Wednesday, May 4, 2022

AAIM 2022 Conference Reflections


First Conference to Attend Since Pandemic

I have been away from public school since the summer of 2020. I have spent the past two years working nearly full-time for the Arkansas Army National Guard. In March, I had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct instructor for McDaniel College in their school librarianship program. It has been wonderful to be involved with graduate students preparing to join our wonderful profession as school librarians. After beginning to teach the course, I discovered that the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media had scheduled a conference in April. I thought the timing would be perfect to attend especially since the course I was teaching covered Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). There are few better places for one to develop a PLN than at a conference!

When I was a school librarian, I really loved attending conferences. This was especially true if I could attend one near the end of school in the spring semester. It was always exciting to learn new technology and connect with authors and their new works. I encourage all administrators to send their school librarians to such conferences with the understanding they must bring their learning back to the school. I have always viewed a school librarian as a leadership position since we impact the entire learning community. It was always fun to bring back new ideas and technology to share with teachers and students during the year, especially near the end of school. It always helped me stay energized right up to the beginning of summer. Such energy and excitement are contagious! I couldn't wait to attend the conference since I haven't attended one for several years, pre-pandemic.

In the paragraphs below, I will share highlights of my learning from the 3-day conference. 

Keynote Speaker Todd Nesloney

I really enjoyed hearing Todd talk about his experiences as a classroom teacher and administrator. Some of my biggest takeaways were that we all need to share our stories as school librarians. Todd suggested that if we do not tell our own stories, someone else will tell them for us! He discussed empowering students to help us tell our stories via social media by allowing them to take photos and help create the posts that go out. He also shared that we can Tweet to authors when we read their books. We never know when an author might respond and interact with us. This is important and exciting for students to see!

Another wonderful idea from Todd was his suggestion of inviting school board members, central office administrators, community leaders, and others to read to students. If they can't come in person, send them a Zoom. Everyone should be modeling a love of reading to students at all grade levels. I really love this idea! He also stated that administrators should be able to find plenty of funds to purchase books. There were many more ideas that he shared. Be sure to follow him @TechNinjaTodd on Twitter. 

Book Challenges

I attended a session about book challenges. The best takeaway from this session was the suggestion that school librarians should know their district's selection and challenge policies. School librarians should review these processes with administrators so everyone is aware of the procedure. This should alleviate most problems that would be encountered. In addition, I remember more than one district having a challenge policy that required the complainant to read the entire book being challenged to discourage a select portion from being taken out of context. I also recall one district placing the responsibility to suggest a comparable text on the person making the complaint. This is a topic I want to continue researching since it has become a frequent issue in recent months. There are also resources for book challenges at ALA and AASL.


Tik Tok Book Toks

I have noticed that TikTok has become very popular with young people in recent months. When I saw that Dena Meriweather, the school librarian at Bigelow High School, was having a session about it, I had to check it out. Dena shared her story about how she had the idea to use TikTok to create book talks to share with her students during the pandemic. I thought this was a very innovative way to reach students, especially during the COVID lockdown period. I plan to write more about this in a future blog post. I look forward to sharing information about this with my graduate students!

Malvern ELA Teacher TikTok

I was excited to attend a session by a middle school ELA teacher from Malvern. Claudine James discussed how she had to evolve as an educator during the pandemic. After she discovered the COVID crisis was going to continue into the fall of 2020, she realized she had to adjust her strategy to reach students that were frequently not at school. After she talked to her students about posting lessons on YouTube, she realized few students were watching her videos. She then started posting her lessons on a new TikTok account. Her students helped her come up with the username @iamthatenglishteacher. She immediately began gaining hundreds and eventually thousands of followers. By January 2021 she had 100k followers. One of her lessons gained 54.5 million views. She has now gained national attention. I love seeing educators step out of their comfort zones to reach students where they are! The most important takeaway for me is that she asked her students what they thought might be the best approach. What can we learn from this? 

Copyright and Creativity

I attended a session about the Copyright and Creativity resources website (copyrightandcreativity.org). The session was led by Brittany Fleming who is also a trainer for the site. I was very excited about this since it is a resource we share in the class content I have been teaching at McDaniel College for Learning Technologies. Brittany gave a brief overview of copyright laws, the four factors to consider, and the website resources at Copyright and Creativity. The site features a copyright-related curriculum for grades K-12. The content is free and only requires a login registration. I plan to write more about this wonderful resource in a future blog article.

PLN and Modeling Best Practices for My Graduate Students

One of the topics we cover in my current class at McDaniel College is Personal Learning Network development and social media. I used this conference as a way to model best practices for my graduate students. I sent Tweets, Instagram posts, and Facebook posts to the #SLM508 and #AAIM22 so they could observe highlights of my professional learning at the conferences. I have always connected with other professionals by using this practice at conferences and other learning events. I hope my students will enjoy building their PLN via social media as they move forward in their careers. Sometimes being a school librarian can be a lonely place since most schools only employ one. With a PLN, we are never alone as professionals. There is always a learning conversation happening via social media, especially Twitter.

Next Steps

There is so much to unpack and reflect upon from this three-day conference. I plan to write a piece about Dena Meriweather's TikTok Book Toks very soon. I think this is a great way to reach students with popular social media. I also want to share more about the Copyright and Creativity site. There are so many excellent resources to explore and it needs to be done in a dedicated blog article. 

I hope you enjoyed reading the highlights of what I experienced at the conference. Learning online during a webinar or a Twitter Chat is a wonderful thing, but in my experience, it doesn't have the impact that an in-person conference can have on personal learning. Being able to meet colleagues and visit is priceless. The fact that we get to hear leaders speak in sessions and share their best practices inspires us to take action. I hope that this can become a regular happening for all educators as things continue to improve following the pandemic. 

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Mystery Skype Pro Tips


In my many years as a school librarian, I enjoyed helping teachers connect to distant schools and other places using Skype, Google Meet (Google Hangouts at the time), and Zoom. It was always a thrill to see students learn about destinations they may never physically visit through such connections. In this article, I want to share my best practices for setting up the library or classroom for a session. I will also share a few resources for connecting with other schools. I strongly recommend this activity regardless of the time of year. I guarantee you everyone will be engaged!



Mystery Skype is a global guessing game that uses webcam conferencing calls to connect the participating schools or individuals. You can use Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or a similar webcam app. The students do not know the location of the other school, and they must guess where they are by using “yes” or “no” questions only. The goal is to guess the other school's location before they guess yours. Prior to the event, I would hold a session with the teacher and students to share how we would set up the library for the game. Here is a link to a teacher's blog that contains a video showing how we set up the library.


We had the following jobs available to students:


Inquirers/ Responders - these students are stationed at the webcam
Atlas Checkers - these students use printed maps and atlases to narrow down possible locations
Logic Reasoners - these students help decide what the responses and questions will be
Photographers - these students can use library iPads or cameras to take photos of the event
Video Camera Operators - these students used our library iPads or cameras to take videos of the event
Question Keepers - these students recorded the questions and responses
Runners - go back and forth among team members to relay information



Question Keeper Screen

Pro Tips

I strongly recommend creating an anonymous account on whichever webcam conferencing application you use. There were a few times that the competing school would see my name on my account. A few of them Googled my name and discovered our state. I also recommend that you remind the competing school to do the same thing. Your students will search for any information they can find in an effort to win! I always tried to keep the competition tied to the yes/ no geographical questions by removing all other clues. In addition, when you have your informational session with the class prior to the actual event, have the students look around the library/ classroom for any items that might give away your state or school. Remind them not to wear clothing that would give away your state or school during the event. This is most important for the Inquirers/ Responders since they are on the webcam the entire time. It is also a good idea to have a test connection with the competing school/ individual a few days prior to the event to make sure all tech is working correctly.


On the day of the event, the students will come to you and the teacher to ask many questions. I felt like I needed to help them with every detail during the first few of these we held. I think this was a disservice to the students. The problem-solving portion of this is part of the experience. I offered little assistance (other than tech support, etc,) and I eventually encouraged the teachers I partnered with to do the same. Rather than giving too much guidance to them, just be a cheerleader and encourager. Let the kids work together on the inquiry issues that come up during the game!




It generally would take about 30 - 40 minutes for the session to play out. We would start with guessing the state first. Following this, we would guess the city or town and finally the name/ location of the school last. After both schools had guessed these items, we would allow all the students to gather around the computer to talk about where they live. It was always interesting to hear this interaction. They would talk about food, fun things to do in their area, favorite music, etc. Sometimes they would get very silly and we would have to redirect them. I always loved seeing the level of engagement and interest!


Resources for Connecting
I recommend starting your Mystery Skype journey with an educator (and their class) you know across town or across your state. It is easy to coordinate with someone you know with whom your students are not familiar. Beyond that, I have found the Facebook Group called Mystery Skype/ Skype in the Classroom. This is a community of global educators. I frequently see teachers posting their interest to connect for games. You can also check the #MysterySkype hashtag on Twitter for teachers that might be interested in connecting. Most of my connections were via Twitter.


A screenshot of the Facebook Group mentioned above.

Advocacy Connections

I encourage you to invite teachers and administrators to visit your webcam connection events. You should also consider inviting parents, too. I remember how excited my administrators were at both schools where I held such connections. This is a powerful advocacy piece for your library program! I guarantee they will tell others about what you are doing. These are the kind of stories you want students, administration, and teachers to tell about you and the school library program. Good luck as you "tear down" the school walls to virtually connect your students around the country and world! Be sure to tell me about your connection adventures in the comments below or on my social media.


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Sunday, April 10, 2022

In Search of Student Voices




As the school year is nearing the last few weeks, things tend to get very busy. Summer is still a ways off, but it is on the horizon. This is a great time to start thinking about how you will end the school year. It is important to search for student feedback so you can get a feel for how the library program served them during the academic year. In this article, I will share two survey templates you can use and/ or edit for your students. One for high school/ middle school and one for elementary. Think about how it will impact students that you are seeking their opinions in a survey. Finally, we will discuss the outcomes and what you can do with them. 



My Practice of Using Student Surveys

In the past, I have shared reflections about student end-of-year surveys. You can read about one particular instance of that here. In that example, I shared multiple ways we collected student feedback. We used Google Forms, Padlet, and Flipgrid. I recall Google Forms being my favorite since it creates such nice report products. I hope you find those examples helpful as I believe they are still relevant.

Secondary Level Student Survey Template

I spent most of my library career as a high school librarian. I normally tried to keep my surveys very brief hoping that more students would complete them. These are the prompts I frequently used with grades 8-12:

  • The library media center has a warm and inviting climate for our learning community. (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
  • The student resources in the library media center serve your needs (both academic & recreational). (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
  • The library staff demonstrates good customer service and assists students in a timely manner. (Always, Sometimes, Rarely, Never)
  • Please tell us how we can improve our services. (If you should have a complaint, please provide a possible solution).

Feel free to copy it and edit/ personalize it for your learning community as needed. Make it work for you and your learners! 

Elementary School Student Survey Template

I made the elementary-level survey very simple. You may want to add questions to it if you serve older elementary students. Feel free to personalize it as you need! The hard part is done and that is just getting it started. 

  • Do you like visiting the library? (yes or no)
  • Do you like the books and materials in the library? (yes or no)
  • Is the librarian friendly?  (yes, no, sometimes)
  • How can we make the library better? (text response)

You can access my Google Form Template for this survey here.

Outcomes and Reflections

After you email the survey to students or find some other way to get it out to them, what is next? Some of the feedback will be very helpful. Let's face it, some of your students will say things that aren't truthful and/or helpful at all. Don't let it make you angry. It will happen! Focus on the comments that are helpful to you. Sometimes this feedback can be exciting to see while other times it can be a challenge to read. You may have a program or service that just doesn't connect with your students. Maybe they will give feedback that will help you improve it! Sometimes it is best to scrap some programs and start over with fresh ideas. These surveys are an excellent litmus test for how your student customers are feeling about the library. Read the content and take action with good planning. 

Should you let your administrators see your survey? That is up to you. Think about how your principal might feel knowing you had gone to the extra effort to create a survey. If you acted upon it after reading the feedback, this shows how you value such student feedback. This is rare for an educator to do. This is an opportunity for you to take the lead in your building by seeking student voices! I always let my administrators view the results. I wanted my evaluating administrator to see the effort I put into the survey and the planning that followed. I think they appreciated how transparent I was through the process.

Again, consider how students will think about you asking for their opinion. Take it a step further than this. What if you implement changes based on their feedback and suggestions for improvement? This will generate buy-in! I hope you will consider going through this process to improve for your learning community. Please, share your survey stories in the comments!


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Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Study of Arkansas' School Library Budgets

Back in 2015, I decided to pursue an ALA-accredited MS in Library Science from the University of North Texas. I already have an MS in school librarianship, but I wanted to expand my opportunities and knowledge beyond my public school career. After working on the second degree in librarianship part-time at UNT for five years, it finally came to completion this spring. 

I decided to do a study of Arkansas' school library budgets as a major research project for a two-semester seminar class. Since 2009, I've read articles about how numerous library budgets and staff have experienced major cuts in all types of libraries. For the blog this month, I want to share highlights from my final paper and a link to the full document for those that want to read it. I also want to thank the 109 participants in my survey instrument from the membership of the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media (AAIM) for making this study possible!

Below are the highlights from the research paper. You can read the full paper here.


Results and Data Analysis
              There were 109 survey participants covering four categories of public schools: elementary, middle school, junior high, and high school. 43 (39.4%) of the respondents were from elementary schools, 31 (28.4%) from middle schools, 22 (20.2%) from junior high schools, and 41 (37.6%) from high schools (Figure 1). The largest categories represented by participants were from elementary and high schools.
Figure 1
Survey Participant Categories

Figure 2
Library Budget Reductions

Figure 3
Budget Increases




The responses for library budgets indicated that 54 (49.5%) respondents had experienced cuts while 55 (50.5%) had not (Figure 2). 64 participants indicated their budget either stayed the same or increased. 54 (84.4%) responded that their budget had not increased and 10 (15.6%) revealed their budget increased (Figure 3). According to this sample, it appeared that more schools did not experience budget cuts.
Figure 4
Budget Reduction Impact


57 participants indicated one of five common impacts to their program as a result of budget reductions (Figure 4). 50 (45.9%) reported a reduced amount of book purchases, 33 (30.3%) shared they had to cut the amount of library supplies they buy, 16 (14.7%) indicated they have reduced the amount of library professional development they attend, 7 (6.4%) reported other reductions in their library program, and 13 (11.9%) reported the reduction of a library aide. According to this portion of the survey, the highest number of participants in the sample population that experienced budget reductions indicated they had to purchase fewer books.
The optional open response question that asked participants to report any reasons they were given for budget cuts had a variety of responses. Most reasons given by respondents for library budget cuts were due to a drop in student enrollment or a district being in financial distress. Others stated that they were given no reason for budget cuts by their administrators. An additional open response question asked participants to share any specific challenges they have experienced by budget cuts. The top responses provided by participants were that they must do fundraisers or write grants to have additional funding. Other challenges included not being able to purchase all current novels and cutting periodical purchasing. A few librarians shared that they use their own money to make purchases. Some librarians indicated that they lost their library aide positions, and the increased workload of not having assistance was a significant challenge. Another optional question asked respondents if they have had a library aide cut or reassigned. 42 of 64 participants (65%) on this question suggested that their library aide was pulled from the library frequently and/ or that the position was lost altogether. 28 respondents shared their email addresses to show interest in participating in an interview to provide additional information.
Figure 5
Interview Participant Categories


  
A five-question interview was sent to all 28 participants on March 1, 2020. 15 participants responded to the interview which consisted of one multiple choice question and 4 open response questions. The participants were from 7 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, 1 junior high, and 3 high schools (Figure 5). Librarians described their budgets in one of the responses. The results were from one extreme to another. One librarian indicated that there was no budget provided for the library program. Another participant shared the allocated budget was approximately $20,000. Several other librarians shared their budget allocation breakdowns. $7908 was the mean budget shared by the 13 school librarians who answered the open response question about their current allocated funds for 2019-2020. In another question librarians shared how their budgets had changed over the years. Some experienced decreases while others stayed the same and/ or increased. Most individuals shared that their budget funding was based on the number of students enrolled in the school.

In another question, librarians reported how they have supplemented their budget money. Most participants indicated they either applied for grants or that they hosted school book fairs to supplement their library budgets. Some of the grants included organizations like PledgeCents, Donors Choose, and Wal-Mart community grants. Some librarians suggested they sell other items like candy, candy grams, and other similar items to raise needed funds. One librarian indicated they depended partially on donations from the community for fundraising. One participant shared that they spent their own personal funds when necessary to purchase needed items for the library.
Discussion/ Practical Implications

Research Question 1: How have budget cuts impacted Arkansas’ school libraries?
              Respondents indicated that 49.5% of the schools in the sample had experienced budget reductions (see Figure 2). It was expected that this number would have been higher based on the review of literature presented in this paper. It was assumed that the results of this sample reflected the entire state in that just under 50% of public-school libraries have experienced cuts in their budgets. In terms of how these cuts have impacted the sample of schools that participated, there are many effects that were indicated. The most disturbing consequences indicated by school librarians were that they could not purchase as many books with reduced budget funds. This is a problem that directly impacts students of all ages. A few librarians suggested that they could not purchase the newest novels in a series because of less funding. In addition, school librarians shared that they had to hold book fairs as a means of compensating for reduced budget money. Librarians also shared that they have applied for grants for additional funding. A few respondents indicated that they had to use their own money to make purchases for students. The survey respondents revealed that budget cuts had made it more difficult to make purchases.
Research Question 2: What do school librarians perceive the long-term results of budget reductions will be to their programs?
              The personalized responses to this question came through in the open response spaces of the survey and interview. One participant stated that the current budget was not enough to purchase technology for the library in addition to books. This librarian stated: I feel that there is no way to have both technology and books with our current budget. For a true 21st century library, I need to have both. Another librarian stated: Especially in the elementary, we touch and see EVERY student. We offer so many options beyond check-in/ out. Adequately or inadequately funding the library has reciprocal effects on the children. One librarian discussed how it was necessary to use personal money when library funds are exhausted: I am sure every teacher says the same thing, but a lot of what I use comes out of my pocket. When a kid needs the 3rd book to a series and I am out of money, I just order it myself.
              While the question was not answered specifically for long-term impacts, the struggles of these few examples were evident. Budget reductions impacted school librarians directly since some used personal money to make purchases. Others have made hard decisions about balancing purchases between library books and to make essential technologies available to their learning communities. In addition, other questions in the study revealed that budget cuts were causing some librarians to fall behind in their library professional development.
Research Question 3: Have Arkansas’ school library support staff been reduced?
              42 of 64 participants revealed that their library aides were either pulled from the library more than in the past or they lost their aides altogether. Some of the librarians indicated that the reduction of library aide support had made it more difficult to do their jobs. There were many responses to the reasons other than budget reductions. One librarian indicated that the aide was pulled for dyslexia support in the building. Another shared that the aide position was never filled when the previous aide retired. Several respondents shared that aides were pulled for hall/ facility duty throughout the day while others stated the aide was frequently pulled to cover classes for absent teachers. One librarian wrote: The loss of the library aide has had the largest impact. I spend more time doing secretarial duties and have less time to devote to activities that directly impact students - researching books, developing programming, book-talking, collaboration with teachers. Another participant reported: I no longer have a para so I have cut back on the "extras" I would do (newsletter, free-flow times, reading incentives, etc.). I also have come to rely more on book fair funds. Another librarian shared that it was difficult to collaborate with teachers since the library aide was only part-time. The results of this study indicated that a portion of the sample had experienced various reductions of support staff. It was uncertain if these reductions of support were a direct result of budget cuts since there were different reasons presented by survey participants.
Research Question 4: Are Arkansas school librarians allocated budget funds to allow attendance at relevant professional development opportunities?
              This question was not clearly answered in the study. 16 school librarians indicated that they had to reduce the amount of their library specific professional development. In retrospect, this question should have been directly asked in either the survey or follow-up interview form. At least it was known that of the 54 librarians that indicated they had experienced budget reductions, 14.7% also had to reduce their school library professional learning. In the state of Arkansas, this would likely mean reducing their participation in the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference, the Arkansas Library Association conference, or local Arkansas education cooperative library specific trainings throughout the school year.
Conclusion/ Next Steps
This study only answered a few questions after it was completed. It also created many more additional questions to be investigated. One thing is suggested as a result of the study: school librarians must advocate for their programs and report their activities to add value to both their positions and programs. Clear communication with administrators and other stakeholders is key. The responses from participants revealed that many school librarians are innovative and have a “can do” attitude. These educators find ways to do more with less by spending additional time seeking grants, sponsoring book fair events, and even using their own personal funds to provide for those they serve. Perhaps if school library stories are told via social media and other outlets, perceptions can be changed. Such increased communication of library program impact and value may help solve some of the budget issues revealed by the participants of this study. There is much more to learn and to be investigated where school library budgets are concerned. This will be an even more relevant subject for study following the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on school districts, economics, and how libraries will function in an uncertain future.





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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Our First Book Clubs at Bethel Middle School

Since I started working as a school librarian, I've always found a way to have a book club. In this post, I'll talk about my current method for administering a book club. It has evolved a bit over the years. Since coming to Bethel Middle School this year I have adapted it for 6th and 7th grades in my current position. The students seem to really enjoy it.

This year we have read two books in 4 separate clubs. In the fall we read The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn. During the spring semester, we read Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Since we use a Scholastic Book Fair as our main fundraiser for the fall, I use some of the money to purchase book club books (usually from Scholastic). While we are reading a book, I generally have 3-4 book club meetings during lunch in the library. As long as students come to all the meetings and/ or participate in my Google Classroom discussions, they get to keep the book at no cost. I usually have around 10 students in each club. I have a 6th-grade club and a 7th-grade club that meet separately during their lunch periods.

Agreement Form and Scheduling

I create an agreement form for students to sign. It states they understand they are expected to participate in our face to face meetings and/ or Google Classroom discussions in order to keep the book at no cost. If they do not participate as indicated, the form states they must pay for the book or return it to the library. When students signup, I give them a calendar showing the dates we will meet. What has worked best this year is to meet during the last 15-20 minutes of lunch for our discussions. I email a list of the student participants to principals on Fridays when we meet and request them to be sure and release the students to the library halfway through lunch. It has been very successful.

Example of agreement form


Questions

As I read the book I develop questions for our discussions. This year the meetings have mostly been led by me. A few students have submitted questions, but none have stepped in to take the lead. I hope to encourage students next year to take the lead on discussion questions where I can facilitate the meetings. I have done this successfully with high school students in the past, and I believe it will be an excellent way to spark growth in my middle school learners. 


Participation

It has been very encouraging to see how deep some of our discussions go, especially with 6th-grade students. Many times we have never made it past my first few questions. Students have repeatedly taken the discussions in directions I didn't anticipate. To me, this is the thrill of a book club. Everyone has a unique perspective when they read the text and the story line. This usually comes through in a book club meeting.
A student votes for the book club title for spring semester

Something new I tried this year was allowing the students to vote on the book we selected for the spring semester. I created a Google Form that contained four titles with book trailers. They voted for their top choice. I loved giving the students a chance to share their voice by making a selection. I will continue this practice because it generates buy-in and ownership.

If you have had successful book clubs, be sure to share your stories in the comments below.

New Year, New School, New Job





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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Our Library Student Worker Program



Ever since I've been a school librarian, I've tried to include students in the library program as much as possible. This year I took a job as a middle school librarian after working with high school students for many years. One thing I remember from previous experiences with middle level students is that a large percentage of them want to help their teachers. I began thinking about how this could work well in a 6th and 7th grade library setting. I decided to try recruiting some student workers to help me cover the circulation desk.


A student worker helps a student patron
Recruiting

When I started at Bethel Middle School this year, I immediately focused on creating a welcoming environment for students. I made a sincere effort to talk to students as much as possible. I decided to open the library before school so students could come in to use the library resources and technology. This took off with overwhelming success since each day between 40-60 students came in to the library before school. I knew I needed to recruit some student workers to run the circulation desk so that I could be free to interact with library visitors. I started targeting students that frequented the library by asking them if they would like to work at the desk. A few students indicated they were interested.

Training

I usually start students as workers by showing them how to check in books and what to do with them
Student workers help a visiting class checkout books
when they come in. I also show them how to have students enter their ID number and check out books. I explain our rules which include how many items can be checked out and what to do if a student has an overdue or lost item. I explain that what students have checked out is private information. We go over good customer service practices like greeting students when they come to the circulation desk and using phrases like "have a good day" or " thank you". Most students take to this training very well at this age. I watch over their shoulder until I see them making almost no mistakes before I leave them to work independently.

Scheduling

A reward party for student library workers!
After several student workers experienced success, other students were drawn to this program after seeing students working behind the desk. They asked me how they could become student workers, and I was able to recruit additional students. I had the student workers create a Monday through Friday schedule so that everyone got to work an equal amount of periods. In addition, some teachers allowed these students to come to the library to work during their study skills classes if they were caught up on their work. This rewarded the students, and it provided me additional help in the library. Since I work by myself in the library most of the time, any help is appreciated! I have a Google Form that student workers sign in when they work so I can keep track of who is working regularly.

Benefits 

Since using student workers in the library, I've realized there are several benefits. It helps our library program serve more students and teachers since student workers free me up to get out from behind the circulation desk to meet visitors that need assistance. Student workers benefit because they are learning valuable customer service skills. They learn to greet patrons and help them. They also have a place to belong in the library and are viewed as student leaders by other students and teachers. It has been good for everyone involved.

Rewards

It has been so good to see students workers grow individually in these roles over the course of the school year. Many have become very proficient as library workers. In addition, our school culture encourages affirmations. Some students have written me some very nice affirmation notes over the year.




This student wrote: 
"Mr. Evans, I am so glad you like me enough to let me work here everyday. 
I love it and I am thankful for someone like you to let me work here. Thank you so much."



We never know what impact empowering students in this way will have on them personally. These notes indicate that it does make a difference. Everyone wants to feel they are needed and important to others. We all want to feel appreciated and vital. For these students, being a library worker does just that. I look forward to developing this program even more in the future. If you have had successful student workers in the library, be sure to share your stories in the comments below!


New Year, New School, New Job



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