Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Against My Instincts: Maximizing Shelf Space for Display

Dedicated Top-Shelf Display,
via Kevin Hennah

In planning our new library, one aim was to increase circulation through better "merchandising" or "selling" of what the library has to offer. 

We hired Kevin Hennah for a virtual session to help our design process and explain some key elements:

  • Front-facing books
  • Signage
  • Flexible shelving
  • Genrefication
  • End display spaces

Having heard Kevin at a conference several years ago, much of the talk included concepts I have used in previous libraries with good results. The bonus for me was that our admin and building design team also heard the same messages.

Dedicated side and front-facing display, via Raeko
When it came time to purchase our shelving, we limited ourselves to vendors in China, so the recommended vendor, Raeko, was not an option. Still, we wanted to use the concepts Kevin recommended, so we designed rolling units with slanted tops to maximize display space.

When the shelving arrived, we unpacked by filling each shelf 3/4 of the way, leaving space for 1-2 front-facing books. 

With the slanted display space on top it looked great. I was happy with it. 

But I shortly made a big change due to some....

Extremely-Mini Action Research

We are an open library (zero doors!) so I leave the space extra tidy to be able to notice if anyone has been there after school. We always end each day by filling the empty display spaces. Since we were doing that anyway, I figured, let's COUNT how many books are coming off the displays each day.

For a week, we did a daily count of our empty display spaces and compared it to our circulation data. We discovered that 35-40% of our circulation came from displays. This was true on days with high circulation from a class coming in AND on days when circulation was lower. 

With this clear evidence of the importance of display space, I decided to see if I could maximize the display space even more.

Shelves "too empty", via Kevin Hennah
I remembered an off-hand remark Kevin Hennah made about the shelves in another library - shelves that looked like mine, half to three-quarters full of books.

He said, "There's way too much space on those shelves." 

I remember thinking, "Huh? No there isn't! That empty space is needed for front-facing books and books that will get returned!""

But no. 

I realized he was right. 

I realized his style of shelving is possible if I pack the books tighter to create dedicated display spaces, not accidental display spaces. A front-facing book at the end of a row is fine, but it's even better when LOADS of front-facing books are viewed together in a dedicated area. It's purposeful. It has impact. It screams "Grab me!"

After my action research and remembering his comment, I packed my shelves almost full to open more dedicated display space.

Here are some "before and after" photos of our shelving with my new system.

Before, in Realistic Fiction

Shelves are 3/4 full and bottom shelves are empty when possible
























After, in Realistic Fiction

Books are packed more tightly to open an entire unit for display and an extra row at the top for more display (slanted top, plus the row underneath, if possible)



Bottom shelf is full - students don't browse along the bottom anyway. This opens the top shelf for another row of face-out books, at eye level.

Another example:
Before, in Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction, After...

And after more squishing!



Post-Change Results

Did the expanded displays increase our percentage of circulation from displays?

Yes, after a week of counting, we saw a slight increase to 40-45% of our circulation coming from displays (a change of 5-10%).
  • Our overall circulation in the new library has increased from last year by 39%
  • Our overall circulation since the change in displays has increased 13%  
My take-aways:
  • Students do not browse the bottom shelf, so I either put displays or pack a row of books there. I think a row of books is best to allow more display at eye level.
  • Front-facing books are best when grouped together
Next Steps:
  • Small tables around the library with books flat and standing up - something about a table says "take me" even more than on a shelf
  • Find out: What's the ideal amount of time for books to be on display before doing a big overhaul of all titles? 
Stale displays won't have the same impact BUT I can't change all of these books daily! or even weekly!

Right now, some of the books have been on display for two months (!) without moving. I plan to do a total overhaul once per month. I can't imagine more than that, but maybe I'll need to. I will keep tracking to see if there's an uptick when I put out fresh covers.

Thanks for reading, and happy "Squishing" to create more 
dedicated display space in your library!




































Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Listening to Alarm Bells: Internalizing Source Evaluation

I've been on the journey about how to "do" source evaluation for 20 years now. 

Checklists! Acronyms! Do's and Don'ts! Domains matter - actually, they don't. Wikipedia is trash - actually it's a gold mine. 

We've evolved in our fact-checking abilities as information has become increasingly fed into our personalized feeds and misinformation has become increasingly sophisticated. 

Inspired by other librarians, I've been teaching evaluative "moves" rather than focusing on fixed items to look for in a source. It's much better. 

The moves include strategies like lateral reading and reading upstream. 

But there's been a step of the evaluation process that I've missed, and that is: When is Source Evaluation necessary and how do I know? 

Until students internalize that answer for themselves, my teaching is incomplete.

The answer for when to use evaluation "moves" isn't simple

  • Do I evaluate everything I come in contact with? 
  • Do I evaluation only if I have a doubt about the information? 
  • Do I evaluate information I agree with?
  • Do I evaluate based on the purpose of my information task? (schoolwork vs. personal entertainment vs. things posted to my feeds?)

Answers might be determined by...

  • Time (I don't have time to check this)
  • High Investment (I'm re-sharing this so I want to check it)
  • Low Investment (I'm just watching for fun, so I really don't care)
  • Prior Knowledge (I've been to this site before and already vetted it)

The shortest answer and most teachable point is that the student must choose when to implement evaluative moves and that choice needs to be INTENTIONAL.

Acting on an intentional choice is empowering. So I try to help students identify their internal critical thoughts in the first few seconds of seeing new information.

One label I'm using is "Alarm Bells"

Where are the places on a webpage that might set off an alarm in your head? 

We draw sample webpages and star places where our eyes might quickly encounter an alarm bell. 

  • No author? 
  • Unfamiliar organization? 
  • Date updated/created? 
  • Secure URL if we're shopping? 
  • Monetized via ads? 

Listening to these alarms is the beginning to listening to our inner critical voice and making decisions about when to use evaluation moves.

This is just one step in the process to internalize the Source Evaluation process. The next step: using questions (such as the 5Ws) to make sense of the source and its possible uses.

My goal: No acronyms, no teacher reminders. Rather, students encounter content and have internalized a way to handle it based on their needs.



    Friday, January 15, 2021

    First Extended Essay launch!

    I'm new to the Extended Essay Coordinator position. It's a job that has scared me despite my several years of experience with the EE process. Although I have worked closely with my school's DP coordinator and EE coordinator in the past, now...

    I'm in charge of all of it and it's freaking me out. 

    In planning the launch of my first cohort of grade 11 students, I want the experience to be perfect for them AND I know that it won't be perfect for them. Part of the process requires independent navigation through any number of obstacles - I've never seen a student have a perfectly perfect EE journey. The struggle is real and that's part of the learning!

    But still. I want them to be successful.

    The Challenge: Create structures designed to support ...

    • independent learning
    • open communication among all parties
    • clear expectations for all
    • successful completion of the task to each student's personal best.

    Elements of our Plan:

    • Timeline with expectations for students & supervisors on the same document
      • This level of transparency keeps everyone on the literal same page
      • Timeline is published as a draft in case dates need to be adjusted
    • Formative "Gatepost" tasks in Managebac (MB)
      • Proposal (required in order to be assigned a supervisor)
      • Link to digital workspace (template provided or student-created)
        • (Students don't seem to like the research space in MB)
      • Annotated bibliography with sources showing evidence that answers the proposed research question
      • Detailed Outline (2,000+ words) 
        • research question and/or thesis statement
        • headings and sub-headings
        • supporting evidence organized under headings and cited
      • Option to submit the Draft to a "draft" Turnitin task before deadline
    • Model of task posted as part of each MB assignment
      • For example, a correct and complete annotated bibliography is linked in the post about that assignment
    • Clear Admin "triggers" to catch anyone falling behind
      • Missing any gatepost task elicits an admin intervention
    • Differentiated training for supervisors
      • Supervisors choose the workshop topics they're interested in or indicate their level of experience and have an option to help others
      • Workshop Topics: 
        • Nuts & Bolts for Newbies
        • Citation Refresher
        • Evaluation & Moderation
    • Dedicated EE work time on Saturdays
      • One mandatory session in which students rotate among research skills and supervisor sessions about various subject criteria ("EE Cafe")
      • Further Saturday sessions are optional if gatepost tasks are complete
      • School provides bagels/pizza/salad for Saturday sessions!
    • Scaffolded lessons along the way
      • Reading Around Your Topic
      • EE Introduction & Subject Requirements
      • Finding Sources & Source Evaluation
      • Developing Research Questions
      • Note-taking & Organization
      • Citations and Works Cited page
    • Digital lessons for differentiated learning & extra practice
      • Lessons are posted for future reference
    • Consistent platform use
      • LibGuides for resources, lessons, timeline, forms
      • MB for submissions
      • Teams for communication with students and supervisors
      • WeChat group (optional) for fun.
        • Students chose their preferred methods of communication: Teams and WeChat
    Armed with this plan, we have embarked! 

    As I proceed with this cohort of students, I'll post updates, links to completed lessons, and other resources.

    Until then, good luck to everyone out there who is launching a new EE group. Comments and feedback are always welcome! 


    Monday, May 11, 2020

    Online Workshop: Google Power Searching


    Our Middle School is offering student workshops related to various tech and information and organization skills. 

    Here are the documents I used, thanks, as always to the amazing librarians out there who share their work so widely.

    Boolify - a puzzle-type interface that shows how different filters impact a google search
    My video - using Boolify to learn google filters
    Google-a-Day home page - a new puzzle every day
    Google-a-Day Lesson bank - past puzzles with slideshow answers
    Padlet with Google-a-Day challenges
    My remix of that Padlet with the answers


    I linked the activities into a Bitmoji Classroom (feel free to copy and edit) and shared it with the students. 

    Workshop Steps:
    • View the boolify video or demo it "live"
    • Explain the extra search tips (truncation, wild cards, and "reading" a search string)
    • Define "stacking searches" (using the answers from one search to search again and build toward an answer)
    • Assign Zoom breakout rooms + google puzzles from the Padlet (10 minutes)
    • Regroup and share "Yays & Nays" (what worked and what didn't)
    • Share the daily google challenge page for those interested in playing on their own

    This was a 45-minute workshop that seemed to go very smoothly!

    Tuesday, February 25, 2020

    Musical Bean Bags!

    It's Back-to-School week and many middle and high school English classes are coming to choose new books! Whoo-hoo!

    To follow our "Summer Reads" promotion, I wanted to do something with the song "Summer Breeze." It seemed like a version of "Musical Chairs" would work well.

    I wanted the activity to...
    1) Expose students to various high-interest titles
    2) Build capacity for sustained reading
    3) Practice book-choosing behaviors 
    (read summary, read into the book, take some time!)
    After Round 1: Two 'winners' (in red) chose books!

    For this version of Musical Chairs, everyone always has a spot, but gradually people leave the game as they find a book they'd like to read longer. In each round, they have two books at their place to review and read for about 4-5 minutes. 

    When the music is ON they dance around the area in one direction. When the music STOPS they sit at the nearest spot and read.

    I needed 24 places to sit, one for each student, so I did 20 bean bags in parallel rows with two chairs on each end to 'contain' the scene. 

    I didn't use only chairs because I felt students might choose to leave the game just to go sit in the bean bags. This way, if they decided to leave the game (yay, with a book!) they'd be choosing to leave their bean bag to go sit in a regular chair.

    (I'm probably overthinking, but it's always all about the bean bags!)

    Here's a slide with the directions. The Spotify logo clicks over to a "Summer Reads" playlist. 

    This activity is super fun the first time, but probably not great to repeat over and over. Still, it was easy to set up, the kiddos enjoyed it, AND, best of all, many went home with one of the books I picked out!

    Some details:
    We played three rounds which allowed time for free-range browsing and checking out at the end.

    When someone exited the game, I added another title to their spot from a backup stack, so the whole thing took 72 books (48 to start + another 24 as backup) plus more for other classes. 

    I did the activity for all grades who wanted to come and pulled books of various levels within that age band (middle grade or young adult).

    Titles at each spot were paired to be appealing to a boy or a girl. (In general, I find that girls read anything and boys don't usually choose "girly" covers).