I’m one of those…

Quite often other librarians ask how do you get those reluctant readers at your Alternative school in the library?  When I first came to this school, I had two readers.  The students were used to being hounded about getting books back to the library, so no one bothered to come to the library.  It was desolute,uninviting and full of JUNK!  I cleaned the place out.  I weeded those overstuffed shelves and got rid of 20 years of junk!  The students slowly began to trickle in… They would say, “I didn’t know there was a window there!”  The place was so covered up that the windows were hidden behind more junk.

I couldn’t get rid of years of smellyness, so I put out dryer sheets behind the books and the place smells really nice.  Still not many students or teachers for that matter came to the library.  It was lonely that first year.  I ordered new fiction to replace the weeded material.  I begged the principal for more money.  Whenever she had extra, she would send it my way.  The shelves were looking nice, the place smelled good and the windows brought in the light…

Still, I was alone; untill one day, I left the library and went into the halls with new books.  I spoke to students and showed them the new books and invited them down.  Some came in.

I emailed teachers and told them how I could help them with their classes.  They were reluctant also, since they didn’t really know me yet.  Some classes came in by the end of the 2nd semester.  What a conundrum!  How could I stay here without anyone coming to the library?  I had left a school where I ran 2 libraries, had 3200 students and 225 teachers to come to a school with 1 small space, 180 students and 20 teachers.  I took on more and more responsibilities for the school and the district.  I had plenty of WORK, but not many interested students.

The trickle of students began to grow when students would hear book blurbs on the announcements.  I handed out book blurbs to teachers and asked them to read them to their students when they had any “down” time. Students were beginning to see that the library was infused with new fiction; one student would tell a friend… until….

No, there still was never a flood that first year. : (  I was busy as could be, but so lonely that I questioned my move to this school.

BUT!  At the beginning of the next year during inservice, I spoke to the faculty and explained what all had transpired the year before and showed them the new library and all the new books.  “Please bring your classes down to the library the very first month.  Please put the library in your lesson plans at least once every nine weeks,” I begged.

In Field of Dreams; “If you build it, they will come,” was true, but I need to add, “If you work hard, and gain trust they will come.”  The next year classes were booked and students were amazed at the new literature available to them.  Of course, new books were not enough for my darling, reluctant, “hate” reading, students; they had to know about the books.  I love reading YA books, so I talked and talked the books to the students and they CHECKED THEM OUT!

The first month of the 2nd year the student visits to the library was a staggering number.  More about how to get students and teachers into the library later.

 

Books are for kids! Down with book fines.

I am asked by students everyday, “How many books can I check out?” My answer is simple, “How many would you like?” Of course, they are shocked and amazed! “You mean I could take all four of these?”

I don’t put limits on how many books a student checks out, nor do I charge fines. These are things that just keep students out of the library and books wasting on the shelves. What good is that?

I ask the students to bring the books back in three weeks, but I don’t charge fines or hound them about it. I send out reminders about every 6-9 weeks.

I believe that a book in a student’s hand is better than a book getting moldy on the shelf. Other librarians tell me, “Well, I sure don’t get enough money to just throw books out the door!” I explain that I am not throwing books out the door. And yes, a few books get lost in the school year, but they were going to anyway! We never get back all the books that go out the door. So what?! Replace it or buy a new title. Books in hands are still better than books on shelves. If the student loses a book, he has to pay for it; Well, that is in a perfect world.

My students rise to the expectation that I set. They come back in three weeks and either return or recheck a book. I ask them a little about the book. I hate when a student returns a book and I how they liked it and they say, “I never got to read it.” My reply? “Here recheck it! Or let’s get you something you will love!”

Books on a shelf is just a waste of district money, but books in students’ hands can change their lives!

He HATES reading!

This morning as I sat in my little school library working on the next mentoring lesson presentation, a young man from our GED program came into the library. 

“Hi, do you remember me?”

“Sure!  How are you liking your book?” I asked him.

“Do you remember that I HATE reading?”

“Yes, so does that mean you don’t like the book?”

“No, just the opposite!  I love it!  I have only read 4 books in my life!” said the 20 year old student.

“No one has ever taken the time to tell me about a book before you.  This book is incredible!  Do you have any more just like it?”  He asked enthusiastically.

“Well, no not exactly like that, but there is a sequel to that one that I found a bit repetitive.  You could try it, but I have another that you would like.  Would you like to try it?  Let me tell you a little about it.”

“That sounds like something that I would like.”

“Do you remember that you have to give me 20 pages before you decide whether you like it or not?”

“Yes, ma’am, I remember.”

“Are your eyes still jumping around the page?  Did you use your blue slip?”

“I can’t believe that something so easy would make my eyes calm down enough to read, and I can’t believe that ANYONE could have gotten me to read a book!”