Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Looking back...and smiling!

I've been collecting data on the number of warm bodies that come through my middle school library, and how often I serve them, for the last six years.  At the end of 2010-2011, I noticed an ugly trend.  The numbers were dropping, all of them.  Classes served, walk-ins per day, circulations per student, everything had been dropping slowly since 2009.  What was I doing wrong?

I showed the numbers to my principal at the beginning of 2011-2012, and we decided it was due to several factors.
1.  Our teachers had replaced our defunct reading assessment software for self-selected reading with a "book share" or one-pager (see Kelly Gallagher's book, Readicide), something I applauded and supported, but which made the need to find a library book with a test on it unnecessary. (Decreasing circulation)
2.  The number of circulation classes had increased to the point that it was not possible to get research classes into the library as often as necessary, so teachers were taking their classes to the computer lab and skipping the library.  (Decreasing the number of research classes)
3.  The loss of my library assistant resulted in teachers trying to make my life easier by decreasing the number of passes they allowed to students who needed to come to the library independently. I also had to close the library if I needed to help a teacher in the classroom.  (Decreasing the number of walk-ins per day)

I spent the year advertising books with displays, posters, and book talks.  I worked with my ELA teachers to encourage them to send students on a pass for circulation more frequently, leaving space for research classes in all content areas.  I attended team meetings and actively encouraged all of our teachers to send the students to the library independently.  Students were excited to hear that the number of books they could check out would not be limited, leading avid readers to get great stacks of books.  I trained student helpers to run the circulation desk, freeing me to be engaged with students looking for books and conducting research.  I built my PLN, decreasing the isolation I had experienced, increasing my knowledge, and improving my attitude.

I finished putting my year end data into the spread sheet last week.  I checked the numbers once.  Then I checked them again.  Then I made this pretty infographic using easel.ly.

Can you see why I'm smiling?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Reading - Part One

Late in May, I always challenge my middle school students to keep reading during the summer.  I usually use the obvious but understandable “use it or lose it” allegory.  It goes like this:
Me:  What happens to an athlete if, at the end of the season, he or she goes home and crashes on the couch for three months?  How will their body respond when they are ready to start practicing and playing again?
Students:  They’ll be fat.  They’ll be slow.  They will lose strength, speed, flexibility, skills, etc.
Me:  What do you think happens if you go home for the summer, sit on the couch, and don’t read?  What do you think happens to your reading skills?  
Okay – it  may be a little overused, but when I tie it to a contest, ask students to send me photos of themselves reading in unusual places this summer, and add a goal of reaching a combined million pages with the other two middle schools in our district, I usually get pretty good results. Students and faculty members at our school were asked to keep a reading log this summer, recording titles and numbers of pages read.   I encouraged my students to set a reading goal as well, and to post that goal on Edmodo and let us know how they were doing during the summer.  I pledged to read 100 books this summer, from June 1 – August 31.  While there were some scoffers, a few students announced their intent to either keep up with me, or surpass my goal.  I really hope they do!

In May, a friend sent me this post from Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, challenging her readers to participate in summer reading by pledging to read a book a day.  

Excellent!  I’m in!  I checked to be sure I could still remember my Twitter account password, since I had not made a post since July of 2011, and began posting my reading to #bookaday, Goodreads, and my reading log.
Then another friend sent me a post from Sherry Heise, from Heise Reads and Recommends, launching the 2012 Summer Throw Down, a friendly competition to see who could average the most books read during the first round, June 18 – July 17, librarians or teachers.  

While not a competitive person, the opportunity to expand my Twitterverse and add a Twibbon to my blog inspired me to sign on.  The result of both of these challenges is that I have  found an enormous community of readers, reviewers, authors and book lovers by following #summerthrowdown and #bookaday.  Another gift from an increased reading diet has been the resurrected Twitter account, which has provided SO MUCH MORE than a community of bibliophiles, but that is for another post.

Part Two of the 2012 Summer Throw Down starts on Sunday, July 22.  If you are a teacher or librarian, why not join us for an incentive to end your summer with a head full of books and a heart ready to recommend them?  Check in at Heise Reads and Recommends to find out how to participate.