Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Clarity! It's the Secret Sauce!

Becoming Future Ready, transforming spaces, adding makerspaces and production studios, genrefying collections and more! There are amazing things happening in libraries across the country! It’s a great time to be a librarian!

Sounds great, doesn’t it. Now, let’s get real for a minute. How many of you out there are seeing and hearing about amazing things happening in other libraries and you’re just feeling frustrated or stuck? Can you relate to any of these statements?

  • I don’t have the budget.
  • I don’t have room to make any studios.
  • We don’t have the technology.
  • I don’t have another librarian/para working with me.
  • I’ve tried adding a makerspace and it failed!
  • I’ve tried moving things around in my library and it had no impact.

I hear you, my friend. I’ve been in that place and my visit was way too long! I didn’t make those statements up. Those were all my thoughts and words. (And the list could go on!! ) It wasn’t until last year that we discovered what was missing. No, it wasn’t space, money, creativity or staffing. (Those are some pretty great assets, but those alone won’t cut it!) It was a plan, a roadmap, a why. We needed a clear VISION!

Once we had defined our vision, all of the pieces started falling into place. Seriously! We went from feeling frustrated to being driven! Here’s what worked for us.

  1. Observe and Take Notes - Who is using the space? Who is not? How are they using the library?
  2. Dream Big - What do YOU want? What changes do YOU want to make? Take some time to think about and jot down your wishes and dreams.
  3. Reflect and Evaluate - What are the strengths and weaknesses? There are lots of tools you can use to do this. We used the Future Ready Libraries framework, our annual library student survey data and our observations.
  4. Take Time to Process - Gather all of your observations, notes and ideas. Look for big ideas or themes. These big ideas and themes are your VISION!
  5. Get Help From the Outside - Find someone that you work well with to help you. They don’t have to be another librarian. We enlisted the help of our Instructional Innovation coach. Read your notes to them. Tell them your vision. They will pick it apart and ask questions to help you clarify.
  6. Spread the News! - Once you have crafted a vision that you feel represents your goals, share it! Share your vision verbally to others every opportunity you get! The more times you share, the clearer your vision will become. Eventually it will just be who you are!

There’s nothing magical about our mission. It’s pretty simple actually. It took us several months to go through the process, but it was totally worth it!  Our vision drives every decision we make.  It’s our secret sauce to success!!

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.31.57 AM.png

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Data is Not a Dirty Word!

The changes in our library have been years in the making and influenced by so many factors, but (gasp) not necessarily data driven.  Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been blindly grasping at change; it’s just that our transformation has been more influenced by research and observation. Research that included reaching out to our student body with surveys and focus groups and then extending beyond our walls to others who embrace the same student-centered philosophy. Observations that made it easy to look around our school and recognize that a large percentage of our population was not utilizing the library and its resources. So in our case, research + observation = change!

Informally, we have been continuously monitoring progress…noticing students in the library that we hadn’t seen before, scheduling classes who didn’t typically use library services, teaching more lessons than ever before.  I guess you could call it a “gut feeling” that things were going exactly as we anticipated. Honesty, we were getting busier by the day, and feeling good about the progress we were making. 

Then one day an opportunity presented itself that left us saying, “Dang, we need hard evidence!”  Our library was selected to be the site of a district wide administrator meeting and we were given the opportunity to share about the transformation of our library.  We both knew that there was no way we could stand in front of this group and say that our gut tells us it’s working.  That would be nothing short of awkward.  Thankfully, for our monthly library reports we track current data and have access to our historical data as well (whew). 

With fingers crossed and holding our breath, we started digging into the data.  What data would provide tangible evidence that we really are having an impact?  We landed on three data points that would back up the things we were observing in our library – circulation statistics, student walk-ins (these are students who come in each day without their whole class), and the number of lessons we were teaching.  To be sure we were comparing apples to apples, we looked at the 1st semester data from last year compared to 1st semester data this year.  After double (maybe triple) checking our numbers, we breathed a huge sigh of relief that all of our data backed up what our gut was telling us. 

In the end, we recognize that the world we live in is highly data driven.  Although we are celebrating the positive data trends, I truly believe that observing and following your gut is still really powerful.  Look around, get to know your students and teachers, tailor your library to meet the needs of your population, and always continue to monitor and adapt; when you do, the data will become another tool in your toolbox!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Building Relationships One Change at a Time

“That book was crap!”   
Ahh...Music to my ears!

You know those moments at school that have you smiling all day? Moments that make you think, “Yes! I love my job!”

A student came into the library last week to specifically tell me that he was liking his book I had recommended. Another boy overheard our conversation and chimed in with, “Whatever you do, don’t read Call Me By My Name! That book was crap! After all that character went through and to have it end that way! Terrible!”

I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal about that? Here’s the big deal. Two boys that don’t like to read intentionally walked into the library and sought us out to tell us about their books. That doesn’t happen every day...but we sure hope it will happen again.

Our focus this past year has been on building relationships with students. That is not an easy task when our population is around 1800 kids. So, we also had to think about our environment and students’ overall experience while in the library.  After taking a look at our physical space, evaluating our procedures and talking to the kids, we decided to make a few changes.

Here is our recommended list of relationship game changers!

  1. Get rid of fines for late books. The money is not worth the relationships it breaks. Period. End of story.
  2. Go where the people are! We moved our desks from behind circulation to the center of the library. Kids have to walk right by our desks as they enter. If we are there, if gives us an opportunity to talk and connect with them.
  3. Make resources more accessible. Don’t hide or hoard the supplies. We have supplies by the printers and on a cart by our desks. Again, it creates traffic in our direction. :)
  4. Watch, listen and ask. Find out what your kids are interested in and what they want from their experience in the library. We have added games, a coloring station and mints on our desks (we’re not below bribes!)  We also moved the furniture to meet their study needs and social habits. In our Design Studio, we host student led workshops on topics that students choose.
  5. Let them eat, drink and be merry! We allow snacks and drinks in our space. The majority of students do a great job of picking up after themselves. And don't get me wrong about the "be merry" statement. Our kids are not running around the library or anything. We're just not a silent space. I would describe the sound as a productive buzz.
  6. Have some fun. We have tried to create experiences that draw kinds in just for the sake of fun. Our most popular events were the  Pumpkin decorating contest and Elf on the Shelf.
  7. SMILE! Say hello, go talk to them and assume good will.

We’re always changing things up and looking for ways to improve. We would love to hear your successes and recommendations!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Audio Studio is Open!

It was back in the summer when our vision of the dream audio studio began to take shape.  We spent hours online looking at existing spaces and going over professional and student feedback; We created our wish list of audio equipment that would support the needs of our students and staff; We considered both curriculum driven projects and those inspired by personal interests.  What else would we need?  Oh, yeah, funding! This was certainly not in our budget. 
Next step?  Figure out how to afford all of these amazing new things!  Thankfully we were in the midst of our summer grant writing groove – we just needed to add one more.  

Then, waiting, waiting, waiting… We’re not especially good at this part, but when it ends with good news, it’s totally worth it! 

*While we waited we set up everything we had on hand 
to set the stage for the exciting things on the horizon.

When the funding came through in mid-September,  we got busy “building” our audio studio.  Orders were placed, the room was prepped, our school tech configured the equipment, and now, a few not-so-short months later – the Audio Studio is ready!   It looks AMAZING and the kids can’t wait to get in there. 


You can take a closer look here:  http://lhs.liberty.k12.mo.us/audio. 

We’ve got a pretty steep learning curve on all of this equipment.  Looks like our “To-Learn” list just grew again! Glad we’ve got a few student experts in the house.