TL Blogging Challenge #12 – What is one thing you have changed in your library to meet your patrons needs? What spurred this change? What would you do different?
This school year has felt tumultuous with the number of changes I’ve made in our library. Was it really only 10 months ago? I’ve tried to keep the changes focused on improving services and instruction to students, and the end of the year is an excellent time to look back, celebrate successes, and think about what changes to make for next year.
Change #1: The 5-Book Checkout
This was by far the biggest change for the day-to-day running of the library. I wanted our students to get more access to books. So instead of limiting them to 2 books at a time (with notable extra books for reports, projects, and book clubs anyway), I raised the limit to 5 items total. What a hit! Don’t get me wrong, the shelving was and is craziness. If we didn’t have a fantastic and reliable volunteer twice a week, we would have drowned…but the students were reading voraciously! Isn’t that the purpose of the library (or one of them at least?) I think it’s time that raising the book-checkout limit becomes common and best practice for elementary librarians, especially for K-2 elementary students.
Change #2: Ditching the Dewey Decimals
Another time-consuming change, I’m glad I did it. As a library department, none of us wanted to go METIS. But in most modern math programs, students are only introduced to decimals in 3rd grade or higher. So I started thinking about making Dewey easier to use and browse for younger students. With that purpose in mind, I set out to eliminate the decimals in the Dewey decimal system.
In October, I re-uploaded the edited MARC records and started the long, tedious process of changing the spine labels on every nonfiction book. Over 35% of our entire collection. Again, volunteers were vital to project completion. Even with help, though, we only finished a week ago.
This whole process has made me think critically and reflect on how librarians catalog and organize information, and how my students seek information. My conclusion is that we should be buying MARC records from practicing elementary librarians, not catalogers with little or no interaction with children. And someone time and business sense should start a business to allows elementary librarians to earn some extra money on the side creating those MARC records.
That thought process and reflection also led to changing the pets books to 599 (or 598 for pet birds), and spot-changing about 50 books as we changed the spine labels. And it led to…
Change #3: Pictorial Nonfiction Signage
Along with the “ditching decimals” change, I needed some major signage updates. I knew I’d need some for the 796 and 590’s sections, especially with the 599’s. Without decimals, rodents, marsupials, dolphins, and wild cats are all intermixed.
So I made some VERY simplified categories within the 599. I realize some may see this as “re-doing” the decimals anyway, but it makes that organization invisible to students. I created signage attached to magazine file boxes. I had inherited a multitude of them from the previous librarian, so I didn’t think I’d need to order anything. It turns out that once I got started, I wanted MORE picture signage. I loved how it looked up-to-date and made it easier to browse.
Teachers noticed first, but I found it was also easier to direct students to the correct section when the call number didn’t always “match” the online catalog. Now that the online catalog matches the spine labels, only time will tell if this change leads to more nonfiction interest and circulation.
Change #4: Android Tablets for Library Instruction
At the beginning of the school year, I purchased Android tablets for in-library use, specifically three Nexus 10 tablets and nine Nexus 7 tablets. Best. Decision. EVER! The tablets made using the online catalog so easy and accessible to students, not to mention let students quickly access the Internet and excellent apps for research, inquiry, and learning in general.
Change #5: Centers for Grades 3-5
Library management aside, I took a pedagogical leap to try “library centers” as an instructional model. Truthfully, I thought this would work better than it did. From what I’ve read of Cari White’s ground-breaking work, she intended the centers to be used when a librarian works alone. With no assistant and potentially few or no volunteers, the centers model keeps your sanity. And no one is probably looking too closely at how academic your center content is.
For me, however, who is blessed enough to have a part-time library tech assistant, I believe I should expect more of myself and my teaching. A puzzle center or Word Jenga or math blocks or listening center just isn’t going to cut it. My district administrators want some sort of proof (or “data”) that I’m teach information literacy more explicitly. I’m expected to do more “rigorous” content. So I ended up making many of my own centers. That was fine, and led to some really great ideas.
One positive effect of centers was the ability to give students choice in HOW they learn and practice information literacy skills. Using self-inking stamps, I tracked students center attendance in booklets that they took with them as they traveled to different library centers week after week. For instance, students could practice research by looking up the answer to a Question of the Week, or observing and researching ladybugs in an enclosed terrarium. Next year, I want to expand those choices, while building in more structure for students that need extra guidance and scaffolding. At the same time, I don’t want to hold back the students who are independent learners.
Change #6: littleBits™ for a Library Makerspace
After buying a Classroom Set of littleBits™, I set up a mini-makerspace as one of my library centers. Though we don’t use the raw materials like Arduino boards and LED lights favored by middle school and high school makerspaces, the littleBits™ do allow me to introduce engineering concepts with creativity and student choice. I found that project storage and 30-40 minute class times were HUGE concerns and challenges for starters.
Also, while I’m certified to teach K-6 elementary subjects, I have no desire to become a science or computer science teacher. I’m hesitant to expand the makerspace for fear of being asked to take on responsibilities that should fall to a certified computer science teacher. So while I love the makerspace concept for libraries, I think we should be careful as professionals not to take on extra teaching duties. Heaven knows, we already have enough to do keeping a 21st century library up and running and teaching information literacy. Circulating “kits” of makerspace materials might be a more feasible solution for busy elementary librarians.
So overall, it’s been a wild year. I’ve learned SO MUCH, I have some great ideas for next year, and the above list is just part of it. There’s also this earlier post of ideas and to-do’s. For my esteemed colleagues who are limping towards the last day of school, go read Vicki Davis’s blog post and stay strong!
The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet. I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.