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.