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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

Dewey Signage Freebie! September 15, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave.
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After my last blog post about simplifying Dewey, someone asked if I would share my Dewey signage.  I finally completed the hundreds, and as one of my wonderful followers, you can download the PDF version for free via the link below (right-click and select “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”).

Dewey hundreds for magazine files for thumbnail1

Dewey Hundreds Signage SAMPLE for magazine file boxes

I left a space on the 900’s sign for you to add your state/province.  If you purchase the full product at my TeachersPayTeachers Store, however, you can get the editable version in Microsoft Word, along with Canada and Australia clipart for the 900’s section.

This signage document is available in an editable format HERE and it’s also part of: my Elementary “On the Shelf” Displays & Signs (Shelf Signage), and my Elementary Displays & Signs BUNDLE (Shelf Signage).

If you happen to have purchased any of those products, THANK YOU!  You can get the fully-editable product by going to your TpT purchases to re-download the new file.

How to Be Brave: Simplifying Dewey September 5, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in How to Be Brave, Reflections.
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I’ve written recently about my goal this year to be brave (or fierce), no matter what my district or the Department of Ed throw at me.  Though I’ve already had a few challenges with that this school year, I’m still determined.  I’ve started on the first major project for making our library more student-centered and user friendly.  I’ve getting rid of decimals in the nonfiction section.

Interestingly, when I mentioned my plans to the other librarians in my department (who I respect greatly and value their opinions), the response was mixed.  Some folks didn’t seen any harm in trying it, but others were so opposed that we had a vehement and quite lively discussion/debate about why they thought I was outright wrong in doing this.  The whole discussion was completely respectful and fascinating!

Here are my reasons for simplifying Dewey to whole numbers:

  1. I’ve stealthily been shortening the decimals to whole numbers on all the new books for the second half of the school year.  It hasn’t impeded students’ ability to find a book in my professional opinion.
  2. Students don’t learn about decimals until at least 3rd grade.  I want students to use the nonfiction WELL before that.  I let kindergarten and 1st graders check out nonfiction, especially with the Common Core 50/50 fiction/nonfiction expectations barreling down the tracks.
  3. The main point of the Dewey Decimal System, or METIS or any other system of organizing books, is to make them easy to find and use.  I think sometimes we forget that.  If we can make it easier to find a book or audiobook, more students will find what they are looking for and consequently spend more time actually reading and learning.
  4. If a student goes from the Spring Ridge library to another library that uses the full decimals, they will still have the basic skills to find a book.  A number still denotes a topic.  567 is still dinosaurs, with or without the .9 after it.
  5. And finally, I’m not going to change all the call numbers myself.  I’m having Mackin do it for me for $300.  My collection has just over 12,000 titles.  I can think of much better uses of my time than sitting at a computer editing copy records in Destiny one at a time.  Some very clever computer programmer will write some code and change the call numbers for me, plus the price is right.

As I said, the discussion was fast and furious, and while they did bring up some good points to consider, my esteemed colleagues didn’t deter me from continuing the process.  I will be making some accommodations for some of the larger nonfiction sections:

  • Animals (596 through 599), Sports (796), and History (973 or so) will get some large signage on the shelf using magazine files to denote the different sections.  Animals will be divided by type…insects, mammals, etc. and sports by the most popular.  I’m thinking of using recycled video cases or thin magazine file boxes if I can get my hands on some.  I might have to break down and buy something for this, though.
  • I will continue to have an “easy nonfiction” section where to books are loosely divided into subjects and where I don’t care about the order they are in.  Kindergarten and 1st grade students use these books before moving to the “big nonfiction” section later in 1st grade.

    easy nonfiction section

    The “easy nonfiction” section has several loosely organized sections: health, science, animals, holidays, biographies, careers, and places/geography. I don’t worry so much about Dewey order for these books, because I want to make it as easy as possible for young students to access nonfiction.

  • More signage is definitely needed, including signs for the beginning of each Dewey hundreds, all with pictures!  Here’s the start of what I have in mind…

    nonfiction sections

    I added pictures to the Dewey hundreds signs to make them more helpful to elementary students.

The clincher for me, though, is a question my wonderful husband often uses to convince me to do something new: What’s the worst that could happen?  Indeed, how bad is it really to try it?

It’s not the end of the world if I end up changing all the decimals back.  More work, yes, but a different outcome does not mean a failure for the experiment as a whole.  On the other hand, if simplifying Dewey makes the library less daunting and more usable for even one student, I think it’s worth a shot.

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