Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shelving the Kids

So, a Montessori school teacher calls you up and wants to bring a class of K-3rd graders over for a session on how to use the library. What do you do? Do you run around in a panic and plead for the chickens to come to the rescue? No. You shelve the kids.

We had just such a class come to the library on Friday. It was a small group (11 kids total) and their teachers wanted them to learn how to find books at the library. With such a range in ages, we were striving to find something that all the kids could do and that would actually teach them useful information.

First, we gave them a tour of our department, pointing out things such as the beginning readers section, the DVDs, the audiobooks, the biographies... Then we gathered in our storyroom for a brief section with the computer and projector to show them the lists on our webpage and how to find the call numbers when looking up a book.

Then the piece de resistance... I got the idea from a post on the PUBYAC listserv. We assigned each kid a call number based on something that they were interested in. We added the Cutter numbers based on their last names. Then we either told them to go "shelve" themselves or we took them and "shelved" them (depending on each kid's comfort level with finding the call numbers).

It was the first time we'd tried something like this and I think it was really fun... I don't know how much the kids really learned from it, although some of them definitely at least learned where some interesting books are... The teachers seemed really impressed and I think it was something outside the box that we can tweak and make better. For instance, we didn't really have a plan for once the kids found their call number and were "shelved". And we got several kids who, when asked what they were interested in, said "Pokemon"... and we really don't have anything on Pokemon in the non-fiction section except The Official Pokemon Handbook, both copies of which were checked out.

If/when we do this activity again, here are the changes I'd make:

- I'd do it with a slightly older group if possible. I think the older kids in this group were getting it, but the younger ones needed a lot of help and I don't think they really got it even with all the help.

- Maybe I'd open it up to fiction books as well, or give them the option to be a picture book or a DVD or something if they wanted.

- I'd think of some way to bring the activity to a close... Maybe tell them to find one interesting book in their section and bring it to the tables to look at it or something. Although we'd have to re-shelve the books they take, it would get them back together in one spot so we could take questions or say goodbye or something.

So, yes. You live and learn. We had fun with this one and I'm eager to try it again and see if our "tweaking" makes it even better.