Libraries are awesome
September 3, 2009 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I've taken responsibility for a very small children's library and I'd love your ideas for making it awesome.

My kid is going to a tiny little school where every parent takes a volunteer job. I chose the job of managing the small library. I'm supposed to keep it organized and accessible, and to create displays and possibly events. I'm also supposed to coordinate a Scholastic book fair (I'm sure everyone would be open to some alternative to Scholastic - so suggestions welcome on that score as well.)

I don't have a ton of time, and the school doesn't have a ton of money. Given those limitations, I'd love to hear any ideas you have for making the library useful, attractive and vibrant.

(Note that I admire and respect librarians, and recognize that I am not one! I wish all schools had a paid librarian, but this school doesn't - it only has two paid staff people all together - so I hope to do my best with what's available.)
posted by serazin to Education (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing about my school library was a pile of big colourful cushions in a corner. I know libraries are meant to be all about the books, but nothing engenders a love of literature like the pleasure of curling up and reading in comfort. If you ask each parent to buy or make one cushion, you'll have a pile of 'em pretty quickly.

Also, do an audit for awful library books. There are plenty of classics worth keeping, but there will be many others which are at best, irrelevant, and at worst, sexist, racist and downright wrong. My school library wasn't well funded, and I remember being baffled by a horrid tome about the "Primitives" of Africa, for example.
posted by embrangled at 9:27 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

My older son still has fond memories of the "reading tub" in his elementary classroom--an old claw foot tub full of pillows next to a bookshelf.
posted by LarryC at 10:08 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Put thick plastic over the covers of frequently handled books, and clean them regularly. Nothing is grosser than a dirty, sticky book, and it cuts down on the spreading of germs/bacteria.
posted by fearthehat at 10:22 PM on September 3, 2009

My school's library had a stack of "mats" - they were actually samples donated by a rug store. We each got to sit on one during story time.

I loooved the time each week when my class got to go to the library - both for story time and to pick out books. Is there a librarian that reads to the kids? Can you get parents to sign up for shifts?

Our book fair was incredible...but I have no idea how they organized it or through what distributor. I also remember ordering books through the Scholastic catalogs too. I'm sure that if Scholastic has ready-made book fair programs, nobody would fault you for using it especially in your first year!
posted by radioamy at 10:52 PM on September 3, 2009

If you or one of the other moms can knit, something like this in bright colours could be a fairly inexpensive way to add cool cushions.

For books, what about DK books? All non-fiction, I believe, but brilliant photos and high quality. They used to allow individuals to sell them through parties (Mary Kay-style) and there might be a rep in your area.
posted by brambory at 11:25 PM on September 3, 2009

More books! More encouragement toread fromthe teachers!

Buy classics (c.f. Newberry Award-winners list) but also pick up some new stuff. Maybe the people at Border's can make suggestions, or cherry-pick from Amazon's "top sellers" in that department.

Call your local pubic library and ask what they're doing. They may have suggestions of what to do, and also warning of what not to do (because it doesn't work or because it ould duplicate their efforts). Find out if there's RIF in your area and work with them for reading promotional stuff (free bookmarks, posters, whatever).

I'm pretty sure that the Scholastic Book Fair is thoroughly scripted -- which is a good thing! :7) They deliver rolling shelves full of books via UPS and pick them up again later. You only need to get floor space and some volunteers to make change. And when it's done, the volume of books sales determines how many books the teachers/library get to take for free. It's pretty awesome for all involved.

Prepare pass-around books that go home with every kid in a class during the year. Have them each write a sentence or two about the book before they return it.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:23 AM on September 4, 2009

Are you responsible for administering the collection? If you are, you may want to have the school enroll in Junior Library Guild. It has age and genre categories, and vets books annually so small school and community libraries without regular librarian services can still get new, quality books.
posted by headspace at 5:25 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Call your local pubic library and ask what they're doing.

Um, don't know if you want to do that--we're talking about a children's library here.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:38 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think our book fair is run really well, so I'll tell you about it. It's held during parent/teacher conference days so an extra trip up to the school isn't required. About a week before the fair, the kids are set loose in the library (with parent helpers) to browse the selections available. They write down their top 5 choices and bring the paper home to the parents. For some parents this makes it easier. I always look at the books, too.

During the fair, we also have the opportunity to buy and donate books to teacher's classrooms. The teachers all have separate bags with lists of requested books on them. You just buy the book, cross it off the list and drop it into the bag! A lot of new teachers say this really helps them get their classroom libraries filled quickly. Our kids don't have library day ever day but every classroom has books they can use either in the classroom only or that they can take between classrooms (this depends on the grade).

We do run a Scholastic fair, mostly because it's really, really easy to do. They even give you a credit card reader to make it that much easier for parents to buy books - I never have my checkbook on me because we use a debit card, so I for one was really happy to see the card reader.
posted by cooker girl at 6:48 AM on September 4, 2009

If you find titles that you want to add, consider having some kind of wish list where parents can sign up to buy that book for the library. Families are frequently eager to do something for the school and this is an easy, tangible way that they can. You can even note who donated the book on the inside cover.
posted by corey flood at 6:49 AM on September 4, 2009

No, really, call the public library and talk to a children's librarian. I work in a public library and have helped several people that suddenly got appointed school librarian without training. I have about ten years experience in school libraries and the scholastic book fairs were the easiest to run (I usually didn't even need other volunteers). If you contact local bookshops they may have spare posters and bookmarks they are willing to give you (I kinda get the feeling you don't have a budget for buying books and getting promo from publishers).

I nth weeding the collection. If you don't feel enough ownership to throw out the books then at least pack them up. Your shelves may look a bit bare but what is left on the shelf will look much more welcoming. When books got ratty/destroyed bindings I would laminate attractive pages (like from the I spy books) to use as posters too.

Are you doing storytimes too? Or organizing a rotation/committee of parents to do storytime? There are lots of free resources for creating literacy based storytimes on the internet.

You should make sure to manage everyone's expectations appropriately. It sounds like this could potentially have you working 30 hours a week for free and STILL not making everyone happy. Your stated goals are pretty time-intensive so be upfront with everyone about the amount of time you are willing to commit (a set schedule like every Monday all day or mornings only Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and as with any volunteer position treat it as a paid job with responsibilities and commitments that can't be blown off.

Good Luck!
posted by saucysault at 7:26 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our library has a puppet theater for the kids. My son looves it!
posted by ducktape at 10:13 AM on September 4, 2009

Field trip to your local public library. Call ahead and the children's librarian will arrange for something. Great way to give some of the teachers a break.

You didn't mention the age group but you can't beat puppets for younger kids.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:45 PM on September 4, 2009

nthing the public library, librarians are a very collegial bunch.

I once worked in school services section of our National Library. School Services has an advisory service for school libraries or teachers/parents with library responsibilities where there was no library and a lending service for schools as well to help rotation of fresh stock. I don't know what the set up in the US is, but maybe LOC or ALA can help you out?

Here's a few random ideas from me:
Get the kids involved as "library monitors" to get user buy-in, ahem, I mean to get the kids to feel like it's their library. The older kids would be responsible enough to issue books, write book reviews, draw pictures from favourite stories and update your catalogue.

If the kids into computers consider signing the school up as a user or user group to, this could serve as a computer catalogue if you don't have one and give teachers and parents a chance to find other books (though it won't handle circulation of books). If you're short on time and resources you can find some smart ways to use Web 2.0 to your advantage and get many little hands to make light work.

2nding colourful cushions, mats and cool thinks to sit in/on while reading and many other cool ideas mentioned above to make the library a place that kids want to be.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 12:27 AM on September 8, 2009

« Older The Best Automobile Driver's Seat   |   Is a 28.3 CRP level really awful? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.