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Whole Number Dewey: A Year Without Decimals September 28, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, Reflections.
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Whole Number Dewey: A Year Without Decimals - Eliminate the decimals to help elementary students use the library more independently and efficiently. | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Image adapted from Pixabay

It’s been almost a whole school year since I hit the “Import Titles” button and replaced ALL of my Dewey number MARC records with call numbers sans decimals.  It was a bit daunting making such a wildly revolutionary decision.  Thanks to some VERY dedicated volunteers, countless hours spent re-stickering spine labels, and new, large, and colorful signs, however, I honestly think that the change has made our nonfiction section more accessible to students and faculty.

Here are some of my discoveries and reflections…

  1. It took almost a full school year to re-sticker everything…with a part-time assistant and a few fantastic volunteers spending every non-shelving moment on this project (without working in the summer). Between classes and after school, we were picking up the stack of spine labels to change part of a shelf or the books that were returned that day.  It’s tedious and time-consuming, no doubt about it.  It’s also worth it!
  2. I found that once we got started, I was taking a harder look at where books were cataloged, and if I thought they really belonged there (from a 7-year-old’s perspective).  It was this reflection that prompted me to manually change the pets from 636 to 597-599, because they are ANIMALS after all.  Why catalogers still put them with the farming books is beyond me!  Click the image on the right to see the full-size photos of our 599 section now.Whole Number Dewey - Eliminate the decimals in your library's Dewey call numbers to simplify the process of finding a book. | A Wrinkle in Tech blog by Mrs. J in the Library
  3. Knowing your collection and your students is crucial.  Know what’s popular, and what needs signage.  Think about how your students think and where a child would most likely look for a particular book.  Then put it in that section.
  4. To my pleasant surprise, having the online catalog NOT match the actual spine label didn’t significantly affect how students found books.  Which led me to an interesting conclusion: Students weren’t paying attention to the parts of the call number they can’t see anyway…like the decimal wrapped around the spine.  They just look at the 3 numbers they can see on the spine, and then just look around that area.  When students got stuck trying to find a shelf that had moved (like the pets), they just asked a friend or me for help.
  5. Signage is SO important!  It needs to be just-in-time and help students find what they need whether they are searching for a specific number or just browsing/aimlessly wandering.  Signage is how I keep the 599’s from becoming one huge section with monkeys, bears, and kangaroos inter-filed.  I just added a few magazine file boxes and added the number 599 and different images to each.  The same for 796 with the most popular sports, though we also found adding a sports ball sticker to the spine helps too.
  6. Weeding!  If you use magazine file boxes for shelf signage (available in my TpT store if you’re interested), you need to know that the file boxes take up a good amount of space on the shelf.  So weed your collection.  Use a collection analysis tool like the Percentage Relative Use (PRU) formula to analyze what you have and what you need.  Remember, we are competing with video games for students’ attention.  If a book (or its cover) is over 15 years old and doesn’t stack up, get rid of it!  For my collection, if a book hasn’t been checked out in the 10 years that we’ve had Destiny as our circulation system, I made sure there was a *REALLY* good reason to keep it, or I made plans to replace it with updated cover art.
The Percentage of Relative Use (or PRU) formula calculates how much each section of a library collection is being circulated. A teacher-librarian can use this data to inform collection development and budget decisions. | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Click the image to download the FREE Percentage of Relative Use Spreadsheet.

I just finished adding the last of the magazine file box signage to our shelves this week, and I’ve VERY happy with how they look.  I’ll be updating my TpT products soon with the new additions too.

So I hope this post was helpful if you are thinking of changing your school library’s organization.  Have you ever altered the traditional Dewey Decimal System to meet young students’ needs?  Post in the comments, and link some pictures!  I’d love to see what other elementary librarians are doing.

TL Blogging Challenge #12 – Changes and Reflections June 8, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, How to Be Brave, Makerspace!, Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
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TL Blogging Challenge #12 – What is one thing you have changed in your library to meet your patrons needs?  What spurred this change? What would you do different?

This school year has felt tumultuous with the number of changes I’ve made in our library.  Was it really only 10 months ago?  I’ve tried to keep the changes focused on improving services and instruction to students, and the end of the year is an excellent time to look back, celebrate successes, and think about what changes to make for next year.

Change #1: The 5-Book Checkout

This was by far the biggest change for the day-to-day running of the library.  I wanted our students to get more access to books.  So instead of limiting them to 2 books at a BookStacktime (with notable extra books for reports, projects, and book clubs anyway), I raised the limit to 5 items total.  What a hit!  Don’t get me wrong, the shelving was and is craziness.  If we didn’t have a fantastic and reliable volunteer twice a week, we would have drowned…but the students were reading voraciously!  Isn’t that the purpose of the library (or one of them at least?)  I think it’s time that raising the book-checkout limit becomes common and best practice for elementary librarians, especially for K-2 elementary students.

Change #2: Ditching the Dewey Decimals

Another time-consuming change, I’m glad I did it.  As a library department, none of us wanted to go METIS.  But in most modern math programs, students are only introduced to decimals in 3rd grade or higher.  So I started thinking about making Dewey easier to use and browse for younger students.  With that purpose in mind, I set out to eliminate the decimals in the Dewey decimal system.

In October, I re-uploaded the edited MARC records and started the long, tedious process of changing the spine labels on every nonfiction book. Over 35% of our entire collection.  Again, volunteers were vital to project completion.  Even with help, though, we only finished a week ago.

This whole process has made me think critically and reflect on how librarians catalog and organize information, and how my students seek information.  My conclusion is that we should be buying MARC records from practicing elementary librarians, not catalogers with little or no interaction with children.  And someone time and business sense should start a business to allows elementary librarians to earn some extra money on the side creating those MARC records.

That thought process and reflection also led to changing the pets books to 599 (or 598 for pet birds), and spot-changing about 50 books as we changed the spine labels.  And it led to…

Change #3: Pictorial Nonfiction Signagenonfiction sections

Along with the “ditching decimals” change, I needed some major signage updates.  I knew I’d need some for the 796 and 590’s sections, especially with the 599’s.  Without decimals, rodents, marsupials, dolphins, and wild cats are all intermixed.  So I made some VERY simplified categories within the 599.  I realize some may see this as “re-doing” the decimals anyway, but it makes that organization invisible to students.  I created signage attached to magazine file boxes.  I had inherited a multitude of them from the previous librarian, so I didn’t think I’d need to order anything.  It turns out that once I got started, I wanted MORE picture signage.  I loved how it looked up-to-date and made it easier to browse.  Teachers noticed first, but I found it was also easier to direct students to the correct section when the call number didn’t always “match” the online catalog.  Now that the online catalog matches the spine labels, only time will tell if this change leads to more nonfiction interest and circulation.

Change #4: Android Tablets for Library Instruction

nexus7At the beginning of the school year, I purchased Android tablets for in-library use, specifically three Nexus 10 tablets and nine Nexus 7 tabletsBest. Decision. EVER!  The tablets made using the online catalog so easy and accessible to students, not to mention let students quickly access the Internet and excellent apps for research, inquiry, and learning in general.

Change #5: Centers for Grades 3-5

Library management aside, I took a pedagogical leap to try “library centers” as an instructional model.  Truthfully, I thought this would work better than it did.  From what I’ve read of Cari Young’s ground-breaking work, she intended the centers to be used when a librarian works alone.  With no assistant and potentially few or no volunteers, the centers model keeps your sanity.  And no one is probably looking too closely at how academic your center content is.

For me, however, who is blessed enough to have a part-time library tech assistant, I believe I should expect more of myself and my teaching.  A puzzle center or Word Jenga or math blocks or listening center just isn’t going to cut it.  My district administrators wants some sort of proof (or “data”) that I’m teach information literacy more explicitly.  I’m expected to do more “rigorous” content.  So I ended up making many of my own centers.  That was fine, and led to some really great ideas. 

One positive effect of centers was the ability to give students choice in HOW they learn and practice information literacy skills.  Using self-inking stamps, I tracked students center attendance in booklets that they took with them as they traveled to different library centers week after week.  For instance, students could practice research by looking up the answer to a Question of the Week, or observing and researching ladybugs in an enclosed terrarium.  Next year, I want to expand those choices, while building in more structure for students that need extra guidance and scaffolding.  At the same time, I don’t want to hold back the students who are independent learners.

Change #6: littleBits™ for a Library Makerspace

After buying a Classroom Set of littleBits™, I set up a mini-makerspace as one of my library centers.  Though we don’t use the raw materials like Arduino boards and LED librarycenterlights favored by middle school and high school makerspaces, the littleBits™ do allow me to introduce engineering concepts with creativity and student choice.  I found that project storage and 30-40 minute class times were HUGE concerns and challenges for starters.
Also, while I’m certified to teach K-6 elementary subjects, I have no desire to become a science or computer science teacher.  I’m hesitant to expand the makerspace for fear of being asked to take on responsibilities that should fall to a certified computer science teacher.  So while I love the makerspace concept for libraries, I think we should be careful as professionals not to take on extra teaching duties.  Heaven knows, we already have enough to do keeping a 21st century library up and running and teaching information literacy.  Circulating “kits” of makerspace materials might be a more feasible solution for busy elementary librarians.

So overall, it’s been a wild year.  I’ve learned SO MUCH, I have some great ideas for next year, and the above list is just part of it.  There’s also this earlier post of ideas and to-do’s.  For my esteemed colleagues who are limping towards the last day of school, go read Vicki Davis’s blog post and stay strong!


The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

Images from Pixabay, Google Play Store, and Mrs. J in the Library

MARC Challenges October 18, 2012

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Nooks.
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Image from Perma-bound.com

I mentioned in my earlier post this week that despite all odds and time restraints I managed to find an age-appropriate, quality (and free!) book for 4th and 5th graders in “My Sparkling Misfortune” by Laura Lond which has won awards and is recommended for students in intermediate grades of elementary school through middle school.

I ran into some trouble trying to put a digital record of it in the library.  In librarian-speak, we call this the MARC record.  It allows students and teachers to see that the book exists on our Nook ereaders that we lend out.  In short, it helps students find it.  The challenge is: MARC records don’t exist for self-published books.  Though they have ISBN numbers to make them “count” as official books, no one is cataloging them.  Not the Library of Congress, no one in Access PA (our state union catalog), and no one at Follett’s Alliance Plus service.  Those there sources are where our district gets most of our records.

That leaves a very dreadful solution…original cataloging.  For time-strapped, overworked librarians, that one task strikes fear into our hearts and makes our blood pressure soar.  And not too many people in the self-publishing industry are thinking of this.  What practicing (read: busy) libarians need is an “EZ MARC creator” to make quick-and-dirty records for our catalogs.  All it needs to have is the book’s title, author, copyright year, a summary, and a cover image.  The rest is just icing.

I broke down and did it, though.  Destiny makes it easy, if time-consuming.  The one problem I haven’t solved is how to get the book cover image (available from the URL online) into the MARC record.  I think it’s linked to the ISBN number on all of our traditionally published books, but the ISBN isn’t porting the image as of now.

Solutions and suggestions are appreciated.  I’ve tried Zotero, though it seems just as clunky to create records.  In the meantime, I’m starting a list of MARC records (not great ones, but workable) for ebooks that don’t have one yet.  Hopefully I’ll get all these resources on a LibGuide sooner rather than later.

UPDATE two days later: I found that if you enter the ISBN number, and two or three is better, one of them is likely to link to the cover image.  I didn’t find this out until I searched for “My Sparkling Misfortune” a day or two later in our library catalog.  The cover popped up, and that small win made my day!

Screencast – How to catalog Nooks in Destiny Library Manager October 27, 2011

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Nooks.
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This screencast shows how I cataloged the Nook Simple Touch Ereaders in our school’s OPAC, Destiny Library Manager.  You can download the MARC record I used from the Nook Documents page.  It already has 6 copies listed, so you may  need to change the barcode numbers to work with your OPAC system.

Waiting for the Nooks – Part 2 (and cover/bag reviews!) October 25, 2011

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Nooks, Reviews.
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Disclaimer: All videos posted on this blog are my opinions only and do NOT represent the Wilson School District.  If I sound like I’m giving you advice too much, please forgive me.  My intent is only to help librarians get their own program started by providing resources and telling what works for our school library.  I’m very new to video-blogging!

Researching and shopping for accessories was the fun part.  The not-so-exciting part was getting together the paperwork necessary to start our program.  I’ll be posting all of my documents and forms on the “Nooks” page on this blog, and most of what I’ve created is in fact a modification of Buffy Hamilton’s and Kathy Parker’s amazing work on their pilot Kindle programs.  I mostly changed “Kindle” to “Nook” and tweaked it for my school’s policies.  I started with adapting their parent and student permission form for elementary school students, and getting that form approved by my principal.

Onto the cataloging and processing plans…Admittedly, this section is probably only of interest to librarians and media specialists.  I’m fortunate that my district tech department allows the teacher-librarians complete control over our MARC records.  I’m also very blessed to have access to the Pennsylvania ACCESS PA database of MARC records, and that’s exactly where I found one to modify for our use.  Even though I’m not adding any COPIES to the record, I still have the TITLE record ready to go and it works in Destiny Quest, which is how are students primarily access the online catalog.  Instructions for what I did will be posted as soon as I get the Nooks added as copies, and I will also post a screen-cast video of how to catalog Nooks.

The processing plans ended up taking the longest, and I’m still in the midst of the preparations.  I used The Unquiet Library‘s excellent idea of making a bookmark with the Nook’s number and barcode to use when checking it out. I also made a small quick start guide, a survey/book suggestion slip, and a list of titles on that Nook to keep in the cover pockets.  It’s a lot of content creation, and more than I originally thought would be necessary.  See the Nook Documents for Librarians section for all the documents I created and/or modified.

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