Ditching Dewey for bookstore model to encourage reading

10:38 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- As libraries go, this one's pretty nice.

Students have the option to check out iPads.  They can huddle together at kid-sized tables with chairs that have rounded bases to accommodate wiggling.

Three giant screens line one wall so teachers can present a multimedia extravaganza of learning via SMART board.

One thing you won't find in the School of Engineering and Arts media center is decimals.  As in the Dewey Decimal System, the gold standard of libraries and the bane of school children nationwide for more than a hundred years.

"Everything is filed by subject," said media specialist Carol Tracy.  Subjects are divided into story or information rather than fiction or non-fiction.

In short, students at SEA, a new school in the Robbinsdale School District, browse books much the same way you would in a book store.

"Here, Vietnam War, right here," said a student as he and a companion pulled a book off the shelf.

"I like this one way better because it's easier to find books, " volunteered 5th grader Autumn Lindgren.

Rather than browse through the computer, students are free to peruse the shelves.  Discovery is part of the process.  A student looking for a book on dinosaurs can see an entire shelf full, and choose something that looks interesting.

Books for beginning readers are mixed in with books for more advanced readers.

That takes the stigma away for older readers who may read below grade level.  It also encourages readers of any level to pick up a book that might stretch their range, if it looks interesting enough.

Tracy said going with the bookstore model can present challenges.  An existing collection would have to be re-categorized, and have new labels.

There's also the question of what to do with subjects that don't fall neatly into any category.

"For example, we have several books on Bigfoot," said Tracy.  "Where does Bigfoot go? So, we have an unexplained section in our information side, and that's where Bigfoot landed."

The goal is to encourage exploration, which media specialists believe will lead to more reading.  Spending hours teaching students how to navigate the layout of the library seemed pointless to Tracy. 

With a brand new library, Tracy and her team decided to turn that model on its head.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to start from scratch, so we did," said Tracy.









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