Working Along the Edges

Alpha S. DeLap, St. Thomas School, Medina, WA (twitter: alphaselene)

Here at St. Thomas School (STS), where I have been a teacher-librarian for the past seven academic years, our Head of School, Dr. Kirk Wheeler, encourages us all to risk, explore, and challenge ourselves professionally. In 2016, he wrote, ”

“Whenever we are on the edge – the edge of our capabilities, the edge of our knowledge, the edge of our confidence – we are in a place of potential growth. However, that edge isn’t always an easy place to be. That is why we intentionally celebrate edgework and remain committed to maintaining a learning environment in which ALL members of the school feel secure in taking risks, asking questions, and exploring new alternatives.”

His encouragement of our own professional risk-taking has led me to serve on committees, publish articles, write reviews for national publications, present at conferences, and even to write for this AISL blog.

In addition to spreading my wings externally, I have also taken on curricular projects outside my initial comfort zone and immediate expertise: yearbook design and production and debate.  I agreed to teach these particular electives in 2016, we call them “Master Classes,” for our Seventh and Eighth Grade students and committed to teaching them as thoroughly and rigorously as possible. In addition to teaching these electives each year, I am now the Coach for the STS Middle School Debate team.

You might think, “I’m sure you did Debate in high school and college so it wasn’t too much of a stretch,” but actually I have never debated formally and my love of this particular academic realm is one that I conjured in its fuller form in last few years.

Yes, I took the LSAT after college, did well, and toyed with the idea of law school, but instead I worked in publishing for Macmillan and went on to pursue degrees in comparative literature and cultural studies.

It was when I taught an argumentation course at a community college in Northern Colorado that I began to fall in love with the actual structure and process of constructing different arguments, especially the mediatory type. Helping my college students map the proposition and the opposition and then integrate them was pure joy.

I retained a strong memory of this love of the mediatory argument throughout my second career shift into children’s librarianship. When my supervisor, STS Middle School Division Director, Alex Colledge, asked me whether or not I wanted to spearhead a new Debate strand at St. Thomas School, I jumped at the idea. I have found that whenever I feel a strong intellectual fluttering I do well to give in to it and see where it takes me.

I have taught two rounds of the master class and our nascent Debate Team came in fifth in the Pacific Northwest Middle School Debate League last Spring.

The second year of Debate season is upon us. Yesterday I held my first team practice after conducting a week-long Debate Team camp in mid-August. Debate is a natural landscape for librarians, it is a space that delights in a careful and thorough research process, a celebration of diverse perspectives, and a passionate consideration of the most pressing civic issues of the day.

If you interested in talking more about Middle School Debate, modified parliamentary argumentation or ways in which you are exploring your own professional edge, please email me or tweet me at: alphaselene.

Librarian of the Day: Leadership in 5th grade

In line with our school theme last year, The Power of You in Community, we start our introduction to the library catalog with an activity for 5th grade. They walk through the OPAC on their iPads and find the books that they have read over the summer. We work on leaving quality comments and reviews on these books.

Emphasizing that a book review should include:

  • The book’s title and author
  • A brief summary of the plot that doesn’t give away too much
  • Comments on the book’s strengths and weaknesses
  • The reviewer’s personal response to the book with specific examples to support praise or criticism

Keep in mind while writing the review:

  • Does the book fit into a genre, like mystery or romance, and why?
  • When and where does the action in the book take place? Does the author do a good job of making you feel like you are there? How?
  • Are the main characters believable? Do you know anyone like them? Does the author adequately describe them?
  • What do you like or dislike about the author’s writing style? That is, do you like the way the author uses words? 
  • Use concrete examples to back up your points, such as describing a scene that really moved you or using a couple of short quotes from the book.
  • Don’t forget to include your opinion of the book, whether you liked or disliked it.

As the students grow throughout the year, they are encouraged to be part of our 5th grade Reading Community by reading and reviewing books in our OPAC. we added some encouragement through a point system with two achievements. Once students are an active participant in our community (about 3 reviews in a trimester) they achieve status as a Reading Community member and earn a pin to wear on their badge lanyard.

The second achievement is earned when a student goes above and beyond with their participation in the Reading Community. They reach the status of Librarian of the Day! As librarians, they give a Booktalk to the entire middle school, facilitate the Mobile Library at lunchtime, send a whole school email with their reviews compiled, and process circulation at class time. Once a Librarian, these students are welcomed into the Library Leaders program which plans activities and is responsible for the library.

I have found that this is a great program to get students actively involved in reading. What are your programs that work in your library?

Getting Ready for Banned Books Week

As we returned from our impromptu break from school (thanks, Dorian), I needed to get myself back into the vortex of the school year which quickly became a realization of “OMG, Banned Books Week is coming up!” Even though I feel in the weeds, exposing students to the reality of banned or challenged books is worth putting other things aside. It is especially relevant now, in light of the recent banning of the Harry Potter books by a Catholic school in Tennessee. (I mean, is it 1999 again?)

I’ve done various activities in the past, and I’m in the process of collecting inspiration from other librarians on Twitter and other social media outlets. Boy, you guys have some good ideas! I especially liked the one from Anne Campbell Bucci who put paper bags over books with the reason why they were banned handwritten across the front. The students lift the bag to discover the identity of the book. I am definitely adding this activity, although the idea of writing “pornographic” as a reason why a book was banned terrifies me. Perhaps I’ll use “sexually offensive” instead? (Oh my, this should be interesting.)

Since I’ve been mining ideas from other people, I figured I’d share my favorite one so far. Last year, we shredded the first page from books that had been banned or challenged (no, I made photocopies first. I didn’t rip up the books!) and put the pieces in glass mason jars. We made a poster of the book covers for the kids to choose from and they had to guess which book was in which jar using only the random words they could find. First, the students had a great time shaking up the jars and trying to peer into them. Second, the poster with photos of book covers began more conversations about why a book had been banned and where exactly could they find it in the library. My circulation increased dramatically.

I love it when students ask questions or try to figure out why a book has been banned or challenged. I think this ties into why I want to try Ms. Bucci’s idea of the paper bags, because the kids will need to work backward from the reason to the title. I can’t wait to find out how many titles they come up with for each particular accusation.

While the visual of covered books (and the idea of a contest) will bring students to the library, another way we get their attention is by faculty and staff wearing Banned Books Week t-shirts on a specific day during the week. We also love being able to wear a t-shirt since normally we are required to dress up.

Now that I’m completely excited about Banned Books Week (and my budgets and receipts are on the back burner, oops #sorrynotsorry), I hope this will inspire others who may feel bogged down to find the energy and excitement to plan for the upcoming BBW this September 22-28. Please post your ideas below to help inspire others!

The 5 Love Languages…more than a book for couples

I recently was discussing developing relationships with a close professional in the medical field and she recommended that I read the The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. She informed me that even though it was originally written specifically to married couples it would be very worthwhile to read it to help people in all of their relationships. The original book entitled The 5 Love Languages: The Secret in Love that Lasts sold more than 10 million copies. Each year the book has sold more copies than the year before. It has been translated into fifty foreign languages around the world.The author feels the the phenomenal success of this book was that its message focuses on our deepest emotional need: the need to feel loved. For married couples, it provides the insights and practical tools for keeping emotional love alive in a marriage. Thousands of couples have indicated that the idea of the five love languages brought “new Life” to their marriage. He never anticipated that numerous single adults would also read it, but they did and told him how it helped them in all of their relationships. He therefore, wrote the copy I read which is The 5 Love Languages SINGLES EDITION.

According to the author, “Married or single, young or old, every human has the emotional need to feel loved. Nothing has more potential for strengthening one’s sense of well-being than effectively loving and being loved. He reaches out to those never married, divorced, and widowed. He believes our deepest emotional need is to feel loved, and our greatest successes will be obtained by loving others.His book is designed to hlep you do both of these things effectively. The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation

Gifts

Acts of Service

Quality Time

Physical Touch

Our jobs as media specialists, expose us to many people from various walks of life. Besides all the administrators, faculy and staff we interact with, we also need to relate with all the sudents, as well as their parents. On a personal platform, we also have relationships with our spose, family members, their extended family, neighbors, friends, and other significant people in your life of various closeness. It is not always easy to understand their primary love language and also to recognize our own. The author helps us do both by giving the reader examples of dozens of adults and explaining their journey into their personal lives.He gives us ways to observe our own behavior, observe what we request of others, listen to our complaints, ask the right questions, and provides an actual love language profile that you can take and also give a copy to have others take as well.

The author feels that by discovering your own love language it will help you understand why you feel more loved and appreciated by certain people than you do others. After reading the book I did make a ccipy of the profile to take and give to my own husband. It can be a very helpful tool in explaining relationships, as well as strengthening them.

In closing, I also wanted to add another note about the graph published in the August 21st edition of USA TODAY in case you did not see it. It was entitled : Print is not dead to Gen Z students:

85% say reading physical books helps them learn about history

76% prefer doing reading tasks on papger vs. online

34% say they use physical planners

I always feel information like this is powerful data when justifying our need to keep print a vital part of our collection.

Global Connections

As librarians, the world can be “our oyster”.  We are privileged to not be constrained by borders when it comes to excellent books for our students. In fact, many of our schools are adding to their missions some type of “world citizen” plank intended to make our students aware that there is more to this world than their town, state or even country.  Lucky for us, there are resources and events that allow us to help support that tenet, allowing us to lead the way to the abundance of world riches around us. Following are a few resources to start finding your way on your journey to be a citizen of literature without borders.

The United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY): Whether you get involved in the International Children’s Book Day or use their excellent curated list of of International Books of the year, USBBY is a great resource for dipping your toe into the world of books from all around the world. Their mission is “Building Bridges Through Children’s and Young Adult books.” They are the United States section of IBBY, The International Board on Books for Young People.  Both organizations are an incredible resource in not only finding out which is the best of international publishing for youth, they have opportunities to collaborate with fellow colleagues beyond our borders.

Taking a cue from “one book, one school/town/university” initiatives, Global Read Aloud, “One Book to Connect the World” features books for several different reading levels.  You are welcome to sign-up any time before September 30th, when Global Read Aloud kicks off.  Since 2010, over four million students have participated in this program. It’s a great entry into the international community, with support from the organizers along the way.

What does radio sound like in other countries?  Well, you could try a shortwave radio or you can go to Radio Garden and listen to radio stations from all over the world.  While there’s not the interaction with others that you can find in some of the following websites, Radio Garden is a free resource allowing immersion into a culture that may be different than your students. 

If you are interested in helping create connections with other classes and students around the world, you can try Kidlink Global Education Projects. As Kidlink explains it, they “ make it easy for students and teachers to participate in the numerous collaborative projects by creating web pages in an independent and extremely simple way. Kidspace allows you to integrate in the page other tools like e.g. Google Drive, Padlet”.  While the initial website looks dated, the treasures are found in the both the teacher’s room and student works.

Ready to try something bigger?  Penpal Schools bills itself as the ‘world’s largest collaborative community.” With over forty projects and the ability to create your own, your students (and your teachers!) might enjoy one of their self-contained projects that include video, an article and questions to answer which in turn will be turned into a discussion among the penpal students. Librarians might be intrigued with lessons on “Fake News” or “Digital Literacy”, while one of your teachers might be interested in using “The Human Body” or “Homes around the World” written by Oxford University Press.

Epals have been connecting classrooms around the world for many years. While it can be used for something as basic as pen pals, you can also collaborate with teachers from all over the world.  What about a battle of the books with a school across the US or across the world? Share book reviews with another classroom in another country? Epals can help you with that.

One of the Scholars’ Door at the Bodleian

If these programs excite you, maybe it’s time for you to fly away and experience international travel first hand.  The United States supports international teacher experiences through the Fulbright’s Global Classrooms Program,  Short Term Projects or their Semester of Research Abroad. Teaching Traveling has a list of teacher opportunities all over the world.  I’ve personally been abroad going through Oxbridge Academic Programs. Imagine spending a week at Oxford visiting behind the scenes of the Weston, the Bodleian, various college libraries and the Oxford University Press.  It was a pinnacle experience for me, and the other librarians with me

Christ Church, Oxford

No matter what our stated mission is, as librarians we want our students to become responsible world citizens.  What better way to introduce them to the world outside with not only literature representing others, but actual experiences writing to or working with students like themselves that live in other parts of the world? If you have a favorite international resource, please pass it along in the comments below. Have a great and informative September!

What Should I Read

In my last post, as summer began, I was thinking about “swimming in literary water” and how I decide what to read. As promised, this stayed on my mind through the summer, particularly in reference to my ever-growing “recommendations tab on Wunderlist, which had topped 20.

Seven Day Book Challenge

Sidenote: If you’ve sat next to me on a bus at an AISL conference, it’s likely that at least two of the following statements will be true.
-We talked about books.
-It somehow came up that I am a bit obsessed with to-do lists, keeping them fastidiously, mainly using the Wunderlist app but relying on Post-its with surprising frequency. (Wunderlist and Post-its execs, if you’re reading, consider me your unofficial spokesperson.)
-I wrote down your book, movie, or podcast recommendation to return to at a later time.

What I see everyday on my phone

It seemed like the time was right for me to begin to tackle that list. This summer, I read 20 books, drawing heavily from that tab, and gave them an average Goodreads rating of 3.6. My overall rating for books since I began keeping track is 3.39, and there was both a higher percentage of 2 ratings (6) and 5 ratings (8) than usual. High five to my past self, because I added 3 books to my “favorites” shelf, an exclusive club only reached by 32 books over the past 14 years. High five, past me! You did a good job recommending books to your future self!

Now let’s get to recommending books to others. Do any of these sound familiar?
-My friend’s daughter is turning 10. What book should I send her as a present?
-What book should my husband bring to the beach?
-You’re a librarian, so tell me what my book club should read next.

I’m comfortable offering suggestions, but expertise in a subject and personal preference are not the same. Too often, I’m asked what I’ve enjoyed reading recently, and that’s not necessarily what I’d recommend to others without knowing their own reading habits. I happen to know I love books in the 300s relating to education, class, and gender, but I don’t usually seek out the true crime or legal histories located nearby. Basically, I’m the first one to offer personalized recommendations as a friend, and as a librarian I’m always eager to create displays and booktalks for my students; I’m more hesitant when the boundaries are blurred. I don’t feel like my taste is worth more simply because I’m a librarian. I advocate no-guilt reading, and I tend to stop people who apologize for loving John Grisham or Elin Hilderbrand. I want more of us to enjoy reading and to make time for it, and these authors are incredible at creating compelling characters and plots.

One of the fun parts of my job is supervising our advanced Capstone research students. Already on the first day back this week, I had a thoughtful conversation with one of them who is exploring standardized frameworks for listening to and discussing popular music. It centered on familiarity and vocabulary. I do have more of an academic vocabulary for books than for music, both from my library degree and my writing degree. Perhaps I can explain more easily how something occurs in a book or why the author might have made specific choices, but that’s more academic than personal. My taste is my taste. As one of the many hats we wear, I can see our personal reading selves and our professional ones.

Social media as a platorm for sharing our reading selves

As I’ve watched the Seven Day Book Challenge fly around Facebook, I’ve peeped on others’ choices while not participating myself. I want more than the covers of the books we read; I love knowing why a particular title stood out or what resonated with a reader about a specific plot. Maybe this is the reverse-augmented reality potential of social media. What amazing fodder for valuable face-to-face conversations about books! So my Book Challenge for you is to ask someone what they’ve read recently that really resonated with them, and let’s continue to share our love of books.

Things to #Goals

This post is a response to the question Christina Karvounis posed earlier this month.

Pretty soon now the daily faculty meetings will wrap up, the students will return to campus, and our attention will turn to the few hundred teenage reasons we’re here. We will meet students and advisees for the first or thousandth time and coach them through articulating their goals for the year ahead, their information needs, and research questions. So, as Christina Karvounis shared in her recent post, it’s time for us to look ahead to the next several months and figure out where our priorities, mandates, and inspiration will take us. Like Christina wrote, there are some goals and priorities that stick with us from year to year, that, no matter how skilled, innovative, or collaborative we are, will never be an item we can check off. However, some of those things periodically circle forward in our minds and hearts. I think when some facet of this job attracts our particular focus, that’s the signal that the year will feel more energizing and productive if our goals are aligned in that direction. Not to say we abandon all else, but the ways we feel inspired may shift year to year and I think it’s worthwhile to honor these shifts. 

Ryder Carroll, in The Bullet Journal Method, advocates for conducting a Mental Inventory to de-clutter the brain and decide what is worth paying attention and energy to – to do so, the journaler writes down what they are currently working on, what they should be working on, and what they want to be working on. I think when we identify where the “should be’s” and “want to be’s” overlap or complement each other, there lie our goals! Here’s my current (school-related) mental inventory:

Working on

Blog post

Summer reading group meeting logistics

Answering emails

Scheduling meetings

Should be working on

Database renewals

Collection analysis

Exploring new database authentication methods

Planning research class

Ordering supplies

Digital badge platform for reading initiative

Curriculum review

Want to be working on

Planning classroom visits and book talks

Planning book clubs

Weeding

Reading about reading

Scheduling author visits

Planning activities for advisory

Redecorating Middle School library

Considering alternatives to Dewey

So this year, my heart and mind are drawn to student-centered reading promotion initiatives, revisiting library policies and procedures in order to have a collection that suits and supports the school community as it is now, and using new strategies to support students’ goal setting and reflection with wisdom and care. The other things are really important too, but my year and my service to our learners may be more effective if effort and time are concentrated in these areas, this year.

Book Club 2.0

I don’t know about you, but I am excited to start the new school year!  This is the first week back for teachers, and the anticipation of the arrival of the students is felt all over campus. And, of course, we are all eager to try some new things that we learned/read about/studied over the summer. We share our goals and hope that they are not too lofty, and achievable by the time May rolls around and we are panting for summer break once again. 

One of my own goals is to reinvigorate our student book club. Started last year, the club has a small core of dedicated students, but we struggled to recruit new members and grow the club.  As with all schools, we have a limited population of students and an overabundance of clubs and groups. But, I know that many students read the books and/or wanted to join (they told me so at various times and even via email!). So, I knew that we needed a reboot- Book Club 2.0, if you will.  I spent the summer thinking of some ways to encourage students to attend discussions. Here are some ideas:

  • Create surveys for book suggestions
    • Last year, I picked the books or gave the small group of students attending a few options, and we chose what to read. This year, I will send out a Google Form a few times to gauge interest in certain titles, genres, and events. That way, more students will have more of a say in what we choose and feel more ownership over the group. 
  • Suggest books with connections to local events or by local authors. 
    • Whenever we have read a book in conjunction with an author visit or Skype, I am always sure to get more students to attend. We have a wonderful public library system and author lecture series in Pittsburgh, and I need to capitalize on these resources more often. In addition, we have a large literary community with many local authors willing to come in for short visits or to conduct creative writing classes. 
  • Try the Silent Book Club once during a busy month or at beginning/end of the year. 
    • NPR recently ran a story on what are being called “Silent Book Clubs.” You can read the full article here. Basically, these are groups of people who gather together in one space, read a book of their choosing silently for a set amount of time, then chat about what they are reading. This would be a great opportunity to allow students a casual space to talk about what books they are reading, without having to feel left out if they didn’t read/finish a chosen text. I will probably hold the silent reading to about 10-15 minutes (due to bus arrivals and sports schedules!) but this would still give us enough time to relax, read, eat, and discuss our current reads. 
  • Combine forces with another club. 
    • We have a lot of active clubs on campus, and I know that quite a few would be interested in reading different titles and discussing them as a group. I am going to approach my current book club members about this idea, since many of them are members of a variety of different clubs and will be able to suggest some that they think would offer great collaboration. My hope is that this strategy will allow for more perspectives to be heard in our discussions.

Well, that’s all I have so far, but I’m sure to think of more during the next few days. What have you done to pump up your book club? Please share in the comments!

Exploring Our National Treasures

To me, history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn’t just part of our civic responsibility. To me, it’s an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.”

David McCullough, author, NEH 2003 Jefferson Lecturer interview
 

This past July I joined 34 educators in Washington, D,C. for a week-long teaching seminar sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Denver Brunsman, associate professor of history, George Washington University, led the seminar, The Making of America: From the Founding Era through the Civil War. Mary Huffman, 5th grade teacher and Master Teacher for Gilder Lehrman, assisted in afternoon sessions that demonstrated how to engage students in explorations of primary sources. The seminar lectures and activities were informative and eye-opening, and attendees enriched the experience with spirited discussions of the topics and shared experiences of teaching history in their K-8 classrooms. In the afternoons, the educators and instructors set off on field trips to museum and archives, and exploring these national treasures was a highlight of the seminar.

Librarians know how crucial primary sources are to the research process: these sources can spur student curiosity, build empathy, foster essential questions, provide evidence to support claims, and grow an understanding of historical persons and events. During the seminar field trips, attendees viewed firsthand an exciting array of primary sources: a 1692 petition for bail from those accused as witches; Alexander Hamilton’s final letter to his wife, Eiliza, before his famous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr; Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 letter to Charles Sumner advocating for fair and equal treatment of black soldiers’ dependents; an 1881 illustration of the Battle of Little Bighorn by Red Horse, Lakota Indian; Orville Wright’s 1903 telegram announcing the first successful powered flight; a 1940s women’s baseball uniform; Susan B. Anthony’s inscription in a book telling the life of Sojourner Truth.

However, learning how to access these resources for our students was even more exhilarating. Each seminar attendee received a resource book from Gilder Lehrman that contained primary sources and suggested activities, and the good news is that Gilder Lehrman, as well as the museums and archives we visited in D.C., provide digital access and lesson plans for many of their items. Following are a few examples of the riches to be explored in our national treasures, the museums and archives of Washington, D.C.

As you explore these sites, you will discover your own favorite treasures.

Gilder Lehrman: History Now
Educators and students can set up free accounts to access curated documents, articles, videos, and essays by scholars.
Examples: Essay: “George Washington on the Constitution
Lesson Plan: “George Washington’s Rules of Civility

*Read more about Gilder Lehrman Teaching Seminars.

Shall Not be Denied: Women’s Fight for the Vote
The Library of Congress July/August magazine features articles and primary sources from this special exhibit, including “Women of Suffrage” info cards that can be reproduced.

Docs Teach (The National Archives) provides online documents and tools for educators to create interactive digital lessons for students.
Here is an example lesson I created with National Archives resources:
Women’s Suffrage
(*You will need to create a free account to view lessons and create your own.)

Yes, that is George Washington in a toga and sandals! This sculpture is on display at the National Museum of American History.

One of the featured exhibits at the National Museum of American History highlighted Inventive Minds. Here are a few videos that showcase design thinking:

Patricia Bath (laser cataract surgery)
Ralph Baer (Toy and Video Games)
Ingenious Women (article/podcasts)

Perhaps one of the most visually stunning and sensory-rich museums, the National Museum of the American Indian has several featured exhibits. A current exhibit is on treaties: Nation to Nation.

Primary source treaty documents

Indian Treaties blog

The National Portrait Gallery displayed this portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
Students might contrast symbols in this portrait (stormy skies in one window and hopeful rainbow in another window) with background floral symbols in the portrait of Barack Obama.

Image Citation: Stuart, Gilbert. George Washington. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/140_1642842/1/140_1642842/cite. Accessed 10 Jul 2019.


National Museum of African American History and Culture.
I was fascinated by how the design of this museum becomes a stirring experience as you move from floor to floor to view the history. Read more on the building design in this Smithsonian article. The architect David Adjaye describes the feeling as “praise”:
“When I say praise, I envision it as a human posture. It’s the idea that you come from the ground up, rather than crouching down or leaning. The form of the building suggests a very upward mobility. It’s a ziggurat that moves upward into the sky, rather than downward into the ground. And it hovers above the ground.”

The final historic site and museum that our seminar group toured was George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In addition to lesson plans for educators, Mount Vernon hosts several Professional Development Opportunities. You may be interested in applying for a program.

So many museums, not enough time. Though I did not visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during this trip, I did see the museum when it first opened, and the online photos, articles, and oral histories continue to serve as valuable resources for the classroom. Examine also education pages from The Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.

Our nation has a rich history and a strong desire to tell the story of history. Continue to support your local and national museums that supply invaluable resources for our schools.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected: Adding the Tech Department to the Library (Part 1)

At the beginning of last year, the Director of the Tech Department and I decided that we could enhance the student experience by bringing the Tech Help Desk into the library. I mean, what could be better? It would be a one-stop shop to provide tech and information help to our students. Everyone was on board. Almost one year later we have realized this change. (Yes, you read that right. It’s taken almost a year.) I wanted to share our experience with you in case you were considering a change in your library.

The Good:

  1. We created a streamlined experience for the students to cut down on time away from class and the separation of resources.
  2. It has been very helpful to join two departments. The influx of knowledge and expertise has been invaluable to us.
  3. The Circulation Desk/Support Spot is now the place for checking out books, helping with research queries, checking out loaner laptops, and getting tech questions answered.
  4. There are more printing opportunities for the students with shorter lines for each resource.
  5. We do not have to reroute questions from one department to another since we are both located in the same space.

The Bad:

  1. Space was a bigger issue than we originally anticipated. Before the move, we took many measurements and made detailed plans, but we were still taken by surprise. Needless to say, we feel like we are playing Tetris.
  2. We do not have a silent library. The tech department is used to a more quiet space. Work flow and ease of communication are being impacted during the library’s busiest times.

The Unexpected:

  1. We are still trying to figure out how the collaboration between the two departments will be the most effective. It has been challenging at times to determine who should take the lead on certain decisions and procedures.
  2. Rebranding the Circulation Desk as a multifunctional resource is ongoing. The entire community needs to adjust to the change, which includes addressing the way “it’s always been done” and the way that it needs to be done now to best serve our users. Breaking tradition and changing routines is always hard.
  3. We expected the need to mesh several diverse personalities and work styles, but the transition of the work space along with culture shift has made the contrast more apparent.

All told, we count this move as a success. The students are being served more efficiently, which was the main purpose behind the transition. Part 2 will follow next month, when we’ve had a chance to settle in to the new year. Wish us luck!