Facing Barriers in the Library: Self Check Out

Most people know of my motto of expecting the miraculous, but even when you expect the miraculous, it doesn’t mean that you don’t face frustrations, challenges, and barriers. What it does mean is that you don’t give up in the face of a challenge.

Several years ago, our library assistants were cut when education funding was cut due to the economy, and they’ve not been added back. When that happened, I had to examine our library and think about what I could let go of and what I wouldn’t compromise. One of the things I let go of was worrying about whether every book was checked in or checked out correctly. I also somewhat let go of library checkout limits since I really couldn’t watch that closely.

Since students in grades 2-5 visit the library alone in addition to their library lessons, I focused on those students to learn how to do self check in and self check out.  I setup a computer dedicated to check in and a computer dedicated to check out. I also recorded sounds such as “stop. check screen.” and “hold shelf please” to prompt students to look to see if there was an error message on the screen or to put the book aside for the next student.

When students check in their books, they simply scan them and then put them on a return cart in any order. When students check out, they type in their student id, press enter, scan their books, and scan a reset barcode. I have instructions printed and taped on each screen if students forget the steps.

When assistants were cut, I also had to start a volunteer program. The main job of volunteers was to shelve books, process books I cataloged, repair damaged books, and help prep for special events. It was slow to start and then grew. Some years we have many volunteers and others are a struggle. This year some of our most dedicated and dependable volunteers have faced some hardships in their lives, which means that there are days where no volunteers come in to do any of the things I’ve counted on in the past.

All of this is to say, I’ve hit a wall. I’ve found myself running back and forth in the library trying to juggle all the library circulation pieces in the air while teaching classes, but they just keep crashing around me. I often have to stop and take a deep breath and try to not pull my hair out. Here are a few of the things that have been happening:

  • students who return books, scan them and try to put them in the closest part of the return cart rather than find an empty space. Books pile up and end up spilling all over the floor.
  • students get in a frenzy of grabbing books off the shelves (a good problem) but as space opens up, entire shelves of books fall out in the floor multiple times per day.
  • large groups of students come to check out books, have trouble taking turns at computers, and end up logging the computer out or closing Destiny.
  • these same groups of students are yelling across the library for my help at the same time and again I’m running back and forth trying to put out fires about logistics

I won’t keep going with this list because I don’t want to complain, but the thing that is truly frustrating me, is that I haven’t been able to have quality conversations about books because I spend so much time just trying to keep the library running. That’s what really made me pause and reflect about what I could do to support students with the logistics of check out so that I could have more meaningful conversations with them about books.

The first thing I tried was sending out a short Google form to students for ideas of how to improve the check in experience. Many students responded with how students needed to be more responsible. This helped me realize this wasn’t just something that was about me. I had some amazing insights about changing the way students return books. One of those was returning the books in stacks rather than standing them vertically since many students were trying to do that anyway. We tried this one out for a week but when a student wanted a book in the middle of a return stack, it just resulted in even more books in the floor.

Next, I decided to make myself an observer and stand back and watch what was getting in our way. I made a list that I add to as I see new things. Flipgrid now has a feature called “Shorts” where you can use Flipgrid’s camera to record a video up to 3 minutes and upload it with its own link without actually creating a Flipgrid topic. I love this because it saves me the hassle of creating a video and then having to upload it to Youtube and also allows me take advantage of the camera tools such as whiteboard, stickers, text, and filters if I need them.

I used Flipgrid shorts to make a video for each “problem” or “clarification” that I identified. At first, I was sharing these in our daily announcements and encouraging teachers to show them in class as they came out, but I quickly saw that there was a need for them all to be in a central spot. I used Smore to put each link on the same page as a question. I shared this Smore with teachers. Many teachers have been sharing the videos in class and discussing them before that day’s check out time. Others have shared the Smore in Google Classroom and encourage students to watch them on their own.

In the library, I have the Smore pulled up on a computer right next to our circulation area. If a student has a question and I can easily and quickly help them, I do.  However, if I’m assisting multiple people or teaching a class, I can essentially clone myself by sending the student to the computer to watch the video in the library. This has already saved me a lot of time with library holds.

This isn’t magically fixing our problems. When you have up to 20 kids coming to check out books at the same time while also teaching a class, things aren’t going to be perfectly smooth. However, I’m trying to not compromise student access to books just because of some logistics we can work out.  Within a week of rolling this out, I’ve already seen students working together to stand up books on the return cart. They even use language directly from the video when explaining to the other student what to do. Lining those books up is super helpful, because with limited shelving help at the moment, I need students to be able to see those books on the return carts so they can pull choices from there too.

There have been several instances where I’ve been able to direct a student to a video while I have a conversation with someone about their reading. I’ve also been able to help situations quickly by saying something like “did you watch the disappearing cursor video”, and then they immediately know how to fix the problem.

Teachers have also been amazing. Some have spent a good amount of time watching the videos. Others have designated kids within their check out groups to be a leader and remind members of their group what to do to help the library stay user-friendly.

This is something I’m going to continue to focus on and find ways to make small improvements. I’m not stopping self checkout or limiting students coming to the library. I have to remember to keep involving students in ways to take ownership of our library and remind myself that I am not really alone in the library (plus remind myself to take plenty of deep breaths throughout the day).

 

 

The Winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize Is…

Our 2nd graders gathered in the library for the 6th annual announcement of the Barrow Peace Prize. During this special ceremony, we connect with the team at Flipgrid. Each year, the Flipgrid team grows, and this year we connected with them at their headquarters in Minnesota and also in other locations where team members were working. The kids loved seeing their many faces on the screen celebrating their work.

Before our Skype, I showed students a map of places their voices were heard around the world. They were amazed by the pins in over 110 different locations and counting.

During our ceremony, we started with some introductions and greetings from the Flipgrid team. Then, we took time to hear some special stories from the project. Every year, we get comments on social media about the project which I share with the students. They love having a personal connection with people who have heard their voices.

This year, I had a message exchange with an individual from Canada. She messaged me through our library Facebook page, so I shared her message with the students.

Marion Hodges from Canada says: “greetings from Canada. For the kids who chose Jackie Robinson they might be interested to know that he started his pro career in Montreal with the Montreal Royals. He endured a lot of the same treatment but also a lot of respect. After that he went on to play with the Dodgers. For the kids who chose Rosa Parks – there is a lady named Viola Desmond who did something very similar in Nova Scotia in the 1940s as she refused to leave the “white-only” section of the cinema. She was a successful beautician and entrepreneur and you can see her picture on the Canadian 10 dollar bill.”

Next, we launched into awards. Each teacher selected 3 students to receive one of three awards:

  • Prolific Persuader: For using your persuasive techniques to encourage an authentic audience to vote for your civil rights leader.
  • Outstanding Openers: For using a creative hook to capture your audience’s attention from the very beginning of your persuasive writing.
  • Dynamic Designers: For creating an inspiring piece of art to accompany your persuasive writing and visually engage your audience.

Christine, Marty, and Sindy from Flipgrid announced these student winners. This is one of my favorite parts of the ceremony because the kids erupt in applause for their classmates as they walk up to receive the award. The Flipgrid team applauded each group of students and we took a quick picture with the screen.

Another tradition we have thanks to a former Barrow student is having students design the Barrow Peace Prize. This year, students applied to design the peace prize by submitting sketches or ideas for what it might look like. Six students were chosen. We met together in the library and found ways to combine our ideas into one prize. The design was created in Tinkercad and printed on our Makerbot 3D printer. Each of the designers received a medal. Every student who researched the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize also received a medal. Finally, each classroom received a medal for students to take turns wearing. Even though we have one winner of the prize, this is a project that we are all contributors to.

Finally came the moment kids have been waiting to hear. The Flipgrid team announced the winner of the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize.

Jackie Robinson received the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize. Kids once again erupted with cheers and applause.

All of the researchers of Jackie Robinson came up to received their medals and take a picture. As soon as students left, I updated our Smore page.

Once again, I was reminded of how special this project is. There are so many ways for students to get engaged with the content whether their strength is art, writing, reading, speaking, designing, or something in between. I love that it gets our student voices out into the world in a positive way and shows our students how far their voices can travel.

Thank you to all of our students and teachers for their hard work on this project. Thank you to all who voted. Thank you Capstone for getting us kicked off each year in our research with PebbleGo. Thank you Flipgrid for amplifying our student voice with your product and celebrating our work each year. We look forward to next year.

 

 

Fine Tuning Genrefication with Custom Signs

One of the things I’ve loved the most about organizing our library by genre has been the ability to customize the experience for readers. If a section of books isn’t working for how readers find books, then it can be changed. If kids keep asking for a kind of book that is mixed into lots of sections, they you could pull those books into a new section.  I’m always watching and listening to the words I’m having to repeat over and over as well as the questions that readers are asking about where books are located.

One noticing this past year was how I was always having to explain that the “E” section or “Everybody” section is where picture books live.  The “F” or the “Fiction” section is where chapter books live.  Students would search the library catalog and see that something was located in “Sports Fiction”, but that didn’t really translate to the sports chapter book area to them.  I decided to fine tune this in Destiny to make searching more user-friendly for readers.

I simply went into each subcategory in Destiny and changed it so that it specifically said “chapter”, “picture”, or “information” next to each genre category. Now, when a student searches, they will see a book like Ghost by Jason Reynolds is in the “Sports Chapter” section.

I also wanted to improve the signs in the library to help students see which sections of the library are “chapter”, “picture”, and “information”.  I started browsing around online looking for existing signs or even custom signs that would be helpful and appealing in the library, but I didn’t really see anything I liked. Then, I had the idea that some custom signs could be made using fabric designed by illustrators. I looked at Mo Willems, Eric Carle, and other illustrator fabric, but the fabric that I kept coming back to was the fabric designed by illustrator Christian Robinson.

He visited our school a few years ago to celebrate the release of School’s First Day of School, so we have a special connection with him. His fabric also features a diverse group of individuals which represents both our school, our community, and the books we strive to have in our collection.

I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any connections with someone who would be willing to work on custom signs for our library using Christian Robinson’s fabric. Several people gave helpful information to think about in designing the signs, but then I got a wonderful email from Barrow parent, Amy Norris, offering to help.

This began a string of emails and conversations to design the 3 signs. Amy offered her design expertise as well as her sewing talents to create the signs. We met in person and sketched out what the signs might look like as 3 rectangular hanging quilts. Then, she went home and created a mock up of several options.  I was amazed at her attention to detail and thoughts about maximizing the fabric to cut down on cost. I picked out the design that I thought would work best and ordered the fabric.

Amy jumped right into designing the signs. She was so enthusiastic about this project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to create our signs. She sent little progress updates all along the way and even helped me think through how the signs would hang. I originally was going to use a quilt or curtain rod, but we decided that it was light enough to just use a wooden dowel.

As soon as Amy had the signs finished, she delivered them to school and they were absolutely beautiful. Each section’s word was created in a different color and the Christian Robinson fabric stood out beautifully. Now it was my turn to get the signs installed. I went to Lowes and purchased eye screws, wooden dowels, chain, and s hooks. I cut down the dowels to the length of each sign, and put each quilt onto its rod using the sleeve on the back.

Now, each sign is flying high in our library to help kids see where our 3 main areas of the library are. Since they hang by a single chain, they freely rotate with the gentle air currents. It’s a simple change that I really should have done much sooner, but the library is always evolving, and sometimes a small change is just the thing that was needed to make the collection easier to navigate for readers. I’m so thankful for the many talents that exist in our community, and this project once again reminded me that so many people are out there waiting to support the work happening in schools, but many times we have to put our work and requests out there to help them connect to those opportunities. A huge “Thank You” goes out to Amy Norris for taking the time to create these beautiful signs that we will enjoy for years to come.

 

It’s Time to Vote for the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize: Who Will Win?

Our 2nd graders have been hard at work learning about 4 civil rights leaders and preparing a project that has become known as the Barrow Peace Prize.

A few details about what has happened before the final products you now see:

  • After learning about people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, students brainstormed a list of character traits that are needed in order to win the Barrow Peace Prize.
  • Students researched 1 of 4 civil rights leaders using a Google doc from Google Classroom, Pebble Go, Encyclopedia Britannica, Destiny Discover, and books.  All research was done in the library.
  • In art, students created a watercolor image of their civil rights leader.

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Barrow Peace Prize works of art are finishing up.

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

  • In writing, students crafted a persuasive essay about why their civil rights leaders should win the Barrow Peace Prize (named after our school).
  • Using Flipgrid, students recorded their essays and art.

Now, the students are ready for you!  They need you to visit their videos, listen to & like their work, and most importantly vote on which of the 4 civil rights leaders should win the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize.  In late February, we will connect with Flipgrid via Skype and announce the winner.

Please share this project far and wide so that we can get as many votes as possible.  All videos and the voting form are linked together on this Smore:

https://www.smore.com/dk4z8-2018-barrow-peace-prize

Voting ends on February 23, 2018 at 12PM EST!

 

 

I Read Because: A Book Tasting Library Orientation

I’m always trying to maximize what happens during library orientation each year. This year, I asked myself what I really hoped students experienced on their very first visit. Yes, there are many expectations and rules I could go over, but what message do I send if that’s how I spend our time on day 1. Instead, I wanted to focus on the power of reading and give students time to explore the genres of the library.

As students entered, I played a video from Scholastic’s “Open a World of Possible” site. The video had students sharing reasons that they read.  Then, I asked students to think about why they read.

I shared a couple of reasons I read. One of those reasons was to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes. I shared books like Wonder and How to Steal a Dog, which gave me a chance to wrestle with something that is different from my own life.  I also talked about escaping to another land when I need a break from our world.

I also loved that I had teacher voices to share. At the beginning of the year, teachers recorded Flipgrid videos to introduce themselves. They shared their hopes for the year as well as books that inspire them. I pulled these books and showed them to students with the teacher names posted on the front of the book.  I wanted to establish at the very beginning that we are a community of readers and we read for many reasons.

Last year was our first year with a genrefied library. It went really well, but there were some things that I knew I needed to do to help students better understand how the library is now organized. I wanted students to realize that they could spend more time at the library shelves exploring actual books and less time on the computer searching in Destiny.

I pulled a few books from some of our genre sections and put them in baskets or piles on tables. Students split into small groups and rotated from table to table every couple of minutes. The purpose was to sample the books in the basket to get a feel for that genre. It was also to show students that when they spent time with the books, they found things they weren’t even expecting to find.  Students could keep any books that they found in the baskets and I replenished them throughout the classes.

We ended our time by thinking about how the experience felt as well as taking a look at times when the computer is actually useful for finding a book.

Students then checked out the books they needed. My new rule about checking out books is to check out what you need and what you can keep up with. Some students checked out 2 books and others checked out 6. I never want readers to feel like they are limited by a number that I set.

I can’t wait to see how our year goes as we grow our community of readers.  On a side note, I set up a station in the library where students can listen to the teacher Flipgrids and respond to any teachers. I love seeing students interact with Flipgrid and share responses with our community.

 

AASL Social Media Superstars

Social media has connected me with so many amazing educators since I started using it many years ago.  I had no idea when I started using Twitter at a conference that it would connect me with so many people who I consider to be great friends as well as colleagues.  Today, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not share on social media. Showing our work on social media allows us to define for the world what happens in school libraries. Through social media we inspire one another, push one another’s thinking, and connect the voices of our students.  Social media has developed strong relationships with authors, developers, and vendors as well, and each connection means more opportunities to empower student voices around the globe.

I was surprised to learn on Sunday that I was nominated for the American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar Award in the category of Sensational Student Voice. Not only was I nominated, I was one of the three finalists.  The other two superstars are Stony Evans and Beth Redford, who both doing amazing work with their students.  Student voice is a main foundation of our library program.  I want students to have opportunities in our library to know that their ideas and creations matter in the world.  I want them to see that their work can have an impact within our school but far beyond as well.  To be nominated in this particular category is a huge honor to me.

One of the most exciting things about this particular award is that it showcases to the world many individual leaders in the world of school libraries.  These are people who share out of the goodness of their hearts to show their work, inspire others, collaborate beyond walls, advocate for libraries, and get student work out to an authentic audience.

If you are looking for some people to follow on various platforms of social media, this is one great place to start.  Many of you will probably find people on this list who are already inspiring you.  AASL is asking that people give public testimonies for the nominees on this list.  This is a great opportunity for you to share stories about these individuals that they might not even know about. Many times I’m inspired by someone’s work, but I forget to tell them in detail about what their social media post caused me to do.

There are many names that are missing from this list, but I’m hopeful to see many of those names as this tradition continues in future years.  Thank you AASL for this highlight of some of the important work happening in libraries.

I’m slowly making my way through the list to leave comments, and I invite you to do the same.  You have until April 14th.  The final “winners” in each category will be announced in a webinar on April 27 for School Library Month.

 

You can visit all of the superstars at this link.

Using the I-PICK Strategy in the Library

Our teachers LOVE the I-PICK strategy for finding good fit books.  I must say that it is a strategy that just makes sense.  It doesn’t focus on one aspect of locating a book that matches a reader and it adjusts to whatever the purpose is for finding a book whether it’s independent reading or reading with a partner.

The I-PICK strategy stands for:

  • I choose my book
  • Purpose: Why am a I choosing a book today?
  • Interest:  What are the things that I like or want to learn about?  What holds my attention?
  • Comprehend:  Do I understand what’s going on by reading the words and pictures?
  • Know:  Do I know enough of the words to understand what’s going on?

Students often learn this strategy in their classrooms, and I typically do a follow-up lesson in the library to build a connection that this is a strategy that goes beyond the classroom.  This year, it seems I’m doing this lesson with almost every grade.  I’m trying to build connection even beyond the school during our time together.

We start with a quick brainstorm of all of the places where we can find books.  Students have named places such as school library, public library, bookstores (Barnes & Noble and Avid Bookshop), yard sales, thrift shops, and online.  Then, I shared a story about my own visit to the bookstore this summer to choose a book.  I wove in several things that I see students do, but honestly, that I also do.  After each bullet point that I shared, we paused and asked: “Does that make this a good fit book for me?”  The answer was usually “no, not completely” because each of these bullets is a piece of the puzzle of finding a good fit book and they all work together in order to make the puzzle complete.

mirandus

  • I went to Avid Bookshop to choose a chapter book, so I focused on that section of the store
  • I pulled a book off of the shelf that had a red cover because that’s my favorite color.  (The book happened to be Circus Mirandus)
  • I took the jacket off because there was a picture hiding underneath and I started to notice things like the flying girl, the mysterious man in a jacket and hat, the tent with a sun on it, etc.
  • I read the inside jacket flap about the book
  • I read the first three chapters of the book because they were short
  • All along the way, I stayed interested in the book.  I felt connected to what it was about.  I understood what was going on.
  • I bought the book and loved it!

I don’t want to pretend that the I-PICK strategy is a linear process because it’s not.  I don’t go from beginning to end of this strategy every time I choose a book.  I often bounce around in the process.  However, most of these pieces are usually there when I pick a book.  I don’t pick a book because it’s on my Lexile level.  I don’t choose a book because of how many points I get for the book.  I don’t choose a book because someone puts it on a list and tells me that I have to read it.  I choose my book because I’m genuinely interested in it and it speaks to my personality as a reader.  I think the I-PICK strategy surfaces some of the steps that readers often do and puts them into an easy to remember formula for readers to think about as they select books.

The purpose can always change.  Sometimes a reader may be looking for a book to read with a family member, so the independent comprehension or “knowing the words” doesn’t matter as much.  The interest step is always there no matter the purpose.  I want student to always seek books that interest them or spark their curiosity.

After our quick brainstorm and bookshop story on the carpet.  I moved students to tables.  On the tables are stacks of books pulled from all areas of the library.  The idea is for students to practice the IPICK strategy in a small setting first.  I know that not every student is going to find a book that interests them on the tables and that is totally ok.  I do let them move from table to table if they aren’t finding an interest.  Most students do find something because I choose such a variety, but some just don’t connect to what they see.  The teachers and I roam around and ask students about what is catching their eye and what they’ve done to see if it’s a good fit.  We might listen to them read a bit, talk about their interests, or share something they’ve learned from the book.

The next part is my favorite.  I ask students about what else interests them or what else they hope to take with them from the library today.  This is where I really get to focus the library on their individual interests.  Sometimes it’s very broad such as “a picture book” but sometimes it is extremely specific like “Pete the Cat”.  No matter what they say I direct them to a part of the library with their shelf marker to start searching for that good fit book using the IPICK strategy.

In the end, many students do in fact find books that fit their “reading level”, but more importantly find a book that they are excited about as they leave the library.  Some students still leave the library with a 300 page book even though they are reading on a lower level, but to me, it’s part of the process.  I can continue to share strategies for choosing books, talk about purpose, and most importantly help readers make a connection to the books that truly interest them.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step in how we each choose the books that we read.