elementary fieldwork: my white whale.


My big project for elementary fieldwork seemed simple enough: my fabulous host librarian asked me to come up with a way for students to navigate the stacks more easily.  The existing system was alright, but it really didn’t do much to help elementary students identify different sections of classification without some serious work and/or eyestrain.

The shelves were punctuated with labels that used really small fonts and neutral colors:


I could understand why she wanted me to focus on this.

So I devised a wonderful, elaborate plan that was so intricately rad to the power of sick that I had to supplement my words with complex illustrations:


The problem with wonderful, elaborate plans that are rad to the power of sick is that there are often a whole lot of logistical issues that arise.  At least, that’s what usually happens to my wonderful, elaborate plans.

First, I set out to create some big letters.  Then I realized how much typeface plays a role in seemingly simple tasks.  And how awkward it is to batch edit twenty-six text-based images. So I did what a true librarian would do: I asked someone who knows lots of stuff about lots of stuff, and he helped me (thank you).

The letters were created, and I struggled with both the printing and the cutting of these little guys.

Then I began to wonder if the problem with my wonderful, elaborate plans is that I’m the one executing them.

Once I reinforced the labels with poster board and had them looking good and sharp, I tried to laminate them.  It was such a debacle that several fantastic faculty members took time out of their very short lunch to help me (thank you).


At this point, I realized that it must be my execution.

Never mind that, though… I had a job to do and I was going to make it work!

And I did, with the amazing help of my librarian.  After a few more kinks, we finally found our groove.  Luckily, she has high standards in tissues, so she had a whole slew of uniform boxes with unacceptable tissues that would finally get put to good use:


Then, on that magical day (Wednesday, to be specific), the project was finished.  The library now has big, bright shelf labels to help students with the fiction section.


And I even found something that reminded me of the show Arrested Development, which always makes me smile:


I didn’t get to the nonfiction section of the library, but I think I gave the librarian a few ideas.  And now that I’ve figured out all the possible combinations that don’t work, she’ll be free to tackle the nonfiction with ease.


At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

This project taught me a whole lot, but I hope that it’s useful to my marvelous host librarian and all those little ones who come into the library.  I may have struggled with this project (probably largely unnecessarily), but my goal was to help the librarian out.  If she’s happy with it, then I can’t ask for more.


2 Responses to “elementary fieldwork: my white whale.”

  1. I don’t envy your job. Sorting books for children to notice and choose for their developing minds to read is a tough one. On the other hand, what a fun way to ensure they become engaged with all the wonderful books written for children. There must have been hundreds of treasures for you to find homes for. Thank you for your effort.

  2. 2 Leann

    Love your ideas, Karen! I’ve been meaning to do something similar in my 3-6 library, and think this idea is great! Love your other posts, too. Keep up the good work!

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