Saturday, October 26, 2013

Batty About Books

 Reporting in to show off our first ever Halloween display!

Halloween is not really a big holiday here in South Africa. The kids hear of it mostly through US television channels, like Disney. The younger kids I chatted to had been trick-or-treating to each other's houses and knew all about dressing up and costumes. The older ones were less clear on the holiday. Regardless, all ages were very happy to colour in 30+ bats to help me decorate the library.

Batty About Books!
The black fabric is felt, it was considerably expensive but will last forever. The Library Elves and I had to cut it to get to fit to the board- normally, if a piece of fabric is too long we just fold it up behind, but the felt was too thick. Due to this, we also have some back-up felt for future projects. Up close, the felt is very pitch dark and has a great texture. 

I saved up a bunch of our spooky/mystery books and displayed them below the display. I've also kept some books in reserve, to stock the display up when it runs low. I'm pleased to say that the first day that I had students come into the library, about 6 books have already been taken out: books that otherwise would have probably never gone off the shelves. In this way, I'd already consider the display a success.

Some of our happy bats hanging from the rafters.
In terms of Halloween activities, the colouring in of bats has absorbed much of their time. I also found a themed word-search online that was hugely popular, I must find more brainteasers for them to do. This term is jam-packed, prizegiving and exams are looming! If there is time, though, I'd like to run a spooky stories afternoon in the library. 

The refurbishing of the displays has brought in some great, often hilarious, comments from the students on how much they like the library 'now'. Many girls instantly notice and remark on the decor, while others walk on past and take a bit of time to actually 'discover' what has changed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

For some of my readers, this post title might confuse you. Surely it's autumn, you cry? Not here in the Southern Hemisphere, it isn't! Having our seasons opposite to the majority of the teaching-blogging world makes it somewhat interesting to search for appropriate themes and resources: Christmas is slap-bang in the middle of our summer, for example, so snowmen and winter scarf templates aren't that useful! In any case, it's currently spring here and I got myself in gear to put up a new display in the junior section.

Step 0: Wrestle pretty new green fabric onto full brown/grey display board. There is no picture for this, my Library Elves and I were far too busy wresting with the fabric.

Step 1: Locate willing Grade R class (Kindergarten). Get them to give you hand-prints on A4 paper in some bright colours. Attempt not to get covered in paint while helping them do this.

As you can see, I partially achieved Step 1.

Step 2: Locate willing Library Elves to cut strips of coloured paper for the stems and to arrange the hand-prints into beautiful spring flowers. Persuade Library Elves to cut out lettering for the display, also from coloured paper.

Working away in the library this afternoon.

 Step 3: Take photos of the students' hard work. Marvel at their creativity and drive.

Junior Display: Let Your Imagination BLOOM

I'm really so proud of them, they really took on this task with massive enthusiasm and seemed to enjoy it. The majority of the students were working on it were Grade 6s, so I'm eyeing them up for Library Monitor duty next year! This will brighten up the junior side an incredible amount. While this display was being constructed, we were also working on our snazzy new Halloween display for the other side of the library. At the same time, we were also making lists of the books that we are planning on withdrawing. Things are certainly busy at this time of the year!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weeding the Collection

After some discussion with my administration, we have agreed that our collection (+/- 5000 books) needs to be weeded. Our shelves are mostly full but, honestly, that isn't always the best idea. It will make my life a lot easier during the upcoming stock-taking if the obsolete books are already withdrawn. Library Girl recently posted a great flyer which has been my inspiration during the weeding process, take a look at it on her blog.

Just some of the books that we are planning on withdrawing!

I must admit that it's a difficult process. The outgoing librarian told me that she didn't like to remove many books, because then the shelves would look empty. Now that we've spent a few days making piles of books to remove, I can see those empty spaces. They are daunting. Some of the books we are withdrawing are hardback books, and are in better condition than the newer books in the library, so it sometimes feels like a shame to remove them. If I am honest, they are in such 'good' condition because they have been checked out so rarely. A few of the books are classic tales, but unfortunately the language or content is generally far beyond what our students want to read. At the same time, though, I have new books waiting in my office, eager to be covered in plastic (a battle, and blog post, for another day...) and get onto those shelves. 

That first sentence is part of the reason this collection is badly in need of weeding!

I hope that we are able to find a place to donate or sell these books to. Despite this being a university town, many of the local schools are not well resourced. Maybe some of the high schools will receive these books better than our students have.

Besides the weeding, I have two big projects on the go: moving the collection from manual cataloging to digital (!) and sorting the fiction by genre. The latter is not really worth doing unless the former is also going to happen. I've been deep into parts of the internet I knew nothing about, namely, integrated library systems. It seems that all of the free options are based on Linux (I have zero experience with Linux), while the Windows solutions cost an arm and a leg. Trying to find a compromise between these two extremes is proving difficult. I would be fine with advising purchase of a software as long as the cost was reasonable, but I've yet to find something suitable. The software that can automate the cataloging is very important to me, because up until now our whole collection has been on a manual card system. My ideal software will let me scan the book's ISBN and pull all the data that is required, without me having to type out 5000+ entries by hand. It will also cater for a school system, such as grouping patrons by grade/class and student/staff. This software would be clear and modern, without the Windows 95/98 look I see plaguing the Windows options (I love the look of Koha's layout). 

If anyone has any suggestions on library software, please feel free to comment and let me know!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Senior Primary Display: A Blast from the Past

Now that I've taken this display down in preparation for our next one, I've finally found time to put the pictures up here! This theme was Blast from the Past, a broad sweep through history and a good chance for me to see what find of historical fiction (and non-fiction) we have. As always, click on the pictures for a big version.

As you can see, we have dinosaurs, pyramids, music records and a variety of people from the ages. The music records are a very old part of our collection, I guess that we have about 20 of them. I have no idea of they still work, as there is no access to a record player to test them out. For now, they are decor. 

A closer view of the plastic toy dinosaurs, kindly loaned to me by a friendly grade 1 teacher. 

A close-up of my amazing hand-drawn dinosaurs. The design was taken from a fabulous teacher online somewhere, but I'm impressed that I was managed to reproduce it to such cute effect. These have been laminated and kept for another day. 

I have a feeling that this display, theme-wise, wasn't as big a hit as the animal theme. The students just seemed less interested in the variety of historical fiction (what do you mean, you don't want to read about the London Blitz?!). I've heard that historical fiction can be a hard sell to students of this age group, so I'm not too worried.

My next display will probably be one for Halloween, I've been working on the components. It isn't a big holiday here in South Africa, so my students are amused by the novelty of it and have been helping me out by creating art for decorating purposes.

Prizegiving is coming up at our school, wrapping up the year before final exams start. I've been given the job of arranging the printing of all the certificates, for both junior and senior primary (400+ students). Hopefully I can do it in good time and without it becoming a big stress.