Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cha Cha Cha Changes: In The JCHS Library

When school started back after Winter Break our Instructional Partner, Kristi Combs, presented a great professional development session on Equity.  It got me thinking about our library services and whether we were providing equitable services to our 1800+ students. 

This had been a gnawing question at the back of my brain since our library support staff transition in October but I had never really been able to ferret it out and work with it.  What was bothering me was how students had claimed certain areas of the library as theirs and how others had claimed areas in the library and turned them into a satellite lunchroom.  These were the two main things gnawing at me.  These students were preventing other students who needed to use the library to study, work on computer, read, etc. from being able to access these services, especially during our Refuel Hour.

Spurred to action by the Equity PD, Ms. Laura Smith (ACCESS Teacher/Media Teacher), Ms. Sharon Rowland (EL Teacher), and I set about rearranging the library into zones.  When we started discussing the layout for our zones we realized that if we left any of the furniture in the same place it had been before Winter Break students would simply fall right back into their set routines. Thus, we moved every single piece of furniture that wasn’t bolted to the floor or walls!  We also made the collective decision that, although we liked students being able to eat in the library, students were taking advantage of this privilege and misusing the library as an extension of the cafeteria, therefore, we now do not allow food or drinks in the library.  This decision was also one that addressed time, resources and COST.  Our library is carpeted and spills are a commonplace thing with food and drinks. Each time the carpets are cleaned it costs the school $600.  Each day it costs the library staff valuable time cleaning up trays and food left behind, wiping down library tables, chairs and sofas, and vacuuming.  

Zone areas were determined more or less by unspoken student voice.  Over the course of the school year I had observed students and seen frustration at not having a quiet place to study and access computers as well as students looking for a place to just “chill” with their friends, check their phones, or even pull a hoodie over their face and “meditate” for a little while. 

Based on these observations we created three distinct zones in the JCHS Library.  The Quiet Study Zone includes the computer area and four round tables for spreading out textbooks, papers, and notes.  A “Chill Zone” for students who just want to chill.  And the MakerSpace Zone where students can discover, create, tinker, learn, and build. We kept the board games, card games and puzzles in the Chill Zone and reserved the MakerSpace for our more technical equipment like the 3D Printer, the Carvey, and our new sewing machine.

I then created signs to rotate on the TVs located around the school as well as a type of PSA to be read with the morning announcements.

Students, we invite you to visit the library either before eating or after eating during Refuel and to refrain from taking food into the library. The library is a unique space where you can use the computers, socialize, check out books and use the MakerSpace to create, explore and learn. Since only the library has these unique opportunities, we want to ensure that it is being used for these specific purposes. We ask that you eat in other designated eating areas, and not in the library. Thank you for your cooperation.

The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, except for the no food rule.  Once we explain the $600 cost to clean the carpet the kids grudgingly agree that food isn’t the best idea in the library.

While our new zones have only been in place for a few days we have already noticed an increased usage of the resources that are only offered in and by a school library.  We have even had students thank us for the changes because they said they didn’t come to the library because they couldn’t access the resources they needed because of the areas that were being claimed by groups of students.

I am happy that we made these changes for the kids but will continue to observe their behavior (LOL! This is where I feel like Jane Goodall) and how they interact with the zones.  If it becomes obvious that more changes need to be made to accommodate student needs we will definitely make those changes.

When was the last time you changed the configuration of your library?

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