Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Autonomy is the new BLACK.

Lot's of changes are taking place in my library. Everything that I have done up to this point has prepared my kids for what is next. This year is about trying any and every thing that will empower my kids to take control of their lives. I want them to learn new skills, be responsible for themselves and for their property, and to make a firm investment in their learning. Funny how all of this was prompted by my library assistant's reduction in hours. Instead of 6 hours per day, she now works 3 hours per day and 1 hour outside as the crossing guard. When I heard this news, I panicked. I couldn't imaging how I could run the library by myself.

I happened to see a tweet from @PrincipalsPage, that led me to his Principals Page Blog. The entry, "New Ways to Do Old Things", intrigued me. There was a video where you watch someone tie shoes in a quick and unusual way.

I had to present to my staff this summer to give an introduction to the library. It's a presentation I do every year. Each time is different. My first year I created a PPT (Ouch! That went over like watching paint dry.) One year I had the staff perform a reader's theater script. Another year I highlighted resources in the library and re-introduced them to the Monarch Library Wiki and presented the Dial-A-Story line. This year, I felt defeated. I was in the process of writing an article for School Library Monthly about how librarians and libraries need to change in order to meet the needs of students, staff, and parents in the 21st century. I didn't know how I could possibly do MORE with less. When I saw that video, something clicked inside me. I needed to THINK differently.  When I presented to the staff, I said, "What if you lost your thumb? Would you stop tying your shoes? What if you lost 2 fingers? What if you lost your right hand? Well, that is what's happening this year. I have lost my right hand...my assistant...and so have you (Classroom aides in the school have been  eliminated or severely reduced)." I went on to say that there were problems with the schedule, I had no time to plan, and more duties. I ended with, "blah blah blah...wah wah wah!" "Who wants to hear that?" The bottom line is that we are all here for the students and we all have difficult circumstances, but there are too many things that I have to give and I'm not giving up. I told them that this is the year that I think out of the box. Look forward to some HUGE changes in the library.

Back then, I had no idea what those changes would be. I had been tinkering with the idea of holding my classes like a hybrid online class. My student are accustomed to navigating to the Monarch Centers Wiki and playing learning games. I figured I could take this one step further and create a learning lab where students could practice skills. Who knew that a few weeks later, Dr. Loertscher, my former professor and now colleague, would be standing in my library filling my brain with all kinds of radical ideas of "guerrilla librarianship" (more on that later).

So what have I tried so far this year?

2nd grader self-checking out a book from the library. #tlchat... on Twitpic

Self-Check-In and Sorting in the library cart.
Inspired by Belmont Elementary librarian, Rhonda Deabler's (@rdeable) contribution to the Elementary Library Routines Wiki, I decided to train my students to check in their own books and sort them in the purple library cart. In previous years, the cart served as a holding space for books that needed to be shelved. Students would place them anywhere in the cart and my assistant would sort and shelve the books later. After seeing images of Rhonda's system, I added numbers to my library cart. I know how much students love online games, so I had them play the Order in the Library game. The "sorting-level 1" game reinforces the skill of sorting books into a library cart according to the call number on the book.

After playing the game a couple times, I handed out books and had them sort them in the purple cart. There were only a few kinks, but it worked well. After the first time, I realized I needed to be explicit about my directions on how to place the book in the cart: with the book title facing out, and sideways w/ the spine up if the book was too wide to fit upright. I also had to remind students to stand the books back up if they slip down to prevent books from getting damaged. I stressed that this was OUR library and we all need to pitch in. If someone notices a book out of place...fix it. If there is a paper on the floor, pick it up. If a chair was left out...push it in.

So how is it going? Fabulously! Kids love checking in their books. I took it one step further and I am now training the entire school, grades 1-5, to check-out their own books. I added barcodes to my shelf-markers (paint stir sticks). I attached a scanner to the Promethean Board computer and turned the speaker volume way up (so I can hear any error messages from across the room). We use Follett's Circulation Plus. Students make sure the "Check-Out" button is selected. When students scan their barcode, their picture and name appear on the screen. Then they scan their books. The next student scans their shelf-marker and books, etc. The line went pretty smoothly. Every now and then a student would scan the ISBN number instead of my barcode and the computer would make a noise and display a pop-up notifying of the wrong barcode error. What a great way to get kids to notice AND READ pop-ups. I told them that pop-ups and error messages are the only way the computer can communicate with them. Don't ignore the computer. Answer it (with an OK, Cancel, or whatever option makes sense at the time...but NOT by pressing the X without reading the message).

If this small change is any indication of what is to come for me, my kids, and our library this year...prepare to have your mind blown! Really. ;)


jamie camp said...

Big changes! It looks promising though! You've made some really smart changes, I think, and have responded to the loss of your assistant in a proactive way. :)

jamie camp said...

You've responded to the changes that were forced upon you in a proactive way. Your kids will benefit! :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd read this a year and a half ago when my library staff was first cut from 3 to 1. Maybe I would have spent more time thinking and doing in a new way rather than being stuck in a rut!