Getting the Kids in: Weeding & Adding Programming at the Same Time
BY CARRIE FRIDAY
The first time in my career that I took over an outdated Media Center, I was a brand-new librarian and was so unsure of myself. My instincts told me what needed to be done, but I was afraid: afraid of messing up, afraid of throwing something important away, afraid that people wouldn’t like my changes and choices. I spent the first year weeding like crazy to update the collection. I got rid of 14,000 books in one school year. It sounds like too much, but it was needed so the students could find the really good stuff that was there. The color I added made such a difference. The activities I started doing were things the kids loved. Teachers wanted to bring their classes. It was good. Over time I built a program that I was really proud of.
This go-around, I was once again taking over a very outdated Media Center, but this time I had the knowledge and confidence to know what needed to be done, and trust me, there was a lot. The collection is incredibly outdated. The space was a sea of beige. To say there was minimal student and staff engagement would be a generous statement. For several years now I’ve been dreaming of this position opening, and it is very important to me that this is done well. I wanted to create a timeline of things to be done over the summer that would let the students, staff, and parents know that things had changed.
I gave myself insanely ambitious goals, but I found a lot of people in our community who were willing to help. I made an Amazon Wish List for programming materials. Our custodial team painted. A small army of volunteers came in, and in less than a month, we did more than a year’s worth of work. You see, I had an entire wall (2,000 reference books) of books that were outdated and needed to be weeded. I wanted to genrefy the collection. I wanted to stretch it out and use dynamic shelving to make the books more appealing to students. I wanted to spray paint 20 book and TV carts. I wanted to hang LED lighting and move furniture around. Because of the tremendous amount of help I had, I was able to do almost all of those things in just one month before school ever started.
It was so wonderful to see how happy the students were and how receptive the staff has been to the changes. We got most of the way through labeling the books to genrefy them before school started, but hadn’t finished. With a team of student interns, we were able to finish labeling all the books within the first two weeks of school. To get this accomplished, I had to relinquish control of the labeling. I wanted to do it all myself, but it just wasn’t possible. I knew that I would be the one shelving the books in their genre sections, so I made my peace with the fact that I could make any necessary changes as I shelved them. It was hard for me to let others do this, but it was the best thing to do it quickly, and it got our students more involved in the process.
Once they were all labeled, we started pulling the smallest genres first, and I started shelving them where the old reference books had been. One Friday, we had a lot of dual enrollment students who didn’t have class and needed to be in the media center, so I put them all to work. We moved 3,000 books off the shelves, and I reshelved almost 2,000 of them in one school day plus two hours on Saturday while my daughter was at volleyball practice. I used rolls of colored masking tape to color the shelves so that each genre was noticeable, and you could tell where it changed. I hung my signs I ordered from Demco and used Canva to make signs that Demco didn’t have.
In the middle of this, school was already going on. Classes were coming in to get textbooks. Students were coming in at lunchtime, and I needed to get things rolling. I put out board games and card games. I started scheduling classes to come for some activities. I made the decision to allow the students to eat in the library at lunch time and by the fifth day of school I had around 150 students at each lunch.
It feels like a lot to be trying to implement new programming while still making so many changes, but by using the help I have (an incredible clerk and student interns almost every class period), it is absolutely doable. As an added bonus, it has the kids coming back because they are constantly looking for the new changes. They are checking in to see if things I’ve ordered have arrived. I get to ask them what they want. I get immediate feedback on changes I’m making.
I’ve learned to delegate tasks that students can do to students. I’ve learned to let my amazing clerk take on jobs I would normally do myself. I’ve learned to work in pockets of time. I’ve discovered I can’t get any “work” done during the lunches, but it is such valuable time because I get to talk to the students, watch them use our new materials, and answer questions. I let my teenage daughter manage the posting for our Media Center social media. I let my interns make content for it. That frees me up to do other things that only I can do, like writing grants, answering emails, etc.
You don’t have to close down the whole space to make some changes. It is a challenge to update a media center and implement new ideas while having a full and busy library, but it’s so worth it. Use your resources. Let it be a team effort. Work smarter, not harder. Relinquish control of the things that someone else can help with. Be ready to reset your timelines or goals if necessary. Rest when you need it. Reach out to others you respect to brainstorm ideas and solutions.
If you need someone to bounce ideas off or have other questions about the process, please reach out! I’d love to support you as you go through your own glow up. Let’s do it together!
Carrie Friday Media Specialist
Carrie Friday is the Media Specialist at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida, a 2018-19 Teacher of the Year Finalist for Brevard Public Schools, a 2019-20 Space Coast Public Service Heavy Lifter award winner, and was named a 2022 Woman Who Rocks for her community. She isn't afraid to take risks and will do just about anything to encourage the love of literacy and learning in students and teachers.
She is a co-founder of the #swms20bookchallenge. Carrie is a Follett Community contributor and has presented best practices at the district level, FAME, AASL, FETC, and the Future Ready Librarian Summit. She’s hosted webinars on Makerspaces, the #swms20bookchallenge, and advocacy. Her library program was awarded the designation of a Florida Power Library School by the Florida Department of Education, and she has appeared on the Librarian Influencers podcast and School Librarians United podcast. She has served on the Florida SSYRA Award committee, FAME Conference committee as Author Chair, and currently serves on the Florida Association of Media in Education Board of Directors and Florida Teens Read Committee. She believes in innovation, collaboration, and the power of really good books.
She is also a wife to a rocket scientist and mom to the sweetest two girls you'll ever meet. She loves Gilmore Girls, Pinterest, coffee, and porch swings. She is a proud graduate of Auburn University. War Eagle!
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