Providing Opportunities for Students in a Creator Space

Contributed by Blaire Ranucci, elementary librarian

We have been very fortunate in my K-5 building to have received funding to launch a Creator Space. What began as a set of maker resources from our district (robots, osmos, makey makeys, etc) has expanded into a place of exploration in my building.

To fully get the idea of our Creator Space, you have to picture a building with an atrium style library. We have one designated wall and hallways with classroom off of them on three sides. In one of those hallway areas, we have created our Space. When our Creator Space was in the idea phase, the Principal, LMC Director and Technology Liaison worked together to determine how to spend district and grant funds to best meet our needs. We repurposed tables and storage to provide the most ease of access and space for the students. A committee of interested teachers have worked extensively from the idea phase until now to sort through manipulatives from previous math curricula, unpack new kits and supplies, organize storage space and create new challenges across all STEAM areas.

But all the ideas, money and searching through blogs, Pinterest, professional journals, etc does not make for a successful space.

What makes the space successful is the commitment of the Principal, teachers and parents to changing the mindset in a school.

In our building, interested 3rd-5th graders could sign up for Recess Creator Club, which allows them to explore, create and keep projects from week to week. There were no restrictions on which interested students could participate, only that they regularly attend to keep their spot. We have had students across all academic and accommodation levels chose to participate and find success. Not all students thrive during recess, but this has provided another outlet for them. In addition, each grade level has designated time each week to come down. Teachers send students on a rotation, so all students have exposure to the rotating activities and materials that are in the space. Students who are normally pulled out of the classroom many times a day will still have the opportunity to participate with their peers..

It is a work in progress, but this year has been so exciting, and has sparked something in many students who do not always shine. Creator Space has been such an opportunity to add to the definition of lifelong learning and has enhanced what the library can offer a school.


Ethan’s Efforts Making a Difference in our MakerSpace

Contributed by Natalie Hoyle Ross, NBCT and elementary librarian

It is not unusual to see a librarian advocating for the LMC’s MakerSpace; however, it is quite another to have a student take on that role.

Our biggest advocate of our Spring Brook MakerSpace is Ethan. When Ethan realized we were featuring one of his favorite pieces of technology, Osmos, he was thrilled!

However, his idea of a MakerSpace was that the area would be in use the entire school day.  He was disappointed to see that some days the MakerSpace was not being used at all.   It was at this time that Ethan set a personal goal to make our MakerSpace more popular!

His first step was creating an enticing public announcement to lure students to use the MakerSpace.  By making the announcement from the perspective of the Osmo, he explained to the entire school that the Osmos were lonely and wanted to have someone play with them.  Almost in a commercial like manner, he explained how much fun Osmos were and how all Spring Brook students should try them out today! 

Another tactic Ethan used was to excite teachers.  He approached teachers and asked them when they planned to sign up for a time to use our MakerSpaceIn a further effort to spread the word about the MakerSpaces, Ethan designed and hung posters outside the teachers lounge and in the main office, encouraging teachers to become interested in Osmos which is leading to more interest in all the devices.

Since then, Ethan himself has taken on a teaching role.  Ethan used his valuable reward time to help other students become mathematicians through using Osmo Numbers and tangram apps.  

With Ethan‘s help, our MakerSpace has become a hub in our school with frequent visitors and a lot of buzz.   

Selfies and Sneak Attacks

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Something that I love doing is taking pictures of my students in action in the library. I catch them reading alone, with others, or just having a fun time in the library. Most of the photos I take are “sneak attacks,” so I can catch them unprepared instead of posing. When I come across a particularly precious moment, I’ll forward it to their parents in an email with a subject of “Today in the LMC.” Parents respond with a huge thank you! I try to send photos to different families each month. I pick a Friday night to stay at work and flip through the photos and choose families to send them out to.

This year I also added a selfie-station in the LMC. It’s a counter-mounted iPad with a Bluetooth clicker. It’s designed for students to take a picture of themselves with the books they check out. You can only imagine the selfies that I see: serious, goofy, extremely goofy, single shots, group shots, etc. I Tweet out the photos using #KendallReaders. Many times I’ll also include the author’s name in the Tweet. When the author responds, I share that Tweet with my students. They are very excited to know that the author of their favorite books “Like” the Tweets and respond!

Using “sneak-attacks” and selfies has been one more way for me to connect to the families that I serve, keep my students excited about reading, and model the types of connections students can make through digital platforms like Twitter.

Happy reading (and photographing!)

Oh, For the Love of Reading

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Meet Asha, one fierce 5th grade reader.


Last year she was one of my top readers. In fact, she read 314 books during her 4th grade year. So far this year, she’s read 87! Ahsa can check out five books on a Friday and return them all read on Monday. Not only that, she remembers details from each book that would boggle your mind!

When asked, “Why do you read?” Asha responded:

Ms. Jenkins, you asked me, “Why do I read?” I read because it brings me comfort. I love the feeling of when I find a good book.

When I read, it distracts me from what is going on in the world. When I read, sometimes it is like time stops. And I like the feeling when you get to that one moment in the book where everything in the story makes sense, and I just don’t want to put the book down.

Also I love all of the information that a book can give you even if it is a fictional book. There are so many books that I enjoy  reading. I like the Maximum Ride books,and the I.Q series. With those books I felt like I had to read and finish each book!

So I will say that I mostly read just for the fun it and not because I have to for school. I do it for the enjoyment!

Asha D., 5th Grader

Future Ready Librarians – Continue building relationships with kids, telling their stories, and celebrating their accomplishments alongside them!


Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Reading and writing are enhanced by thinking! What better way to get students thinking first thing in the morning! Give them a space to express their opinions, thoughts and feelings. I started the year off with this whiteboard. Each day I change the question using an alliteration for the day of the week and a thought provoking question. I Tweet it out every day using #thinkwriteboard.

Student response has been amazing. Each day, they rush to read the question and to get to be the first to write their thoughts. Here are a few examples of our responses:



Of course, kids will be kids . . . that’s why it’s important to be on an erasable surface!

A #thinkwriteboard is a simple way to get students and staff involved in the library. I  also love that other Future Ready Librarians and teachers alike have seen our #thinkwriteboard examples on Twitter and have started one in their own school too!

Happy writing!!!


A Celebration of Picture Books

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

November was National Picture Book Month; my school celebrated it with a challenge!

Students and teachers were challenged to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November! They diligently tracked, tallied, and turned in their numbers each week.

What students read individually was included on the tracking sheet, but also…

  • If families read together, each child in the family could count it.
  • If brothers and sisters read together, they both tracked it.
  • If friends read with each other, both of them put it on their tracking sheets.
  • If any non-classroom teacher read to the whole class in the LMC, each child in the class could count it.

Any type of picture book could be read: storybook, biography, nonfiction, wordless, graphic novels, etc.

We had some special events for the month:

  • November 10 (parent-teacher conference night) – Digital Connections were made with a relative. We used Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout to have a relative read a picture book or two.
  • We made connections with schools in Texas, New Jersey and New York to see how many we could read together!
  • We encouraged students to Read the Author Alphabet – They read a picture book by an author’s last name for every letter of the alphabet!


The winners . . .

We are all winners because  we read!

But, the classroom that read the most picture books for the month won $250 in Scholastic Dollars to enhance their classroom library. The winning 3rd grade class read  1,859 picture books!

Third grade was also the grade level that read the most, so they won a grandparent read-in event.  They read 3,080 picture books!

It was a lot of fun! Check out our statistics:


After all tally sheets were completely turned in, we actually read 12,001 picture books as a school! Amazing!!! This means students were exposed to at least 12,001,000 words!

The best part of this challenge was the feedback I received from families. One parent wrote regarding her 2nd grader:

Ms. Jenkins,

The Picture Book Challenge is the greatest idea! Annabelle’s been reading like crazy since, and we need not remind her to read at all!

What a joy it was to connect with great picture books. 


The Genrefication of an Elementary Library

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

I did it! I’ve joined the hundreds of librarians who have chosen to “genrefy” our library collections, or at least part of it.  After making a connection with Erin Preder from Bolingbrook, sitting down with her and chatting about many things. We landed on why she’s so happy she went through this intense process. She mentioned one of her reluctant readers. When he would come to the library, he was not very successful in finding the right book. It was hard for him to search through Destiny for that one right book. After she “genrefied” her collection, he knew just where to go to find the right book. She felt that if this process helped just one student like him, she would know it was the right thing to do. This student thanked her for making the change because it made it easy for him to find what he wanted to read.

She gave me a couple of blogs to read to find out more about the process and after reading them, I was motivated to get started! Read about her process here: Erin Preder

Kristen Mattson, LMC Director at Waubonsie High School, also genrefied her collection. I admire her tenacity and efforts to be a 21st century Future Ready Librarian in a Future Ready Library! You can read about her experience here: Kristen Mattson

I began the genrefication project Monday, November 28. I finished it Saturday, December 17! The process is not for the faint at heart! It took approximately 61+ hours to complete. It was so worth it the time and effort!

So what did I do and how did I do it? Let me explain.

I only genrefied the Fiction section of my library.

Step 1 – I had to figure out what genres I had in my collection that would best meet the needs of my students. I came up with 12 genres: Adventure, Animal Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Scary, Science Fiction, Sports, and Super Heroes.

Step 2 – I ran a Library Report to create a Shelf List in Destiny and exported it as a Microsoft Excel document.

Step 3 – Since the report lists everything in my collection, I cleaned it up with only the fiction books remaining in the list. I then uploaded the file to my Google Drive and converted it to Google Sheets. This made the access to the file at home, where most of this work was done, easier.

Step 4 – I had two windows open side-by-side so the switching back and forth between Destiny and my Google Sheet was convenient. I now had to go through each record in my list and decide the best genre for the title. Sometimes the Destiny record would have valuable information to make that determination. If it didn’t, I used Titlewave, Good Reads, Amazon and Erin Preder’s Destiny online catalog to help make the best-fit genre decision.  I have about 4,500 books in my fiction section, so this was a very long process, one book at a time! I froze the top row in my Google sheet so I could always see the headers for the columns. I also put in a countdown formula so I could watch my progress. =COUNTBLANK(H2:H) This helped me keep a bit of sanity! It was so encouraging to watch it dwindle down to 0!

Step 5 – I finally finished identifying all genres. It took about 15 hours. Now it was time to
sort my data by genre, which is easy because it’s in a Google sheet. I also had to decide on the colors I wanted to use to represent each genre. After I sorted the data, I highlighted all lines in one genre and used the Paint Bucket to fill them with my selected colors. Watch this video to see how I sorted by genre.

Step 6 – Destiny, our library management system needed changes too. I wanted to include the genre name in the call number prefix. For example, a fantasy book would read: FANTASY:FIC ALE. I also needed to set the Sublocation to the specific genre location. I thought I would have to open each book and make changes to each and every record . . . copy barcode, paste it in Copy Status, search, edit copy, type in the call number, set the sublocation,  save . . . repeat 4,500 times!  However, the computer geek in me would not allow this! There had to be a way to let Destiny do the work for me! After searching through some of their help files, I found it!!! You can watch this video to see this process. What could have taken an additional 16 or more hours, was completed in about 15 minutes!!

Step 8 – Now it’s time to label each book. I re-sorted the data by call number, then by author and then by title. All I had to do was follow the shelf list and label each book according to its genre.

Speaking about the labels . . . some purchase labels, but I just used Avery 5160 labels and created my own.  I printed them on a color printer and they worked perfectly. I like the length of these labels because they easily wrapped around the front and back of the books. I decided to place the labels at the top of the spine. After applying the genre label, I also covered each label with a clear barcode cover label. My assistant and about five volunteers helped me with this process. The majority of it was done after work while listening to blasting music, encouraging me to just keep going! A pair of scissors was also a necessary tool. Sometimes the label had to be cut in order to not cover a part of the barcode label.

A great benefit of handling each book was that I was able to do a lot of weeding. I was surprised to see so many yellow-paged books with outdated pictures. I was also able to personally see what items were in my fiction collection.

Step 8 – Rearranging the shelves was next. I had a plan in mind about how I wanted to organize each genre section. In order to accomplish this smoothly, I worked one shelf at a time. I carefully maintained alphabetical order, removed the books from the shelves and placed them in piles by genre. Books were everywhere! I found that it was a lot easier to sort the shelf by genre first and then move them into those orderly piles. As I cleared shelves, according to my plan, I placed the organized piles on the cleared shelves. Once again, as I touched every book, I was able to do yet another weeding. Reshelving took 11 hours! Here is a video to help!
Step 9 – The only thing I had left to do was to label my shelves. I created 5×7 posters and purchased frames from the Dollar Store to display them. I also printed additional posters and taped them to the sides of my shelving units to further identify the genre locations.

Step 10 – I had to figure out a way to present the new design to my students and teachers. They saw me labeling and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t share anything about it. I completed the project on a Saturday, so I needed to present and reveal the new system to each class before they started coming down to the library on Monday. I thought about a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation, but that would require that I go to each class to present it. I didn’t have that kind of time. So, I decided to create a movie using WeVideo. I finished it at 1:00 am Monday morning and emailed the link to my teachers and asked that they share the 5-½ minute movie before letting students come down to the library. Here’s how they learned about our new system.

I can say that this was so worth the time and effort! Students are thanking me for organizing our library like this! A teacher called me into her room after her class watched the video. When I entered, they gave me an applause because they were so happy about the change! One student told me that he was looking for a historical fiction book and when he went to the section, he ended up with a different book because he could find something he was truly interested in and this system made it so much easier. Another student actually hugged me and said thank you for organizing our library this way!

I’m happy because my students are happy! Now, on with the next project . . .

Note: This piece was initially posted on The Kendall Library Lady blog. Check  it out to see LOTS of pictures of this work as it progressed!