The snow and ice have hit Georgia! Who would have thought that I would have missed almost the entire month due to weather-related school cancellations?! Teachers returned last Friday for an icy work day and I took full advantage. I must admit that it was hard to get going after being lazy at home all week and realizing that it was Friday and I was about to have another two lazy days, but I eventually moved into action.
You might remember my post about a space that I have reclaimed in our library for a future makerspace. If not, take a minute to jump over and read that post HERE first. I begged for some help from my assistant principal and art teacher (two of only four males in my building) to assist with moving the outdated curriculum materials that were stored here. These materials were picked over by our teachers several times and now it was time to haul them outta there!
Clearing these materials was the biggest part of clearing out the room for our makerspace and it only took about an hour and two truck loads! Wow! Look at how awesome those empty shelves are! I can just imagine all sorts of makerspace goodies to fill them with.
The other component that needed addressing was the old technology stuff. A lot of the surplus technology equipment had been moved by our former technology support person. I had to get our new guy up to speed, but as soon as I did, he swiftly got to work and had it all cleared out! I was so impressed and thanked him profusely. He told me that he didn't like clutter and was happy to help. I think I've met my match in terms of throwing out old stuff....he likes to do the same thing!
Finally, I would be remiss in leaving out the efforts on my wonderful custodian. Mr. Raymond is truly a gem. He helps me in so many ways and keeps our library looking clean and tidy. When I wasn't looking, he came in and took the time to scrape all of the old clothespins that were hot glued to the walls off and hauled off two boxes of remaining trash! WOW! What a blessing.
So, I now have a blank slate. An empty canvas. I plan to remove some of the shelving (the section that is blocking the steps up to the stage floor) and I plan to cut some of the shelving down to a lower height. I've debated about requesting that the big shelving unit (the one pictured above) be moved to the back of the room so that I could put a dry erase board up here at the front, but I'm uncertain about that for now. These shelves are all bolted down to the walls, so they are sturdy and secure.
I'm excited to see the room progressing to this point. I'd like to request permission to PAINT, but am sure this might be a road block. I think I may just get in there, clean really well, hang up some bright decor, and start USING the room! I'm afraid if I let it sit too long with no use, it might be claimed by someone else!
I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions for this space. Or, please share a comment or two about your makerspace area in your library. I hope to feature this transformation in a future conference presentation, so all ideas are welcome and I'll be sure to give credit where credit is due. Until next time...
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones! November just seems like it has flown by and as you noticed, I didn't do any blogging during our week off from school. My family took a trip to South Carolina (hope to share a little something from that trip in the future) and I just chose to spend the week enjoying my time away from school. But now that I'm back in the swing, I just keep thinking to myself, "why is it that I only seem to stay one step ahead?"
Do you ever have that feeling? The feeling that no matter how much planning you do, how much you organize, or how hard you work that it just seems you are barely staying afloat?
I have several projects I've started and few I've completed. Sad but true. Just keepin' it real, folks. I started my labeling for genrefication of my fiction section and I've only made it to the Cs. Seriously. I cleared out a massive storage room and got it almost completely done when I was told that it wouldn't be my space to use....yep, they are claiming it for a data room. Bummer. I started designing a plan to remove the circulation desk and transform the space into a more user-friendly area for students, but alas, plans have stalled. No money for the new seating I want.
Now lest I have you thinking you've stumbled on the Un-Happy Library website....I'm not down in the dumps about any of this. I realize I'm only one step ahead, but that is saying something! I am still happy to be where I am, doing what I love, and dreaming of how to make my little library the happiest it can be. And it so happens, one of the spaces that is connected to our library that was being used for storage of technology and outdated curriculum has been returned to me for our future STEM (a.k.a. maker) space! That's right....I get to clean out another area, but this time it will stay a part of our library.
With the long intro done, I want to show you what I'm working with!
Here is the doorway that connects to our library....you can see my board and my yellow story time chair off in the distance. When you enter this room, you can see there is some sturdy metal shelving against the walls. Some of the shelving will stay, but the one section you are looking at here will be moved. It might be hard to tell, but this room has an elevated floor section and that shelf is sitting in the path of the stairs. Look at all of that old guided reading stuff! Whew! I asked teachers to come and claim anything they wanted, so what you are seeing is AFTER the massive clean out by our staff....unreal. These paperback books will be donated to our school store or may be recycled. My plan here is to clear the wall and the pathway so that it is safe for students. I would also like to paint....more on that later.
In this picture, you see a direct view from the actual doorway of the library. The fact that there is an outside doorway and window is wonderful because it gives this dark space some light! And again, you can see how much metal shelving there is. I will keep the sections bolted to the wall on the left of this picture. I have discussed with my assistant principal and custodian the idea of keeping the other section (that is sitting up against the stage wall) but cutting it down with metal cutters. It would provide some valuable storage for STEM supplies, but by cutting it down lower, it would open up a line of sight for me and wouldn't block the natural light from the windows to the other side of the room. We will see if this happens. It might not work.
There is more of the old curriculum items to weed, plus the big blue box is just "junk" that needs to be hauled out. The old Eagle banner in the back needs to be removed and all of those clothespins need to be scraped off the wall. Can you imagine what a fresh coat of paint would do?!?
These two pictures are just spanning right from the view in Photo B and give a great view of the current space. This area is primarily an elevated stage and you can barely see the steps up on the right side in Photo C. The steps are wide and flat which is nice for little feet.
A lot of the technology equipment is being moved into the technology office. That will clear off that shelving unit in the back (which will probably stay in the space). The boxes of books in the foreground of these photos are books that were sorted by our upper grade level teachers and are now gone. They were moved into a book room in another location of the school.
I'm not sure about all of the heavy brown library furniture back here. I really want something lighter and more flexible, but I won't move it out just yet. I have to be sure I can replace it with something first. But I do want to be sure to open up as much floor space as possible for activities on the floor.
This is just another view of the stage area and step area. I'm still debating about that white wire shelf over there on the right....ideas?
And finally, a view from the stage itself. The room is actually quite spacious, but it looks so small due to all the tall shelves packed with materials. I have big dreams for this space....fresh paint, new STEM supplies, flexible seating.....
I plan to share this transformation with you all. One step at a time. And trust me, I'll only be one step ahead.
It has been nearly a month since I last wrote anything here. And even now as I type this, my back aches, my feet are swollen, my eyes have bags, and my hands have a tinge of stiffness. I'm tired. Who am I kidding? I'm exhausted!
Words cannot express the journey I've taken in this transition to elementary. But I'm going to give it a try. I was able to get into the library for three days prior to our pre-planning and those three days were nothing but cleaning out stuff. I had to remove the jungle decor that was last year's library theme. I had my middle son come and spend an entire day scraping hot glue off the library walls. I filled 10 of those big rolling trash bins that the custodians use!!! Yes, 10. I don't want to bash the previous librarian. We all do the best we can where we are. But, as you can imagine, there were a lot of things that just really needed to go. So, they went. My goal was just to create a blank canvas. I needed to have a clean slate when beginning pre-planning and I think I got pretty close to that.
Pre-planning lasted 5 days, but as you can imagine, I was tied to all sorts of meetings and trainings, so I didn't really get that much accomplished in terms of the library. I arrived around 7:00 each morning and worked until 6:00 each night (the custodian basically threw me out) to try to make some headway in decorating and organizing. Keep in mind, I hadn't even touched one book at this point. I did get things looking bright and cheery prior to our Open House. The Happy Library actually was starting to look happy. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was SO relieved when the first day of school came because I knew that teachers would be in their classrooms with students and I would have the library to myself. (We have a teacher workroom in the library that houses our laminator, xerox machine, color printer, etc. and teachers were in there non-stop during pre-planning.....and the laminator was torn up no less than three times during those five days....enough said.)
I was graciously given the first week of school (4 days) to work in the library with no classes. I was able to figure out our self-check station logins, learn a little bit of the new library management platform Destiny, figure out a couple of the other digital platforms we use, plan centers for grades 3-5, and finish up a few touches on the library decor. I felt ready. Not like perfect ready, but good-enough ready. I had done almost three weeks worth of work for kids and I wanted them to come in!!!
This past week I was able to see all of my third, fourth, and fifth grade students. I I decided to tweak my Happy Lesson upon the advice of The Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones. I had the students come in and we went through a short Google slide show introducing myself (in the form of a bitmoji, no less, which they loved), the concept of The Happy Library, and the procedures for centers. This only took about 10-15 minutes and then students were on their way to explore the Happy Centers!
I set up 8 centers: coloring (library pictures, of course), a reading inventory, dry-erase word search, peg art, Connect 4 game center, reading center (cozy up with a book buddy and read books centered around a library theme), I-Spy, and a paper construction center.
When the students first walked into the library, without fail, every single class went woooah!...it was sort of like the sound and faces you see when Willy Wonka opens the doors to his chocolate factory in the Gene Wilder version of the movie. I'm not kidding. It was magical. Then, as the kids went off into the centers, they were giggling, laughing, and saying things like this is so cool or we get to hold these?! (the stuffed animals were a huge hit, even with 5th graders). I tell you the truth when I say that there were moments when I thought I was going to literally burst into tears. The children were so full of joy. They were so excited. It was like Christmas morning every single day.
The teachers were pretty excited too. They were so positive about the changes they were seeing. One teacher heard some students giggling and said, "listen at that...they are laughing! This is perfect." What a compliment!
So, even though my body is screaming for Epsom salt baths and Advil, my heart is full and my grin is wide. I wanted to create a bright, happy space where the students can read, explore, learn, and have fun. I wanted to bring my vision of The Happy Library to life. And I did it.
It has been a busy week so far and it is only Wednesday! I've been up to my eyeballs in graduate school assignments and we celebrated the 4th of July with family in my hometown. While we were there, a family member brought her new neighbors to join us for the celebration and it inspired this post!
The young lady of the couple is a first year teacher this year! Once we started talking "school" we just couldn't stop. It was really probably annoying to most of the other people at the celebration, but that is what we teachers do, right?! She shared her nerves about her new position and getting her room decorated for the students. She also has the added challenge of going out on maternity leave sometime in November! She started telling me all about her ocean theme ideas and it was glorious. I love talking themes! It must be one of the aspects of going elementary that I am most excited about, which begs the question...why? And many of you may be thinking a theme for an elementary classroom makes sense, but does the library need a theme?
There are all sorts of blog posts out there on why elementary classrooms benefit from having a theme. I read one recently by the Not So Wimpy Teacher in preparation for this post and it is a great read if you are curious. But themes in the library? I am a firm believer in themes for two reasons. They are fun and they create an "environment."
Themes are Fun!
To state the obvious, themes are fun! Picking a theme for the school library generates excitement for you, the school librarian. It can be exciting to look for particular color schemes or themed decorations, supplies, etc. when you are out on all those summer Target trips. (Just kidding....I recently did the Target Dollar Spot thing for the first time and it was a mad-house-type experience that might deserve a separate blog post.) A theme can also give you a focus for the vibe you want to create in the library. This is where I landed a month or so ago.
In thinking about themes for the library, you might need to decide if you want your theme to change each year or if you will keep the same theme for some time. In my school, the previous media specialist changed the theme every single year. Last year was "Wild About Reading" and she put in all sorts of plastic plants, ficus trees, stuffed wild animals, and had little safari people posted around the library entrance. The theme change each year has been something she says students looked forward to seeing when returning to school in August. One media specialist that is particularly amazing at yearly theming is The Book Bug. During her post-planning days, she re-themed her library space for next year in emojis! You can buy all of her great themes on her TpT store, too, which could be a real time saver. Her Instagram account is worth a follow because she incorporates her yearly theme into every lesson and activity and promotion that she does. I am amazed at the teachers and librarians that change their theme each school year. It is quite a feat.
But some of you may be like me...a little overwhelmed at the idea of completely re-theming and re-decorating the library every single year. I wanted to select a theme that could inspire more permanent decor that would not require me to repurchase and replace every single year. This is probably because I'm new to the school this year and there are a lot of things about the physical library space I want to change. I want it to be brighter and more flexible. I want to create "zones" for different tasks, etc. I have told the story of how I came upon my theme in an earlier post (read it here) so I won't go into that now, but the theme has definitely taken on a life of its own at this point. I also decided that I did not want to store all of the things that come along with changing themes each year. If I spent $100 on new blue lamps to match an ocean theme and they don't coordinate with the following year's jungle theme, what do I do with them? I certainly wouldn't want to get rid of them. And I certainly do not want to store them! But that is me. You have to decide what works for you and your students.
Themes create an environment!
Themes can also help you to create a safe, welcoming, and engaging learning environment within the school library. We all want students to feel safe in our libraries. We want them to feel that they are supported in their freedom to read...their choices matter...their opinions matter...their voices can be heard. An effective library theme can help you lay the foundation for that type of space.
COLOR: Think about the colors you choose to support your theme. What emotions and feelings do they evoke? Maybe your students need the library to be a calm, quiet environment so you select a farmhouse theme with grays and little pops of color scattered about. The gray would be a more soothing color for students. Here is an example of gray I found from one of my favorites School Girl Style.
Or maybe you need your library to have a more bold vibe so you choose to use brights that will pop on a black background. Here is a fantastic example of that from the 2nd Grade Stuff blog.
I chose my colors based on my keyword, HAPPY. I want my students to feel like they are stepping in sunshine when they come in the library, so I made sure that yellow was a key color in my theme and I have selected little sunshine clip-art to enhance some of my decorations. I even turned a graduate school assignment of creating a personal logo/brand into a sunshine-inspired project!
SPACE DESIGN: I could do multiple posts on how the layout of the library impacts how students feel and how they work, but this post is already getting a bit long-winded. Just know that your theme can enhance or detract from your physical library space. Assuming that things are heavy and you don't really have a flexible space, you need to think about how your theme can be worked into the existing layout. If you have a lot of heavy wood-stained furniture, maybe you need to brighten things up with brighter accents and themed decorations. If you have all white furniture and walls, what could you add to ground the space a bit more to keep it from feeling too airy?
LESSONS: The final thing to keep in mind when using your library theme to create an inspiring environment for students is how you can incorporate it into your library lessons. I saw an adorable ninja-themed library book care presentation by The Library Fox on TpT and immediately thought of other ways ninjas could be a cute theme for a library! Those ninjas could show up for your library procedures lesson, you could dress up as a ninja, the kids could become ninjas as they read books for your reading incentive program, and you could place little ninjas all around your library...popping out of books like this idea I found on Pinterest. The possibilities are endless.
My first library lesson of the year is going to be an introduction to myself (since the kids have never met me before) and I plan to have a HAPPY party, complete with a book and music. If you want to read more about that idea, see the previous post on that here.
Hopefully you have found a little inspiration in thinking about themes for your school library in this post. But if you need a little more...head on over to my Pinterest page and see that I really am obsessed with themes! And talk to other school librarians, as they probably all have different ideas and opinions on how you can incorporate a theme for your students next year. Whether you decide to change each year or keep a more permanent theme, even small touches of a common theme can make for a fun and inspirational library space...and when inspired, students will create and learn in unexpected ways!
As a young girl, I vividly remember laying on the floor of our home and coloring poster-sized characters for my mom's bulletin boards. She would find a character she wished to use, place the image on an opaque projector, trace it out onto poster board, and then would allow me to bring the character to life with markers and crayons! My "go-to" method of artistry involved coloring the character with crayons, but then outlining sections with the coordinating marker. What fun that was! I loved helping her bring her bulletin boards to life. I guess you may have guessed, I'm the daughter of a now-retired elementary school teacher.
Fast forward several decades and here I am, embarking on my journey in an elementary school as the librarian. I'm excited about so many aspects of this new adventure, but as I'm closing the door on one job and trying to unwind with some summer fun, I keep finding myself on PInterest. Oh, I know that you teachers and librarians out there know what I'm up to....
I cannot stop thinking about the decorating of the space! I keep imagining vivid colors, flexible seating areas, cute centers, and fuzzy rugs. A lot of time, money, and effort can go in to making an inviting learning space. So, after much browsing and doodling and pondering......and being realistic about what I already own.....I have decided on a color scheme that I think will be perfect for The Happy Library! And I had to look no further than the color scheme I used here on the blog...
This fabric swatch was something I pinned on Pinterest a long time ago because I just loved the vivid color and the happy floral pattern. It prompted me to search for more color inspiration...
These little sunburst poms popped up in my Pinterest feed and I just knew I had to use yellow! They scream "happy" right?! The library has no windows, but just a set of doors that let in a little natural light. Adding yellow into the color scheme will make the dark carpet, dark book cases (the ones with the oddly colored laminate) and the dark-stained library furniture and circulation desk seem less heavy, I think. So, I found a few more inspirational photos that had the yellow....
The dino prints are available here on Etsy. I won't order these, but the color combo is exactly what I'm looking to re-create. I always love ideas from Schoolgirl Style and her lanterns have become a staple in my classrooms, libraries, and offices in the past. Her latest collection called "Pina Colada Pineapple" has a lot of the colors I'm looking to use! Although I won't be adding in all the pink, I do think I may order some of the borders, lanterns, and pennants printed with the yellow, teal, orange, and green.
The fabric swatches on the top right photo can be found through Better Homes and Gardens and the flame-stitch-patterned fabric swatch below it is available through Fabric.com and is a solarium fabric. I don't think I'm ordering any of the fabrics, but these are just inspiration for planning out what colors to use on furniture, displays, bulletin boards, and accessories within the library spaces.
And remember the strange color of the bookcase laminate? I shared this photo in the last post, but I've zoomed in a bit so that you can see what I'm talking about. It appears that it might have been a more vivid blue at some point in time (or possibly green?) but it is now a strange color that I can't even name....well, enter the teal color. I'm thinking that using the teal will actually make these bookcases look teal, even if they are not. Hoping I'm right on this...
So, if my color palette had to be summed up, it is the one pictured above. This swatch was found on Pinterest and links to Erin Williamson Design. I think she must have pinned it to Flickr or some other site like that. I couldn't find the original source, but I'll give her credit since she added it to Pinterest.
The colors are a lively apple green (center), a slightly darker version of the green, my favorite teal, orange (with more of a coral undertone than red), and a happy yellow. This color combo really makes my heart sing! I will certainly post photos as I begin to put items together and of course will post the decorating process once I'm actually in the library. And you can always follow my inspiration board on Pinterest.
Who to follow: