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!
Who to follow: