Thursday, February 25, 2016

Getting it right: A tale in library renovation

When I first heard of the renovation of Norman Binkley a few years ago, I figured my library would be remodeled. A little paint and new carpet and that would the end of it! One day the architects were in the library and looking at the wall for structural purposes. I overheard one person say that the “library could not be expanded out and a new library would have to be built.” I was so excited with the possibilities. Soon we were meeting with the architects and looking at possible design ideas. Kathy Bennett was the library lead at the time and she was involved in the first meeting before retiring. I gave the primary architect my vision for the library and its uses. They came back with a couple designs for the new library and we all agreed on the current design. Tall ceilings and all would make it a showpiece for the school. I made sure all of my concerns about infrastructure and shelving were heard.

Then the fun came! Items were cut from the budget and I had no knowledge until it was too late in some instances and salvaged last minute on other occasions. The projectors (two of them) were to be mounted from the ceiling in the new library. This was cut. Several internet drops (internet jacks) were also cut. Shelving was cut. The big display case outside was poorly designed and the contractor noted this by saying he “would not use the subcontractor again”. I was verbal about the need for good sound qualities for the space from the beginning. I am next to the P.E. room and many changes were made to doorways and walls because of my concern. However, the library was built with metal ceiling that create a “live” acoustical feel. I wanted to be able to do more activities in the library without concern for sound.

I found that I would have to fight to get things right. Stephanie Ham, Director of Library Services, came on board (yeah!!) and helped me work to get more shelving for the easy section of my library that did not have room for all my books. The heating and air system created a disaster. I came back from fall break to find books warping. After my first summer I found a chair in my AV room covered with mold (that got some attention). There were cold days at 45 degrees and then it would be fixed for a time. You know you have problems when you personally know the head of construction for the school system. He helped see the heating and air problem through and we now know that the system is incorrect for a library. Our school is now adding 15 classrooms and a completely new HVAC unit will be installed for the library. I had to pay for an internet drop out of library funds to have a connection in my AV room. Stephanie is helping me address the sound issue. Blinds were installed during “snow break” to help with sun issues at computers and around the library (i.e., teachers wearing sunglasses at faculty meetings – lol – no really!). I made a funky cart setup for a projector I bought from EBay so I could use it in my story time area.

The process to get things right has been a long one, but with help from great people like Stephanie and others I feel that I am on the right track to getting issues resolved. My advice is to stay involved with the process from the beginning and do not assume anything! I know the process is better now compared to when our library was built, but do not leave anything to chance.

MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Montessori Library

Reading is the key to opening the world to students. A Library Media Center becomes the heart of the school, any school. 

Montessori libraries have more in common with other school libraries than they have differences, so I think pointing out the minor differences would be helpful to understanding.

Most classrooms are a single grade level, whereas, Montessori classrooms consist of at least three grade levels. So in our particular school, Stanford Elementary, we have primary classes with three, four, and five-year-olds in those rooms. This means my story time with those groups is very short, usually twenty minutes. Three-year-olds just do not have long attention spans. In lower elementary the classes are each made up with nearly equal numbers of first, second, and third grade students. The difference here is that any lessons in the library must be highly differentiated.

Independent learning is a focus in Montessori education. Children are allowed to come to the library by themselves every day. They come to get new books whenever they finish and test over books they have checked out. Students come for independent research without their teachers from the time they are in first grade. Our collection of non-fiction books is vast and ever changing. Students gather information from our print collection and also from online resources. Four students from each class may be in the library at any one time. With twenty-one classrooms, there is sometimes quite a large group working in Stanford’s Library Media Center. At these independent-research times, the heart of the school pounds loudly.

The population of Stanford is diverse, and our library collection reflects the beauty of this diversity. I strive to add books each year that provide students with characters, themes and information to which they can relate. This is something I feel most libraries have in common in the schools of our present day society.

MNPS Librarian

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Collaboration, Cookies & Milk

Time, time, time and more time. Ask any teacher what they would like more of and most of them would say time. We know that planning and collaboration uses that most important commodity, time. We’ve read the studies that prove collaboration between librarians and teachers improve test scores. We know from experience that collaboration between teachers and media specialists improve student learning. We can Google sites that tell how to collaborate but making it happen is the challenge. Take charge in making this group effort enjoyable.

  • Work around the classroom teacher’s schedule. Meet when they can meet, even before or after hours. Meetings don’t have to be long and involved. Don’t take all of their planning time; multiple short meetings can work as well as one long one.
  • Do your homework in advance. Know what standards they are teaching. It’s a pleasant surprise when you meet or e-mail them and say “I can help you teach _____.”
  • Share what you know. I try to do a Tech Tuesday whenever possible to share sites that can improve their instruction and their students' learning (PebbleGo, Kahoot, Blendspace, online encyclopedias, etc.).
  • Provide something special. It’s amazing how homemade cookies and treats can brighten a teacher’s day. Is it bribery? Why yes it is. But if that is what it takes, do it.

We truly have the best job in the whole school. The school librarian is the number one customer service job in the school. It is imperative to understand that it is our job to serve teachers, students and administration. And don’t forget to pick up that box of brownie mix the next time you’re in the store. Believe me it will be appreciated.

MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bringing Your Vision and Voice to a Design Project

When I was told that the J.T. Moore library would be one of the recipients of the renovations being sponsored by the Nashville Public Library this year, I was over the moon excited. What an honor! I immediately began dreaming about all of the things that I would change and add to our library. At the same time, I also got a little nervous. Would anyone listen to my ideas? Would I be able to have a say in design decisions that were to be made? The following are pieces of advice that I would share with anyone in the midst of a library design project.

1. Stand up for yourself.

Don’t be afraid to voice what you think should or should not be done in a library re-design. You are the expert. You know how the library gets used, you know your patrons, and you know what could be improved to make it a more flexible, usable, and enjoyable place. There are some things you know you need that certain stakeholders might not understand (like a sink, for example). Don’t let that stop you from asking for those things. Make your case with confidence and stick with it!

2. Bring evidence to support your ideas.

It can be helpful to bring organized, written evidence to support what you think. I created a detailed, bulleted list of the ideas I had and provided evidence when appropriate (stats if I had them, anecdotal if not). At first, I created the list to keep my own ideas organized, but when I brought copies to a design meeting, I found that writing my ideas for everyone to see helped bring the group into my vision.

3. Visit other newly designed libraries – in person and virtually.

If you can take some time to visit other newly designed libraries in person, do it! While there, take pictures of things you like and talk to the librarian for ideas and advice. Additionally, the Internet can be a great place to dream. Save pictures of things you’d love to add in your library, print them (in color is best), or email them to the design team. You never know what might be possible! Plus, sharing pictures with the team will give them a sense of your style.

4. Ask questions.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but for someone who can be introverted, like me, it is extremely important. If something doesn’t seem clear or if you’re getting lost in the jargon of the other experts on your design team, ask for clarification! It is vital to make sure that the project continues to align with the vision you originally voiced – even if some things have to change along the way. 

MNPS Librarian

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys has been described as a “literary archeologist” with the gift of unearthing the buried stories lost to us over time.  Her third novel Salt to the Sea is no exception as she weaves the tale of the greatest marine disaster in history.

Four teenagers.  Four secrets.  Fear is propelling Joana, Florian, and Emilia toward the port city of Gotenhafen, Poland where they will board the Wilhelm Gustlaff and sail away from the guilt, anger, and shame that is hunting each one of them in 1945 during a war they thought would never end.  Russia is closing in on Germany as refugees flee during the evacuation authorized by the Third Reich known as Operation Hannibal.  The story flows seamlessly from one narrator to another as their secrets are slowly revealed.  Each character represents a country trapped in the conflict and offers a unique perspective to the suffering each has endured allowing the reader to empathize with their heartache and pain.  What are the fates of Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred as they set sail on the doomed Wilhelm Gustlaff?  What have they gained?  What have they lost?

MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Year, New Look!

A new year sparks something in me to change. This year that spark hit me as I walked back into my library after winter break. I found myself ready to do a little rearranging. Our library at Pennington Elementary is a pretty small space but I try to make it a welcoming, warm, and friendly space for our school community. As I began to think about the possibilities on how this space could be used in a more conducive way for learning and using technology, I began to envision what this new space would look like. I began by moving my circulation desk opposite the library’s entrance. It was stuck back in the far corner of the library. This made it difficult to use technology during lessons with my projector screen at the opposite end. And, I just felt trapped back in the corner. I also love the desk in its new home because if I’m busy checking in/out or working I can still greet my students coming into the library. I love being able to welcome my students by name with a friendly smile every chance I get.

Next, I moved all of our easy book shelves together so that the story time carpet could be moved up toward the projector screen. I felt like this is a better spot for elementary aged students. I also moved the carpet so it would further away from our entrance, which can be a very busy place. I think this will help with our students being more focused since the distraction of entering/exiting is further away from them.

One last bonus in the rearranging is that I was able to create more book display area at the library’s entrance. All in all I am very happy with our new library space! Maybe you’ll get the spark to make a few changes as well!

MNPS Librarian