How do you start library centers in school libraries? How much time will it take? Will it work in my special situation? Can I do this without spending any money? Can I do this without a library assistant or parent volunteers?
Those are all great questions. I want to help you get started with library centers, because I've seen the way centers transform school libraries. I see students engaged in purposeful learning, instead of aimless wandering. Visitors see a room full of engaged students, and see bulletin boards showing off the product of class time in the library.
I've answered many of your questions in my book, The Centered School Library. You can purchase it through the link to Highsmith, and you'll find a very thorough introduction to the hows and whys of library centers.
This website builds on the basics that I wrote about in the book, and adds many, many more ideas. In fact, you may be overwhelmed when you visit this site. But the secret is this: take one step at a time. You can finish any project that way, right?
Start with one center. Find a library table. Bring out the listening center (I know you have one back there in your library closet!). Put the tape or CD in the player, set the books out on the table, and tell students that after they've checked out their books, they can listen to a book at the listening center.
Of course, this means that the student who hasn't brought his book back for several weeks now has something to do! I mean, something to do that doesn't drive you up the wall!
So, on another table, maybe a coffee table that nobody really uses, you'll start a puzzle center. Simply put a jigsaw puzzle of the United States on the table. And you'll be delighted when you see the students smiling as they discuss states and capitals. Yes! This really happens! I've seen it myself!
They talk about the places they've visited and places they want to visit someday. Maybe they browse through the geography books that you've placed on the table as well.