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Dear Friends,
Here are the results of my question as to whether a media center schedule
of 3 weeks fixed and the 4th week totally flexible would work.  I received
20 responses in just a couple of days and many requests for a hit.  I
thank all of you for sharing your expertise.  In general, your suggestions
were against the 3 and 1 schedule and for valid reasons - not good to put
off research until the last week every month, teachers and students want
that weekly schedule for check-out, ...  Most of you who are combining the
two schedules are doing so by 1) limiting the activity and time students
spend in the media center for their scheduled visits, i.e. usually just
check-out, esp. for older students  AND 2) setting aside  two days every
week for flex, OR  3) setting aside two hours every day for flex. I
believe I will present a couple of possible schedules (favoring a M,W, F
fixed and T, TH flex so that a 3 consecutive day schedule is possible - T,
W, TH) for my principal's consideration and back them up with the fact
that I "surveyed media specialists across the country" in drawing up the
Here are the edited comments I received:

We run 4 days scheduled, friday flex - During the week, students are
welcome when we have K-2 classes - These classes do not use the Fiction,
Nonfiction and Reference areas.  The only time full classes visit the
library for research is Friday.  We run 30 classes for 20-30 minutes
Mon-Fri.  If
teachers want to work with other teachers to trade library times so that
they can extend to an open time slot, that is fine with me.  I find that
elementary students, a one day concentrated search is all that is needed
for most and the open times during the week accommodate the others.

What about limiting story times to just 2 days per week?  Then the other 3
are flexible.  I did something similar to that and it worked fairly well.

We are trying desperately to "think outside the box" at our school to come
up with a plan that gives teachers a much needed break in the day while
effectively teaching our students art, music, PE, Spanish, computer
skills, and media skills.

HI, I ran a fixed/flex schedule in my JK-8 school of 900 by having the
JK-6 come in on a fixed schedule in big blocks of time (often seeing nine
or ten classes in a straight four hour period - no breaks for me!) and
then left big half day chunks open (plus a full friday ) for flex
schedules for the grades 5-8 (although all grades used the flex time at
least once in the year).  Next year I plan to have the JK-6 have scheduled
weekly book exchanges in the afternoons Mon-Thurs and then leave the
morning and all day friday open for flex and for me to do my paperwork and
shelving. I found the teachers really depended on the weekly fixed
schedule and the children liked the routine but once the teachers found
they could use the library during flex time without having to "bump"
anyone from their fixed spot the teachers really appreciated having the
best of both worlds.   Good luck with whatever you choose!

Try working both schedules together.  I see the kiddos in grades K-3
every other week for a lesson.  Below is an example of my Week 1
schedule.  My Week 2 is basicly the same (the other half of each grade
level K-2).  During the "holes" anyone may sign up.  I seldom have many
openings in my schedule.  By the way, the other kindergarten classes
come in the afternoon during Week 2 thus giving additional open time in
the AM every other week.  By having a schedule such as this, I am able
to see the same classes on consecutive days on the flexible times.
Sometimes my aide or a mother volunteer will read to the K-1 to give me
more time with the flexible classes.  It really works very well.  It
also facilitates for the blocked classes in grades 3-5.  I have truly
had great success with this schedule and my teachers LOVE it.  Even the
1-2 teachers sign up for the flexible times during the year.  By the
way, the students may check out books at any time.  I don't have a
schedule for that.  They just come.  Sometimes with the teacher, other
times a few at a time.  Teachers seem to set a time of their own for
their students to check out books.  (SORRY THE FORMATTING DID NOT WORK ON

I have the same problem that you do.  I'm in a K-8 school with around 500
students.  Two days a week are elementary fixed schedule with the other
three days being flexible for all students.  The biggest problem that I
had was that the elementary teachers wanted to send in small groups to
games on the computer on the flex days and the middle school students
didn't get a chance to use the computers for research.  Going to the
didn't help.  In the spring, the principal formed a library task force to
decide which
way the library should go for this school year.  The first thing the task
force said was to get the elementary students off the computer for game
We are still going to have the two days fixed elementary schedule, but I
will not check out books during that time.  I found that when I had only
15 minutes to teach a lesson or do storytelling, there was no follow-up in
the classroom.  The teachers will come with their students on the flex
for supervised check out.  The check out time will not be a teacher break
the advantage to that is the teachers will know what their students are
reading as well as have a chance to visit the library and see what we

Flexible scheduling will work only if your administration backs you up.
Several times during the past year I wanted to go back to complete fixed.
My job this year is to let the middle school know that they are welcome.
Fortunately I do have a principal that will support me in this -- it was
his first year last year and the former, totally ineffective principal had
started the elementary game playing.

Judy, it might work, but I think it would be confusing for your staff and
tough on you. From experience I can tell you that it's tough to remember
come once a week at the same time, every other week is harder, once a
might be well nigh impossible. And then Holidays, sick days, etc cut into
schedule and some people get unhappy. Not only that, but if everyone in
whole school is saving make-ups and projects for the last week of the
you may find yourself overwhelmed. I would consider something like a Mon,
Wed, Fri schedule with Tues and Thurs free for flex. That way there is
of a chance for projects to be spread out over the course of a month, with

creative scheduling people can come flex, regular scheduled time, flex, or
least 2 days in a row. AND there will be less unhappiness on the part of
teachers that miss a scheduled time and want to come another time.  Also,
someone wants to use the library for a meeting and have a block of time
could and you could reschedule classes to the next day, as this frequently

also happens.  Be sure to have some kind of a sign-up available so people
sign up ahead of time and let you know what they will be doing so you can
things ready for them, and also so that everyone can see you will indeed
working on those days and not just sitting in your office playing
(the old PR problem).I wish I could do something like that, but where I
am, I
give teachers a PREP period and can't do any flexible scheduling except
an occasional period here and there. Good luck to you.

I do not think that that sounds good.  It would be way too confusing.
Perhaps you might try having fixed in the morning and flex in the
That way you can fit in the younger kids who need a set time every week,
then you will have plenty of time to schedule in the upper grades for
projects and the like.  A teacher who wants to do a project doesn't want
wait 3 weeks.  Or, maybe you can have fixed monday-wed and flex thurs and

 I would suggest having one day a week flex rather than one week a month
because it is too long between times when it is monthly.  A second concern
is what if a project takes longer than a week to complete?  Is it shelved
for a month?  What is it that drives the fixed schedule?  Is it
contractual planning time or just past practice?  If the fixed time slots
could be shortened a bit you might even be able to swing two days a week
for flex. (one primary and one upper grades). The more experience the
teachers have with access based on need rather than the clock driving the
program the easier it is to convince them of the value.  Working with part
classes helps them provide differentiation as well which at least in my
school is a hot topic.

Just another suggestion - I also wanted to keep lower grades fixed (for
consistency and to teach basic library skills) and wanted the upper
grades more flexible.  So, PK-3 gets a fixed 30 min.  slot for a
"mini-lesson" or story + browsing and checkout.  These classes are
scheduled M-F 8:30-10:30.   From 10:30-12:30 every day is blocked out
for flexible scheduling.  This is the time that grades 4-6 can, by
appointment, come for research, or a teacher requested, specific
lesson.  From 1:00-3:00 I have 20 min. scheduled block for grades 4-6 to
have a scheduled browsing/checkout time.  The 4-6 teachers were very
adamant about having scheduled checkout.  I might note - PK-3 leave the
students with me and never stay , &  grades 4-6 teachers ALWAYS stay for
requested lessons and for checkout.  I didn't make this a rule, it just
sort of happened that way.  I really wish PK-3 would at least come back
for browsing - it's really difficult to do readers advisory, help
students use the computers and locate books,  and checkout for 20+
students without help.  Another note:  I have no aide and no volunteers.
This might work for you - depending on the number of classes you need to
see each week. My 4-6 teachers seem to really like it.

Judy, you need to be ready to assist teachers with their unit of study at
the time they need to study and I just cannot imagine how all teachers
could save a particular unit of study that they wanted to coteach with the
librarian for one week of the month and be able to get everyone in.  If
administration is insisting on some sort of Fixed schedule, I would
one or two hours a day and allow the rest for planning, coteaching with
teachers and library clerical work ( ordering, weeding, searching for
to support curriculum and a few of those other tasks that are a librarians
duty,  HEE HEE)

We tried this in a district for which I was the Library Director.  Once
you set something like this up, it really makes it difficult to
transition to a fully flexible schedule.  It's mixing metaphors, if you
will, and teachers really get used to having the best of both
systems.  You might be better off to have two days a week that are
fixed and strictly designated for book check-out.  Then the other
three days could be flexible.  This really isn't the best either, but I
think it's better than having only one week a month that's flexible.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It has worked for me for several years.  I cannot say that much goes on in
the way of research during the flex week but free reading, book selection
and plundering does and that is really probably some of the best uses we
can encourage on the K-4 level when we are trying to create live long
users of
the library.  In our school three weeks I run a full schedule and on the
fourth guidance takes over the media schedule.  It has worked well for me
and them because sometimes we have to change weeks because of conflicts
with meetings etal.

Good luck.  Personal opinion I rather like scheduled classes because it
means I will see the students that would never get out of the room for
behavior or educational problems if the whole year was flex.

 I feel like I can't provide equal services to everyone if it is not more
scheduled...but the flexibility is nice for the upper grades.  People
comment on how lucky we are to be on a totally flexible schedule...but the
way staff use it...it ends up being pretty scheduled anyways???

I'm not sure about elementary school, but I work at a large (1800) middle
school and do exactly that. I have scheduled classes for 3 weeks (6th
7th week, etc) and then flex on the 4th week. Then start over. A plus is
that there is extra time for classes that want/need more and also if
is closed on a day for some reason, I can still schedule the class during
the 4th week. Teachers also like it if they have a special activity etc
because they can reschedule classes and so no one misses out on library
I have to be flexible when it comes to due dates though. The kids like it
because as a general rule they have 4 weeks to sign out their books. They
like the extra time. So do the teachers: four weeks is plenty of time to
read an appropriate book and do the book activity. I've only been on the
for 3 years and have done it that way since I came. I did find it easier
make and copy a calendar to the LA teachers to let them know when to bring
their classes. I can conviently make one up for 3 months. I don't do a
year because the library is also used for other events (Earth Week, Book
Fairs, testing) and it makes for to many changes and errors.

After 5 years of trying to switch to a more flexible schedule, last year
(after discussing our new state standards for school libraries which
strongly suggest flexible scheduling) I received permission from my
principal to try this schedule:
Each 6 week period:
Mondays and Fridays are check-out only days - each class is scheduled
for a 20 minute period on one of the days.
Weeks 1-2-5-6 (Tues-Thurs) are for fixed 35 min. schedule (K-20 min.)
Each class has 2 fixed periods per 6 weeks. I use Wednesdays during
these weeks to make up missed classes or finish projects if necessary
and to do library tasks - orders, weeding, etc.
Weeks 3 and 4: Tuesdays and Thursdays are totally flexibly scheduled.
Our computer lab is scheduled similarly so that students can work on
multimedia projects.
This was a great beginning and not this coming year but hopefully next I
plan to increase the flexibly scheduled time. (I am hoping the teachers
will ASK for more rather than have it forced upon them.)
Some did not use the flex time at all, some wanted to use it each time
it was offered with not enough planning with me, but we will work on
these things. There were only 2 complaining teachers who found it too
hard to keep track. They always had a hard time keeping track of their
fixed schedules also, so I do not think the complaints were very valid.
We did some wonderful projects and several teachers are convinced that
it is the way to go, so I plan to work with them as much as possible
this year.
Several times I've read on LM_NET the advice to work with the teachers
who express interest in working with you, and think that is excellent
advice. My staff is wonderful but many are very set in their ways, which
I respect because they do get excellent results with their students.
However my goal is to send students to 7th grade more prepared to use
library resources. I think this schedule has permitted a good compromise
for all of us and will influence more eventually to think fondly of
flexible scheduling than to be angry about having it forced. I do not
feel that a situation like that will bring results for us.

Judy Nichols
Media Specialist
Estes Hills Elem.
Chapel Hill, NC

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