Things to do in the school library at the end of the year

Every November, a school librarian’s thoughts start to turn towards the long summer break. Senior secondary students have left, and high schools suddenly feel empty. Activities like sports days, EOTC field trips, and camps take kids out of the normal day-to-day routine, and the library can be quieter than usual.

We start to daydream about long summer days, and long summer reads. We devour the 'best of' book lists for the year. We make mental notes — and actual piles — of books we want to read. We start dropping hints to our families about bookish gift items. Then we snap back to reality — there’s a lot to do before the library doors close for the year!

My best advice for getting end-of-the-year jobs done is to ask for help. There are many things that volunteers can do. Put the word out to recruit some student volunteers, or ask parents for help through the school newsletter. A few hours of extra support here and there can make a big difference.

Library things to do list including stocktake, and reports

Stocktake

About now, the beeping of the barcode scanner becomes the background soundtrack for school librarians around the country. Here are some tips for getting stocktake done (and moving on to the seasonal music compilations) ASAP.

  • Don’t feel you have to close the library, but do ask for some clear space and time if you need it. Aim to keep issuing books as long as you can.
  • Don’t worry about getting all the books back before you start the stocktake — when a book is issued, you know who’s got it, there’s no expectation it’ll be included in stocktake. Chasing up issues and over-dues is a separate job, worry about that later.
  • Remember to set up your integrated library system (ILS) so that returned books are added to the current stocktake as you check them in.
  • Don’t roll other jobs into the stocktake. Save the dusting or reorganising shelves for your volunteers’ to-do list, or for another time.
  • Scanning: maybe you have an assistant, or a parent volunteer, or enthusiastic — and careful — student helpers who can do the scanning for you. Give them a quick demo of how to do it, and set them free with the barcode scanner. Students will love you for it, and you can get on with other things.
  • Searching for missing books: print and divide your list of books not accounted for in the stocktake. Then send your helpers off to the shelves to check between, inside, behind or just generally near the spot where the book should be, and mark any they find on the list so you can add them to the stocktake.

Get books back

Absolutely do not leave this until the last minute — that’s a sure-fire way to add stress to everyone’s life. Instead, follow this advice for getting books back stress-free.

Keep your messaging positive

  • Don’t berate or shame people for having a late book. None of us is perfect, and I’d venture that a good many school librarians have been in a situation where they’re not quite finished with — or perhaps can’t find! — a library book when it's due back. Encourage borrowers to come and talk to you if there’s a problem.

Be clear about your issuing timeline and processes

  • When is your last date for issuing? When are books due back? When will you charge a fee for a book that’s not returned?

Give your borrowers frequent reminders

  • If your ILS can send emails directly to students or parents, use those. If a weekly class or school newsletter goes home to families, use those for general reminders too. Pop into classrooms and get up at assembly to let everyone know what they need to do.

Give your borrowers incentives

  • Some school libraries offer incentives, or make a competition to see which class can be first to get all their books back.

Consider relaxing your borrowing rules

  • Lastly, think about whether you really want all the books sitting on your library shelves over the long break. Wouldn’t it be great if they were with students and their families instead, being read, enjoyed, and shared? Can you relax the rules a little for returning students, turn their final 2017 loans into summer reading books, and roll them over into 2018?

Organise summer reading

Summer reading is a great way to help prevent the 'summer slide' in reading levels. You can help students to read over the holidays, with support, encouragement, and access to plenty of good books.

Congratulations if you’re already under way with organising a summer reading programme for this year!

However, don’t worry if you haven’t done anything about it just yet — it might not be too late! You can start with small steps, and build on it for next year.

Steps for summer reading

  1. Make sure it's OK for your books to be out over summer. Our website has research about the impact of summer reading to help you make the case for this.
  2. Decide who can borrow over summer — is there a class or 2 who can pilot the programme in your school? Could you do a ballot to limit the number of students involved this time?
  3. Decide how much students can borrow. You might set a bigger limit than normal, or work out with each student or family how many is right for them.
  4. Allow time, and encourage borrowers to come in and pick the books themselves — keep it simple.
  5. Don’t forget about the staff! Encourage everyone to take a few books home over summer, too.

SLANZA have a great resource for creating summer reading programmes available on their Reading website.

Write an annual report

Even if your Board of Trustees doesn’t expect a report from you, it’s important to reflect on what your library has achieved over the year. With 4 terms worth of borrowing statistics, photos, library booking information, and class sessions, you can use your annual report to tell a compelling story about the impact your library has on student learning and well-being.

Show your appreciation

If you have a team of student librarians or parent volunteers who help in your library, this is a lovely time to thank them for the work they’ve done. Sharing a meal or having some fun together is a great way to celebrate the end of the year. Members of the school library email list (Listserv) are always happy to share ideas — ask for suggestions there if you’re after something new.

And relax!

When you can, just relax. Some of our best thinking happens when the mind can wander, and make creative connections. Those 'a-ha' moments or light-bulb ideas often happen when you least expect them, or when you’re distracted — maybe while you’re doing something routine such as stocktake scanning, or book covering. Starting now, try to give yourself some space and time for new ideas about your library to simmer.

Check back in a couple of weeks, when we’ll share advice to help you prepare for the start of the new school year.

By Miriam Tuohy

Miriam is the Senior Specialist (School Library Development) for Services to Schools.

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