Category Archives: Ideas

A Quick Weeding Tip Using Destiny

Does your school system use Destiny? If not, you can skip my post this month, but if you do then here’s a little trick I’ve figured out to help with weeding.

I’ve learned that weeding is one of those tasks that is best done little and often. If you wait for a big shining quiet spot on the calendar to get a whole bunch of it finished at once, you will be waiting forever. So I prefer to pull only a few books at a time and delete them whenever I get a chance. Once I’ve filled a number of boxes, I ship them out and start over. It’s a continual process but makes me happy to be getting rid of the massive amounts of dead wood my library has accumulated over the past sixteen or so years.

The normal way I believe people weed is to print out a collection management report from either Follett or someone else. You pick a section and it lists all the books that are past the fifteen year copyright date. Some of those books will be good to weed. Some of them are okay to keep. It takes a while to figure all of this out.

But one thing you can do before you start with this report is to go into Destiny first. One of your report options is “Top/Bottom Titles.” This will show you the top or bottom circulating titles in any given Dewey range you’d like. It’s an interesting thing to play with anyway, but for our purposes today you want to select the bottom titles in whatever section and give it a nice long time period. I put something crazy in like, “past 30 years” to make sure I’m getting all the information I can.

The thing that knocked me out was that as old as my collection is, in pretty much every section I ran this on I found books that had been checked out exactly ZERO times. Now to be fair, it really only means they’ve been checked out zero times since we got Destiny in 2004. The books might have checked out a couple of times before that. But that’s still eight long years seeing no action. This is the easiest weeding you’ll ever do!

It’s freaky too, when you go over to a shelf stuffed with old books, find the title and pull it off the shelf. It’s usually a very bland, monochromatic Bound-to-Stay-Bound book that creaks when you open it. It really never has circulated! It’s usually not surprising when you see it, either. It’ll be some thing like All About Wood with a copyright date of 1984 or something. Weed it!

And don’t stop with the zeroes, either. I figure those books that circulate less than once a year (seven times or less for me) are just not paying their rent, if you get my meaning. Seek them out and weed them! You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA

Volunteer Gifts!

Volunteer Gifts! (and clerks, of course!)It’s a challenge every year, isn’t it?  And gift giving is such a minefield these days.  How much to spend?  What if there’s no money?  Dietary restrictions? What holidays are they cool with?

Well I have some answers for you, my friends!  Of course, most of these are not my own.  I’ve been collecting them for years from other blogs, teachers, media folks, and online comments.

Let me just start by saying, personally, I like things that go away.  Baked goods and gift cards.  None of us need anymore candles, tree ornaments or candy-filled mugs.  But that’s just me.  Here we go:

Some people have…

…bought a beach bag with a towel, sunscreen, water bottles, and beach toys.

…bought an ice cream bowl, scoop, and gift card to ice cream place.

…bought a bowl, microwave popcorn, candy, soda, and video rental gift card.

…made a gift basket out of BBQ items.

…made a small gift basket with pen, memo pad and other small supplies.

…bought a set of patio dishes and glasses.
…gave a nice notecard set.

…bought a nice beach towel.

…gave a nice candle.

…gave some bath stuff.

…gave a potted or hanging plant or flowers.

…gave a gift card. (One teacher said they gave a MC/Visa gift card so the volunteer could use it as they pleased).

…got a yummy type of chocolate…Ghiraldi Peppermint Bark this year and attach a bookstore gift card

…baked them some pumpkin bread and/or Starbucks gift cards.

…had a luncheon and then give a nice ornament or poinsettia.  At the end of the year, we do a breakfast and another small gift like soap or stationery.  We also give them a book & treat bag during each book fair.

…got fleece throws at Kohls (I think they were $4 with my coupon) and I was going to attach some homemade chocolates and a note for them to use this to snuggle up with a good book this holiday season.  Last year I found winter themed to go coffee cups and put in packets of hot chocolate in them plus some homemade chocolates.

…bought them pedicures. They loved it!

…gave an ornament with their child’s picture in it.  The volunteers love it.  For those volunteers that do not celebrate Christmas I just put their child’s picture in a non-holiday frame.

…had a good friend who makes key chains, wristlets, and lanyards and all of the proceeds go to a charity.  I am ordering key chains for all of my aides, a wristlet for teachers who are always good “customers” and will probably order lanyards next semester for end of the year gifts.

…purchased tree ornaments from Pier One and they loved them!

…usually hit Bath & Body Works for all their travel sized items.  This year, I’ve done the socks infused with shea butter and an anti-bacterial lotion.  The most important part is presentation.  You don’t have to spend a lot, just make sure you wrap in cute cellophane and maybe throw some candy in there, too.  They always love it!

..purchased gift certificates from  to local establishments.  $25 denominations only cost $2 each.

…moved away from the Christmas gift and give them a token of our appreciation towards the end of the year.  I try to write personal notes throughout the year to let them know how much I appreciate them.

…make a few homemade goodies and write a nice thank-you note.

…took NEW books that I just ordered and  before I circulate them, I let the volunteers children come by and look at them and select a book to “dedicate” to their mom.  I make a dedication page and put it in the book which we cover with clear contact paper.  I then let the child be the first one to check it out when it is ready.  I also print a thank you card with a picture of the cover of the dedicated book.

…buy these lovely ladies gift cards out of my own pocket and am happy to do it.  But if I had more than my current 3 or 4 volunteers, I’d just do a whole lot more baking.  I also brought in a coffee maker last year and keep that stocked with good coffee and creamer and such out of my own pocket.  Because they are awesome.

More ideas?  Leave them in the comments!

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA

Celebrating Literacy in the Library and Inviting Participation

How do you invite a participatory culture in your library?  For me, this is a term that is an embedded part of my philosophy.  I strive to find ways for students to have multiple opportunities to connect, participate, collaborate, and create in the media center throughout the year.  All students don’t participate every time, which is fine, but my goal is to offer enough variety of experiences through collaborative lessons, resource promotions, and incentives/contests that every student has a chance to find a place to participate during the year.

After several impromptu conversations with parents and teachers recently, I’ve come to value the power of library sponsored literacy contests and reading promotions.  Teachers have mentioned that they love the “choice” that is a part of these contests and promotions because they see such a variety of students who participate.  Parents have commented to me that their child had no interest in writing poetry or essays until a contest came along.  Multiple parents have mentioned the motivating power of these contests.  My parapro and I have seen how the simple interactive component of stamping a box on a piece of paper can give direction in choosing new books outside of comfort zones and motivation to try something new.

What have I done this year?

  • In September/October, students had sheets where they were asked to read books from different categories of the library such as biographies, informational, graphic novel, fiction, etc.  Each time they read one of these books, they earned a stamp, and they stamped their papers themselves.  When they completed their sheets, they had their name displayed in the media center on our book fair decorations and had their name entered into a drawing for a book fair gift certificate.  Requirements for the sheets were different for each grade level.
  • In October, we partnered with a few other schools in the district and Avid Bookshop, a local independent bookstore, and held a Mysteries of Harris Burdick writing contest.  Students in every grade wrote stories based on the images of the book by Chris Van Allsburg.  We judged the final pieces at the school level to choose the best pieces and sent those on to Avid Bookshop for a local competition.  Avid recruited authors and other community members to select several finalists who were honored at a celebration at the bookshop.  One winner was chosen to enter a national competition.  All students who entered the contest received a certificate of participation.
  • In November, we celebrated National Picture Book Month.  Picture books were promoted all month long on our morning broadcast, and students kept a record of all of the picture books they read for the month, no matter where they came from or whether they were read to them or by themselves.  Depending on how many books students read they earned a bookmark, picture book month certificate, and their name in a drawing for free picture books.  We had about 180 students turn in sheets out of 500 students and over 3,500 picture books were logged during November.

What else is coming this year?

  • In January and February, we will sponsor a persuasive writing contest.  At the moment, we think this will be a spin-off of picture book month.  The picture book month site has several essays by authors about the importance of picture books that could serve as mentor texts for students.  I have already promoted this in collaborative meetings with teachers as a possible project I might work on with whole classes or groups of students.  Students will write pieces about the importance of picture books.
  • In March, we will hold another reading promotion leading up to our spring book fair where students earn stamps.
  • In April, our 2nd annual poetry contest will be held.  This was a huge success last year with over 150 entries from students.  Poems can be written in any form (rhyming, list poetry, free verse, acrostic, etc) and any platform (a napkin, hand written on paper, typed and printed, Animoto, Photo Story, etc).  This year we may partner with Avid Bookshop to extend the contest beyond our school.  The contest will culminate in our annual Poem in Your Pocket Day open mic cafe where all students share poetry into a microphone in the media center.  This event will be broadcast live on the web through Adobe Connect.

These contests and promotions are just one layer of the participatory culture of the Barrow Media Center, but they have come to be a piece that students, teachers, and families appreciate and expect.  These promotions and contests run simultaneously with the multiple collaborative lessons and projects that take place in the library and by no means replace other purposes of the library.  I will continue to evaluate their relevance to our program and always look to give even more students opportunities to connect and create in our library.  How are you celebrating literacy and inviting participation in your library?

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

Salem Press Launches The Library Grants Center

Salem Press via kwout

Today, Salem Press launched The Library Grants Center, a free, online directory of grants for libraries.   Developed and Edited by Mirela Roncevic for Salem Press, the grants tool empowers librarians to locate library grant funding sources on the national, state, regional and local levels (US sources).  The center is free, requires no login or authentication, and will be updated on a regular basis.  It also contains a how-to area with a tutorial, FAQ, and lists of resources.

According to the Salem press release, the web site focuses on grants available to all types of libraries and from a range of sources—public and private— including professional organizations, large corporations, and family foundations. “Everyone’s aware of the financial pressures on libraries. They are enormous and growing,” said Peter Tobey, Salem Press’s Director of Sales & Marketing. “So we were motivated to try to relieve some of that pressure by developing self-help tools for librarians. The Library Grant Center is that tool.”
The Library Grants Center consists of three distinct sections:

  • National Library Grants features a sophisticated search tool that lets grant seekers perform simple keyword searches or narrow their search options. A range of browsing options is also provided, including browsing by grant category, purpose, and deadline.
  • State Library Grants is a state-by-state guide that points librarians to grant information specific to their state and to the foundations in their area that support libraries.
  • Library Grants How-To provides in-depth information on the grant applications process, complete with extensive lists of resources for further research and pointing to grant writing tools available online at no cost.

“We hope librarians will help us add to the Center so that, as a community, we can keep it up-to-date and growing,” added Tobey. “We are committed to keeping it current and useful.”

According to Roncevic, “the proliferation of social media outlets has inundated the library and publishing industry with relentless dialog. While dialog is important, we shouldn’t forget the tools. The more free tools we build and share, the more we grow our community’s footprint. The bigger that footprint, the greater the benefit for all involved. The Library Grants Center is a free tool that addresses the needs of librarians looking for funding but also a practical reminder to publishers and vendors that their support still matters a great deal.”

The Kid Should See This

All the kids should, actually.  All the kids from 9 months to 99.  It’s just a blog collecting cool videos from around the interwebz, but it’s done better than most.  When I came across it a couple of months ago it was one of those head-smacking moments.  The blogger, Rion Nakaya, is doing what I should have done.  I’m forever coming across funny, interesting and mind-blowing little videos online and sharing them with my daughter.  Never thought to put them all into a blog to share with everyone.  We’d actually seen many of the ones on the blog at first, but now she keeps on digging up fantastic stuff and it’s just an amazing resource of wonder.

Jason Kottke wrote, ”With obvious exceptions, media ‘made for kids’ is mindnumbingly dumb. Youtube, Flickr, and Vimeo are amazing resources of not-made-for-kids but totally-appropriate-for-kids-stuff like what Rion is posting here.”

She answered, ”This is the exact reason that I started this blog. So far, my guidelines have been that my kid(s) watch stuff that should also educate/entertain me, and that what I post here must be approved by my kid(s). My 3 year old co-creator has been a big help.”

Using the aforementioned youtube, Vimeo and other sources like Science Friday and TED talks, she is continuing to ”curate” videos about music, art, science, human tricks, robots and all manner of delightful things.  Flying planets, exploding experiments, Jerry Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald, Legos, insects flying, robots flying, ”the greatest dance number ever filmed,” and more.

I have shared it with my art teacher, science lab teacher, music teacher and the other staff members and it’s becoming a favorite resource for us all.

As soon as you finish reading this post, do check it out.  But make sure you don’t mind leaving a little vacuuming and laundry undone, because a couple of hours will go by before you know it.  Amazing, wonderful, delightful hours.

The Kid Should SeeThis.


Jim Randolph

Partee Elementary

Snellville, GA