8.13.2015

Taking the Time


June and July are crazy busy times, amirite?

Sometimes the busyness goes right into August. But if we're lucky, there is a week we can steal to take a much needed vacation and break to relax and recover and gather our strength before heading into fall.

My holy grail that has kept me chugging through SLP annually was (and is!) a not-to-missed weeklong Canadian wilderness canoeing-portaging-camping trek in Quetico Provincial Park. For over 20 years our group of six paddlers has gathered in a celebration of wilderness, cooperation, and sheer delight in nature and the wonder of the wild.

A crazy 10- 17 hour drive (depending on launch points in Champaign IL, Madison , Milwaukee and La Crosse in WI) brings the six of us together in Atikokan ON. From there, it's seven days of alternating relaxation and challenge that puts crazy SLP times far, far away. The company of these five women, the amazing sights and the realization that age doesn't stop our strength and sense of fun and adventure makes this a much savored 9 day trek.

I always come back feeling powerful, relaxed and sure that no work challenge is harder than what we faced in the wilderness. That's a powerful panacea.

Whether we choose time in the backyard on the deck, at the beach or cabin, spending extra time for a roadtrip with the family, hiking or biking or fishing or luxuriating in reading three books, a little downtime after SLP is a cure we children's librarians can truly appreciate.

So go ahead, take that time! You'll never regret it and the boost to your readiness to tackle the next work challenge is worth every moment away!


7.20.2015

What We Did on Summer Vacation


We made some fun changes and adjustments to summer this year that worked out swell. Here are a few highlights:
  • We again went weekly-prizeless for preschool & schoolagers with positive results. We had robust registration and return visits despite no doo-dads. Instead of building a robot, this year kids got a sticker or two to cover a life-size Darth Vader cut-out. They loved the concept of "defeating" the villain by covering him completely. With three more weeks to go, we expect full coverage-defeat!
  • We lengthened our program to a full ten weeks. While it has definitely made the summer months feel longer, we are still seeing outstanding return visits and a longer chance to use the library - earn the ultimate book prize.
  • We changed our preschool SLP from monthly activity cards to weekly activity cards. This has definitely brought in more families for return visits and the younger kids have loved stickering up Darth Vader (or themselves!) more often.
  • One of our gamecard activity choices was for kids to be superheroes by bringing in kid-nummy boxed meals for donation to our neighborhood food pantry. Summer is traditionally a very low donation time for food pantries and they often have to expend precious cash reserves to keep shelves stocked. We were gratified with the number of kids participating (we've delivered over 300 pounds of food "for kids, by kids" so far this summer) and the deliveries have been greatly appreciated.
  • While we definitely had plenty of fun active programs, we also used plenty of stealth (passive) programs to engage kids - Craft of the Week for preschoolers, Kid Lab and paper-covered tables with writing/drawing prompts for schoolagers and DIY activities weekly for daycare groups. It helped keep the libraries a "destination" for fun activites to engage kids no matter what time of day they came by.
Finally, rather than a completely stealth August "continuation" program, we decided to offer a "Backpack Buddies" program. We have six fully-loaded backpacks for different ages. Each time kids check out books in August, they can enter their name in a raffle to be a lucky winner. We are excited to see how this goes!

It will be fun to see the final results of all this change when we shuffle our stats out but all looks great so far!!

7.15.2015

Summer Check-in - How Are We Doing?


Pixabay Image
Our friend Abby the Librarian  commented on Facebook that even though it wasn't a terribly busy day, summer is so intense that she finds herself worn out. We all have that moment(s?). We are there too!

Summer and summer reading just means more. More of everything. More intensity in that everything. More constancy in the more. More fun. More kids. More ickiness. More questions. More answers. More stress. More crankiness. More splendid moments. More small defeats. More unbridled delight. More success. More chaos. Just more.

Whether we are in the midst of a six week, four week, ten week, twelve week or sixteen week program, the more-ness swirls up around us. At times it takes on the intensity of a blizzard we are trying to walk through (are you with me here, oh Midwest, Northwest friends?). Can we make any headway?

No matter how much we have scaled back our SLP to make it kid and staff friendly, still it is intense. No matter if we KNOW it will be impossible to do anything except SLP during these weeks, it wears us down. Wouldn't it be great to do a little of our other work. Nuh-uh. It's summer!

Is there a cure? Hmmm, getting into another line of work is a possibility. But most of us really don't want to do that.

Is there a cope? Yes, I think there is. It has to do with self-care. We each have a secret way to recharge. A sure knowledge that the end of the intensity is in sight. A welcome adult beverage at the end of the day. That extra piece of chocolate or favored fruit or cracker or cookie or nut treat. An eye on the horizon of the last day and maybe a little time off. A long bath at the end of a tough day. Some TV zoning. A deep immersion in a well-loved book. Some gaming time. Some quality pet/family snuggling time. A small and special day off filled with friends and fun - or even a lunch away. Some time outside.

Self-care is important. Whatever happens, coping and staying even means taking some time to recharge ourselves daily. Remember, each day we make a difference for kids - and for our coworkers. Taking care of ourselves means we can have energy to do this remarkable kid-filled summer reading thing each and every day.

Hang in there, my friends. The end is in sight!


6.25.2015

Exhibits Power


ALA is many many things to librarians - a place to effect solid innovative change for librarianship; an opportunity to work on behalf of all librarians to fight the good fight on legislative issues, universal access, bridging the digital divide, IF and advocacy. It's a place to learn, to share and to network. Warm greetings and hellos from colleagues old and new, a chance to discover a little more IRL than we have time to on our social media accounts. There is time for committee work and attending Notables, leadership opportunities and division board meetings. Informal lunches, after hours get-togethers and hallway convos keep the crazy days interesting.

One of my favorite parts of the conference is always the exhibit floor. While some spend time queuing up for author's signatures or advanced reader's copies - and I've snagged my share - I like to spend some quality time really looking at everything children's publishers have out AND up and coming in the next publishing cycle.  I like looking not just at the large publishers but also smaller publishers that publish for a smaller niche market or larger publishers that publish primarily in countries outside the US. This is where you can often find hidden gems of diversity that celebrate different cultures and countries.

In the past,  these presses and publishers were often relegated to the last two or three rows at the end of the exhibit floor. But this year at ALA, there is a welcome change. The small press tables can be found at the end of rows - rows that put them next door to some of the biggest names in publishing, ILS systems and other national vendors. You won't have to go far to find a first time exhibitor like Karadi Tales, a publisher in India who has two books recently honored by the South Asia Book Awards - The Rumour won the young people's award in 2013 and in 2015 A Pair of Twins was on SABA's Highly Commended list. The books that are on exhibit from this publisher are delightful and easily open up our collections to needed diversity.

This new juxtaposition of large publishers near smaller or more diverse publishers means that it will be easier than ever to take a few steps and discover presses outside the mainstream houses we know and love. So if you are coming to ALA, take some time to chat with these publishers from smaller presses or publishers from different countries and discover the true richness of our publishing world. Your community will thank you!

6.16.2015

Digital Power!

Pixabay Image

I am excited to see the publication of two milestones for those interested in bringing digital literacy in to the library for kids and families.

One is the publication of the full Young Children,New Media, and Libraries:A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5This book has been written as an online serial over the past year or so by some of the true movers, shakers and thinkers on this issue in the nation. It can be downloaded or accessed online.

The second is ALSC's new White Paper on Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth. This paper was adopted by the ALSC board in March and is now available for downloading. It is a straightforward, well-reasoned, well- researched and helpful guide that places libraries and librarians squarely in a digital literacy role we so beautifully performed with print and nonprint literacy over the years. It is available on page chuck full of information on the many ways libraries are working on media mentorship.

While some see attention to digital literacy and evolving our roles in libraries to include being media mentors as THE.DEATH.OF.LOVE.OF.BOOKS.AS.WE.KNOW.IT, I remain remarkably sanguine.

Could be I've seen four decades of growth, evolution and radical change in libraries since the heady days of the 1970s. Could be I think that Ranganathan's Fifth Law posited in 1931 (The Library is a growing organism) is actually true. Could be that transliteracy and the remarkable resiliency of libraries to meet the community's needs trump any fear we might have of change. Could be I just like change.

Whatever.

I welcome the great work being done nationally, regionally and locally to embrace digital literacy and media mentorship and applaud everyone who is stepping up and on. Go you's!!!



6.11.2015

Thrive Thursday - June

It's high time to celebrate a little pre-summer and SLP school age programming. What's up this busy month?

May Stuff
Holly over at the new blog Let the Wild Rumpus Begin has a great post up about robotics in her Maker Monday series.

Miss Molly the Librarian loves cosplay so Free Comic Book Day was just about the best day ever.

Jennifer over at In Short I am Busy has two programs to share: Raising Chicks and her highly successful 1-3rd grade book club (a 3-5th grade version will launch in fall).

Brytani at The Neighborhood Librarian did a Fancy Nancy party just before Mother's Day. Oooh-la-la!

Summer Stuff
Jennifer at In Short I am Busy is going a new direction with her summer program and also shares her superhero masks passive program win.

And Jenna, well known for her ALSC advocacy work guest posts on Tiny Tips and reminds us of what is really important in summer.

To learn more about Thrive Thursday, check out the schedulePinterest board, and Facebook Group.








6.07.2015

SLP - Breathe Deep and Go Forth


Pixabay Image
Today we have a guest post from Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC advocate extraordinaire and hardworking wisewoman/youth librarian/teaching adjunct in the greater Chicagoland area. You can reach Jenna at alsc.jenna@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter @ALAJenna. Take it away Jenna!

For all my friends kicking off Summer Learning tomorrow, a few sage words (such as they may be):
You might not feel ready, but you are. You're ready to dazzle kids and families by making them feel welcome, wanted, and valued at the library. They're coming to see you, not to see if all your programs are planned, if your bulletin boards are done, or if all your decorations are up. (Mine aren't.)
Put aside those holy-cow-I-still-have-so-much-to-do lists that feel impossible because they are. That stuff pales in comparison to those little faces glowing with excitement and wonder about summer at your library. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather look at them than at mountains of paperwork, forms, or ungodly spreadsheets of numbers and statistics.
You hardly need the reminder, but nothing and no one is more important than the child standing in front of you or little one sitting next to you. If your library kids know that, you're doing a kick-ass job with SLC. Everything else you "have to" do is secondary or even tertiary. (Trust me. It'll all get done. It can all wait. Kids can't and shouldn't have to do the same.)
All you "have to" do is make the library a fun and magical place this summer, and you do that by simply being present and available for your kids. Greet them. Smile at them. Love them. And for heaven's sake, GET AWAY FROM YOUR DESK and have an amazing time with them.
At the end of the summer or years down the line, kids won't remember the stuff they got by being part of your SLC. They'll remember the time you spent with them and how important you made them feel. Those are the real prizes, both for you and for them.
Need a reality check at any point in the next 8-12 weeks? You know where to find me (alsc.jenna@hotmail.com or Twitter @ALAJenna .

Love to you all

6.03.2015

It's Almost Thrive Thursday Time!


Hey all, whatcha got doin' for school age kids?

It's almost time for our monthly compilation of all the good stuff you've been doing (or about to do for summer) for school age programming on Thrive Thursday. Because we have the summer thing going, we'll post the goods on Thursday June 11.

If you have a program to share, please leave it in the comments.

I can hardly wait to see what all you've been cooking up!

5.11.2015

Sumer is Icumen In


(Sometimes you just have to go 13th century! This fine blog post title goes back to my Middle English languages roots and I love to murmur it as the lushness of May unfolds inexorably towards summer)

Kids will add stickers to cover Darth over the summer
Here comes summer!

I got totally inspired to write this post looking at all the great non-CSLP/iRead SLP reading/activity logs that people shared on alscl listserv recently. Microsoft Office and free fonts have made it possible for every children's staffer at any library without a designer on staff (that's like 99% of us!) to become a visionary planner and SLP materials design DIYer. It sure helped us!

We love the CSLP superheroes theme and found it easy to design our unique activity cards. Again this year, there are no weekly prizes - only a final book prize for kids who finish four weekly game cards. We are doubling down on our going prizeless/weekly card mojo by wholeheartedly adding in our preschoolers. Brooke breaks down the new preschool program she designed here.

For the school-agers, we loved how we morphed our long-time "experiential-SLP" model (developed  over fifteen years ago at my previous library with my smart school collaborator/colleagues) into game cards and we're sticking to it! Our new additions this year included, at the request of our nearby Salvation Army, a square where kids may choose to donate food for other kids as well as other heroic themes hatched out of the mind of Bryce.

Rather than building a crowd-sourced robot like last year, this year we are setting up a giant Darth Vader at Main and D.V. posters at our two branches. Each time kids return with a finished game card, they get to slap a sticker on Darth. The ultimate goal is to cover (and defeat!) this arch-villain.

To play on the superhero theme, we purchased a large and a couple of small Fathead Spiderman pix. We will cover these with post-it notes, hiding the character from the kids. Each day, staff will remove a post-it and slowly uncover our superhero!

As always, other than a few superhero posters and super hero word balloons here and there, we plan to have kids use Crayola window crayons to be our main decorators on windows during a regularly scheduled program which really brightens up the place. We'll soft launch a few days before the public schools end to help us stretch out registration sanely.

We feel heroically ready for a great summer. How about you?

5.01.2015

Color Us Thrilled!


Like most of you, we look closely at our collections, their arrangement and their kid-friendliness. We successfully morphed our Picture Book collection into Picture Book City "neighborhoods" and stopped fighting board books and made them 100% browseable in easy-to-access bins - both great "accessibility" decisions.

Since Alan, our new head of Collection Management (CM), started two years ago - and we changed our ILS - these types of changes have been far easier. Why? He has two kids and he really "gets" youth services. He knows how challenging big collections are for children seeking information and favorite books. The Dewey Decimal and multiple fiction collections with strange letters and symbols sitting atop author's last names and so.many.books.everywhere. can make a library visit overwhelming.

Our newest collection update was something that Al suggested as soon as he started working here. "Why," he mused, "don't you just color code the spine labels for your different fiction collections (early readers, graphic novels, chapter books, illustrated fiction)?" Why indeed. This coincided with an observation I made when I had first started. Since our catalog clearly spells out what particular fiction collection a book is located in (thank you automation), why do we need to even have a suffix (+, P, E, jgn or jif) as part of the call number in the catalog? We could save cataloging time by simply going suffix-less in the call number field.

Then, like peanut butter and chocolate running into each other and producing a peanut butter cup, we realized that if we took our two ideas (colored labels and no call number suffix on both books and in the catalog) we would save a ton of processing time and reach a hoped for goal- easy kids access. Al's idea sparked us!

We designated unique colors for each of our fiction collections - and while we were at it divided out our chapter book collection into tween and chapter books: early readers = pink; jgn = red; illustrated fiction = purple; chapter = green; tween =orange. Then we simply added the appropriately colored overlays to our existing collections and did global changes to wipe out the suffixes in the catalog's call number field (there's that slick new ILS!). All new books come down from CM without a suffix ((E, +, jgn, jif)  - the spine label simply has the first three letters of the author's last name or main entry. YS staff quickly determines which fiction collection each belongs in, puts on a colored overlay and batch updates the catalog.

Colored overlays show what collection books belong to. Top three books display sleek new suffix-less labels!
The results?




  • Kids (and shelvers!) more easily can spot the types of books they are looking for. 
  • The colored collections make a quick shorthand way for desk staffers to direct kids to books ("Let's find that in the red section where graphic novels are.") ,
  • Our Collection Management catalogers and processors no longer have to agonize over exactly which collection a book fits in or do small batch processing to cope with the differences between fiction collection labels. 
  • If we think a book would be better in a different collection, we simply make a quick change in overlays and a catalog update. 
  • The overlays themselves - which we have used on other collections around the library - are long lasting but still peel-offable if we want to do a reclass of individual books.
Left: Illustrated fiction (purple labels). Right: Graphic Novels
A strong partnership with a visionary CM manager and a willing YS team made the difference in making this user friendly and more efficient library workflow change.

I think simplifying Dewey numbers may be next!




4.27.2015

On the Road - 1000 Books B4 K and Programming Mightiness

Pixabay Image
I'm traveling to the beautiful southwestern part of WI along the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers to present a workshop on programming mightiness - and in particular 1000 Books Before Kindergarten how-to's. Below are the live links to the topics we plunged into!

While programming isn't all we do, it is certainly the most public and often the most pressured thing we do (from preparation to conflicting demands). Today we look at strategies to program smarter and more effectively; the importance of balance and how to fairly meet the many needs of our public - and our funders. Creating a zen balance between service to all ages, finding time to recharge and plan, learning to get off the hamster wheel of constant programming and program shares were just some of what we explored.

Here are the workshop resources that were shared with my colleagues:

Today's Workshop Pinterest board
Let 1000 Books Bloom Pinterest board
Basic Resources how-to post for 1000 Books
My general Pinterest boards  - (boards on different program types and samples)
Pixabay (free images)  
Struckmeyer, Amanda Moss.  DIY Programming and Book Displays: How to Stretch Your Programming without Stretching Your Budget and Staff. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2010.

A *Few * Favorite Programming Blogs:
Jbrary   (great resource list of blogs to explore!)
Mel’s Desk  (great resource list of blogs to explore!)
Kids Library Program Mojo (for a full list of fantastic program idea blogs AND great program idea posts- this is the class crowd-sourced blog from our spring CE course and has a ton of ideas from students!)

4.16.2015

More Tech Talk


Need more ways to polish up your thoughts and planning on technology and kids.

You can start with the ongoing online chapter-by-chapter publication of Young Children, New Media and Libraries in Little elit, and reading this blog for ideas on using ipads in programming, seminal thoughts on librarians as media mentors and much more.

You can attend these nifty LITA (Library Information and Technology Association of ALA) webinars Technology and Youth Services Programs: Early Literacy Apps and More in May with Claire Moore of Darien CT Library followed the next week by After Hours: Circulating Technology to Improve Kids Access with Megan Egbert from Meridian Library District (go LITA! Go Youth services colleagues!)

You can stay updated on libraries that have been using ipads in-house at blogs like Reading with Red.

And now we're thinking about the nifty and new to the market Launchpads.

There's a world of things to discover! Let's do this!!

4.10.2015

Come Get This Job!!


Image
Well, kids, I'm hanging up my biblioboots at the end of July. One last SLP and offski I go into the land of retirement. A little teaching, a little writing, a little consulting, a little professional association work, alotta hiking, fishing, traveling and time with my honey ahead for me!

It has been an amazing 39 years in the field. I was a hungry young thing in 1976 trying to land a MLIS-level job. Those darn "greatest generation" librarians were NOT retiring to make room for us clever boomers (do I hear an echo in present day grumpiness?). I took a parapro job right here in River City -aka La Crosse - got promoted and promoted again to be a manager and off I went in my career.

Over the years, I was hired two more times at this library (a whole third of my career has been here) and have been thankful each time. Why? Because this is a library where innovation can happen, challenges can be met and problems solved.

We're a three college, two large medical centers community with an emphasis on great cultural/art events, a great night life as well as incredible outdoor opportunities five minutes in any direction. La Crosse combines a small town/big city ambiance - a great family place as well as a place of struggle and poverty. Service for the kids, teens and families can expand a million ways from where we are today.

If you thrive on challenge, problem solving, and making blue sky dreams of great service a reality - this is the place to make things happen. While we have the same struggles as many libraries with budgets, perceptions of the library, changing times and community needs, it is the readiness to go in new directions that helps us stay strong and vital. There is strong support for youth services both in the library and in the community. With two branch libraries in addition to the Main Library, opportunities abound to plunge hands into the guts of youth work to build always better models of service to the community.

And best of all? An amazing team of youth staffers who move earth and stars to give great service to patrons. Innovative, passionate and fearless, this group of people makes it a joy to come to work. Combine that with a solid and strong team of management peers who have a sharp eye for the future and the ability to laugh and back each other up and this is a place to make magic happen.

What are you waiting for? Come get this job!  It closes May 22! Youth Services Manager La Crosse (WI) Public Library

3.31.2015

Conferencing Outside the Box


Image
Library conferences often come to mind as the best places to put our bang-for-buck in-person attendance. But state and national library conferences are just the tip of the iceberg for great networking and learning experiences.  There are many opportunities to learn a ton if we step outside the library world and discover what else is out there.

Just within this month here in our state, we have had/are having three great statewide conferences that are perfect for public youth librarians to attend. One is with our library media peers in WEMTA; one with the WI Afterschool Association and one an early childhood conference full of great sessions. We made sure we could get a staffer to each.

Attending conferences outside the library world opens us up to new experiences, new ideas, new colleagues and new ways to approach our work. It's a great way to fill up our toolboxes and give even better service to our communities!

What are your favorite "out-of-the-library" box conferences (national or local)? I'd love to hear about them!

3.25.2015

ALL.THE.THINGS.


Image
I've been thinking alot about the pressure we put on ourselves in our youth library world. We want to be good at our job and for our community but there is also a whole world out there in the profession that sings a siren song of opportunity and over-commitment. Striking a work balance, a professional balance and a personal balance is hard because of All.The Things. that call and call and call.

Two recent blog posts brought this into particular focus. The first was this one at House at Katie's Corner.  Katie talks about those many things that pulled at her and drove her to exhaustion.  In the end, she reminds herself why she is a librarian : "It’s not to have the best blog or the latest gadget or the best-written article in Library Journal [although these things are fabulous]. I’m really doing my job to serve my people, my community, my kids. And if I focus so much on myself and how I stack up next to others, I’m not going to do the best job for them."

The second is the first of three posts that Mel is doing at Mel's Desk about the nuances of no. Mel beautifully explores the difficulties and satisfactions of working towards balance and the power that "no" has in reaching towards that goal. She shares her journey of getting out of earshot of the siren song. I can hardly wait to read the next posts coming out on this.

One of my first library directors taught me something valuable as a young librarian that has helped me work through this struggle in my own practice. He pointed out that there was time for everything in my career. When I was asked to serve on an award committee early in my career, he said no.  I was burning the candle at both ends with some amazing work projects and partnerships and he pointed out that the opportunity would come again. At the time, I was really angry with him. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! He was ruining everything! I could do it! I had the energy!

But time proved him right. The opportunity not only came again but came at a better time - a time when I could commit energy and thought to it without shorting my work at the library. And it came more than once. He helped me see that in the course of a career, we have many opportunities to do meaningful work professionally without jumping on the train early or taking time away from work or family.

I also learned as I went along that stress is not my favorite place to be. It helped me create balance and really pursue projects outside of work that made a difference without killing me with overwork. I say yes to very few outside professional commitments/projects at any one time (storytelling, consulting, professional association work, teaching, writing) since it has to mostly fit in my non-work time. If I take on too much, my blog goes quiet. I am out of balance.

How do I juggle all the things to get to balance? My first  - and always  - bond and commitment is to the people I serve and who pay my salary. My best energy, my best ideas and my time go here first. Next is my family. From there, I work to serve and advance our profession - taking on commitments that don't overwhelm me or crowd into my workday.  If I don't serve my community and my job, everything else I do is really meaningless and false. This - this everyday and day-in-and-day-out work- is my center.

Because I am closing in fast on four decades as a children's librarian I have truly learned that a career is a marathon and not a sprint. The sweetness of those "extra" things that I have done in the past ten years is better than many things I did early on. And there is room and time for everyone to get to that sweet place. Time brings all the things our way. We just need to be patient and realize that the journey is just as good as the destination. Give yourself time and space to grow and balance. The rest of All.The.Things. will come in their own good time.