Trekking through the wilds of library instruction, management, and fun!

Aug 4, 2014

Easing Into a New Library Position

Changing districts, schools, and school levels isn't easy, and the many details involved with moving my family allowed me to push thoughts of how to execute the transition to the "back burner." However, I finally reached a point this week at which I was able to begin my new adventure! If you find yourself in a similar situation, let me share my how I eased into the unfamiliar waters of a new position even before school begins!

1. School Website
One of the easiest and most important tasks was to publish my profile, create classes, and set up a library web page. In my case, I'm following a master librarian, so I simply modeled the classes and web page information after what she already had in place. K.I.S.S. mentality, folks. It was also interesting to look through the files available to employees.

2. School Board Manual
I wanted to make sure I was aware of anything pertinent to my position, so I searched the online school board manual for terms such as "librarian," "media specialist," etc. I printed everything I found for easy reference later. 

3. Calendar
I need a year long calendar of library events, even if it's tentative. Unfortunately, I've spent the last eight years building such calendars for elementary libraries, and I'm not familiar with what should be included in one for a middle school library. So I'll soon be perusing the calendars for other middle school libraries to get ideas. I expect to receive a school calendar soon, and that will help me nail down dates. 

4. Move In
This week I'll move my things into my new library. Is that essential? Probably not, but I believe I'll feel more at home, and that sense of belonging is something I've missed since I moved out of my old library a couple of months ago.

Okay...that's a start. And that's all I need for now. Easy does it...

Yours happily ever after,

Apr 12, 2014

A Happy Shift

By God's leading, my husband recently accepted a new position a few hours away from our current home. This will require many adjustments, such as selling and buying homes, transferring schools for my children, AND a new position for me, too! I'm happy to announce that this fall I'll be a MIDDLE SCHOOL media specialist! While I've taught in a middle school, all of my eight years as a librarian have been in an elementary school, so I'll soon be broadening my focus a bit on my Pinterest boards and in my posts here. I hope you'll be around to help me and celebrate this new shift in my life with me!

Yours happily ever after,

Mar 19, 2014

Pencil Sharpener Giveaway (CLOSED)

A while back, I received a pencil sharpener to try out in my library. It did not disappoint!!! You can read my full review at 

Regrettably, the picture doesn't do it justice, but hopefully you can see the elongated tip of that pencil. It's just BEAUTIFUL! Seriously, it elicited exclamations every time I tried it. It became entertaining - what else could I sharpen? It was so much fun to watch my colleagues' faces when I demonstrated it for them.

If you're in the market for a new pencil sharpener, I highly recommend this one. It's available in red, green, blue, black and pink from Classroom Friendly Supplies for $24.99 with FREE shipping within the United States. You can also enter to win one...

DISCLAIMER:  I received one of the pencil sharpeners mentioned above for  free in the hope that I would review it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal  Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Yours happily ever after,

Library Entrance and Exit Tips

In Harry Wong fashion, I've always taught my students procedures for entering and exiting the library. After many years, it has evolved into this: Enter through the door on the right. Line up with one foot on a red square, and wait for instructions. To exit, place one foot on a blue square in front of the Goodbye Door. 


The squares are just duct tape, and the colors don't matter as long as one represents entering and another represents exiting.

Things to remember...
1. Ask permission before applying the tape - it doesn't come up easily!
2. The tape pieces need to be spaced far enough apart to allow for personal space.
3. For those who pretend to be standing on a square but aren't, I send them to the back of the line. It may sound harsh, but most of them don't test you after a couple of weeks of practice.

Yours happily ever after,

Mar 18, 2014

My Favorite OPAC Activity

I just love when the Lord gives me a wonderful idea that my students enjoy! No other lesson has ever stimulated my students' interest in using our OPAC as much as this one did. As an added dividend, it produces a wonderful display of books related to a particular topic (fall, in this lesson).

BOOK STANDS: Do you recognize the cardboard book stands in the pictures below? They used to come with our book fair materials. I cut Velcro into 1" - 2" sections and applied the fuzzy side to the cardboard display base of as many book stands as I could find.

LABELS: I searched TPT and the internet for FREE word wall cards that were related to my topic. I printed them on cardstock, laminated them and cut them out. Then I applied a loopy Velcro section to each of them. I placed all of them in a little basket.

ACTIVITY:  The students were divided in pairs and given one of the labels from the basket. Their job was to use the OPAC to locate any book related to the topic on their label. Then they were to attach the label to a book display and set the book on it for others to consider checking out. As time allowed, they kept drawing labels from the basket and searching for books.

It was a blast, and we can "play" this OPAC review game as many times as I'm able to create new sets of labels!

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Yours happily ever after,

Mar 3, 2014

Book Return Sanity Savers

Sometimes I just don't understand things that perhaps I should. For example, I don't understand having a "book drop" INSIDE my library. My goal is to get the books scanned in and then returned to the correct shelf. While a book cart may be helpful in accomplishing that goal, I can't see where the  book drop is of any help at all.

It actually caused quite a few problems. On busy days when I couldn't keep up with the traffic, the books would overflow the bin. Plus, the check out computer wouldn't let students check out because they still hadn't returned their books, only they really had. They were just buried under other books that had been "dropped."

Several years later, I was at a conference and heard about a library that had eliminated their book drop, having the students place books directly on a book truck instead. You should have heard the exclamations throughout the room. It was ingenious!

I brought the idea back and implemented it in my library, with a few changes:
1. I have my students check their books in themselves.
2. The cart is labeled, and the students place books on the correct shelf of a labeled cart. 
3. I made up a little jump rope chant to help the students place them correctly on the shelf: "UP like a DOOR, with the LABEL near the FLOOR."
4. We hot-glued foamy shelf liner on the shelves to help books stay upright. It doesn't last forever, but it certainly helps.
5. To prevent a long line out the door when large groups come in, I revert to a mini version of the book drop by placing a container on the desk. Students drop books in, and then I check them all in quickly.



 A few more reminders: 
1. Cover the book drop hole securely - your students will try to help by uncovering it :)
2. Set up the computer closest to the entrance to check in, and leave it that way all day. Connect loud speakers so your students can hear the "good" sound.
3. Walk through the process with your classes.
4. Set up the other computer to check out and place parameters to only allow a maximum of checkouts per patron. That way, it will sound a warning if the students accidentally fail to check in their books. Remind them that they won't be able to check out if they haven't effectively checked in, so they should listen for the "good" sound every time they check in a book.
4. You'll need 2 of these carts, so you can have a replacement while you take one to shelve.

Please contact me if you have any problem opening the following documents.

Check In Sign  
Return Cart Labels
(Click the printer icon, select "Open with Adobe" and print from there for best quality) 
Elf Sign 1
Elf Sign 2
Elf Sign 3
Elf Sign 4

Yours happily ever after,

Mar 2, 2014

Library Circulation Desk Sanity Savers

Over the years, I've picked up a few ideas that help students be more independent as they check in and check out their books. Take a look at these pictures, and I'll explain...

There are two computers at the circulation desk. This is the one for checking out books. It's set up for students to check out their books themselves, but we monitor it mainly to make sure they've chosen at least one book that is a "good fit" for them (more about that in a later post). Notice...
  • iPod speaker: We don't use it for the iPod. I just bought it because it was inexpensive and LOUD. That's the point - the self check out procedure only works if the students can clearly hear the "good sound" and be able to discern it from the sounds coming from the check in computer, located about ten feet away.
  • Sign: This "CHECK OUT HERE" sign is helpful because we have two computers from which to choose. It's inside an acrylic picture frame.
  • Scanner: Sometimes the online program doesn't process the check out, even though the scanner light blinks. I needed the students to depend on the "good" sound that results from a successful scan whether or not the scanner light blinks, so I covered the light with blue tape.
  • Destiny: This computer runs Destiny "Check Out" at all times. We set it to a limit of two books per student, so it makes the "bad" sound whenever a student forgets to identify themselves by scanning their barcode (resulting in the computer trying to apply that checkout to the prior student's account) or when they attempt to checkout more than two at a time. The sound alerts us that we need to assist them.

 This is where students check in their books themselves.
  • Speakers: You can't see them, but there is a set of computer speakers here, too.
  • Sign: The sign reminds identifies this computer as the check in computer and lists the steps of the check in process. Click here to print your own.
  • Scanner: The light on the scanner is covered here for the same reasons stated above.
  • Destiny: This computer runs Destiny "Check In" at all times, and it makes the "bad" sound if a student scans the wrong barcode, alerting them to scan a different one.
  • NO Book Drop: I covered up the hole in the desk. The students read the spine label and place the book on the correct shelf (E, F, B, 000-399, 400-699, 700-999) of a six-shelf book truck. Read more HERE.
Please leave comments, questions and your own sanity saving tricks!

Yours happily ever after,

Feb 25, 2014

A Great Pet? Quick Research for Younger Students

One of the things I like about Common Core ELA Standards is the emphasis placed on quick research assignments! One of the things I struggled with in doing research projects was how long they could drag out. I love the idea that we get in, enjoy, and get out! It leaves us with a better attitude about research and encourages us to inquire again and again!

I wanted to share a lesson that my students enjoyed recently. It covers many AASL standards, and one day I'll attach the lesson plan so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Here's the nutshell version for now. My second graders worked in pairs to complete this assignment. Their topic was "Would a _____ make a great pet?"

1. With the students watching, I set out grade level non-fiction books about wild animals. The pairs of students quietly discussed which one they'd like to research. Then one member of each pair came up to get the book they needed and take it back to their partner.

2. They were given three index cards (old card catalog cards), to use for the following purposes.
  • Card 1: Names of students and a topic question (ex. Would a zebra make a great pet? by Mark and Malachi). They also noted the title and author of their source.
  • Card 2: "Pros" - They wrote a "+" at the top of this one.
  • Card 3: "Cons" - They wrote a "-" at the top of this one.
3. I modeled reading a sample book and stopping occasionally to see what I'd learned and to determine if it would be a pro or a con in deciding if this animal would make a great pet. I also modeled paraphrasing and using bullets to take notes on the cards.

4. Once students had taken adequate notes, they deliberated the answer to their question and then presented it to the class. 

This lesson could stand an infusion of technology, in both the selection of sources and the presentation of findings. I have a few ideas, but I'd love to read yours, too!

I'm always looking for fun research ideas, and I keep up with them on my Pinterest boards. Please consider checking them out and following any that might interest you.

Yours happily ever after,

These snowmen love to read, too!

If your school has a die cut machine, I think you'll appreciate this cute idea from My Classroom Ideas. Our school's snowman die-cut cuts arms that can be folded and glued to a little book cover, two of which can be cut at one time from the 3D cube die cut. Students personalized their snowmen and then created and attached book covers that represented books they liked. Effective, easy and inexpensive!

Happily Ever After,