The Rest of the SLP Prizeless Story

Image via
Yes, we've been as anxious as you to find out what effect our decision to stop giving out weekly prizes for summer would be.  Today we shook out the preliminary stats and....

wait for it......

wait for it....

wait for it....

wait for it....

wait for it....

...no difference!!!!!!!!!!!

We had as many preschool and school-agers coming back for return visits this year when we built our robot as we did when we gave out weekly doo-dads.


The team felt that with the simplified program we had more time for interactions with the kids and a less stressful summer.  We already have plans in mind for next year to help increase interest in the donation part of the program (three caped superheroes representing three different charities for kids to choose to put their sticker on).

It's good to see these results and put the final cap on a busy summer and great to know our adventure was successful. Onward!

You can read about our journey here, here and here!


Going Off the Grid

SLP takes it out of a children's librarian. It does.

And guess what, it's OK, you can admit it. You can embrace it. No shame there.

Because here's the thing. There's that beautiful thing called summer. You know warm nights and fireflies and picnics and swims and a cool drink by the river or lake and days that go on and on. That's my face pressing up against the window looking at all that each and every summer.

Because in our world of children's librarianship, there's all these kids, and more, more, more kids and families and programs, and kids and parents and kids and storytimes and eager readers, and shortstaffing and readers checking in and winds of budget woes and kids and programs and reading ...and, oh no!, deadlines for fall programs and PR and kids and readers and booktalking and kids and SLP check-ins and robot building and kids and kids and families...and you know, everything.

No matter how streamlined or cool or fun we make the SLP, it's...um, BIG.

But it's fine because in the midst of a crazy time, we know what we do makes a difference with kids and families. The encouragement, warm words, right book and time to spend a few minutes extra with whomever comes in makes the library a welcoming place for the kids and a great way to spend our summers.

The SLP is done here except for a favorite part - kids selecting their well-deserved books in the Rooma-rama of Books (aka our program room). There is time to re-connect with the team, start working on our fall initiatives and services and take some time off.

And that's what I'm doing. Heading off with five other women for our annual wilderness canoe trip where we challenge ourselves through all day paddles and challenging portages carrying our canoes and 50# packs as we tramp and canoe from lake to lake. I'll finally get the treasured glimpse of summer I've been waiting for.

Time to get off the grid, relax and recharge. 'Cause, you know, that SLP takes alot out of us.


Youth Management School - For Real!

Before I begin, let me just say, any of us who work in youth services, whether official "managers" or line staff, are managing (or perhaps I should say juggling) alot all the time.

We each make decisions on collections, services, partnerships, intra-library collaborations, advocacy decisions, media matters, best use of our time/energy and a whole lot more. Sometimes we stay safely in the lane, following tradition, received wisdom or direction from above. Other times, after going to a workshop, webinar or social media peeps on the computer, we hop out of the lane and zoom to a better place.

So we all manage.

I have blogged about how excited I have been to find so many people sharing program and service ideas over the past few years. I can't say how important these ideas are for my practice and to my community. It led me to develop my first CE course this spring on Programming Mojo.  More recently I've been exploring great youth management ideas from bloggers like Erin , Cheryl and Abby and blogs like Library Lost and Found. It got me thinking more on how we manage our youth work and thinking again about how we all learn to approach our practice. Seems like there's lots to discover and and ideas to chat about.

If you want to join a conversation on youth management this fall, come to school with me!

I will be teaching a four week UW-Madison SLIS online course How Did You Manage THAT?!?! that looks at many of the issues we face each day in the youth services area. We'll learn and share together and have a great textbook to guide us (Managing Children's Services in Libraries by Adele Fasick and Leslie Holt - a book whose many editions throughout my career have served me well as a guide and a goad). Since this is an asynchronous course, you dip in each week at a time convenient for you.

I somehow think a class crowd-sourced blog will be involved again too. Hope you can join me and explore!


Going Weekly-Prizeless (and Robot) Update

We are within ten days of the end of our SLP. We'll figure out final numbers and the upshot in August.

For now, we can say that we have stayed busy and lots of return-adventurers have come back to help us build our robot with their stickers. The excitement of the gamecard design and stickers seems great for the kids and we have YET to hear kids or parents bemoan no weekly doo-dads. While we also included a charity component (our Friends will donate money to the Human Society, Eco Park and Children's Museum based on the kids reading), this has not seemed as motivational as the very visual robot slowly building.

We dreamed the robot like this in this first mini-model. Staff had a little trepidation on how it would all work.  We used quarter sheets of paper that kids could sticker as they went along.  This is how our robot has been growing:

Early June

Early July

Late July
Kids have loved watching the robot get bigger and bigger. Staff has loved NOT dealing with weekly doo-dads. Has the fact that we aren't offering weekly prizes but only the book at the end affected overall return visits to the library? We may be surprised (unpleasantly or pleasantly). Stay tuned for final results next month when we shake out the numbers from our database!

To read about our journey, please stop here, here and here! And for the final results of our SLP, stop HERE!!!!


Reflections on the Return from ALA

My Vegas anxieties were well-founded. Ick, I do not like the strip. But....

I stayed at a small conference hotel with a favorite old friend and colleague about a five minute walk from the convention center that was a normal, slot machine free space.  Cool iced water with slices of strawberries, lemons, limes and oranges made the walk worth it. A free breakfast with omelets made to order, healthy fruit and cereal choices and some fine evil bacon and sausages greeted me in the morning; at night the "manager's special" meant bottomless free drinks and fresh tasty veggies as well as the usual munchy chips. Two blocks away was a delightful tapas restaurant with extraordinary and inexpensive food. I felt renewed every day.

The shuttles done good. I never waited long, got to meetings on the strip on time and was kindly deposited in front of my far-from-the-strip hotel after receptions and evening events (despite printed info that indicated I would only be dropped off at a hotel four long blocks away). Each trip also = great conversations

Blogging tweeps selfie thanks to @berasche. How many can you name?
For the first time since I got on ALA Council three years ago, the council meetings got out early so I could actually participate in a few ALSC meetings and events. Niiiiice. My favorite meeting was the one talking about experiential SLPs and no prizes - right up my alley. And my next favorite was the ALSC membership meeting where I chatted - if even for a minute - with colleagues new and old.  I think the ALSC board, office and leadership are doing an outstanding job. It was good to be able to see that again after three years away from my  board service. The Newbery Caldecott banquet (SLJ editors invited me to sit with them and reviewing collegues) had great speeches, great food and great fun. And I was energized and renewed with the chance to meet, talk with and re-connect with many old and new friends. That ALWAYS is the best part of IRL conferences.

A friend and her hubby renewed their vows at an Elvis wedding chapel in some of the most fun moments of my conference. Late arrival but still making it for the vows, Elvis singing "Viva Las Vegas" while we all danced, a rainbow, funkadelic bridal party, being hustled out the side door after to make room for the next happy couples, a long wait to return in windy dry downtown Vegas with good dear friends made this as memorable a conference experience as I will ever have. I mean, Vegas.

I have always prided myself on being a process junkie but Council truly challenged that perception over the past three years. It was not an easy assignment for an action person like me but I was proud of my service. Here I am with my "diploma" certificate proving I sat through many meetings.

I can't say I was a change agent but I welcomed the opportunity to serve WI as a chapter councilor. I got to know some wonderful colleagues from many different kinds of libraries and was graciously welcomed over to the twitter crowd by microphone 7 to wrestle with angels that danced on the head of the Council pins. Mixed metaphor VERY intended.

Council and the ALSC board always meet on Tuesday (or the last day of conference). For the last six years I have had the rare opportunity to wander the convention center halls after the glitz and conference glamour has been packed and people have left the conference site a ghost town. It makes me ever eager to leave and find my way home. So let me leave you with those last few images that we "left-behind-to-finish-ALA-business" get to see:
Hallway to meeting rooms

Darkened food court

ALA Store


Reflections on the Journey to ALA

I am not a fan of Vegas.

There I said it.

I usually look forward to ALA conferences despite any particular location. But this time....

This time the location had me dreading what I usually look forward to. I hate heat. I hate venues where I can't walk easily between meetings and events. I hate hype.

So I sucked it up to get ready for #alaac14. Did an awesome job prepping my materials (flights, parking, hotel, shuttle, ALA schedule, like that). Maybe did best best packing ever - EVER - and had the luxury of being able to leave at 10:30 am to make my direct flight between Minneapolis and Vegas.

On the drive I was teary-eyed. Was this my last ALA? Why was I so sad? I look forward to seeing my good friends and colleagues both new and old - those whom I have shared trenches with and those whom I stand back and watch fight the good fight as young turks ready to take on the world and teach us ALL. THE.THINGS. But I know I am stepping back and away as my time as an active librarian winds down.

Amidst this melancholy on my two hour drive up to Minneapolis I suddenly jolted. WTF?!?! In my perfect packing, had I put in my powercord for the laptop the library provides for conferences? I pulled off the highway in Rochester MN and no, I had not. A quick call to a colleague to see if she was still in town (nope on her way to ALA), a thought to ask my partner to overnight the forgotten cord, and a request of my iphone's Siri to find a computer store were my action plan. Siri got me to Office Max to a mobile Best Buy and then to a big box Best Buy where I found a cord to buy.

I was re-energized. No more tears, no more sad self-reflection. I like action and solving problems and here was another one conquered. Time to get back on the road and to the airport after that unexpected delay. I was focused, driven and needing to hit the boarding deadline. And I did.

Once in Vegas, I was delighted to see familiar friends at the airport - greetings, hugs and the joy of unexpected and always welcome reconnections. My roommate got in touch with  Vegas relatives and we shared a sweet and lovely evening of what Las Vegas offers beyond the glitz, gambling and glamour.

And I am reminded again of how every place is really home. We are never really far from the familiar. It brings me contentment and a great deal of joy no matter how far I am from my own hidey-hole home.  I come to Vegas today ready to conference thanks to the connections I find that make ALA so vital. It's all good.


Books as Prizes - Where's the Money Coming From?

In the Afterschool Program Facebook group, we were chatting recently about books as prizes for SLP and the question came up, "How do you afford books as prizes?" We shared some ideas on inexpensive sources: Half Price books; Scholastic Literacy Partnership, Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse sales; ARCs from conferences.

But that begs the question - where does the money come from? After all,  books are our priciest prize.

One thing we did to find the money was change how we program.

We booked performers for years - singers, magicians, storytellers, performers of one kind and another.  A very few could generate a crowd of 100-150 kids in our auditorium. Most would result in crowds of 25-45 kids and adults - and this in a city of 51,000 population!

The costs involved with performers were substantial - $200 if we were lucky; $300-$500 and up more likely. Add mileage, hotel and expenses and ouch! When we had 25 people in the audience, it meant we were paying anywhere from $10-30 per person in attendance for the program. That didn't seem like a sustainable use of money.

We were also developing some amazing in-house programs led by staff.  It occurred to us that if we continued this strong staff programming and cut back on performers, we would have enough money to fund the hundreds of books that we want to give to kids as prizes.

So we made it so. We still book a performer or two for special events. The money we saved went directly to buying books as prizes for babies through teens. Parents and kids both love these books. Kids get to choose freely from a variety that we put out. We fill our program room for two weeks in August with books for kids to choose from who have completed their SLP in previous weeks.

Of course, we could also have written grants, looked for donors or sought money in other ways. But we chose to enfold books into existing programming money. By changing our priorities we made sure we could make a book in the hand of a child happen. Seems worth it!

(For more thoughts on sustainability and funding in Youth Services, see this series starting here that I wrote last fall).

Photo courtesy of Pixabay


Going Prizeless in SLP - Update

Our robot is coming together -yellow is body,
red is arms; blue-legs; orange-neck, feet, hands.
We are just completing our third week (of nine) in the SLP. As I mentioned in our original post on going prizeless for the school age kids,  we've been thinking about this for awhile. This year we took the leap.

So how is it going? We have had over 300 return visits to check in and get new game cards. Rather than weekly doo-dads, each time they return, kids get a sticker or two to help us build our robot - and money is donated to kid-friendly community organizations for the stickers as well.

We haven't heard a peep about "Where are the prizes?" or "Don't we get something besides a sticker?"

We had a hunch that this would be the case. We use stickers for 1000 Books and Baby Book Bees at each level. We also have stickers during each year's Smart Cookie Club that we offer to kids. And our Lego Check-out Club let's kids add lego bricks to a collaborative lego sculpture. So a significant number of kids expect and enjoy the concept of "building" or "making" something bigger with their contributions.

Kids are very excited about completing four game cards to receive a book. That is a goal that really motivates. And Sara's adaptions for the game cards (based on our transliteracy design from previous years) have made the program for school age kids fun and worthwhile. Reading and literacy activities have morphed from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards.

Sometimes our fear of what "might" happen keeps us from embracing change that moves us ahead.  We'll keep you posted at the blog on how we do as we go further into the summer.

So far, so good!

And for an update on how we fund the book prizes, stop here! For an update on going prizeless ten days from the end of SLP, stop here! And tfor the final results, stop here


It's a Library Camp Out!

This is the third year we have kicked off summer with a library read in-camp out. As luck would have it both Friday the 13th and a full moon made it imperative that the evening feature spooky stories.

 We do this after hours - the doors lock at 6:00 pm on Friday, we have a brief break and re-open for our campers. Everyone is invited to bring blankets or sheets, flashlights and wear PJs. We have a few teen volunteers who take chairs out from tables to create camping sites (whether under the table or using chairs) or help put blankets between shelves anchored by piles of books to create a cozy reading nook.

The room is darkened with just a little light coming in through the windows. The first half hour is spent building tents, signing up for SLP and reading. We gave everyone a few minutes heads-up to undo their tents near the end of the 30 minutes. Then we invited families into the program room, where spooky stories and walking s'mores were ready (2 boxes of honey graham bears + 2 packages of chocolate chips + one bag of mini-marshmallows = one cup of sweet fun) - and our our fake campfire. A display of fine spooky books were ready for kids to check-out.

We had some younger kids than usual so I started by reading Reynolds/Brown's Creepy Carrots. I let kids know that each story would get creepier so they could leave if it got to be too much. I told the "Coffin Story" and "Tailybone" with the lights low - but kept a bit more on the lighter side. Everyone made it (so brave!).

While the stories were happening our volunteers quickly put the room back together. Families had time to check out a few books (thanks to our director who staffed the check-out and did final lock-up).

This is one of the easiest, most pleasant and laid back unprograms one can do for summer - or any time of the year. Kids and families love the magic of an empty library and those that come love the reading and the program.  For more samples of how to do it, drop by earlier posts here and here and Amy did her own fun take on it last year.


This Magic Moment

Eros Sleeping from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It's Summer Library Program!!! We are two weeks in!!!! And I am at a magical place that happens maybe once or twice a year.

I am caught up.

Yep, I am standing on the mountaintop. All things summer library program have been prepped, planned, put in play and are rolling out like threads from the hands of the Fates.

Of course that is why I have long maintained that SLPs are prime examples of passive programs or stealth programming characterized by:
  • Programs that take some initial planning and set-up but, once in place, are able to be administered easily with little ongoing time devoted to them. 
  •  Encourage return visits to the library without an active program
  •  Families & youth provide the “power” and activity on their own time at home
  •  Encourages check-out through reading incentives and drawing kids into the library
While they feel ACTIVE, the reading encouragement program part is extremely passive. Our scheduled events take up the more active programming component and certainly our areas FULL of families and kids mean our reader's advisory and motion is active and amped up by mega-degrees.

Once I get into work today, my plate will slowly fill back up and deadlines will once again start nipping at my heels (August events PR; ALA final preps; Library of the Year nomination wrap-up; final preps for this week's program; management "stuff").

But for this one moment, it's beautiful to savor the quiet of "caught up" - and to recognize that it bores me just a little!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has now made over 396,000 images available online for use by the public: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/254502?rpp=30&pg=2&ft=relaxation&pos=41


Chocolate Fountain of Creativity

As we come to the final posts on the School Age Programming survey Lisa Shaia and I developed, the spotlight turns to YOU. Our respondents generously shared the many ways that they find programming ideas.

The breakdown:

We are wired, baby!

The internet, web, google searches, listservs like pubyac and alsc were mentioned 92 times. Pinterest and library blogs were mentioned 57 and 59 times respectively. It is clear that respondents used the rich content available online to spark ideas and find new content.

But lest you think we are tied to our phones, tablets and PCs, I must disabuse you of this notion based on survey responses!

Another huge source of inspiration was talking, brainstorming, collaborating and chatting with colleagues. 62 respondents found this method of inspiration to be a great idea source. Another 34 found in-person conferences, workshops and meetings to be invaluable in their idea generation for programs. And 34 respondents found their ideas in print sources - journals and magazines, professional resource books and newsletters. SLP manuals were the go-to inspiration for an additional 11 respondents.

Plus a huge source of inspiration (28 mentions) is the media, popular culture and what books and series are hot with kids.

And finally, on a more personal level, many, many people said their inspiration came from talking to kids, teachers, parents and families. They celebrated their own imagination and ideas ("warped mind," "in dreams," "idea fairy," "the recycling bin") as well as dipping into their own experience or files to come up with great content. And many simply stated that ideas for programs are everywhere.

They are indeed.  To see additional survey results, please stop here, here, here, here and here.

Image: 'Chocolate fountain #nomz'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/12700556@N07/6876057805
Found on flickrcc.net


Program Plethora - the Survey Sez

Lisa Shaia at Thrive Thursday and I put together a survey recently to take a snapshot of school age programming. We had 171 responses (yay, yous!). We've looked at how many librarians create how many programs; the role of budget in number of programshow often programs are offered and the scoop on outreach.

Today let's take a peek at what kinds of programs for school-agers people reported out.

Almost 70% of respondents offered ongoing program series for kids - multiple week or continuous programs like a Lego Club , Book Club or Pokemon Club. But an almost equal number also offered one shot programs that capitalized on celebrating the publication of a new book, a book character or a special season or holiday. Seasonal reading programs similar to a down-sized SLP were also offered by over half of the respondents.

It is clear that school age programs show a rich variety of approaches by librarians. We didn't ask about individual program names but a dip into any youth services blog, Thrive Thursday monthly round-up blog hop or PUBYAC perusal would reveal a perfect sampling of what is being done with school-agers.

Our next post will look at where our ideas come from!


I v. We

So Amy wrote this. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Then I wrote this.

Then Amy extended the conversation with this. Again, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

My post was chewing around the edges of something else that isn't quite as linear but is a huge piece of crediting people who create and citing them.

When I wrote about management perspective I was not referring to "management privilege". I detest anyone who poaches and claims credit or by omission leaves out the people who do the true heavy lifting. It's not how I try to run my shop or thankfully been managed by others - or most importantly  -been treated by all my many colleagues around the state and country.

And I think that there is a great deal of professional pain that youth librarians feel from work they have not been credited for, celebrated for and appreciated for. I am definitely not arguing the great teamwork-kumbaya (we're all in this together, la-la).

I am coming at the discussion from one place as a long-time manager, a long-time active association member and a long-time consultant/presenter. And from the other place, I am coming as a newly energized researcher and teacher who demands citations and digging down to the original roots of work - most especially from myself! It is this perspective that I want to pursue.

As I have been studying the history of children's programming in public libraries, it is increasingly clear that youth librarians have been pushing the envelope of service since the beginning of the profession. Over the last century, children's librarians were at the forefront of developing SLPs, outreach, use of technology (radio, TV, films, filmstrips, record players), programming to parents (my mom was in the parent group while I was in storytime!), and many many of the practices that some in the profession are currently "inventing." Everything old IS new again.

There is a huge scaffold of practice upon which each and every one of us builds our own scaffold of service and innovative ideas. My concern is for some in the profession that don't want to recognize that foundation. Our foremothers and current colleagues have done work that we all build on - whether its oppositional building or complementary. When we don't acknowledge that debt - and appreciate where our own work is coming from, we do a huge disservice.

My point in my original post about how collaborative we are comes from that place. It is the "we" I am trying to get at.

So how do we acknowledge the "I" while being true to the "we" - and visa versa?

As Amy writes: cite!
Seek permission from those whose work your work is based on to share.
Communicate and don't steal.
Never false claim.
Know that your support of someone else's work enhances your own.
Acknowledge that the brainstorming power of coworkers, tweeps, Facebookers, a conference hallway conversation informed that idea that you brought to full fruition.

You cannot be harmed by acknowledging and citing. Rather you can be the power that raises up those around you. And that is a powerful "I" and a powerful "we".


Avoiding Additional Asshat-tery

Slide from a solo Unprogramming presentation
that acknowledges my co-conspirator
I laughed aloud when I saw AmyKoester's title on the  Storytime Underground post with guidelines on avoiding assholery when giving credit where credit is due.  I also was happy to see such a strong statement about the importance of knowing and stating where stuff comes from.

I've blogged about this before - especially in relation to the our penchant to be good sharing  - and taking - people.  You can't ever forget where something comes from and it is a beautiful thing when you can do that acknowledgement - most especially in a professional atmosphere (blogging, presentations, workshops, Twitter and Tumblr and etc). We all stand on the shoulders of those before us. We may tweak and we may tinker but somebody got that ball rolling.

I want to add another thought to the conversation - or throwdown from a management perspective: thinking about taking the "I" to "we."

I have always worked in a strong team environment. From the smallest library to larger libraries, many people - not just youth services staff - from director to Circ clerks to custodial staff have had a hand in contributing to conversation and idea-building. They have put in an oar, a thought, a suggestion, a brilliant solution that has made each and every project and program far better than it began.

I can count on one hand, ONE HAND, the actual stuff that I, me, myself, *I*, created, invented or totally birthed ON MY OWN in my 38 year career.

Uh-uh. Didn't happen. Dozens of things I am known for were the result of collaboration - free, wild, plunge-into-"what-if, what-if, what-if", brainstorming, tornadic, mosh pit, scrum-filled collaboration. When I've changed something, I am still building on something that went before that provided the ignition spark to push my own practice. Same goes for all of you, my friends and colleagues, out on the internet - you have shared and changed so many ideas that have helped me grow an idea and make it better. It's ours!

When you look at my blog posts as I am sharing a program, idea or innovation, you seldom see it written in the first person. Far more often, it is written as "we" and "our" because the progress or change or light bulb moment was built by many hands in the department and the library and out in my ULN/PLN land..

While it is vital to credit your colleagues when you are sharing ideas that are clearly theirs and give them "mad props", it is also important to move away from the "I" and acknowledge the true "we-ness" of what is created through every-day and every-way collaboration.

I believe we are stronger together in everything we create. What do you think?


Whispering an SLP Start

This robot needs a body! The more kids read, the more stickers
 they add to the blocks that will become arms, legs, body.
We hope kids build her big!
We have often plunged into summer reading immediately on the last day of school. The result: screaming mania!!!!!!!!  Half the the kids of our eventual total come in the first five days and the staff feel like they've been hammered (they have!). We start those summers drained.

This year we made sure to "soft" launch our program while most of kids are still in school.  Parochial and homeschool kids come in first and then, afterschool and in the evenings, some of the public school kids make their way to the library. It will be a full nine days before the big public school crowds are on vacation and come pouring into register.

What does this mean?

  • We have a "practice" week with a steady stream of SLP registrants - never overwhelming, but enough to hone our spiel and figure out the best, most economical and fun way to explain the mechanics of SLP.
  • We sign up about a quarter of our total number of kids so subsequent weeks have far less registration stress.
  • Staff is excited and energetic going into the following weeks when the pressure of wall-to-wall kids, programming mightiness and kids-in-care visits need all our attention.
Robot at our North Branch
It always feel a little like we're whispering into the start of SLP when we do this. Starting softly means more energy later. 

We wish all our colleagues a happy summer library program and hope you have a calm but busy adventure!