Looking Back @ “Books with Legs”

Looking Backward @ Books With LegsA common problem in my middle school library was misplaced library books, which often kept kids from wanting to check out more books. A few might tell me their book was “stolen.” (A common middle school reason for anything misplaced or lost.) Some kids were too worried to ask about a missing book, but they finally did; I’d check and the book was usually returned. They were puzzled but relieved they wouldn’t have to pay for a lost book.

One day I joked that these missing books must have ‘legs.’ Thus, was born a story that became very popular in my school. Kids carried the story with them to other schools—even other states—so if you, as have other librarians, hear this from one of your students, it’s probably made its way to you through the transience of our school population.

I always tell the story to 6th graders at their second library visit, to relieve their tender little minds of future worry. Here’s the story told as a visual show.

Of course, 6th graders aren’t quite sure if what I’m saying is true, and a bold one will challenge me, so I ask “Is anyone already missing a library book?” Sure enough, I always have a couple kids raise their hands and I say, “See, they got one of those Books with Legs!” We all laugh and they appreciate that forgetting is universal, plus they know they won’t have to worry about some crazed librarian tracking them down and threatening them with dire consequences if they have a missing book!
(I’ve seen those kinds of librarians and they scare me too!)

With our highly transient school population, higher grades also have many new-to-our school kids, so when older students have their first library visit, some newbie asks about lost library books. My greatest pleasure comes when another student who’s come up from 6th grade says, “Tell them The Secret, Ms. P!” and I get to tell the story again.

Often a student is at the circulation desk telling me about a book they can’t find and another student standing there says, “Oh, you got a Book with Legs!” Even teachers and custodians come in to return a book left in a classroom or public area saying, “Here’s one of those Books with Legs!”

Now, should you, dear reader, doubt that my story is true,
let me just say that I’ve had very few lost or “stolen” books,
but I’ve seen thousands of Books With Legs.
(Sometimes, when I’m at school late,
I can even hear them partying in the halls!)


If you also have the problem of Books With Legs, feel free to use my video story, available on YouTube and Vimeo!

If you want to tell the story yourself, here’s the script—but be sure to tell it in a secretive, dramatic voice!

Lean in close, because I have to tell you a Secret and I don’t want any of the books to hear me.

This is a very special library because ALL OUR BOOKS HAVE LEGS!!

You know how you’re sure you put a book in your locker, or left it in a certain room and when you go to get the book it isn’t there? That’s because at night, when we’ve all gone home, the books all come out into the halls and they PARTY all night long. At the end of the night they forget where they came from so they just go into the closest room. And that’s why you can’t find your book!

You’ll discover that book you left in Language Arts shows up in the gym, or the book you left in Math ends up in some other grade. They aren’t lost—they were partying and forgot where they belonged! Now sometimes they come back to the library (because that’s where all their friends, the other books, are), so you can always come ask me to see if the book is here in the library.

So, it’s very important to keep a tight hold on your library books, because if you don’t, they’re gonna party and end up who knows where!

Looking Back @ 3 Assessment Tools for the Library

Looking Back @ 3 Assessment Tools for the School LibraryIt’s rare, indeed, to find a School Librarian who records grades for students. In fact, it’s hard to find a school or district with a formal school library curriculum to teach, much less assess! It seems no one expects any kind of assessment—whether formative, summative, or standardized test—from a School Librarian’s instruction, yet we do have a variety of ways that we can measure and show student learning from our lessons. During my years as a Middle School Librarian I regularly used 3 assessment tools for my Library Lessons: graphic organizers, rubric criteria, and library statistics.

First, it’s important that we have an appropriate lesson for every scheduled class visit to the School Library and it must be in a formal written form so that teachers and principals take us seriously as teaching professionals. For that reason I began developing my Library Lesson Planner, and I discovered that as my form evolved and became more comprehensive, my lessons and student learning improved. Section 1 of my Planner uses subject and library standards to create long-term understandings, key questions, and objectives.

Once that is filled in, I use Section 2 of my Library Lesson Planner to develop Assessment Evidence, the proof that through my lesson students met the objectives. Here’s how Section 2 looks before I begin entering information for the lesson:
LibraryLessonPlannerSection2clipThat very first line determines which assessment tool I’ll use. If the final product is the subject teacher’s classroom activity or project, then my lesson is a portion of the process, and I use a graphic organizer and/or rubric criteria to show that students learned my part of the process. If the final product is library-related only, then I use a graphic organizer and/or library statistics to show learning.

I’m a Form Fanatic, and I like graphic organizers because students develop their understanding of conceptual knowledge themselves. Graphic organizers can be very simple or very complex, depending on where in the scaffolding process the lesson fits, and I often have students work together in groups of 2 or 4 with the more complex ones. Graphic organizers can be a final assessment tool by having students create an infographic of what they know and can do—sometimes the infographic being a sheet of paper that covers the whole library table!

Teachers appreciate having a student-generated graphic organizer for a Library Lesson—it keeps students on task and teachers can use it as evidence for a daily grade. If teachers will collect the document I evaluate student mastery by walking about and seeing what they’ve filled in on their organizer; at other times I collect the document to provide assessment to students and then give the stack to teacher/s so they can record the grade and/or extend it with their own. Thinking Maps proprietary graphic organizersZoom In-Zoom Out Content Literacy graphic organizer
Here are examples of graphic organizers I like to use: Thinking Maps are proprietary forms and Zoom In-Zoom Out is a common content literacy form.

If there is a teacher-generated assessment rubric document, I generate library rubric criteria and then share it with teachers to add to their assessment rubric. The secret to success with this assessment tool is that we need to clearly define for both students and teachers what comprises exemplary, proficient, or acceptable. Neither students nor teachers are knowledgeable about library curriculum and teachers may not give us the opportunity to perform the grading for the “library criteria” (although those who have accepted my offer are very grateful that I help with assessment).

For evaluating how my Library-only Lessons are effective with students, an analysis of library statistics can be very revealing; however, using library statistics for assessment is the most difficult tool to configure and analyze! The purpose of the lesson determines the information-gathering method that will generate data on what students have learned. For example, if the purpose is to introduce a special collection of books that support a content area, then circulation numbers for that collection—generated as a report through the library automation system—indicate whether students grasped the value of those support materials. If the purpose is to teach an aspect of the research process, then the counts of incidental, independent library use by those students for several days after the lesson indicate the success of the lesson, the reasoning being that if they can work independently and immediately pursue research for the project, then they know and can do what we have taught.

clip of keyword search form

Here’s an example of a rather unusual “statistic” we can use for assessment. I use a customized form to teach a student lesson on how to generate search criteria, and the depletion of additional forms over the next few days tells me whether students “got it” (few forms used because student search terms produced viable results) or did not understand (more searches performed because students had difficulty generating the right search terms). I know that seems like a stretch, but that is what we School Librarians must sometimes do to determine the success of our lessons and then refine them to produce our desired results!

When we teachers become School Librarians we don’t give up the tools we used in the classroom, but rather we refine and modify them. Assessment is a good example of the refining and modification we must do to provide students with the best possible education.

(My Library Lesson Planner and the Keyword Search Form are available for download on my Free Librarian Resources page.)