I think we should talk about how DIY skills come in handy in the Librarian career field. When I entered this field, I knew I was going to love it. I was especially attracted to the multitasking aspect of the job, since there is nothing I dislike more than monotony and being bored. And being a school librarian certainly doesn’t leave time for being bored. But I did not realize that my handyman skills would become so helpful to my job.
But, having just finished my 3rd year as a school librarian, I now realize that I hand-make a TON of things for my library and my students. And I love it so much, because it’s a great creative outlet AND it is a great way of stretching the budget, or of upcycling already at-hand resources. For this blog post I’m going to ruminate on some of the things I’ve DIY’d in my library over the last several years.
I’d love to hear about the awesome things you’ve DIY’d for your libraries!
In my first year I would purchase bookmarks, usually from Demco. But eventually I realized two things: I didn’t like having to use my precious budget for bookmarks, and the bookmarks were not especially exciting or cool. I started making my own bookmarks. The great thing about making them is that I save on my budget, AND I get to offer my students much cooler, more relevant, and more diverse bookmarks.
I purchase a ream of thick cardstock. Then I create the bookmarks in canva.com (they actually have TONS of free, ready to print templates.) Then I have our school’s copy center print them in color on the cardstock I supply. Student assistants cut them out.
- The plus side to creating them yourself:
- You can add your own library branding.
- You can customize them to your student’s interests/needs or your library theme.
- You can create customized “resources pathways” on the back of bookmarks (for instance, I have an LGBTQIA bookmark and on the back I have the qr code to our lgbtqia+ books list in destiny. I also made mental health bookmarks and on the back I have phone numbers to crises lines)
Signage can be VERY expensive to purchase. And, although there are lots of free signage available online, it is often not quite right for my needs or preferences. So now I pretty much make all of my signage in canva.com or postermywall.com
- How do you make it big enough or small enough for your needs?
- In canva.com you can create custom sized graphics. So, when I need to make a poster or sign to a certain size, I can easily indicate the correct size in canva.com before designing it. Once I’m done designing the image on canva I simply download it as an image.
- To print them poster size, I use rasterbater.net. This is an awesome free website which allows you to upload an image and then enlarge it over several pages of standard printer paper. You can then download the pdf of pages and print them. You then just tape or glue them together and voila, you have a poster of any size you want!
Bulletin Board Displays / Photo Booths
I use canva and rasterbator to create my bulletin board displays and posters too. Why? Because I am TERRIBLE at hand making bulletin board displays. I see some of the amazing displays other librarians and educators make, and they honestly impress the heck out of me. I, apparently, do not have the patience or knack for hand crafting amazing looking bulletin boards. But I am good at designing things digitally. Thankfully I finally realized that I could create my bulletin boards online and then simply print them using rasterbator.net to the correct bulletin board size.
Community Coloring Sheets
My students are obsessed with giant community coloring sheets. They are way too expensive for me to keep purchasing, since my students go through about 1 per week, so I figured out how to make them myself. For free. Without a poster printer! And, actually at this point my students make them, so it really does not cost me any time either. I use the finished products as decorations around the library, and also as giveaways that I raffle off to teachers who attend my PD sessions. It is awesome walking around the school and seeing the posters all over the place.
Giant Scrabble Board
This year I also created a giant scrabble board. For some reason I failed to take pictures and document the creation process, but here is a picture that shows the board in action. I created the scrabble board itself by using rasterbator.com. Then I measured the size of the squares on the board and I cut thin pieces of wood to that size. I needed 100 tiles. Students then write the letters on the tiles and applied the magnets to the back of each title. Then we taped the board to my magnetic white board and voila! Oh I also had to make 4 title holders (one for each player). I just make them large enough to fit 7 tiles on it and applied 7 magnets to each one. You can see one in the student’s hand in the picture.
Series Labels are another thing I started making last year. They are actually pretty simple to make and the make a HUGE difference. My students love being able to easily see which book is which in a series, and I love being able to easily shelve them in series order. The best part is probably that it makes it so easy for me to find gaps in my series.
All I did was go to demco.com and download the template for the labels I use when printing spine labels. Then I just type up the series title and number in the template, print, and stick them on the books. Getting them on all of my books the first time was a bit time consuming, but now it is just maintenance since I only need to add them along with other stickers during processing of new books.
Ottoman out of weeded books
In June I taught myself how to make an ottoman out of weeded books. It is sooooooo awesome. The only costly part is buying the caster wheels, but it is still much less expensive than purchasing ottomans would be. I plan to make 3 more when I return back to school in a couple weeks!
I’m so excited to have made window seat cushions for our library lab so there is extra comfy seating areas in the library. This year my admin took the desktops out of the lab and have given me the room to use as a flex/collaboration classroom. So I made these comfy cushions to put on the window ledges. All I did was use old patio furniture cushions, some plywood, and vinyl fabric. I’ll be adding throw pillows as well so these should be super comfy reading nooks!
Spray Painted Book Carts
Last year I spray painted my old ugly book carts. They look awesome!
Holiday Displays out of weeded books
I’ve enjoyed finding clever ways to reuse books to create holiday displays over the last few years. (June 2022, edited to remove pix and reference to making a Christmas tree out of books)
What are your favorite DIY projects?