This summer I posted my free Adopt-A-Shelf program materials (if you haven't downloaded them yet, what are you waiting for?!?). I had high hopes for implementing the program in my own school library. In my mind, this was going to solve many of my messy shelf problems.
If you're new around here, you may not know that like many of you, I have no library assistant. When I became a librarian over 5 years ago, I thought shelf markers were the answer to my messy shelf woes. Wrong (although they do help and I still recommend them). So what about Adopt-A-Shelf? Would I recommend it? Let's analyze it.
Pros of Adopt-A-Shelf
- Students are finding books they've never seen before, and they're checking them out.
- Many of the students are taking their shelf straightening job seriously.
- Parts of the library do look neater.
- Some students seem to understand why it's important to make sure each book is in its correct place on the shelf.
- Books are being repaired as students find them in disrepair instead of waiting until I have time to do it.
- There's a general sense of excitement about Adopt-A-Shelf. The students want to participate, even if they don't fully understand what to do.
- The program reinforces many of the library skills we've learned over the years.
Cons of Adopt-A-Shelf
- Some students just don't get it. Despite my best efforts of explaining everything to both the whole group and each individual, I still have some kids trying to arrange the books from shortest to tallest, or by colors. I even had one student who was trying to display every book on his shelf cover out instead of spine out... This one is especially frustrating because it tells me I have not taught these skills as well as I'd hoped.
- It's a very time consuming activity. I've already spent 3 weeks introducing the program, letting students pick their shelves, then "grading" each person's shelf one-on-one to help them understand what I'm looking for. I could probably spend at least another 2 weeks reinforcing what I'm looking for (but we're moving on).
- It's not keeping the reshelving carts as empty as I'd hoped, and the carts look TERRIBLE after students search through them for books that belong on their shelf.
- While some necessary repairs are being done, I also have an equal number of students wanting to repair tiny issues that I wouldn't normally repair at that time.
- For every shelf that looks great, there's one (or more) beside it that does not look so great. They are very inconsistent.
The bottom line: Do I recommend Adopt-A-Shelf?
The jury's still out, but I'm going to stick with it. I'm hoping that as students progress through the grade levels, they'll improve each year. The biggest challenge for me is time. I only see my students for 35 minutes of library skills time. I think I could spend every class period from now until the end of the year on correct shelving procedures, but then I wouldn't get to cover the rest of my curriculum.
I realize that elementary children are not going to understand shelving like I do, and I also realize that they're not losing any sleep about whether or not our library looks as neat and tidy as I think it should. 😉 I'm going to be happy with the small improvements that I've seen and try not to concentrate on the negative aspects.
Have you started using Adopt-A-Shelf? What challenges are you facing so far? Share with us in the comments!
Elizabeth Sherwood says
This is my first year to use adopt-a-shelf. I thought I'd share one thing that I'm doing that is different from what I read above. When 3-5th grade students enter the library for their lesson they first stop by the computer to scan their book to check it in, then they look at the spine and take it to the shelf that it goes on. I've specifically told students to not put the book away, but to lay it at the end of the shelf where it goes and I'll shelve it or the person who adopted the shelf will shelve it later. On the shelves that are very full and don't have space at the end, I asked them to lay the book horizontally and neatly on top of the other books on that shelf and I or the shelf "owner" will put it away later. So far this is working okay. It does look a little sloppy with books laying on top of the other books, but this way students don't have to spend a lot of time looking through the carts for books that go on their adopted shelf. It also helps me to see who is taking care of their shelf and who is not. Also, I know which shelves that haven't been adopted and seeing a book there tells me that I have shelving to do :).
This will be the first month that I will choose a "Shelf-of-the-Month" from easy, fiction and nonfiction. There will be a ribbon award on the shelf for the month and I promised students that I'd buy them their favorite full size candy bar as a reward (I never do candy, so this is kind of a big deal). We'll see how motivated they are by this. I will be publishing the names of the monthly winners in the school newsletter as well. I'm also going to make some play money to use as Scholastic dollars to award to students for making good choices and/or taking care of their shelf. I'll give them a play dollar and then keep track myself so I'll know how much each has when it's time for the book fair. The Scholastic dollars will come out of my profit, but will benefit students who come to the fair to buy a book.
Thanks to all for sharing your great ideas!
I have been doing Adopt-a-Shelf for two years now, with mixed results. I actually started it as part of our Leadership program at my school, something the kids could be proud of and be in charge of. The first year we did it, we also transitioned to unlimited checkout (borrow what you NEED, not what you want), so we had a LOT of books to shelve as the kids got used to the need vs. want idea. 🙂
The students designed a sign for their shelf (and there were two kids to a shelf), where they put their names and homeroom, and they also drew pictures of the kinds of books on their shelf (to help the littles who can't read yet). On the back, I wrote the Dewey range (or fiction call numbers) of their shelf, and they'd bring the sign to my assistant, who would give them any books that needed to be shelved.
The second year, I realized I needed to restrict the adoption to those busy, busy shelves. We had some kids who picked shelves that rarely had books to return, which was a little disappointing to them.
It is getting a little better each year, and the younger kids are starting to see it as one of the perks of fifth grade! Many of the fifth graders were really good about coming in almost every day, but some didn't ever bother to shelve a book, even during their library visit.
I like having the opportunity for those kids who respond to it, so I'll keep doing it, even though it's not super-helpful to my assistant. It's good for the kids.
I have such mixed feelings on this topic as I read through people's responses. On the one hand, I empathize with the busy librarians who are working alone and need help. On the other hand, my concern with having students do ALL their own shelving is that it sort of puts up an obstacle in trying to "sell" the library as a fun place for exploration and curiosity. If you're spending all your time trying to make sure that kids are putting their book back in exact right place, you are sort of sacrificing the big picture of guiding them to find information and stories that speak to and inspire them.
I'd hate for students to get bogged down with the administrative work of running a library, when the idea of having a school library is for students to discover and learn things that enrich the curriculum and their own interests. I know that many people are fighting a tough battle when they are doing all this work alone. But I also fear that the library program is not as valuable when the focus of library visits shifts from "be curious and find something interesting" to "put things in exactly the right place." That's why I advocate strongly for finding parents & grandparents to help with tasks like shelving whenever possible. Certainly the students should take ownership of library resources and care, and they should understand that there is a system in place to help them find what they need, but I get concerned when the rules & procedures take over and become the focus. Is anyone finding it difficult to strike that balance?
While my plan last year was working up to being able to Adopt-A-Shelf, I was going to call it, SHELF ELF, by the end of the year, I started 1/2way through the year with students each re-shelving one of their books. Initially I started with shelf markers, though, at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, I would still inevitably find a stray one still stuck in the shelves after a class left, by a misguided child that really thought it would still be there in a week when he brought back his book, so he could remember where it went.
It was difficult at first to have kids re-shelve books, but when the majority of the kids learned it, I explained how each child would re-shelve a book (but not the one they checked out) before they could look for a new one. Although I do not have an assistant, I do have parent helpers who come in for an hour or two every week. Sometimes I would have one during a class. This was great, because when a child was done re-shelving a book, she would leave it 1/2way out and raise her hand. Before they could browse for themselves, I or a parent helper had to check it. If it was right, they could push it in and go look for books themselves (they really liked pushing it in themselves-I had no idea!). If it wasn't, a super quick lesson on why it wasn't and where it went was given. I found that with a read-aloud, re-shelving one book, kids browsing & and then coming to the desk to check books out, all within a 30 minute span, this was all I was going to be able to achieve in that time frame. By the end of the year, it was working pretty well. I found that if I didn't check the books before they browsed, they would just be shoved in. I also found that I had to have books already in piles when kids came in so I could reinforce which section of the library they were going, "B is for______________....biography, very good. Who can point where the biographies are. Yes! Now these 5 books are biographies, who wants to re-shelve a biography?" Then I did the same for F(fiction), G(graphic novels), etc. I have a small library ( a classroom) so I had to make sure to spread the kids out evenly so they weren't right on top of each other so they didn't have to wait to get to their correct shelf. This also meant that a few 6th graders were re-shelving picture books to relieve congestion in the non-fic, but that's ok. I can hear their, "Oh I loved this book!" Sometimes they even take it out again! 🙂
I tried this a few years ago with mixed success. I've had several years of construction and odd spaces that made it impossible, and then I decided to ditch Dewey and use Metis. As soon as I finish my relabeling project (maybe mid-year?), I plan to start a new program like this. I'm thinking of making it elective, though, for 4th graders to do during lunch. Now they only need to understand alphabetical order to qualify - no more developmentally-inappropriate decimals!
Are you doing the switch to Metis during the school year?! I would love to talk to you more about the logistics of going through this transition! Last year I hoped to make this change during the summer, but summer came and went too quickly. Are students helping?
My job is to teach children how to use the OPAC and find books... no matter what library they are using. For the many children who move a lot, I want them to be totally comfortable and confident in library use wherever they are. Why waste all that time, effort and money creating chaos with a new system that the students will have to learn... and then they will be lost when they go to the public library or another school. I'm sorry, I know you worked hard and are proud of yourself. But please, anybody who hasn't done this yet... don't do it.