Tidying Up Your Life
Last year, I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I’ve read a lot of books on decluttering and organizing, but this was the first one that simultaneously resonated with me and annoyed the heck out of me. I don’t want to go too in depth into Kondo’s philosophy here. The basic idea is that you should only keep things in your home that spark joy in your heart. Everything else (and she really means everything) has to go. Once you’ve eliminated everything that doesn’t bring you joy, you focus on treating all of your possessions with love and storing and organizing them in a way that shows them respect.
While I didn’t agree with all of Kondo’s advice, as I began to follow it, I started to discover a sense of peace in my home that I hadn’t had in years. And naturally, I started wondering how I could apply this in my school library.
Tidying Up Your Library
Now, I don’t expect you to pull out every single item in your library, hold it close to your heart, and ask whether or not it sparks joy for you. But the fact is that school libraries tend to get cluttered quickly. Books don’t get weeded. Files never get thrown away (I just found a guide to laser disc players in my file cabinet the other day and an ad for diecuts from 1995). Broken furniture and technology accumulates. Maybe the librarian before you was a pack rat. Or maybe you can’t bear to part with the complete set of the Hardy Boys even though it hasn’t been checked out in decades. Here’s some suggestions for ways that you can tidy up your library and help to give your space and your students room to breathe
Naturally, we start with weeding. We’re all familiar with best practices and procedures for weeding our collection. And yet, there’s still so many libraries stuffed with books that students aren’t reading. We need to take a hard look at our circulation stats. If a book hasn’t been checked out in ten years, it’s probably not going to. We shouldn’t hold onto books for “what ifs.” If the book is out of date, if the book isn’t being read by students, just weed it. Even if your budget is tight (or non-existent). It’s better to have a small collection of awesome books and resources that your students want than it is to have tightly packed shelves where no one can find anything. You might even be able to weed enough books to get rid of a shelving unit and create some more room to breathe.
The Files and Cabinets
As I’ve cleaned out files and cabinets, I’ve found all sorts of things. A soda that expired six years ago. An award certificate with 19_ as the date (in 2010). Old, dusty styrofoam bowls. Take some time to go through everything and gut it. Be ruthless. Have garbage bags on hand. Save only those things that you need to keep. You might find things you didn’t know you had. I found an awesome stash of paint brushes and old plastic spoons for my makerspace. Just make sure that you aren’t holding onto too many things “just in case.”
The Furniture and Technology
That overhead projector cart with the broken wheels. Toss it. That random teacher desk that’s sitting in the middle of your library. Offer it up to your teachers. That stack of transparency film in your cabinets. Toss it (or put it in your makerspace). The slide projector. Put it in a museum display case. It might sound harsh to get rid of so much stuff, but soon you’ll find you have space to think again.
Have you tidied up your library? What’s the strangest thing you’ve found?