A Safe Place: redesigning myself

When your teachers and students enter the library, do they feel it's a "Safe Place"?

Many of us are limited by the funding for our space. Oftentimes, there's not much money to add new displays or comfortable furniture~ to tidy up wallpaper or add new signage. But let's not forget- there's one key thing in the library we can change with no money. Ourselves. Our attitudes and our messages. 

The last seven years at my school have brought me through an evolution of thought.  Where I had been trained "overdues mean kids are irresponsible so no checking out"~ I now extend grace.  Up until last week, if kids had overdues~ they could still check out. Now, with less than 3 weeks of school- they can choose a stack of books and "save them" til the next day to bring in the overdues- then take new ones.... you see- there's a desire for new, a willingness to share, and more often than not- the books come back the next day. (Insert note: my loan period is 3 weeks,  with a ceiling of 10 books for my grades 3-5 readers).  

How did I get here? I thought about my kids with overdues. I looked at them. I discovered many were in divided homes~ and the books may be at the "other" home. Some were staying in hotels, or recently moved. And very few were simply irresponsible. So, why punish kids for circumstances they can't control? Some of them need books for the very escape of life. 

The last seven years have also show me it's ok to take risks. I've given up the "I need to know the answers" before I try something. Over the  years,  I've launched into The 40-book Challenge, conducted science experiments in the library, tried new apps and new technologies without being an expert, opened Google Apps to our kids and staff, and ventured into new staff development with blended learning. The results: I believe most of our kids and staff are willing to try new things. I have teachers who have seen their kids read like never before after trying the 40-book Challenge. I have teachers using Google Classroom with their kids. I have kids asking "what if",  "how can" and "I wonder" questions.  This isn't something I've taught them. At least not directly. It's something that I hope came out of the environment of safety. 

What is your space used for? This year, ours has been used for: classes, PD for staff, Google Expeditions, an indoor "Winter Fling" play day, baby showers, retirement parties, guest speakers, guidance classes, book fairs, Cinderella's Ball,  PTA meetings, volunteer appreciation, teacher luncheons, centers, reading, discovering, growing, testing. The last one, testing, is one reason I want the library to be a safe place. 

If the library has been a safe place all year- a fun place- a place to learn and grow- then we've made learners. Making learners is what we are all about, right? Helping teachers and students grow. BUT, the reality of testing looms at the end of the year~ and if your school is like mine, the library becomes the "overflow" for testing. Bring me your tired, your weary, your not-done in standard time kids. They come to the library to finish. I want them to finish well. I want them to finish strong. I want, when they enter these doors, to feel like they can do anything. 

So, I try to make the library a safe place. A safe place to think. A safe place to ask questions. A safe place to take a risk. A place to enjoy. And then, I hope that memory stays in their hearts always. When they may not feel the safest, they feel safe in the walls of the library. 

So is your library a safe place? Look at yourself- and see if the redesign of your space has already started with you. 


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