Lion Love

A special education teacher recently asked for a children’s book that had a strong storyline for an upper elementary student to identify actions and consequences in text.  I walked her to the picture book section of my library (which looks like this):


And scanned for books.  I quickly found one of my favorites:


Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, with pictures by Kevin Hawkes.  It’s the story of a lion that happens to find his way into the public library and all that happens – good and bad – because of it.

But that got me thinking of another picture book that has a pretty substantial storyline, again about a lion and libraries:




Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty.  It won the Caldecott Medal in 1939.

Well, then THAT got me thinking of pairing up these great lion books with a nonfiction text:



Lions:  Life in the Pride by Adele Richardson.  The series from Capstone Publishing, Wild World of Animals, is really popular.  We have 29 of the books in the series, which isn’t even all of them.  (You can see the ones we do have here.)

It’s fun pairing up books like this!


Where’d the summer go?

It seems like it was just yesterday when we got out of school – in June . . .


Then I went to TICL, then to the Iowa Teacher Librarian Leadership Academy, then to San Antonio for ISTE.  All of those were fabulous, and then it was July 1, and time to start work again.  Wait, did I get a break?  (I did have about a week after school and before TICL to catch up on laundry.)

So there were three big projects this summer:  the elementary space, bookstore model, and 1KB4K.  I guess I need to blog on the space, too, but it’s not all the way done yet.  My work custom builder, Brian Nelson (the shop teacher at MNW) put in the bookshelf on Thursday, but they still need sanded and stained, and my own custom builder (my husband!) is finishing the “record store bins” next week, before school starts.  My custom seamstress saved us some money by waiting for a coupon from JoAnn’s (how nice is that!), so the cushions for the benches aren’t finished yet (but Donna painted them so they look very spiffy).  The beanbags are in and will be hugely popular with the students, I’m sure.  The poster frames are in but no posters yet.  What’s up, ALA Store?!

That’s not to say the other projects are done yet.  Bookstore model is all but done (just need to put up some signage), but really, I have four days until school starts!  We need to still finish the inserts for the backpacks for 1KB4K, plan the rollout for the program, and make checkout cards for students (just did that!):


There’s always something around the corner there, though . . . portfolios with 4th graders, a fun video with kindergarten students to help kids learn each other’s names, training a new library assistant at the high school, updating the website, teaching TAG . . .  Then there’s ISLI, IASL, Coursera . . .

Bookstore Model

I know I’ve written about the bookstore model before.  It’s not that I keep changing my mind, but I keep evolving in how it will look in my library.  My first foray into it was back in 2011, during my library school practicum.  It was quite successful for what it was – checkouts skyrocketed in given categories (593% increase in military books, I kid you not!), but my professor told me it was more a “featured collection” than really the bookstore model.


So when I started at MNW, I changed around collections at the elementary, included a featured collection section, but this past Christmas break did a quick move to bookstore model.  But when I thought of it, I knew I really wasn’t doing bookstore model.  You can’t move to the bookstore model over Christmas break, after all.  But it was a start, too – paying more attention to the subject than what was on the spine label.  (Some librarians were appalled that I would let students put all the primate books together, without regard to what’s on the spine label.  C’est la vie.)


So this summer, we’re doing honest-to-Pete bookstore model.  I talked a bit about it here.  I was gone for most of June and didn’t get started on it at the high school until July 1.  Still, it is looking great!  So for anyone who wants to put in the bookstore model into an existing library, here’s what we’ve done or are in the process of doing.  (Unlike a presentation I went to a few years ago that talked about doing bookstore model – for a brand new library, brand new books, and where a jobber did all of the work except shopping and choosing categories – this is with an existing collection, no brand-new shelves, no huge new collection.)


First, I took books off shelves and onto tables.  Eventually, I would move them around on the shelves, but I needed a little space to be able to do that first.  As I took them off, I looked at them and decided what type of book it was.  Classic?  Romance?  Thriller?  Humor?  I did this by looking at the back or inside cover, checking the Library of Congress cataloging data, or looking it up on Amazon or Follett and see where others have put it.  I chose some categories that eventually got absorbed into other categories – international books (like Nation by Terry Pratchett) went into either realistic or historical fiction, depending on the title.  Holiday books like A Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans got set aside for me to get out in December.  While I was working, I realized I needed a new category (survival) and we had to go back and see which ones should go in there.  I eventually ended up with these fiction categories:

Classics Fantasy Graphic Novels Historical Fiction
Horror Humor Mystery Paranormal
Quick Reads Realistic Fiction Romance Science Fiction
Sports Survival Thriller Urban

I have a paid helper this summer, and I corralled a volunteer (my daughter).  Donna made labels, Libby put labels on and straightened the shelves, and I started working on nonfiction.

Of course, I weeded along the way.  I can’t wait to get all done, do inventory, clean out any missing books, put in new purchases, and see where my average date lands.  I’m sure it will be improved!  (For now, we’re right at 15 years – 1998 average date).

After all that, then we’ll have to change the cataloging in the circulation system.  Since this has gone very quickly (many hands make light work), and since our system is online, we can all be on the system simultaneously and I’m sure it will take just a day to change all that (well, for the fiction).

So at the rate we’re going, if it were one person doing all this, it would take 4 days to sort fiction and nonfiction into their categories, and 6 to make and put on labels.  To be done still, I think it would take 4 to make and put on labels for nonfiction, another day to weed all the books out of the circulation system, and 6 to change the cataloging of all the books.  So, if I were completely on my own, it would take at least 21 days to get this done.  That really isn’t that bad!  But again, if you possibly can, get someone to help you because it’s good to have someone to ask about genres, to trade up jobs once in awhile, and just to chat with while you’re doing this rather monotonous work.

Finally, we’ll have to make signage.  I think we’ll either paint print dictionaries and put the genre name on the spine, make color print-outs with words and a picture describing the genre (then putting in a frame and standing on the shelf next to the books), or have my son make wooden boxes that he’ll laser the genre name onto the edge.  We’ll see.


Cox, Tamara. “Arts and crafts.” Creative Commons Copyright. Found here on Flickr.

Nonfiction is looking a little busier – almost twice the major genres as fiction – which is strange because I know it is a smaller collection.  So the signage will just be on the major categories here.  I’m still figuring all this out.  Here’s my major categories, and you can find the full list here (84 categories!).

Adolescence Agriculture Animals Art
Biography Cooking Facts Family & Relationships
Foreign Languages Games Health & Fitness History
House & Home Iowa Language Arts Literary Nonfiction
Math Medicine Music Nature
Philosophy Poetry Psychology Religion
Science Social Science Sports Technology

The elementary collection is so much larger, it might take a lot more time.  But by then, we’ll be old pros at it!

I don’t know if this will help circulation at the high school – heck, I wanted to be a librarian when I was in high school and didn’t read books (other than the occasional book – why this was in my school library, I’ll never know).  But I know it is making it a tighter, better collection, and if anything will improve circulation, this will.


The second project on my summer to-do list is:

One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten!

I first heard of this type of program last year from this blog post by the librarian blogger over at Bryce Don’t Play.  It’s mostly a thing that public libraries do, and it runs much like summer reading programs.  I did a similar you-read-and-log-your-books-and-maybe-win-a-prize type of program in my first year at MNW (I guess I never blogged about it!  It was called “Read Around the World” and we tracked the number of pages that our students “traveled” – one page equaled one mile).  A reprise of that didn’t interest me much, because how we had it set up, Donna and I were the ones who did all the work (well, except the reading, of course!).  There had to be a better way.

But when I did more research, I found this handout from the Colorado State Library, which included this link to a Massachusetts school and how they did the program.  Eureka!!  So we’re basically doing what they’ve done.  We will have 100-120 bags of ten books each available for checkout to children and families ages 0-5, not yet in kindergarten.  They will check out a bag for up to two weeks, and we will keep track of what bags they’ve checked out.  Parents will get a tracking sheet to keep at home.  When they’ve checked out 10 bags (100 books), there will be a small prize, then at 250, 500, 750, and at 1,000 books, they get a trophy and their picture in the newspaper.  The  benefits of this program are many, but the big one, of course, is that we better prepare students for kindergarten.  The program is open to all the families in our district, including homeschooling families (I homeschooled my kids!), and also families who already open enroll here.  We want to have this ready for the preschool open house in the fall, so, we better get to it!

The steps so far:

*Get artwork made – The intrepid Josh Anderson made this fabulous logo for the initiative.  Isn’t it fantastic??

1kb4k logo

*Send out letters to businesses asking for donations – Feel free to donate, too!  (We’ll send you a receipt for your donation.)

*Order the bags (Graphic Edge in Carroll – isn’t it great on the blue?)


*Figure out the logistics of the program – getting the books (Scholastic Book Fairs is helping provide those), creating the tracking sheets, building the space to keep the bags not checked out

There’s a lot more to be done, but we’re getting there.  I can’t wait to roll it out officially with parents and children in the fall!

Summertime fun

How has it been over a month since I blogged??

It’s summer – finally!  For the first time ever (as a student, mom, and teacher), school went into June, what with all the snow days.  But never fear, Donna and I are finally able to get to work on our summer projects.  The first one is:

Bookstore Model

And not some squishy way like I did before.  I mean, the kids loved that – it made it easy and fun to browse the nonfiction.  However, I was the only person who could put all the books away!  Since we hadn’t changed any spine labels, it was more art than science.

But after going to IASL and hearing about the success at Waukee Middle School and North Liberty Public Library with BISC, I’m going whole-hog.  I’d always been hesitant to do it, because – hello! – I can find any book I want in a public library but always need help at Barnes and Noble.  But the way WMS and NLPL did it, it made so much sense!  I’m starting with fiction, though – I think NF might have to wait until fall.  I’m starting at the high school too, where I think it can have the most affect.  See, here are my fiction shelves:


Which look fine, right?  I’ve done a lot of weeding over the past two years (remember, it used to look like this) and the collection has definitely improved.  But as I reflected on it, I realized that I would never look for a fiction book in my library.  When I go to the public library, I never browse fiction.  Maybe new fiction, but I never, ever, browse the fiction stacks.  I’ll look for favorite authors (but I don’t need to check out Carl Hiaasen’s new book, Bad Monkey, as I have it from Amazon and am loving it!), but that’s about it.  Yet I expected my students to browse fiction?

I mean, look at this shelf:


So that’s Harry Potter (fantasy), then Storm Catchers (horror/thriller), Someday Dancer (historical fiction), next to realistic fiction, next to a mystery, next to humor, next to romance, next to graphic novel . . . you get the idea.  Chaos, pure chaos!!

I mean, it’s not like the high school students are racing to the circulation desk to read these.  But if anything is going to help, I think putting books by genre is it.

So, that means, new spine labels!  So for The Catcher in the Rye, it will say, Fiction/Classics/Salinger.  That’ll be a lot of work, but I believe in efficiency – for now, it’s weeding and sorting, then when I know the categories are solid, we’ll do all the spine labels at once.  Then, the fiction books will be placed back on the shelf, first alphabetically by category then alphabetically by author.  For example, Adventure then Classics then Fantasy then Romance then Science Fiction then Sports.  Within Classics, it would be Alcott then Austen then Bronte then Dickens then Fitzgerald, etc.  I expect we’ll have about 15 different categories.  It will be interesting to see where the gaps in the collection are once I get the books organized this way.

Watch for updates, and posts about our other summer projects.  What’s on your to-do list?

Rethinking fiction

When I started working at the MNW Elementary Library in 2011, I was dismayed at the dearth of collections that were present for students.  Sure, we had plenty of books at all sorts of levels, but these were in three digital collections – and three physical spots – for patrons:  Easy books (picture books), fiction (everything from Junie B. Jones to Harry Potter), nonfiction.  Although students may be able to find books in their current reading level thanks to either a sticker indicating a book’s Accelerated Reader level or their own searching, neither choice was ideal.  AR is problematic because students won’t discover books that would be completely appropriate and enjoyable for them, and searching can be frustrating for a student who doesn’t have the time or inclination to spend time perusing the stacks.

So before classes even started, I eyeballed fiction and added a new collection “Juvenile Fiction.”  Here were the Junie B. Jones titles, the Magic Tree House series, and, my personal favorite, Captain Underpants.  Books had a sticker affixed and were put in a different place in the library.  Donna and I changed the books in the computer to this new collection, and both students and teachers seemed to appreciate this new system.

As the year continued, though, it became clear we hadn’t done enough.  Where were new readers to find their books?  Finding a book in picture books was hit-or-miss – there might be a great book like one of the Rookie Reader collection, but also there would be a book like Sparrow Girl that could be read and appreciated by high schoolers.  Picture books are for both students and adults.  There had to be a better way.

Last summer, then, Donna and I, as well as a high school volunteer, combed through the picture books and the JR collection, and came away with anther collection, “Juvenile Reader.”  This is for the simplest books in the collection for early readers, like Sandbox Betty or Hop on Pop.  Eventually, we added another collection, “Leveled Text,” for books like Amelia Bedelia and Henry and Mudge.  These changes have been a great help to students and teachers who come in for part of their “Daily 5” rounds to find “good fit books.”  By mid-year, students as young as first grade are quite adept at finding good fit books by themselves.


But we’re not done!  This summer, we’re rethinking the fiction collections, at both the elementary and the secondary schools.  We’re moving toward the bookstore model of fiction collections, using the BISAC subject headings, so the Fiction collection will be labeled differently in the LIS and on their spine labels, whether it be an adventure book, mystery, horror, or fantasy.


Data at similar-sized schools show this has a positive impact on circulation.  I’m not concerned with numbers – I’m concerned with kids.  As I quoted someone very smart at IASL:

I mean really – when I go to the public library, I know exactly what I want in fiction . . . certain authors.  Maybe it’s an old favorite (Carl Hiaasen) or a new book I heard about (Where’d You Go, Bernadette?).  But I rarely if ever browse fiction like I do nonfiction.  And really – how do I browse nonfiction?  By subjects!  Maybe it’s books on libraries (021) or cookbooks (641.5) or basketry (746.4).  Wouldn’t I like to browse subjects in fiction, too?

The thing that always scared me off of the bookstore model was this very fact:  I can find any book I want in any public library, but I always, ALWAYS, have to ask for help at Barnes and Noble.  But a session at the recent IASL conference gave me this eureka moment – sort subjects alphabetically.  So in nonfiction, art goes before cooking which goes before history.  In fiction, adventure goes before historical fiction which goes before mystery.  AHA!

So what’s your big project this summer?  (I have two others, but that will be left for another day.)

Spine poetry – take one

I had fun last week with one of the sixth grade classes – spine poetry!

Here are three that I made for examples:


Move! /

Herbie Hancock /

School’s out!

It seems more like a command than a poem.


I was a rat! /

Breaking Stalin’s nose /

Among the imposters

That sounds like a title of a memoir.


Where I’d like to be /

After the war/

The house on the gulf

That sounds like . . . daydreaming.  

But the students seemed to get spine poetry better than I did.  Here are some of their work:

photo (13)

Maybe that sounds like a command too, but a funny one.  “No talking, melonhead boy!”  

ImageManiac Magee /

Run if you dare /

Predator drones.

That’s ominous!  

photo (16)

This is my favorite, partly because the student started with about four of the books and I loved it then, but she wasn’t content and went back and found more to make it perfect.  The lighting wasn’t great (and spine labels get in the way) so it says:

A taste for read /

Underneath /

The magician’s elephant — /

Terror at the zoo /

Because of Anya /

Acting out — /

Out of order.

Well, I’m not sure what Anya did at the zoo, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t pretty.

I’m doing inventory and cleaning shelves for spring break – I’m not sure if I have it in me to do spine poetry again!  It made a mess of the shelves.  Oh, it was so much fun, we will – we’ll just have students put any books they get out on a cart.

Elementary Math Night

The thing I love about being a teacher librarian is that just about every curricular area fits into it.  Exhibit A, Math Night!

Elementary Math Night

A month ago or so, a third grade teacher and I were talking and she said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a Math Night, sort of like we had Literacy Night?” It was like she was reading my mind!  I’ve been involved in the Governor’s STEM initiative, but it’s hard for kids to get excited about STEM at high school, junior high, upper elementary – whenever we decide that it’s super important – if we haven’t laid the foundation at all levels.  Math Night seemed like just the ticket.

Several teachers, our principal – plus my husband and daughters! – participated by leading children in fun math games.  My contribution was a QR Code  Scavenger Hunt which I shouldn’t have procrastinated . . . The steps for that were:

  1. Take pictures of 35 items around the school – either in the library or visible from a hallway
  2. List the pictures with descriptive names in alphabetical order in a numbered list
  3. Post those pictures online – I ended up putting them on this blog because WordPress allowed me to upload all of them at once, which my LIS website wouldn’t do
  4. Grab the URL for an individual picture, then create a QR code for it in a QR website
  5. Most important step – immediately save the name of that QR code, indicating what was in the picture!
  6. Put the QR code in a desktop publishing document with the number from the text list so I knew what the QR code was for
  7. Print out that document
  8. Cut out the QR codes with the assigned numbers
  9. Write the number on the back of the QR code
  10. Trim the QR code so only the code itself was showing
  11. Take my list and create four different scavenger hunts with it – so #1 goes to #3 goes to #5 goes to #18 etc.  Ten locales for each
  12. This was the hard part – Take #3 to #1, #5 to #3, etc.  It was confusing!
  13. Print out a form for families to write out the things they found at each QR code

Whew!  I’m sure there’s an easier way, just not sure what it is.  Any ideas?

Plus, when I was in the midst of #12, I found that two pictures that I had taken now were taken down.  Ruh-roh!  So when people started doing it, I told them there might be a gap in the hunt and to just look for other QR codes.  I also said that people who didn’t have a smart phone could participate that way, and as much as possible, I showed them on my phone what the QR fuss was all about.  It seemed like it was faster to just look around for the QR codes – my reader was really pokey!


The most fun – and yummiest – time I had was manning the Hershey Bar fractions table.  Here’s my oldest daughter taking a turn:


Sadly, it looks like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Fractions Book is out of print.  You can still get it from used sellers on Amazon, however.  (I’d wait for the price to go down – $29.95??)

World Read Aloud Day (Round-up)

It was a fast but fun morning for World Read Aloud Day.  What a great event, knowing that at hundreds – thousands? – of classrooms, schools, and libraries around the world readers are interacting in the same way.


Since we had four classes, about 100 hundred students, in the library at a time, we used a document camera when reading most of the books.

Mr. Wubben is our elementary PE teacher:


Mr. Wubben read Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile (ironic, no?) to the kindergarten classes:


I read two books but I should have timed it better – I know that those little books go faster than that!  So we had to fit a few in.

Mr. Anderson is the elementary art and TAG teacher (and an outstanding storyteller – I should watch my back!):


then read two books for the first and second graders:

 fox tikki

 Mr. Bleam is the elementary band and music teacher:


Mr. Bleam read a book about music, and even brought some samples of music by “The Piano Prince” like “Take the A Train”:


I did read a few books, too.  (Check out those reading glasses!)


My favorite one is Boing! by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Bruce Ingram:



Mr. Holloway, the principal at the junior-senior high in our district was our guest reader for the 5th-6th grade.  He has served as a basketball coach for some of the girls this year, but I’m glad he came over to read so all the students could see a male role model reading out loud on World Read Aloud Day:


Mr. Holloway read from one of his favorite books about leadership:


He read short pieces about procrastination, “beating the ref,” and finding real role models in life.  (He showed the students a painful – for Cyclone fans – clip from a recent men’s basketball game, but reminded them that this wasn’t the only chance his favorite team had had to win the game.)

I’ve seen a lot of schools and libraries connecting today with people far away, and that is admirable, especially for increasing global awareness.  But I was so glad for this opportunity to share some fun  books with students and for them to see positive role models – female and male – reading aloud.

Happy World Read Aloud Day!  Now, go read something – out loud!