Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Things Your Library is Trying to Tell You

When I stepped into my role as an elementary school librarian in my current school last year, I was in
awe. The library had been completely rebuilt from the ground up and stocked with brand new books.
I had worked at this school a few years before and the transformation was absolutely astounding. As
I spent more and more time in my new “home”, it became apparent that as nice and updated as this
space was, there was still some room for improvement. As the months rolled by, my library began to reveal to me five important things I would absolutely need in order to keep my students engaged and
falling in love with books.

You Need To Know Your Collection
While almost every book in the library was brand new, I noticed that our fiction and biography
sections  were lacking. While we had books in these areas, there definitely wasn’t enough. Most of the books in the biography section were on a level way above what my students could read without difficulty. My school serves students in K-2, so it became imperative to find books they could actually use. I found several books in our collection that were appropriate, so I made sure to shop from those publishers to beef up our collection in these areas. The process is still ongoing, but we’re headed in the right direction.

You Need To Use What You Have
I also noticed a wireless barcode scanner tucked away in a cabinet that had never been used by the
previous librarian. I got our district technology coordinator to connect it properly for me and it makes
inventory a breeze. There were also a ton of literacy center games that had never been used. I dug
those out and put them to work. What I discovered in my new library was that we already had a ton of
resources but they were doing nobody any good tucked away in cabinets. See what you have and if it’s not what you want, think of how you could use your resources in a different way.

You Need To Step It Up
When I first started as a librarian years ago, my main job was merely checking out books and keeping a class quiet. Gone are the days when this was the norm in school libraries. My library is a hub of learning and a visitor walking in might mistake it for a regular classroom because of the energy inside. I know that in order to keep this momentum of learning going, I have to stay in a constant state of learning myself. This spring I took three online classes that have taught me some new ways of teaching my students. I would also encourage you to join online learning communities for librarians and get digitally connected with your peers. I read a ton of blogs written by librarians just like me and connect with several of these librarians on Twitter and Facebook. I love to see how others are doing things in their own libraries and gather new ideas to try in my own.

You Need to Go All Out
This was the first year that I went “all out” for my school library. We held a reading fair, a book fair, and had a fun-filled week of celebrating Read Across America. Was it a lot of extra work? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I am fortunate enough to work with some really great people who are always ready to lend a helping hand when it comes to extra projects and events. These events got the students so excited about books and reading and had them literally begging for more. I’m already thinking ahead for this next school year to make these events even better.

You Need To Take Risks
As I’m challenging myself to stay current on library trends and professional development, I also had an 
experience this year that taught me to take risks for my library. I had never held a school wide book fair in my years as a librarian. My principal encouraged me to give it a try this year, and although I was really apprehensive about our school meeting our goal, we did it. I’ve never seen my students so excited about books and experiencing their enthusiasm for reading during book fair week was an amazing thing. You see, I work in the Mississippi Delta where poverty is very high. I wasn’t too sure my students could afford some of the books that we would be selling. However, the parents were so supportive and Scholastic worked with me to provide my students a small book fair on an affordable level. My students and co-workers purchased so much that they made it possible for our school to receive over $800 in new books. As soon as it was over, the kids were asking when the next book fair would take place. I’m so glad I gave this a chance.

As I’m looking ahead to the start of a new school year in just a few short weeks, I’ll be keeping these things in mind as I prepare for the arrival of my students. Take a look around and see if your library is
trying to tell you something, too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mandy Zuniga is an elementary school librarian at H. M. Nailor I.B. World School in Cleveland, MS. She blogs at http://www.readwritemom.com.

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