Communication – what?

Okay, this week I’ve been reading lots of concerns from teacher-librarians worried about new wireless Internet connections invading their private spaces in their school libraries. People are asking about the health and safety risks of having even more (and larger) electrical cabinets humming away in the background throughout each school day…

Yes, I realise that sometimes teacher-librarians can be completely left out of a school’s decision making processes, but my two random thoughts of the day are:

1. You know, I can’t recall the last time I actually sat at my desk in the library office. It’s a tiny place I race into, to put a spoon of instant coffee into my cup, once a day, before heading off to the staff room at morning tea time. Or, it’s where I attempt to answer the telephone (which usually hangs up just as I reach it, breathlessly – although running in a long, double-portable library is definitely not good for the brand new interactive whiteboard). Or, I also go to the office to snatch a book out of Teacher Reference. If I do any sit down work in the library, it tends to be out in the main library area, since nobody would notice me squirreled away in the back office.

2. Yeah, send all this hardware back, I say, and make the little blighters do their research on slates, with authentic slate pencils, like in the days of yore. (Or is slate a deadly toxin, too?)

Seriously, if someone is insisting that a big, ugly, noisy box is moving into somewhere where you usually work, find yourself a change of scenery! Create yourself a new alcove, on the opposite side of the building. Very few library desks are nailed to the floor. There are ways around everything. But the key to any of this is surely communication. If you (and your principal, OH&S committee, Fed Rep, cleaning staff and teaching colleagues) have not established satisfactory communication skills at your school, then you have much more to worry about than electrical emissions from a new bit of machinery.

Reinventing library nooks

For many years, my teacher-librarian predecessor and her clerical staff pondered over a better location for the “New Books” nook in our portable school library, but there really never seemed to be anywhere else that suggested itself. The existing corner is/was close to the main entrance, but too far from the Circulation Desk. It was also quite hidden by a bulky, free-standing, double-sided stand of shelving, currently chock full of Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) titles for the Stage 2 and Stage 3 students.

There was one viable alternative location, perhaps: outside the office (and Teacher Reference), but the adjacent exit door is one rarely used by students, and the sloping display shelves outside that room seemed more suited to showcasing new Teacher Reference resources.

The most frustrating thing with the old “New Books” section, at least as it occurred to me over the past two years, has been that the Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students rarely ventured into “New Books” territory, despite many of these new books being gorgeous, new picture books, displayed cover out, and obviously aimed at their reading levels. Too often, newly acquired and processed titles in “New Books” have remainedin pristine condition weeks, sometimes months, after our volunteer covering parent placed them there, because they weren’t being touched! I’m sure there’s nothing worse than dusting “New Books” additions! Ideally, these beautiful, inviting books should have been leaping off the shelves, being wanded at the Circulation Desk, and into students’ library borrowing bags to leave room for the next batch of new books.


PRC, audio and new books nook
Before: The crowded old nook, trying (and failing) to focus on the PRC books, AND new books AND a listening post area, all at the same time. Icky clutter – and an OH&S trip hazard to boot! All paper signs on the window were removed on Day 1 of my renovations, of course.

PRC nook underway
Underway: The PRC nook awaits the arrival of a couch, some PRC books to go on display, and some new signage, of course. The coloured papers at left belong to a class Book Week display, plus a few library-themed famous quotations. Earmarked for removal/rethink.

Nook ready
Continuing: Shelves and display of books in place.

A few months ago, in a somewhat desperate attempt to bring a little more drawing power to the “New Books” corner, I introduced the listening post set, which was obtained free via bonus coupons from Scholastic Book Clubs. Well, it sounded like a wonderful idea! Moving some of the new titles aside, I showcased some (hardly used) audio books and music, on CD and audiocassette, from Teacher Reference. As there wasn’t really room for more than four bench seats in the nook, I plugged in only four of the eight headphone sets.

While moderately popular, the listening post has caused its own share of niggly problems, mainly concerned with students tripping over the leads (or tangling them all together), as they left the area at the end of lunchtime.

Last Friday afternoon, I had an epiphany! The solution to the display and OH&S concerns! I hope.

I began preparing a new area for “New Books” and the listening post set… between Fiction and Easy Fiction. This new area is equidistant from both main doors, essentially in the centre of the library. (Moving many of the sloping display shelves from the Stage 2 & 3 PRC area also means that there’ll be room left for a small comfy couch and cushions – an attractive retreat for ready PRC books at lunch breaks? I already even have a free couch on standby. It’s been on my front veranda at home since last January, while I pondered if I’d ever locate the exact, best place for it. I’ve even had two cute cushion covers to go on it, waiting in their original packing, since Easter!)

Fiction shelving
Before: Easy Fiction blurs into Fiction, distinguished only by tiny, alphabetised, shelf labels in pink or green, plus handmade lettering in little perspex picture frames.

Fiction shelving reno
Underway: The goal was to have some front-facing books separating the two areas! New signage to come!

Spines-out “Easy fiction” was shunted to the left, “Fiction” was shunted to the right, leaving a new, clear space to add some sloping shelves (cannibalised from a free-standing magazine rack that was never used. The regular shelves were then placed on the magazine rack. Now the PRC section can be expanded to fit the space.) There’s certainly lots more “face out” fiction on display now.

Fiction nook
Before: Another angle on the cramped Fiction sections.

New books and audio nook underway
Underway: A similar angle on the revamped Fiction section, now boasting heaps of “New Books” display space. Even the cat and dog library beanbags look happier! New signage to come.

And the answer to the question you’ve perhaps been mulling over?

Total cost of this renovation: Nil. (So far.)

An update to both of these nooks has been posted!