7 June 2023
Library books on a shelf in a classroom

As a Librarian, nothing is more frustrating than having students look at our shelves filled with thousands of books and say there is nothing they want to read. I wanted to leverage the RAILS My Library Is Grant to make my shelves more accessible and encourage reading throughout the John T. Pirie Fine Arts and Academic Center.

I began by heavily weeding the Everybody section of the Library. I wanted to make sure that the best of our books were not hidden between outdated and worn titles. Then, I purchased several book bins that would allow selected picture books to be front-facing to highlight covers and titles. Based on circulation data and conversations with students, I selected books for the bins that would pique their interest. I created bins for favorite authors, series, and subjects, each with a colorful label telling students what they could find within. Finally, I placed the bins on the shelves next to the traditional spine facing out books, allowing for a visually appealing display and easy access to students’ favorite books. 

I was amazed by how quickly this change improved circulation for my younger students. They were able to quickly find books they loved! I have also been able to strategically use the bins to improve the circulation of other books that may have been slated for weeding, but have now found a new audience. 

I also created bins for my older students. These bins, however, focused on read-alikes for favorite books. I found that many students stalled after reading a series and seemed apprehensive about venturing to other books. For example, students who loved Dog Man but had already read the entire series would complain that they had nothing else to read. These new bins, however, gave them easy-to-find books that were similar to the books they already loved. For many students, it reignited their excitement for reading.

Being the only staff member in the Library, it can be difficult to assist students in finding books while also teaching lessons, managing a class, and checking out books. To help students be more independent in finding particular books, I also used grant funds to purchase new signage for all sections of the Library - alphabet signs for the Everybody and Fiction sections and Dewey and subject signs for the Non-fiction section. These signs worked perfectly to direct students to a particular shelf without having to walk them to the area. They also increased interest in the Nonfiction section since it advertised high-interest subjects and made the books easy to find.

Finally, I wanted to increase Library visibility throughout the school. I purchased Library bags for the primary students to use to transport their books to and from the library. They were a big hit among the students and they loved walking around the building with their bags. These bags also increased visibility at home with parents and made it easier for books to be located and returned. I also acquired a button maker and students were encouraged to make buttons promoting their favorite books.

Overall, the RAILS My Library Is grant was very successful. The new signage gave the space a much-needed facelift and generated excitement. The book bins went an even further step towards making books easily accessible. Combined, these factors increased book circulation and overall interest in reading among the students at my school. I look forward to changing out the bins to keep up with the latest reading trends and continuing to build excitement around reading at my school.

Today's guest blog post is from Staci Bell (she/her), Librarian, at John T. Pirie Fine Arts and Academic Center, Chicago, IL