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  • Writer's pictureLee Ann Spillane

Inspired by Bookstores' Shelves

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Think about your favorite bookstore. Some of my favorite book stores in the United States are massive. Shelves for miles at the Strand. Stairways to book heaven at the multi-storied Powells City of Books?

Small spaces, like Books Actually with it's book vending machine out front or Littered with Books in Singapore with it's cozy corners and themed displays.

The reader and artist in me loves bookstores' shelves. The shelves invite and inspire.

If only I could recreate that inspiration and invitation in the classroom! As Grant Snider says we will be judged by our bookshelves!

My own shelves have come a long way. I used to shelve books alphabetically by author in my high school English classroom. At it's largest, my library spanned a dozen bookcases and wrapped around two walls of the classroom. When the books were arranged alphabetically, I could easily stride over to a shelf and find titles to recommend to learners in the class. That alphabetical system was for me. After nearly two decades of listening to young adult authors at NCTE and ALAN conferences and of reading young adult books, my book knowledge runs deep.

Readers in my classroom have different experiences, so organizing books by genre or themes--even in a high school English classroom-- helps them find something of interest. In the past, I did all of the organizing. I still get shelves started. Once I have a system roughed out (categories, shelves, displays), I connect with the kids.

We organize the books together and in small groups. It's one of our previewing activities to sort books into piles by genre or interests. It's one of many activities that help us come together as a community of readers and writer.

This year I will be in a shared space. There will be four teachers sharing adjoining classrooms and the library breakout space. We have a wall of shelves in a glass-walled breakout room that we plan to use as a shared classroom library and each classroom has additional books in them. We are just getting started in terms of putting books into bins and categorizing them in the shared space. Here are categories and labels if you'd like to use or adapt them.

The library is not quite ready yet. Categories are drafted. Display work still ahead.
Organize those books.

We have not finished the library space yet. We've got a couple hundred more books to shelve. And the shelves need displays and or recommendations. The room needs a lamp or two. It's needs some cozy. That will take time, especially in light of safety as we socially distance.

When learners come back to school we'll have special measures in place for safe distancing and equipment sharing. I'm not sure what that will mean for books. Will we have to wipe down covers? Can we still share bins and shelves? We'll see. What I do know is that the kids will help confirm our shelf categories: from adventure and classics to diverse voices and fantasy, science fiction and war, we will see and talk together about what works for the library. Reading together, on campus or from a distance should Covid-19 demand, is one of my favorite things. I can't wait.

We're going to have an incredible year.

Of Interest:

Filing Classroom Libraries with Books that Students Want to Read | Tony Ryma interviews Penny Kittle for Northern Ontario News.

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