About Barbara Paciotti

Retired IB Middle School Librarian and at-risk alternative High School Science Teacher, still wanting to help teachers and students be successful.

Looking @ Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library

Looking @ Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library - There are some things you just can't live without...and that's especially true in a school library. Here are the essential supplies and tools I always have on hand for students, for teachers, and for myself. #schoollibrary #schoolsupplies #librarymanagement #schooltoolsThere are some things you just can’t live without…and that’s especially true in a school library. When we talk about supplies and tools for librarians, we usually mean items for processing or repairing books or to make the facility more usable. After 25 years in education, half of them in the library, I have my own list of essential supplies and tools that I always have on hand, for students, for teachers, and for myself. If you haven’t discovered the usefulness of these supplies and tools yet, I know once you invest in them you’ll never regret it.

Supplies for Students

We expect students to have their own school supplies, but often students don’t bring those to the library. In order to make sure students have writing implements to complete a library activity, I always have available:

  • golf pencils & small sharpenersGolf pencils – These are the 4½” ones with no eraser. A box of 144 costs about $10 at any office supply store. I usually get a couple boxes at the start of school to last the whole year. Since kids don’t really like them (no eraser & hard to sharpen) they rarely carry them out of the library.
  • Small pencil sharpeners – These are perfect to sharpen golf pencils. I got a couple dozen for well under $1 apiece at the start of school one year in order to have one for each table plus a few extra. (I do need a few replacements each year because they break or “walk away”.) Students use them for their own pencils, too, and it’s a lot quieter than electric or hand crank sharpeners.
  • small plastic basket from TargetSmall plastic baskets – These 4”x5” baskets are so useful. I place one on each table, one between each pair of OPAC computers, and one at the circulation desk, so I have about 2 dozen. Each one holds a few golf pencils and a sharpener, along with several copies of my IT IS FOR ME checklist. They stack inside each other, so I can easily gather them up and store them on a shelf when they aren’t needed. I got mine at Target in the dollar aisle, but I’ve also seen 5″x5″ ones in cool colors at the dollar stores.
  • Tiny sticky notes – The 1½”x2” ones are the perfect size to write down a call number, so I always have a pad in each of the baskets by the OPAC computers.

We also do more elaborate activities for Library Lessons, so I keep these student supplies stored in a closet, and set them out when needed:

  • Color pencils – When we have a graphic organizer for a library activity, being able to use colors makes these simple worksheets into a fun experience for students. I get these very cheaply through my school district warehouse, and have one set of assorted colors per table. I’ve also seen golf-pencil-size ones in a dozen assorted colors for a buck and a half at the office supply store.
  • Color markers – A great dollar store item…around a dollar for a set of 6-8, depending on the tip. My middle schoolers prefer the skinny ones with pointed tips, but I also keep a supply of chisel-tip ones for poster projects. I discovered some of the cheap ones don’t bleed through paper as much as more expensive permanent markers, so a double benefit.
  • Small scissors – I set out 4 per table so each student has a pair. I get the cheap utility ones through our warehouse, and because they’re ugly, the kids never take them out of the library. You can also find them for around 60¢ apiece at office supply stores, and they’re even cheaper in bulk.
  • small metal buckets for holding scissors and color pencils & markersSmall metal buckets – I use the 4” tall decorative ones on each table for scissors, color pencils, and markers. By having 2 per table—one for color pencils and one for markers—I can use the smaller size and put scissors, if needed, into whichever one we’re using that day. I find these for about $1 at various places, especially at the start of school or just before the holidays.
  • Glue sticks – I have a few cut-and-paste activities, and using tape just doesn’t work well, so I invest in about 3 or 4 dozen glue sticks at the start of each school year. I put a couple in each table basket when we need them, and they’re so much cleaner than glue in a bottle. They last all year if kept in gallon sized zip-lock baggies when not being used.
  • library clipboardClipboards – Another really cheap warehouse item, I have a storage bin full of these in the back room. I use them for my 7g orientation scavenger hunt and other walk-around activities to make it easier for students to write on worksheets. With a barcode on the bin cover, I can also loan them out to teachers.

Taking care of, and setting out, these student supplies is an excellent task for student aides or to have a student work off the cost of a lost book. One day the baskets & buckets of supplies were out on tables when we had a faculty meeting, and my principal liked having them available for teachers, so she asked me to put them out for future meetings, too…and she’d cover the replenishment cost!

Tools for Teachers

In addition to those clipboards, there are a few other items teachers don’t need in their classrooms, but when they want them, I’m their one-stop-shop:

  • Sidewalk chalk – I find big buckets of assorted colors for a couple bucks at different stores, so I always kept 2 or 3 of them on hand. Invariably in late spring a teacher wants to take students outdoors for an unplanned drawing activity, so they come to the library knowing that their handy-dandy librarian will have the chalk they need!
  • Mirror – You know those hand-held mirrors with normal view on one side and close-up view on the other? Well, I’ve got one and it’s borrowed all…the…time.
  • long-reach & heavy duty staplersSpecialty Staplers – I have 2 of these. One is a long-reach stapler for stapling in the center of a sheet of letter or legal paper. The other is a heavy-duty stapler for stapling up to 50 sheets of paper. I use the long-reach one quite a bit for the various library information booklets I create for teachers, aides, and volunteers. The biggest user of the heavy-duty one was the counselors!
  • small-size glue gunElectric glue gun & glue – I can’t tell you how often during my first couple years I was asked if I had one, so finally I purchased 2 small ones. I discovered they’re also a great way to make quick binding repairs for books with loose covers!
  • Extension cords – A school librarian can never have enough extension cords. I keep various lengths, from 2-pronged 6′ lightweight ones to 100′ 3-pronged heavy duty ones. I also found it advantageous to keep a few surge protectors handy, especially ones with very long cords. And I barcoded every one of these for teacher checkout, because when I didn’t, I never got them back! Velcro ties in different lengths are very handy to keep each cord neatly wrapped.

Tools for the School Librarian

The items listed here are not typically included during a library set-up, but once I acquired them, I realized how valuable they are:

  • desk bellDesk bell – This actually sits on my computer presentation cart for use during lessons. I do a lot of discussion activities, and this is the best way to regain students’ attention—high-pitched enough to be heard over voices, but not too loud. I give it 3 quick taps then wait, and within a few seconds students stop talking and turn back to me. It’s even distinctive enough to gain their attention when in the aisles browsing for books!
  • Paper cutter – Cutting apart sheets of overdues, cutting apart my IT IS FOR ME checklist, cutting apart cardstock bookmarks, trimming signage, even paring down protective book covers. This item stays on a shelf behind my circulation desk because I use it so often.
  • reacher assistive toolReacher assistive tool – I’m average height, but I have trouble reaching DVDs and kits on shelves above a bank of computers along one wall, as well as things on top shelves in my back room. Once I got this gadget, I was amazed at how often I used it!
  • Etching tool – When the school decided to purchase class sets of calculators for math classrooms and enough individual ones to check out to algebra students, they wanted me to keep track of them. I knew paper barcodes wouldn’t last long, so I invested in this tool and etched a barcode on the back side of every one. It works on headphone headpieces, too; in fact, I kinda went nuts etching a lot of things!
  • Tool box – I love tools. I’d rather visit a hardware store than a dress shop. I even keep a tiny (1¾”) bubble level on my key ring! I got no-name-brand tools on sale, so I didn’t shell out much for such valuable items. Over the years I’ve fixed everything from audiocassette tapes to audio/video carts to tables and desks, but you know who uses my tool box the most? The custodians!!
    tool box toolsMy library tool box holds:

    • a set of screwdrivers, from very small for digital equipment to huge for adjusting my back room metal shelves;
    • small pairs of regular and needle-nosed pliers;
    • a fold-up set of hex wrenches;
    • a box cutter and a razor-blade knife;
    • a tiny hammer and a larger lightweight one;
    • both a cloth tape measure and a metal locking one;
    • the cutest little hacksaw for PVC pipe or lightweight metal.

This completes my list of the 20 essentials that made my life so much easier as a School Librarian. It made students and teachers very happy, too…and isn’t that what “wise professional decisions” are for?

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Looking @ The School Library Environment – a Guest Post by Susan Harris

Looking @ The School Library Environment - Welcome all students to visit the school library for pleasure reading, research, and study. Learn how to create a clean, inviting environment that is accessible to everyone and available when needed, so students want to come in. #schoollibrary #libraryfacilitymanagement #librarydesignA recent edWeb contribution from Susan Harris, Librarian at Ridgeway HS in Memphis TN, was full of helpful information about the library setting, so I asked if I could publish it on my blog. Graciously she agreed. I hope you readers find it as enjoyable as I did.

I am going to provide a few tips that I hope will be helpful to you. I always try to allow as much natural light in as possible, I always try to have “designated” spaces in my library, and I always try to make everything handicap accessible by leaving enough space between bookcases and tables and by not placing books on top or bottom shelves when possible.

I try to leave open shelving by my entrance so that I can create monthly book displays, and I have a bulletin board that I change monthly and use to promote literacy.

Ridgeway HS Library Halloween Display

Halloween Display click to enlarge

RHS Thanksgiving Bbd

Thanksgiving Bulletin Board

RHS Library Reading Corner

Reading Corner

When I was an elementary school librarian, I actually had a gazebo that children could sit in and read while other children checked out books. At my current library, I have a designated area for computers (like a lab setting), a “classroom” or meeting area where I have all of my tables and a mounted SmartBoard and projector, a “reading corner” and open space. There are so many furniture choices now for children and teen reading spaces if you can afford it. There is also portable furniture (tables) now so you can make your space more accessible (if you can afford it).

I suggest that you always attempt to have sight lines when you arrange your library because you want to be able to see what all of your students are doing from where you spend most of your time. I fortunately have a monitoring program on all of my library computers so I am able to monitor the students’ computer use while I am at the circulation desk. Of course, the placement of your power outlets, wireless access points and/or Ethernet ports will determine where your technology goes.
Ridgeway HS School Library

When I was an elementary librarian I always had a colorful carpet for the students to sit on while I read aloud to them and I placed plush book characters on the shelves in the children’s area. For my high school students, I place greenery on top of the shelves and use Ficus trees and paintings for decor.

I know that some places now like to offer a cafe setting for students to encourage them to use the library but I prefer to ban food and drink from the library setting as much as possible. A maker space would be a good way to attract students of all ages if you have the funds and the space for it. I have a conference room for small group meetings for social workers, recruiters, book club meetings, PLC meetings, etc.

I strongly suggest signage to assist students with locating materials, and I suggest the use of colorful literacy-related posters. Remember to host as many literacy-related programs as possible: National Library Card Sign-Up Month, Teen Read Week, Banned Book Week, National Library Month, Read Across America, Read for the Record, Drop Everything and Read, etc.

Ridgeway HS Library Reading Interest SurveyI also do special things like trick or treat the librarian, and I have a library orientation scavenger hunt. I find that hosting annual orientation is the best way to make students aware of what you offer, your policies and your procedures. I also try to include students when ordering books by asking for recommendations from them. I have a survey on my school website for students and for teachers to complete about their interests and needs. I provide a link to the OPAC on my library website.

Many people are using social media now to strike up interest in the library. Let the children know that you are there for them. I try to go the extra mile by posting scholarship information on my website and by reading over students’ papers when they ask me to.

Providing a clean and inviting environment is one of the best ways to get them in the door. Make sure your collection is up-to-date. Offer a book swap basket where you place paperback books that can be exchanged (no strings attached) for paperbacks that students have already read and have sitting around the house.

RHS Library - a welcoming space

RHS Library – a welcoming space

Come in early, stay late, and leave the library open through all lunch periods so students know that they are welcome and you are available. Host a teacher library orientation session so you can get teachers on board with library use. Co-teach classes when possible. Many students will come to the library as their “safety zone” if they are loners or if they are trying to avoid trouble. Make everyone feel welcome.


Susan Harris, Ridgeway High School Librarian, Memphis TNSusan Harris is in her 26th year as a school librarian.  She has served as a public librarian, an elementary school librarian and a high school librarian.  Mrs. Harris graduated from Northwest Community College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.  She holds a Master of Library and Information Science Degree.  She welcomes all students to visit the library for pleasure reading, research, and study, and is willing to stay after hours to assist students when needed.

Looking Back @ Differentiated Orientation for ELL Newcomers

Newcomer English Language Learners need a library orientation using very specific differentiation strategies based on WIDA-ELD Standards and Can-Do Descriptors. I created a set of 3 Read-Aloud Orientation lessons with fun and relevant hands-on follow-up activities that meets their needs. #schoollibrary #middleschool #libraryorientation #ELL #ESL #readaloudsA school library orientation influences our relationship with students for the entire school year, so it’s important to have orientation with all students in the school. Early on I realized that, even with customized grade-level orientations for ELA classes, Newcomer English Language Learners need an orientation with specific differentiation strategies. So, I created a
Read-Aloud Orientation plan using WIDA-ELD Standards and Can-Do Descriptors that met their needs.

3 Great Read-Alouds for ELL Newcomers

A new school is an even more “alien environment” for ELL Newcomers (who also face a new city, state, country, and language), so I spread their library orientation across 3 weekly visits that help them get to know me better and gradually build their understanding of using the School Library.

I believe ELL Newcomers need to hear English spoken fluidly—not ‘fluently’, but ‘fluidly’—so the pacing and tone of the language becomes ingrained in their minds. For that reason I read aloud a picture book about the library at each of their 3 library visits:

  • Visit #1: Tomás & the Library Lady shares the Newcomers’ situation because Tomás and his family move from his home in Texas to Iowa. The local librarian helps him find wonderful books to read to his family, and this encourages our Newcomers to take their books home and practice learning English by reading to their own family.
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  • Visit #2: The Librarian from the Black Lagoon addresses Newcomers’ fear of things they’ve not yet experienced and helps reduce that worry through humor, as well as preparing them to learn the do’s and don’t’s of the school library.
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  • Visit #3: The Library Dragon highlights the joy and power of a library read-aloud. The words & phrases related to fire preview synonyms & idioms for ELA and where students can locate different books in the library.
image of Tomas and the Library Lady picture book image of Librarian from the Black Lagoon book image of The Library Dragon book

Meaningful Hands-On Activities

Yes, students, especially ELL Newcomers, love read-alouds, but ALL library visits must be purposeful if we want teachers to use valuable class time to support our library program. Follow-up hands-on activities help ELLs meet English Language Arts and library lesson objectives for ELL Level 1 students through:

  • ELD Topic-related & Academic Language, and word/phrase level Vocabulary Usage, sentence level Language Forms & Conventions, and discourse level Linguistic Complexity.
  • Can-Do Descriptors for performance tasks in Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading.
  • Differentiation strategies that offer sensory, graphic, and interactive support.

I chose these 3 stories because they naturally lead into activities that support classroom learning and help ELLs develop useful library skills. After the read-aloud, my Modeling & guided practice has ELLs associate concrete visual stimuli with English language terms:

  • Visit #1 supports ELA concepts of story plot and compare/contrast
    • I Have, Who Has roundabout game begins with a student reading aloud the first plot question. I prompt “Who has the answer?” A student says “I have it,” reads their event, then their Who Has question. The game continues through the story, ending with the student who began.
    • Tomás and Me Venn diagram helps each student recall details of the story using compare/contrast by entering how they and Tomás are the same as or different from each other.
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  • Visit #2 presents library expectations with a concept attainment task allowing table groups to collaborate on sorting 12 pictorial cards into YES or NO categories for actions that are OK or unacceptable.
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  • Visit #3 supports ELA recall of story details and similarities using a simple word search grid of story words related to fire, and supports ELD learning about idioms with fire-related phrases from the story.

The Venn diagram and the word search/idioms worksheets
can both be used as daily grades for the ELL teacher.

image of ELL Newcomers Orientation tasks

Next, Independent practice gives students an opportunity to use what they’ve learned.

  • Visit #1: Rather than confuse ELLs with navigating an unfamiliar environment, I hand-pick and lay out on adjacent tables a variety of picture books for students to browse. We have quite a diverse language population, so I display our bilingual picture books (in Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Japanese, Khmer, Vietnamese, Arabic, Persian, Tagalog) along with a selection of English picture books with stories from or about other countries and cultures. These selections help ELLs feel comfortable using our school library, and I encourage them to choose a book to check out and take home to read to their families, as Tomás did.
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  • Visit #2 also gives students plenty of time to browse for books, but in addition to books laid out on tables I show them the location of the bilingual, ELL, and picture books—shelved in adjoining sections—along with our graphic novels. Some students prefer the tables and some venture to the bookshelves, but again, all students are able to choose at least 1 book. They also receive a special ELL bookmark of library information that includes some of their learned expectations.
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  • Visit #3 reinforces ELA compare/contrast and helps ELLS have pride in learning a new language, while retaining pride in their home language and culture. Students use English word/picture card prompts for things and events in the library and write the terms in their home language on the reverse side of the card. Then they affix tape and take the card to the proper location in the library and tape the card up to share their home language with the rest of the school.
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    Other students love seeing the cards and it gives them a conversation starter with ELL Newcomers in their classes. And I love having the “Welcome” and “Hello” cards in several languages (and alphabets!) displayed on my library doors every year!

A Fine Beginning…

The 2 Library Dragons!This set of lessons is a positive and productive library orientation for ELL Level 1 Newcomers. They especially like Visit #3 about The Library Dragon because I have a huge stuffed dragon that students sit around during the read-aloud.

After these lessons students feel very comfortable talking to me and using the library, so ensuing library visits are every other week like other ELA classes. Although we’ve had different ELL teachers through the years, they all look forward to beginning the school year with their Newcomers in this way.

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ELL Level 1 Newcomer Library Orientation pin imageIf this set of lessons appeals to you, the full package of the ELL Level 1 Newcomers Library Orientation lesson plan, printouts, and worksheets are available at No Sweat Library Lessons, my TPT store.