One of my favorite aspects of teaching and working with children is learning how to eat my words and ideas as gracefully as possible. When I arrived in my Pre-K-12 library in 2014 I had a lot of limits- never buy branded books, not to become one of those dress-up librarians, and the like. While I try not to buy too many branded books, I do not hesitate now to get Lego easy readers or a Peppa Pig if it bring a reader to a book. My days of dressing in all black all the time are waning; I have special ordered mermaid leggings for our Under the Sea reading event and my unicorn light-up slippers for Pajama Storytimes are prized. This is to say that experience has taught me what theory leaves out. This year my workload expanded and I heard myself saying to a 1st grader at one point, “Sometimes I forget my own name.” Another student heard this and looked at me with all the earnestness available and confidently told me: “Your name is Miss Rivka.” Something had to give and that first thing was check-out.
Our library software (Surpass) added a self-check out app this summer as while it was set up on our server I began the transition. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how it would go, especially with the younger Lower School students. But the feeling of unknowing is another thing I’ve learned to lean into. Here is the process for how self-check out got up and running, slowly and in increments. For the first few weeks, while the software was being set up on the server, we practiced using a print version with names and bar codes only so that each student could maintain their privacy. In the 1st and 2nd grade classes, I had a student from the class act as my assistant librarian. I handed the clipboard to an eager helper in 1st grade and watched the color drain from her face. “Oh, I can’t do this, she told me. I’m not going to be able to write everything perfectly.” I told her that was exactly the point- this was just a chance to practice and no one expected her to do anything perfectly except try. It was sweet to see the kids practice spelling each other’s names. Having the iPad is still relatively new, but so far so good! Each student is now tasked with helping the next with the process and it has been lovely to watch. It’s also made the students more keenly aware of the books they have out since their records pop up on the screen with each transaction. It’s provided some new vocabulary, too, like “patron” (I’ll save why I’m not a fan of that term for another day).
Without having being pushed to let go of control, I wouldn’t have been able to see the subtle social emotional learning opportunities that this process included in addition to the greater sense of ownership that the students now have in the library.