Long time, no blog, Tibrarians! I sadly had to spend my spring break recovering from a small surgical procedure, so I was unable to post for the last two weeks. Now I am on the mend and looking forward to a long stretch of teaching (until testing season begins…).
As I have mentioned before, I am at a new school this year. All of my previous librarian posts have been at larger schools with 700+ students. My current school has just under 300 students and has provided me with lots of new challenges. In my district, elementary schools with more than 300 students are staffed with one full-time librarian and one full-time library assistant. The 290 students at my school don’t quite make the cut, so I am dealing with my first year without an assistant. I know that I was spoiled and lucky to have assistants at my other schools and that for many of you, being the sole staff member in the library is a daily reality. I have definitely had to change the way I do things and find some creative solutions to make this situation workable.
One of the biggest issues that I ran into at the beginning of the year was how to handle book check-out. I have always been the type of Tibrarian who likes to circulate amongst my students during book selection. I am very committed to making sure that students leave the library with books that are on their independent reading level and that are age-appropriate. In order to make this happen, I have to be present as students are selecting books. I have to be able to talk with the students, make book suggestions, and help them locate those special books that they are seeking. However, at the beginning of the year I felt trapped behind the circulation desk. I had to check out the books quickly so that students would be able to leave the library on time, and now I didn’t have an assistant to sit at the desk while I circulated. What to do? My first strategy was to be “out on the floor” with students while they were making selections and to have all students sit at tables to read once they had chosen their books. When there were about 5-10 minutes left in the period, I would go back behind the desk and call students up by table to check out. This worked fairly well and allowed me to spend a lot more time with students, but it wasn’t perfect. There were inevitably students who needed me to check their accounts for one reason or another (Did I return any books? Which books do I have checked out?) so I was always getting stuck back behind the desk. I would also end up starting to call the tables later than I should and we would crunched for time at the end of the period.
A bit later in the year, the district gave each library an iPad Mini. At first, I wasn’t sure what I would do with this new device. After talking to my tech-savvy husband, however, I realized that I could use this gift to get me out from behind the circulation desk permanently. I purchased this nifty Bluetooth wireless barcode scanner:
paired it with my iPad, pulled up the web version of our ILS (integrated library system) and the tethers were broken! I printed class lists with patron barcodes for each students and put them in separate page protectors. I keep the lists in a binder and pull each one out as the classes come through. Now, I can walk around and help students as they make their book selections. I carry my iPad and the class list with me (I have a pull-chord clip for the scanner so I can wear it on my pants pocket) and check out books as students sit down to read. I can check accounts and do last minute returns on the go without having to go back to the desk. With my new system, I can spend more time assisting students as they make their book selections and that makes my Tibrarian heart happy!
This solution has really made check-out time easier for me. What are some ways that you have streamlined your check-out procedures in order to maximize time spent with students?