November 10, 2008

Activate the school library

I've been doing a lot of thinking about libraries and librarians lately. At the Oregon/Washington school librarian's conference, my eyes were opened to a realm of new leadership possibilities for school librarians. The "Spokane Moms" spoke -- they became a legislative force when the librarian at their children's school was laid off because of budget cuts. These moms realized two things: 1) school boards don't have a clue about what librarians do, and 2) librarians are often miserable advocates for themselves. So the moms challenged librarians to take a leadership role in their schools, and to become noisy to their local and state representatives.

Also, I've been taking field trips to public libraries to see how they are changing. The main branch of my local Durham County Library is undergoing a major renovation, so I have been attending public meetings on what that will actually mean. I didn't realize how outdated my beloved library is! So I've been taking cell phone pictures of good ideas in other public libraries.

In a Wake County library, they've stuck helpful little suggestions all over the place in the children/juvenile sections, kind of the shelves themselves. Like where a series happens to fall on the shelves, they put an outward-facing listing of the entire series. Or where a popular author's work is shelved, they put a list of other authors who write similar kinds of books. Or if they have a series that's flying off the shelves, they put a list of other similar series there in case you come to the shelf looking for a book only to find it's been checked out already. I love this library! They are really thinking like patrons, thinking about how people categorize books, instead of how libraries categorize books. It makes the library a lot more like a bookstore.

So why can't school librarians do this? Make their libraries more like a bookstore? Here's a terrific article in the School Library Journal with all kinds of specific things to do in this vein. Research shows that young readers want to see the covers of books, not the spines, so let's make more displays to have books facing outward. Let's make shelf cards like this public library does, but let's have Lexile measures on there -- like students could graduate from one series to a higher-Lexile series in the same genre. Let's get on the morning announcements to tell students what new books have just gone up on the shelves. Let's host before- and after-school readings and events, like celebrating an author's birthday with students doing dramatic readings. There's a lot of potential, and most of it seems like it could be a lot of fun.

In the meantime, I'll keep stalking the stacks of the public libraries and bookstores, snapping pics of good ideas to post here. If you have ideas or pics to share, please send them my way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent ideas! Keep stalking the libraries for good, practical ideas! One thing our librarian has done is put a popular series of boxes in a small bin or basket on a shelf facing out. Also, in our classrooms, we use plastic rain gutters mounted to the wall to stand books up facing out. The kids are more attracted to the books when they can see the covers. Jean T.