Here’s the CCSS finish line for middle school readers: RL 8.10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
To get there, my students need to practice reading. They need to connect with books that they love. They need to see themselves as readers. They need to recognize the need to read. They need to walk through the library door and stick around awhile. How to make the library more attractive to students and staff? How to pull them in the door and make a connection to reading in the library? It was time for a library makeover!
Step One – What’s Our Vision?
No more library-as-testing center – our PC desktops were testing magnets so our spring tech deployment replaced them with two sleek Mac laptop carts that can meet testing needs in classrooms. The library won’t be closed 23% of the time as it was the past several years.
Step Two – Think Like Our Customers
Shouldn’t all the nonfiction books march uninterrupted around one section of the library? Could the graphic novels and the series books be close to the main door, clearly labeled, and easy to find? What if all the extra markers and pencils and scissors and staplers and tape weren’t behind the circ desk but found a home on the Serve Yourself and Bring Back What You Take shelf?
Step Three – Less Like School, More Like Starbucks
For years, our smallish library has been divided into three sections: the teaching space with tables and chairs for 30 on one side, the PC desktops with tables and chairs on the other side for 32, and a center section with tables and chairs that could seat another 30. Two classes on opposite sides of the library worked fine. Add another class in the middle and I typically needed to go home and take two aspirin. So the center tables and chairs went to a math classroom. Summer garage sales provided more casual seating following the guidelines of no upholstery (head lice) and no couches (public displays of affection). Then an eighth grade teacher whose husband manages a Starbucks offered us their discarded furniture when they got replacement pieces during the summer. Presto – we have a Library Lounge!
Step Four – Bring Your Own Tech, Learn From Tech
Now that we have school wide wireless, the library is the place where students can come during lunch to use their tech and charge their tech. The Minecraft players, the Scratch programmers, and ELL students watching YouTube in their first languages take up the thirty library iPads. Friends claim the Library Lounge tables, sharing their favorite apps, chatting, and finding books.
Step Five – What’s In It For Me?
Library orientation now features a video introduction to answer this question: what can the library do for you?
Step Six – Gather Data, Monitor, Adjust
Is our library makeover really bringing in more students? Are they checking out more books? What are the next steps to serve and entice our readers?
One result is already clear. Students and staff members like to hang around in the Library Lounge. No espresso cart in the near future, but there’s talk of getting a Keurig.
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