Think Spring!: Tidbits to Clear Out Winter Blues

I love springtime. It’s nature’s way of starting fresh. Sort of how I feel at the beginning of each school year.  The possibilities are endless and my energy unlimited.  But as all teachers (and gardeners) will admit, successful planning starts early.  The ideas have to be nurtured  over time and eventually, with patience, a dream or idea becomes reality.  If you have a case of library fever and want some ideas to spark a spring spruce-up then this list is for you.   Some are obvious, some are new and others are tried and true (but useful to remember).  Here’s what I came up with:

1)  Make a plan.  My philosophy has always been “Go Big.”  You can always scale back later, but you might just be surprised at what you come up with.  Pull out a fresh piece of paper and start dreaming.  Brainstorm.  Write it ALL down–you can edit later.

2)  Clean sweep.  Clean, dust, store and dump.  Is it quiet right now in your library because of state testing?  Mine is.  Use this time to clean, clean, clean.  Finally dump that pile that you’ve been meaning to go through, clean out the storage space (you might be able to use it differently), but don’t throw out everything.  Some things may prove to be quite useful (keep reading…).

3)  Weed.  One shelf. One section. One step at a time.  Best advice I ever had (thank you Karen Egan and company from the Illinois Institute of School and Public Librarians!), “Think about cleaning out your refrigerator…you don’t keep outdated milk in the fridge just so you can say you have milk.”

4)  Decorate.   Use the things you may have in abundance.  Old books.   My clerk and I decorated the tops of our bookshelves with piles of old books.  They added an immediate warmth to the space and are a nice way to use beautiful books that are no longer circulating.

 

5)  Museum.   No need to rub your eyes.  That’s what it says. Museum.  Do you have any old AV equipment?  Why not tag it, display it and talk about it instead of dumping it in the trash?

 

 

6)  Labels.  I have had great success with spine labels.  Sometimes I purchase the prefab stickers for specific genres (mystery, fantasy, etc), but I also use the colored dots for other topics (epistolary, novels in verse, or our school book list).


7)  Special Collection.  Have you looked at your circulation records lately?  Do your kids have a favorite genre?  My kids love mystery, horror and sports.  So I pulled each of these into a “special” collection.  It has been very popular and was quite easy to create (especially if you’ve got books labeled by genre already).  The best part is that these already popular book circulate even more.

 

8)  Signs.  Create or update signs throughout the library.  Big, bold signs look great and are a nice way to add color to any space.  We have signs for the Circulation Desk, Book Return and Fiction Room.

 

 

9)  More Labels.  We label each Dewey section.  I simply printed out vertical strips (000, 100, etc.) and taped them to old magazine organizers that were unused (once we did some serious weeding of periodicals).  We also have special sections of Dewey labeled (pets, cooking, World War II, drawing).  Again, I printed out a clip art and matching Dewey number and then taped it onto the side of a large magazine holder.  Yes, I’m aware that stores offer these already made, but I don’t have that kind of budget…

10)  Displays.  Book displays can be brightened with plastic signs and colorful inserts.  Also, wrap a cardboard box or two and add some height and a pop of color.

11) Clean…out your own basement/closet/attic.  You might be surprised to discover some treasures.  Don’t want it in your house?  Bring it to school.  I have pictures, paintings, vases,  and knickknacks from home that work great to spruce up the library.

 

12) Dollar Store.  Have you checked out the $1 bins at Target?  We got tons of cheap, colorful trickens to liven up displays.

 

 

13)  Paint:  Book carts, walls, back of book shelves.  Add some color and interest for just a few bucks.  When I surveyed our students at the end of last year the #1 recommendation to improve the library was “add color.”  And we did.  Powder blue.  Chartruce.  Magenta. Orange.  Royal blue.  On book carts and walls behind bookshelves.  The difference was amazing.

14)  Teen posters.  We use posters from Scholastic, posters from teen magazines and calendars to increase tween interest.    Now we have singers, actors, athletes and wrestling pictures that are simple to swap out and update but help made the space feel tween friendly.  And don’t worry–we also have lots of pictures of historic heroes as well!

 

15)  Murals.  Why not collaborate with your middle school or high school art teacher and have students create a permanent mural especially for the library.  Worried about painting directly on the walls?  Have the students paint wood and mount them.

16)  Lighting.  Lamps bring an immediate homey feel to any classroom or space.

17)  Plants.  We have loads of greenery in vases along the top of shelves, but I also winter my patio plans here at school.

18)  Website.  Build it, update it, expand it.  Why not create a page dedicated to your new innovations?  I have had great success with http://www.wix.com/

19)  Blog.  With all of the changes you are making you will have lots to talk about.  Kids can watch progress, post ideas and get in the habit of reading your updates!

20)  Tweet.  You’ve dipped your toe in that well so you might as well give it a go.  Plus it’s simple to follow other librarians who are constantly sharing great ideas.

21)  Mobile Apps.  There are tons of free sits that help you create mobile apps.  I use Wix.com for my library’s website and it also has a free mobile app. creator.

 

 

22)  eReaders.  Why not start an eReader club?  Don’t have money to purchase a set?  Have students bring devices from home.

23)  RSS.  If you’re reading this post this probably goes without saying, but subscribe to a reader and pick a few sites to follow.  It’s an easy form of professional development.  And watch…next you’ll be attending online seminars or participating in a wiki!

24) Grants.  Write a quick proposal for PTSA and build a wish list in Amazon or fill out the application for Donor’s Choose.  Getting new books in the library is exciting and these two sites make it easy too.

25)   QR Codes.  Did you know there are lots of ways to use these crazy squares?  I have them posted throughout the library. They link to the library’s home page, reveal messages or display book recommendations.  Try http://www.qrstuff.com/

 

26)  Get SMART.  Not every library can afford a SMART Board, but Airliners are a cheaper solution.  This will make your instruction lively and interactive.

27) Book club.  Why not start a YA bookclub…for teachers?  Getting teachers interested in what’s new will certainly increase their interest in the library which will increase student interest.  Start simple like Robot Dreams by Sara Varon or The Arrival by Shaun Tan (both wordless graphic novels).

28)  Be passive/active.   You can’t be everywhere at once.  Take some time to polish the passive reader’s advisory opportunities (websites, displays, list folders).  Believe it or not, not everyone wants to talk with their librarian…yet.  This is a great way to show we know our business without saying a word.

29).  Smiles everyone smiles.  Ever watch Ally McBeal? (If you haven’t, you should.)  On the show one of Ally’s lawyer friends, John Cage practices Smile Therapy.  Just thinking about this makes me grin.  But seriously.  Our library’s tone starts with us.  So slap on a smile (even if you don’t feel like it) and I pretty soon everyone will be smiling  too (even you).

30)  Show off.  If you’ve tried one, two or a few updates why not show off your work?  Invite parents, administration and community members for donuts and book talks in the library.  You deserve a moment in the spotlight!

Soooo….there.  You.  Go.  A few ideas to get the juices flowing and spark your own creativity.  Happy reworking!

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