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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

How do you begin?

During your first session with students at the beginning of the school year how do you begin? Do you have formal orientations? Do you begin with a storytime for younger students? Do you have centers and interactive orientations like scavenger hunts?

I wish I were the all-knowing librarian who has mastered and perfected beginnings, but, alas! I am just a library information practioner. Every year I have a new chance to try something different. One year I led students in rolling dice to determine if they would ask a question or tell a rule. One year I prepared a "No, No, Never, Never, Un-un-unh!" bag (felt like I was a cheerleader again). I have role-played rules. I have simply talked each class through the orientation. I have presented powerpoints with photographs of the volunteers, assistants, areas of the library, etc.

Last year I used a powerpoint from an LM_NET friend and let all 3rd and 4th graders click through the presentation to orient themselves. That was wildly popular and they came back to "play" it again. The teachers were amazed how much content the students were exposed to in a short amount of time.

I have seen the Library Jeopardy style sessions where students answer questions. If you search the archives of LM_NET, you will find many suggestions for beginnings incorporating story books like David Shannon’s No, David!

One year I gave written quizzes to older students. Everyone who scored a perfect 100 was eligible to be my first group of library assistants. Believe me that everyone worked much harder on all paper activities that year since "knowing library stuff" earned privileges.

Several years ago I was able to checkout to students the very first day of school. This made 2nd-4th grade teachers ecstatic. Due to difficulties getting data from the front office, I can’t always do that, but the GOOD PR that year made it worth every difficulty.

I would love to hear what you do…. Do you focus upon your own program? Do you solicit advise from students and teachers? Do you focus on sharing your rules, procedures, and expectations? Do you focus on building an exciting atmosphere of student ownership? Let’s talk.


  1. Beth McCheyne says:

    Thanks for all the ideas. You got me thinking. I’ve been worried about getting stuck in my ways, so this year I want to try some different approaches. Doesn’t answer your question, but thanks anyway. :)

  2. DIANE CHEN says:

    Wow! You are so correct. Thinking about this is the most important part, not coming up with all the answers. I am trying to put myself in my students and in my teachers place to view what they most NEED, not just the huge amount of information I need to share.

  3. Mary Woodard says:

    It’s been a few years since I was a practicing librarian, but I always felt (and still do) that orientation is a time to connect with students and let them know the library is there for them. As a middle school librarian, I used to orient 7th graders by dividing them into groups. Each group was given a task card and had to find out about various policies and procedures of the library, in addition to where things were. The groups then reported back to the whole group and taught each other about the library. They had a lot of fun and began to take ownership of the library from that very first visit.

  4. Three days before the start of school I was told I would now be working part time as the H.S. librarian as well as in the grammar school. The HS principal asked me for a list of magazines we should order (and which we should cancel). Today he asked me for a Library Wish List if he can get a grant. The HS is not computerized so that would be my first request. Any others I should ask for? Any place I can get a list of good magazines for a Catholic HS? Any hints would be gratefully accepted.