Monday, January 16, 2017

It only took 11 years! Cart Makeover!

I have been the librarian at Tibbott School for 11 years and the week before Winter Break I finally had an ah-ha moment about my library carts. I have seen many carts labeled in my years as a librarian but I couldn't figure out how to adapt them to work for me.... until the week before Winter Break! 

I have three carts in the library where the students place their books after they check in. Up until last week, they placed them wherever they wanted, and it has worked fine until the week before Winter Break. Now as they check in their books they need to pay attention to the spine stickers to place their book on the appropriate cart and shelf. This is a process that is going to take some time to master. However, in the two weeks since I changed how my carts work, it is working wonderfully! As I'm scanning the books, I talk to the child and we discuss where the books are going to go on the carts. Some of the students have caught on really fast and they tell me as I'm scanning, and some students need a bit more practice, so I send them to the cart with one book at a time. Are the students going to place their books on the cart perfectly every time? Nope, and that is ok because a majority of the books will be on the cart in the right place and it will still cut down on the time it takes to shelve the books drastically. 

Why change now? 

It is simple, I finally found a method of placing the books on the carts that makes sense for my library. This year I have my mom helping me in the library. For the first time in many years I don't feel like I'm drowning. There were days before my mom came to volunteer when I just couldn't keep up with the shelving and books would "spill" on to tables or my desk. My priority is ALWAYS working with students. Somedays I had so many extra activities planned with classes that I didn't leave time to shelve, and that "worked" for me. Now that I have her helping me in the library twice a week, there is actually time to take on special projects like genrefying the fiction section and making over the Spanish section. In order to free up even more of our time, I've changed the way the carts work to make shelving EASIER & FASTER! Since changing the way the carts work, the amount of book we can shelve in a short amount of time has DRASTICALLY grown. Instead of looking  through 3 full carts to sort out one type of book, we just grab books from the cart and walk to the correct shelf because they are already sorted on the cart and are ready to be put away. In addition, this makes it easier for a child searching for a book that the computer says is in the library but isn't on the shelf. Again, instead of trying to look through 3 full carts of books, we just need to look at one shelf on the cart to see if it is there. 

This is the fiction cart. It is a "browsing" cart and each bin is labeled with a genre. This cart also includes a bin for easier chapter books and one for favorite characters. The colored stickers on the signs correlate with the colored stickers on the spines of the books.    

 This is the non-fiction cart. There are 6 shelves on the cart. This is how I split up the 6 shelves:
B, 000-100-200
300 -400

This picture was taken on a Friday before I left for the weekend. I have NEVER had such a clean cart at the end of the week!! 

The third cart is for picture books and Spanish books. One side is for picture books and one side is for Spanish books.  There are signs with arrows to help the students place their books appropriately. I will take a picture of it and add it soon!  

The two carts that are "traditional" library carts have a bookend on each shelf to help keep the books from falling over. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Veterans Day Assemblies

Students need to connect with Veterans. They need to know WHY they don't have school on Veterans Day.

I am the daughter of an Air Force Veteran. My dad served in Vietnam as an Air Force Mechanic. He loved to say he carried a wrench when the kiddos asked if he carried a gun. He loved telling stories about his time in the service, and  I enjoyed listening to his stories. He was also very interested in helping Veterans, and was a Commander of the Bloomingdale VFW Post. Needless to say, I grew up very patriotic. I always wanted to do something to honor Veterans at school, but I wasn't sure where to start or what to do.

When my son was in second grade, his elementary school had a Veterans Day Assembly. Students were encouraged to invite their relatives that served in the military, and send in pictures that would be used in a slideshow.  My son wanted my dad to be there, and since my dad was retired, he gladly accepted. I wanted to know more about their assembly, so I used a personal day to go with my dad. The Veterans Day Assembly at was awesome! The choir sang patriotic songs, each child had a flag to wave, there were guest speakers that inspired the students (and adults), and they created a slideshow with all of the pictures that were sent in by students and staff at the school. However, the best part was when my son's teacher asked my dad to come talk to the class following the assembly. The students had prepared some questions and my dad talked with them. I knew THIS was what I wanted to bring to my school.

The First Veterans Day Assembly 
I started planning for the following year. I began by writing a Valley View Educational Enrichment Foundation Grant called "Wave Your Flag High for Veterans Day" to purchase the flags, and pave the way for our first assembly. I really loved the idea of each child having a flag to wave during the assembly. I also wanted them to leave the assembly with a flag to remember what they learned and who they met. My Principals loved the idea, and I lead the committee that would do the planning for the event, and every event following. In the fall of 2012 I met with my committee and we planned the first Veterans Day Assembly at Tibbott School. The format followed what I had seen at my son's school. Teachers/Librarians are well known professional borrowers, why start from scratch if you know of a tried and true method. Students and staff invited their family members who were Veterans to be guests of honor at the assembly. The choir sang, the Veterans were introduced, I told my dad's story of being a Veteran and why the flag was so important to him, and we had a slideshow of pictures sent in by students and staff. Then the Veterans were invited to classrooms for about 15 minutes to talk with students in an informal setting.

For the most part all classroom Veteran visits are voluntary. All Veterans visit the classroom of the child or teacher that invited them as a guest of honor, so it is possible that a teacher had not signed up for a visit might end up with one. Nobody has ever complained about a surprise visit. I have always received positive feedback about the visits, even if they aren’t planned.  I learned that it is VERY  important to have the teacher brainstorm questions with the class ahead of time to to weed out any inappropriate questions prior to the Veteran entering the classroom.

Each year we have a different theme that is decided by the committee, and we add a little more to the experience. Themes we have used include: how to fold the flag and the meaning behind each fold, the history and evolution of the flag, the history and meaning of poppies, and military dogs. One of my favorite additions to the assemblies has been a readers theater performed by one of the  5th grade classes. Each year the teacher and I discuss the new theme and we work with the students to create a script. In addition to Veterans visiting classrooms following the school wide assembly, we have Skyped with a family member of one of our teachers who was actively serving in the Marines. One of the members of the Bloomingdale VFW, my dad’s former post, is highly active with a group called Military Outreach USA which helps Veterans leaving homelessness. For the past two years we have incorporated a collection for this group around Veterans Day. Over the past two years we have collected enough to provide 7 beds along with other various items they need when leaving homelessness.  

I use SmileBox to create the slideshow each year. This link will take you to the slideshow I played during our 2016 Veterans Day Assembly.

I take many pictures during the Assembly and of the Veterans in the classrooms. This link is for the Animoto I created with my pictures from 2016.

This is a link to Military Outreach USA, maybe you will consider a donation to this worthy cause.


My dad passed away in the spring of 2015. He would be proud that I have continued the tradition of connecting students with Veterans.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Spanish Collection Make-Over

Tibbott School is a Bilingual Center, we have 27 classes and 14 of them are Spanish/Bilingual classes. I have been at Tibbott for 18 years, and have no plans of ever leaving my school. I received an endorsement in English as a Second Language a few years ago in order to support my ESL population. When I took over the library, there were just a handful of books in Spanish even though my school had been a Bilingual Center for as long as I have been there. One of my goals has always been to support all of my readers. I have worked hard to increase the numbers of books in my Bilingual/Spanish collection each year, and my collection is the largest among the other schools that service large groups of the district's population of Spanish speakers. Another goal I have is to make it easier for students to find books they would like to read. Earlier this year, I genrefied the Fiction section of my library in order to meet that goal.

I do find value in buying books that are Bilingual having the English and Spanish version of the text on the same page. I feel they are beneficial to students learning to speak English. In addition, they could be valuable to my native English speakers who might want to try  learning some  Spanish words. Many moons ago, I had high hopes that more of my students that primarily speak  English would check them out.  I even went as far as separating my Spanish section into two parts a Spanish part with special red and yellow stickers on the spines and a Bilingual section with blue and pink stickers on the spines. However, no matter how many high interest topics I purchased, and no matter how much I book talked them, they really only got circulated by my Spanish speaking students.

This fall I noticed something about the Spanish / Bilingual section I hadn't in the past. With my mom helping me twice I week, I have time to think and evaluate more than ever. I purchased new Spanish dinosaur books, and they were not getting circulated. Dinosaur books are one of the most circulated topics in the the Bilingual section, so I couldn't figure out why the new Spanish books weren't being checked out. I started informally talking to the students about their book choices when they had a Bilingual dinosaur book and asked them if they saw the new Spanish dinosaur books. When they asked where they were, they were shocked that they were on a shelf one to the left of where they found the book they were checking out.  They didn't realize that there were two places they could find books on dinosaurs in  this section. These conversations lead me to the conclusion that I no longer needed two sections for the Spanish books. What I needed to do was combine the two areas into one Spanish Section, this would make it easier for students to find what they were looking for.... now to find the time.

The Wednesday before Winter Break began, there was an extra substitute in the building, an occurrence that doesn't happen very often. The secretary asked if I could use some extra help in the library in the morning. (This is why you are always nice to the secretaries, they tend to take care of people who are nice to them!) With my mom already in the library that morning and the extra hands of a sub, I knew we could get the project done! First we placed the red and yellow stickers over all of the blue and pink stickers. Then they re-shelved all of the books into one Spanish section. It took about 3 hours, but by lunch it was finished. That afternoon I had two Spanish speaking classes in the library that responded positively to the change. Mission Accomplished!

Mrs. Groner and Mrs. Hughes posing in front of the Spanish Section they worked so hard on!

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Capstone Experience

I love my book rep from Capstone! Her name is Kori Kubitz and she is awesome! She emailed me in early October to set up a meeting, and I put the date on the calendar. However,  my brain started spinning on how to make this visit different from all of our other visits. I emailed her with my idea of including students in our meeting. She loved the idea and ran with it.

As part of my Danielson Rubric:
1c: Establishing goals for the library/media program appropriate to the setting and the students served. To earn an excellent in this area, I must:
Library/media specialist's goals for the media program are highly appropriate to the situation in the school and to the age of the students and have been developed following consultations with students and colleagues.
Kori chatting with the students. 

This year I wanted to include student input on book orders in a more sophisticated way than I had in the past. In the past I have used a QR code in my library that leads to a Google Form that I use to collect student book wishes or an old fashioned "Suggestion Box".  I have a group of 4th graders who come to the library one a week for "Lunch Bunch Book Group" that was selected to take part in this activity. I wanted to use 4th graders because I felt their input would be "important" or they would behave more seriously because they would be invested in what books were selected because they would be able to use the books selected this year and next year. 

Kori showed up for our meeting so prepared! Each child was given a catalog and a booklet of "flag" sticky notes to mark their catalog. She bought sample books for the students to look through. I cannot emphsize how prepared she was, it was like she had written a little lesson plan for the activity. She lead them in how to look through the catalog and use the sample books she had brought to create a wish list. She even reminded them that they would have to select books for EVERYONE in the school, not just fourth graders. She even had little swag bags for the students, which was such a nice touch. 

Making wish lists!

This was one of those activities you want to remember forever because it went perfectly. The students were SO engaged and SO well behaved. They were respectful as they ACTUALLY,  FOR REAL had real conversations about the pros and cons of the books they were looking at.  They were respectful to one another as each voiced their opinions. I wish I would have recorded some of the conversations, but I was so in the moment with the students that I didn't want to jump up and spoil the magic. 

The activity lasted about 35 minutes. I instructed the kids to continue looking through the catalog and we would meet again 2 days later to discuss their wish lists. 

The students and Kori showing off
the samples she brought with. 

When they returned two days later, we spent 30 minutes reviewing their wish lists. I instructed each student to choose their top 5 books or favorite series to share with the group. Each child shared, and I took notes of which books or series showed up multiple times. I reminded them that I could not make every wish come true, but I would do my best to include their opinions when forming my order. There were a few series that were picked by all the students, so they voted on which books from the series they would most like to see in the library, and the books with the most votes in that particular series were added to the list. I didn't select EVERY book that was a favorite  to be included on my order.  However, I did want to make sure that I did include SOME of the books so the students would know their opinions were valued and that they had a voice in what was going to be in the library. I also know from experience that if all of the students are asking for something, especially a series, chances are the book will get checked out. 

A tweet from a parent of a student
who participated in the activity. 

This was a great activity!  A week later, the students are still talking about it. I hope that you have a chance to include your students on a meeting with a book rep in the future. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#genrefication part 2

It is done! I feel such a sense of accomplishment. My original goal was to be completed by December 1st, and here it is only October 21st and I am all done! 

On Tuesday I finished color coding all of the books in my fiction section.  It was really strange not doing anything genrefication related on Wednesday. That is my busy, busy day in the library and I didn't want to start the next process on a packed day.  In all honesty, I really thought taking every book off the shelves and piecing it back together would take A LOT longer than it actually did. I'm actually in shock that it only took 1 day. Thursdays are my really light days in the library. I only have 3 scheduled classes plus a Preschool Storytime. Today I  read two short stories and planned a quicker craft to allow for a little more time with this process. 

Stay out! :) 
Before storytime I blocked off the fiction section. My principal had some "CAUTION" tape leftover from our Kaboom Playground Build, so I used that to "quarantine" the fiction side of the library. I did not want the kids anywhere near the piles today. I caused quite a commotion outside of the library this morning. The library has glass walls on one side and the kids were a little alarmed by the caution tape, so I had to have my principal make an announcement that everything was OK and I was just working on a project to make the library even better. That seemed to calm everyone down. 

The process begins!
I set out papers on the floor labeled with the genre. I put enough room in between each one so I would have room to stack all of the books systematically so it would make the task of putting them back on the shelf 100xs easier.  I went shelf by shelf and pulled each genre alphabetically and placed them on the floor in piles according to genre. It was a big eye opener to see what my collection looks like broken down by genre. Fantasy and Realistic Fiction are my two biggest genres, and SciFi and Sports were the two genres with the least amount of books. 

Carefully stacking them
At the end of the day I made a decision to stay after school for one hour because any piles left on the floor would have been at risk to toppling over. I was trying to avoid any extra work at any cost. Even giving myself an extra hour after school I still didn't believe I would accomplish getting everything back on the shelf, but I did! 

I remembered that Mary said it was like putting a puzzle together. I stared with Fantasy and Realistic Fiction because those two genres had the biggest number of books to get on the shelf. I put Fantasy at the beginning of one area and Realistic Fiction at the beginning of my other shelving area. Then I puzzled in the rest of the categories according to size. Since I had done a major amount of weeding, I have some nice gaps to allow for books being returned. Also, I have two completely empty shelves which will be nice for when the collections grow each year. For now, they are a nice place to display my favorites. 

Piles by genre 
I plan on doing some check out analysis pre and post genrefying. However, I have a feeling it will increase. I've been talking to the classes... they noticed the addition of colored stickers on all of the books and wanted to know what was going on. I had one reluctant reader smile the biggest smile I have ever seen when I told him that his favorite genre will all be shelved together once my project was complete. I am also hopeful that those hidden gems will be a little easier to find now that all the "junk" has been weeded. 5 copies of a Bluestem or Caudill (Illinois State Award Lists) are great during that year, but many years later 1-2 copies are sufficient. 
Empty shelves 

Fantasy, Adventure, Animals, Mystery, Sports, Spooky

Realistic Fiction, Humor, Historical 

Out with the old... 
Out with the old... 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Book Fair Success


Let me start by saying that this was not my most financially successful book fair ever. However, I did some new things that I believe made a big difference to make it a success in my book.

1- Student made Book Fair Preview Video

I have a "Review Crew" at my school. It is a group of students who LOVE the library. They get first "dibs" on the new books. In order to get the new books before anyone else they have to review them with a written and video review. For the older students, they do the review on their own. For my primary students, it is more like an interview. I sit with them and ask them questions about the book they read. This year instead of ordering the decorating kit as my book fair promo from Scholastic, I ordered the preview box. I picked a few students from the Review Crew to come to the library and choose a book that was going to be featured on the book fair. They read the book and reviewed it just like we did in the past. However, I used iMovie to string all of the reviews together into a 3 minute Book Fair Video. My hope was that the students would see their classmates or students they recognized from the hallway and make a connection with that child and possibly purchase the book based on their review. It WORKED! I overheard several of my students saying, I saw my friend review this on the video we watched in the library last week. I did use the video that Scholastic sent, I just used it differently than I had in the past. To view our student made video, click on the link:

2- Teacher Gift Certificates

This year I  sold Teacher Gift Certificates at the Book Fair instead of doing Wish Lists. I work in a school that is 85% Low Income. I have tried year after year to do Wish Lists for the teachers. I always feel bad after each fair when a teacher has come to the library to make a Wish List only to find out that not a single book had been purchased. This year I made a paper Book Fair Gift Certificate and gave them to my volunteers working the registers. I asked them to say "Would you like to add a $5 gift certificate for your child's teacher to your purchase?" to each person BEFORE they said the total. If a parent added a gift certificate, they rang it up as an All For Books donation and wrote down the teacher's name and amount given on a tracking sheet so I would know how much each teacher earned. During the evening 15 certificates were purchased! The next morning teachers were able to spend their book fair certificates and when I rang them up,  I used the All for Books as a payment method for their purchase, if they went over the amount on their certificate,  they had to pay the difference. The teachers were so thankful! I would have considered the experiment a success if we would have been able to get one parent to purchase one, but we ended up with 15!! Huge success!  I will do this program again in the spring!


3- Student Wish Lists

I work in a school that is 85% low income. I know that there are students who are unable to shop at the book fair. I allow them to write me a wish list of what they would like to see in the library. I always remind them that wishes don't always come true, but their wishes will help me decide what to buy. This year their top three wishes were the new Jedi Academy book, Dog Man, and Ghosts. I purchased a few copies of each of these books. Lucky for me, the promotion posters that came with the planning kit had these books on them. I re-used the posters to help promote my "win checking these books out first" raffle. I loved hearing the students tell me that their wish came true because that" book had been on the wish list that they wrote for me. How do the kids make their wish lists for me? Sometimes I use paper copies from the files in the book fair toolkit online, and sometimes I use a Google Form linked via QR Code that the kids access with the library iPads.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I did it! I took the plunge and began the big project of making my library genrefied! Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that I have started the process of genrefying my library. My goal is to have the project completed by December 1st because I'm hosting a district LMC meeting in my library on Dec. 7th and I want to show off my genrefied library at the meeting.

I am very active on Twitter and many librarians like Tiffany Whitehead  and Mary Creek (and countless others) have tweeted about "Ditching Dewey" over the past few years. The concept interested me, and the little voice inside my head was persistent. Lucky for me, I know Mary Creek in real life, and she is the LMC Director at a school only 20 minutes from my school. I knew if I was going to take on this project, I would need to pick her brain. We scheduled a meeting and I was able to visit her library and see what "Ditching Dewey" really looks like. It only took me 5 minutes of browsing her shelves for me to be convinced that this is what my students NEEDED!

My students visit the library once a week for 30 minutes. 15-20 minutes is spent in a library lesson based on our LMC Curriculum. The remaining 10-15 minutes are spent checking out books. My students don't have the luxury of time in the library, they need to be able to find what they are looking for FAST. 99% of the time the students will ask me for recommendations about a genre and I show them the first 5 books in that genre that they are closest to at that moment. Arranging the books by genre will give the students SHELVES of books in their favorite genre to pick from. I'm also hoping by arranging my books by genre will spark a child's interest in a book that might not have been checked out as often as I thought it might get get checked out. Maybe the students just can't find these books because they don't know the best way to find it.

Why now and not the summer or winter break? My Mom decided to help out in my library a few mornings a week this year. I knew that if I was going to genrefy the library, it was going to be now.  With my mom and another parent volunteer helping in the library with the shelving, I knew that I would have some time to work on this project.
My genre markers 

Before meeting with Mary, I "thought" I had a "good plan" of how I was going to accomplish getting all of my books genrefied. Boy, was I WRONG! Mary had an AWESOME plan of how to accomplish this enormous task! Her process is simple and it is working beautifully!

First steps and materials needed:
Print a shelf list of your fiction section.
Color Code each genre
Order color coded labels that match the colors you picked for each genre and label protectors.
Buy Markers that match the colored labels you purchase.

highlighted barcodes
Once you get all of your supplies in order, you are READY! Use the shelf list to change the call numbers in your library management system.  (Almost 99% of this part took place at home.) As you change the call number in the computer card catalog, highlight the barcode number or book title on the shelf list to with the correct color for the genre you picked for the book. After everything is changed in the computer card catalog, start labeling the books where they are on the shelf. I decided to put the colored labeled on the top of the spines, place the stickers where you think will work best for you. This is the stage I am currently in right now. I've finished changing all of the call numbers in Destiny, and now I'm labeling the books according the colors I picked for each genre. Once that is done, you take all of the books off the shelf (carefully so you can put them back on the shelf without too much alphabetizing) and put the genres on your shelf like a puzzle.

How do you know what genre each book is?
labeling books on the shelf
Sometimes you just know. Like Harry Potter - Fantasy all the way. Captain Underpants - Humor! Sometimes you have to think like a kid... where would "Chuckie" look for this book. What was nice for me was having online access to Mary's catalog. If I wasn't sure, I would check to see where she put it. Another place I looked was in Titlewave, it was a great place to look if I was having trouble deciding which genre the book might fit best with.

I'm really excited about this project and I hope that it increases circulation in my library! I'll keep you posted.