In the last few years, I have tried different ways to encourage those students who have helped out in the library: shelving, checking books in and out, processing new books, and occasionally helping out with fifth grade STEM labs. A few years ago the award was a photo ID similar to the ones that CMS staff members wear. Last year, Nick Wethington, the spectrUM Making and Tinkering Specialist who has been helping us develop a terrific making and tinkering program, laser cut some wooden "Library Special Ops" cards. Students designed the card:
This fall, more students than ever before have been volunteering to help out in the library, which was very helpful at the beginning of the year when there were several dozen books to process. When a seventh grader started a list of Special Ops requirements and began working on a poster to recruit students, I realized that the joke had taken on a life of its own and that I would need to set up an actual program, complete with guidelines, duties, and benefits.
I am still working on the details, but it looks like the initial training in checking out books and shelving will take about two hours, with another couple of hours for learning how to process and take care of books. Those who earn the badges will need to continue to help out in the library for, perhaps, a couple of hours each quarter, or the equivalent of seven or eight recesses.
The benefits to students? To begin with, there is the tangible reward of the cards, given as tokens of appreciation for doing much of the work that would at times swamp one busy librarian. I also suspect that an official program is a way of promoting a culture of responsible caring and service.
Down the road, those who develop their capacity for kindness and for caring about the people and places around them are more likely to behave that way when they make their way into the wider world.
On a more practical level, library special ops agents will be first in line for limited entrance on cold days when the library is attractive even to those who rarely enter otherwise.
Check back in a week or so for more details about the library special ops program.