In a couple of weeks, I'll be presenting off the wall school library ideas that worked for me and other school librarians across Nebraska to a virtual conference. I'll also embed the presentation on my presentations page so you can see them.
The title of that presentation is very personal to me. Let me tell you a story, friends.
When I first walked into my new school library, which is combined with a community library also, there were many shelves of weeded books for students to take home as well as boxes and boxes of them in storage. I have a thing about space. I need more of it all the time. So I needed to clear these books out.
My new community had a Farmer's Market every week. I didn't know anyone, but I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a go. Luckily my superintendent agreed based on our previous conversation: The Get-Books-Into-Kids-Hands Summit.
The only naysayer was the public librarian who I worked with. I was shocked that she thought my idea was crazy. She was exhausted trying to keep up with the ever-changing local mandates for COVID, helping a new school librarian figure out the most basic of things, and handling reopening a public library after a three month quarantine. Her plate was full. New ideas were not something she had the energy to support at the time. She said the magic words to me, "It will never work. You can set up your little table all night, but our community isn't like that."
I pondered this since I didn't know the community. Could I actually be harming the school library by trying to shove free books in their faces? Then I shrugged. I was going to do it anyway. If Sulley could safely land a plane in the Hudson, I could sit at a Farmer's Market and handle whatever came my way during that time.
My set up included a table, two chairs, my 14 year old daughter, and a handmade sign.
This event was the first thing I posted to my library's brand new social media accounts too.
At first, not a soul approached my daughter and I or our table. We smiled until our cheeks hurt, but folks shuffled past the strangers trying to lure people with free books rapidly. A local accordion-player took the stage next to us, and we clapped wildly for every single song. Then, slowly a trickle started. People heard us and saw us. They wanted to know who we were more than they wanted the books. It got a little warmer.
Then my people arrived. The kids and adults who love books. We gave books away by the box and promised to be back the next week with an entirely new table of books. We didn't sit down for hours. I learned a few names and a lot of faces.
And that thing that was "never going to work" became what I consider a success. We got rid of 80% or more of the books we brought with us and freed up some valuable space. More importantly, we became part of the community in those two weeks. We built a solid relationship that I'll work hard to continue to deepen. Not only did it work, it connected us.
After the event, the public librarian was pleasantly surprised to hear of the public's reception. I think she needed the win for libraries too. Sometimes we all need a win.
Check out my presentations page for the full presentation of ideas and come up with your own ideas that "will never work"! It's definitely the time for some creative thinking in education. If anyone can succeed, it's teachers and school librarians. Let's shine.