Archive for February, 2016

The Books Moved

My last post threw out some thoughts on student reading, and their struggling with endurance. 

I have a few more things up my sleeve for the future (cough…a seminar reading program) but I first decided to move things around in the library to facilitate easier browsing and more comfortable surroundings to encourage long-form reading.

Shelving fiction in genres is nothing new- many libraries have made the shift, but many are still considering it. I did see circulation statistics rise when I moved things at my old school and I do believe that that type of shelving fosters browsing. Many things can impact circulation statistics, of course, but the rise I saw, paired with anecdotal feedback from many many students about it being “easier to find books” has convinced me that moving to fiction genres for shelving is the way to go here at Northwest.

I got lucky.

The librarian that preceded me here had already placed genre stickers on the spines of every single fiction book:

  • Fantasy
  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Mystery/horror
  • Humorous
  • Historical
  • Adventure
  • Romance

You can see the multicolored stickers here:


So it was a matter of moving all 12,000 books. I switched the fiction section so that it was closer to the door and main area of the library, which meant all of them had to move. Here’s the result:


It took 10 book trucks and three weeks. I only accidentally dumped a truck once:


Once the books were moved, it was a matter of putting up signage to help students find what they are in the mood for:

Final result with signage:


Now I’m working on getting each book’s section input into the sublocation field in Destiny, our library automation software.

The payoff?

Just yesterday, when students were in the library for enrollment, Ms. Koeningsdorf came over to tell me that her students were remarking that “it is going to be so much easier to find books now!”

Totally worth it.



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On Student Reading, and Endurance

Hello again, world. It has been a while since I have kept up with this blog in a consistent manner, but after attending the METC Conference a few weeks ago, I have been inspired to begin writing here again as a reflection of my own work, and to hopefully let my teachers know what is going on in the library and how I can help them.

First off, I am at Shawnee Mission Northwest now, so any posts that you see here before this one reflect my work at my previous school.

So let’s talk about reading. Student reading, to be specific. 

There are a wealth of depressing statistics about the decline of teen reading over the past few decades. Time Magazine and CommonSense Media report that “45% of 17-year-olds saying they read by choice only once or twice a year” and that “the proportion who “never” or “hardly ever” read [has] tripled since 1984.”


Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr Creative Commons

The pressing problem that our teachers anecdotally report is that students struggle to stay with any lengthier piece of text: novels, articles any longer than one page or so.

We are living in a bite-sized media environment. 140 characters, no-wait, that’s too long, Instagram instead. Snapchat.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, eloquently describes this phenomenon:


Students DO read A LOT via their connected lives. But it is a different kind of reading. Short. Linked. Jump from this to that.

Just as we are asking students to think more deeply, their lives are telling them that there is no time for that:

Wake up, don’t be tardy to school, shush-up-we-have-a-lot-to-cover-before-the-state-or-AP-assessments, GO-be on time to work/practice/watch your siblings, quick-gobble some dinner before a few hours of homework, go to bed-you aren’t getting enough sleep already, wake up and do it all again. Oh, wait- figure out where you can cram in community service, scholarship applications, clubs and activities, time with your family/friends, OHHHHH, what’s that? Neeettflixx. Time to daydream or be creative? Pffft. Gonna need to create a time-manipulation machine for that.

So how do we help students re-gain their reading endurance? We have to decide if it is a priority, and we have to give them TIME.

Our cross-country team is historically very successful. Roughly 33 state titles in 46 years. GO COUGARS! The coaching staff doesn’t take new runners and throw them out in the street to run 6 miles on their first day of practice. That would result in injuries, burnout, and copious profanity.

We need to scaffold our way back to reading endurance. We need to surround students with quality, high-interest reading material, and we need to give them TIME to select and read. 

For instance: 8 minutes the first two weeks, then 15 minutes for a couple of weeks, then 20, then 30, then 45. Or faster/slower depending on the makeup of the class and progress. This does not mean reading out loud as a group; this means independent reading.

50% reading for pleasure: student choice (developing endurance and fluency), 50% content-based academic reading.

But finding the time is a tough balance. Every curricular area is packed to the gills with standards. So it comes down to time-budgeting priorities. It is clear that reading ability has a huge impact on success in life. Perhaps more than any other factor. It is worth remembering this as we decide where we budget class time.

This is too complex a topic to cover in one blog post. Here and here are a couple of great books that provide a more comprehensive look at things.

Next post will be on how I’ve reorganized the library to try to help students more easily find reading material that they want to read.


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