Being a MacGyver Librarian – Creative Problem Solving When Budgets Shrink.

We’ve all been here, right? Shrinking budgets has necessitated many of us becoming Librarian-MacGyvers. We learn how to get creative, crafty, and use our considerable problem solving skills to come up with innovative (and cost-effective) solutions to many of our needs. Here are some of my favorite creative solutions and re-purposing hacks. Hopefully you may find some of these things helpful. And I’d love to hear from you on any great MacGyver-y library hacks you’ve come up.

  1. Repurposing old magazine holders
    1. I don’t know about you, but I have hundreds of these plastic magazine holders taking up storage space. One way I use them, is to put them behind the books, so the books are pushed forward on the shelf (and are therefore easier to see). Since they are plastic, they won’t provide good breeding and feeding zones for pests of any kind!
    2. 64AA9312-2694-4B27-BF6A-5F24AE1CD1D531E437E5-9B48-4ED8-94BA-C1F62D680E60
  2. Clear sticky-back shelves for displaying in unusual spaces
    1. I have this one whole section of my library where there are no bookshelves whatsoever. I was trying to figure out a way to display books back there, and figured I’d have to purchase some kind of display shelving (which would be expensive), when I stumbled upon these clear sticky-back “shelves.” They were super cheap, and worked like a charm creating display areas pretty much anywhere in the library 🙂  Here is the link to the ones I purchased on amazon.
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  3. Brochure Holders as Bookmark Displays
    1. This is one I’m sure many others have figured out as well, but just in case, I’ll share it here. Pamphlet or brochure holders make excellent bookmark holders!
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    4. This is the link to the one I purchased (see picture above)
    5. The harry potter bookmarks seen above can be purchased on my TPT Account: The Don’t Shush Me Librarian
  4. Use Weeded books for … pretty much everything!
    1. We use weeded books for so many things:
      1. Maker activities like book trees, bookmarks, corner bookmarks, building challenges, book folding challenges, “create a book dominoes chain” challenges, etc.
      2. A0127501-A7CB-43B8-B2C4-DAC5FEA6CCE8.jpeg
      3. I’m also intending on using them as shelf dividers/labels in my nonfiction section.  A lot of people use empty magazine holders or binders for this as well! (In the picture below you can see what I mean by “shelf dividers” where another librarian used magazine holders to divide the shelf. I’m going to use some of my big weeded reference tomes for this purpose!)
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  5. Plastic clothes hangers + binder clips = poster storage
    1. This idea was completely inspired by another librarian on the facebook boards! I cannot find her original post but she shared the idea of using pants hangers to store posters.  I went to purchase a bunch of pants hangers but found they were too costly for me. So I purchased cheap plastic regular hangers and then used binder clips to turn them into “pants hangers.”
    2. I had this extra closet rod sitting unused in my basement, and my storage room had two bookcases that were the correct distance apart from each other to allow me to easily mount the rod between them. And voila! Easy, peasey, poster and display storage!
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  6. Old bulletin board = excellent puzzle foundation!
    1. When I decided to add brain break activities to the library last year, I knew I wanted to add a community jigsaw puzzle station. I was concerned about pieces easily sliding off to the floor if it was just on a table, though. I also didn’t want to commit a whole table to only ever being able to be used for the puzzle. Luckily we had an extra bulletin board laying around. The frame of the board keeps the puzzle together beautifully, and its really easy to move it around. Many of my students actually like putting it on the floor to work on it, so that works out great.
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  7. Use colored duct tape to create borders on displays.
    1. I love using colored duct tape (actually I usually buy 3M) as borders on my displays. Not only does it look good, but it keeps things in place lol.
    2. bef20569-2a0c-4281-9990-34522c36d159.jpeg
  8. Colorful wrapping paper makes excellent backgrounds
    1. When painting is not an option, I’ve found that wrapping paper and colored tape are an excellent alternative for adding bursts of color to the library. I used colored wrapping papers to cover the backs of my bookcases when I genre-fied this year. I can’t believe how much it impacts the whole vibe of the space!
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  9. Bookends when you don’t have book display stands
    1. This is another one I’m sure many librarians already know, but I’ll share it anyway.
    2. I never have enough actual book display stands, so I end up using our extra book ends for this purpose. The metal ones can be bent back a little bit, which allows it to comfortable prop the display books up.
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    4. I use the book ends to display signage as well. For instance, all of my genre signs are standing up thanks to book ends 🙂
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What MacGyver Librarian hacks are you using at your library?

Make Your Own Giant Coloring Posters – When you don’t have a poster printer

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If you’ve been in library land lately, you’ve probably seen all of the great collaborative activities that many libraries are offering. Whether it is a community coloring poster, stick together mosaic, or rubik’s cube challenge, these activities are great ways we can offer opportunities for community building, unplugged socialization, and de-stressing. I am a big fan of the giant community coloring posters. And, more importantly, so are my students! Unfortunately, we don’t have a poster printer.  And we don’t have room in the budget to keep buying them. I decided to challenge myself to come up with a way of creating these things, without a poster printer.

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So, without further ado, here is the explanation of how I create these giant coloring posters, for free.

But first, a gift for you! On my website you can download some of my Giant Coloring Poster Designs – Just click the link for End Cap Coloring Sheets.

  1. Figure out how big you want it to be.
    1. Make sure the size you pick fits on one of your tables!
  2. Create the design
    1. I do this on, but I’ve also done it in Microsoft Paint!
    2. Find adult coloring patterns online.
      1. I get them on google by filtering for “free to use, share, and modify.”
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    3. If you want to include wording, place a white shape over the design. Then you can add the words you want on the white part.
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  3. Tape your paper to the wall or projector screen.
    1. I use the back side (white side) of Art Paper rolls. You know, the stuff you use to cover bulletin boards? I like that because its on a roll, and you can make it as long as you need.
  4. Use your projector to project the image onto the paper.
    1. 017E61AB-7227-4AFD-B72F-5576728CC9A2
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  5. Get your sharpies and start tracing!
    1. Pro Tip: Give the sharpies to students and let them get tracing!
    2. Pro Tip: Put something behind the paper if you use sharpies, or you’ll have black marks on the wall or screen. I maaaay have learned this lesson the hard way. (I now have a big piece of laminated art paper on my wall to protect it)
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  6. put the poster on a table for students with a bucket of markers
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  7. When finished, laminate and hang!
    1. Here are some pictures that show how I’ve used these posters to add color and customization to my h.s. library.

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Designing and creating the posters is definitely a time commitment, but as long as you have rolls of paper, and sharpies, it does not cost any money! I have my student assistants do the tracing and they get done pretty quickly! Last week I challenged one of them to design the next poster on canva herself, and she did a GREAT job. So its no longer really a time commitment for me at all. yay! Some other pros to creating these yourself include:

  1. You can customize them to say anything. Favorite quotes, school name, branding & logos, etc.
  2. You can make them any size you’d like.
  3. You can create many smaller ones and use use them as giveaways (either before, or after they’ve been colored in).
    1. For example, I use them in my PD sessions as gifts to raffle off to teachers who attend my PD sessions!
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Questions, concerns, comments? Connect with me on instagram @gvhslibrary or twitter @GVHS_LibraryMc or @kelseybogan.