2.09.2016

Wise Advice from a Lion




At ALA midwinter meeting, Pinkney was announced as recipient of  two lifetime achievement awards: Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winner as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”  

That is an extraordinary thing and most well-deserved. Pinkney has been a hard working and creative author and illustrator throughout his career. Never one to bask in the spotlight, he has just kept producing extraordinary work on behalf of kids.

Recently, Hornbook (January 26, 2016) did a quick Five Questions for Jerry Pinkney

The brief Hornbook article ended with the following question and answer: "You're known as a lion in this field. Do you have any advice for the young cubs just coming  up?" 

And Jerry's reply? "Make it all about the work. Everything else will follow."

I read that and thought, yep, that pretty much applies to any work in any field including our profession. And he has it exactly right.



2.02.2016

Thoughts on Board/Committee Work


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Our new  2016 Youth Services Section (YSS) board for the Wisconsin Library Association met recently in our first in-person retreat (maybe ever!). To start us off during an afternoon of brainstorming and reflection, we took the time to learn about our responsibilities as members of a statewide board.

I volunteered to guide the group through our responsibilities as board members. As the YSS rep on our WLA board, I've developed some knowledge on how our association and unit work.  I've also thought alot about the reasons that group work like board work, committee work and even group projects and staff teamwork can be so hard.

Depending on the circumstances, some people consider their service a step up the ladder of fame; some people let others do all the heavy lifting; there always seems to be one or two who appear AWOL much of the time; people lose the thread of continuity and make up stuff; guidelines or bylaws or org manuals are ignored. I could go on but we've all been involved in group work and can share a horror story or two.

It doesn't have to be hard.  But I think before we say yes to a board or committee, we need to consider our responsibilities to the group. Here's what I suggested make for stronger group work on a board level.

KNOWLEDGE
·       Get to know website, blog, organizational and leadership manual - we will be smart;  we won’t get lost in myths; and we can use our knowledge to contribute to wise decision making.

COMMUNICATION
·        Be an information sharer –not hoarder  - make sure the chair knows what is happening as well as other board members on projects we each work on; consider how to let members of the organization know what the board is doing through unit newsletters and/or social media (blog, FB group, Google community, etc) as well as through state library networks like system workshops or other communities. Be transparent.

      Communication and sharing ideas/opinions critical - step up at board meetings and participate even if we feel shy or hesitant. All opinions and contributions are vital.

TEAMWORK
Strong teamwork results in amazing results - what can we each add to push youth services forward. Volunteer to help or recruit others to help in moving services ahead.

You are not alone  - other board members offer amazing support system to help us be successful and do meaningful work. Ask for assistance.

Make your dreams come true - what projects do you think the organization's members would benefit from? Suggest and work towards them! And look for organization members to help you (rather than just board members) to give meaningful work to recruit for leadership.

Step outside of  your unit and get to know other association members and committees (our tribe is great but we get more done the larger our networks are).


LEADERSHIP
·        Servant Leadership  - How do we serve? Serving our members as a board member with a big picture view rather than our own own narrow interests or expertise areas means we serve the organization and not ourselves.  Leading from behind by offering a hand up and a shoulder to stand on for sister/brother board members and unit members makes everyone feel strong.  Thinking of ourselves as a true representative of all unit members and not just service as a personal step up a ladder.

·      Own your leadership role - when at meetings at the our libraries, in our systems and community, don’t just intro ourselves as "So and so from such and such library" but also as board member  of our unit or association.

·      Encourage membership  - we are ambassadors and our interactions with other youth serving staff invites people to participate and feel welcomed.

·       Step up to the plate  - we may need to step into a leadership position if someone resigns or leaves state. Board work has larger responsibilities that we can fill to keep the unit vital and functioning (always remembering above- we are not alone).

·       Making up missed meetings  - We all have to miss a meeting or two. If this happens, read over the minutes asap  and contact the chair to ask what WE can do. Don't consider a missed meeting as "Get out of board responsibilities" moment.

These simple approaches can really make a difference in successful board and committee and being part of a successful working board/committee.  

What else makes board work successful?  Tips welcome!





1.22.2016

The Learning Curve


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I've been trying over the past couple of months to finish writing on two projects.*

For the first time in a very long time, I found it a real challenge to get down to business and put fingers to keyboard to do the actual composition of what amounts to five presentations all due within a few days of each other. I procrastinated over this in November and December. EVERYTHING seemed to take precedence over writing - from the ridiculous to the mundane. You know, that stuff.

While immersed in this procrastination period, I worried whether I was having some kind of performance anxiety. Why couldn't I get down to business? Was I struggling because I had bitten the forbidden fruit of retirement relaxation and lost some of my drive and discipline? Was I feeling like I had less to say on these subjects because I was less active in the day to day of librarianship? Or had I simply lost the confidence to express myself?

January finally kick-started me (as looming deadlines will) and I got 'er done (hurray)!

Then the tinkering started.  I dipped in and out of what I wrote constantly (thank you computers for letting me make constant revisions so easily). No sooner would I say, "I'm done" then a new piece of research would be published, a new blog post from a peer, a new article in the professional journals, a new Twitter thread, a new conversation with colleagues would get me right back to revising and refining my thinking.

If that all wasn't enough, over the past few days, during the amazing Wild WI Winter web conference developed by the equally amazing Jamie Matczak from the Nicolet Federated Library System, I plunged into webinar after webinar (and so can you - all the webinars are archived in the site).

You guys, I learned so much!! And that lightning bolt thought stitched together the last few month's writing delays into a realization.

It wasn't performance anxiety that held me back. It was more that I was learning so continuously that committing to something as a finished product seemed almost sacrilegious. Each revelation adds to my thinking and enlarges my view of librarianship. How can something one writes or thinks or believes ever be truly "finished"?

I don't think I'm alone here. In fact you may be going "She is one dense person. Isn't this obvious?" But that's learning for you.

Our lives are constantly about learning and revising and growing. This best part of our librarianship involves that ability to absorb, debate, revise, change, evolve and build on what we know given all the things we encounter in all the places. I am so appreciative of all the sharing everyone does that helps me keep learning and growing.

And I swear, I'll stop and call the class finished now (oh, look, a link....).

*One was a webinar on my 10 biggest management mistakes for the Wild WI Winter Web conference (above). The other is an upcoming four week class on youth management problem solving for UW-Madison SLIS CE

1.05.2016

Buy It! What Are You Afraid Of?

[Deja vu, baby!!  While I was doing some New Year's cleanup on the blog, I accidently re-published this post from a few years ago. It still looks about right so here it is again!]

Book buying money is always tight - no matter what size library you come from. Each day, selectors have to make decisions among the many new books published about what to spend their dollars on.  One thing I have noticed with some libraries is an interesting reluctance to buy multiple copies of youth books that kids really want.  What's up with that?

Adult book buyers are legend in buying multiple copies of most requested and best seller books that generate massive circ for a short time. After their brief summer of love is over, extra copies of these books are weeded out. They have done their duty and reproduced multiple circs while they were wildly popular. They really earned their keep.Not all youth book buyers go about their purchasing like this. But why not?

I find that I get more than three requests for a title or series in a week at the desk, something is trending for kids. Talking to other staffers on the desk reveals others are also getting the same request (like, doh). And of course looking at what is on the "holds" or "reserve" shelves also gives you a vital clue on what kids are asking for.  It's time to beef up the collection and give them what they want. 

If it takes ten copies of a Lego book, so be it. If it's fourteen more copies of each Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Ninjago, Barbie, Dora, Yo Gabba Gabba, I say yes. Sure it spends down precious dollars - but it also answers expressed needs of kids. One of my colleagues wisely added an extra copy of the first (and sometimes second and third) book in a series, knowing that kids often want to start at the beginning but may lose interest in a series later on. By providing multiples of the first book, she made sure that kids could find that elusive "first" on the shelf more often and kept the gateway to the series - and the library-open..

 I sometimes hear that, since libraries share resources, if one library buys multiple copies but others in the system don't, those circs and copies are going too far afield. Really? It actually means that kids everywhere - including at the buying library! - are receiving their books faster. Reserve queues disappear and the books are back on your shelves faster to continue to meet the needs of kids walking in.

Once the frenzy is over, multiples can be weeded out to the delight of kid buyers at library booksales.  If the books have circed even 15-20 times, you have gotten your initial investment back and more.  And the larger investment of kids knowing they can find what they want at your library is worth gold. You are showing them that the library understands their reading needs and delights.

We all walk the tightrope between providing amazing literature for kids and providing popular books with limited "lit-tret-ture" bona fides.  Balancing between those two ends of the continuum is tricky but can be done.  Go ahead....don't be afraid!

Image: 'Fixing the Money Pipeline'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/26767541@N00/2464975037
 


12.14.2015

The View from the Other Side


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I retired from my job as Youth Services Manager at the end of SLP this year. What's it like?

Not surprisingly, it's been great fun and the best stress-reducer known to humankind. Though I worked to keep stress under control and made lots of decisions to keep things balanced (forgoing some things; saying no to others; passing offers on to other youth librarians; working on some work things at home to leave more time for co-workers during the work day), work stress is just one of those things that was part of my day-to-day. Can't say I miss it.

Many friends said it would feel like vacation. It doesn't. It feels like freedom.

Lingering warm weather allowed me to have an extra run at summer, a season I felt unfamiliar with after SLPs entered my life. It's good to make her reacquaintance. Nature has been my balm and I was able to plunge in with hikes, bikes and adventures in this beautiful driftless region and northern parts of my new state MN.

I read - alot. I cook - alot. I visit and help with friends and family - alot. I take my time - alot. Time does tick down from here (one doesn't usually retire because one is young) but more slowly and at a more measured rate.

I found that I retired from a job, not from a career. While I am lots more relaxed, I still keep my fingers in library "stuff" - but at a pace that allows me to finally do all.the.things.

I realize now- in a huge way - that because of my longtime outside commitments in professional associations, presentations, teaching and consulting, almost all my work weeks were 60-65 hours. There was my 40 hours paid for by my library. For all those other outside things, all the prep and doing was done in home-time (good morning 4 a.m!; hello long weekends of prepping sessions; why I'd love to work at that after supper until 10 pm; oh a vacation week to stay at home and put this course together, that's swell). Lucky I was - and am  - to have a supportive partner! Now I have all the time in the world to put this stuff together since all my time is my own. Feels good!

I'm most excited to be embarking on a long-time dream. I will be the youth services system consultant for the Southwest (WI) Library system libraries on a very part-time basis for 2016 while they transition into a more permanent consultant position for 2017. I look forward to delving into work with the youth staffers and directors who-do-everything and lending a helping hand.

I'll still be seeing lots of you. I'm on the ALSC Sibert Award committee so my reading will turn to youth non-fiction in 2016 and ALA conferences remain on the agenda. I will be working on lots of teaching, webinars and presentations in the next year. I'm pumped to help contribute to planning for a national youth librarian leadership/management conference sponsored by UW-Madison SLIS and scheduled for April 3-4, 2017 (there will lots more on that soon!).

Blogging will occur at the same languid pace I've adopted in the past year or so. I promise to stay in touch and hope you will too.






12.03.2015

We Need YOUR Voice


ALA Washington Office shares:

We did it!

After ten years of advocacy, thousands of emails, hundreds of calls and scores of meetings last night the House of Representatives passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school libraries included! Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent emails, posted Tweets, and sent our alert out to their contacts and listservs. After years of needing reform to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we are on the cusp of getting it and we couldn't have done it without you.

But we’re not there yet!

The House voted to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act and now it’s the Senate’s turn. Please, take a moment on two vital actions:
  1. Contact your Senators to let them know how essential this bill is to our children’s education and futures.  
  2. Contact absolutely everyone you know and ask them to do the same thing.
An overview of the library provisions found in the Every Student Succeeds Act can be found here.

 To find out who your Senator is & what their contact information is, visit this ALA page & type in your zip code in the box on the right side of the page

Talking points 
  • Vote Yes on the Every Student Succeeds Act Conference Report.
  • School libraries are critical to our children’s future and the Conference Report includes critical language to support effective school library programs.
  • This language is historic: For the first time in half a century Congress has underscored the importance of effective school library programs by expressly including them in multiple parts of this watershed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.



Everyday Advocates, let's go!!

11.20.2015

SLP - You Say You Want a R/Evolution


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Yep, it's time once again for summer library and reading program workshops to begin. My colleague Sharon Grover and I gathered our thoughts and tips to do a keynote together for colleagues in the Indianhead Federated Library System in northwestern Wisconsin.

Sharon and I were interested in exploring the winds of change blowing around this annual ritual. From the perceived pressure of patron/staff statements of "THIS -is-how-it-is-done" and responses to change of "But-we've-always-done-it-this-way", we looked at alternatives to fear and opportunities to embrace the challenge of change.

Intentionality in our planning to meet the needs of our community is key. So too are asking questions and examining openly why we continue traditions and practices and whether they serve our needs or true community needs. We looked at the tendency to over-program - and to become so involved in the process of the SLP we create that we suck the joy out of literacy, reading and being with kids.

We looked at going prizeless and the interesting conundrum of teens who plan their SLPs wanting more prizes. We also explored ways to involve teens in ways other than reading including volunteering and concentrating on relationship building with them.

We  shared some stories of libraries creating powerful partnerships and outreach during summer. We looked at ways to engage kids in care and to think beyond reading goals to youth engagement goals when planning our summer library programs.

Finally we talked about how advocacy wraps around all of these issues. Our ability to engage stakeholders from administrators, to coworkers to our community in promoting ongoing change and better service is within the power of each of us. A huge shout-out to ALSC and specifically Jenna Nemec-Loise were given in this portion.

The rest of the workshop was all system members shining brightly as they shared tips in a series of break-out sessions hosted by their peers: handling the rough stuff of summer; strategies to go prizeless; community power; programming for all ages;  SLP promotion ideas; theater games to involve teens (wait, that one was presented by a theatrically inclined teen!), the low-down on performers and more. We all learned a ton!

Below are links that we shared:
Here is our slidedeck

And finally, if you want to read more from libraries around the country engaged in changing up summer library program paradigms, please stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest Board and get inspired!

Thanks to IFLS youth consultant Leah Langby for putting together a learning day for us all!




11.19.2015

Conquering Management Issues



It's time again for CE school to start at my alma mater, UW-Madison SLIS! And I'll be returning to teach with How Did You Manage That: The Sequel.

This four week course is for you if:

  • you want to delve deeper into the hows and whys of youth services management
  • you want to create a community of practice and supporters to learn management tips
  • you are working at a library of any size or are a manager or are thinking about stepping into management
  • you like working at your own pace in this asynchronous course taught between Jan. 29-Feb 19

It isn't necessary to have taken the first iteration on this course offered in fall 2014 because we'll be looking at brand new issues and brand new solutions. We'll also be using a marvelous "great-to-have-always-on-hand: text: Fasick and Holt's Managing Children's Services in Libraries

Here's what's in store:
“They didn’t teach me this in school!” Last fall, we explored youth services management issues in the first version of this class. There were so many more conversations to be had that we decided to offer a sequel! Whether you were in the first class or not, join us to take this hands-on, hearts-out course on youth management issues.  We’ll explore the delicate dance of navigating personnel issues (library staff, patrons and partners) as well as discover  tips to more effectively balance, advocate for and marshal resources to make smart management decisions. The course will be collaborative as you share your own experiences and ideas that have worked in managing your youth services area.
Topics
Don’t Take it Personnel – tips on managing staff, co-workers and administrators(!); hiring strategies; staff motivating/encouragement (and conversely, discouragement!); fostering  positive relationships with other library staff
Marketing vs. Advocacy – getting to “yes’ with colleagues and patrons; creating powerful collaborations/outreach; saying what you mean – and why
Success with Difficult Patrons and Partners – tips on respectfully working with (or ejecting) difficult patrons; strategies to create success with reluctant or difficult partners or library colleagues in nearby libraries; navigating complaints.

Strategic Moves towards Zen Balance  – creating the service you dream of,  getting on top of the grind on the way to vision; work/life balance; letting go (insert “Frozen” music)
Get all the details and register (including a 10% discount for early registration by January 10), stop here. And don't forget to check out all the great UW-Madison SLIS CE courses by my friends and colleagues. 2016 will be a great learning year!

11.12.2015

Making Ends Meet - Conference Cost Cutting


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There was a bit of chat on Twitter recently about whether a conference can really be good enough to afford investing a couple of $K to get there. Many are.

But when your library can't support your attendance financially, how do you find the funds to make an extra special conference fit in your budget?

Except for a brief stint in my career while at my most recent job (where I negotiated support for my national and state conference attendance as a condition of my employment), I have paid my way to conferences.  When the library CE budget ran out one year and I needed to attend a national conference, it was easy to find an inexpensive way to attend on my own dime. And now that I'm retired, I'm back to funding me.

I've learned some tricks over the years to make things easier on the wallet. Let me share my tips (and I hope you share yours).

Conference registration and cost of transportation are about the only two pieces of the formula that you can't do a great deal about. Some conferences give you a free or partial registration rate if you speak but most want you to present for the love of the association.

Housing
If you can't stay with friends/relatives and thus a short commute, room with as many people as you can. That can significantly lower costs. I still jam in pretty heavily. A thought: if you do make a commitment to share a room with people and have to cancel at the last minute, consider paying your share of the cost to the group; when people are counting on you as they make their budget, it's tough on them to make up the loss of your share.

Really look at the hotels and see what is included. You may find a slightly higher priced hotel has a continental breakfast and in-room coffee that makes that extra amount a cinch to justify.

My roomies and I scour home rentals and find reasonable and reasonably close apartments and homes that make conferences so much better (everyone who loves living in hotel rooms for five straight days, raise your hand). We invite friends to join us to keep costs down...which brings me to

Food 
A few conferences, symposiums and institutes include some meals. That may help you get over the high (gulp) cost you see. If not, consider what you can easily bring that is sturdy enough to travel well and will feed your body and soul. Nuts, soup mixes, instant coffees and teas, energy bars and instant hot cereals are a few of my go-tos. You can always find hot water at the conference and have something tasty and good.

Look for nearby grocery stores in your conference city. Purchase fresh fruit and veggies to supplement your bring-alongs. If your hotel/apt has a fridge, you can get more refrigerated food. Again, apartments with kitchens mean you can spend a fraction on food since you can make and take salads and sandwiches (I always bring sandwich bags and plastic container to put lunches in).

I pick one or two meals to eat out with friends or budget for more if it's going to be super social. Otherwise, my goal is no more than $10-15 per day. When I'm out for adult beverages I add on an extra $10. Your budget for food and drinks depends on your needs and priorities. You can go cheaply though!

At many conferences, if you don't buy a meal ticket for a speaker, you can come in and still listen to the speeches (think Caldecott/Newbery/Wilder banquet here or many state association conferences). You still get to enjoy the content of the speeches and can make your conference budget stretch.

Transportation
Some conferences provide shuttle or trolley transportation. While it may take awhile, the price (free) is always right. Public transportation - buses, subways, trains, els - all can get you where you're going for a song. Most conferences give you guidance on how to best use them and provide websites for you to research.

For me, if anything is within a mile walk and is safe, I am all about getting those steps in. I will also budget for cabs if I am in a really walker-unfriendly city and think I'll be out late. I often share cabs with other conference folks, and sometimes - one of my cabmates who has a per diem - will spring for the tab!

Attendance Grants/Stipends
Check within your library, your system and your state and your national associations for one-time grants and stipends that may help you attend a special conference. While this doesn't often go beyond a one time or one year commitment, it can help you for a special conference.

Some conferences ask for volunteers and will waive registration so also keep an eye out for that. Volunteering is a great way to meet alot of people and really put some time into the guts work of the organization.

Overall
To make it all work, I created a conference savings account and socked away some money each month so I could afford the conference(s). I figured out other budget cuts (less gas, more walking; make my own coffee - no outside buys there; making most of our own food rather than going out; etc) and got the numbers to work,

Once I had financial support from the library, I pretty much still did conferences on the cheap. I figure the less money I spent, the more money other staff would have available to attend other conferences and CE with library support. And really, isn't that what it's all about?

What are your tips to keeping costs down? Please share!

11.10.2015

A Reflection on Conference Programs


I'm just back from our WI state library conference.

I find all conferences valuable but I especially love our state conference. Like ALA, it brings together librarians from all sizes and types of libraries. But it's a more intimate atmosphere (800 attendees) that lends itself to deeper and yet wider networking and learning.

The impromptu hallway conversations, before and after hour meet-ups and catching up; and the promptu fun group activities like battledecks, cards (for and) against librarianship, gaming, dances and trivia make conferences a warm and inviting place to connect and laugh. On a small scale you get to meet and re-meet people for a couple of days of library-celebration.

Programs are often the meat - or tofu - around which the whole conference sandwich is made up. They attract non-members, sustain members and give us food for thought or content that spurs us to action.

Since the state conference is put on by a phalanx of volunteers that changes annually, you never know exactly what shape the programs will ultimately take. Not enough youth programs; too much technology; not enough academic library content - each year the winds of content shift.

And why? Because, like many conferences, outside of keynoters that the conference committee engages, programs are us. Content is dependent on those who come up with a plan and submit an idea. Anywhere from 95-100% of proposed programs get accepted.

This year, we had a boatload of youth content, from babies to teens, technology to hands-on. In terms of content, some of this stuff was as good as or better than what I see at national conferences (go WI!).

I always find panels of librarians from different sized libraries my favorites. Rather than an individual or a couple of people from one institution discussing "how I run my library good", panels from multiple library-size/library-type perspectives suggest how all libraries can find a pathway to change or better service, regardless of size or type.  It helps library staffers think, "How do I bring this back to my library?" and I think overcomes the feeling of "My library could never afford staff/budget/time of the speaker's library to do this marvelous thing."

I love hearing new voices too. Encouraging people who have never presented to be on a panel or join on a panel gives everyone a chance to lead and bring their insight to the table. We were so fortunate to have many many new voices join conversations and presentations this year (thank you iLead and DPI especially).

I also like perspectives from outside our state. I appreciate program planners who invite a colleague from MN, IA, MI or IL to border cross and share their passion and expertise. Our Youth Services Section is looking to do more of this. This year, IL's Jenna Nemec-Loise shared ALSC's Everyday Advocacy message and it was wowza!

For those of us who think about proposing programs for a national audience at PLA, ALA, symposiums and institutes, I hope we also propose great programs for our local and regional conferences. And I hope we look for new voices in our states and invite them to present with us - or instead of us. Everyone needs great CE and sometimes the gift of a great program is no farther than our own backyard.


10.28.2015

Peering at Peer to Peer Mentoring


No matter how long we've been in the profession, we all need mentors.

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Jessica Olin over at Letters to a Young Librarian has a brief post post about the importance of peer mentoring and it got me thinking about my own experience.

I was lucky, throughout my career, to have experienced librarians take me under their wings in my library jobs, in my state association work and at the national level. Their support helped me navigate alot and taught me a ton.

But I can also say, forty years down my library career path, I have relied - and still rely  - on my peers for a tremendous portion of my professional support. Often referred to as PLNs (personal learning networks), our peer mentors can be life and sanity saving. These men and women, from libraries of all types and sizes, were my go-to reality check, my support, my place to dish, to unload, to problem solve, to listen and learn.

Without these peers who shared the same journey I did and were kind counselors and ardent thinkers, I would have been far lonelier and isolated; unconnected and unchallenged in my practice and my perceptions. I've always said I learn at least one new thing everyday, and my peer mentors often led that learning. Our frequent contact (emails, calls, twitter, FB, in person lunches and visits) informed my career and helped me navigate a thousand good and bad experiences.

I am profoundly thankful to all of you who are/were there for me. And I encourage everyone to reach out to link to your peers and share and grow together.

As I commented in Jessica's post: "While all mentors have had a profound and lasting impact on my long career, my peer mentors have saved my bacon (oh, or tofu) time and time again. The support, commiseration, problem-solving, uplift, shoulder to cry on, bold "let's hatch a plan," collaboration and sassytalk have enriched my practice every day in every way!"


10.04.2015

Small is Beautiful


The last few weeks have given me a chance to celebrate and network with librarians working in small libraries at two special events that reminded me again of my abiding respect and enthusiasm for those working in libraries serving small communities.

In September, I was one of the teaching facilitators for an intensive three day Wisconsin Youth Services Leadership Institute. Twenty-five library staffers involved with youth work, almost all from small libraries, were selected from over sixty applicants.

At the beginning, many felt that they didn't deserve to be called librarians because they lacked a master's degree. Over the course of the three days, through workshops on history, advocacy, leadership and more; through many individual and group conversations and expressions of mutual support for each other; and through some eye-opening goal setting, all the participants claimed their title as librarians and leaders doing great things for their communities in libraries.

Then I attended the recent Association of Rural and Small Libraries conference. I had long heard that this was one of the best library conferences out there and I can't disagree. Fifty-nine break-out session presentations; five major speakers at meals throughout the 2.5 day conference; and plenty of support for everyone to network and talk together during breaks, dine-arounds and receptions. The organizers made sure everyone felt welcomed.

I heard over and over people talking about colleagues they met from all over the country with similar situations (both triumphs and tears) and how great it was to touch base and connect. The focus on issues and concerns specific to the those working in small libraries had alot of meat for people from larger libraries and I found myself tugged between many great sessions scheduled opposite each other (eight programs per time slot!!).

Perhaps my favorite part was how many presenters were from small libraries sharing their expertise. It was great to hear new voices and ideas and perspectives and worth the price of admission. When I go to conferences, I love to hear from people working in many different library situations and my favorite panels are those that are made up of voices from multiple libraries of various sizes and regions.

As a longtime freelance storyteller in my state, I had the opportunity to go to many, very small libraries over the years. Each time I learned some new cool idea, some tip or trick, an arrangement of collections or services that was, well, completely brilliant. The creative librarians at many of these libraries became my role models, my go-to inspiration and pals.

Their work was echoed again in these two conferences and reinforces one of my deep and abiding beliefs. We are all librarians - regardless of education, all community advocates, all dedicated altruists who believe in the power of reading to change lives and that librarians from medium and large libraries have a TON to learn from our colleagues in small libraries.

Small is beautiful!




10.01.2015

Passive Program Palooza


Time is a precious commodity for us all in libraries. One way to create tremendous bang for our buck is by incorporating passive (or, as I like to call them, stealth) programs into our programming offerings.

I think of these programs as "stealth" programs because they subtly invite our kids and families into the library and help us do our work of literacy support through the effort the families put in rather than having library staff front and center directing.

"Active" programming (hosted/presented by staff or volunteers; taking place at a specific date/time/place) is often the most common type of programming found in libraries. Think storytimes, afterschool workshops and clubs, one time special events, field trips, etc.

But passive/stealth programs can present great opportunities to stretch time, budget and staff in ways that give agency to the children and families involved. These programs take some initial planning to set up but once in place are easily administered by staff. The families and kids provide the "power" on their own time and these types of programs encourage frequent return visits to the library.

Examples of stealth programs that we all do? Summer Library Programs! And 1000 Books Before K Clubs* that many of us do are also great examples!

What are some other examples of these types of programs?

Check-out Clubs - these initiatives which can last from 3 weeks to 8 weeks or more encourage kids to check out materials and do a "thing." Great examples of these include Lego Check-Out club, BackPack Buddies, Ice Cream Club, Free-quent Readers and Smart Cookie club.

Scavenger Hunts - whether inside the library challenging kids to discover book collections or beloved characters or outside the library tying into larger community efforts, these often short-term initiatives are a perfect why to program during school breaks or to quickly have something ready is school is cancelled. Examples of these include Dinovember, Book Character Hunts, Gnome Hunt, and Undercover Spy Club.

DIY Stations - these ongoing efforts (or short duration!) invite kids to create, write, draw, imagine and make that require minimal staff effort. Some paper, markers or crayons easily changed writing/drawing/creating prompts and challenges support multiple literacies. Examples of these include Stories in Action tables, exploration stations, or check out Amanda Struckmeyer Moss and Svetha Hetzler's book DIY Programming and Book Displays (Libraries Unlimited, 2010) for a year's worth of easy and delightful DIY ideas.

Whether you are doing passive programs for Teens or kids, this Pinterest board is chockful of great ideas from librarians around the country to make passive/stealth programs as easy as pie!

*I'll be doing a "how-to" 1000 Books webinar on Oct 21. You can register for this free webinar here

9.28.2015

Giving a Little Love to NF


Sometimes, when we think of promoting or handselling books to kids in our reader's advisory work, we concentrate overwhelmingly on our fiction collections. But it's worth giving some attention to non-fiction as well as we help kids. It not only increases circulation in that collection area but also is eye-opening and interest-opening for kids.

There has been so much attractive non-fiction published over the past ten-twenty years, it's easy to put kids and information books together. Just looking at the bright, attractive wealth of independent non-fiction titles, there's alot to promote.

[[True confession: I am seriously addicted to non-fiction. It has long been my favorite collection development area as well as the type of reading I am most passionate about.]]

We have had success highlighting non-fiction over the years that has tempted kids into trying -and liking - these dewey-ed books. Here are just a few ways:

NF Book Bundles - 3 or 4 non-fiction books on a subject that includes a bright label (Big Teeth; Strong People: Heroes; Science; Let's Build) let's us mix and match attractive NF from different subject categories together. These mini-bundles are fun to create and popular with kids.

Booktalks - when we booktalk to groups or at schools we always mix nonfiction and fiction titles together, often looking for a common subject theme. It's a great spot to include poetry and biographies as well!

Face-out Displays - Lots of it! As staffers work their way through non-fiction, I always encourage them to bypass the formulaic, series non-fiction and instead look for interesting subjects; eye-candy covers and titles that might pique the interest of kids. The more we replace a book in empty spaces, the better it is - it means kids are grabbing the good stuff!

Class or Day Care Collection Packs - putting non-fiction with fiction selections in packs that go out to daycares or classrooms is a great way to promote information books. I always look for short books with easily digested info-bits to tempt readers to pick up a non-fiction.

Stealth/Passive Initiatives - we make sure non-fiction gets a space in these. Whether it's pick-a-stick, gnomes on both fiction AND non-fiction collections, or NF included in Mystery Read bags, we make sure we don't stay fiction-centric in our support of great books.

Reader's Advisory - when kids are looking for books, we also check with them on subjects they are interested in and head over to non-fiction as well as fiction. Kids who love fantasy books often gravitate to medieval history books; steampunkers see how inventions are linked to their genre love; etc. And when fiction and graphic novels can't satisfy a reluctant reader, delving into a non-fiction subject area of interest often does the trick to spark some reading enthusiasm.

What has worked for you to highlight your non-fiction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


9.24.2015

Eight is Great for Tiny Tips!

Pixabay Image

I am amazed to celebrate the eighth birthday of the blog this week.

From it's humble beginnings to an overwhelming 420,000 views later, I am so happy you have joined me to think about youth services over the years.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this journey with me. I can't promise my blogging schedule will increase (retirement finds me laying back and smelling the roses lots more) but I can promise that thinking and writing about youth services won't be ending!