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Where To Next?

Back in October, Tamara Cox, (The e-Literate Librarian), shared an idea for a library display modeled after the directional signs that I always associate with M.A.S.H.. (An aside:  I realize that reference will betray my age, but I was already taken down a peg or two earlier this week when I made a reference to Eddie Haskell, only to realize that the young teacher I was speaking to had no idea who that was. Ouch!)  Anyway, Tamara's sign was so fantastic, that I knew right away that I had to create one of my own.

One of the goals I've had this year is to do a better job of making my library more visually interesting.   My library was built in the early 80s and just about everything in it is original.  And although I've made some progress sprucing it up, I decided that this was the year to really put some muscle into making the aesthetic match the creative and lively work that goes on in there. Of course, if I had my druthers, I'd pull up the carpet, tear down a wall, buy all new furniture and hire some muralists. (I have an amazing mural idea based on the poem "The Greatest Nation" by Allan Wolf that I really *will* make happen some day.) But until I stumble across the big barrels of money I'd need to make all of that happen, I'm trying to make smaller, but impactful changes, when and where I can.  Of course, it's not just about aesthetic, it's about generating interest and creating an atmosphere of wonder (or as Buffy Hamilton calls it, enchantment) in the room where so much learning and collaborating takes place.  Tamara's directional sign is one such project.

While Tamara enlisted the help of her shop teacher and some students, I found assistance (and assistants!) in my sweet husband, some amazing students & teachers and one really fantastic parent. If you want to create one of your own, check out Tamara's blog for some step by step directions on how she made her cool, decoupaged, letter collaged signs.  Meanwhile, this is how I made mine.


  1. Balsa wood.

  2. Magnet tape.

  3. Paint (& brushes).

  4. Printer (& paper).

Here's what you do:

  1. I went to a local craft store and bought several planks of balsa wood - the kind that those snap together glider airplanes are made of.  I chose this because rather than finding a wooden pole to nail the sign to, I knew I'd end up using one of the 3 metal power/ethernet supply poles that are scattered throughout my library) - and this wood is incredibly light weight.  I suggest getting planks of different widths to add interest. At the same time, I also bought 5 small tubes of craft paint and a few brushes and a roll of magnet tape. (Total cost for all the supplies was under $30.00.

  2. Next I asked my husband to cut the wood into arrow like shapes for me.  He also sanded down the rough edges.

  3. Then some students painted the signs different colors. It was funny just how seriously the students took this process.  They were intent on getting everything just right.

  4. Meanwhile, because I am a fontaholic, I started searching online for fonts that thematically matched the fictional places they would be pointing to.  I have to say, this is the kind of thing I could spend HOURS doing - taking way too much time choosing between one font or the other when, really, both were just fine.  I have a sickness.  Really.

  5. However, once the fonts were finally chosen, I'd create the lettering (in just the right size and shape) in a word document, print it, and trace it onto the sign with a fine point sharpie or, depending on how it would be filled in, etch the outline of the font with an etching tool.**

  6. Once that was done, the letters could be painted in.

  7. Finally, once everything was dry, I slapped some magnet tape on the back and stuck the sign to the pole.  Voila!

**Truth be told, my fantastic parent volunteer did much of this part for me.

Now, all of that said, I should mention that we're not finished!  The signs we have so far are for:  NeverlandCamp HalfbloodThe GladeBluford HighNarniaMiddle EarthForksPanemEmerald CityHogwarts and Ember.   The signs that are still being made are:  UnderlandTerabithiaAlagaesiaRusty RuinsThe FayzBlackbird PondLorienThe SchoolMercy FallsMossflower WoodsCamazotz,  and the Hundred Acre Wood

The thing I've loved most about this project is the conversations it's generated.  It's funny how, when you're TRYING to think of something, you're mind can go completely blank.  For example, just as I got to the point where I needed to start coming up with the fictional settings for these signs, I seemed to completely forget every book I've ever read.  Luckily, there was no shortage of ideas from my students, teachers and even well read Facebook friends who were happy to toss in some ideas.  Already, kids are excited to see if they know all the books represented in the sign, with high fives going to those who've read the most.  What they don't realize, however, is that those who don't recognize all the places, are the real winners.  With so many fictional spots left to visit, they're journey's just begun!


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