When Vendors Listen to Students

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Student voice is important to me. I love to find opportunities where students’ voices are listened to, and even more than that, acted upon.  Recently, during a student book budget meeting, we met with Jim Boon from Capstone.  Jim always listens to students and makes sure they have what they need in order to purchase books for the library.  He lets them guide the conversation and answers any questions they have rather than pushing certain titles that they aren’t interested in.

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During his recent visit, he gave students posters at the end as a thank you, and Adaline, a 5th grade student book budget member, asked if there were ever any World War I posters.  Rather than just saying “no”, Jim listened to her reasoning that war and military books are popular in our school and that she had a personal interest in them herself. He suggested that she send an email to Amy Cox, Capstone Library Marketing Manager.

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Adaline immediately crafted an email to Amy, and the conversation began.  Not only did Amy respond to Adaline, she also asked her follow-up questions and genuinely wanted to know the answers.  In the busy world of businesses, this kind of personal interaction says a lot to me about the vision and mission of a company.  Capstone isn’t just about selling books. They are community and customer focused and want to listen to the very people who they are trying to support.

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Here’s how the conversation started:

Dear Amy Cox,
When Jim Boone came to my schools “Book Budget” we got posters with hedgehogs on them. While I was looking at the poster I had an idea! Since I like to read about World War 2 maybe you could make a World War 2 poster! If you take this into consideration please email Mr.Plemmons  so he can tell me! Thank You!
From,
    Adaline
Then Amy responded:

Dear Adaline,

We would be very happy to consider a poster with a World War II theme. When we make a poster, we try to have it do one of two things:

1)      They feature a specific series of books that we think students would like to know about so that they can read them, or

2)      Like the hedgehog posters, they don’t talk about a specific book but rather try to show how much fun it is to find something you like to read

Do you have any thoughts about which direction we should take for a World War II poster? I’m always happy to hear ideas from other people. When everyone shares ideas, the final project always turns out so much better.

I was so proud of Adaline continuing the conversation in addition to all of her other school responsibilities.

Dear Amy Cox,
I  think the books that the poster could be about could be the series Heroes of World War 2 !  I think that the poster should have something related to the Nazis or maybe even Anne Frank! And yes I have seen the new graphic novels! They look amazing!
                        Adaline
Amy moved the conversation to the Capstone team.

Dear Adaline,

Thank you for your response. I’m so happy that you like the Heroes of World War II books. I think those stories are fascinating.

The idea of World War II heroes got us thinking here at  Capstone—perhaps in a different direction than you would expect, but that is the fun of brainstorming, right? Give us several days and we’ll see if we can come up with something interesting. Can you search your library catalog and see if you already have this book? It has a tiny clue about our idea!

Finally, Amy let us know to expect something in the mail.  When the box arrived, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  To my surprise, Amy had sent 3 custom signs that incorporated history as well as the mission of the student book budget group to get the right books in student hands.

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I immediately sent a note down to Adaline so that she could come up and see how Capstone had listened to her ideas and given us something completely based upon her request.  She was all smiles.  I also loved that her grandmother was here to celebrate the moment with her.  Even though she might not want the attention, I think it’s important to celebrate this moment.  Now her efforts will be on display as our student book budget books arrive.  These signs will be a part of our student book budget display.

This is not the first time that Capstone has reached out and supported a specific student.  Last year, Amy supported Ajacea in her marketing interests.

I hope other students will see this as an opportunity to speak up and make their voices heard when they have an idea, and I hope educators and companies will see this as an opportunity to amplify student voice and make a difference in our world no matter how small.

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Thank you Amy Cox and Capstone for always supporting the student book budget project and always listening to (and acting upon) the voices of students.

Genrefication Reactions and FAQs

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We are almost one week into our newly organized library. Each class has been coming for a library orientation. In the past, I’ve done a high-tech orientation with QR codes and videos, but this year, we went low-tech with a picture scavenger hunt of the library signs and sections in order to give students a chance to explore their new library and its organization by genre.

2nd grade is starting to explore the picture book genres. #librariesofinstagram #tlchat #genrefication

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Our new genres are still sorted out into a picture book area, a chapter book area, and a nonfiction area, so I made 3 separate scavenger hunts and slid them into clear protectors so that students could us a Vis-a-vis pen to mark sections as they found them.  The trickiest part was trying to keep students focused on one section at a time because they wanted to explore it all.

What I have noticed:

  • Students were buzzing with excitement as I talked about the new genre sections and as they wandered around searching for them
  • I spent much less time walking students around to search for all the princess, scary, football, etc.  The conversations about books that I got to have with students were more about recommendations within sections or learning where favorite series of books had been moved to.
  • Since I don’t have a full-time assistant in the library, check out time can be a bit frantic with kids asking about books, asking for help on the computer, and asking for help checking out or in.  With every class regardless of grade level, I didn’t feel the frantic feelings of the past. Students were very independent within the sections they were excited about, which allowed me to focus on students who really needed to have conversation.
  • Almost no students went to the computer to look up books. In the past, many students would sit at the computer during the entire library time and then have no time to actually select a book.  They would just grab something on the way out. I talked with the few students who did go to the computer to ask what they were searching for. In many cases, I directed them to one of the genre sections because they were looking up football or ghosts or something like that. For students that truly needed to look up a title, I showed them how they could see which genre section it was located in.

  • Students who discovered that their favorite book was already checked out tended to choose something else from that genre section. For example, a student was so excited to learn we had Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel. It was checked out, but I told her it was in the fantasy section. She went to fantasy and found 2 series that she had never explored before and was genuinely excited about her find. This is what I hope to see more and more, especially from students who have their one or two comfort books in the library. I hope the genre sections continue to support their comforts but also nudge them to try new things.

Reactions

Students, teachers, and families have been extremely positive with the new organization of the library.

I encouraged people to record their thoughts on the new organization using Flipgrid.  Here are a few of the reactions.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

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  • Did you put all books into genres or just the fiction section?  Every book is in a new section.  I started with fiction and then moved to picture books followed by nonfiction.  Picture books was the hardest section for me to sort, but so far the categories are supporting our readers.

 

  • What are your categories?  Here’s a link to my Google doc of categories.  This doc will change if I decide to modify any sections.

 

  • How did you decide which section to put books in?  I read the summaries, used my own knowledge, looked at the Library of Congress subjects on the copyright page, and used Novelist K-8.  I used the great advice of Tiffany Whitehead to really think about the reader during the process and consider what kind of reader would most enjoy each book. I tried not to get stuck on a book for too long, but I did make a pile of books I was unsure of and came back to them later.

 

  • What did you do in your catalog to indicate genres?  I created subcategories in Destiny. Once I sorted books into genre sections, I updated each copy by scanning it into its new subcategory. Now, if someone searches for a book, the call number of the book remains unchanged, but the location indicates which genre section the book is located in.  The library can always be put back into Dewey order if needed.

 

  • How are books arranged on the shelf?  For now, the books are still arranged in order by call number on the shelf within each genre section. In fiction and everybody, that means that books are sorted by author’s last name within each genre.  In nonfiction, that means that the Dewey call number is still used to put books within order in the section.  This may change as we go because the sections are being heavily browsed. It makes it hard to keep things in perfect order.  The graphic novels and sports are already not in any kind of order because of the heavy use of those sections.

 

  • What labels did you add to each book? Every book still has its same call number and barcode.  My wife designed genre labels using Publisher and these were printed on spine label sheets from Demco. We added the genre label either above or below the call number on the spine in an attempt to not cover up the title.  I also plan to add numbers to the series so that students know which books is 1st, 2nd, 3rd, but we haven’t done that yet.  Fiction Labels      Picture Book Labels      Nonfiction labels

 

  • How long did it take?  It’s really hard to add up the time. I can say that I’ve thought about it for a long time. This summer I spent some time reading about other libraries and also listening to webinars. I wanted to hit the ground running at the beginning of this year, so many volunteers helped out with the project. The actual work of sorting, labeling, and shelving was done in about 15 days working from 8:00-3:00.

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If you have additional questions, add them in the comment section and I’ll try to update the post with new answers.  I’m very happy with the impact of this project so far, and I know that I will continue to see things that I love as well as things that need to be adjusted. It’s all about the readers.

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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!