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.  :)