This has been a topic that has been circulated between all of us in our district as we are slowly moving into being a 1:1 Chromebook district over the past two years. As more and more Chromebook carts have appeared on our campus, many of our school libraries have seen far fewer classes coming into the library. Naturally, we have been concerned about making sure the library stays a vital part of the school.
First and foremost, here's a harsh truth. If your library was only being used for its computer lab, your library wasn't being used properly in the first place. It's a harsh fact, but it's true. If the teachers coming in never consulted you as they marched their classes through, they weren't using you in all your capacity. Naturally, not every teacher is going to consult you. There will be classes that just come in to use a computer lab, but a strong library program is one that has teachers coming to you time and time again to consult and team-teach. The good news is that if you do find yourself in this situation, the ideas I have outlined could help to build your library program as well as keep other ones thriving.
So that leads me into 5 things I have done to keep my library relevant and thriving despite being a GAFE school.
I created two separate websites on GAFE and Google Classroom for teachers to refer to, I made countless screencasts of instructions for students and staff. I volunteered to train classified staff, and I launched myself into a position of being known not just on my campus but throughout the district as a "Google Expert."
Consistently in every medium I possibly could, I encouraged teachers to come to me with their tech questions. I volunteered to team teach with them any technology lesson they felt uncomfortable with. I created content for their classes when they didn't feel confident in the technology. Through launching myself into this position, I found teachers coming through my doors that normally did not. Yes, I saw a dip in teachers that just needed a computer lab, but they weren't utilizing me in the way a true librarian should be anyway. Now, I'm more of a consultant and team teacher than just someone who provided resources.
#2: Create strong reoccurring projects with a certain set of teachers
Each semester, I team with the freshman health teachers on their "Health of the Planet" research project. The idea was to help walk freshman through their first big research project. Through this project, they learn how to use multiple aspect of GAFE, take notes, research online and in print, write a script, work in a group setting, and how to synthesize all aspects of the project into one final product. It's tremendously valuable to them, and we work to improve it every year.
If you can build just one or two of these project that reoccur every year, you will build a way to keep your library thriving. But where do you start? Maybe you don't feel comfortable butting your head into a teacher's class and saying, "Hey, can we team up?" Try to start with just one teacher and one project. Or perhaps become an expert in a certain piece of technology, shoot it out to the staff, and offer help to anyone who would like to use this new piece of technology.
When we got a subscription to WeVideo, this is exactly what I did. I became an expert in it, created screencasts and thorough instructions, and started to reach out to teachers with this new technology. The trick was in order for them to utilize WeVideo, they had to be a part of my "classroom account." I would get the students in there and all set up with accounts and then instructed them in how to use it. It only took one teacher who loved it to spread the word to everyone else.
Of course I was, and I started with just a couple. However, I knew this was my chance to make an impression. By using book trailers and an engaging Prezi, I created book talks that impressed the English teachers and soon word spread. (See HERE for my earlier blog post on how I use Prezi with my book talks.) Those teachers recommended my book talks at their department meeting, and soon I was busy with planning them all.
The other thing I have done is to never say no to a book talk simply because I can't be there or already have classes booked. For those book talks where I can't be there, I record myself and edit a short video together for a virtual book talk. This way, I keep up the relationship with that teacher of doing everything I can to keep reading alive.
Now each quarter that comes along, I send out an e-mail to "book" some book talks. It's another built-in program that keeps my library thriving at the beginning of each semester.
It's a fun and easy way to promote the library and make it a central part of the school. The teachers find it fun and informative. It opens up our doors a little more so the entire staff can see in.
Some very successful contests we have run include one where I shredded up pages from famous novels, put them in clear glass ornaments, and hung them on our library Christmas tree. Students had to guess the novels on 10 different ornaments. Another one for college week was a "Guess the college mascot" contest. Finally, I'm excited next week to launch the "Emoji Booki" contest. You can read more about that in an earlier blog post HERE.
You can also do many things outside of just contests. Next month, I plan on running a "March Mystery Month." We will have a contest built in with solving riddles. However, the event will take over the entire library with displays on real-life mysteries, mystery books, and more.
Makerspaces are all the rage as well right now in libraries, and this kind of a space would be an excellent addition to any library just in general but especially for libraries that are in need of more foot traffic.
Our roles as librarians are changing as technology changes and becomes more prevalent. If we don't adapt, our programs will suffer. I'm excited for the new possibilities for educational technology and plan to make myself indispensable to my school.
Statistics. . . .woo! Sounds like a riveting topic to the teacher librarian, but it wasn't until I started really keeping track of various aspects of my library that I realized just how important statistics are and how they can be used in a variety of ways. Now, instead of seeing statistics as this task I need to tick off of my list every once in a while, I look forward to seeing the trends in my library and learning how I need to adjust from there.
I have left spaces for a variety of information to get a good picture of our entire library. My assistant helps me to keep track of some of the information I can't run through Destiny, including the number of students through our doors and the number of classes served. Each day, she logs in a Google Sheet the number of students recorded coming through out security gates. The gate logs how many people have walked through the gate that day. Since it records the number of people walking in and out, we divide the number in half, and we arrive at the total number of students we believe walk in and out. Granted, some will be teachers, some will be repeats, etc. However, it gives us a good idea of the number of bodies coming through here each day, even though it isn't 100% scientific. At least for our purposes, we can see trends. After the month is finished and she enters in all the information into the Google Sheet, I look at it and using the SUM and AVG functions, I total the number of students walking through our doors and average it.
In addition to just seeing the total number of items circulated, I break it down into specific types of mediums. Also, there are spaces to talk about the types of projects we are working on, the types of instruction I provided, and website updates. I use a very sophisticated system of two sticky notes on my desk calendar where I keep track of all the projects and website additions I make. Therefore, when I do my monthly report, I don't have to try to remember everything I did that month!
Once I have determined the top ten list, I post it on a wall in the library. We have this ledge that is very visible when your first walk in to the library, and I created a fun top ten list that I change every month once I do the monthly report. See picture below.
I find it starts a nice conversation with some of the kids about new books that appear up there or just a good visual for students not sure what exactly to read.
Once I started doing these monthly reports, I started to find myself becoming more invested in our library statistics and beyond. I could start to tell what our busiest months were, when the most books were checked out, how many projects came through our library each month. Plus, if my position were ever in question, I have a ton of documentation proving how valuable we are to the school.
With the right procedures in place, your library statistics can become an extremely informative and interesting part of your job as a TL.
Jennifer Zimny has been a teacher librarian at Ponderosa High School for the past three years and previous to that, she was the drama teacher for 9 years. She holds a BA in Theatre from CSUS, a teaching credential in English, and a teaching credential in Library Media Services from Azusa Pacific University
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