What I'm learning from presenting....

Sometimes, the audience is many.
Sometimes, the audience is the one.
And sometimes, the audience is the presenter.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, I presented to a group of my peers in the county. One presentation was about looking at library policies and our unintended messages that we give students. The other- how is it that in the midst of a fixed schedule can I make a difference? Both of them were for me.

Going from flex to fixed has been quite the transition. Not just for me, but for others as well. In the past there was more of an "on call response" to a variety of issues. In the past, there was more time for direct collaboration. In the past, students could come get books whenever they wanted and could have access to me. Teachers would make appointments for certain kids to get private browsing times with me.

So now, I am trying to figure out how to do all of those things within the confines of my schedule. So, I re-evaluated my core beliefs. I established that if the kids didn't have access to quality materials of a variety of interests that growing as readers would not happen. I thought about what my barriers were- and realized that it wasn't just my schedule, but it was some of the practices we had in place.

Case in point #1: overdue books.
In many schools there's a  practice that if a book is overdue you cannot get another book.  I really struggled with this policy. I mean, when I looked at the population of kids who had overdue books, I noticed a trend. These were the kids on the margin. These were the kids that oftentimes didn't have books at home- and honestly, worrying about returning a book was the last thing on the families list. So, several years ago I lengthened the "loan period" for our books to a month. After a month, it's time to touch base and have a talk about where the book might be. After a month, it's time to counsel as to whether or not it was a good fit- or if it's just been abandoned and in a stack somewhere. But after that month? They can still check out- they just have to get by me first.

Case in point #2: circulation limits.
It took me a while to get to the point that if all the books are on the shelves, they aren't being read. (D-U-H). So I wondered, why do I have limits? If it's for me- and finding the time to shelve- then that's wrong. I was discussing this with my guidance counselor~ and she laughed. "You let the kids check out more books than any other school I've been in." Which was of little consolation to me. Here's why:
#books in collection: 15,185
#books checked out:   1,487
So that means less than 10% of my books were in kids' hands at that moment....I was heartbroken.

This means war! Yesterday began the increased limits- (yes, I know still limits- but it's a logistics issue right now- no bags, and elementary kids have short arms). Grades 3-5 started taking 10 books. Grade 1&2 will start taking 5. Kinder- still just 2 at a time right now, but we'll get there!  The most fun part of this? Their joy!   And now? 1879 are checked out. (12%)  Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Final case in point:  Choice
Kids deserve the right to choose their own books. They have the right to freely search and try new things- to carry big books if that makes them happy. To come trade them every day. Kids have a choice. If we do not allow students to choose their own books~then we are limiting them as readers, and communicating that we know what's best for them. How are they to create their own understanding of what works for them? Who are we to tell them what's right or not? Books are extremely personal and need to be discovered by the individual. Only then will they become authentic readers.

So if my core belief is that kids should all have the opportunity to become independent readers who learn to love to read- then I must create opportunity for them to do so. I must give resources to help with that. And, I must be open to giving up control and see what happens.  Will you?

After all, reading is a right. Not a privilege.


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