Monday, January 9, 2017

If a Writer Visits a School Library, She/He Will Find... by Kathy Halsey

If a writer visits a school library, he/she will find a new perspective on writing and a new partner, the school librarian. I volunteer at the school library from which I retired. I soak up much about students' reading lives and their passions and today I'll give you a tour of the Winchester Trail Intermediate School library which serves students and teachers for grades 3-5. 




Before You Visit
1. If you don't have a connection to a school, make sure you call and set up an appointment with the librarian at a convenient time for him/her. They may be teaching, visiting classrooms, or book talking, so be respectful of their hectic schedules. 
Mrs. Kantner runs the K-2 and the 3-5 libraries. This list is just for 1 day.
2. Know that many school libraries are now run by aides without library degrees due to budget cuts. If this is the case, you may prefer to set up a visit at your local public library branch. 
3. Also, most schools have security protocol. Ask if you need identification such as your driver's license and to whom you should report when entering the building. Usually a building secretary will handle this procedure and give you a badge indicating you're a visitor.  Check to see if you have permission to snap photos for future reference. (Public schools usually have a strict policy on whether or not students can be in videos/photos.)
4. Check out the library's web site if possible beforehand to get a sense of the climate and culture, too. 
5. Jot down the principal  and superintendent's contact information from the school web site so you can write a thank you note/email after your visit that specifically details the benefits of a robust library program run by a certified librarian. (Send a copy to the librarian, also. They are the unsung heroes in many buildings.)

Our Tour and What to Observe as You Visit


Your visit begins long before you enter the library. Notice art work and posters in the halls. Canal Winchester emphasizes a design process that fits into the maker space/STEM/STEAM initiatives so pervasive today. Think about how your work can fit into district-wide curriculum. The colorful image on the right is an example of art and math teachers working together. Do your manuscripts cover more than one discipline?

Wander the shelves and display areas to get a sense of the book collection. See what areas are heavily used and which genres look like they are never in circulation.  Graphic novels rotate heavily and are pulled from the normal shelving units for easy access.

Series biographies and fiction series are also very popular with intermediate level students. The picture book section spans the back wall and is used by both teachers and students, yet less frequently. (See how organized this area is.) 


 Reading is celebrated in this building and librarian Janie Kantner and aide Judy Jewel share what they are reading over by the circulation desk. While students line up to check out, they have a visible reminder of books read for pleasure by the staff. The library staff is part of the 40 Book Challenge which began in at the beginning of the year. ( I'm involved, also.) 

Picture book writers will be pleased to know that picture books "count" in this challenge, too! However, one must read 8 picture books to equal one middle grade or chapter book. Our librarian bought copies of THE BOOK WHISPERER by Donalyn Miller for all teachers as part of their professional collection and the reading culture has improved since this program began a few years ago.
Come back for more of my visit on Monday, January 16 to learn about author visits and student nonfiction favs.. Check out the school library web site here for more information. 

26 comments:

  1. Wow. This is great, Kathy. You've inspired me to schedule a visit.

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  2. Thank you for this tour of your library! I visited my school library today.

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    1. Tina, since you are a teacher, I know you "get" how i important a good library is.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this post. As a former Library Tech I can relate to this article in many ways. I was one of those "untrained" who learned the job while doing it and with support from the school board for some specific skill training courses. I relied on volunteer help to function, and am now helping in another school with a library tech who is also starting out with no previous training. I think it would be great for all aspiring children's books writers to volunteer at their local school library as much as they can, or show support by donating books and participating in fundraising events such as the annual book fair.

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  4. I just posted the previous comment that showed up as "unknown"
    https://kidsbooknook-marohr.blogspot.ca/?spref=fb - Marlene Rohr

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    1. Good for you. Trained, educated folks are needed in libraries. Book donation s would be great, but most folks don't realize that authors receive 10% of each book sold. On a $15 book, the author makes $1.50.

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  5. I love field trips! And school libraries are fun. Thanks for sharing your "things to look for" tips.

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  6. I am the librarian Kathy so kindly mentioned in her blog....kudos to her for continuing to give back to her school community! She is an invaluable asset to the reading lives of everyone in CW!

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    1. Yes, you are. Kudos to inspiring folks like you, Janie!

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  7. Kathy,

    Thank you for the tour of Winchester Trail Intermediate School Library, Kathy. There's always great finds for readers, writers and creators in ALL libraries.

    Hats off to you for volunteering your time at the campus library.

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    1. Post script thoughts . . . THE BOOK WHISPERER by Donalyn Miller is an outstanding read. Her approach and philosphy about reading is considered best practices, in my opinion. I want to read her book READING IN THE WILD next.

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    2. Suzy, I know you are a reading guru, too. Yes, I need to read the next book of Donalyn's.

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  8. Kathy, wonderful post. Like the bird's eye view from a trained professional. Especially love that the librarian and aide, share what they are reading! Fabulous modeling for the students.

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    1. This is a really first-rate program. TY dear Janie for reading this.

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  9. I'm going to have to check out The Book Whisperer. Thanks for the tour, Kathy! We just had an all-school clean-up this past Saturday. It's the only time our library shelves look as tidy as the ones in your pics!

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    1. Jilanne, they know I was coming to do this post, so they sourced it up a bit. The Book Whisperer is fab.

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  10. This article is everything from A-Z & all the Dewey #s too. Thank you, Kathy!

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    1. Jan, such a great library comment! I will file it under "like." TY for reading this.

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  11. I love that the kids are allowed to read picture books as well. I've been at schools where librarians don't allow older students to check out picture books. Thanks for the tour!

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    1. Linda, more is coming on Monday! A good librarian knows that picture books span all ages. I am glad you stopped by to read this post.

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    2. Oh dear! Oh my! Picture books are not for young children only. How disappointing that you have encountered librarians who allow only a certain age to check out PBs, Linda. All librarians should know this and encourage all ages to check out PBs. Picture books are shared for enjoyment and as mentor texts in my college level Reading course.
      ~Suzy Leopold

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  12. Replies
    1. You are very welcome, Eric. Ty for reading this post.

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  13. Just getting to read this, Kathy...thanks for the 'tour' and for encouraging us to take one. :)

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