Monday, June 27, 2016

5 Stages of Classroom Library Organization: Relatable GIFs for any Big Organizational Project

Anyone who has taken on a huge project has experienced the five stages of grief. You know: denial, depression, anger, bargaining, and acceptance.

I recently reorganized my schools entire giant collection of guided reading books. As the collection was, none of the newest staff members ever used the books. We had tons of great children's literature for book boxes, reading groups, projects, and lessons. 

The problem was that the books were inaccessible, hard to find, and confusing to look through. Some books had levels on them that meant nothing to me. Does a "1" mean first grade-level or some other arbitrary thing based on the "system" the book came with?

The books in our guided reading collection were also unattractively and messily displayed. I am not sure about you, but when I go shopping, presentation matters. The same can be said for "book shopping" in a school reading resource collection. If the materials are messy, teachers can't be bothered to take the time to browse them.
Teachers are busy? No! (insert sarcasm font)

Below you will find my journey through the five stages of Library Organization. 

My denial came in two stages. Initially, I was denying that the resources in my classroom even needed organizing. "They are fine," I would tell myself. "If someone really needs something, they will come and find it." In reality, the idea of reorganizing the materials that had been accumulated over the span of a couple of decades was overwhelming. It never seemed like the right time. 

I would have likely continued to ignore the half of my room that held the reading and math resources if it hadn't been for the issues in our state budget in Oklahoma. Two revenue failures led to the reduction of all Instructional Coaching positions in my district. I would be heading back to the classroom in the fall as a fourth grade teacher in the same building in which I coached. There is nothing quite like changing jobs and classrooms that will send you into an organizational frenzy! That left me about a month to come up with a plan to leave the materials "better than I had found them." I also liked the idea of the materials being easy to find and return since we had been focusing on reading engagement in professional development a lot lately.

Books and games piled up like they are a display at Goodwill? No big deal. 

I had the rest of state test season to think about my plan to organize the reading and math resources. Math would be easy. We had cabinet space. I would just need to move it all and label the doors. Reading would be more difficult. We had multiple sets of outdated materials and several different leveling systems in place for the guided reading books. Luckily, actively monitoring gave me plenty of time to brainstorm. 

My second stint of denial came when I had a plan of attack. I had visions of Pinterest-worthy resource collections. Once the organizational tubs had arrived at school, I was telling everyone about how awesome it was going to be. 

It's going to be the guided reading book collection of your dreams!

The next stage of my process was anger. It may have been partially fueled by the fact that I had very little time to get the books sorted and weeded. A month seems like a lot of time for a project, but I was also doing my full-time job of coaching. It was also the last month of school. Gulp. My suggestion to you is that you choose a less stressful time to take on such a large project!

The last straw was when I started to make efforts to find the guided reading levels for many of the books. It had been years since many of the guided reading sets had been purchased. One of the sets of books had 1990 as the most recent copyright! I was actually IN elementary school in '90. Yikes!

Why are these thirty year-old books still in this room!?

For each book the process would go something like this: 
1. Look for bar code
2. If book has bar code, hope that it is the ISBN bar code
3. Scan book with two different apps. 
4. Google book
5. Look for book on random spreadsheets found via Google, sourced from schools who published their guided reading book library spreadsheet online for some reason
6. Still don't find a level for book
7. Throw book in discard pile
8. Feel guilt for discarding book. 

Repeat as necessary, or until someone finds you sobbing under a pile of level-less discarded site word readers via 1990. 

Merida has been trying to find guided reading levels

I finally gave in and vented all of this to my principal who gave me the blessing to discard the old sets without searching for each title. Why didn't I just do that in the first place?

I haven't read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, if that is what it is called. I do have an idea of how freeing it could be to release things that do not bring me joy. What is it about books and discarding them that sends me into the anxiety shakes? 

My technology doesn't bring me joy. I reject it. 

One additional thing that would come close to making me black out with rage was when someone would comment about if I had completed the project yet. 

No, I am not done yet. Keep walking. 

Bargaining mostly took the form of me begging people to come in after school or at their planning periods to help me put stickers on books. Luckily, my awesome future teammate volunteered (ahem, volun-told) her college-age daughter to come and help me. Without Shelby, I would still be at school labeling books! 

We also came up with a plan to make the discarded books available to teachers and to use them as resources for inside recess, home book bags, and early finishers. Having an idea of what we would do with books without a level made me feel less stressed about tossing them. 

I want YOU to come and help sort books!

About 2 weeks in to the process, I hadn't seen the tops of my tables in days. Books were multiplying like rabbits. I had cracked hands from touching grit covered Amelia Bedelia titles.

I found myself dreading even going into my room. We are talking THOUSANDS of books. Would I finish? Is this even worth the trouble?

I don't wanna go in there,
The thing that got me over the hump was old rubber bands. Weird, right? Stay with me. 

Many of the book sets had been bound together with rubber bands. As I went through each bin of books, I kept noticing that sets of books had disintegrating rubber bands stuck to them. Gross.That means that for at least the last few years, not a single teacher had pulled those books for students to read. 

What is the point of having a room full of books that students can't access?  

While the process of touching each book, deeming it appropriate for students or worthy of being weeded, finding a level, labeling it, and then shelving it was daunting (to say the least), IT WAS WORTH IT.

I feel you buddy. 

Yes, I was still in for several weeks of hard work, but with the help of my teacher friends, we were able to get all books leveled, labeled, shelved, and moved into their new room. 

Don't ask me how I am. It makes it worse.
I can honestly say that I feel that teachers are going to be so much more likely to utilize the guided reading material collection that we have next year. As a part of the process, so many teachers helped me get the books finished up. Because everyone pitched in, they each know how to check out and return the books. 

Acceptance in this case is relaxing and accepting the compliments!

I can't wait to go book shopping next year!

It wasn't THAT bad. 
After all of the hard work, decisions, and stress, would I do it again. You bet! You are organizing your resources next week, you say? Ummmm, let me check my calendar and get back to you. 

Do I want to help you label your books?
If you have ever FINALLY gotten to the end of anything hard, you know exactly how it feels. I am not sure about you, but I was flooded with relief.

When nearing the end of a bog project I also do a terrible thing. I think about how I can make the project better, thus prolonging it. I am not sure why I do it. Anyone with me? This time I was unable to do that. The tight timeline I was working under kept me from seeking additional projects within my project. It was AWESOME to be done. Really done. I would be handing the collection off to another staff member, even. "Here is an amazingly organized and user-friendly system. DO NOT MESS IT UP." I am only partly joking about that last line. 

That feeling when you are REALLY done. 

Check back! I will share more about how I actually managed to get guided reading levels for the books and how they are organized to ensure that books are easy to check out and return.