Saturday, 5 April 2014

Genre Shelving - the pros and cons so far

First off, here are my lovely new science fiction and humour sections.  I don't think I'll have them next to each other permanently but it will do for now.  

And this week we launched the horror section and decorated it up a bit.

A comment on one of my earlier posts on genre-fication made me realise I hadn't listed the ten genres I chose for our library.  So here you go: fantasy, science fiction, adventure, mystery, humour, animals, historical fiction, realistic fiction, horror and sport.  I think if you have fantasy and realistic fiction as genres then you are never going to be without a genre for a book to go into.

And now on to the things I've discovered about the project so far:


  • I LOVE the stats I can get on each of the genres.  By making each genre a "collection" in my catalogue I am able to run statistics showing me each genre's most popular books.  It makes it far easier, for example, to find the most popular horror books when my normal fiction statistics would be dominated by humour books.  
  • I can also see how many books I have in each genre and how many are issued at any one time.  This will be really helpful for my purchasing decisions.
  • Each launch of a new genre section gives it prominence and promotes discussion among students and teachers.
  • It has tied in nicely with my book club, as we have a challenge to read three books from each genre as it is launched.


  • The biggest problem is finding a genre for each book when some books don't fit nicely into just one.  I know some schools use multiple genres but I prefer to keep it simple (for the students, but not for me!).
  • For each book that we already own I have to choose a genre for it, scan the book, change the book's collection to the right genre, and tape a genre sticker to the spine of the book.  This takes a lot of time, even if the taping can be done by parent helpers and I can change the genre on batches of books at the same time.
  • I want it done FASTER!  I want it finished but I don't have the time for it to happen any sooner.
So, the pros outweigh the cons, which is good because there is still a lot of work to be done. 

In terms of dealing with the problem of deciding on one genre for each book I have a system of sorts.  Some books are easy to categorise, either because I have read them or because the title says "Things that go bump in the night" or the blurb talks about "Jane enters a tennis tournament, can she win?".  For the more difficult books I check the subject headings and also have a look on GoodReads.  The genres other people have assigned to a book can be helpful.  I do find though, that not everyone is shelving using the same genres and people seem to get sci fi and fantasy confused (or maybe they don't use a sci fi category), so I don't necessarily pick the most popular shelf.

The hardest book to pick a genre for so far?  The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.  Set in 1952 it includes magical transformations, espionage and a race to stop a hydrogen bomb.  Subject headings include "Magic - Fiction", "Adventure Stories" and  "Historical Fiction". Goodreads members have listed it as fantasy, historical fiction, adventure and mystery.  With so many possible genres to choose from it did my head in, and eventually I chose adventure, only because it didn't seem right to put it in historical fiction when there were strong elements of fantasy, or to put it fantasy when there were so many historical touches.  This is where "didn't seem right" and personal gut feeling has to come in and I agree that it doesn't seem as clear as it should be but I still think the end result is worth it.  In fact, I will probably take some fantasy books home to tape over the holidays just to hurry the process along a bit.  Patience not being one of my virtues.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Genre Shelving - The students have their say

With our science fiction and humour books now sporting snazzy spine labels, but still shelved A-Z, I thought it was time to survey the students about whether they thought shelving by genre was a good idea.  I talked with our six Yr5/6 classes (172 students) and then gave them a very short questionnaire.

Off to a good start!  Interestingly four of the five who said "no" mentioned issues with understanding books.

I wish my book recommendation powers were greater but this result reflects how little time I get with classes in the library.  The power of the series reigns supreme but the interesting results for me were those for author and genre.  Even with our fiction collection currently shelved A-Z, so that authors are readily found, selecting by author ranked around the same as selecting by genre.  I will be doing another survey later in the year and it will be interesting to see the impact of shelving by genre on these figures.

17% of our students reported that they didn't find it easy to choose a book to read.  The main reason given was that there were "too many books". 

So there you go - overwhelming support for shelving by genre.  I told the students that if they wanted it I would do it, so on Monday morning I will make the changes and give science fiction and humour their own sections.  We will continue to shelve most of the fiction A-Z and every three weeks we will add a new genre.  This makes it manageable for me, although I must admit I wish I could do it all sooner.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Blogging Meme

Earlier in the year my twitter friend Marnel (@1MvdS) tagged me for this blogging meme.  I was particularly busy at the time but she reminded me about it today and I'm in the right mood so here goes:

The task includes:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
  • List 11 bloggers
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all of the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you

11 random facts about me

  1. When I am engrossed in a book my husband has learnt to call my name a few times and wait a few seconds while I return to the real world   
  2. I enjoy playing badminton
  3. Most of the things that make me busy at work are my own fault as I've had or seen a new idea and want to implement it
  4. My eldest son (12) has just grown bigger than me, by 3cm, and has taken to calling me "shorty"
  5. I can't have chocolate in the house or I will eat it - even the chocolate chips for baking
  6. I can juggle
  7. I enjoy blogging as it makes me reflect on what I am doing
  8. Next week I am going on my first school camp since I was a student and I am dying to try out archery
  9. I absolutely love PD
  10. I am going to be too timid to ask other bloggers to answer questions for this meme
  11. I don't like reading sad books.

My answers to Marnel's questions

1.  What inspires you?
People who are passionate about what they do.

2.  What are you reading now?
"Ophelia and the marvelous boy" by Karen Foxlee.  A fantasy children's novel that was mentioned on a blog at some point.

3.  If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
OK, so the easy way out is to say librarian, as I'm not a teacher.  But I will be good and pretend the question is "If you weren't a librarian, what would you do?"  I think I would like to train people in how to use technology.

4.  If you could change something about the education system, what would it be?
I would make it easier for children with learning difficulties to get access to the help they need.

5.  When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
I think several years ago a friend complained she didn't get interesting mail any more so I wrote her a letter.

6.  Android or iPad tablets? Why?
I have an iPad simply because I knew my school were looking at getting them so used that as an excuse to get one.

7.  What do you find hardest to teach your students?
That books go back on the shelves in the right place, the right way up and the right way round. Sigh.

8.  What will you be doing differently this year?
I am running my book club differently this year (see previous post) and really enjoying it.

9.  If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be and why did you choose this language?
I would choose Russian or something else really unexpected just so I could show off when I spoke in it :)

10.  What is your favourite way to waste time?
There are a few reality shows (Masterchef, Project Runway, The Voice) that I like watching when I am too tired to do anything meaningful.

11.  What is your life motto?
I am really not organised enough to have a life motto.

Because I'm recklessly avoiding the last two parts of this meme that is all for this post.  But here is a photo from July of last year, just to prove that it wasn't so long ago that I was taller than both of my boys.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Ninja Readers meet Star Wars

My Ninja Readers Book Club has started with smaller numbers than I had hoped but I am pleased with the more structured way I have planned our meetings and those who do come have been enjoying it.

I have been getting ideas from this book:

Burgess has pages of what he calls 'presentation hooks' which encourage you to think more carefully and creatively about how to capture students' attention and keep them engaged.

Here is what I have done for the first four weeks:

Week 1 - Talk about genre, hand out readers' notebooks, explain how challenges work (three weeks to read three books in one genre and earn a genre sticker).

Week 2 - Play Star Wars theme song and ask to guess first genre.  Book talk a few Sci-Fi books  and discuss what books students have already read in this genre.  Review how the readers' notebooks are working. Discuss books read.

Week 3 - Discuss books read.  Show a YouTube playlist of Sci-Fi book trailers.

Week 4 - Discuss books read.  Talk about abandoning books if they don't capture interest.  Give out first genre stickers.  Take suggestions for the new genre in Week 5.  Have students take an online quiz to find out which Star Wars character they would be (disturbingly we seem to have quite a few Darth Vaders, I was Yoda).

I have lots of ideas for presentation hooks for each of the genres we will be covering.  These hooks help me keep our meetings fresh and interesting and are a fun way to finish up after we have talked about what we are reading.  I'm also looking forward to the end of term when we will eat Ninjabread Men Cookies!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Genre-fication, Ninja Readers, eBooks and a Proposal

Even though the school year does not start until Monday I have done a whole lot of planning over the holidays (as well as opening the library to students every Monday afternoon and issuing over 1000 books!).

Here's what's on the agenda for 2014:


After reading Jennifer LaGarde's article in Collected Magazine I revisited the idea of shelving by genre and just couldn't find any reason not to. Surely anything we can do to help our students find more of the books they like to read is a good idea.  I found an excellent website by Mrs.Readerpants that gives lots of information about the process of shelving by genre.  She also has a fun genre quiz that I am in the middle of adapting for a NZ primary school.

I worked my way through which genres I wanted (ten of them) and then had fun choosing spine label stickers for them.  On advice from NZ library guru Miriam I approached Book Protection Products, used some of their spine labels and also got them to make up some of my own.  I found a great site for copyright-free clipart called Pixabay that had just what I needed.  I can't wait to see the finished products.


Ninja Readers

I started a book club last year for our Year 6 students and while it went OK it didn't meet the visions in my head.  So on to bigger and better things this year.  First, I chose a new name.  I thought it would be empowering for last year's members to choose their own name but then they came up with "Very Important Readers" and I hated it!  I want my book club members to be brave and explore new books so I came up with "Ninja Readers".  Hopefully I'll convince my husband to make a logo for me, but I've had him doing other tasks - more on that later.  

I'm opening the club to Year 5 & 6 students this year and will run two divisions, either by year level or gender.  Given I'm genre-fying I thought I would work through each of the genres with my book club.  I'll start each division with a different genre and give them two weeks and then they can swap genres and recommend books to the other division.  I bought some little notebooks for them to record their reading, based on ideas from Donalyn Miller's "Reading in the Wild" (LOVE this book!).  I also thought I could give them a challenge to read three books from each genre and then they could earn a genre sticker to go in a "challenges" section at the back of their notebook.  Thanks to Donalyn I also have a lot of ideas for conversations around books that I can have with my Ninja Readers. 


Thanks to a large parent donation at the end of last year we will be venturing into e-books this year.  I'll have to wait until I can pin down our IT guy so I haven't done much thinking around this just yet.


The length of a library visit for each class was reduced in Term 4 last year from 40-45 mins to 25-30 mins.  This was due to an ever increasing number of classrooms in our school.  So, I asked to speak to the Board of Trustees and proposed that we expand the size of the library so that it is possible to have two classes in there at once, and therefore be able to return to 40-45 minute visits.  This took a huge amount of time as I prepared a slideshow, visited our wonderful National Library Adviser in order to get statistics about other school library sizes, and spoke nicely to my husband so that he could make 3D computer models of what the library would look like.  The BOT were impressed and have asked me to investigate further!

So, four big projects and I'm excited to get started on all of them.  And just to prove I did have some relaxation time in the holidays, here's a photo from our lovely holiday in Napier.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Benefits of Presenting: How it can help you and your library

I'm doing a couple of things this term that I feel are vital to ensuring that the value of the work I do in the library is recognised and appreciated.  I am going to do an annual report for our BOT and present it to them.  And last week I gave a 30 minute presentation at a staff meeting.

In the bustle of my work days I have time for neither of these activities.  During Labour weekend I made time to practise my presentation and all of the preparation was done at home, in the evenings and on weekends.  Was it nerve-wracking speaking in front of staff? YES!  Was it worth giving up my own time? Well, the feedback from staff has been fantastic.  An experienced teacher said she doubted one of my statistics (the UK's National Literacy Trust found that 48% of low achieving children have trouble finding things to read).  When she asked her class (of typical 10- and 11-year-olds) one-third of them admitted to finding it hard to choose their next book.  Then she followed another suggestion and once she'd returned the library books for her class she spread them out on the issues desk and invited her students to have a look at what others in the class were reading.  About half the books were re-issued.

I've had teachers get their students to write me a letter suggesting books to get for the library, others have talked to their students about the importance of reading for pleasure, and one class earned their first ever special award for having no overdues this week.  Many teachers have said that I have reminded them of the importance of the library.  How cool is that?  So YES, it was worth spending my personal time working on the presentation.  I have requested extra hours for next year, but who knows how that will turn out.  At least for now I know that teachers and management are thinking about the library and what I do in it.  They know I don't just cover books and tidy shelves because I've told them. They know what I can do to help their students improve their academic outcomes and increase their enjoyment of reading. I guarantee you they're not wondering if the library needs a librarian in it.

Here are my presentation slides:

Saturday, 27 July 2013

SLANZA Conference 2013

I have just typed up my notes from the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) conference in Wellington.  I have six pages of them but I have been inspired by the lovely Glenys Bichan from Cambridge High School, who told me that she prepares a report for her principal that includes five things she is going to do as a result of the conference.  I think this is a great idea as at the end of the day we want to show that something practical came about from attending the conference.  So, here is what I am going to do:

1.    Help children select books.  The National Literacy Trust (UK) found 48% of low achieving children have trouble finding things to read.  This was part of the keynote from Dr Cathy Wylie on "How reading matters to children's development".  She raised a number of issues but this is one I want to focus on.  Here is how I am going to start:
a.     Begin book talks with the senior school, making sure to include books suitable for struggling readers
b.     Include my Goodreads shelves on our library OPAC and publicise that to help parents choose books for their children.
c.     Introduce new shelf talkers based on this one I found on Pinterest.

2.    Watch YouTube videos to learn correct Maori pronunciation.  Sharon Holt ran the workshop “Make the most of te reo Maori resources”.  She suggested looking for the Maori alphabet song and Ahaka ma and singing along to those to get Maori pronunciation right.  I can do that!

3.    Write down my vision for the library, identify all the services I already provide and make a wish list of services I would like to add or develop.  Senga White’s workshop “Making a lasting connection with your school community” was overflowing with great ideas.  First on my list, though, is to actually take stock of what I’m currently doing in the library and what I want to see done in the future.  This is a basic step but I’ve been so busy doing everything I haven’t made time to get a good overview of it all.

4.    Megan Davidson ran a fantastic workshop – “3-minute PD: how to raise the library’s profile by offering mini how-to lessons at morning briefings or staff meetings”.  I think I could do this but would have to clear it with management first.  The problem with big PD sessions is that you get overwhelmed with information.  That is why little tips brought up on a regular basis are such a good idea.  Realistically I think Term 4 would be something to work towards – book talks first!

5.    Share critical literacy ideas.  Dr Susan Sandretto did a keynote – “(Re)considering information literacy through a critical literacy lens”.  She shared a great series of critical literacy questions found here.  In my school this is not something I am personally involved with, however I will try to share these questions with our DP because I loved the discussions that they prompted.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

How to Gamify your Library: Reflections on a presentation

Last week I presented at the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) conference in Wellington.  Having done no public speaking since they made me at college, there were times when I did wonder what on earth I was thinking when I volunteered.  However, I gave my presentation, got some good feedback and may even do it again one day.  I think there is a need for more primary school librarians to present at these conferences so if I can't persuade others (I did try) then I may be back.

Here are some things I learnt about presenting:

  • It takes much longer than you think to prepare.  Particularly if you enjoy researching, there is lots of information out there, and you want to read it all!
  • The process of pulling together information, and organising it in a coherent way so that you can present it, helps give you a stronger and deeper focus on your topic.
  • There is lots of great information on how to present, and people who will help you if you ask.  Here are my favourite slides on presenting from Ned Potter .  I also had lovely support and advice from @MatthewWinner and @jenniferlagarde, who are American librarians and experts on gamification.  How cool is that?!  All I had to do was ask.
  • Think carefully about what to put in your abstract.  Although my abstract said my workshop was about how to use game elements to bring fun into the library, I met a few librarians who had obviously seen the title "How to gamify your library" and decided that it meant bringing video games into the library.
I'm going to embed my slides, although they are quite simple and had a lot of verbal explanations to accompany them.  I did also make a library gamification website that has a lot of the articles and videos I used in researching gamification.

I had a ball at the conference and am still writing up my notes.  I hope to post again shortly and talk about the keynotes and workshops I attended.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Confessions of an Info-holic

I love reading blogs, listservs, Twitter and a variety of information from other sources.  But I could stop at any time.  If I really needed to.  

As I sit here, procrastinating by sharing my addiction with you, I have this problem:

So, 55 unread messages - 22 from my work email, 33 from home.  But it's actually worse than that.  I have 260 messages in my work inbox and 282 in my home inbox.  

And then there's the small matter of the 95 blog posts I haven't read yet.  I popped into Google Reader, while it's still operating, to see how many blogs I subscribe to.  Turns out it's 40, but I also discovered these stats:

And OK, now that's starting to look like I might be a bit out of control.  It's just that so many people have really interesting things to say, and I don't want to miss out on any of it.  It's a librarian thing.  But my iPad has beeped three times since I started this and instead of feeling that warm happy glow from incoming mail I have a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

So, time for ACTION!  I need a way to balance my love of information with having time to actually implement some of the great ideas I am reading about.

Here's what I am going to do - I am going to get rid of at least half of the blogs I subscribe to. Ouch.  Choosing what to remove is going to be hard.  Especially since I just remembered another blog I was recommended in the weekend that I was going to subscribe to...

I seem to manage Twitter better than my RSS subscriptions.  I don't have notifications for Twitter so I don't feel the burden I do when I see that stupid red circle with a giant number in it telling me how many blog posts I have yet to read.

Next up, email.  My two main sources of incoming emails are from the school library listserv and the Virtual  Learning Network (vln).  Both are awesome sources of knowledge.  However, in the interests of my sanity I am going to turn off email notifications for the groups I belong to on the vln. I can still go in and check out the great discussions happening there but I won't get an email every time someone posts something in any of the seven groups I belong to.  

Don't ask me to give up the library listserv because I WON'T!  I'd probably get withdrawal symptoms or something.

Wish me luck, information addiction is a hard one to overcome, I just hope I have the willpower to get me through.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Unconferences, Twitter and ANZ 23 Mobile Things


On Saturday I am responsible for a 60 minute "unconference" run as part of the SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand) Waikato/BoP AGM.  I am basing it on the "smackdown" part of the educamps I have been to.  I have been to several educamps (unconferences run by teachers) and have enjoyed them immensely.  To have the opportunity for free p.d. about a variety of great ideas and funky new tools...what can I say, I'm addicted.  

I hope that things go smoothly in this first try of an unconference for librarians.


I was thinking about what I should share at the unconference and my love of Twitter was my first choice.  Two years ago I attended a SLANZA conference and two of the keynote speakers, from Australia and the U.S., both raved about Twitter.  Up to that point I had considered Twitter to be for people who really wanted to know what Lady Gaga had for breakfast.

So, I decided to give it a go and I have never looked back.  Twitter is an amazing opportunity to tap into the wisdom of librarians and educators from around the world.  You can follow amazing, professional people you may otherwise not have access to.  I think of the people I follow as being my personal curators.  They are all sharing links to the best articles and videos they come across, in additional to adding their own thoughts and ideas.

I try to follow a range of people from the education sector - librarians, teachers, principals, I.T. experts.  I also follow people in the U.S., U.K. and Australia as well as NZ.  It broadens my horizons and exposes me to lots of new ideas.

I was thinking of examples of what I have gained from Twitter and I'd have to say that it is all Twitter's fault that I am nervously anticipating Saturday's unconference.  All of the educamps/unconferences I have been to I heard about on Twitter.  Here are two more examples:

  1. At morning tea today I had a chat with the assistant principal at our school.  We were discussing TED talks and I was able to discuss a talk she mentioned because it had been tweeted about a few weeks ago.  Felt good too!
  2. A few of the NZ educators I follow have been discussing timelapse on Twitter and showing examples of what they've been filming.  Because of this I am now working on a timelapse of the library at lunchtime to use to promote the library on the school website.  

If I've inspired anyone to have a look at Twitter, here are a few people to follow to get you started (I've limited myself to ten librarians and ten educators):

@MSimmsNZ - Me!

@anniemurphypaul (a journalist not an educator, but she writes about how we learn)

If you actually need a few tips about getting started in Twitter, that leads me nicely to my last topic today...

ANZ 23 Mobile Things

This sounds a bit like a bank app...but it's not.  It's the Australian/New Zealand collaboration of 23 Mobile Things, which is a "self directed online program to learn more about mobile technologies that are changing the way people, society and libraries access information and communicate with each other".  I'm really keen to follow this, if I can fit it in.  But all you really need to know that is that Week 1 deals with...Twitter!  I love the slides by Ned Potter about why you should use Twitter.  If I haven't convinced you then check him out, he says it better that I do.