Better living through sound effects

Bereft as I am of any assistance in the media center, I have had to be very resourceful in keeping myself sane. And no, I am not talking about tequila.

One of the problems I encountered last year, when the entire school was tightly scheduled into (and out of) the media center, was that kids would be browsing and searching and suddenly there would be the next class at the door. Pandemonium ensued, as the outgoing class had to be rounded up and checked out and the incoming class moved in. If there were instruction involved, it was even worse.

So, using GarageBand and its built-in resources, I constructed a sound file: timetocheckout.mp3. Then I sent it to to change it into a .wav file, since that’s all that Outlook is willing to entertain.

You should have been there the first week, when this went off. The kids were like stunned rabbits. It was great. Now, of course, they’re like Pavlov’s dogs. As soon as that first blast hits the air, they’re on their feet and lining up.

However, it soon developed that the warning would catch some students unawares, and then there would be a lot of motion away from the circulation desk as they scrambled to find a book, any book, to check out. Mostly of course these kids were the slackers who hadn’t been looking for anything anyway, but it created a chaos where there should have been order.

So I went back to GarageBand and came up with the three-minute warning. Now no one has an excuse to do anything but move towards the circulation desk (or the exit) when the final warning comes on.

This year, while I am no longer on an imposed schedule, I do have two instructional classes every day, for third grade info skills. I often found myself looking up and seeing that we were out of time. (I may not be on a schedule, but everyone else certainly is.)

This time, I went to and downloaded this set of sounds, one Herbert Boland’s “Piano Moods.” From this set of nearly 40 little piano bits, I was able to assemble (in GarageBand) a three-minute, new-agey kind of piece. I built it so that it starts quietly, then builds, then fades away. I cued the deeper base notes to begin when we had one minute left. Now, when the “time fairies” start, we know it’s time to wind up whatever we’re working on and put our paperwork back in the folders. The first few times, it took us longer than three minutes to get all packed up, but now, everyone’s all lined up by the time the final little chimes are pealing.

In my Outlook calendar on my circulation computer, I have the infoskills warning set to repeat on a daily basis, three minutes before that class period is over. The others I have to set every day, based on who’s signed up for what time slots. It’s a little bit of work, but it’s also a nice ritual with which to begin the day, and it keeps us all on track.


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