Thursday, March 13, 2014

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please help me welcome today's guest blogger Angie Oliverson. Angie is known to her students as Ms. O. She started out as a HS Spanish teacher but has been an ES teacher librarian for about ten years. Find her blogging about books/tech/craft/geek stuff at MsOReadsBooks and on Twitter or Goodreads.

Everything I Needed to Know About Encouraging Library Users I Learned from Star Wars

Use the Library, Students. And Staff. And Parents. Use the Library.

In my head that’s Alec Guiness’ voice reminding us. Maybe not for you. But with my apologies to George Lucas and his team of screenwriters ... here are 10 ways Star Wars helps me remember to encourage library users.

1. “Come here, my little friend. Don’t be afraid.” Make your space welcoming. Face out as many books as will fit on your shelves. Display student work. Open up shelving and table arrangements so everyone can breathe! You don’t want anyone thinking “Who’s scruffy lookin’?” when they walk into the library space. Even if your school is 50 years old like mine.

2. “R2D2, where are you?” Get out and about the building! We all could very easily spend all day and then some in the physical library. Yes, this is much more doable if you have at least a part time assistant. Book posters in the restrooms. Two minute booktalks catching students and teachers (on their way BACK, of course) in the hallways. Drop-in visits to classrooms and the lounge and PTA gatherings. If you have a circ system with a mobile app so much the better. Go for a walk with five books in your hand and don’t come back until they’re in user hands.

3. “Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion.” If at first you don’t succeed, try, try (“DO”) again. Promotion. You’ll never catch everyone with the same tactics so shake it up every couple of months. Talk up mysteries now and realistic fiction later. Simple reading for minutes and enjoyment one time and more in depth discussion and analysis the next. Choose maybe two social media outlets a semester to reach out to adult users. A library FB fanpage and Pinterest the first semester. Then maybe Vine or Instagram the next.

4. This is some rescue! You came in here, but didn't you have a plan for getting out?” Be intentional and have a plan for the end of the year at the beginning. Break that down into monthly or semester goals. Four new displays. Eight new booktalk visits. Three new inquiry projects. Increase circulation by 5%. Two new topical booklists for teachers. A new brochure for parents. Otherwise June arrives and “OOPS! I never got to that” happens.

5. “You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.” You don’t have to know everything but do have a couple snazzy tools up your sleeve to amaze users. Maybe it’s a Symbaloo collection of book trailers. Maybe it’s creating a couple “auras” or QR codes connected to library titles or trigger images. Maybe it’s a series of short photos or videos featuring classes reading (kids LOVE to see themselves on camera … just be sure to follow privacy guidelines for your school).

6. “‘Who is this? What’s your operating number?’ ‘Boring conversation anyway.” Sometimes I’m appalled at how unfamiliar even the most awesome adults are with basic library organization. So for users of all ages … large and strategic SIGNAGE. Shelf signs. Signs hanging from the ceiling. Signs on the walls (if you’re lucky enough to have them). Signs next to the computers and search stations. If they’re bored (or confused) looking for what they want? They’ll leave.

7. “Well, he seems very friendly.” This one’s important enough that it’s on here twice. Even on the days when you feel tired and grumpy and stressed out for whatever reasons … want to keep users coming back? SMILE. Make sure users “know that laugh” … your laugh. It will only help.

8. That face you make ... look I so old to young eyes?” Weeding. It is hard to make time for it. Hard, hard, hard. I used to think I was keeping up fairly well … but new perspective this year have shown me there is more to do! Books that look much loved to our eyes look old and yucky to students. “Scruffy lookin’” will not distract them from the TV or video games. And then you have to consider the inside … the topics. Are they still relevant? WEED.

9. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” This is the age of information overload! Some library users are intimidated by that rush of data. Break it down. Share bookmarks with search strategies or webpage evaluation tips or “if you liked this book try these” lists. Flip a few introductory database searches into short screencast videos and share them on the library webpage.

10. You must unlearn what you have learned.” Someday we won’t constantly have to remind people that old ideas about libraries are just that … old. That we haven’t been only shushing and stamping books for years. That time is not yet. So here’s another one that’s on here twice. All those promotion ideas? Keep at ‘em. Change every once in a while to reach new users but Keep Them Up.

Don’t ever have to “pay the price for your lack of vision!” Get people using the library!

Thank you Angie for sharing such wonderful advice on getting students into the library! Clearly, the Force is with you.


  1. What a fantastic post! Inspired, especially the plan for the end of the year at the beginning, completely agree!