It is hard to believe that we are midway through the school year, but now that we are, I have a question to pose to all Media Center Aides, especially those that are in the library without any help. What do you do about all your book returns? How do you get them back on the shelves within a timely manner and still keep your shelves looking nice and “checkout-able”? I’ll be the first to admit it – I have control issues. I really do! I do not like anyone else shelving and putting things away in my library. It’s my domain, my happy place! It took two years to get everything arranged and moved to where I feel it works and I dislike the idea of someone else taking a cart full of books and putting them away where they think they belong. I know usually by sight where something goes and its painstaking to have someone try to put something away and just wander around looking for its home when inside I’m screaming “no…to your left, it goes right there!!”
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a dictator, a mean and grouchy librarian who doesn’t like students touching her books (although I do tend to call out “shelf markers don’t forget to use your shelf markers” from time to time). I am all about freedom of reading and choosing a book that is interesting to the student and what they enjoy. I began by letting the kids help me shelve. It was all I could do – I was overwhelmed with so much to do as a new librarian thrown into the position. I was facing about 300 books, every class day, to shelve and my piles were only growing. Some students offered to help and I looked upon those little angels with relief and slight desperation. I remembered to ask “Do you know your call numbers and Dewey?” before gladly letting them have at the piles with the gusto of a student “helping” their teacher. When they finished shelving, I went through and did my straightening and checking to make sure books were in their homes. I quickly discovered that the kids didn't know their call numbers or Dewey. I had nonfiction in the fiction and easy read section, fiction in the picture books, and some books were just laid on the empty part of the shelf and left there. I was at a loss. Now I had to go back through and carefully look to make sure each book was in its home; I had created more work for myself.
For about two months I didn’t have the kids shelve anymore. We reviewed Dewey and call numbers and talked about where each book belonged. I had “quizzes” where the kids picked up a book and told me based on the call number where they thought it should go. And then, the fateful “Mrs. B, can I help you put books away?” came again. And, again, I jumped on it. Sure, why not? We’ve been reviewing like crazy people, surely they know the drill by now. And they did, a little bit… but when I went to do my weekly sweep, I still found over half of the books the students helped shelve in the wrong place. They had the right section, but the books were just thrown on the shelves like the student knew the area it went in, but decided they didn’t want to keep looking and here was good enough. In the picture book section, W call numbers were in the Ts, Ns in the Cs, and again some were just left on the bottom of the shelf.
In desperation, I turned to the internet to see what other media center aides had done. I found the Elementary Librarian Adopt-A-Shelf program, but the kids did not seem interested. We went through the power point and there was some enthusiasm, but I have so little time with the students (after they finally come in and get settled, about 20 minutes) that they never really got a chance to straighten their areas. And when they did, they became possessive and did not want others “messing up” their area by looking for books. That did not mesh well with our open and inviting atmosphere. I attempted to do what another media center aide in our district did, where she separated the nonfiction books and chapter books by shelf and had students come in during recess or resource period and put them away. This seemed like a great idea, but then the student’s recess didn’t match up with my lunch, or I was out at recess duty, or I had a class and they could not come in. Another wash. I tried reaching out to parents during our parent teacher conferences and PTA meetings, but I work a second job, so I have to leave right after school. Without me in the library to offer direction, a lot of them did not feel comfortable shelving and putting books away. So I am back where I started, trying to find ways to make it easier and quicker to shelve my books and still keep things looking nice. (If you’re curious about my book piles, see the below picture. This is after one class day. I see 6-7 classes per day with two “free” days where I see only 2 classes and am pulled to aide in other rooms after my recess and lunch duty.)
My next idea to try is to sticker everything up. Create stickers for the fiction, nonfiction, picture books, series, and binned books and put them on the spines to hopefully make it easier for the students to see where things go. Then we will give another shot at student shelving… always the optimistic control freak! 😉
What strategies do you guys use? Have you met with any great success or have any super secret time cutting tips that you would be willing to share?
Today’s post is written by Nichole Baumgartner. Nichole is an Elementary (K-5) librarian who has been with her school district for two years. She works at Carlin Park Elementary in Angola, Indiana. She sees classes every day, as well as doing recess duty, lunch duty, and aiding in the Kindergarten and Deaf and Hard of Hearing rooms at her school.