August 17

Reader’s Choice: Creating a Student-Centered Library

No one goes to the library to be prescribed a book. Allowing students to choose their own books helps create ownership – they are more likely to read them. When students ask for recommendations, I always point out at least five titles or a number of authors.

This doesn’t mean that I am not quick to suggest my favourite recent reads or new additions to the collection but time and again I see un-cracked books returned because the student took the book without buy-in.

Idea: I’ve been known to pull under-appreciated gems and add them to my shelving cart, where students sometimes gravitate to find popular books.

 

The time to get a new book is when you’ve finished the last one, not at 1:25 on Wednesdays. Ensure that the Learning Commons has frequent but not necessarily lengthy open-book exchange periods. Students will soon learn that the time is to be used wisely and it encourages students to look critically at their selections.

Avoid regularly scheduling upper intermediate classes for a whole class book exchange. The belief that it’s the only time they come to the library’ just doesn’t wash – if you build a collection with books they want – they will come.

The students that truly resist are likely not cracking the books they are forced to take out anyway – other, more individualized strategies are needed there.

 

Even though Melvil and I have basically broken up, Dewey did have one thing right…library books should not be levelled. Dewey’s system is the great equalizer – where students that struggle with reading would take out their non-fiction right beside everyone else.

One reader might benefit from the illustrations, another from the captions and a third from all the text cover to cover. Having said that, I do have a ‘Yellow Sticker’ section with beginner chapter books. We just don’t call them ‘Early Chapter books’ – they are simply the yellow sticker books. Yes, the students know, but it is less stigma.

Idea: Text Features are a must with any non-fiction. For more on this see my SlideShare on Elementary Non-Fiction Collection

 

There seems to be too much focus on helping students find that one ‘just right’ book. Rather, view the Reader as being on a continuum.

A developmental, trial and error process whereby books are sampled, a little absorbed, and exchanged – upgraded – to books that will hold attention longer. There is actually, no error in this process – each attempt brings the Reader more able to make critical choices and problem solve, and more able to narrow down the kinds of books that will hold interest.

 

You can bring in all the comfy seating, lowered shelving, open exchange you like but if the collection is not over-the-top high interest, the Readers will not come. Of course we all strive to develop a collection that reflects the diversity of today’s students but beyond that, what are the driving interests in your school community?

When I took over the library I could have been forgiven for thinking that the students were avid figure skaters, loved horses and were fascinated by Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In truth, they are none of these things. In our library, hockey, origami, humorous angst and Fantasy rule.

The non-fiction doesn’t have to cover everything. It can’t. It just has to be continually morphing to mirror the student’s interests. Build a collection where students are reading for information but perhaps more importantly, reading for fun.

Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. Bye-Bye, Dewey. Hello, Chapters. I only have my intermediate fiction sorted by genre and it has made the world of difference. Circulation of novels went up, uncirculated books were discovered. Students love the arrangement.

It’s super easy for shelving and helping students find books during a busy exchange is much more streamlined: “Do you have any ghost stories?” “Why yes, check out the Supernatural section” Drops mic.

 

Reading reward programs, contests, district programs all have a valuable place in promoting reading. But to be sure, there is no substitute to encourage a reader better than the treasure of a well-matched book.

As students must have choice in what they read, prescribing books that may not suit their reading level or offering prizes in return for check marks, may help build the expectation of a culture of reading but it may not necessarily build Readers.

 

In the words of Elsa, ‘Let it Go’. Books will get damaged, chewed, drawn on and any number of things that must not be named. I’m all for students learning about responsibility but if the solution to a lost book impacts the ability of the student to be a Reader and the ability of the Librarian to teach, then the solution is, in fact, the bigger problem.

It is up to each Librarian how they choose to handle this ubiquitous issue and there are lots of creative solutions. I have an ‘Oops’ program that works for us and there is another one here. Being too much of a Book Warden can damage relationships.

 

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June 8

Cataloging Indigenous Resources: Alternatives to Dewey

Dewey unveiled his cataloguing system in 1876 and although it has seen many modifications over the years it still reflects the influences of it’s designer in a number of areas.

The ‘correct’ placement of resources that support the weaving of Aboriginal content in our new B.C. curriculum appeared limiting and somewhat divisive. In short, I would struggle to direct an Aboriginal student, curious about their living culture, to the 971 history section, sandwiched and segregated, somewhere between World War II and the Aztecs. Optics matter.

Despite my efforts at sorting and labelling, placing Indigenous Creation Stories next to Little Red Riding Hood in 398.2 Folklore and Fairytales seemed equally as jarring.

After consultation with Surrey colleagues Kim Perry; Teacher, Lynne Powell; Helping Teacher, Lise Tilden; Aboriginal Education, and helpful direction from Heidi Wood; Aboriginal Helping Teacher, I rearranged and re-catalogued to reflect what seems to be more respectful placements whilst still preserving the integrity of a workable comprehensive library.

Here are the highlights:

Creation Stories

These are considered to be non-fiction. When I am asked for a Space unit, I am pulling How the Raven Stole the Sun as well, so 523.7 is a logical choice. Similarly, How The Robin got it’s Red Breast goes in the bird section, Cloudwalker on the environment shelf, Mayuk with the bears.

Elder Stories

Includes stories that reflect true events or story of an Elder or the author. I have included here traditional stories as well as more contemporary works. The contemporary First Nations titles pictured below were designated Dewey 970 History of North America. I have placed them in Courage 179 and Wisdom 170.

 Fiction

Stories that are for entertainment or a teaching have been placed in Fiction. Some of the Txamsen Stories for example. However, some of these were not in a format or reading level that would work at our school in the picture book section. They are now in 813 Fiction.

 The labels are not ideal but they are easily identifiable. Titles that are not First Nations but are Metis or Inuit have a solid red label. Students are able to find these at a glance. Eventually,  I will have these labels only on authentic Aboriginal texts. I am still working through these.

The 970s

The biggest shift was the exodus out of the history section and involved moving all the non-fiction two shelves over. It seemed to me that even a book delineated as describing past traditions was, in fact, describing current traditions. It wasn’t history. I evaluated every book, weeded a few, and placed the rest in 305.897.

The 305s  – my favourite section – ‘Groups of People’ – the section we all fit in, in one way or another.

I am sure as we use this system, it will morph and evolve, resulting in an organization that perhaps more accurately reflects the community the collection serves.

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January 3

A Learning Community

We began the leap from a traditional library model to a library learning commons in September 2012. Here’s a top 10 list of some of the most striking benefits of a Learning Commons that we have observed:

1. Physical  LC: The space is open and inviting with no divisive stacks. There is space to create, to read, to build and to collaborate. Check out our transformation here.

2. Virtual LC: We use social media and digital student portfolios to share work and maintain a website that directs staff and students to the virtual learning commons. Continue reading

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February 16

Increase the Cool Factor

At Vanier, an ever growing number of students bring a personal device to school. In the Learning Commons we use those digital devices to increase the circulation of books, particularly among upper intermediate students.

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October 17

Finding the Book that’s Just Right

Reluctant readers are able to read, they may just have trouble settling in to a good book. Finding your child’s  ‘just right’ book can sometimes be tricky. These common traits of books that appeal to all kinds of learners might help guide your young reader’s choices. One might just be the perfect book to hook your child into becoming a life long reader. Continue reading

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February 20

Woo Hoo! Easier Access to the Intermediate Fiction

Students in the Learning Commons now have a new way to more easily find the books they love. Instead of organizing the intermediate fiction by author, the books are now arranged by genre – like in a book store.

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The books have brightly coloured labels which makes them easy to identify and are grouped together. So if you like books about ghouls and zombies take a look at our SUPERNATURAL section.

Here’s a list of our new categories. Come check out our books about:

ADVENTURE: danger and challenges

ANIMALS: dogs, cats, elephants and gorillas

HISTORICAL: wars, ninjas and sinking ships

HUMOUR: diaries, laughs and giggles

REALISTIC: relationships, home and school, joy and sadness

SCI-FI and FANTASY: monsters, myths, mermaids and magic

SPORTS: pucks, balls and bats

SUSPENSE: mysteries and surprise endings

SUPERNATURAL: ghosts and vampires

Students can also use an iPad to electronically search the library catalogue to find their perfect book.

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May 13

Division 8 iMovies – Natural Disasters Club

This year the ‘Natural Disasters Club’ meet over a three month period in the Georges Vanier Learning Commons. Three classes, about 75 students, participated from grades 3 – 5. The goal was to encourage reading using a high interest topic using fiction and non-fiction sources. Students blogged their ideas, created digital art, showed their learning through a variety of apps and web based programs, tweeted their progress and read, read, read. Students designed and created T Shirts to reflect on their learning and each made an iMovie Trailer to bring together the many facets of the project. We are appreciative of the My Class Needs and Fuel Your School programs for the support for this project.

Div 8 iMovies Natural Disasters Club from Anna Crosland on Vimeo.

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