3.25.2015

ALL.THE.THINGS.


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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.


3.18.2015

Elephant and Piggie Wow the Crowd



We have long been offering continuing education opportunities on a monthly basis for our day care providers. Because we are registered instructors, providers who take our free hour-long classes are able to gain credits for continued certification in our state's certification program. Libraries place such importance on early literacy that it makes sense to give providers the knowledge and encouragement to do just that through these workshops!

We recently did a workshop demonstrating how to create story extension activities using a book and one's own imagination. Activities that extend a story help children play with characters, plots and situations in the just-read book and more firmly embrace and enjoy the story and the concepts inside it. These extensions can be craft-based; sensory-based; pretend-play exploratory; art-based and more. The point is finding the kernel(s) of the book and extend them into the activity. Since we wanted to explore this in a simple fun way, what better books than Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie (aka E&P in this post!) series to do the job?

Here's how it went down:

I read There's a Bird on My Head and demonstrated a fun nest hat the children could make. This was followed with I Will Surprise My Friend and a demonstration on how paper bag E&P puppets could help kids understand the situation of the rock hiding the characters (you can find the extensions used in this post).

Providers then picked a Willems' E&P book, and were given 10-12 minutes to read it and either working as a team or alone, come up with an idea for an extension idea or two that might work. The crowd was enthusiastic and came up with some great ideas. Here's a few they shared when we re-gathered and book-talked their selection and made their suggestions. Look what great stuff they came up with in just a few minutes:

Watch Me Throw the Ball - have the kids toss a ball and comment on all the different ways they throw (best throw to the left; highest; softest; kindest to the ball; best ball that went to the left; etc. Important to focus not on far the ball is thrown but how fun throwing the ball, no matter the result is!)

I Broke My Trunk - using paper towel rolls, let kids hold them to their noses. Talk about what might break their nose. Let the kids wrap their broken noses in toilet paper as a bandage.

Elephants Cannot Dance - have kids practice the dance moves Elephant does. Then ask them to try a new dance move (depending on the group, they may come up with plenty of their own). Add music and have a dance party!

Let's Go For a Drive - let kids pack and unpack a suitcase with clothes. Show them maps. Make a map of a walk around the block and walk with the kids showing them how a map works. Let the kids draw a map. Ask kids what they want to pack for a trip to the store; to the woods; to the beach; to a very cold place with snow.

My New Friend is So Fun! - Have kids draw a picture of their favorite friend.

I'm a Frog - have kids pretend to be frogs and cows. Ask them what other animals they would like to pretend to be. Use pictures of real animals to extend the idea.

Many of the providers had never heard of these books and realized that an early reader could work great with the kids in their care. It also stimulated alot of conversation of other books they love to use with the kids and how they could use the story extension concept to enhance the kids' enjoyment. Mission accomplished!




3.06.2015

Shaking Up SLP - Creating the Zen


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Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Our guest today is Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, a colleague at LPL who joined our team last August. Kelsey is a thoughtful, let's-work-on-this-together visionary who is active on the Friends of the CCBC board and in library work. Before she joined us here she worked in a library in a small community (pop. 5000) in WI. In this post she shares thoughts about the path to change in your SLP based on a workshop she did for librarians in our system.

What comes to your mind when you think about SLP? Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also a busy time of year, and sometimes stressful – for you, for other library staff, and sometimes even for patrons. While SLP maybe never be a smooth, stress-free zone, we can do a lot to make it easier on ourselves and everyone around us.

Let’s start by considering what we’re really trying to achieve - what YOU are really trying to achieve at your library. Promoting reading during the summer, of course. But what do you aspire to when it comes to your own SLP? Spreading the word about the importance of early literacy, and getting parents with babies to participate? Showing middle-grade readers that books can be funny and interesting? Just getting more people in the door? Being thoughtful about what YOU want to do with YOUR SLP will give you purpose, common staff goals, and direction. The Harwood Institute, currently partnering with ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, has a great worksheet on thinking about aspirations. Though the worksheet has a broader community focus, it can easily be adjusted to focus on SLP.

Another important step is to simplify. Do we really need so many sheets and rules and procedures when it comes to participation? Do we really need so many prizes and incentives to get kids to read? Or can we come up with ways to keep SLP fun and fresh and literacy-focused without jumping through so many hoops? Last summer, at my previous library, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make SLP work better for patrons and more sustainable for ourselves. We simplified procedures, reduced unnecessary elements, and cut way back on incentives. The results were that kids continued their  enthusiastic participation, parents were happy to have less plastic junk, and staff had a much easier time registering participants, explaining the program, and answering questions. Streamlining made everyone happy. Making things less complicated doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy or letting our patrons down. It means we’re being realistic about what we can accomplish, and being thoughtful about sustainable practices.


Finally, let’s talk about prizes. Lots of libraries use them, and that’s okay. There is no prize-shaming here. But are there better ways for us to use incentives when it comes to SLP? I’ve recently noticed several libraries changing the way they incentivize SLP, with fantastic results. Some are thinking about ways they can incorporate altruism, with the “prize” being a Friends-funded donation to a community organization of the child’s choice. Some are giving away books as an incentive. Some are doing away with prizes altogether, focusing on recognition and activity. This past summer in La Crosse, kids could add a sticker to help cover a paper robot on the wall. Research shows that extrinsic motivation, which is the drive to do something because of an external reward, is far less effective than intrinsic motivation, which drives us to do something because we love it. Prizes tap into extrinsic motivation, and while that’s not bad, I believe we can find more effective ways to get kids engaged in literacy. Ways that remind them reading is a fantastic experience in itself.

How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power

3.04.2015

Talk That Talk


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Youth librarians have a toolbelt full of skills that make us successful working with kids. I'm thinking programming, eagle-eye/mind youth literature chops, organization and planning, creativity, advocacy, child development and behavior management know-how, budgeting, PR, partnership-making, IF, digital chops and far-future seeing.

But I have to say the one that is perhaps the dearest to my heart and present in the very most successful youth librarians (and really anyone who works with kids) may be the simplest and the one most taken for granted - translating adult concepts into readily understandable language that kids "get" immediately.

I'm not referring here to using baby-talk or talking down to kids in a patronizing way. Rather it's a way of reaching out to kids and thinking hard about how they see the world and matching our words to their understanding.

It's easy when we get into any occupation, hobby group or organization, to quickly become submerged into the jargon associated with that activity. I mean it's just the shorthand used with those we are in close contact with so we can zip through what we're doing. I would for-instance ALA's many unit acronyms that, while they scare some librarians, are really a quick way to communicate.

I applaud youth librarians who come up with great ways to let kids know how our library works or to introduce a concept. Here are a few samples from our shop.

How This Whole Library Thing Works:
During field trips, we  ask the kids who the books belong to (the librarians?  Nooooooo; the library? Noooooo; You?  YESSSSS!!!!)  The books belong to and are shared by all the kids and grownups in the community!  Then we tell them the library is like a house that the books live in. But books love to visit with kids at their house. With a library card, children can take home materials for a nice visit. And, just like a visit from a friend (we all know that visiting friends don't stay forever), the books have to return home to the library after a few weeks so they can visit with other children.

Old Maps = Google Earth?
During a tour of our amazing archives with middle schoolers, our archivist was showing the kids a huge old map book used for fire insurance purposes. Peeking over her shoulder, it struck me how to make the experience connect for the kids. Our archivist facebooked: "Shout out to my colleague Marge Loch-Wouters - when I was showing groups of 7th graders a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, Marge summed it up by saying 'This map is like an ancient Google Earth image.' Nailed it!"

The Animals Made Us Do It
When we closed off a running/jumping/general amok portion of our big boat, the preschoolers were a bit taken aback. But our colleague Brooke came up with a great way to navigate them through the change. She shared with the team:  "I’ve started calling it our animal boat.  Because all of our animals decided they needed a place to live, so they picked the boat. The other side is our “people boat”. If they say they want to go up to the giraffe I just ask, 'Are you an animal? No, you’re a person, silly!' "

How to Say It So Kids Listen/Understand
In her "Management with an Iron Fist" series and soon to be taught CE course and day-to-day work, colleague Bryce breaks down how to communicate in a way that kids can easily understand and get the behavior you expect. These now classic posts break it down.

What do you say to help kids understand how and why the library works that translates into real-kid-world understanding?

2.26.2015

Shaking Up SLP - School Power


Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Sue Abrahamson is a children's librarian at Waupaca Area Library in Wisconsin. She is a smart, compassionate librarian and leader who isn't afraid to tilt at windmills and slay a few sacred cows Here are a few she described slaying last summer: little or no SLP decorating; extending the SLP from 8 weeks to the entire summer; only books for prizes (when the staff solicited community partners for money specifically to buy books, the library received $2375!);set up an experiment-a-day to engage kids in the SLP theme; did away with bulletin boards. 

In this post she shares a deeper connection to year round literacy that is the result of - and sets the stage for - outside-the-box schoolage summer reading reading success. By changing how they approach summer reading, Sue and staff have created a richer, deeper connection to the schools - one where the schools know exactly how the library supports the school's work with literacy and reading.

Good Morning Friends!  Please fill your coffee cup and spend five minutes reading my story.

Waupaca, WI - January 20, 2015
Today is the one day set aside in January that I spend the day (my co-worker, Jan, spent 2 hours, too) at our local elementary school reading to classes as part of their PBIS reward system.  Students earn "Rascal Tickets" by working hard, doing great things, and following the "Rascal Way."  They can spend their tickets in many ways, but one way is to save them up and redeem 25 tickets for the public librarian to come to read a story to their class. Teachers can sign up for Public Librarian Visits on a Google Spreadsheet that is shared with all school staff and public library personnel. 

On this day, Sue read in 7 classrooms; Jan read in 3 classrooms.  Sue also scheduled three sessions to meet with school personnel: The gym teacher needed help figuring out how to download ebooks from the library on her new iPad; the Reading Specialist talked about testing and the upcoming school sponsored family reading night that now has the "Every Hero" theme; and the Principal and Vice-Principal met with me to talk about RtI and the relationship they have with the public library and to give me some of their thoughts for our upcoming summit.

The Principal told me that our success first came by his understanding of what we do at the library and how it helps his students and their families.  As a new principal, (and new, too, to elementary school) he heard from bus drivers, teachers and parents about things happening at the public library.  He felt he needed to understand what sort of relationship was already forged and why it was so critically important that people would be calling him about it so often.

He also commented that he thinks having a librarian with a background in education was helpful. (I worked at the school before taking the job at the library.)  Repeatedly he credited my personality and enthusiasm for working together.  He said that it was clear to him that my experience, my passion for helping his students and families learn together outside the school day, my involvement with the Parent Teacher Group, and that I took every opportunity that availed itself to make the school and the public library visually connected demonstrated clearly that we had a shared vision.

The Vice-Principal spoke from the heart about how their PBIS program works to create a culture of support for learning, not just at school but everywhere in the community.  This includes everything from character development to literacy skills, helping students grow and learn their whole lives long into healthy, successful adults.

I read John Rocco's book, Blizzard, to all the students today to introduce the "Every Hero Has a Story" theme.  It was the perfect story to tell for a variety of grades.  It gave us the chance to talk about what makes a person a hero.  It gave students the opportunity to think of people they know who act heroically.  It told the story of a 10-year-old hero who thought outside-the-box to problem-solve in a crisis situation, who put the needs of other ahead of his own, and who grew up to be an author and father who shared his personal story so others can find the hero in themselves.  Hope you can read it soon!


How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen




2.24.2015

Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power

Participants share aspirations at the workshop

Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Today's post is from Leah Langby , the Youth Services Coordinator for the Indianhead Library System, a ten county consortium in northwestern Wisconsin. She is also a savvy, supportive and sharp-as-a-tack library advocate and leader who isn't afraid to open the door and gently offer information that leads to change. She is active in many arenas and is currently chair-elect of YSS, our WLA youth section. Check out the system blog she oversees - Keeping Up with Kids - and get it on your feeds!

Every year in the dead of winter, one of the brightest spots is getting together with youth services librarians from around the region for a face-to-face enthusiasm-and-idea-generating extravaganza, known as the Summer Library Program workshop.  For years, we’ve had a great time at this workshop, laughing together, getting inspired with ideas for projects and programs and promotions.  Having a roomful of youth services librarians is a definite recipe for plenty of energy and collaboration, and talking about the summer programs seems to bring out the best of that.

This year, I wanted to nudge us all along a little bit more, thinking about the Summer Library Program in the context of all of youth services, preventing burnout, and re-thinking some of the things we’ve always done.  Prizes or no prizes?  How much time to spend on those decorations?  How can we simplify?  How can we reach out to our community for collaboration, and to reach kids who might not be getting to the library?  How can we make our efforts intentional and effective?  I wanted to do that, but still maintain the festive, energetic, collaborative and mutually supportive atmosphere that sustains us all through the long winter months.

Some of my colleagues in the state who have been thinking about all of these SLP/youth services issues in a smart way were generous enough to come to my system to talk about some of those big issues.  A HUGE shout-out to Shawn Brommer and Sue Abrahamson for gently and humorously helping us feel mighty, consider our aspirations and our strengths, and think about the “sacred cows” we could consider putting out to pasture.  After a two-hour session exploring our super-hero powers with Shawn and Sue, we had several break-out sessions. 

I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of the amazing librarians in our system who stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park, presenting panels on everything from teen volunteers and programs to collaboration to outreach to stealth programs to the whys and hows of decorations and performers.  Two of the breakout sessions were also hosted by a local maker-space denizen, who showed us some playful ways to interact with problem-solving with kids.  I tried to provide presenters with clear expectations beforehand (this is a new development for me, and it is pretty revolutionary how well it works!).  Almost all of these sessions were about the summer, but also so much more!  It was amazing to tap into the skills, know-how, and experience of the people right here in our system. 

I’ve had more positive feedback from this one workshop/mini-conference than about any other workshop I’ve ever had in my entire 10-year history of planning and implementing workshops (of all kinds).  People were stopping by my office, nearly floating off the floor with excitement about ways they were planning to make their programs last year-round, reach out to their communities, and get more people engaged with the library and reading.  Hooray!  It might be that there is no going back!

How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - School Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen

2.19.2015

Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness


Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

In Wisconsin, we underwent a sea-change in our reportable statistics for youth programs over the past few years.

In the past, only summer reading program attendance was recognized and counted. You did a winter reading program? Too bad. Not reportable. You did a fall or spring reading program? So sad.

But after discussions with youth librarians around the state, Youth Services and Special Needs consultant Tessa Michaelson Schmidt and her Department of Public Instruction (DPI) colleagues took a different approach - one based on what is really happening in libraries around the state and what research indicates are ways in which programs in libraries are evolving. Now we can count any reading program - summer or not (referred to as "literacy offerings").

That same discussion with frontline library youth staff and careful thought resulted in some deep thoughts and research into reading programs - summer, spring, winter or fall. Last year, DPI published an amazing document put together by Tessa - Offering Library Reading Programs: Top Ten Tips for Librarians - that is quietly knocking the socks off librarians in our state. Reading choice?!?! No prizes?!?! Aligning the reading program with the schools' and public library's mission?!?! Oh yeah, baby!

Best of all the links here point us to research to buttress what we are doing when we start changing how we go about evolving our summer library program. Research and writing on change ease our work in evolving library reading programs by guiding us into tested "this is why this works" and give us needed ammunition to change hearts and minds of our co-workers and management.

This document and the research links can serve us as we shake up our SLP.

How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power
Shaking Up SLP - School Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen

2.17.2015

Shaking Up SLP - Questions

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Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. This series of  posts looks at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

Where are we going and how do we get where we want to be? That's a question I ask myself all the time - and most especially, in thinking about summer library programs. Two decades ago, I felt like we were on a treadmill of summer madness - how could we get off and change how we did the program to a model that was fun and worthwhile for kids and staff?

The people I worked with joined me in asking questions and looking at the answers as well as the hopes we had. It has led to twenty years of reformatting and evolving the way we do SLP and that change has been part of our planning in every job I've had ever since.

It starts with questions for which no one answer exists. Each library is unique in how the library and community come together. Here's a few questions and some suggestions on what you might do to guide your change process towards making SLP more meaningful at your library.

Begin (or continue) to ask questions:
                Are you reaching the age groups you want?
                Running registrations for storytimes or events that add to workload?
                Constant programming or could you add more breaks?
                Are programs generating increased use/circ by kids?
                Is your registration or reading record process cumbersome?
                Is what you are doing fitting in with library goals or school goals?
                Are the kids focusing on reading or prizes?
                How competitive do you want your program to be?

Think about what you are doing now and why you are doing it :          
* it satisfies kids
*you've always done it this way
* it satisfies you                                                   
* it satisfies parents
* it works
* it doesn’t work but staff or administration REALLY like it

Think about your goals and the outcomes you want  and how they can be accomplished. 

                             For instance, if you want to:

1)  Reach out to as many kids as possible?
In person contact to spread the word on SLP is vital (School promo visits/spring school visits or class visits)
Cooperate with PTOs to spread word
                Get info to schools (bookmarks) prior to parent teacher conferences
                Involve families (parents, preschoolers & readers in program to spread the word)
                Spread the word at other community spots where kids are: child care centers, Boys and Girls's Clubs etc 

2)  Give the kids a fun experience
                Simplify paperwork so focus is on kids who come in, not busywork
Take time for events you and kids enjoy (booktalking; programs); cut down on other unnecessary programs or requirements 
                Experiment with the theme and delivery – or not - of prizes or rewards

3)  Get the kids reading:
                Do lots of reader’s advisory special displays
                Let kids review books
                Do lots of “seat-to-feet” service rather than hugging the desk
                Create experiences that put kids and books together (books at programs for check-out; stealthy games)

  4) Make the program low-stress for kids           
                De-emphasize or eliminate competitive aspects (most books read, etc)
                Let kids read at own pace and in own interest areas
                Consider library use and experiential activities within the library as an achievable outcome
                Allow a break from school-year type demands
                Let kids read at various levels and formats
                Recognize the importance of being read to for preschooler & poor readers
               
   5) Make the program low-stress for staff             
                Keep record keeping simple
                Think about whether elements like oral reports; genre reading; prizes are necessary to the successful       
                      accomplishment of encouraging kids to read in the summer 
               Look for ways to encourage cooperation with the community or schools to support kids & reading (mutual 
                       booklists; beginning of school rewards; programs; Park & Rec)

6) Be creative, inventive and have fun                
                Recognize that libraries are more than books
                Embrace the many formats (inc. digital) and ways that kids come to literacy - it isn't just about reading
                Picture yourself as a promoter and less as a record keeper
                Imagine yourself as marketing guru and your product as reading
                Give yourself permission to innovate

Finally, learn when to say when!
               
It’s important to recognize when elements of your program are no longer effective and to begin planning to change

Evaluate your program:
                Bring staff &  volunteers together in a party/meeting
                Establish parent/child focus group to talk about summer
                Talk to school colleagues for scuttlebutt on SLP
                 Don’t be afraid to end elements that no longer work or seek innovative solutions

How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power
Shaking Up SLP - School Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen

2.16.2015

Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear


Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. This series of posts (some from me, some from guests) looks at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

For many of us, summer reading programs represent the most sacred of cows. When we started our jobs, we learned HOW.IT.IS.DONE. Even if our predecessor was no longer there, the director, the board, our co-workers and even our patrons had strong thoughts about HIID. It makes it tough not to feel like "Who am I to change things?" But really, when it gets right down to it, you ARE the one with the knowledge and ability to make change happen.

The pressure of HIID stifles creativity, innovation and truly answering the needs of our community. Rather than respond to the literacy needs of kids over summer vacation, the rigid lines of HIID keep many of us in narrow lines of expected service - reading records, genre straightjackets, incentives (that might be considered bribes), competition, and intensive active programming that wipes out energy and staff enthusiasm.

Time and again in my courses, my hallway conversations and my workshops, youth library staff express hesitation, concern and sometimes fear of the patron/co-worker/management reaction that might ensue if any changes are made.  I get that. I am not immune to that same feeling.

BUT...

...what I have found is that our fear is often far worse than the reality of the reaction. I have been involved in massive change and evolution of the SLP for the past twenty years. Each small or large change (no more oral reports; no more writing of every title read; introducing weekly cards to bring in more visits; doing a tween SLP; developing a preschool only SLP; library use/program attendance considered equal to reading in importance; experiential activities tied to literacy/learning at home or at the library; going prizeless) has been embraced by the public and administration. I have seen the same at libraries everywhere.

The one or two voices of dismay are drowned out by the many, many voices of those who appreciate how much more engaged their kids are and how much more they are involved in reading/learning/literacy/books.

A little parenthetical story:
For years, a well-beloved colleague ran a reading program that handed out the same small incentive prize - and only that prize - year after year. Each year, she would buy a new design for this prize. She worked at the library 30 years. After she had been retired for a year, I asked the new children's librarian if she was still doing the same SLP. She said she had changed it immediately. The reaction from the public? They loved the new way SLP was done. Many expressed gratitude that a program they had done as children had finally evolved to a new more interesting way.

What are the key elements to making change successful and being mighty and fearless?
  • Due diligence - what change are you contemplating and how will it enrich/enhance the SLP experience for kids?
  • Ducks in order - what does the research say? What experiences have colleagues shared? 
  • Literacy and learning links - How does this support what is happening already in your schools and larger community in terms of literacy and learning?
  • Great communication - make sure your administration is on board. Talk to patrons and school colleagues about ideas well in advance of the change.
  • Standing shoulder to shoulder - create a culture of buy-in with co-workers and administration so that the messages you share with the public are positive and the same.
How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other upcoming posts in this series

Shaking Up SLP - Questions
Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power
Shaking Up SLP - School Power
Shaking Up SLP- Creating the Zen

1.08.2015

Need More Programming Chops?


Pixabay Image
One of the most difficult parts of our work is often giving ourselves permission to try new things in our programming.  Sometimes we feel pressure from our administrators, our veteran colleagues or patrons to do - or not do - certain things. Combine that with tight budgets, tight staffing and tight time and the challenge really ramps up. We read exciting efforts in blogs and online but just can't seem to jumpstart them at our own place of work.

If you are looking to re-think, get re-inspired or explore programming a little more in depth, I invite you to join me in an upcoming online CE course: Power Children's Programming on a Budget.

This asynchronous course which starts on January 26 and runs for six weeks gives participants a chance to learn - and share experiences and tips that work wonders. We also explore strategic ways to plan, be a strong advocate and fit what you want to try into a busy work schedule. A bonus is our blog that will preserve ideas and thoughts.

Whether you live in Wisconsin or another state, this course is a great one to hone your programming skills! Hope you can join me!


12.05.2014

I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends


Image: Pixabay
As some of you know, I've recently been teaching as an adjunct and occasional instructor for continuing ed courses. I pretty much fell into it - never pictured myself teaching. With encouragement, I applied to teach a basic youth services in public library grad course online a few years ago. What's to lose?

Holy academia! I got hired! That first time, I had six weeks to develop a syllabus and content for the fifteen week grad course, find my textbooks and set-up the online course on a platform that was like learning a language from another dimension. It was without question the hardest professional challenge I ever experienced.

I was able to do it because I wasn't alone. The support from UW-Madison SLIS staff and many, many colleagues who mentored me, suggested pathways through this new dimension and from the students themselves taught me a ton and shaped me as a teacher.

Because of that experience, I found I love teaching and kept it up (it's gotten easier and far less other-dimensional since that first "polar plunge" semester).

And alot of that love is because of alot of you!

Teaching allows me to share the wisdom and experience of many of you out in the field blazing paths to great services for your communities. I have been able to link my students to many bloggers  and blog posts and the seminal thinking that is going on in the field. I thank you and hope you keep writing and sharing!

And I want to especially thank the kind colleagues who took the time to go the extra mile this semester for my students by creating videos talking about their passions and areas of expertise. Huge hugs go out to Christine Jenkins, Mel Depper, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Karen Jensen, Abby Johnson, Terrie Howe, Megan Schliesmann, Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, Lisa Shaia, Amy Koester, Cen Campbell and Starr LaTronica. I know how busy everyone is and it was a privilege to share your thinking with the class.

While the course evaluations aren't in, I would say that these videos touched the students deeply (if the discussion boards and papers written are any indication) and were eye-opening glimpses into the thinking behind what we do as youth services professionals. Your expertise, so kindly shared, will make the students more mighty.

Thanks for joining me in this teaching adventure. I simply could not do it without you!

12.03.2014

Where Do We Learn?


Of course everywhere.

On social media, through blogs and in social media groups.

Through mentor-protege relationships - whether informal or set up through ALSC or a state association.

Image Pixabay
Through our libraries - in fact this post is inspired by Katie Salo's library asking staff to teach each other about their areas of expertise. Wow, libraries of the world, do this thing! Wouldn't it be great if every library cared to make sure all staff knows what all staff work is about?!?!

Through attendance at state and national conferences - both inside and outside the library world.

Through webinars and online classes like our state's continuing series of webinars with panels of practitioners at libraries large and small; formal CE credit courses through SLIS schools and our statewide Wild Wisconsin Winter Web conference with 10 national speakers.

Through attendance at workshops outside our usual territory - and often relatively nearby. In the past month, four of our YS team have attended three different seminal, breakthrough, slaying-sacred-cow seminars on shaking up summer reading programs around the state. While we already push the envelope in this area, we are inspired by other's stories, experiences and support. And we drove to learn more!

Through reasoned discourse like that going on here and here.

Through conversations with colleagues in the library, patrons and kids.

All our learning, all our sharing (we each have the power to reflect on and teach each other) pushes our practice and grows our understanding. No matter where we learn, we can't help but get better.

Our opportunities are everywhere. Carpe perceptum!!


11.18.2014

On the Road - Develop Your Inner Superhero


Image: Pixabay
I'm back in my old stomping grounds on the eastern side of the state presenting workshops on programming superhero-dom (told you I've been thinking about that alot!).

This workshop is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Association - it was a donation to their foundation auction and Winnefox Library System snapped it up followed by the Waukesha Library System. It's a great way of giving back to our association and also encouraging everyone to become state and national association members because, you know, together we are stronger!

While it has a superhero theme, the workshop isn't just an SLP workshop. (Please note that CSLP through Demco is offering two webinars with great info to help you be mighty on January 28 and February 25)

As I mentioned in my last post, 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 looked 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.

What you couldn't be there? Drat! Well, there's a 6 week online UW-Madison SLIS course I'm teaching around the concepts in the workshop starting January 26 (registration is now open).

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

Going SLP Prizeless - LPL's Journey

Develop Your Inner Superhero Workshop Pinterest board
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!)



11.14.2014

Programming Superheroes


Image: Pixabay
That's what we youth librarians are, you know.

I've been thinking alot about programming over the past couple of years. I've been writing about it, teaching about it, listening to ideas about it, revising my thinking about it and considering it in the context of all we do as youth librarians in our work day.

And one consistent theme that has struck me is that programming for kids in libraries - while not all we do - is the part of our jobs that is most visible, touches children's hearts most closely and consumes a great deal of our creative and imaginative energy.

We come into work, don our superhero librarian costume and plan and present amazing early literacy storytimes; school age programs, outreach visits and more. We think about how to involve kids through passive programs, DIY programs, partnerships with other organizations.

Back in our "Barbara Gordon" street clothes, we scan Pinterest, blogs and journals for new programming ideas. We talk to our colleagues, watch webinars, brainstorm and dream new ways to reach kids through our programming. We see program possibilities while we shop for groceries, stop by a festival, in our jammies while watching TV.

All the ideas get tucked away and pop back out when we don our superhero duds back at the library.

Part of being a superhero is finding ways to take those ideas and balance them to serve people without burning out. So we share tips on how to do programming and collection development and planning and advocacy and all the background tasks that make up a whole youth librarian's M.O. in a sane, fun and sustainable way. The hidden secret identity parts of our work are less visible to our public but just as heroic.

We recently received a lovely tribute to our youth staff- both past and present - from a patron whose children's reading lives were touched by staff helping the find the perfect book and presenting great programs.  These glimpses into the change we make as very public programming superheroes and quieter reader's advisors and information professionals reveal the depth of our good work. We all receive these positive boosts from our patrons and they warm our superhero hearts.

Whether thanks are expressed or not, the work we do to shine a light on literacy, learning experiences, and reading through our programming touches the lives of children and brings us out to them and them into our libraries.  Shine on, my superhero colleagues, shine on!

11.10.2014

Let's Go to School Together Again!

Hey friends out in youth library land....I'm baaaaaack!

We had such a great time in spring exploring together the range of youth programming and smart and savvy ways to make it easier, that I am repeating the course beginning in January.

Join me for  Power Children's Programming - on a Budget, a six week on-line course for the UW Madison SLIS Continuing Education beginning the week of January 26. It is open to anyone, in-state or out-of-state, who is interested in this subject.

This course is perfect for any youth staffer interested in digging more deeply into programming for children, preschool through elementary ages. We'll explore: why we do what we do; how to do it better; negotiating the tricky currents of available staff, time, money and patron reactions.  You'll expand your community of programming peeps through robust dialogue, program shares and down-right feisty argument. 

Since it's an asynchronous course, you can dip into the content anytime each week. Lectures and readings are a mix of written text, webinars, slideshares, video and links to seminal posts about programming from bloggers including  Sara BryceAnne Clark, Amy Comers, Melissa Depper,  Abby Johnson, Amy Koester, Angie Manfredi, Brooke Newberry, Katie Salo, Beth Saxton and our friends at the ALSC, Little eLit and Thrive Thursday blogs.

We'll revive our class programming blog Kids Library Program Mojo that will fill with new content as the ideas and programs start popping up in the course and being shared. Coursework in this pass/fail course takes about 2-3 hours a week and the two brief assignments allow you to hone your thinking on programming (be an advocate!) and create/share a program. What could be more fun?

I hope you consider joining me for this most excellent learning adventure. I plan to learn as much as I teach!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay