And We’re Off! (with a new take on library orientation)

IMG_0856I’ve always wanted to try something different for library orientation rather than have the students sit on the carpet for 30-45 minutes while I talk on and on about how to use the library, check out books, and take care of books.  This year, especially, I knew that students would be eager to explore their new library space rather than sit and stare at it from a distance.  So….I made a plan for 2nd-5th grade and a plan for K-1.

For K-1, we stayed as a whole group and watched a few of the videos together.  I may try letting 1st grade scan one of the QR codes just for practice, but I felt like whole group with a story was still the way to go for the younger students.  We read the book Sky Color by Peter Reynolds to make connections to the library being a place to be creative and think outside the box.

For 2-5, I made a list of the major topics that I wanted students to think about when learning about the spaces in the library and the basic functions such as checking out a book.  From there, I made a video for each of those topics using an iPad and  uploaded it to Youtube.

I took each link and generated a QR code.  I put each QR code on its own piece of paper with some brief instructions.  For example, the check out QR code said to scan the code and go to the circulation desk before watching.  On our iPad cart, I downloaded a QR reader and tested all of my codes to make sure they worked.IMG_0833

During orientation, I put out the QR codes that I felt like that grade level needed the most.  Lower grades had fewer QR codes to scan while the upper grades had them all.  For some classes I made a table of codes that were the “must scan” codes and then a table of codes for “if you have time”.  We started our time on the carpet in order to do a welcome, refresh using iPads safely, and to demo scanning a QR code.  Next students got an iPad and plugged in some headphones from the library (or their own) and began scanning codes.  I would love to say that it was perfectly smooth, but of course students had trouble adjusting sound, some headphones weren’t plugged in all the way, and some headphones weren’t working.  However, once the glitches smoothed out, it was amazing to see students productively wandering around the library with iPads doing a self-guided tour just as they would do in a museum.  In the process, they walked the entire library, tried out multiple places to sit, found out about technology they would use throughout the year, and saw books that they wanted to checkout.  I felt like even though they heard the same information each student gained something different out of the orientation.

At the close, we came back together to share some things that they learned about our library.  I wish that we had more time for this reflection because it gave me so many insights into what students valued in the library and what they were still wondering about.  At checkout, I saw students doing some of the exact same things that I did in the video.  I also saw students looking for books that they saw on shelves in the videos.  Overall, students got a lot of the same information, but this was much more engaging,  involved movement, and gave students the option to watch something again if they didn’t understand.  We’ll see how this translates into library use during the year, but I felt much better about how this new take on orientation went.

Today was exciting.  For the first time, I saw 2 years of planning a library space begin springing into action.  I saw how much the students are going to move this furniture around to meet their needs.  I saw how visible the books were on the shelves, which leads me to think we’ll have even more circulations this year.  This was only day one of classes.  I can’t wait to see how the space grows, evolves, and becomes useful to the students and the kinds of learning they will take on for years to come.

Setting Up a New Elementary School Library (Part 1)

I had the honor of putting the very first books on the shelves

I had the honor of putting the very first books on the shelves

After my last post (New Beginnings), I’ve received several requests to document the process of setting up our new library space.  It is an exciting and exhausting process to walk into a big open room with endless possibilities.  As I’ve said before (and keep repeating to myself), the space can and will change once students begin using it.  I can only guess what might work best for students, but the beauty of the furniture and shelving that we have is that it can fairly easily change into something new if it doesn’t work the way I’ve set it up.

Over this past weekend, our SPLOST director, David Stubbs, spent many hours with a few helpers moving all of the boxes out of the library and organizing them by category.  This was supposed to be done by the movers, but it wasn’t.  He also made sure that all furniture that didn’t belong to the library was delivered to its proper place.  This morning, I walked in to see several possible configurations of the shelves, soft seating, tables, stools, and chairs.  David walked me around and talked about what he knew about each set of furniture.

Next, my first volunteers arrived.  The wonderful Camilla Bracewell, Barrow grandparent, and Carole Langley, spouse of an early Barrow alum, began working on shelves.  All of the carts have 3 shelves, but many of our library books are tall, so each cart needed to be switched to 2 shelves.  They adjusted the “Everybody” shelves and began bringing in the “Everybody” boxes and sequencing them.  I had numbered the boxes 1 of 37, 2 of 37, etc. so that we could easily put them in order.  Once in order, they began packing the shelves with books until they had to leave.

While all of this was going on, Julie Moon, Barrow parent and professional organizer, helped me think through all of the spaces in the library.  She took the lead on rolling around the remaining shelves to see all of the possibilities we could create for the various sections of the library.  Each time furniture was moved, we thought about why it was being moved.  For example, some oval rolling tables were moved away from the main instructional area because we decided that they would be great areas for students to collaborate or for teachers, mentors, or volunteers to work with students.  The spaces wouldn’t really work well if they were right next to each other, so we changed it.  We worked on this from about 10AM-2PM, and I think when we left at the end of the day, we felt pretty good about the placement of all of the furniture.  There is a bit more furniture to come, so the arrival of those pieces might change some things.  We did our best to think about these pieces as we were laying things out.

Julie continued working on the Everybody section and realized that we had packed the shelves a bit too full.  She went back through the entire section and shuffled the books on the shelves so there was a bit of space on each shelf for some expansion.

Jaison Jacob, a Barrow parent, and his daughter came at the end of the day and helped switch a few more of the shelves from 3 shelves to 2 shelves.  To end their time, they rolled all of the fiction boxes into the library to get ready for our next wave of unpacking on Wednesday.

Before I left, I went around and labeled each section of shelves with post-its so that volunteers can easily see where sections are.

I can’t say enough about the amazing volunteers that came today.  They took over some of the strenuous work so that I could step back and think through the space and layout.  I look forward to the coming days and several more wonderful volunteers popping in to support this space.  I love the ownership of the space already by parents, grandparents, alumni, and friends.