Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dawn Breaks Over the Gaynor Campus Library

Lots of positive things have been happening in "my" little library, including the first couple of boxes of new book orders finally arriving. I immediately set them up on some "New Arrivals" shelves I'd had the foresight to set up.

In fact, after days of applying little labels to all my shelves, I was surprised to notice what looked like extra space for a New Arrivals area. Only today, almost a week later, did I realize I'd skipped the skipped the 700s completely. Odd, since my very first library job, the one that saved my life and put me on track to become a librarian, was in the Art (actually Art and Music) Division. Herr Doktor Freud, any thoughts?

So, after having pulled off all the metal clip-on shelf label holders (some a really wretched old battleship gray with rust marks, which I discarded, and others a more modern looking beige, which I kept, just in case) I have decided to remove the labels I taped onto to the non-fiction shelves and affix the same Helvetica font labels to the beige metal clip-ons. Lots of trial and error going on in the minutiae department, here.

As for the new arrivals, my book jobber sends them pre-processed for a song thanks to a New York City Dept of Ed. volume discount and posts the MaRC records to my account on their order system which takes about five seconds (from thinking about importing it to test-searching the records after it's done) to upload into my OPAC. So, even thought still have completely process one legacy book yet (raise a clenched fist in an actorly way and shout, "Damn you, spine label sizes!!!") I've been able to check out and check in the new books, which are flying off the shelves as if they had wings. The kids, the teachers and I all feel like we're in a "real library" (finally) when they can come to my desk and I can "beep the book out" to them with the scanner attached to my PC. Hurrah!

Other good news: I conducted several co-taught/co-planned library lessons this past week with one more coming up tomorrow (Friday). On Monday I had two middle school groups coming in to research Ancient Egypt, using a guided worksheet their teacher prepared and some pre-pulled resources I culled from the shelves. The teacher really wanted a scavenger hunt, but since the books are in no particular order yet, it wasn't in the cards. I've been buzzing about the library, getting familiar with what's on the shelves and I was able to pull out virtually all the resources in advance. I know this sixth grade cohort pretty well by now, and structure is what they need, so a pre-pulled batch of books is not such a bad thing for them. The teacher is new to the school, replacing the third sixth grade Humanities teacher to run screaming from the building, and none too pleased with the marauding band of frenzied youth to which he has been assigned, but I think the extra structure helped. Scavenger hunts will have to wait until next year, when I'm quite sure they will happen.

I ended up giving a lesson on finding/using an index to find precise information in a book, including how to look for the index in a set of books, such as an encyclopedia. It went over well. The kids were given the choice of using the books I had pulled and/or the Internet and were split about 70/30 in favor of books. It came up pretty quickly that using an index was without a doubt a quicker way to get the answers to the worksheet (not planned, but it often does go this way, I find) and that did the trick. The books won, while the Internet held its own, of course. A good day for info retrieval.

Another lesson was about using both Internet and hard-copy sources to write a two-page paper on a biome. Each student was assigned a biome by their ninth grade biology teacher and he and I gave a talk about how to make sure you have all the citation elements you need to write an MLA-style bibliography (including examples on a sheet I'd printed out) and how to include this information with each piece of data you collect for your paper. We also touched on plagiarism and why teachers are so insistent that students synthesize their research into something new.

In addition, I had written a brief pathfinder for them to use, rather than sending them willy-nilly onto the Internet, which seems to have worked. We discussed Wikipedia as a good overview source, but not something you would cite and most of them already knew that it might not be authoritative and that it could be changed by other users. Those who didn't know found out during our pre-research discussion. Some did go on Wikipedia for an overview and that was fine. They then moved on to other sites and began checking for authorship (if they were off the pathfinder, which had author information on it already) which was a great sign. Overall, the students responded well to the lesson/discussion and really tried to complete their research and make a note of where they were getting their information with an eye toward doing a solid bibliography. Props to them!

On top of all this, my open access periods have, knock on wood, become a little quieter, a little more library-ish, for the most part. This seems like a fragile beginning that could be shattered at any moment, but the classroom teachers, the people in charge of discipline and I are conspiring on several fronts to make this happen. I'll post with more specifics at a later date. This is already becoming one of those TMI posts!

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