In January of 2021, I had a seed of an idea and a vision for my library that I put down on paper in my application for an AASL Inspire Special Event Grant. At the time, I was halfway through my first year as a librarian and noticed that my patrons held a traditional view of a school library that focused on quiet, studying, and books. Having recently graduated with a school librarian endorsement and having studied the AASL National School Library Standards, I knew I had lots of work ahead of me to show both students and staff that a school library can be so much more than a quiet place to get books. My grant application, titled “A Year of Thinking Creatively in a Secondary Library,” highlighted a special project offered in the library each month for an entire year. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to report on the first two months of this year-long process.
The first purchases I made using my AASL grant funds helped to set the tone for this school year. For our Open House, I set up six stations that students and families could interact with as they visited the library. Each station highlighted an AASL Shared Foundation. I made station cards that described the foundation, directions, and skills practiced at the station. I found the large Connect Four and Jenga sets at my local HomeGoods and also featured Keva Planks, pawprint notes for lockers, a whiteboard question, and stick wrapping. I noticed that the stations gave visitors a reason to linger longer in the library than just popping in to see the space. They gathered at the different stations, introduced themselves to new people, and got reacquainted with old friends. I stood by the whiteboard and encouraged students to respond to our board. I had both green and red post-it notes available. Students used green post-it notes to write the best part of being a student at our school and red post-it notes for something they would like to see changed. This encouraged lively discussions and gave students a place for their voices to be heard. I have continued to curate questions on our whiteboards throughout the school year. Although I had originally thought I would change the question daily, I have decided to keep the question up longer to allow more students to respond. I now change it when I notice the board is full or the interaction has stopped.
Once students arrived in our building, it was time to share my vision and recruit students to help provide input in order to get the most out of our grant funds. I created the Library Leadership Leadership Board for this purpose. I made a recruiting video for my high schoolers and here is the simple application I had them complete. I currently have 10 intermediate school students and 16 high school students who come during lunch on Mondays to discuss how to make the library even better. Our creative project this month centered around Homecoming and encouraging school spirit using our new button maker. I created a button design template for students and provided copies of the template to all of our advisory teachers. Students and teachers dropped off their finished button designs and I cut, assemble, and then delivered the button. Here are a few of our finished products:
I cannot thank AASL enough for awarding our schools this grant! With only two of our ten months complete, I am already seeing a giant shift in the library’s use and patron views. Below was the timeline of special projects that I had planned when I wrote the grant:
I am looking forward to getting student input on these ideas as meet weekly to think creatively together this school year. I will take their lead as we discover together what will work best for our patrons.