So What Do Librarians Do in the Summer Without Students?
Beep….beep….beep…goes the scanner as I do inventory in the empty library during my extended employment. Inventory seems like such a boring job. Putting books in order, scanning books, moving books, repairing books….is this all there is to being a librarian? Many do not see a need for doing an inventory now that most libraries are computerized. I remember doing inventory, when I first became a librarian years ago, using the cards in the card catalog to reconcile the shelves. Shelf order was VERY important then.
So, why is inventory so important? I think it is important for a librarian to know their collection. I think it is really important to do a complete inventory when you are a new librarian or move to a new or different school. You really get to physically know the collection which will better prepare you for ordering and recommending items to your patrons. As I scan books, I notice things like “oh, I have multiple copies of The Secret Life of Bees.” I need to let my English teachers know this so they can recommend this book when they do lit circles and need multiple copies of books. With budget cuts, we need to utilize what we already have in the library. When I came across the literary help books I remembered that the AP classes always do literary criticisms. They often have a difficult time finding exactly what they need online. We have copies of various literary criticisms on various AP books. I need to encourage AP students to browse the AP helps shelf before they choose an AP fiction book to read.
As I inventory the 300’s, 500’s and 600’s, I realize how quickly these items out date themselves. I have some really nice reference science books and books on various research topics, but they get lost in the old stuff. Some people have a difficult time with weeding, but in these sections, weeding is almost always necessary and easy to do. Many times newer reference or nonfiction informational books have a list of web sites as references. Your teachers can use these with students for research or more in depth study of a topic. Are you familiar with your Science Standards? On what topics do you need books? Doing inventory helps you beef up sections to align with the Standards.
Maybe you want to do a rotating partial inventory. Just inventory a section at a time. With computerization, this is now easier than ever. Maybe just inventory your most circulated areas. Maybe you want to inventory the sections that aren’t circulated as much and you can find out how you can weed and make this section much more attractive to your students. Maybe one of your student growth goals is to increase circulation in a certain area or genre. An inventory, weeding, and data from this area would be a must.
During inventory, I also find out why some books never get circulated. Sometimes it is because they are in bad shape, the covers are just outdated and do not appeal to teenagers, or they might be found better in a display or promotion of some sort. I think it is worth purchasing newer classics with appealing covers if it will get kids to check them out, especially if there is a movie coming out. 🙂
My library aide likes to find all of the little “issues” we call them when we inventory; books that had been marked lost at one point, now found, books that were checked out to someone but got put back on the shelf and didn’t get scanned in properly, books with spine injuries in need of repair, books in the wrong home on the shelf,…as a side bar, don’t you hate it when you look up a book on the card catalog and it is suppose to be available, on the shelf, and you can’t find it in the library anywhere!…. yeah, those types of issues.
I also love all of the wonderful hidden treasures I find doing inventory. I find books that I totally forgot we had, books I can’t wait to read, and books I can’t wait to recommend. Some of my teachers call me their personal librarian. I know them so well, that when I find a book that I think they would enjoy, I check it out to them and stick it in their mailbox with a little note. They love this! Talk about great PR. There are some students I can do this for as well. I can’t put the book in a mailbox, but I can send them an email or catch them the next time I see them in the library and say, “Hey, look at this book I found. I thought of you when I saw it.” They love it!
photo from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
But what else is there to do during extended employment besides inventory?
Brainstorm and work on ideas for library and/or reading promotion. Last year in our district, we tried to do a reading promotional each month at our schools. Summer is a good time to research on Pinterest, the Librarian’s Listserve, and at conferences to get new ideas for promoting reading in your school.
Clean up records, patrons, card catalog, shelves, and displays.
Send notices home to those who forgot to turn in their books at the end of the school year.
Catch up on professional reading pertaining to the library and literacy.
A chance to clean up, throw out, and go through stuff that needs to be thrown away.
How about giving that library web page a facelift? It is difficult to find quiet time throughout the school year to revamp your web page, but extended days are a good time to do that.
Work on book orders for the coming year. If you are like me, I just create a wish list or basket on Barnes & Noble or Permabound as I discover books I want to order then all I have to do is print out the list and write up a purchase order.
Let your creativity shine by updating displays, signage, brochures, bookmarks, or anything else you like to create for your library. We do not always have time during the busy school year to design new items.
Redecorate- Every two years or so I like to totally redo parts of the library. This keeps it looking fresh and renewed. Some of you have even painted, decoupaged, or totally moved and changed your entire library. Kudos to you! The kids always love coming in on Open House night and looking to see what has or hasn’t changed. This is why I enjoy going to Summer Refresher. I always find new ideas from the host school. Also if you attend your district meetings, check out the host schools and get even more ideas from them. And then of course there is Pinterest. If you do not use Pinterest, you must! It is one of my favorite techy past times, or as I like to tell my students, one of my favorite time killers.
Organize your library files in Google drive, or One Drive, or whatever cloud storage of your choice. Yes, I said cloud storage. Our school just had us to convert to Google storage from our hard drives on the computers. We had a share drive we used and it was getting too full. So, we converted to Google drive since we are a Google education school. I converted last summer and I have to say that I love it. If you haven’t tried cloud storage, you must. There were too many times that I needed something that was stored on the share drive at school and I was working on lessons at home and needed it. I used a thumb drive for a while, but the cloud storage is the way to go. You can mark your files as private and only share what you want to. I try to clean out my files every Summer. If I don’t, I have to sort through tons of stuff that I don’t need or will never use again to find my “daily go-to’s” .
Spice up that library orientation bit you share each year with new students; kindergartners, sixth graders, freshmen, or whoever is new to your building. There are always new ways to share information for the “newbies” in the building. I am updating my library brochure and tweeting it and putting it on the library Facebook page. If students bring it in signed by a parent, I am going to give them an AR point. I might even have parents email me that they read the brochure and give the student one point. Not sure how well it is going to go over, but you never know until you try. Here is my brochure.
How about starting that Makerspace you have been wanting to start. Summertime is a good time to find materials at yard sales, beg from friends who are cleaning out garages and attics, or make a wish list to order once school starts. Start small with one table or corner and grow from there. I started with just one cabinet. It was not used a great deal this year, but the kids have started talking about the cabinet in the library with fun stuff to do in it. They stopped by after testing to check it out. In high school, you just take your opportunities when you can get them to draw teens into the library.
How about creating book talks to share with your students next school year. Some of you librarians are super with these. I do individual book talks with students one-on-one when they come in and ask what is good to read. Those of you in middle and elementary schools get to do lots of book talks. What a great way to share your love of books with kids. I am going to try and do at least one or two book talks a week virtually on Twitter and our library Facebook page. I know it is not the same as sharing one-on-one with students, and I will continue to do this with kids as needed, but I want to reach a bigger audience.
How about getting acquainted with different series of books. Students are always coming up and asking for the next book in a series. Are you familiar with the various series in your library? We have a series notebook my assistant put together, for her own benefit as much as for the kids. One librarian shared she marks the series on the spine with colored numbers. I tried using author plates on my shelves this year. The kids could find their favorites easier and know where the books go on the shelves.
Another thing I do over the summer as a librarian is send a report to my principal, and sometimes even my superintendent. I report the results of the inventory, library usage reports, AR/STAR usage reports, different collaboration efforts with various teachers, the number of classroom visits I had with various teachers, new things I tried in the library for promotion, and the number of new items added to the collection. I try to do a quarterly report after each nine weeks through out the year as well. It is important to let administrators know how much the library is utilized and how important it is to students and teachers. We have to be our own advocates since we are a department of one in our buildings.
The final thing to remember to do over the summer is to recharge those batteries and relax. Enjoy some reading. How can we recommend those books if you don’t read them ourselves. Catch up on what new items that are out there that fit your library’s reading levels. What new series are out there? Mark in your phone calendar when certain “got to have books” come out so that you can get them in your library. That is one reason why we have such great circulation rates is that we try to keep new and hot books on our shelves and available to students who maybe can’t just click an order button and get their own copy. Just make sure you share your favorite summer reads with your fellow librarians. As hard as I try, I can’t read them all.
cartoon from www.colbymarshall.com