Looking Back @ How to Inventory the School Library Collection

Looking Back @ How to Inventory the School Library Collection - Are you avoiding a library collection inventory because it seems like such an overwhelming task? Understand why we inventory our collection and how to do a series of mini-inventories over time so it's a satisfying undertaking instead of a dreaded one. Read on ... #schoollibrary #inventory #timemanagementOne of the dreaded tasks of the School Librarian is performing an inventory of the library collection. After doing a few of these, I can attest that they need not be the ominous undertaking that many fear. Yes, my first one was unimaginably time-consuming and tedious, but after going through the entire process, I formulated a set of procedures that streamlined the process. First, though, we can better appreciate a school library inventory if we understand why it’s important for us to do it.

Why We Do A School Library Inventory

I rather enjoyed doing inventory because when finished I knew exactly what was on the shelf and what was in the online catalog, and that they agreed with each other—an important consideration when dealing with students (and teachers) who insist they “returned that book” … which, occasionally, I’d find they actually had! That, then, is the most important reason for doing a physical inventory: to guarantee agreement between the physical collection and its documentation.

No matter why, items go missing from our collection each year. It’s very discouraging to a patron and to a School Librarian to look for a needed item that’s listed in the catalog, is supposed to be there, but just isn’t. The item may truly be missing, but it may also just be mislabeled or cataloged incorrectly—no matter how careful we try to be, human error happens. Whatever the case, an inventory allows us to reconcile discrepancies. That’s another reason to do an inventory: to correct cataloging and labeling errors between an item and its MARC record.

When we have consistency between catalog and collection, we will generate accurate reports from the automation system:

  • A collection analysis report provides a true picture of our collection so we can weed outdated material and make purchases that develop a balanced, relevant collection. It’s also the evidence we need to request additional funding for improving the school library to meet the needs of our students and teachers.
  • A loss analysis report tells us what’s really missing so we can replace important curriculum materials. It also provides our yearly rate of loss which may give us the leverage we need to change library visitation policies or request a security system.
  • A bibliographic and item record report reveals duplicate records and  “empty” titles. If we purchase from multiple vendors, their records may not consolidate in our automation system, and when we delete (for whatever reason) all copies of a title, our system may not eliminate the title record. These types of catalog entries confuse our students and frustrate us, so we want to find and correct them by aggregating multiple copies into one title and eliminating titles for which there is no item.

Finally, and not least important, is accountability for public funds that are invested in our school library collection. We owe our taxpayers an accurate record of how we are spending their money each year, and of how much the School Library is “worth.” Some states even require this type of transparency for schools by law, and we need to comply if that’s the case for us. Furthermore, we hear each year of schools and school libraries suddenly destroyed by fire, flood, or weather. An accurate inventory of a school’s library collection is the only way to assess the loss and replacement for insurance or federal/state funding.

When To Do A School Library Inventory

Unless you are fortunate enough to have permanent adult aides, the school library inventory falls on your shoulders alone. I have one suggestion to make the prospect of doing inventory less daunting: create a schedule of mini-inventories over a period of several years! It makes so much more sense to do a small selective inventory every year than to tackle a huge one every 4 or 5. Mini-inventories are quicker and easier, you’re less likely to make mistakes, you don’t have to shut down the library, and your catalog and collection have a higher degree of ongoing agreement.

Image of bookcase layout & collection in my School Library

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This is the layout of bookcases in my school library, containing some 15,000 items. With 8 aisles of books, I’d inventory by aisle, both sides of one fiction and one Dewey each year over 4 years. Year 5 I did Professional and equipment. With far fewer items to scan, I could complete it alone in 2 days.

Image of Harlingen TX schools Library Inventory Schedule.

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I had no breaks between Dewey numbers or fiction Subjects, but if your library layout isn’t conducive to my method, you could instead use a by-Dewey-number schedule like this one I found online from the Harlingen, TX school district.

How to Do a School Library Inventory

Here are pre-inventory tasks you’ll want to take care of:

  1. Repair and shelve any damaged books.
    You want to scan your way down your chosen section of bookshelves, knowing you have everything on the shelf that belongs there. It’s too easy to forget to scan piles of books set elsewhere.
  2. “Read” and weed each section before taking inventory.
    It’s just so much easier to have the shelves in order before scanning barcodes, and there’s no point in tallying and reporting books that need to be cleared out of the collection. If you weed regularly, you may just need a quick look over the shelves as you read them to pull out damaged or old books. If you’ve put off weeding read my post on Weeding Dewey Books: a 6-Step Plan to simplify the task.
  3. Inventory all checked out items.
    This is especially important when you do mini-inventories; trying to piecemeal inventory as you check-in books from the chosen inventory section is asking for errors. (If your system allows you to inventory a specific range of call numbers that are checked out, you can certainly do that instead.)

During the mini-inventory I used 3 different methods to tally the books in the chosen sections:

  • Scan using an inventory tool or by attaching a barcode scanner to a laptop. Either tool records the barcodes to a spreadsheet which is then downloaded into the automation system’s inventory app. This is the quickest way to do it, but with a limited number of tools in my district I couldn’t always get one, so I used both of the following methods, too.
  • Pull books onto a 2-sided bookcart, scan at the circulation desk, then return the books to the shelves. This is the hardest way to do inventory and I don’t recommend it, but I used it when students were coming in & out of the library so I didn’t have to run back & forth and forget my place in the aisle. Since cart shelves are about the same length as bookshelves, I’d fit 6 shelves of books at a time, and could complete the entire aisle in 8 trips.
  • Run a Shelf List report and print out, going down the shelves, highlighting books on the shelf with one color and  missing books in a different color. I know it seems old school, but this method is reasonably fast for a mini-inventory and it became my preferred method after doing enough inventories to have a well-reconciled catalog and collection. (I’d scoot leisurely down the aisle in my rolling chair.) I could catch the few cataloging errors from new purchases and since the list also indicated location, I could use a 3rd highlighter to mark titles of still-checked-out books and check them back in later.

Here are post-inventory tasks to complete from your inventory reports:

  1. Check in items that are still checked out but on the shelf. If any of these are items that students have paid for as lost, follow your school’s procedure for arranging a timely refund.
  2. Correct errors between labels and MARC records.
  3. Charge out missing books according to your school district policy and then run a report listing these missing books to reorder desired titles. (Ours were checked out to MISSING and at the end of the following school year, after allowing for reports and being found, we deleted them completely, including the bibliographic record if it was the only copy.) 
  4. If using the Shelf List method, do the global/batch inventory of the call numbers on your shelf list after it’s otherwise cleared up!
  5. Record the inventory completion date on whatever you use to keep track of it, and be sure to include the mini-inventory in your next Report to Principal!

As you can see, performing a School Library inventory doesn’t have to be “the thing you hate most.” In fact, the satisfaction of knowing your collection and catalog are in order makes curating resources for projects, creating Special Collections for reading promotion, and collection development more productive and also more pleasurable. So, take a look around your School Library and decide which aisle or Dewey number most needs a mini-inventory and start the process, letting the rest go until another year.

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Looking @ How Simplifying Library Orientations Simplify Library Management

Looking @ How Simplifying Library Orientations Simplify Library Management - My simplified Library Orientation Lessons had a profound effect on how I manage my school library: scheduling, facility organization & arrangement, collection developments, library promotion, and even my own professional development. Read on to learn more...I wrote an earlier post about how I simplified my Library Orientations to pinpoint library locations and to focus only on reading and narrative literature so English Language Arts classes could check out their first Fiction book. Eliminating everything else from orientation gave students a pleasurable visit and my ELA teachers became avid library supporters. I also discovered how simplifying my Library Orientation Lessons also simplified my Library Management: library scheduling, facility organization and arrangement, collection development decisions, library promotion efforts, and even my own professional development.

Library Scheduling

Giving students DEAR Time to begin reading their book during a library visit meant students were more quickly engaged in the story, were reading more, and needed to exchange finished books for new ones more often. ELA teachers asked to schedule regular class library visits throughout the school year. Now we have an “ELA Book Exchange” day of the week, every other week, for each grade level and for SpEd/ESL/Reading Improvement. I schedule a semester of visits and send event emails to teachers that automatically add the dates into their online calendars.

Sample of Library Schedule Tab worksheetThis scheduling—fixed for ELA, flex for everyone else—has been a perfect solution for our library. ELA teachers are very flexible if we have to change for another library need, but this regular visitation also allowed me to create short but relevant Library Lessons for each new ELA unit to feature materials for the type of literature students will study: expository text, persuasion, and poetry.

Facility Organization and Arrangement

My goal for the organization and arrangement of library materials is to minimize the time it takes students to find something they need. Simplifying Library Orientations led to a library re-organization and re-arrangement that promotes reading, supports subject curricula, and makes the School Library more student-friendly.

Students like the Special Collections I feature at orientations because their smaller size and specific topics simplify finding a book that interests them. Teachers like these customized reading choices because they support curriculum and reduce the time students spend searching for books during visits.

science fiction section

Color-coded & stickered Science Fiction section with new bookcart!

Before creating my first special collection I thoroughly planned how to do it: I applied a Subject sticker under the spine label, a transparent color symbol or label over the Call Number spine label, and shelved the books together with colorful customized signs and shelf labels. This S-S-S Systemstickers, shelving, and signage—is simple and fast, and anyone can sort books for re-shelving with a quick glance at the sticker or color label … as in, “Judy, I need you to shelve all the ‘red’ label books.”

I’ve written about some of my Special Collections, but here’s a list of all of them:

  • Texas State Reading List books – the middle school Lone Star collection and a collection of selected high school Tayshas books.
  • Fiction Subjects: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Scary (Horror), Science Fiction, and Sports.
  • Quick-Reads (easy-readers and books of <100 pages) and Picture Books
  • Graphic Novels and Manga—fiction and non-fiction. From a listserv suggestion I moved Quick-Reads, Picture Books, and Graphic Novels to adjacent shelves, and by featuring these Special collections at ESL, SpEd and Reading Improvement orientations, I’ve contributed to progressively building language and reading skills among these students.
  • Spanish Language Fiction and Spanish Language Dewey collections to support our IB language program. Spanish teachers schedule a Library Lesson for students to learn about, and check out books from, these collections.
  • Special Collections to support Social Studies: GlobeTrekkers (fiction & Dewey sorted by continent), Totally Texas (Texas Fiction & 976.4), and Read America (Historical America fiction & 973)
  • Careers – books pulled from other Dewey sections and shelved together under the 331.7 Dewey books; they’re easy to locate for pleasure reading and for the Careers class project.
  • Multicultural special collections in 973.04 for Multicultural U.S. History (Civil Rights movement, etc.) and on the shelf right below, 973.08 for Multicultural America (.08 is for “kinds of people”).
  • In Biography are 2 special collections: Quick-Bios are books of <100 pages for ESL, SpEd and Reading Improvement students; Memoirs is a curriculum topic for 8g ELA, mostly books pulled from other Dewey sections.

examples of extra library seating

DEAR Time during ELA visits prompted me to add additional furniture and create special seating areas in the library. I now have a chair or bench at the end of each aisle so students can look over books. Students can sit in a solitary chair to read by themselves or in one of the small group seating areas I created. I didn’t use library funds—I raided the district warehouse for discards, accepted donated chairs from parents, and donated a couple of my own. Even the theater teacher gave me seating items to clear out her props room, yet they are readily available when she needs to borrow them back for a performance!

Collection Development

Simplified Library Orientations and Special Collections makes collection development easier because I know exactly what to look for in catalogs and book reviews. The first expenditures from my book budget are for Special Collections, so I can keep them fresh and inviting to students. I create a separate book list for each special collection with online vendors and for other vendors I have a tabbed spreadsheet. After ordering, I print out each collection list so when books arrive I can quickly separate and label one group at a time.

My district has a standard for book processing, cataloging, and spine label call numbers, so I use only stickers and transparent labels to identify Special Collection books—NO changes to call numbers or spine labels. In my automation system I added Special Collection names to the Home Location field that shows when a book is “on the shelf” or “checked out,” and I use the global batch feature to scan all related books at one time. The online catalog displays this field so viewers know the location of the book (or that it’s checked out). It’s also very easy to generate customized reports using that field:

  • Circulation statistics show which collections are most popular and need more books or which titles need additional copies.
  • Aged and low-circulation statistics allow me to quickly weed books throughout the year, one special collection at a time.

Library Promotion

I’m not a bulletin board person. The 3 bulletin boards outside the library near each grade-level hallway were decorated at the start of school and left until the end of the school year. After customizing Library Orientations, I was inspired to create a bulletin board for each grade level that changes each grading period to coordinate with classroom activities and to promote reading and the library:

  • A sign with the ELA grade-level theme for each changing unit, along with pictures of books related to that theme.
  • A sign for the Social Studies grade-level theme, along with pictures of books to coordinate with classroom content. Each board has a pocket with grade-level Social Studies bookmarks so students can grab one if they need it.
  • Signs and Dewey-book pictures for subject area library visits scheduled for the grading period, along with signs or infographics of online services for research projects that bring those subject area classes to the library.
  • When students talk about a good book, I have them create a book review on a 3”x5” card and staple it on the board. It’s a great way to involve students and to update bulletin boards without a lot of extra work.
Snip of several colorful topical bookmarks side-by-side

Examples of topical bookmarks

Changing the focus of orientations to reading also prompted me to create my own customized Reading Logs and Series & Topical Fiction bookmarks. Using letter-size color card-stock I can create 6 bookmarks with lists of books on both sides. From a ream of card-stock I get ~3000 bookmarks for the same price as 500 from library suppliers. I also customize bookmarks for Lexiled reading lists for ESL/SpEd/Reading Improvement classes and for research project print & online resource lists.

Professional Development

I’ve written before about my science and social studies background, which helps for choosing non-fiction books and coordinating content reading into lessons, and except for mystery fiction, I even prefer reading non-fiction. Consequently, my professional development following orientation changes included learning more about ELA standards, about reading levels for students and books, and about reading promotion. I’ve read professional books, attended workshops, and indulged in librarian blogs featuring books and reading promotion. I’m also more attentive to book reviews and recommendations from other librarians in my district and on the listservs. I’m still not as adept at reading promotion as someone who came from an ELA background, but every step forward improves student use of our library, the circulation of books, and most importantly, my ability to help students find a perfect book to read.

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Looking @ JumpStart-ing Your Tech-xpertise!

Looking @ JumpStart-ing your Tech-xpertise - If you feel, as I did, that you've fallen behind on the latest technology tools, you'll love learning about JumpStart, an online course that will bring you up to speed with the best practices for integrating technology into your School Library (or classroom). Plus you get a wonderful professional learning community to support and sustain you through your endeavors! Read on to find out more... #techintheclassroom #techintegration #edtechtools #teacherprofessionaldevelopment #onlinelearningI’m a long-time techie:

  • 1969 college Fortran programming course
  • 1980s used DOS PCs with 5″ floppy disks. (I know why we originally had 7.3 filenames)
  • 1992 got email account (still have it!) and joined listservs to learn more about technology in education.
  • Early 90s pieced together parts of defunct PCs to create 2 working ones for another teacher and installed RAM upgrade (a huge 64MB that cost $400!) to school’s science curriculum touchscreen/laserdisc computer.
  • Had only Macintosh in school so became Apple/Mac guru. When we acquired more, networked them so we could email each other and share files.
  • Learned about Gopher to find curriculum resources on the Internet.
  • Learned HTML to create Lynx text webpages; in ’93 added images to my webpages, and created homepages for most schools & departments on district’s new Website.
  • Took Web Writing course, CSS course, and Javascript course for Web development.
  • Was district Web trainer for 8 years. Afterward district helpdesk still had folks call me to solve mysterious webpage glitches!
  • Took Microsoft Courses, so district would let me handle hubs and PC connections for my school. The district IT guys remote connected with me to help train their techs. (Ever hear of NET SEND?)
  • Was member of district Technology Committee for 8 years; helped write first District Technology Plan and Acceptable Use Policy.
  • Through first decade of millennium was early adopter of new desktop apps, cloud computing, and video recording/broadcasting (analog & digital), teaching teachers and students how to use them.

Now you must be asking, “Why am I telling you all this?” Well, I retired in December 2013 and sat back for awhile, so when I decided to share my educational knowledge and lessons online, I discovered all my tech background had been surpassed by the advance of Web, tablet, and Smartphone technology. I needed to learn some new tech!

Jennifer Gonzalez, creator of Cult of Pedagogy & the JumpStart online course for tech integration.My search brought me to Jennifer Gonzalez and her Cult of Pedagogy JumpStart course in the summer of 2016. It was a life-changer, and now I feel able to participate in today’s tech-rich educational landscape! If you want to go from technophobe to tech guru, you can JumpStart your tech journey as easily as I did, and you don’t need any tech background to do it!

What I especially like about JumpStart is Jennifer’s approach. The course is arranged by processes—ways to use technology—that apply to any subject, classroom, or grade level. First you read background on the process and learn about a particular tool that works well for that process. As Jennifer states in her Teacher’s Guide to Tech (a must-have tool for everyone):

It’s essential to start with your learning objectives. Before you even consider technology, think about what you want students to know or be able to do by the time the lesson or unit is over. Then consider how technology could help you reach those goals more effectively. [Jennifer Gonzalez, Teacher’s Guide to Tech, p24-25.]

Next you view explanatory videos that show you how to use the tool, and then you use the tool to create a real project just as if you are your own student doing the activity. (Jennifer calls it “dog-fooding.”)  By the time you finish you’ll be so much more confident about these educational processes and tech tools, but the true value of JumpStart is that you’ll learn how easily you can integrate these processes and tools into your standards-based curriculum to make it more exciting for students.

JumpStart Modules How JumpStart can help a School Librarian
1 Blogging I’d had a blog for a long time, but this opened up so many possibilities for library advocacy and for helping students have a global presence. Students can use their own blogs for journaling, book reviews, a project learning log, and communicating with students in other states & countries.
2 Online Collaboration Better than email for communicating with colleagues on other campuses—we can have real group collaboration and sharing of ideas and files, or even online meetings.
3 Mind Mapping A unique way to present information to students, and for students to brainstorm their research project topics and questions and even search terms.
4 Curation The librarian’s forte, but it’s not just having a list of websites; it’s providing context. We also need to show students how to do this effectively, so they can keep track of their myriad classroom assignments and projects.
5 Screencasting Eliminate explanations of how to do a book search, or self-checkout, or access online services, or use a tech tool. Create a tech club and have them create student how-to’s.
6 Flipped Learning Create WebQuests of online resources. Create a pre-research helper for students before they come to the library; create a post-visit research helper to reinforce what we taught during a library visit.
7 Digital Assessment Create quizzes to track student learning of library skills. Make a digital “exit ticket” for learning a new tech tool or for online research activities (teachers love these for “daily grades” especially if it’s paperless).
8 HyperDocs Create training for aides & volunteers. Create a library orientation for students transferring in during the school year. Create a whole course on video broadcasting. Create thematic trainings for teachers.
9 QR Codes Text/audio/video book promos on book covers, bulletin boards, and displays. Add to school-to-parent newsletters as links to pictures, resources, and information on the library website. And give students a total tech experience: attach a QR code to a computer screen that links to a screencast so they can use their Smartphone to watch how to use one of these other tools on the computer!
10 Podcasting Create booktalks for the library website. Have students reflect on their learning during research assignments and project based learning.

If you’re already an experienced techie but haven’t tried some of these tech processes with your students, the JumpStart Basic course allows you to move through as quickly as you want or dawdle on those processes and tools that need a bit more of your concentration. I assure you the course takes you through every step so you will be completely comfortable introducing these technologies to your students.

global network of learnersIf you’re a novice tech user and still a bit intimidated, you can choose JumpStart Plus and join an online cohort of learners and course mentors to help you along your tech journey. You can even earn a Certificate to submit for Professional Development credit! The cohorts occur 5 times a year and run approximately 6 weeks.

So if, as I did, you want to become more tech-literate and enhance your classroom activities, head over to the JumpStart information page and find out how you can JumpStart your Tech-xpertise!

(That’s also where you’ll find the phenomenal Teachers Guide to Tech!)

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I first wish to thank my colleagues at Cult of Pedagogy—Debbie, Holly, Sheri, and, of course, Jennifer—for your help and support with this.

I have avidly followed Cult of Pedagogy for nearly 4 years, which is why I chose the JumpStart course in 2016. A few months later, I was excited to become a visual marketing consultant for one of Jennifer’s social media sites; however, I get NO compensation for this enthusiastic endorsement of the JumpStart course. Just putting that out there …