Monday, June 3, 2013

Inventory a Student (PBL) Project Based Learning Experience?

This is my 24th year as a school librarian but who is counting? When I began my library career in 1989, I had 2 adult library assistants in a school of 1,400 students and we meticulously completed a manual inventory for 3 consecutive years. Let’s fast forward to 2013. I am now a school librarian with 670 students and no adult assistants but fully automated. Times have changed as has the inventory procedure.

In my past library positions, it was mandated to complete inventory before I embarked on my summer vacation. For years I have thoroughly approached this ritual of collecting all the books, shelf-reading, scanning, reprinting barcodes, fixing labels, and leaving the library in absolute perfect order over the summer months. Now I see some debate about the entire inventory process and if it's really essential. It's not difficult to teach an old librarian a new trick but eliminating inventory has been difficult for me to acknowledge.

What exactly do I like about inventory? During the entire school year I have students shelving and some take the job seriously while others prefer working the circulation desk. So in essence I believe inventory is a process to keep some structure in what may develop into a chaotic environment. I have little time to shelf-read or shelve books so I have empowered my student aides to take ownership of the organization of the library. This was the first year that inventory was completed almost entirely by students (but of course under my supervision).

We began the process shortly after Spring Break scanning collections with low usage. We scanned the fiction collection last since many books were still in circulation. I am proud to announce that we have completed a full inventory with an entire week of school left. The pleasant surprise is how well my students completed this undertaking and the results of the inventory. After scanning and rechecking the shelves for missing items, the students reported a minimal loss in books. I choose to turn on the out of order option in Destiny during scanning to help with getting the shelves in proper order. I must admit that I had various students rescan areas such as the 700s since they were in complete disarray.

My thoughts from the experience have been eye opening. By allowing my students to be so engaged in the task provided them with some essential life-long skills. They had to collaborate, organize, analyze data, and report their findings on this group project. I believe that this inventory task fits into the project based learning category.

I know my library inventory is not perfect but by allowing my students to complete this task has given me a whole different perspective on this annual ritual. As I embrace my changing role as a school librarian, I am transferring more responsibilities to my students and I foresee an increase in their roles. Try approaching your next library endeavor by empowering students in a project based learning opportunity.

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