Friday, April 16, 2010

National Library Week - The Middle School Librarian!

Today I have a librarian who runs a seriously fun blog and does some really fantastic stuff at her middle school library. Karin's blog is called Karin's Book Nook and she's also done some fantastic reading challenges - the latest of which is The Random Reading Activity Challenge. Check out what goes on at her middle school library!

Karin's Book Nook

A middle school library is a fun place to be. Libraries aren't like they used to be when I was a young person in junior high/middle school. Now, we have studying, reading, computers, class projects, and checking out books all going on at the same time. A typical day in my library looks something like this.

A school library media specialist wears many hats. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the library in terms of ordering supplies, AV materials, equipment, and books.

I also have a lot to do with ordering and implementing technology in the building - both for student use and teacher use. (Personally, I love using technology, but it is the least favorite part of my job because it turns into troubleshooting and maintenance instead of ways to incorporate it into lessons for the students.)

I love collaborating with teachers in the building - developing lessons and assisting teachers in any way I can. Sometimes I'm invited to go into the classroom and read aloud to the students during a book study. Other times I'm invited to help with the Spelling Bee and Geography Bee. I really like it when I get to help students get ready for research papers and teach them how to use our online databases. Working with the kids is great! So far, this year, I've read two complete novels with two different 8th grade classes. After we finished the novel, each class had the opportunity to visit with the author via Skype. What an experience. I'd like to give a shout out to Alane Ferguson, author of the Forensic Mystery series, and Pam Bachorz, author of Candor. Both authors volunteered an hour of their time to talk to a small group of students about their writing processes. Experiences like these are what makes me proud to be a librarian.

This brings me to the all-time, number one reason I love my job. I absolutely adore spreading the word about good young adult literature. In fact, this is the reason I started my blog in 2007. Middle school students are at delicate place in their lives when it comes to reading for pleasure. Research shows a drastic decrease in reading for pleasure beginning with in the middle school years. My thought is, if we can get them hooked before they leave, they might never lose the love of reading a good book. It is so important they see reading as a worthwhile recreational pastime. Books have a lot of competition - friends, homework, sports, video games, the list goes on, but if we don't try, we'll definitely lose them.

One way I try to show reading as a recreational activity is to host a Read-a-Thon twice a year (once in the Fall and once in the Spring). Students show up at school on a Friday night at 7:00 pm and bring pillows, blankets, and reading material. They find a special spot in the library and set up camp. I provide water and soda and a variety of snacks (pizza, chips, cookies, candy, crackers, etc). Students fill their plates with food and settle in for an evening of reading.

At the time of their arrival I have them sign in with their name and the page number they are on at the time. As they finish books, they go back to the sign in sheet and update their page numbers. If they start a new book, they start a new page number count. The only time I interrupt their reading is to give out the occasional door prize (always a book). They also use this time to refill on snacks. At the end of the evening I count up the number of pages we read as a group.

I've hosted the Read-a-Thon for 4 years now. The number of attendees has increased as the years have gone by and the students begin to expect it. My largest crowd has been approximately 90 students and 7 teachers. We've read close to 7,000 pages in one evening. The Read-a-Thon ends at Midnight and students leave with the impression that reading is fun and always ask to make sure we are going to have another one. (Sidenote about teachers - I always encourage teachers to show up during the Read-a-Thon - even if they don't stay for the entire event. It is important for the kids to see adults reading, too. Even the teachers that don't teach English/Language Arts. I put a sign up sheet in the teacher's lounge with hour long time slots and ask them to commit to a portion of the evening. The most I've had was 7).

Librarianship is the greatest job to have - if you enjoy books, that is. You get to interact with all the students and you don't have to grade papers or give grades! If you are thinking of a new career, check into a Masters in Library Studies. You won't regret it. I was a librarian at an elementary school for 4 years before moving to the middle school. There are pros and cons to all levels and basically it will come down to preference. I love the middle school age because I have a passion for young adult literature. You might like the little ones! There is something for everyone in the library.

I secretly want to work at a middle school library too! I work at an elementary library and love it, but I'd like to try out working at a middle school library someday! Karin runs a fantastic library and an awesome blog! Thank you for stopping by Karin and sharing all of this with us!

Make sure to leave a comment below for another entry into this week's giveaway!


  1. Wow! A middle school librarian sounds like a rewarding and fun job!

  2. Oh I love the idea of a Read-A-Thon! I am taking this to my librarian today and planning one of these next year. Thanks for the interview Kristen.

  3. I wish you were my librarian in middle school, lol. The read-a-thon is such a good idea. I gave up reading for a long time while in middle/high school because of the pressures of peers and also because reading was 'not cool'. I think I was missing that escape that reading gives me now.

    Great post!

  4. I love the photos--They really show what a dynamic and popular space you've created! I wish that our library was such an inviting space...

  5. Karin, you are awesome! I am a high school teacher librarian and love to hear what others are doing. Funny you should mention your read-a-thon. I'm running one for California schools today and tomorrow for the first time so I hope it goes well; I am nervous!

  6. Love the photos. And I would like to be a librarian never mind middle school. anything would be nice.


  7. Thanks to Kristin for allowing me to share a little bit about my library. I appreciate everyone's comments. Be sure to email me if you do something cool at your school. I'm always looking for ideas to "steal."

  8. It sounds like you really enjoy what you do. I also gave up reading around middle school. I wish I had someone around to push me in the right direction like your doing to so many others.

  9. Aw, I wish my school would have read-a-thons! It sounds like such a great time.

  10. Some truly awesome stuff! I'm gonna share this with my media specialist to see if she wants to try any of it! Thanks for the post.

  11. The idea of a Read-a-thon sounds great, if only my library could do that, well if i show them this post....The pictures make me smile knowing more people are getting into reading and i would love to be there!

  12. What a wonderful idea to host a Read-a-thon at school! I think parent and teachers should encourage students to all read. It keeps the libraries alive! Great job :)

  13. I kept reading throughout middle school, but most of the kids I knew did not. Your school is lucky to have a librarian so committed to encouraging kids to read. I think the Read-a-thon sounds like an awesome idea.

  14. You know, reading all these posts have made me feel so much more affectionate toward my librarians. Which I didn't think was possible! I love the dedication and passion you show. The read-a-thon you host is such a great idea. I wish they'd done that at my school! I'm actually interested in pursing a career in teaching, but you're totally helping to sway me toward a librarian LOL.


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