Passive Program Power

Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, Youth Services Manager at George Latimer Central Library in St. Paul MN, and I presented a session on passive programming at the Minnesota Library Association this week. The following links can lead readers to more information about the programs we talked about - and introduce you to some great bloggers!!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten (origins, facts, research, planning tips and more!)

Craft Cart and Scavenger Hunt 1 (ideas from St. Paul libraries)

Check-Out Clubs (tried and true hits from La Crosse Public Library, WI)

Tabletop Prompts 1  (from La Crosse Public Library, WI)

Tabletop Prompts 2 (from Gretna Public Library, NE)

Exploration Station (from Monroe Public Library, WI)

Scavanger Hunt 2 (from Gretna Public Library, NE)

Scavenger Hunt 3 (from Texas)

Scavenger Hunt 4 (from La Crosse Public Library, WI)

Letter of the Week (from La Crosse Public Library, WI)

Pinterest Passive Program Board (a plethora of ideas from...everywhere!)

Book - DIY Programming and Book Displays - Amanda Struckmeyer and Svetha Hetzler


Nine Years Old!

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Every year as September winds down, I like to give a little birthday party for the blog. She's nine years old now and half a million views from her beginnings in 2007 as a class project.

The blog has connected me to you, dear readers, over the years and continues to call me - even if I resist her siren song far more in semi-retirement.

Thanks for all your support and friendship. I still can't promise more frequent posts but we shall see what next year brings.


Counting Kids - Still Thinking About Summer Reading/Learning

There was recently a thread on the ALSC listserv discussing whether there was a national "finisher" rate for summer reading program.

It became clear pretty quickly that definitions of finishing ranged from counting the number of kids who signed up to the library setting a goal and counting the kids who reach it - and everything in between. It was also pretty apparent that each library takes an individual approach to SLP and the idea of any national benchmark beyond number of kids participating (and even that is shaky) is apples and zucchinis.

I have had my turn at this dance over the years. When we shared information with our schools, we kept careful excel sheet or database data that we updated each time a child returned. When we looked to increase usage by certain grade levels or from certain schools, we loved our stats - and used 'em. When we handed incentives along the way or created a goal, we kept track to see when kids hit that level. I have been stat bound on some level most of my career.

But this summer I watched as colleagues at my former library dispensed altogether with sign-ups. When children registered they put a sneaker on a pillar. Throughout the program, kids could pick up weekly activity sheets. Both methods used the "count back" strategy to arrive at numbers. You know how many sneaker cut-outs you began with and count what you have leftover to determine sign-up numbers (1000 sneakers; 25 left = 975 kids starting the program). You have 300 copies of a weekly activity sheet and at the end of the week you have 10 = 290 kids participated that week.

This took the pressure and onus off the staff and provided less widgeting for kids. Since the library went prizeless a few years ago (except for a book for the kids) and seldom used stats on grade level or school, this was a simple evolution. Kids earned a book this summer after returning once and a "Summer Reader Lives Here" yard sign when they self-reported a 5th return visit.

Record keeping and definitions of success can be administration/board driven or an internal call to crazy stat keeping. But when we break down what we really - no I mean, REALLY - need in stats we gather (whether in-house or online), it may become clear that we are over-asking kids and over-working staff for returns that have no larger meaning.

Finding ways to simplify the process of getting the numbers we need (kids signed up; average participation rate) can take some real stress out of a busy time and carve needed time to reach out and really interact with kids and families. And seems worth the change!


Come to School with Me on Youth Management!

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I'm happy to say I have the opportunity to once again present "How Do You Manage THAT?!? Issues in Youth Services Management Part 1", October 17-November 11 for UW-Madison SLIS CE. This course was originally offered in fall 2014 so I'm pumped to examine the issues in this first version of the course.

What are we covering?
  •  Collection Development Mojo – savvy selection, weeding, confounding conundrums (bindings, salespeople, cold calls, awards, earning a place on the shelf)
  • Strategic Planning Power – big picture visioning; outcomes and goals; balancing services; statistics power
  • Room Management and Space Issues- from chaos to calm; involving your public; creative space-making; managing behaviors
  • Leadership from Within – fostering  relationships with other library staff; dealing with reluctant administration/board/patrons/co-workers/employees;
  • Zen Balance and Creative Engagement – partnerships/collaboration; PLNs

Active participation in discussion, a short paper that helps you identify a goal to work on and presto! You've earned CEUs and valuable insight from this crowd-sourced course where we all help each other examine these issues. Problem-solving and sharing are hallmarks of this learning opportunity.

Registration is now open (with a 10% discount before Oct 2). But don't delay; the course tends to fill fast!

And please check out the other UW-Madison SLIS fall CE courses. My colleagues are knocking it out of the park and each class is dynamite!!!


Last Call for Power Up Conference Proposals

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The sands of time are quickly running out for putting in program proposals for the exciting national conference on youth leadership and management coming in spring 2017. This is a perfect opportunity to pitch your thoughts and ideas relating to that topic.

The audience will be be both staff and managers, leaders and those who want to become more effective leaders. It promises to be a thought-provoking two days that hone in on the power that youth librarians hold!

Here are the details. But don't wait. The deadline is Sunday July 31.

Power Up: A Conference in Leadership for Youth Services Managers and Staff
March 30-31, 2017

Keynote address by Gretchen Caserotti, Library Director, Meridian Library District (Idaho)
Closing address by Deborah Taylor, Coordinator of School and Student Services, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore

Call for Proposals:
Do you have ideas about management and leadership in Youth Services? UW-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to offer Power Up, a brand new conference to share your exciting ideas! The conference will be accepting proposals until July 31, 2016. Topics may include, but are not limited to: strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation, and innovation. Youth services librarians and staff from all over the country are invited to attend!

Please submit a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Meredith Lowe, mclowe@wisc.edu, by July 31, 2016. Sessions at the conference will be one hour (45 minutes of presentation, 15 minutes of discussion).

Panel presentations are accepted. All selected sessions will receive one complimentary conference registration and a discount for staff members they wish to join them at the conference.

Be sure to bookmark this page to stay updated on the conference itself!


ALA as Re-invigoration

Sarah Houghton, she of the Librarian in Black blog, wrote a powerful post on lessons learned at ALA 2016.

She wrote: "I’ve had a hard few years professionally. I was looking for this conference to make me believe again–in what I do every day and in what I’ve dedicated my life to. Spoiler alert: It worked.  So…what did I learn?" Find out here.

You, like me, may find yourself nodding your head. 

Every day is a great day to be a librarian!


Kudos to ALSC

It was with real pleasure that I read that ALSC is offering their recently cancelled bienniel Institute (originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte NC in Sept) as a Virtual Institute online.

It is a BIG thing to undertake the cancellation of a major conference  - especially one that had already opened for registration. The ALSC board under the leadership of Andrew Medlar, with the able assistance of the ALSC office staff, listened, encouraged member discussion and input and researched what we as an association could do to respond to the law passed in NC that went against core values of our division as well as basic human rights.

The process was transparent and input deep and thoughtful -on all sides. The decision was a difficult one but one that I wholeheartedly supported. The ALSC board promised to honor the work of the institute organizers as well as committed participants by offering a way to still hold the conference - perhaps as a pre-midwinter conference in Atlanta or virtually.

I am very pleased that the decision was to go virtual on Sept 15-16, the time when the Institute would have been offered in Charlotte. Many of us had blocked out that time already. And for just slightly over the cost of an ALSC online course, ALSC members and non-members are invited to register for two days rich with online content. For many people who struggle to afford the costs of registration, lodging and transportation, this is an incredible bargain!

Head on over to the Virtual Institute webpage and register - and I'll see you virtually in September!


Happy Library Week!!

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A big MWAAAAAA to all my library friends and colleagues out there!

Thanks for all your passion and work serving your community in your library work! Like most of us, the reason you get up and go into work is that opportunity to serve your patrons - whether it is the public in public, academic and special library work or other librarians in your role as consultant or educator. That bread and butter focus is what informs our work and helps us push through challenges and change.

While I used to tell the kids that Library Week is like a "birthday for libraries," it is just as much a celebration of each and every staffer who cares enough to work so tirelessly in every aspect of library work to bring great services to their communities. Your dedication makes the library tick like the heart of the community that it is. Libraries transform - and so do you!

So here's to you, my friends!


Votes Needed! - ALA Conversation Starter

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Mel Depper and I have a Conversation Starter proposal in for the upcoming Orlando ALA conference. Each Conversation Starter proposal goes up for a vote by the public which accounts for 30% in the selection process. ALA staff votes account for 30% and 40% is decided by an advisory group of ALA members.

We hope you - our public - will read our proposal and consider voting for it.

Our program, You Say Yes, I Say No: Achieving ALL.THE.THINGS. will be full of tips on finding the space and time to serve our local and professional communities and still leaving time to have a rich non-work life. It's easy for all of us to be overwhelmed with all the great new shiny services and opportunities to create real change in our libraries as well as spread the word to our peers. This session will address those issues as well as savvy strategies to create realistic outcomes.

You can read all about it at here.

Voting is easy; just click the Thumbs up! But hurry, voting closes on Wednesday April 20!

And don't forget to look at all the amazing Ignite and Conversation Starters you can vote on too!


Power Up! An Amazing Opportunity

Many of you know I'm been delving into and thinking about leadership and management issues (both being a manager and being managed) over the past few years. 

So it is with real excitement that I have been assisting in the development of a brand new national conference sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Madison Continuing Education Department. The conference is titled: Power Up –  A Conference in Leadership for Youth Services Managers and Staff and will be held March 30-31, 2017 on the beautiful campus of UW-Madison.  

The UW Madison CE team has been presenting the highly successful Back in Circulation conference for circulation staff and managers for years. The Power Up conference is based on that successful concept and it’s a leadership conference that is sure to be uber-useful for youth librarians at all levels in our careers.

I hope you will mark your calendars for this amazing opportunity. I also want you to consider submitting a program proposal and be one of our valued presenters at the conference.  Here’s the scoop:

Call for Proposals
Do you have ideas about management and leadership in Youth Services? UW-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to offer Power Up, a brand new conference to share your exciting ideas! Gretchen Caserotti, Library Director at Meridian (ID) Library District, is kicking off our conference as the keynote speaker. The conference will take place in Madison, Wisconsin on March 30-31st, 2017 and will be accepting proposals until July 31, 2016. Topics may include, but are not limited to: strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation, and innovation. Youth services librarians and staff from all over the country are invited to attend!

Please submit  a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Meredith Lowemclowe@wisc.edu,  by July 31, 2016. Sessions at the conference will be one hour (45 minutes of presentation, 15 minutes of discussion).  Panel presentations are accepted. All selected sessions will receive one complimentary conference registration and a discount for staff members they wish to join them at the conference.

I’d love to see lots of youth librarians throw their hats in the ring to share thoughts on leadership and management and doing great youth services work. Bookmark this link for information about the conference now and in the coming months. And feel free to contact me if you need more information or want to bounce ideas at lochwouters at gmail dot com!


I'm All Ears

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Change and no-change is often a tug-of-war we face at work. Delving into the change sometimes reveals a distinct air of "let's do it because we can" - but does it really accomplish what we want or are we just rebranding or rediscovering something that already exists? It also can bring out the "don't change a thing" attitude from co-workers. Rather than beat on each other about it, it's important to move the process forward by listening.

Jessica Olin over at Letters to a Young Librarian recently addressed aspects of this issue.  She concludes, "The main thing I'm thinking about, though, is that I'm starting to understand why more experiences library professionals say things like, "we've always done it that way." I know it's easy to hear that phrase and think the speaker is stuck. But at this stage of my career, I can hear nuances in that much reviled statement. I can hear when someone means "but I really want to change it" versus when they mean "and I'm scared to try something new." More importantly, though, I've noticed an undercurrent of "I'm not afraid of change so much as I'm scared of uninformed progress for the sake of progress."

Things change. It's a fact so true that it sounds a bit cliched. But change without awareness of history can be worse than no change at all. Knowing where we came from can be a road map of sorts. After all, you want to void those million dead-end streets, don't you?"

I think in any situation of change and moving everyone to the same place of yes, it's important to listen to the many voices and to figure out what a change really means. Listening both to the yes and no perspectives and moving towards consensus is time consuming but worth it. Listening can make all the difference.


YS Manager's Corner - ALSC Power

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This is one in a series of posts about Youth Services management issues. We'll be looking at different aspects of working as a manager in YS including reflections, challenges and maybe a solution or two.

Now I know that there is some fear out there about whether these corners will just be alot of MLW blah-blah. And I would say some...but certainly not all because youth management is an important subject!

So important, that our smart-cookie colleagues over at ALSC are presenting, at this very moment, a free series of four monthly webinars on the very subject. Each hour-long webinar features panels made up of members of ALSC's Managing Children's Services committee as well as other youth managers/staffers willing to share their knowledge (Kendra Jones! Rachel Fryd! Kalsey Johnson-Kaiser! Megan Egbert! Claudia Wayland! Krissy WIck! Lisa Kropp! Amanda Yother! Madeline Walton-Hadlock!)

The webinars address communication, scheduling and time management, financials and supervision. The next one up is the third in the series, Managing Financials in a Youth Department, on March 15 at 11:00 am CST. You simply register and log-in instructions will be emailed to you!

What?!?! You missed the first two? No problem. They are archived on the ALSC site waiting for you to learn a ton. Just register and drop by! Hope to see you all there!


Wow! Carla!

I am so excited to see Dr. Carla Hayden nominated for the Librarian of Congress by President Obama. Not just because she is a librarian, an African American, a woman. But also because she started in her long career as a youth librarian.

We are contemporaries. Watching her work in ALA, become ALA president, take on more and more leadership roles in her career always got me excited - a children's librarian was doing all the things! It was something that always made me proud and convinced me of the potential for amazing leadership that youth services folks have.

I wish her luck in the confirmation process and hope we see the day that she becomes our Librarian of Congress. Carla, you go!

YS Manager's Corner - Our Place in Space

This is one in a series of posts about Youth Services management issues. We'll be looking at different aspects of working as a manager in YS including reflections, challenges and maybe a solution or two.

As managers we often have far more leeway in our schedules, responsibilities and commitments than the staff we supervise. This is not to say that we aren't working hard and putting in some challenging hours and desperately trying to balance things. 

It is simply to say that we often have more agency in choosing what we do and when. It’s important to stay very aware of this and to know that our teams are just as aware of our work – or any backing away from work  - that we are doing.

What are our larger responsibilities to our staff?  I think it is important that we work at the same level that we expect of our staff. That means working the same hours and not fudging on coming in later or leaving earlier, taking the same time on lunch breaks as the rest of the team we manage. Sometimes people in management and administration cite the stress of their difficult work as reasons to short hours. Taking advantage of the flexibility of our position is no excuse. We are not owed by our community of taxpayers – we owe them our attention and time.

It also means being a good communicator with team members if we are, on occasion, taking time off after working extra at outside meetings or events on behalf of the library. Let team members know in advance that we plan to take time off and get it on the schedule. And be fair and offer the same accommodation to staffers who also do the same.

Note: It's important to make sure our manager agrees with this. We might hear from our director that "You are on salary and need to work as many hours as the job demands". Here it can helpful to point out to a director that while that is true, routinely working well over forty hours points out the need for additional staff (but then that's another post!!)

There are other ways we honor our staff and our place in space as a manager - and a front-line leader. These include (but in no way are limited to) participating in programming, working in the night and weekend rotation, filling in extra shifts at the desk when staff are sick, vacationing or need time to offer a tour, outreach or program. Allowing staff to have first picks at vacation times; volunteering to take less attractive pre-holiday hours or weekends are all subtle ways to both lead and to honor people whose pay is often far less than ours.  

Pitching in on the least of tasks  - straightening shelves daily; cleaning the breakroom; helping to clean up after someone else’s program; counting handouts  - let’s our staff at all levels know that we care about their work and see it as valuable. Lip service is one thing; showing by our actions our understanding and appreciation of their work is another.  Our leadership in these areas helps staffers in turn value their work and know that because we manage we are not above the day to day.


Welcome to YS Manager's Corner

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This is the first in a series of posts about Youth Services management issues. We'll be looking at different aspects of working as a manager in YS including reflections, challenges and maybe a solution or two.

I've been doing quite a bit of thinking, learning and teaching on youth services management.

Like many of us, I entered management very early in my career (18 months) and, except for a four year stint as a staffer under a manager I previously managed (whoa, baby that was fun!), spent the rest of  my day-to-day library career as manager.

I learned a ton as a newbie from my first manager (and career-long mentor) and loved working with her.  She encouraged me to take on my first management gig - her position when she left a short 1.5 years after I arrived.

I really didn't want to. I felt there was so much children's-librarianing I wanted to do! My manager pointed out that if I didn't try and a new manager came on board with a different philosophy than mine, it would be an adjustment. And she told me that no one is born being a manager - we learn along the way.

I was forever grateful for that advice. I went to the school of hard-knocks and learned a ton. In fact, that learning has been an ongoing part of my work life - right up to and including retirement.

When I recently shared some of my top mistakes in a webinar, the reaction I got from people surprised me. Some found it comforting ("You make mistakes?!?! Thank gods, me too!), and others found it revelatory ("You make mistakes???? Then I can too!!!). I am sure many also thought "Dork!" The reactions also told me that we all need to hear that we make mistakes and have positive takeaways  - whether we are managers or not -  and this needs to be shared.

The true mistake we make in any work we do is when we assume anybody knows anything. I sometimes read posts where people feel badly or inauthentic or imposter-ish or unworthy because they've made a mistake or had a fail in some aspect of work. But really, how else do we learn? For me, a day without learning, even from mistakes, is pretty much a wasted day. It's how we grow and deepen and get wiser about stuff.

So in "YS Manager's Corner", we'll walk along the path of discovery, reflection, failures - and recovery - and issues we encounter in managing - and being managed.  I hope you join me on this journey on the hills and valleys.