January 4, 2012

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Well, half of my second year in this elementary school library has passed, hasn't it?  Wow, it's going so fast.

The second year is definitely a slight bit easier than the first year.  The scheduling is a bit smoother.  I know where more things are.  Best of all, I know the students and teachers better.

Challenges have been little things.  The first Scholastic Book Fair was a bit confusing.  We did it at a different time of the year, had two registers instead of one and that let to some frustrating math problems on my part.  And I still haven't figured out if it's better to take cash from them or use their "Scholastic Dollars."

Which vendors to use is always a question.  It's a juggle between quality, price and ease.  No one has it all.  I'm trying out a few different ones, but am still looking for the best choice for us.

But hey, we've got lots of new books!  Getting to know the people has allowed me to make better choice of what people actually want to read and use for teaching.  I only want to buy books that people want.  I'm thinking of changing a few rules of thumb I'd made up last year.  One was: don't buy bios of people unless they're dead (or at least basically retired or established like Muhammed Ali or Aretha Franklin).  That way I don't have embarrassing bios of 80s celebrities to weed.  The bios that go along with the curriculum are easy.  More Frederick Douglass?  Sure, why not.  But currently popular sports, singing and acting stars?  Nope.  They'll go out of date to soon.  But we do have a few of these and they do check out quite a bit.  So I may buy more of them.  I realized, I don't have to worry about longevity as much as I thought since I've started a big weeding campaign.  If I buy a book about Justin Bieber and it checkes out 50 times in the next couple of years, it was worth the money even if he drifts into obscurity and I weed in in 2017.  It's what some kids (many, actually) want to read about right now and that's one of the main goals isn't it? To have stuff on the shelves they actually want to read?  I'm not going crazy with this, but a few well-chosen very popular bios won't break the budget and I'll keep an eye on how they do.

As for the weeding, it's going well.  Slower than I'd like but well.  I'm hitting the reference section hard right now.  I read something recently that recommended getting rid of anything older than five years.  I figured I'll try 10-12 and see how that goes.  It's going great!  Most of that stuff was too hard for elementary kids anyway and sorely out of date.  We have access to many great online resources (Britannica, World Book, etc.) so most of that stuff is just collecting dust.  I have a 2011 set of elementary Britannicas and a 2006 set of World Books on the shelves, but I don't know if I'll be replacing them or not.  I'm keeping my eye on their usage (other than my reference lessons). I'll always keep buying physical kid almanacs, though.  They love them.

And of course I think one of my bigger successes this year was once again talking people out of adopting AR.  If it comes up again I may implement my own incentive program (which will be tilted more toward reading and less towards incentives) and see if that keeps it at bay.  It wasn't actually too hard to fend it off because of money. It's too expensive and we need more books.  My weeding campaign will make that more apparent.  The more new  interesting books circulating, the more kids are reading, the better they do in school, the less I'll hear about AR.

Here's to a great new year for you all!


Ms. Yingling said...

Get cash for the regular Scholastic fair, because you'll earn a lot of Scholastic dollars, and they don't really process the books. Have decent (if overpriced) Califone DVD players. Keep the encyclopedias 10 years, then ask the public library if you can have their newest old ones! They are still useful for some research projects, but I refuse to pay for them. (And that's what I know after 15 years!)

Jim Randolph said...

Ms. Y,

I only benefit from your wisdom. Thanks so much!

Mrs. Silverstein said...

Hi there--here from the comment challenge! I'm not a librarian but I do teach English (middle and high school)--so I love hearing about this stuff. I did go back several entries but couldn't find the meaning of "AR"--would you mind defining it for a new reader? :)

Jim Randolph said...

Mrs. S:

AR stands for Accelerated Reader, an expensive commercial program that turns the joy of reading into a competition for points and incentives. Most people love it. I'd rather spend money on more interesting books that kids want to read without any strings attached.


Mrs. Silverstein said...

Oh, man--that sounds like a bummer. Way to go pushing books over points!

Katyroo said...

Keep fighting the good fight against AR, Jim!

I mean it is good for what it's good for - STAR test assessing a reader's approx range of reading comfort - but using AR test points for reading grades or limiting a kid to books that are "their AR level or above" (happened to my children) is a terrible misuse of this expensive tool.

You should have heard the shouts of joy (real shouts) when I told 8th graders visiting my HS library that we did NOT "do AR" there.

Keep hitting your school folks with Stephen Krashen's data (real studies, by real researchers = not proprietary stuff like RenLearn does about their AR product) - hearing Krashen enthuse about how middle-aged ELL women became fluent readers in English through the Babysitter Club books was priceless!

(I'm double-dipping here, as I follow you in my blog reader and am also doing MotherReader & LeeWind's comment challenge).

**Katy M
Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

Even in Australia said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog as part of the Comment Challenge. I'm glad I returned the favor! I'll be posting a question about weeding soon, but here's a preview: how do you weed fiction? I volunteer at my daughter's school library and have been given this job. More on my blog about it in a day or two.