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.

Genre tasting in progress #librariesofinstagram #reading

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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.

 

A Sneak Peek of Our Finished Genrefication Project

 

 

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Around the Barrow Media Center we “expect the miraculous”. After 15 intense days, dozens of volunteers, ten thousand genre labels and protectors, and lots of weight lifting, our collection of 10,000 books is sorted by genre. When we started this project, I tried to set a realistic goal of being done by Labor Day. However, in my heart, I wanted to be done much sooner for the sake of our readers. Thanks to all of the volunteers from families, the community, and UGA, we took what seemed impossible in this amount of time and made it happen.

When I really thought about it, we are opening just one week later than we usually do in the school year.  Week 1 is usually computers and week 2 is library orientations. We’ll be start orientations at the end of week 2 and all of week 3. Pretty miraculous!

The final steps happened this week:

  • The genre labels were turned into signs and printed to put into picture frames

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  • Books continued to be shuffled around on the shelves until they fit in a mostly logical arrangement
  • Each genre had to be put into order. Up until this point, we were just sticking the books in their sections in any random order
  • The rest of the library had to be put back together from all of our moving around
  • Videos had to be made to support volunteers and readers
  • Plus lots of other minor housekeeping items

Today, to thank the teachers for their patience, we held a sneak peek of the genrefied library. After school, we had refreshments and a chance to check out the newly organized collection.

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Teachers had a chance to get familiar with where things are, check out books, and ask questions. Some even started thinking about their own classroom libraries and how they might mirror the organization of the school library in their classrooms.

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I put together a picture scavenger hunt to use with kids, so I put those out for teachers to try as well. My son was in charge of inviting guests to try out the scavenger hunt.

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I also asked teachers to post a short Flipgrid video of their reactions to the new organization.  It was so much fun to listen to people’s reactions. I had so many compliments in conversations with teachers who visited, but it was great to be able to go back and hear reactions that I missed during the preview.

For their efforts, I had a stack of free books to choose from. My daughter was in charge of inviting people to record and reminding them to pick up their book.

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Thank you to every person who helped with this project.  It’s so hard to list them all, but I want to give a special thanks to my wife Denise Plemmons for designing some amazing genre stickers and signs. I also want to thank Janice Flory for rounding up a great team of volunteers to hit the ground running on the first day of pre-planning. Some of them stayed for 3-4 hours at a time.  Thank you to Gretchen Thomas for bringing in an entire class of UGA students to knock out some of the final pieces of the project.  Finally, thank you to my administrators Ellen Sabatini and Jennifer Leahy for believing in our library program and trying something new in the interest of kids and literacy.

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Now, it’s time to see what the students think and get our regular volunteers ready to support our readers through keeping the library organized and directing readers to books.  The big part of the project is done, but a project like this doesn’t really end. Books will move from section to section if needed and each new order of books will need to be labeled. However, we won’t have to do the project at this magnitude again. Here we go!

 

 

Journeying Into Genrefication: Process, Roadblocks, and Community

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Toward the end of last year, I made up my mind that the 2016-17 school year was going to have a big focus on literacy. I of course do a lot with literacy already, but I want to do more. At the close of the year, I talked with my principal about genrefication and the possibility of delaying the opening of our library at the start of the year so that we could get everything organized. To my relief, she was completely on board and even offered ways to support the project.

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I’ve wanted to sort the library by genre for a very long time but just wasn’t sure how to make it happen. I started the process at the end of last year by sorting the fiction section.  Over the summer, I looked at many other libraries who have done this process as well as attended a webinar with Tiffany Whitehead.  During the summer I started listing out my possible genres in nonfiction and everybody.

I also started making a list of materials I would need to get going with the project as soon as we got back to school.  This included blank spine label sheets and ultra aggressive label protectors.  I debated about ordering genre stickers, but there were categories I wanted to make that weren’t available as stickers. I’m terrible at graphic design, but my wife is super talented at it. She agreed to make all of my stickers.  She used Publisher, Open Clip Art, and her own imagination to draw out new labels.

Also during the summer, I met with Courtney Tobin, last year’s library volunteer coordinator, and Janice Flory, this year’s volunteer coordinator, to talk about the genrefication project and the help I would need during preplanning and the first weeks of school.

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Volunteer jobs would be to:

  • Scan books into subcategories in Destiny after I sorted them into stacks
  • Label each book with a new genre sticker above or below the call number depending on space
  • Put the books back into stacks for moving into their new areas

Janice made a Signup Genius for volunteers, and I had between 2-5 volunteers each day during pre-planning and the first week of school.

Since Fiction was already sorted, volunteers started there with scanning and labeling while I continued to sort the Everybody section during pre-planning. Most people know how busy pre-planning is, so the meetings, questions from teachers, and to-do list kept me from keeping ahead of the volunteers. A few of the volunteers felt comfortable assisting me with sorting books, so I released a bit of control to keep moving forward.

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Categories changed throughout the process as we saw needs in the collection. The final categories for Fiction included: humor, scary, sports, realistic, historical, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and adventure. Picture books included: humor, sports, scary, celebrations & seasons, superhero, princess, animals, favorite authors & characters, school, once upon a time, historical, realistic, and transportation. Nonfiction included: animals, makerspace, biography, careers, cooking & food, all about me, language, native americans, dinosaurs, georgia, math, music, folk & fairy tales, transportation, jokes, space, around the world, poetry, religion, sports, ghosts & mysteries, graphic novel, war & military, fun facts, nature, science, mindset, and history.

The process was pretty much the same every day: sort, scan, label, move.  Miraculous things happened along the way like 4 district support staff showed up and asked how they could help.  While I attended meetings, they scanned most of the Everybody section into categories.

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Families dropped by to see how they could help. Parents and kids worked side by side making decisions and taking ownership of their library.

I learned a lot about the collection and just how disorganized the nonfiction section really was. Each time books of similar topics came together it felt good.

I also suddenly felt free of a sequential order of the books and could really think more about where it made sense to place books in the library. For example, our books related to makerspace were able to move right outside the makerspace door.

We faced some road blocks along the way too.  Some books were scanned into the wrong sublocations. I caught the mistake when a teacher asked for a book and I couldn’t find it in the section it said it was in. Some sections of the Everybody section had to be rescanned. Some volunteers tried to save the library some resources by cutting the label protectors to smaller sizes on the spines. The label immediately started falling off and getting stuck to the books next to them, so we had to go back through, find them, and add an additional label protector on top.

Just a little road bump in quality control. Backing up to relabel some sections. #librariesofinstagram #genrefication

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About every 5 minutes, I went back and forth from thinking this was the best idea ever to asking myself what have I done.

My current road block is where to put all of the books.  When every book is here, they don’t fit on the shelves. I know it won’t take long to free up some space, but for now, I’m at least trying to estimate how much shelf space to dedicate to newly established sections with new numbers of books.  Thankfully, the mobile shelves allow me to move things around pretty easily to new spaces, but I still have to move books from one shelf to another trying to figure out the best configuration.  The library looks pretty disorganized because of this.

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Students are getting really excited as they look into the library and see the work going on. Classes are asking how they can come and help. The ultimate question is: “When will the library open?”  I’m hopeful to be done within the next week and we’ll host a grand re-opening orientation for each class.

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I love our community and how they have come together to support this project. Returning volunteers have stepped up, but we’ve seen new families and new volunteers get involved in the project too. A project of this size takes a village. What I thought would take until almost Labor Day has been done is about 3 weeks.  That’s miraculous!

 

Starting the Genrefication Process: Ditching Dewey

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I have a confession to make. I’ve wanted to organize our library by genre for a really long time, but I honestly had no idea how I would find the time to do it. I don’t have an assistant in the library and I have about 1-2 volunteers for an hour each day. I teach tons of classes, collaborate with teachers, lead professional learning….the list goes on and on. However, because I’m doing all of these things, I watch students come into the library, find a book on the computer, and then have no idea where to get it because they don’t know how to use the Dewey system.  Sure, I could spend hours teaching them how the secret code of the Dewey decimal system works, but when I’m trying to also teach the standards of every grade level, it’s hard to figure out how learning the Dewey Decimal system fits in. I’ve watched numerous of my inspiring professional learning network genrefy their collections: Tiffany Whitehead, Shannon Thompson, Sherry Gick, Donna MacDonald, Nikki Robertson,…  I’ve sat in Jennifer LaGarde’s Zombie Librarian keynote numerous times and slouched down in my seat when she got to the part about how kids shouldn’t have to have a secret code to use the library. Every time I heard her, I knew reorganizing was what was best for students but I just didn’t know how to pull it off.

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At the end of this school year, I decided that next year, I’m going to put a bigger emphasis on reading than I have the past few years. A big part of this is to get kids reading the kinds of books they want to read and helping them find those books quickly in the library. Most students come to the library and ask for sports books, scary books, princess books, superhero books, graphic novels,…..all genres. I’m at the point where I’ve attended enough sessions, read enough blogs, and listened to enough podcasts that I just have to jump in and start.

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During my end of year evaluation, I told my principal what I was thinking about reorganizing the library, and I was so relieved to hear her say that it was exciting and she was all for it. She even told me she would support me in figuring out how to make it happen whether it’s delaying the opening of checkout at the beginning of the year or even having some workers help me in the evenings, weekends, or summer. I originally thought I would wait until the new school year, but every moment I had some time during post-planning, I couldn’t help myself. I jumped in.

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First, I decided to begin in the fiction section, which I’ve heard is the easiest section to start in. Based on my own observations and what I’ve read on other blogs, I decided on the categories of:

  • mystery
  • fantasy
  • historical fiction
  • sports
  • humor
  • realistic fiction
  • scary
  • adventure
  • science fiction

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I put a sign on the top of each bookshelf for these genres and started pulling off a book at a time. I used multiple sources to help me decide on which genre to put them in:

  • The book summary
  • My own knowledge of the book
  • The Library of Congress subjects in the front of the book
  • Novelist K-8 in our Galileo database

Novelist k-8 is awesome for choosing genres. #organization #ditchdewey #librariesofinstagram

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Of course, there were books that fit into more than one category, so for those, I just picked a category. I believe it was Tiffany Whitehead who said that you should just think about what kind of reader would most likely choose that kind of book and let that guide the final category.

Only 4 carts left to sort before summer begins. #ditchdewey #reorganizing #librariesofinstagram #tlchat

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When I was stuck on a book and had no idea where to put it, I put it aside in a separate stack to come back to later.  Those books might become another genre or they might vaguely fit into one of the genres I already had.

Fiction is sorted by genre and ready for the next step. #librariesofinstagram #reorganizing #ditchdewey

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I worked on the fiction section just a little bit on day 1 and 2 of post planning, but day 3 was completely devoted to this project.  I worked for about 5 hours on the final day to sort the books and push myself to get to the end.

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There were moments where I thought that I had made a big mistake, but the more I pushed on, the more I felt like I was doing the right thing.

Once all the books were sorted, I put them back onto the shelves by genre and labeled the carts because there are a few more steps to go. This will include scanning books into sublocations and adding a genre sticker to the spines.

Sorted and put away #reorganizing #librariesofinstagram #ditchdewey #tired

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I did weed the collection before I started, but touching every single book made me realize a few more needed to be weeded. Once books were sorted, I also could easily see which genres we had lots of books in and which we needed more. One of the obvious ones was sports. We have so many students who ask for sports books. We have a lot of nonfiction, but this made me realize how few sports fiction books we have.

If you are thinking about doing a project like this, definitely do your homework, but at some point, you just have to dive in. I’m thankful to all of the librarians who have done this before and left behind such careful instructions of what they did!