The Blue Bin Project

As I posted in the blog post “Through a District Lens” (June 2018) district-level supervising librarians wear many different hats. Usually we are the ones who are responsible for providing library services to district sites. In my case my office provides library services to 31 sites and over 16,000 students. Like all of California and now some surrounding states, this requires thinking outside the box to create successful programs with minimal staffing.

For the first time in my very long career library services has been included in the annual district budget. California’s school budget is referred to as the LCAP, an acronym for Local Control and Accountability Plan. However, like school funding in every state, budgets always have certain constraints. Since the library funding comes from the supplemental account line, purchases must support the curricular needs of our English language learners. Like so many other districts, Napa Valley USD has seen a demographic swing, and now has a population that is 54% Latino and 23% English language learners.

Additionally last year’s Napa fires and now the neighboring Lake and Mendocino fires have caused a continuing housing shortage. All too often we are seeing families who have been evicted by rapidly rising rents. With high rents and little availability, it has become common practice for multiple families to live in one house and/or apartment. This results in families who are “housing challenged” and have little disposable income to purchase books. These are sober concerns and ones that can create serious issues to the success of our students’ literacy journeys.  

Taking all of this into account, we were concerned that a once-a-week library trip would not provide enough books for student and home use. As Stephen Krashen said, “Simply providing access is the first and most important step in encouraging literacy development.” After a great deal of discussion, we devised a plan to re-invent the classroom library. (In the late 90s, we did have classroom libraries that were attached to our once-in-a-lifetime state library funding.) We created a simple plan that would combine the best parts of Reading Is Fundamental’s book give-away program and the classroom library. Partnering with Follett we came up with the Blue Bin Project.

We decided to pilot this simple concept at six targeted elementary sites and begin with K-2. Each site has three grade classrooms with a maximum of 30 students in each. We ordered 90 different paperback books for each grade along with three Follett blue bins. The titles will be divided into thirty paperbacks per bin. Each bin will be cataloged into the Destiny system, but we will not catalog the paperbacks. An attached Lexile level tag would be the only processing for the paperback books. The bins will be checked out to each classroom through the site library for a specified time period. At the end of the time period, the bins will rotate to another class. Students will be allowed to take these books home. We are aware that some of the paperback books may find new homes. However, we believe that the family literacy journey is more important than the cost of lost books. (Since 2016, Napa Valley USD has not charged elementary students for lost books. We do request–but do not require–that the family replace the book.)

So the first Blue Bin Project is in the works! Fifty-four blue bins are on the way, along with 1,620 paperback books. Now on to the  remaining elementary sites and then the upper grades…a well-spent budget!

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Author: Kate MacMillan

18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!



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