Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's the simple things...

This week in the library it was all about simple improvements at no cost.  First, we created three new circulation stations.

In the past, the computers dedicated to checking the library's catalog were always along the south wall of the library.  The stations looked nice, but they were inconvenient.  Students had to sit down, log on, and then  find the right website.  Regardless of how often I did mini-lessons the reality was that students rarely used the online catalog.

And then an idea...

What if I took one of the computers and created a stand-alone station?  Then the computer would be eye level and the library's catalog is already loaded.  We thought the idea had potential, but were unprepared for the student response.

Our pilot station was directly over the book return.  Since the book return is right by the entrance I figured students wouldn't miss the change.   I was right.  With little prompting a line formed to use the catalog.  Could it really be this simple?   I could hardly contain my excitement!

 So we created another station near the circulation desk.   This time I paired the move with book talks and a mini-lesson on how students could use the catalog to put books on hold.  The lines at both computers told me this was no accident.   In two days the catalog had gotten more use by students than the entire year before (and that's probably no exaggeration).
Flush with our success we dismantled the wall of computers (which only had one working computer left anyway) and put up our third station.  Students (and staff) couldn't be happier.  I have more time to do reader's advisory and checkout goes faster because Ms. Green doesn't have to put books on hold.  In fact even teachers noticed the change.  Yesterday Ms. Morris mentioned how much she liked the improvement, "It's something so simple but so effective!"

Since we were in the spirit of improvement I tried another cheap fix.  We have a whole class set of computers in the library now, which I love.

My only complaint was the monitors hindered my ability to see the students while I was teaching.  Some of my 6th graders couldn't see over the screens!  My first fix was just having students lay the monitors face down while I was instructing.  This was a huge improvement, but a recipe for disaster.  I knew it was only a matter of time before something terrible happened to our flat screens.

Instead we tried a configuration...
We moved the monitors to the side of the computer instead of having them on top. The few inches made a world of difference.  We even tried it out on a student and she could see me and the SMART Board from the back row.

Now students can see me when I'm instructing, I can see them when I'm teaching and they have a new sense of independence when they use the catalog to search for and hold items.  That's a good day's work.  Now if only all of my problems were so quickly remedied.

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