The Incredible 2013-2014 Year!

***Disclaimer: I feel kind of uncomfortable writing this post. It feels a bit braggey to write about all of the great things that happened this year. I’m having a bit of trouble processing the fact that all of these things actually did happen this year. I have so much to be thankful for!!!

This year, I’ve had to pinch myself so many times to make sure the things that were happening were actually real! It’s been such a significant year for me professionally, full of so many AMAZING experiences that I will never forget! All of these crazy, incredible things happened during the 2013-2014 school year:

I gave my first keynote at ISLMA! I was a bundle of nerves and excitement leading up to giving my first ever keynote presentation back in November, but once it was go time, I had so much fun! Since I gave my very first presentation at LACUE in 2010, I knew that presenting was something I loved and wanted to pursue. The fact that I had the opportunity to keynote at a state school library conference just a few years later was humbling (and a little scary!), but AMAZING! I had an absolute blast sharing with and learning from the amazing school librarians in Illinois, and they will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me such an incredible opportunity!

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And that was just the start of November. I also got to attend and present a number of sessions at AASL in Hartford with some of the school librarians I admire and respect the most! Just a few days after that, I received the news that I had been anxiously awaiting for months…I became a National Board Certified Teacher! YAY for November 2013!

I was lucky enough to spend my 29th birthday with some absolutely amazing educators in Missouri as a featured speaker at the METC conference. If you’re interested in seeing the video of my Power Up Your PLN presentation from METC, you can check it out here (although I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it…weird!). I had so much fun sharing and learning with the awesome educators at this FABULOUS conference!

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In March, I was announced as one of Library Journal’s 2014 Movers & Shakers. Seriously, that happened to ME!!! I knew about it several months in advance (keeping that secret was hard!), and even attended ALA Midwinter for the Movers & Shakers photo shoot (shout out to Michael Pilla who took some great photos of us!). The fact that Joyce Valenza (my ultimate school librarian hero and role model) nominated me for this makes it even more unreal! This is so special to me, and something that I will always treasure.

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I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m an ISTE girl. When the decision comes to go ISTE or ALA (and that happens every year because those two conferences are always at the same time), I always opt for ISTE. I see myself as an educator first and a librarian second, so I’m always going to take advantage of the chance to connect and network with other tech savvy educators. I’ve also been serving on the leadership team for ISTE’s SIGMS/SIGLIB/Librarians Network (I’m not even going to get into the name changing right now…) for several years now, and I’m currently finishing up my year as President of our group. This is why it’s such an amazing honor to be selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders! And just when I didn’t think I could get any more excited about attending the ISTE conference in Atlanta this summer! Here’s the video that was part of my application for this award:

And finally, in local news…I was featured on the news last night! Because just one more surreal experience is what I needed to finish off this school year 🙂

One of our local stations, WBRZ, does a segment called “2 Make a Difference” where anchor Sylvia Weatherspoon shares stories of people who are making a difference in our community. I’m so honored to have been selected to be featured on this great segment! This piece really makes me realize how lucky I am to work in such a great school, where I am supported and respected, with INCREDIBLE students who inspire me every day! And I would absolutely not be where I am today without the constant support, encouragement, and inspiration from my PLN. An extra special THANK YOU to my awesome friend and mentor Gwyneth Jones, for getting together an awesome group of students to Hangout with my kiddos during the recording of this segment!

I know if I went back and counted the adjectives and exclamation marks in this post, it would be excessive…but I can’t think of any other way to describe all of these crazy, humbling, exciting honors that I have experienced this year. Thank you to all of my family, friends, coworkers, members of my PLN, and readers who have supported me in this career that I love so much…I would not be experiencing this success without you!

Self Check-Out & End of the Year Wrap-Up

I know we say this every year…but GEEZ, this year has FLOWN by! I cannot believe we just have one week left of this school year. As I look back on this year, it has been so great and I have many things to be thankful for. I’m going to write a post soon about how WOW! this year has been for me professionally, but first I want to share about some great things that happened in the library as I wrap up this school year.

Just last March I was pondering self check-out. Moving to a self check-in and check-out was one of the best things I did this year. I honestly don’t know how I pulled it all off before self check-out. I feel like I have been freed from the cord that tied me to the circulation desk, and life will never be the same! I decided to create two separate stations: one near the door for self check-in and one at the circulation desk for self check-out. I made some minor tweaks throughout the school year, and I’m quite content with the way things work now.

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So each station has a unique Destiny login that ONLY allows students to check-in OR check-out. The check-in station is seen above. I’ve set them both up with laptops, because that’s what I had available. Students must have their IDs to check out — they can’t just type their names in (this keeps their information secure). I’ve covered up the keyboard so they can’t even try to type in their names or numbers. I also have the “reset” barcode at each station. Teaching procedure was key for this — they KNOW that they MUST reset before they walk away from the computer.

To check in, they just scan the book barcode, watch the screen for their name, and then reset before they walk away. To check out, they scan their ID, check their accounts for any books still checked out, scan the book, check the screen to make sure it registers, then reset. For me, one of the most important things that makes this work is the sounds that go each time something is scanned. Even when I’m not looking, I know the sequence of sounds that should go off when students check books in and out, and when something doesn’t “sound right” I’m able to help them take care of whatever issue it may be.

A few other updates to wrap up the year…

We had our first ever Book Swap this week…and it was great! I had about 30 students participate in the swap, and they were SUPER excited about it. Although I had a couple of students who were absent and had to pick through the leftovers, this is definitely something I want to do next year (maybe even more than once). Honestly it wasn’t a lot of work (although next year I won’t be doing the swap the same week as book return…WAY too chaotic). I meant to take pictures during the swap, but it was a frenzy and happened so fast that I forgot. Here’s what it looked like before the students made their selections:

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The students said this is something they enjoyed and that we should definitely do this again…SUCCESS!

I never posted the results of our March Madness at CMS…oops! We had a lot of fun with this as well, and it was another pretty easy thing to pull off. I used a Google Form for voting each week. I was very excited to see the number of votes increase as the weeks progressed. I was also beyond to see one of the books on our state book award list, The Fourth Stall, end up in the final round! In the end, The Hunger Games was the winner, but all of the books in the bracket stayed checked out through the end of the year!

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The end of the school year is always a stressful and hectic time (kind of like the beginning of the year, now that I think about it…), but the anticipation of summer and the reflection on a year well done makes it all worth it!

Spine Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, we did an activity in the library that I’ve been interested in trying for quite some time…spine poetry!

In one of those awesome “check out the power of Twitter” moments, Shannon Thompson, an awesome librarian from Athens, Georgia, brought up spine poetry. This is something that had caught my attention before, so I tweeted two of my awesome sixth grade ELA teachers (Alaina Laperouse and Jason Dupuy) to see if they were interested

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They were in, so we started thinking about how to pull it together. When I looked at our library books, I noticed that many of our spine labels covered parts of the book titles. This would not make for pretty poetry. Also, Shannon mentioned that students pulling tons of books off the shelf could get to be quite a mess.

So Alaina (one of the awesome sixth grade ELA teachers who happens to be my best friend) and I took a little trip to a nearby bookstore. We picked books that we thought would make great lines of poetry for our students and snapped pictures. I cropped them down, cleaned them up, printed them on cardstock, and cut them out. Yes, this took a lot of time. However, I now have reusable “book spines” that don’t have to be reshelved! I’m planning to continue to add to this collection as time goes on, but definitely continue to reuse what I’ve already done. I can also share my document with you to save you lots of work!

We were very curious to see what poems our students would create. They absolutely had a blast! I knew I would be impressed with some of their work, and they didn’t disappoint.

We had students take photos of their favorite poems that they created, then post them to an album on Schoology. Here are a few of my favorites:

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What are some fun things that you’ve done to promote National Poetry Month in your school and library?

My Case for Social Media

I’m very lucky to work in a great district and an even better school. There are so many great things about it — I work with awesome educators that care about the kids; we have high expectations and it is reflected in the school culture; we’re a small, community-based system that’s making positive progress.

However, there’s one area where my district and I are definitely not on the same page, and to me it’s something huge. In my district, Twitter and Facebook are blocked for students AND teachers. As teachers, we are instructed not to post on social media during the hours of the school day. Period. No posting for personal OR professional reasons. What this says to me is: “Social media has no value to you professionally.” Or perhaps: “Even if it does have some value, it’s something you’re going to have to do on your own time.” Obviously, I disagree whole heartedly. I’m pretty sure that everyone that I work with knows that…I’m not typically quiet or reserved about my opinions. But I thought it was time I made my case in writing.

This policy makes it virtually impossible for me to sell Twitter as a PD tool to my coworkers (and I firmly believe that Twitter is the most valuable PD tool out there). Let’s be honest — it’s really hard to show them how to use something when it’s blocked and you’re not allowed to use it during the day.

It’s also really hard to show my students what a strong digital footprint and positive use of social media looks like when it’s all blocked. My kids NEED to see that…so I take screenshots at home, but that can’t demonstrate its true power. This isn’t even touching the opportunities they’re missing out on because of the connections we could be making with other schools, authors, and experts throughout the day using social media…because we DEFINITELY aren’t allowed to have a school or library social media account where we share out the things we’re doing so the community can share in our learning. If I want to use Twitter to line up Skype or Hangout meetings to help my students make global connections, I have to do it after school hours.

I found my district’s recent professional development days to be very telling of the current stance on technology and social media. Last month, we had two full days of district-wide professional development training on Professional Learning Communities. All of the faculty members from all five schools in our district gathered together to participate in a PLC conference as a satellite location (sessions were streamed in from Arizona). In the days before these PD days, we were instructed that we were NOT to have any technology visible during the sessions (no laptops, iPads, phones, etc.). As someone who attends conferences regularly (okay, maybe excessively/obsessively), I know the power of a backchannel and was very disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to Tweet what I learned along the way. For me, that has become a way that I process my learning at a conference. So despite my extreme frustration and disappointment, I tried to enter these two days of PD with a decent attitude. Imagine my surprise when I arrive the morning of our PD to see a hashtag and Twitter stream up on the big screen.

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Since it was before our official start time…I went ahead and Tweeted them:

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Hm. Not on the same page. I followed the rules…put my phone away during sessions…and in my notes I wrote down the things I would have Tweeted, had it been allowed.

The argument against having technology was that it would be a distraction. For me, it would have been a tool to enhance learning. Do teachers need to learn to use technology the right way in the right situations at the right times? Absolutely. Just like our students need to learn the same thing. But it’s mighty hard to learn it (or teach it) if we can’t use it. I get that they think it’s easier and less of a headache to just block and ban. It’s not as scary, not as threatening. However, we are doing a disservice to our teachers and our students by not allowing them the opportunity to experience a different level of learning. We’re doing a disservice by not requiring them to develop the skills that are essential to be successful in our digital world.

We talk about how wrong it is to issue a blanket punishment for all students because of the actions of a few. What about being punished in advance for something that hasn’t even happened yet?

There is so much good in social media for education. There’s so much positive potential and so many endless possibilities. And if we aren’t taking advantage, then our students are missing out.

I recently shared about our March Madness Book Bracket. We are now down to our Final Four books:

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I’m so excited to see favorites See You at Harry’s and The Fourth Stall in the Final Four! I shared this picture on Twitter and tagged authors Jo Knowles and Chris Rylander. Our students LOVE their books. I was really excited when Chris responded to my Tweet:

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Back in November, my Multimedia students created a book trailer for The Fourth Stall as their entry for a video contest. Although they didn’t win, we were so proud of the final product. Last night, I shared the link to our video with Chris Rylander:

I was so excited when he Tweeted back about the video:

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So excited that I had to take a screen shot and post it on Schoology to share with my students. Naturally, they freaked out:

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And of course they rushed into the library this morning to geek out some more. They were so excited that the author of The Fourth Stall, one of their FAVORITE books, saw the video they created about his book!

This is just one small example of the power of social media. Connecting our students with others has so much potential to excited, engage, and motivate. Getting our teachers connected will introduce them to ideas, opportunities, and learning that just can’t happen within the walls of the school. This is something I’m passionate about and not willing to let up on because social media changed my path as an educator. I would not be able to provide my students with the opportunities, my teachers with the resources, or myself with the support that I get as a professional without my PLN. When I say that Twitter changed my life, I’m not exaggerating. The opportunities and experiences coming my way would not be possible if I were not a connected educator. And I want to be able to share that with my teachers and students.

Digital Citizenship at CMS

I feel like one of the most important and relevant things that I can teach my students is how to be a responsible digital citizen. Honestly, most of the adults in their lives don’t truly “get it.” They don’t fully understand or consider the impact that a student’s digital footprint can have on their future. They don’t get how essential digital literacy skills are to a student’s success. I try to lead by example so I can show my students what a positive digital citizen who is creating a strong, transparent digital footprint looks like. I share the ways I use my blog, Twitter, and other networks to grow as a professional. And I facilitate discussions and activities where students consider the impact that their digital choices can have on different parts of their lives.

I originally posted about the Common Sense Media Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum back in October of 2011, and I’ve been adapting these lessons to my library curriculum ever since. They have a range of really great lesson ideas, videos, and print resources available for all grade levels K-12.

My absolute favorite lesson that I’ve taught this year is the Trillion-Dollar Footprint (click this link to access all lesson resources for this lesson). I’ve taken the lesson provided by Common Sense Media and created this presentation to guide my students through the discussions for this activity:

During this lesson, students look at the social media profiles of two potential job candidates to determine which works better with others and is more trustworthy. Students discover discrepancies in the social media profiles, and it sure does get them fired up and engaged in an active discussion! You know an activity is powerful when students continue to discuss it well after the lesson has ended, and that’s exactly what I found with this lesson. I loved this lesson so much that over the course of the first semester, I taught it to all of my 7th and 8th grade students.

I introduced my 6th grade students to this curriculum with the Digital Life 101 lesson. In this activity, students think about the different aspects of their digital lives and create a simile. Here are an example of what one of my students created:

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Other tried and true favorites for me from this curriculum include:

My favorite thing about these lessons is that they’re very discussion based and get students thinking about their digital lives. I interviewed some of my students and asked them about what they’ve learned about digital citizenship, and here’s what they had to say:

How is digital citizenship taught in your school? What role do you play in helping students better understand their digital lives?

March Madness at CMS!

I remember thinking last year, “How cool!” when my friend Cathy Jo Nelson shared her March Madness display. When she shared a picture of her bracket for this year, I knew I wanted to steal this idea!

You should follow Cathy’s directions on her blog, especially where she explains how to seed the books. I didn’t think that hard before I started stapling, but I will follow the seeding rules when I do this again next year.

I ran the Destiny report that showed the top 25 circulated titles for this school year. For books that were part of a series, I just went with the first book in the series so I could have more variety in the selection. I also made some cute filler spots that I’ll replace with the winning titles along the way. Unsure of how much space this would all take up, I laid my bracket out on the tables (then moved to the floor when I needed more room) to see how much space I would need before I stapled everything on the wall. Yay for self-healing walls in the hallway!

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I’m planning to use Google Forms for the voting each week of March. I’ll post the links on Schoology so students can vote. Also during the first week, I’m going to have a place for students to make their predictions for the winner, and I’ll do some type of drawing/give away for a prize at the end of the month. IMG_4063

I think this is going to be a lot of fun and a great way to get our students excited and talking about some awesome books!

Speaking of March Madness….

SIGLIB (formerly SIGMS) will be hosting our annual March Madness discussions on Facebook this year! Make sure you join our Facebook group and participate in our discussions throughout the month of March…we’ll have some great ISTE book giveaways along the way!

Library Survey Results

Before the holiday break, my awesome principal recommended that all of the teachers take some time and have their students complete anonymous surveys to provide feedback on their class (questions ranged from teaching, relationships, classroom environment, respect, etc.). Being the great leader that he is, he lead by example and asked all of his teachers and staff complete similar surveys on him, giving feedback on our perceptions of the job he’s doing as an administrator.

I decided that I wanted to conduct a student survey for the library, too. At first, I considered just posting the link on Schoology and asking students to complete it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I may not get the amount or quality of feedback I wanted unless I had students complete the survey during a library visit. So for the first two weeks back from holiday break, I had students complete these surveys when they visited the library with their ELA classes. I have to say, it was completely worth my time to have all of this data and feedback to sift through. Here’s the survey I put together:

LibrarySurveyAnd here are the results:

I was very interested to not only see the overall results, but also to break them down by grade level. I was really happy with the results of the survey. It’s nice to know that the kids think I’m doing some things right! The students overwhelmingly feel like the library is a comfortable and welcoming place, and that I’m approachable and helpful — these are things that I work really hard to develop in the culture of our library.

Over the last several years, I have worked with my ELA teachers to find a schedule that works best for them. I know that many librarians feel very strongly about having a completely flexible schedule. I feel very strongly, though, about seeing and reaching every student in my school on a regular basis. So I have created a flex/fixed schedule that seems to be working well. I see 6th and 7th grade ELA classes every other week, and 8th grade every three weeks. But for almost 30% of the 8th graders, they aren’t able to visit frequently enough. Overall, though, this is a confirming thing for me in that I see how many of my students wouldn’t be visiting the library if I didn’t schedule time regularly with their ELA teachers…so this seems to be working out pretty well.

I wasn’t shocked by the results that show that most of our students don’t use our library catalog. The reasons for this, I believe, are: (1) genrefication makes browsing so much easier that students use the catalog less; (2) they ask me where a particular book is and I can tell them off the top of my head where it is since I know the collection so well; (3) I don’t spend much time teaching them to use the catalog, since I feel my time is better spent teaching other things. I’m going to continue to ponder on this point.

The results that most pleasantly surprised me: “Do you feel the lessons and activities during class library visits are helpful/informative?” Students had very positive feelings about the activities that we’ve done (from search strategies to digital citizenship activities to book speed dating), and they even left some positive feedback about this in the open ended questions.

I knew that the results to the genrefication questions were going to be extremely positive, but I’m very excited to have some numbers from this survey to be able to share on this topic! Our students love the organization of our library, and in the open ended questions many raved about this as well.

The open ended questions were by far my favorite. Although it takes a lot to go through hundreds of responses, there were some real gems in there! For the results shared above, I picked out some of the most frequently given or nicely put responses.

Giving this survey and spending time with the results has been a really powerful experience for me. Not only was it a way for me to evaluate my practice, but it was also a really great way to empower students and give them a voice.

If you would like to make/save yourself a copy of the Form that I created, click here.

 

Ditching Dewey: Signage

The signage helps to make the library so user friendly. Our students are able to come in and find books easily using the signage and tags on the books to find their books. I thought the best way to show the signage and perhaps answer some questions that people have had through this blog series would be through the use of a video tour:

These are the signs I’ve created for the fiction sections. The images were creating use an app called WordFoto. Then I added the text portion in Photoshop.

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Click here for the fiction signs on Flickr…free to download & use!

I created my own stickers/nonfiction signs in Comic Life, using public domain graphics from OpenClipArt.org.

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Click here for the nonfiction signs on Flickr…free to download & use!

Deciding to genrefy our library was definitely not about me. Seriously, it was a lot of work and it would have been MUCH easier for me to leave things as they were. Going through this process of completely changing the organization of our library was 100% about the students. My students feel like this is THEIR library. They can find what they’re looking for easily. They love being able to explore within a genre. They’re more likely to pick up a nonfiction book because it just makes sense where it’s located. But don’t take my word for it. This is the video of what the students say about genrefication (this video was created for the AASL Ditching Dewey presentation, so it doesn’t just include my students):

Ditching Dewey: Catalog Changes

Making changes in the catalog is an important part of the genrefication process. If possible, I would recommend doing this step of the process over the summer, when most books are returned. Of course, I didn’t…and it took quite some time to “catch” all of the books that were out at the time of the change.

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For our fiction books, I first cleaned up the record in Destiny, making sure all of the call numbers followed the F ABC format, instead of Fic ABC. Then, one of my awesome volunteers went section by section, working through the books, adding an extra letter (seen in the photo above) to denote the genre category. Like I said, we did this in the middle of the year, which made it a messy process to complete as books were constantly being checked out and returned. We also did books one by one, because I didn’t think to use the Batch Update feature (DUH!) in Destiny. Lesson learned, and we used batch update when we genrefied the nonfiction section. Here’s what a sample of our fiction section looks like in the catalog:

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For nonfiction, we used the batch update feature to add the category name in front of the call number. I didn’t want to get rid of the Dewey call numbers completely just in case…so they’re still there:

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This is what things look like in Destiny when you do a Batch Update:

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You would set the update up to make the changes you want, then scan in the books to the barcode list. SO much quicker and easier!

Making catalog changes is definitely not the most glamorous step in the genrefication process, but it must be done (and done correctly!).

Next up in this series is the most glamorous step of all…Signage!

Ditching Dewey: Making the Move

There was quite a lot of moving in the gentrification process for me! We rearranged/moved the fiction books, then the nonfiction books, and shortly after we moved the entire library into our new facility.

After all of our fiction books were tagged with their tinted label stickers, it was time to make the move. We decided how we wanted the genres arranged (yes, we did this planning on a napkin!):

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As usual, was ready to throw myself into the moving process without thinking about it for too terribly long. I gathered every cart I could get my hands on and started pulling books. This was easy since everything was so clearly labeled. I pulled out the genres one by one and shifted things down as I went.

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Although this wasn’t the most complicated part of the process, I found it to be the most overwhelming. The library was a mess, books were everywhere, eek! This picture pretty much sums up how I felt during the move:

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I used a different approach with moving nonfiction. After an extremely extensive weeding, I sorted the books into their new categories. The weeding freed up a great deal of shelf space, so I was able have some room to spread things out. With nonfiction, I wanted everything sorted out into categories before I tagged them with their new stickers. I sorted them out into the categories that I had already decided upon, but I did make some minor changes as I worked through the books. I found that I needed to add some categories and some could be condensed. Once I had the categories all worked out, I put the new label stickers on the books. Then, I sorted the larger categories, such as science and history, into smaller subcategories.

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My next post will detail the changes made in the catalog, so I won’t get into that now, but I often get the question, “How do your shelvers know what subcategory books belong to?” For this reason, I have put subcategory stickers on the front inside cover of the books:

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I was on quite a deadline to finish the genrefication process for both fiction and nonfiction in our library — at the end of the year that I worked through the process, we were to move into a new building! This is why I pushed through to get my nonfiction reorganized so quickly; I wanted to be able to move into the new library and have our fiction and nonfiction paired. I put a lot of thought into what our new arrangement would look like, how I could make the most of our new space, and a plan to pack up and then unload the books. Measuring out linear shelf space and the amount of space our books would take up, I came up with a plan and packed the books onto our moving carts in the order that they would be unloaded

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Just looking back at these pictures overwhelms me! I started the summer of 2012 not knowing when I would be able to get into the new library:

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I have to say, I don’t think that having my nonfiction genrefied would make as much sense to me if I didn’t have the fiction and nonfiction paired. For example, my sports fiction and nonfiction are shelved right next to each other:

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I’ll talk more about this in a future post when I talk about Signage & Arrangement. Next, I’ll be sharing something that folks are always curious about…catalog changes!