Friday, October 26, 2012

School Starts with a New Look

Books are circulating. Students are running around carrying laptops and huge athletic bags.  Sure signs that the school year is under way--in fact, the first quarter is almost over already! The library got a bit of a reorganization over the summer, and it has been received well.  Students now have ample room to spread out and work.  It is stunning how uncluttered a space can feel with just a few shelves shuffled and removed.

The view from the front of the library to the back.  The big difference from last year:  tables have been reoriented and our central unit of shelves has been removed.  The space is feels bigger, airier, and more unified.

The stacks:  all the books are on the same side of the library now, with two short shelving units replacing three tall ones that we passed on to teachers over the summer.  We have a clearer line of sight to this side of the library now, and the short shelves serve as our new book display space.

This rear area of the library was cleared of all its shelves, including the large unit built against the back wall.  Tables were moved into this space to create a "classroom."  It's a bit separated from the rest of the library, and we can project against the white wall, making it easier to give instruction to visiting classes.    

How did we do it?
  1. Combine little collections: Yes, it makes sense for many institutions to have a professional collection and an oversized collection and loads of other collections.  But the statistics show that this model does not work for the students here.  Rather than getting rid of all these resources we just changed things up a bit.  Now the non-fiction collection is home to reference, oversized books, and all of the other smaller collections.  In time this will show if the materials were not being used because they couldn't be found or because they do not match the needs of the curriculum. 
  2. Give prominent space to things we want students to find: The last three summers the fiction has moved.  From the shelves below windows where students were forced to pitifully crawl and search for the perfect novel, they originally moved on to a real wall with room to grow. But this year, fiction has been honored with the best wall in the library.  With the reference not needing space, the fiction collection now is right next to the reference desk.
  3. Take the advise that your boss gives you: Right before school started the director of the school requested that we move a shelf that has been in the middle of the library forever.  For classes it provides a physical division of space.  The plan was to move it for workshops, then have it back before school starts.  That was until it was moved.  Suddenly the library felt twice as big, and a teacher took the huge shelf to his room the day before school started.  A win for all.  
Almost a full quarter into the school year, students are still trying to figure out how the library got bigger over the summer, and the librarians are so happy with how the space flows and is being used.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Harry Potter Revival Week

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in 1997, a whole year before most of our current class of freshmen were born.  Our students have therefore lived most of, if not all of, their lives surrounded by the  Harry Potter phenomenon, and so they are born fans of the boy wizard.  And now that J.K. Rowling has a brand new non-HP book out, we figured it was an ideal time for a Harry Potter Revival Week.  

Along with signs and posters, we made a video using the website (robot-like animated versions of Napoleon and Queen Elizabeth debate the finer points of a Harry Potter book vs. a non-Harry Potter book) to promote our HP Week and its various activities:

Monday's tutorial featured Harry Potter Jeopardy using a site we found online and our new Eggspert device.

HP Jeopardy participants examines their prizes of Bertie Bott's All-Flavor Beans
(actual flavors include grass, earthworm, dirt, vomit, earwax, and boogie). 
Our Harry Potter Jeopardy winner brandishes her new pen-wand.

On Tuesday, Lizz brought in a lovely little golden snitch that she had made which we hid for a "seek the snitch" challenge.  It took interested students two whole days to find it; now it hangs from the ceiling in the library to enchant anyone wise enough to look up.

The dedicated students who hunted down the hidden golden snitch.
Their rewards were Hogwarts House bookmarks.
Wednesday's tutorial was devoted to our Hogwarts classes program.  We recruited several teachers to play Hogwarts professors and instruct students in Divination (tea leaf reading using astrology charts), Care of Magical Creatures (looking at the Greco-Roman origins of the mythical creatures in the HP books and debating which creature would win in an imaginary battle), Charms (translating Latin-based spells), and Potions (chemistry).  We also had a Sorting Hat, selections from the Hogwarts library, and a Bertie Bott's All-Flavor Bean tasting station.

A new Hogwarts student is thrilled to be sorted into Gryffindor. 
Hogwarts House buttons, generously provided by a new teacher who held a
 Harry Potter fundraiser event at her previous school.
Two student prepare to duel with wands and Latin-based spells.
A Divination student tries on Professor Trewlaney's glasses during tea leaf reading.
Which would win in a hypothetical battle:  chimera or sphinx?
Downstairs in the Potions classroom, colorful fires burn.

The Hogwarts library includes the Marauder's Map, catalogs from Borgin & Burkes and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, Harry's acceptance letter from Hogwarts, and the program from the Quidditch World Cup--all contributed by the same wonderful teacher who brought the Hogwarts House buttons!
Thursday was the last day to take our Harry Potter O.W.L. exam (pen wands were awarded to those who received a grade of "Outstanding"), and Friday we promoted Harry Potter read-alikes such as Lev Grossman's The Magicians which features a fantastic "Harry Potter goes to college, parties like a rock star, and discovers Narnia" storyline.  All in all, Harry Potter Revival Week was a magical success (Get it?  Magical?  Hee hee).

A few days later, we received our two new copies of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy; they were checked out almost as soon as they were cataloged.  We're very eager to hear what Harry Potter fans think of this completely Muggle-oriented new book!

Wands and beans--our Harry Potter shopping list

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Bags for Summer Reading

Lizz and I spent all year promoting recreational reading and promoting library programs.  We didn't want to stop just because school was out for the summer.  So we initiated a new summer books program:  Book Bags for Summer Reading!

For the first time, students and staff were invited to check books out for the summer.  We made themed bags based on genre or subject and invited people to custom-make their own bag.  We aimed for five or six books per bag; some people (our favorite people) took ten or twelve books--or even more than one book bag!

Bags were reserved with the name of the student or staff member on book bag tags that I made in PhotoShop.  Tags also showed what the bag's theme was--science fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, books by a certain author, books in a series, etc.

Lizz and I spent an entire day putting themed bags together, and had a wonderful time and got completely carried away.

We ordered something like 200 bags.  We didn't use them all, but that was not for lack of trying!
Books for the Steampunk Book Bag

Books for the True Crime Book Bag

Books for one of the Mystery Book Bags

We allowed students and staff to browse through the bags at their leisure and to pick and choose from multiple bags as they built their own book bag.  We even took it upon ourselves to make bags for a couple of our frequent library users who didn't come in on their own.  We promoted for two weeks with signs and a stop-animation video that we made, and had of week of actual check out.  We kept careful records of who had checked out what books, and made sure everyone knew that books were due during the first week of the 2012-2013 school year, and that fees would apply if books were not returned.

Science fiction and fantasy were very popular (especially dystopias--we had four bags of sci fi dystopian books) and a lot of our newest arrivals went out the door for the first time.  The Game of Thrones series was also frequently asked for; we even went out to Barnes and Noble and bought another set!  We made a few very specific book bags that were reserved almost immediately:  "Classics and Classic Spin-Offs" (Pride and Prejudice with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the like), "The Plague!" (fiction and nonfiction books about plagues and diseases), "Books with Titles that Relate to Food," etc.  We had an almost equal mix of students and staff--just a few more students.  Building bags on the fly based on personal interest of the reader turned out to be relative easy, since making the themed bag had provided us with an excellent refresher of the books in our collection.  By the time all the students and teachers and staff had gone home for the year and the building was empty, we had checked out over 200 books in nearly 50 book bags.  That's a lot of summer reading, and we were pretty damn proud of ourselves.

Tagged, bagged, and ready for summer reading!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly Displays: Bee Books

We have bees!  Recently, one of our grade deans came up with the idea to purchase beehives for the school.  He recruited a student, who spread the word to a math teacher, who spread the word to a teacher in our department, and then we became completely obsessed--more so when the hives were installed right outside the library windows!

The Environmental Science class helped build the hive enclosure:

The Environmental Science class at work with the library wing in the background.

See that globe in the window behind the students?  That's one of the library windows!

Interested students and teachers (and Lizz) were on hand when the hives were delivered:

They delivered the bees at night because that's when bees sleep!  Who knew?

And now, nearly every day, one of us is likely to be seen peering through the enclosure and watching the busy bees at work:

Lizz watches at the bees as I take photos of her through our very dirty library windows.

One of two beehives and a few of the 6,000 bees.

And of course we had to do a display of bee books:

I highly recommend The Beekeeper's Apprentice and the entire Marry Russell series by Laurie R. King.

Bees must have been buzzing in the school consciousness for some time; we had no problem putting together a display about bees, insects, and books with "bee" in the title.  And this wasn't even everything in the catalog:  Clan Apis, an educational graphic novel about bees; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire); and Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey were all checked out.  Other fiction tie-ins included The Beekeeper's Apprentice (a Sherlock Holmes spin-off) and The Secret Life of Bees.  We had four books additional books that focused on bees and the history of honey, and of course I couldn't resist adding an old VHS copy of episode three of David Attenborough's documentary The Secret Life of Plants called--you guessed it--"The Birds and the Bees." 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Shifting Project

Our project to weed our library and rearrange our space continues with an exciting development:

Empty shelves!!!

After spending an invigorating day doing manual labor (carrying loads of books counts as manual labor in library land), we managed to shift enough of our remaining books to have THREE! EMPTY! SHELVES!  We have big plans for this new space.  When the shelves were full, this area of the library was pretty much out of our line of sight.  The shelves are tall and close together--it's hard to tell if there's kid desperately looking for a book over there.  So we want to get rid of the big empty shelves and replace them with these three lower shelves that are currently on the other side of the library:

These low shelves currently hold the 900s, so we'll have to do more shifting to keep the books in correct Dewey order.  But clearing the shelving from this alcove will allow us to create a dedicated classroom space here, which we currently lack.  We'd love to remove the shelves from the wall, too (currently the oversize books, which we'd like to integrate with the rest of the collection) and get some fancy whiteboard paint to make that an interactive space.

We still need to weed the 900s, which is a very big project, but we're getting closer to our vision of a cohesive, welcoming library space that works for groups of all sizes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Harry Potter Survives!

When the final Harry Potter movie was released there seemed to be a general fear in our library that we would no longer get to talk about this magical world. The common Harry Potter references, like attempting to edit the school's Wikipedia page to boast about Quidditch matches or wearing a Hogwarts school uniform, have been spotted all year.  Then this appeared:

One poster in a very public space and the chatter of spells and Hogwarts started again.  Two days later this pops up:

For librarians, it is great news! Let us revel in renewed Harry Potter interest! Now students are talking about the books, movies, and Pottermore. But what's with the posters? One theory is an underground Harry Potter club.  We will enjoy the conversations and wait patiently for more signs (and an invitation to join Dumbledore's Army).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekly Displays: Titanic's 100th Anniversary

Just as our obsession with The Hunger Games was starting to dry up, the 100th anniversary of the voyage of the Titanic came along.  What luck!  (For us, at least; not so much for the actual Titanic passengers.)

Inspired by the "boarding passes" that the traveling Titanic Artifact Exhibit handed out to visitors at its various museums (we both saw the exhibit when it was at the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2010), I made our own school version of a Titanic ticket complete with passenger information and a note about whether or not that passenger had the good fortune (and significant social status) to survive the disaster.  Many students rifled through the tickets in order to claim a survivor's ticket.  No one wants to end up alone in the icy Atlantic with a sinking luxury cruise ship, after all...

A sample boarding pass from the Titanic Artifact Exhibit.

Our tickets were set out along with a display of Titanic books, including Walter Lord's classic A Night to Remember, the novel Fateful by Claudia Gray (it's about werewolves on the Titanic and is a fabulous guilty-pleasure read), Allan Wolf's novel-in-verse The Watch That Ends the Night, the 1986 National Geographic issue that showcased the discovery of the wreck, and a completely inappropriate Danielle Steel romance novel set on the Titanic called No Greater Love which we weeded from the collection but couldn't resist putting on display anyway.

The luxury liner on its way to the inevitable meeting with the iceberg, above our Titanic book display.

And yes, of course we both watched the Titanic miniseries over the weekend.  :) 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Topic Statements Around the World

Earlier this year, as part of the ninth grade class' quarter-long History Play Project (which involves researching a world history topic, writing a paper, and performing a play about their selected topic), we were asked by a teacher to discuss the idea of topics and thesis statements.  We immediately decided that a creative approach would be best to get--and keep--the kids involved.  What we came up with was an activity that we called "Topic Statements Around the World."

We set up six tables to take the place of the six regions around the world; each table was piled high with history books and magazine articles about that region.  I crafted "passports" so students could take notes as they checked off each region.  In teams of two or three, students looked through the materials on each table, crafted three cohesive and original thesis statements for each region, and had them approved by a "customs agent" (a teacher or librarian who gave gold stars instead of passport stamps) before moving on to the next table/region.  When all six tables had been visited, the kids had completed the assignment.

Lizz and I made a very beautiful trophy out of discarded library books and a mini foam globe and awarded it to the group with the most specific, original, and in-depth thesis statements.  Many of the groups had several quality statements ("the experience of workers during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad"; "the disappearance of the Aina people in Northern Japan") and some were far too simple ("Boer War"; "the experience after WWII") but made us chuckle nonetheless.  We also gave bonus points to the group who wrote, "This was cool and we have unique ideas so we should win!!" 

A bit hokey and kiddish, this activity ended up being one of the most effective ways to really make students think not only about different areas of the world, but how they were asking questions about the material.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunger Games in the Library

With Hunger Games fever in the air, especially during the first weeks of March (our last two weeks of school before our spring break), we brought the saga of Katniss Everdeen, tribute from District 12, to our library.

We really love The Hunger Games around here.

Our first step was a reaping bowl--a big glass bowl borrowed from the dining hall for a classic write-your-name-on-a-slip-of-paper-and-if-we-pull-it-out-you-win! contest to be held during one of our assemblies.  I made a Hunger Games crossword and word find and if kids completed them, they could enter their names in the reaping bowl again.  Just like The Hunger Games, only you win prizes instead of being forced to fight to the death!

We also scheduled a Hunger Games library "event" during one of our tutorial blocks (a school-wide free block that occurs twice a week).  We had dozens of prizes from our wonderful Hunger Games shopping spree, and we planned three "stations:"  archery (with plastic bows and suction cup arrows), a Hunger Games trivia quiz, and a plant and flower scavenger hunt (designed and led by my sister, who is a naturalist at the nearby Kroening Interpretive Center and who is doing her own Hunger Games-inspired program in a couple weeks).  We promoted the event for about a week beforehand.  This is the first time our library has ever done a program like this, so there was no way to tell what our turnout would be.  We were pleased when about twelve kids showed up--most of them from our Reading Club, but all of them very welcome.

Our signs promoting The Hunger Games library event.

Students enter their names in the reaping (a red plastic bowl temporarily replaces the glass bowl, which the dining hall staff needed back for an event).
I tried to make the quiz challenging, but these kids are as Hunger Games obsessed as I am and several of them called me out on "questionable" multiple choice options.  I rewarded them with bonus points for arguing with me.
My sister gives instructions for the plant and flower scavenger hunt.
Searching the stacks for the correct plant or flower to match their given scenario (find a water plant you can eat, find a plant that you can make into tea, don't bring back the deadly but beautiful flowers, etc.).
Groosling, rabbit, tracker jacker and wolf mutt targets.
Target practice.
One of the most coveted prizes was The Hunger Games Official Illustrated Movie Companion.
Another prize:  a book of critical essays about The Hunger Games by other YA authors.
In retrospect, we could have been a bit more organized and possibly worked in another activity or two, and we could have planned the awarding of the prizes a little better.  As it was, we pretty much let the kids have at it, tried to keep scores as best we could, and brought out our box of goodies with about 30 seconds left before the end of the block.  It was great fun for us, and the kids who attended seemed to have a good time as well.  We're going to get comments and feedback from our Reading Club when students return from Spring Break next week.

Later in the week, after our library event, we held our reaping during assembly.  We projected a movie still of the reaping on stage behind our school director she pulled names from the bowl and read them out loud to the crowd of students, who definitely got a kick out of this activity--there was much cheering and laughing.  We awarded some of our most treasured prizes here, including a Katniss pillowcase and District 12 kneesocks.

An English teacher rushes on stage to volunteer as tribute (and claim her movie poster prize), complete with Katniss-style bow and arrow set and mockingjay pin.
The lucky winner of the amazing District 12 kneesocks.
 Finally, we had a special guest judge (social studies teacher) come in to judge the submissions from the coloring contest.  Kids got surprisingly creative; the winners and a few of our other favorites are below.

The "Peeta in the dark" one is my favorite; it just cracks me up.
 All in all, I'd call our Hunger Games program--our first real library program--a success.  We tried to include both passive programming (the coloring sheets, crossword and word find, and reaping) and active programming (the tutorial library event) in order to attract all our teenage patrons.  We'll do more programming like this in our continued effort to increase the library's presence in the school and to make the library a social space as well as a study space.

Also, did I mention that Lizz and I are both just really obsessed with The Hunger Games?  We kept the mockingjay pins for ourselves.  :)