), the result of all this darn inspiration is a 25 point to-do list that I now will have to follow up on because I couldn’t hold my head up if, after all this work, my library is still not what it could be.

by Tom Fleming

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Thinking About Buying New Library Shelving? Here’s My Advice

In June of 2011, I purchased all new shelving for my library. It was difficult to figure out a whole new configuration, choose the type and colour etc., and on the whole I’m quite happy with my decisions. I like the heights I chose, the adjustable metal shelves, floor kickers (so nothing gets lost hidden underneath) and the solid tops and end panels.

However, the past 15 months have revealed a few things that I would now do differently.

If I Were to Do It All Over Again

I would get all freestanding shelving on wheels. It’s more expensive, but makes the space more flexible. I have to unload and pack up stacks to move them for the annual Book Fair and if it wasn’t so much trouble there are other events I would hold in the library. I’m going to ask our maintenance department to put solid bottoms with Very Strong Wheels on them, but I don’t know if it’s doable.

I would not buy the shelving company’s end panels, but would purchase the much more inexpensive slatwall sheets. I ended up needing a few more after we changed the configuration so, after hearing about the idea at a workshop, I bought slatwall from a retail supplier. Our maintenance department cut them to size and framed them and I purchased the fitting holders for end-of-range displays, which I love, although I’ve experimented with some different sizes and types and would not purchase some of them (the displayers) again.

I would buy shelving with some kind of backstop, especially on the back-to-back stacks. Books are always falling and pushing through. I have begun to collect  boxes from book wrap and long paper rolls to put between, but that will take forever and really doesn’t look that nice, so I expect to be able to purchase some kind of back-stops before that ever gets done.

I would definitely budget for installation. It was not worth the time and hassle involved in assembling it myself, begging volunteer help. It was difficult and it put the project days behind just as school was about to start.

*The fun numbers in this post are from Discovery Education’s Clip Art Gallery

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“Easy Street” – Decorated (Part 6a)

As an addition to A School Library Transformed – Part 6: Easy Street, I’ll show you some pictures of the area now that it’s decorated. I regret that there are no children in the picture – what’s a school library without the kids? – but FOIP privacy regulations do not allow it.

Easy Street from the circulation desk

The Canada and the World Island is on the far side of Easy Street. I replaced the plexiglass displayers on the slatwall stack-end with plastic ones because 2 got broken last year.

The border helps to camouflage the back of the ‘World’ Island stacks.

This side is against my office

Primary periodicals are on the shelves and I use the top sections for library class books and materials. I’m not sure if the donated tiered shelf is staying there or not, but you can’t have too much face-out display.

The smart board looks awful when I don’t have anything on it. The border helps a little. I often project a revolving slide show of reading pictures or photos of the students, but it’s a distraction when I have students working in the library. The thing beneath the smart board is just covered cardboard boxes, but I’ve submitted a request to have a trunk built, with a sloped lid for book display in which I’ll store the puppets.

My next request will be a stand/cupboard of some sort for the computer, ‘Sad Books’*, the ‘No, No, Never’ pail**, the Spacer*** box and other library class paraphernalia. The carpet, sponsored by a local business is awesome, but the space is a little too small for 25+ students once they get to about grade 4. Luckily there is a nice open space between Easy Street and the circulation desk were they can sit when we want to gather. All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with it and the kids love it, which is all that really matters.

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* Sad Books are books that have had to be discarded because of their condition. There are examples of mouldy, torn, cut-out, dog-eared and other very sad books that I show the little ones so that they can see for themselves books that they can no longer check out (I try to choose tempting ones) because of improper treatment.

**The “No, No, Never” pail contains items that when revealed the kids love to be able to call out ‘No, No, Never’ or ‘Happy Mr. Wiggle‘ when they discern whether or not an item (sizzors, bookmarks, glue, book bag, etc.) should be used with library books.

***Spacers are numbered, 10x30cm strips of coloured corrugated plastic that our students are taught to use to hold the place of the book they are looking at. Other libraries call them different things. What do you call yours?

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Read the whole series of the transformation of my K-12 library to a modified bookstore model here.

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A School Library Transformed – Part 6: Easy Street

My entire library is now arranged on a modified bookstore model. Fiction and nonfiction are shelved together in sections (called ‘Islands’) and subsections (called Departments) according to broad themes. It only took a year, but  I have finally completed the reorganization of the K-2 ‘Island’, which has been known as “Easy Street” since before my time.

The undecorated, bare bones of the new “Easy Street”

Shelving for the rest of the library took up the entire renovation budget except for one 2-stack free-standing range for Easy Street. Working with this and the existing shelving, I sectioned the picture books into 32 departments, which had to be distributed among the 7 tall and 6 short stacks as well as the new shelving that fits 24 tubs. For a list of the Easy Street departments, click here.

If I could, I would have them all in bins or tubs since they are natural face-out display and the kids just seem to really like them. However, working with what I had was OK too, since the old stacks are nicely divided to keep the books upright in small sections.

Tales, Holidays and Fantasy along the back wall.

As I sorted the books I weeded heavily to eliminate any dingy or dated feel. From tightly packed shelves with ratty spines almost more eye-catching than the bright new ones between them, little fingers can now easily pinch and slide individual books out to give their typically quick evaluation of the book by its cover – the inevitable, if regrettable process.

As I mentioned at an earlier stage, I did not eliminate the Dewey Decimal numbers, but feel quite sure that they will be dropped in the near future. Nonfiction and fiction are grouped together within each shelf or bin. The books in the tubs are randomly mixed. In the stacks they are shelved with the nonfiction first and fiction following. Stories follow information books.

Dividing fiction and nonfiction materials is less and less important, given the proliferation of fact and concept-based fiction and narrative nonfiction. Critical thinking is always necessary to determine what information is researched and what can be attributed to an author’s imagination. My primary teachers are completely on board with this, being used to combining fiction and nonfiction in their teaching. They think it’s great that, for example, math stories and nonfiction are now together on one shelf.

The centre island with 24 bins – 1 to 2 bins per topic as well as some separate bins of easy readers at the bottom.

Apart from periodicals  and tubs of standard format readers kept separate from the themed sections, the departments range from the 2-stack, 329 book “Me, My Friends & My Family” to the 1 tub, 18 book department “Building and Construction”. (One of the many benefits of this project has been how obvious the need becomes to develop certain areas.) Many books could have been placed in more than one department. I tried to determine the primary theme to place each one. Thus fiction books with animal characters could be in one of the animals departments if the theme related to the real-life needs or habits of the animals, or any one of the others if it was about friendship or community, etc.

For the first month or so, I won’t obscure the signs with any display books. I designed the signs in Publisher to have a large image or a couple of images that students will hopefully identify with. Apart from the department title, I also typed a list of subjects included within the section for older students, program assistants and teachers, ensuring that connections to curriculum and common classroom themes were always included. The department abbreviation appears in a bottom corner corresponding to that on the bottom of the spine labels, assisting with shelving.

The tubs are more specific in theme than those in the stacks and do not need the list of included topics.

Although my mandate for library classes is not lesson-based, I intend to feature one department during each weekly library class. Showing a fiction and nonfiction book and reading aloud from either or both, I will encourage the children to identify the commonalities and differences. Students will need to think critically to separate fact from fiction while becoming familiar with the Easy Street departments.

Unfortunately, I could not complete this during the school year and put over 65 hours of my own time into it over the summer. (I do have a life, but it’s flexible.) It took me that much time to sort, read when necessary, weed, reclassify and relabel over 3,000 books and to make the signs. Being the sole person in the library during the school year, daily assistance to students and staff naturally took precedence. The bits I got done on this project barely made a difference. Not being the kind of person who can leave such a project incomplete, it was worth it to me to get it done over the summer.

Students share a discovery in Easy Street

The reaction of our Division 1 teachers during our first work day last week was very positive with absolutely no objection to the new arrangement. The grade 1 teacher was effusively enthusiastic. She has been teaching for over 20 years, is an inveterate library user and assures me that this is a better system.

It helps to remember that when Melville Dewey set up his amazing system of classification, patrons requested and librarians located the books. The success of the browse is absolutely essential in the modern library where patrons of all ages are encouraged to peruse, touch and make discoveries for themselves.

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Click here to see Easy Street after it has been decorated.

Read the whole series of this project here.

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