Bless my giddy aunt! What is this "SHUSH!" business? More importantly why is a year 8 student saying it, and not me, when I'm the Teacher Librarian here? Stereotype anyone?
Let's get this right, once and for all. 21st Century Libraries aren't "SHUSH!" spaces. Redefining what a Library is, and what behaviours are encouraged, begins with the physical space, and how students feel when they walk into it. In promoting themselves as Community Centres, Libraries should reinforce that learning is crazy, amazing, collaborative fun. In our libraries, students should be intrigued, amazed, excited and feel a part of their school community. Information is everywhere.....let's get excited about it! It's Inquiry Learning, but not as you know it, where every shelf, area and seating space is a chance to ignite cognitive functioning!
So, how does a Teacher Librarian transform their Library from a SHUSH Space? By golly gosh, you have come to the right place..
Ms Yarn's Top Tips for converting your High School Library from a SHUSH space to an ENGAGEMENT space: Tip 1: Ask. Question. Interview teens. What ideas do they have? What needs? Invite staff to comment also.
Tip 2: Observe. How is the library used, by whom and for what purpose? Observe at breaks as well.
Tip 3: Don't be afraid to move furniture to create the zones you need. Yes, there's 1000's of books to shift. Students will help you. Create the spaces thinking about their primary role. To talk? To study?
Tip 4: Lunchtime Clubs are great: Knitting, gaming, movie making, colouring in, craft. Keep kids busy, it. Run tournaments and comps that support their club. Cook some popcorn for your movie maker crew to share their clips at the end of the term. Use volunteers!
Tip 5: Know your students. Every student in the school comes to your 'classroom'. Get to know as many as you can. Why do use the facility? What can you offer to improve their experience?
Tip 6: When it comes to furniture, you can ignore expensive furniture catalogues. Look at what's popular in places that kids access, or that you access in your private life. Elements of your favourite store or place can be introduced. The cheap $5 floral couch becomes 'NANNA'S COUCH FOR NINJA KNITTERS'. Inject humour with elements of popular culture, and design staples such as chalk paint, retro fun and intrigue. Students will enjoy the changes, mystery and silliness.
Tip 7: Introduce characters that have specific roles: It's not you introducing the rules, it's GRUMPY CAT.
Tip 8: Have a theme for the year that you connect Library events, activities and resources. Eg: Yarnology = knitting, craft, talking, culture, mindfulness, decoration, inter-generational learning. Wool really can bring a lot of students, staff and school community together. Origami is also an easy theme to introduce that teaches skills, encourages mindfulness and collaboration.
Tip 9: You are never too old for a tub of LEGO. Lego Comps. Film LEGO people with kinetic sand!
Tip 10: If you have an idea, run with it. If it doesn't work, change it. Students love to see new and evolving changes as they visit the Library over the year. Something as simple as changing seating arrangements gets them excited. If you don't have an idea, connect with others to find some.
Moving on..here's a review of changes made this year... - A realignment of the Non Fiction Print Collection into parallel lines (from a maze like structure that confused students) has created a whole new ‘Chill Zone’ for reading, hanging out and the playing of board games at lunch.
- Lunchtime supervision is now so much easier..the hiding holes are gone, and so is the destructive behaviours in regard to sneaking in food and sneaky damage to books. Student behaviours are modifying. “Hello boys, how are you?” Hats are removed, “Please and Thank you”, learning to sit and engage with others has replaced behaviours that were initially quite challenging given the size of the space and issues with layout as well! (One Teacher Librarian on lunch duty and 130+ kids is pretty full on).
- Tired furniture has been recovered by yours truly, an eclectic mix of cushions, and a few circle mats have created a sense of fun and offered a place that acknowledges kids love creativity and design. They feel spoiled and catered for.
- A few characters have been introduced: ‘Ethel Cameron’, (the ghost of The Hub) who haunts a book each week until she is found and a reward given. ‘Space Cat’, a lover of all things Science and new inventions has popped up, as has Grumpy Cat, who reinforces the odd rule about food and drink.
- The Easter Bunny dropped in over Easter and students are wondering already about Christmas at The Hub. The MHS Hub Instagram page reported The Easter Bunny’s expected visit. (Watching the Instagram followers who knew this fact, feverishly search amongst the collection while their friends sat bemused as to why a seventeen year old was muttering something about the Easter Bunny being in the 900’s was a classic).
- ‘The Pom Pom Factory’ has promoted fun, mindfulness and the garlands have begun to wrap around the Library, as students excitedly point out their creations to friends. - The Lego Station has supported high support students engage with their peers – Lego brings people together! Evolving into stop motions films in the Maker Space, using kinetic sand.
‘Are you coming to the Hub?’ has replaced ‘Who goes to the Library?’ at lunchtimes, where numbers have grown from 45 kids (counted by my Library Minion Volunteers) to our current maximum at 152. (Word travels fast.) The bags outside the door grew quickly, and sometimes block the way in. It's fascinating to watch kids relate to a finely crafted and constantly evolving space. A snap shot of thought processes streams across their faces: “It's quirky...there's fun furniture..pom poms are having everywhere..origami birds..but there's books..and magazines..and computers..boardgames..google searching..a sock monkey...some finger knitting...a retro telephone..things keep moving around...it's exciting. But what is happening here? I'll just sit...and watch and laugh- loudly, and create”.
A colleague commented last week that every time she enters The Hub: "It seems to have a hum, like an energy about it. Nobody says SHHHH THIS IS A LIBRARY. It's a place the kids are desperate to be". Just how we like it.
Looking for ideas? Follow this linkto sneak a peek into our High School Library Life!