Friday, July 10, 2015

6 Hot Tips for Creating Topnotch Shelf Readers

The most popular Teen Volunteer Program I have at the library are Shelf Managers. I'm not quite sure why since it takes a special person to love shelf reading, but my teens come back year after year and they get really excited about it.

Have you tried this program at your library? Interested in doing something similar for your teens and/or adults? I thought I'd share what we do at my library and, to help you save time, I even included templates at the end!

1. Information Overview

  • My training sessions are an hour long. 
  • The teens come in and I play two Youtube videos on shelving Fiction and Nonfiction which were produced by the Parkland Regional Library system. The videos are very short, but they give a fabulous overview of how the system works. (Some day, I will make my own videos, but these work for now!)

2. Quiz for Understanding

  • Next, I have my teens take an online quiz that I made via a Google Form. It asks them to put things in order and sees how well they understand the concepts. (See the end of this article for quiz templates that you can copy and modify)
  • Then I use the Google Form Add-on Flubaroo, which automatically grades the quiz. In five seconds, I will get a percentage of how many they got correct!
  • I've learned that if they score below 70%, they usually require a lot of supervision and never really get the system. I pull these kids aside at the end and tell them, "You didn't score well on the test... This is usually a good indicator that shelf reading will drive you crazy. We want your volunteering to be fun, so how about we just focus on having you edge and shift books?" Usually, the teens agree (and came to this realization while taking the quiz) and they're grateful for the graceful way out.

3. Do a Practice Run

There are three parts to our Shelf Managers: 
  • Shelf Reading.
  • Edging (pulling the books flush to the edge of the shelf and tucking the book ends tight). 
  • Shifting Books (making space at the end of the shelves). I've learned that shifting is a HARD concept for teens to grasp, so I always end the session with bringing them to shelves and having them practice on one whole bay.

4. Supervision

I've run my program two different ways:

If you have pages, I highly recommend starting a Page Mentoring program where you partner each of your volunteers with a page. 
  • I have my pages log when the teens come in and they direct their mentees to the areas in the library that need a lot of work. 
  • They also check in on them and double check their work (which is easy to do since everything the mentee moves, he/she puts that book on its spine).

However, I know many libraries don't have pages. If you fall into this group, I've learned that it is helpful to check in on your Shelf Managers and see how they are doing. 
  • Give them only one section in the library so they can become experts in those call numbers.
  • Have them lay the books they've moved on the spine so you can easily double check them later (ideally, while they are still working, so you can explain any mistakes). 
  • When I check twice and they made no mistakes, I give them the okay to not lay the books on their spines when they move them.

5. Schedule

  • There's just so many hours one can focus on shelf reading and still remain proficient. I've learned that two hours in one shift is the super shelfer's limit. 
  • Don't forget to include breaks from reading! 
  • I always tell my teens that when they need a break, it is a good time to start shifting some books. 
  • I also ask them to edge their section, pulling the books tight and flush with the edge of the shelf.
  • I've learned that creating a schedule that works for ME is what makes this program the most successful. If you're doing the training all by yourself, you might want to pick two days and two time slots for teens to select from. I suggest starting with one hour a week, but some want to do two solid hours. I do not allow three hours at once.
  • If you are working with your pages, it is important that you have a back-up plan in case your page is not in. I only allowed shifts on the times there are two pages working so if one page calls out, the volunteer can work with the other page. If you don't have this option, you can make sure your pages can contact the volunteer if they will be out.

6. Templates/Downloads for You

You can make a copy of this test and edit to fit your own library!:

Don't forget to install Flubaroo. It is super easy! Go to the Add-on, type in the name and add it to your toolbar. Once added, you make an answer key (which is most accurate if you only ask for multiple choice responses) and then you're done! Once answers are submitted, you make three clicks for the grade.


And that's it! If you use this format, please share with us how it went. If you already do this at your library, how do you run your program? We'd love to hear about it.


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm happy to hear you found these tips useful.

  2. Yes, I have done this in both high school and now in a public library after school group. I typically will find one in about four that will do a pretty good job. I have only one right now that can actually help me do weeding because he will rearrange the books while we work.

    1. It is very surprising to me how teens struggle with shelf reading. The training has certainly helped, especially when they fail the test and I give them an out. Pairing them with a Page, though, who can constantly check on their work has solved a lot of problems.

  3. Hi! I am a Programming Supervisor at a public library and we are reformatting our Teen Volunteer Group. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the Dewey Quiz posted and I was wondering if we could get a stand alone link or something similar so we can use it. My email is
    Great blog!

  4. Hi Megan, I am glad to hear you think this will be useful. I'll make you a collaborator on the current document. Please "MAKE A COPY" and then remove yourself from the template document. You can make any changes you want on your copy. Let us know how it goes!