This year of the pandemic has been demanding, stressful, and more work for most librarians. When students were sent back to school in person, many librarians were frazzled about what that would look like, how we could do checkout, and how we could best assist our students’ reading needs. All specialists have been working off of a cart going classroom to classroom at my school since students have been back in person. It is a lot of work to travel to every room, but something that I have truly enjoyed is putting the perfect books into my students’ hands.
Every afternoon my library para and I prepare 6 crates full of books that we take to classrooms the next day. We have a specific number of books we pack for each room, depending on their grade level and reading level. We pack various fiction books, picture books, nonfiction books, graphic novels, and Spanish or Bilingual books. Then the next day in library class, after I teach a short lesson, I find an empty table or space on the floor where I can lay out those books in rows so that students can see them all and point out one to three books that they would like to check out. This is a very tedious process since I can only allow one student to check out at a time, and it takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes to complete this process.
Though tedious, this checkout process has been a great time to bond with my students over books. In a typical year, my students would find their books, bring them up to the counter, and my library para would assist them. With this new process, I have had to be much more involved in the checkout process, and I love it. This has allowed my students and me to have conversations about the books they are reading, students have asked me for recommendations, and I have had the chance to suggest specific books to specific students. It has also allowed me to get to know their interests more and discuss what they like to read.
Since we have to pack bins this year to bring to the classrooms, this has also given us a chance to push new books that have come in and older books that are still great but haven’t been checked out in a while. Since we have to hand-select the books that the students see, this has helped us pick books aimed at the correct level of students who will be reading them. It has also allowed us to choose books that represent the students within that classroom. This has been a great time to help our students find windows and mirrors within their library books. When I pack the bins, I try to think about which specific students are in each class, and I pack books that I believe will resonate with those students.
Although this pandemic has been a challenging and devastating time, there have also been some positive things that have come out of it. I know many people would think, well it’s not fair that your students don’t get to choose their own books, and of course we would like them to choose their own books. But, until it is safe to do so, we will be checking out in the classroom, and the students seem to be loving it. Many times what I hear from the students is, “Miss, there are too many choices!”. We do allow students 3rd -6th grade to place holds on books if they would like different ones also. So until we are allowed to go back to the library, checking out in the classroom is still very enjoyable.
By: Samantha Brown
I scoot down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock the library when I see her, she's standing still and looking at posters.
“Good morning,” I say quickly, shuffling by.
“Aren’t these neat,” she says--slowing my pace--gesturing so that I will stop and really look. “They really are saying something.”
I have walked past these motivational hallway posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one. As I stand here with her, reading one after the other, I feel my shoulders soften, my to-do list feeling somehow more manageable.
Yes, we teachers and librarians move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done–and one of the things on her list was to notice the good stuff around us.
The library is a great place to foster gratitude practices (intentionally noticing the good) this winter season--in virtual spaces and in real life. While we might not feel thankful in 2021, we can mine for gratitude in ways that impact our days, our colleagues, and our students. Here are some easy-peasy, plug-and-play ways to jumpstart gratitude at your school this season:
By Evi Wusk
A reading culture. Words my ears savor, and words I love to say often. After ten years of building a reading culture at my school, it was time to tackle the next goal: renovating the library. To support the high volume of checkouts, the increased presence of students, and the number of elementary library classes, it was time to improve the library space.
Two years of preparation were needed for the library addition to take shape. The process was challenging to convince administrators and board members that enlarging the library space was a necessity for our growing district. I attended several workshops that gave me points to ponder on how to approach this money-taxing project and how it could be made possible with fewer dollars. First, I outlined the necessity of space for our elementary students. It was once shared with me that the percentage of space should be equivalent to the percentage of students I serve at each level. Elementary students frequent the library more often than the middle and high school students; however, the space in the library tended to appeal to the older students. Second, the number of books in the square footage of the library meant very little space for teaching, learning, or relaxing. Third, it was time to upgrade our facilities for the growth of our district (and continue to find more room for books!). Finally, I convinced a National Honor Society member to tackle the process of reorganizing the library as her Individual Service Project. It was a win-win situation for us both! And, the administration along with the board members were ready to make this library addition happen.
In the summer of 2018, the preparation for enlarging the library finally came to fruition. The preschool classroom located next to the library was vacated because the building across the street was purchased for the Tiny Tiger Early Learning Center. An opportunity for making more space for books! A large doorway was created in the wall to connect the library and the old preschool classroom. This created an opportunity for an elementary section and a middle school/high school section for the library. The moving of bookcases, books, and furniture were completed by the NHS member. Her project also included painting the rooms, storing and reshelving the books (over 15,000). It was quite the project for her, but I am so grateful she was part of the process. Her eye for design and detail were invaluable. This endeavor made the elementary room of the library larger and allowed for library classes to be conducted more easily while other students peruse the shelves. I also purchased shelves that were lower so our young patrons no longer needed to use stools to reach the books on the top shelves. Our shelves are no longer “stuffed” so students can retrieve books more easily.
I am a proponent of the idea that the library is the heart of the school. I want students to feel safe and comfortable in the library environment. This project gives students the opportunity to feel good about coming to an environment that supports their reading needs. Creating an addition to our library only enhanced the reading culture that was already thriving in our district.
By Mary Gregoski
As a library media specialist (LMS), I often find myself pulled in many directions at any given time during any given day. In this teaching position, that I love so much, I have come to expect that my days will likely never look the same.
Like all of you, before I was a LMS, I was a classroom teacher. Whether I was teaching in the elementary classroom or middle school mathematics, my students and I thrived on our classroom routines, expectations, and normal day-to-day goings on. (An assistant superintendent once asked me if my consistent classroom schedule was for the students or for me. I told him it was for “all of us” - and that was the truth.) Our classroom routine made it so I could focus on teaching and my students could focus on learning. It aided my classroom management.
In my first years as a LMS, I was teaching in a middle school with a set library schedule, which I learned to make work for me. I saw 6th grade students on Mondays and Tuesdays, 7th grade students on Wednesdays, and 8th grade students on Thursdays. Fridays were set as my enrichment days. With the students, I established library “norms” and expectations. I was able to give book talks, share book trailers, talk with students about books, etc. All was well!
Fast forward several years to my current LMS position. I serve middle school and high school students. I have no set schedule. Every day is a NEW adventure!
One of the many things I love about being a LMS is talking to kids about books and reading. I love hearing about their latest reads, their passion for a series, their irritation with how long it takes their favorite author to write a book, etc. Oftentimes during these chats, I get new suggestions of books to order. I also love suggesting books to students to read. When a student approaches me and indicates a need for help finding a book to read, I must admit, my inner-librarian self squeals and claps with excitement. It’s like a puzzle I get to put together. So - the questions begin. What was the last book you read? What did you like about it? What’s your favorite book? What makes the book your favorite? Etc. Until - voila! A “book match” is made!
Unfortunately, I’m not always available to do my beloved “book matching”. This saddens my librarian’s heart, but it is what is. So here’s what I do… Every month, I have a new quirky, punny library theme, complete with posters, signs, a bookmark, and a bookmark with my Bitmoji on it. I display books on the tops of our shelves, and each book has a bookmark placed in it. If I’ve read the book and enjoyed it, I put the bookmark with my Bitmoji on it in the book. This is my way of suggesting books to my kiddos without actually being there! (At the beginning of each school year, I communicate my bookmark “strategy” with ALL of my students. For the 6th grade students this is new information, but for the rest of the student body - it’s a reminder. So, EvErYoNe knows!)
My hope is that each student looks forward each month to what that “CrAzY” Mrs. Fiala is going to “do” in the Media Center. For the record, I’ve not had a repeated monthly theme in the six-years I’ve been at Aurora Public Schools!
by Emmy Fiala
I know you are asking yourself - where did half of the school year go? Let’s start this new year off with some fresh ideas for your library! Here are a few bulletin board, book display and library ideas for you to try out in your space. These ideas can be tweaked for libraries big or small - elementary, middle and high school!
In January I have always had students cut out snowflakes to decorate the library, but I always forget about snowmen! Have your classes decorate snowmen and hang them up on a bulletin board or around your space. I feel that these are just as unique as paper snowflakes.
(Credit: Tillysha Naomi on Facebook)
If you don’t have bulletin board space (like me), decorate your doors! What a great and inviting way to welcome your students into the library.
(Credit: Kimberly Lane on Facebook)
If you like puns, then you will love this idea!
(Credit: Sherrie Rizzo on Facebook)
Snowflakes and snowmen aren’t the only thing that represent winter. How can you incorporate New Year’s Resolutions in your displays? Ask students anonymously what their goals are for 2020 and hang them in a window or on a bulletin board for all to see. It’s a great way for students to reflect, but to also see what their peers wrote.
A great way to start the year is to start a new series. Create a display using the 1st book of any of the series in your library.
Have students who are makers? Create a display of “New Year, New Hobby” with maker books, knit/crochet, various how-to non-fiction books that will spark some interest!
(Credit: St. Louis Public Library)
Something I am incorporating into my library in 2020 is Adopt-A-Shelf. I originally saw this idea on Facebook. I am at a large middle school and you could say that by the end of the day or week, my shelves need some love. This is an awesome way for students to hold ownership within your library. Students will “adopt” a shelf to take care of. This can be just a row or even a whole shelf. A fun way to get students to buy in is to make adoption signs about who “owns” the shelf. You could allow students to decorate their area or not. Let them run with it! Students can come in before or after school, during their library time, at the end of the week, etc. However it will work for you. In return, it saves you a few extra minutes of straightening up your shelves.
Here are a few links to get you started:
Adopt a Shelf!
A fun twist on adopt a shelf https://shawnacoppola.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/our-adopt-a-shelf-program-the-deets/
Happy New Year!
By Rachel Westphalen
by Kelly Kenny, Hillside Elementary
Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your top five tips for saving your sanity in the school library! If you'd like to contribute a blog post for the NSLA blog, please email Mandy Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey all! I am Angie Blankenship, School Librarian at Pershing Elementary in Lexington, Nebraska. I wanted to share a quick video with you for my blog post on how to use Facebook Collections and Groups for professional development! Please feel free to email me with any questions after watching the video!
I have also listed a few of my favorite groups to follow. Please share with us if you have any you LOVE.
Future Ready Librarians
School Librarian Connection
By Angie Blankenship
Happy Summer Librarians! As we get ready to begin the school year I wanted to share some ideas I use to tie in research to our sections of the library. As we meet each week it’s also important to build a connection with students and build relationships.
1st Grade - Each week we learn a letter in sign language. I use that letter to choose my books to read to the students while also teaching Fiction and Non-Fiction choices. Using the Non-Fiction book, we then do some research about the topic. We use maps and websites to find our more information. Sometimes the students have a template to fill out or other times they do an art project related to the topic. Some of the websites we love to use are: National Geographic for kids, Pebblego, and San Diego Zoo Kids. These websites have terrific facts and videos to go with our topics. At the end of all the letters we then learn a few songs in sign language to help the students see how sign language helps people communicate if they can’t hear or talk.
2nd - 5th Grade - The Golden Sower book choices give many opportunities to find out facts share information about the authors and the topics of the stories. This last year with “The Water Princess” and the “Boston Marathon” we were able to research about villages that don’t have fresh water and how women couldn’t participate in running races. Students then either do some writing, create posters, word collages, slide shows, or an art project to share what they learned.
3rd Grade - As we learned about the different genres and sections of the Dewey Decimal System, the students researched states and practiced taking notes from a website. We research planets, animal groups, and body systems also when I teach those Non-Fiction sections. Pinterest has great graphic organizers for students to fill in as they use books or the internet to find out more.
4th Grade - Our favorite research unit was about the weather. We tied it into the Non-Fiction section reading about different kinds of storms that affect our country. Students were able to use books and the internet to make a poster about their storm. They also had to include safety tips.
5th Grade - We use our Google accounts each week, so we have had fun doing many projects this year! Our favorite right now is finding out about inventions and inventors. They are researching an important invention they use in their home or at school that they couldn’t live without. The students are being very creative as they prepare their Google Slide and it gives them the opportunity to share their creation with whoever they want.
During all these activities it’s important to build relationships with the students. Students need to feel welcome in the library anytime. I have students coming in already at 7:30 to find books or just to visit. Students come in during their lunch recess to volunteer to help or see what I’m teaching the other grades. Then after school is a great time to send students off with books for the night or weekend. Even though we get busy and have lots to do, it’s important to take time to listen and give students the message that the library is a safe place they can come when they need to talk, get a hug, or find more books!
Have a great school year! Thanks for all you do to help our students love books, collaborate with others, and problem solve for our future!
By Laurie Schlautman
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.