How do students know where to work or socialize in your library?
Issues we sometimes have in our space: students congregating around a friend in a study carrel and talking, a student taking up a study room meant for groups, people chatting in a silent room, a loud group of eight at a table meant for four or five.
Our upper school library is mainly a big room with three break-out rooms and a library classroom. The main part of the library has table seating for about 40 people, a lounge area, and about 40 study carrels surround the bookshelves. Obviously noise is an issue in our large room, especially at lunch, and we are constantly trying new ways to get kids to understand where to sit for what purpose.
This year we introduced “Know Your Library Zones” at all the grade-wide orientations at the start of the year. We also put two posters in the library.
The first semester after the orientations, I could walk up to people chatting in the silent areas and they would say “know your zone!” and move away. Now in February, it might be time to remind the students about the zones, but for the most part I think it helped a bit. Students are signing up for the rooms and seem to be thinking more about where to go when they enter the library, depending on their activity. We are still a loud and active library for the most part, but even small improvements help so that there are some quiet spaces. I will remind them of the zones pretty soon at an assembly.
How do you help your students know where to sit for the different types of work they do in your library? Or does it matter?
As we slowly inch towards spring break (!), I am thinking about how to promote our library books to our upper school students. A couple of years ago, the English department began assigning free reading for winter and spring breaks, and I want to do something as special for this spring break as we just did for winter break to promote the library books.
Last year, many English teachers brought students up to the library in groups, but this year, after four unexpected days off of school due to local fires (our lower school and many of our students’ homes were in the evacuation zone), our teachers were pressed for teaching time and weren’t sure they could bring their classes this year. I wanted to do something festive and different, which would work with either whole classes or students coming in on their free time.
This is where teamwork came in. I am lucky to work with two fabulous full-time Library Assistants. We developed the Pop-Up Party: Books for Breaks, which was located on one end of the library. The Pop-Up lasted one month, to give time to check out books for both Thanksgiving break and winter break. We decorated the area with twinkly lights and centerpieces made from weeded books. We brought the best of the best books and put them in areas by theme. We extended due dates until our second week back in January, and even distributed goodie bag reading kits full of holiday treats, cocoa packets, bookmarks, and instructions for using our Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks.
Approximately half of the English classes came to check out books, and I taught them about our ebook and audiobook collections and highlighted particular books of every format. I even told them it was my birthday party, when in fact it was my birthday, and asked them to celebrate with me by taking the time to find books they like. Other kids came on their own. By the end of the month-long party, many of the twinkly lights burned out and we ran out of goodie bags, but by then our new students learned about the library as a welcoming and fun space, and everyone is now more aware of our collection. We were able to start conversations with readers we didn’t know well, and perhaps people who don’t call themselves readers but still checked out books. Students are returning the books now, asking for sequels, and actually responding to emailed overdue notices.
What do I do for spring break to keep the book excitement going? How do you promote free reading and your collection? I would love some ideas from you for March!