Let’s Expand Our View of “School Library Orientation”

Let's Expand Our View of “School Library Orientation” - School Librarians can make each subject-area's “first” library visit of the school year more powerful if we think of it as a “school library orientation” especially for them! Here's how I customize unique orientation lessons with 6 different subjects. #NoSweatLibrarySchool Librarians know the importance of our students’ first library visit, so at the beginning of each school year, “school library orientation” becomes a hot topic on library listservs, social media, and blogs. Folks request ideas, asking, “What can I do differently this year?”

A couple years after I simplified and customized my school library orientations with English Language Arts classes, I came to an astounding realization:

EVERY subject-area’s “first” library visit of the school year is a “library orientation” for THEM!

I’m suggesting that you don’t need to keep trying new things every year with the same subject class. Rather, expand your view of what “library orientation” means and customize an “orientation” lesson for every grade level and subject area in your building!

Allow me share how I developed a series of “library orientations” that brought 6th grade ELA, Social Studies, Math, Science, and Elective classes into the library at various intervals during the first several weeks of school. Once you try this, I know you’ll love it, and your subject area teachers feel pretty special having their very own unique library orientation customized to their content. (Even an elementary librarian can focus each class’s visit on new library materials or features, so it’s a like another orientation.)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS “ORIENTATION”

I’ve written about how I simplified my 6th grade library orientation, so students aren’t overwhelmed with too much new information. Keep in mind that for lowest-grade-level, new-to-the-school students, our school library is completely new to them, and our lesson is “fresh” for them, even if we’ve done it a dozen times! Because each new year is a totally new group of students, I’m as enthusiastic about this lesson as I was the first time.

Our ELA classes begin the year studying narrative text, so we focus on how to choose one good book from the new-to-them Fiction area. My lesson is followed by plenty of time to browse the Fiction area of this “new” library, after which we have extended silent reading while I do a quiet invited checkout. This standard procedure establishes a reading culture for ELA’s every-other-week library visits for the rest of the school year.

SOCIAL STUDIES “ORIENTATION”

After the ELA visit, we can bring in other 6g subject-area classes and do a “library orientation” customized to their particular content. I’ve written about my Special Collections for Social Studies, so I have 6th grade Social Studies classes visit a couple weeks after ELA to learn more about their “new” school library: the GlobeTrekkers Special Collection of fiction & Dewey books that support their study of World Cultures.

Photo of the GlobeTrekkers Special Collection for 6g Social Studies

The first part of the lesson is returning books and a library expectations lesson, giving students a few policies & procedures for their “new” school library. Then I introduce Content Area Reading and why it is important.

Educators have learned that reading comprehension isn’t so much about word recognition as it is about conceptual understanding in context. That is, students become better readers as they accrue background knowledge of various topics, so the more they read, the more they know.

Yes, Dr. Seuss instinctively told us this years ago in his book
“I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” and it just took brain researchers a while to confirm that.

Now I don’t tell all this to kids…I just tell them that the more GlobeTrekkers books they read, the better they’ll do in Social Studies and get better grades!

I show them how to identify GlobeTrekker books in the search results from our online book catalog, and when they hear they can check out a GlobeTrekker Dewey book and, if needed, a new fiction selection for their ELA class they are excited to begin browsing. We follow the same procedure—silent reading & invited checkout—which reinforces with Social Studies the reading culture that was established with ELA.

MATH “ORIENTATION”

I’ve also written how it makes sense to do our Dewey lesson with math classes which has students locate decimal numbers on the bookshelves. When 6th grade Math classes enter the library, students are so puzzled about what they are doing here…with their math class? That, in itself, sustains engagement for students—who apparently have never done anything like this before.

Keeping the lesson focused on numbers makes it easy for students to relate the Dewey number they see in a book search to a location on a shelf, regardless of the topical content of the book. After the lesson there is plenty of time for students to browse for up to new books, either Fiction or Dewey depending on what they already have checked out. The 6g boys are especially eager to find their favorite informational books in this “new” school library: aliens, cars, sports, and drawing, as well as the Guinness and Believe-It-Or-Not books. And we continue our standard reading & checkout procedure, which reinforces with Math the reading culture we established with ELA and Social Studies.

Expand School Library Orientation to All Core Subjects - Don't overwhelm new-to-school students with a long, complex library orientation. Scaffold it into a customized library orientation with each of the 4 core subjects--English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math & Science. #NoSweatLibraryThree customized lessons with 3 different subject area classes have progressively given our “newbies” what they need to effectively use their “new” school library.

  • We have imparted our policies & procedures when applicable, so students are not overwhelmed with too much new information to remember.
  • We have established our school’s reading culture of silent sustained reading (we call ours DEAR—Drop Everything And Read).
  • We have gradually built up the number and type of books students can check out, so during the early weeks of their new school experience they needn’t keep track of too many books.

SCIENCE “ORIENTATION”

By now our 6th grade Science classes are well into their unit on Energy and are ready to begin their project on alternative energy resources. The timing is perfect for an introduction to our online subscription services for middle school, which are completely different from those in elementary school.

Most “newbies” come to us from feeder elementaries, but many are new-to-district students. Thus, I begin this “online library orientation” with Digital Citizenship and direct students to our online library resources webpage to prepare for the WebQuest lesson.

I’ve written about my guided WebQuest that introduces just 3 subscription services to 6th graders—an encyclopedia, a periodical database, a topical reference e-book—with each segment looking only at the specific features of a service they’ll need for the project.

This is a full-period lesson, and each segment has students reading for content information and citing sources as they fill in the WebQuest worksheet (or HyperDoc). Students come away well-prepared to research their project, and I also provide a cart of books for the classroom to supplement the online tools.

To illustrate how favorably teachers respond to customized lessons, shortly after this, 6g Social Studies has an “online orientation” WebQuest using our countries of the world databases. Students gather country data into a spreadsheet app for comparison, and then learn to automatically generate a graph.

ART & SPANISH “ORIENTATION”

By this time we are through the first 9-week grading period, yet I’m not quite finished. Remember, any subject-area class that visits the library for the first time gets a “library orientation.” So, I begin the second grading period with a customized orientation for 6g Art and 6g Spanish. Because these 2 subjects alternate semesters, all 6g students receive this lesson during the first semester.

Both these lesson visits introduce Cloud Computing & Netiquette featuring our online email service. It is a guided lesson, similar to the WebQuest, that examines 3 features of the service: email, blogging, and discussion forums. I always let the other 6g teachers know when I do this popular lesson, so they can begin using the service for their own courses.

INFORMATIONAL CONTENT “ORIENTATION

8 Collaboration Ideas That Bring Subject-Area Classes into the School Library - School Librarians are always looking for new ways to collaborate with teachers and integrate library skills into subject area curriculum. Here are 8 Library Lessons I have with 6th grade content-area classes during the 1st semester...plus a list of 8 more lessons with 7th & 8th grade! #NoSweatLibraryI’ve written, too, that making ELA and Math orientations about location allows me to bring other subject areas into the library for content-specific lessons. During the second grading period, 6g Science returns to the library during their Classification & Organization unit.

The lesson allows students to explore the Dewey 590 Animals section, whose disciplinary organization mirrors that of scientific classification, thus reinforcing content for both science & library. The lesson also reviews the parts of informational books so students learn ways to dig into a book’s content to find and extract what they need.

HIGHER GRADE LEVEL “ORIENTATIONS”

Lest you think I ignore our 7th and 8th graders, here’s a list of the “library orientations” I’m providing for them during this same time period:

  • 7g & 8g ELA – Narrative Fiction & first book checkout
  • 8g Social Studies – The American colonies, a U.S. History project
  • 7g Math – adding/subtracting decimals & locating Dewey numbers
  • 7g Social Studies – First Texans, a TX History cooperative learning activity
  • 7/8 Theater – Multicultural folktales, creating one-act plays
  • 7g Social Studies – WebQuest on European explorers, a TX History project
  • 8g Spanish – Weather reports & introduction to video broadcasting
  • 8g Health, 8g Careers – books, ebooks, online services & websites

I know you may not think of these as “orientations,” but if view each library visit as an entirely new experience for that group of students in that subject class, all our lessons become “library orientations.”

THE POWER OF “SCHOOL LIBRARY ORIENTATIONS”

I’ve discovered it doesn’t matter how good a librarian students have had before they arrive in our school. These “library orientation” lessons are always powerful because they are bite-sized pieces, scaffolded over time, helping students gradually learn—and remember—how to use every aspect of our library services.

To make successful, carefully crafted lessons, we must have a comprehensive view of each grade level’s total library experience, for both subject-area curricula and the library curriculum. I created my Curriculum Matrix for just this reason, and I keep it updated so it is always ready to be referred to.

Our attitude toward “library orientation” is a reflection of our mindset about our entire School Library Program. We want every student experience with us to be a memorable one, offering meaningful lessons that never get old.

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management. You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-Group Library of FREE downloadable resources!

 

 

5 Tips for Buying Non-fiction Books for the School Library

5 Tips for Buying Non-fiction Books for the School Library - Buying non-fiction books for the school library isn't quite as easy as choosing fiction. Here are my 5 tips for wise spending while getting quality titles to meet student and curricular needs. #NoSweatLibraryOne of a School Librarians most pleasant tasks is purchasing books for students to read. Many school librarians are former English Language Arts teachers, so choosing fiction books is relatively easy. I, however, am a former science and social studies teacher, so I seek lots of input from my ELA teachers when choosing fiction titles for my middle school library.

On the other hand, many school librarians are intimidated by choosing non-fiction titles for their students. While Non-fiction is my strength, it isn’t just my background that helps me choose quality non-fiction for the school library. Allow me to share these 5 tips for buying non-fiction books to guide your nonfiction collection development.

TIP #1 – USE MULTI-PUBLISHER BOOK JOBBERS

I find it’s OK to buy fiction titles unseen because the format is standard and there are reliable book reviews for the content. That’s not the case for non-fiction. There is such wide variation in non-fiction books by format, by publisher, by grade level, and by topic, so regardless of book reviews, we need to see the book and page through it to be sure it will engage our students and serve the purpose for which we need it. Holding a non-fiction book in our hands, looking at the table of contents, flipping through the pages can give any school librarian a pretty good idea of content suitability, reading level, and appeal for students.

As a second-year librarian this became clear to me while analyzing my 900s country books. Of the 4 different—and all reputable—publishers, one was far too elementary for middle school (few pages and low reading level) and one was far too advanced for middle school (too many text-heavy pages). The other two were comparable in length and reading level, with shorter paragraphs and colorful illustrations spread throughout the book. I knew right away which ones were most useful and would be checked out more frequently.

Seeing is Believing: Buy Non-Fiction Books Through Book Jobber Visits - We have to look through a non-fiction book to know if it's right for our students. A multi-publisher book jobber will bring books to us, in our school library, so we can choose what works for our curriculum and our kids. #NoSweatLibraryCoincidentally, a book jobber representative phoned me at that time. A book jobber handles several publishers and the rep brings books out to the school so I can see them and select exactly what I want. When she arrived toting 3 huge carts of middle school non-fiction books, I knew I’d made the right decision, and vowed to invite other book jobber reps for non-fiction purchases.

After a few years experience with several district-approved book jobbers, I settled on two who provided the widest selection of middle school titles and offered reliable processing and speedy delivery.

TIP #2 – FOCUS ON JUST A FEW TOPICS

Book jobber representatives have access to hundreds of new and recent titles, on a wide range of subjects, but there’s a limit to how much they can transport—or how many books we can look through at one sitting! Before scheduling a visit, survey your collection and target 3-5 specific topical areas for which you need books, and relay those topics to your jobber. This allows them to bring as much as possible for those topics, along with the newest publications and a few topics other middle school librarians have chosen.

For my first book jobber appointment, I focused on country books (for 6g social studies), energy resources (for 6g science), and the Civil War (for 8g U.S.History). These were topics that had been requested for projects the year before and we needed more books. Additionally, I added biographies and careers because students had been asking for them.

I’m always amazed at the ample range of materials my reps show me and, because I focus on both curriculum needs and student requests, my choices are valuable additions for many, many years. With just 2 book jobbers, I’m able to address 6-8 different topical areas of the library collection every year.

TIP #3 – SET A LIMIT ON HOW MUCH TO SPEND

If your collection is like mine, it’s about 60% non-fiction and 40% fiction, so I allocate book budget funds the same way. Keep in mind that the quantity of books purchased won’t be the same: non-fiction books are pricier due to illustrations and better bindings. Since non-fiction tends to be useful over a longer time period than fiction, weeding is less extensive and the collection balance stays about the same.

Book jobber reps like to have a ballpark figure of your probable purchase to help them decide what to show you. It’s important to keep the spending ceiling in mind, because so many wonderful titles make it easy to go overboard. My reps create a computerized booklist and give me a running total. Some books are clearly “yes”, but I always have a “maybe” pile that I can add from if I still have have spending room.

Book jobbers rarely offer discounts like huge bid vendors, but I’ve learned how to save money on series books. The rep usually brings 1 or 2 of a series with a list of the rest. I’ll choose a couple enticing titles, then after the rep leaves, I can purchase additional titles in the series from my main bid vendor at a significant discount.

TIP #4 – ALLOW AMPLE TIME FOR SELECTION

When scheduling a book jobber, pick a slow day with no classes scheduled into the library. Sometimes that’s pretty difficult, so look ahead—even 3 or 4 weeks—to find a day that will probably have only incidental student visits. I’ve tried mornings and afternoons, and afternoons are better for me; I’ve gotten my “To Do’s” out of the way and am able to concentrate on choosing books.

For my first jobber meeting I figured about an hour. Big mistake—I spent more than 3 hours with her! Fortunately it was a slow afternoon with few interruptions, and we were able to get through most of those 3 carts of non-fiction books. Now I allow a 3-hour window as my default time period.

A few students do come into the library, so I invite them to look over the books. Not only do they appreciate having some input, they often offer choices I wasn’t considering. Students spread the news about the great books I’m buying, so when the order arrives students are already excited to check them out!

TIP #5 – CHOOSE QUALITY OVER PRICE

When you have a couple hundred books spread out on tables in front of you, it’s tempting to choose less expensive books in order to buy more within the spending limit. But, that undermines the whole purpose of using book jobbers and viewing each book individually. I always choose the book that best meets student and curricular needs.

First I look at the table of contents to be sure it has the topical coverage I’m looking for. Then I look for charts, graphs, and other illustrations that amplify the topic. I want the text in readable chunks with plenty of white space around the pages. I try to stay between 60 and 125 pages in length: fewer has too little content at a lower reading level and more has too much text and is too daunting for middle school readers. (The exception is books specifically for ELL and Special Education—those need to be shorter and with lower reading levels.)

I consider DK (formerly Dorling Kindersley) books an exemplar of non-fiction. They have a wealth of organized information in small chunks with beautiful illustrations, so they work well for casual reading and for research. School library publishers realized their appeal and now it’s rare to find a middle school non-fiction book that is packed with text-only titles. Still, we need to look at the features in each book to find the best quality for our students.

SOME FINAL DO’S AND DON’TS

5 Tips for School Librarians on Non-Fiction Book Purchases - Non-fiction books are useful over a longer time period than fiction so we weed less extensively. That makes it critical to choose high-quality books that fit our curricular needs and student interests. These 5 tips help a School Librarian make wise professional decisions. #NoSweatLibraryMost school districts send out an RFP (Request for Proposal) to dozens of vendors for district needs, and keep a list of approved bid vendors from whom they want us to purchase. The bid list for school library books and media should include both high volume vendors and book jobbers. It’s always best to go with those, since they offer perks for the expected high-volume purchases of a school district, such as discounts, free processing, and free shipping, plus the purchase order approval process is automatic.

Service from various jobbers varies widely, so if you don’t want to “sample” each one, talk to other local librarians for recommendations. Here are some general recommendations on what to look for:

  • Coordinate book jobbers to view many different publishers. Some crossover is OK, but it doesn’t make sense to look through the same books you’ve already seen from another rep.
    linebreak
  • Don’t use anyone who doesn’t bring books. I had one lovely lady who brought me catalogs to look through—I can do that myself! The exception is for very narrow topical books. I used a small local jobber who only carried materials about our state; they earned my trust, so I’d buy books directly from their catalog.
    linebreak
  • Expect high fill rates. Good book jobber reps want your business so they won’t haul around useless titles that aren’t available. Still, it’s not unusual to have a few titles that are delayed, but not more than about 10% of the amount spent.
    linebreak
  • Processing is important. If they don’t do a good job, drop them. You don’t have time to redo and there are plenty of jobbers who offer good reliable processing.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Should you have questions about buying non-fiction books, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

 

Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management. You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-Group Library of FREE downloadable resources!