Happy Birthday to the Good Doctor

Here comes Dr. Seuss' birthday and easy programming fun! Today we had our annual party and a good time was had by all. I'd like to share some of what we did as well as some of our best tips from other years. A big tip of the hat goes to all my colleagues who have contributed so many great ideas at the PUBYAC listserv over the years.

My best short and great Seuss stories to share with a mixed age group:
  • "What Was I Scared of" from "The Sneetches" (Dr. Seuss' one and only scary story!)
  • "Too Many Daves" from the same book (we make name cards of all the silly names and as we tell the story we hand them out to delighted audience members)
  • "I Wish That I Had Duck Feet" from the easy reader (we made up props and invite kids to come up from the audience to wear one each as the boy imagines what amazing things he could do with various animal parts).
  • And if you want to share a longer story, tell a quick synopsis of most of it and only read a few pages of text to keep kid interest high.
Stretch - The Dr. Seuss-y
Make a bunch of paper red fish and paper blue fish and hand one of each to all the kids. Then sing to the tune of the Hokey Pokey:
You put your one fish in, you put your one fish out
You put your one fish in and you shake it all about,
You do the Dr. Seuss-y and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about!

Repeat with two fish; red fish and blue fish. And the kids have a nifty fish bookmark as a keepsake.

Activities (a small selection of favorites)
  • Pin the Tale on the Cat in the Hat
  • Edible Dr. Seuss hats (Nilla wafers; white frosting and red gummy lifesavers make the coolest hat!)
  • Non-edible Dr. Seuss Hats - lots of great designs on the net
  • Searches - my favorite is part of ALSC's "So Much to See, So Much to Do" marketing toolkit and can be found here
  • Sign a Birthday Card for Dr. Seuss - kids sign it and we display it during the month
A birthday cake to share is always a highlight of this party!

Send kids out with a star sticker on their bellies.

This year I especially enjoyed the energy of local college students who duded themselves up as Daisy-Headed Mayzie; Thing One and Thing Two and the Cat in the Hat and decorated up our program room in a truly festive way. They had a drawing for a Dr Seuss book; a fish pond with Dr. Seuss prizes and made bookmarks with the kids. It was a great partnership!

What ideas have you found successful for your party day?


We Come in All Sizes

Retiring Guy's Digest has a great post today showing a short video about the libraries of the future. Good ideas and thoughts in the video but he points out an important caveat - when the video talks about staff hierarchies and workflow, it doesn't reflect the reality for the vast majority of libraries in our country. As he points out with a simple listing of number of libraries serving populations under 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000, the sizes of public libraries in our state includes the fact that 96% of them serve populations under 50,000.

These libraries with few staff members are doing amazing work and are just as concerned about keeping libraries vital and meaningful for the public now and in the future. I think that one way our colleagues at libraries in smaller communities prosper is through their networking with each other to better serve their public. And strong systems that provide learning opportunities and pathways to better interconnectedness for their members is another.

Spending time at libraries of different sizes is another. One of my best professional growth experiences was doing a staff exchange with a colleague at Milwaukee Public Library while I was serving at a library with a service population of 35,000. My exchange colleague and I were both wowed. Me - by the level of support for marketing; the sheer diversity of the clientele and the depth of diversity in the collections and the kinds of outreach and programs available. She - by the quickness that we could plan and provide programs; the freedom to change course and the intimate "hi- how-are-you-neighbor" feel of our interactions with our users. We both appreciated where the other was at and the the unique problems and opportunities presented at each size library.

There is no one size fits all for public libraries. Every time I visit a library, no matter the size, I come away awed. I always see the same - good service offered each day with eye to the future amid amazing resourcefulness.

Image: 'Display of Russian Stacking Dolls' http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503155381@N01/2475855465


Amen Brother!

My Wisconsin colleague Larry Nix - he of the Library History Buff blog - has stepped away from his history focus and posted a great essay up at LIS News touting the importance of putting money-muscle nationally and locally into services for children birth to three in libraries. Get inspired when you read his call to action. It's great to hear someone outside of the Youth Services choir singing this song. Rock on!

Needin' Some Weedin'

Travis over at 100 Scope Notes has a wonderful post on weeding -complete with pix. He also includes the handy MUSTY guidelines and ALA resources. As you look at the books that are getting the heave-ho, it is obvious just how out-dated they are. I mean these were totally weed-worthy! I am a huge advocate of weeding and these pictures remind me of a favorite episode in my weeding adventures.

Many years ago, I started a new job at a library whose non-fiction had not been weeded in...I don't know, maybe forever? The collection was jammed with junk- pre-50-states-books; the famous 629s filled with the proverbial pre-moon landing books; science and social studies books "in color" - which meant the black and white line drawings featured a wash of puke orange or hideous pea green or urine yellow; weather books with 1950's photos and other books with fabulously nerdy photos of 1950's-'60's kids far removed from the rockin' 80s looks our community kids were sporting. I weeded with a vengeance.

My co-workers were visibly upset - worried that I was taking out too much and that too many good books were going. So I put everything I planned to weed on book carts, put them in the workroom and invited everyone to pull out and save anything they thought should stay. It wasn't a challenge. I really wanted them to feel comfortable with what I was doing - they knew the customer needs better than I did.

After a week, both co-workers came to me and said that they had no idea we had such old stuff. Once they saw what was going and really looked, it made perfect sense why such outdated, old material was no longer relevant. We all sat down and made lists of areas of the collection we needed to update. Those lists became our guidelines for purchase and we strengthened and rebuilt the collection into a vital one within two years.

Seeing was believing. And weeding became an accepted part of everyone's work.

Photo from Awful Library Books


Whaddya Worth?

Sassymonkey Reads had a great post last month about how much money the library saved her in 2009. She figured that if she had purchased all the books she read throughout the year, she would have spent $1,239.27 - enough for a fine long vacation or a few smaller weekend jaunts! She also addresses the old "But the library charges me fines and so I lose money" whine with some eye-opening stats that any of us can arm ourselves with.

It reminds me of a week-long marketing campaign during National Library Week that we did at a small-ish library I worked at a few years ago. Our circulation system let us easily see, at the time of check-out, what the dollar value was for the material checked out. We purchased big price tags, pre-stickered them with a note to the effect of "What is your Library worth to you? You just checked out $___ worth of materials. Happy Library Week!" Then we filled in the total.

It was a fun and eye-opening week for our public. Parents who always checked out bookcrates of books couldn't believe they had $950 worth of good stuff. Adults who took out an armful monthly were pleasantly surprised that they had saved $125 each time. It helped us alter the perception of the public and put a dollar and cents savings cost to them. We were also able to chat and tell them what a $120K household (about median house price at the time) paid in average taxes for the library annually (way under $100). It was a one-two punch and SCORE! for our public and a simple way to show the worth of using libraries.

Staying Connected and Above Water!

My friend and co-worker Becky just posted on Facebook a link to Steve Rubel who speaks about the stream of information and getting the word out on your product. In a brief, tight fifteen minutes, he makes some cogent statements about the increasing flood of information inundating everyone who is connected and how the more information out there, the risk is that the less attention will be paid to it. Information that rises to the top of the clammor stream and that is personally affecting for people will get noticed more.

He argues that it is vital that organizations use multiple social networking sites to deliver their message and that the messages do not have to be all the same. He likens various networking sites as embassies for each business that allow them to advance their work and reach. And he sends a clarion call to business leaders to allow employees to use social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others so they are part of the stream of new communication - they become comfortable with them and can begin to use them for the business as well.

It is thoughtful stuff for us in libraries. Written handouts and the newspaper aren't enough. Your website; your Facebook account, your Twitter account (and your openness to learning new things to add to your marketing arsenal when the old ones drop off - remember Second Life; remember My Space) all add to your libraries presence and advance your mission. Helping your staff feel comfortable using these sites to explore and communicate on work time gives them the chops to fell comfortable doing this for the library as well (see Tasha's Sites and Soundbytes for more on this).

So here comes my mantra (and it is to myself too!): be brave, don't fear. You can do it!

Image: 'River Rivelin' http://www.flickr.com/photos/54601101@N00/624642056


Mardi Gras - laissez le bon temps roulez!

We had a very fun Mardi Gras party for kids this week at the library planned by my collegue Sherri, the kids programming guru. Here's how it went:

Storytelling - started out with a rousing telling of J. J. Reneaux's Why Alligator Hates Dog to get everyone in the bayou mood.

Royalty - the King and Queen of a local krewe arrived and explained to the kids what they do, showed their special staff with symbols and tchotchkes from former royalty, and handed out many bead necklaces all around. They then proceeded to help the kids with all the activities (sooo sweet!)

Music - we turned on the rockin' zydeco as background for the rest of the parties activities

Masks - simple shiny eye masks were decorated by the kids with feathers, pipe cleaners, buttons, jewels and anything else they could find and we could hot glue.

Parade Floats - Kids were divided into teams to decorate book carts into floats with crepe paper, tissue paper, construction paper and beads. After 10 minutes they had some awesome floats!

Krewes - everyone was invited to choose a puppet from our puppet closet to be their krewe and ride the float.

Parade - we masked up, and the king and queen ("Hail Queen! Hail Rex!") led us through the library with our floats past astonished grown-up library users (a few of whom clapped and cheered!) and kids collected candy from service desks along the route.

King's Cake - on return from the parade, we shared King's Cake and milk, listened to more music and kids worked more on their masks.

It was fun, not too expensive (masks and king cake) and used up some of our craft supplies. A definite do-again program!
Image: 'Mardi Gras, beads at the ready' http://www.flickr/com/photos/15775662@N00/395824049


Storytime Fun

Check out some of my favorite midwestern blogs for some great ideas for storytime content and get them on your RSS feed!

  • Come Into Delight (C.A. Friday Memorial Library, New Richmond , WI) - storytimes and lots more programs shared with readers.
  • Story Window Storytime (Wilmette Public Library, IL) - librarians generously share their successful storytime content.
  • Check It Out @ MML (Matheson Memorial Library, Elkhorn WI) - storytimes and lots more from this site.
  • What-a-Time Storytime (Menasha Public Library, WI)- although not super active, some great ideas.
  • Pippi's Postings (Menasha Public Library, WI) - lots of ideas for fun themes and approaches to storytime.
What other library blogs do you know about that have ideas for storytime or other program content - whether super active or not? Let's share!


Winter Break Ideas

Adrienne over at What Adrienne Thinks About That shares some wonderful ideas for school age kids programs during February school break. From tea parties with Olivia to camp-outs with s'mores to Star War characters coming for a visit, she has the days full of fun. There is alot to spark your creativity here and to try. Be sure to read all the way to the comments to find out how to make microwave s'mores. Mmmm!

Image: '216/365 Sticky Situation' http://www.flickr.com/photos/52359155@N00/2729820675


ARC Alert

I discussed the issues of the use of Advanced Reader's Copies (ARCs) after we have finished with them in a previous post. Liz over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has an excellent post and links to other posts that goes into more depth about why the post-use of ARCs in library collections or selling them in booksales is simply unacceptable. Thanks Liz for saying what needs to be said -again!

Finding Inspiration

I was emailing with a friend today about how to keep the "zing" in our programming work with kids and teens. Sometimes we get so caught up in the programming planning that we don't give enough time for the program to just happen. It is exciting when we open ourselves up to those possibilities and sheer exhilaration when kids and teens take control to guide it to a new place.

But how do we get there? I sometimes feel that as I get older I have a tougher time finding my spark. I have to push further to find fresh inspiration. When I changed jobs last year, it was truly a shot in the arm - I was with new people, new ideas, new ways. But changing jobs isn't a realistic approach to finding a spark!

Better is networking with colleagues and talking over ideas - through in-person attendance at conferences, workshops and any place where youth library folks gather. Reading blogs and tweets; keeping up-to-date on listservs; keeping up with journals and reading widely is another way to stay fresh with ideas that you can tailor to your workplace.

If you are very very fortunate as I have been in my work places, you will have a co-worker (or two or three) who will talk kid and teen books with you; who will tell you about an exciting program they would like to try; who will inspire you with the way they approach programming or problem solving or working with the public; who will be a devil's advocate to push you to better the idea that you have.

In my experience, true inspiration is always a result of collaboration. Almost no one is brilliant or creative in a complete vacuum. We build upon the work and ideas of others or our perception of a need to create something more. The more you touch base with others, the better your ideas - and the more inspired you can become.


Winter Olympics Fun

We just had a wonderful winter Olympics program for kids at the library that was easy, fun and that the kids really enjoyed. Everyone was invited to play all the games:

Figure Skating - kids take off their shoes and "skate" on the carpet using paper plates as skates. Incredible leaps, whirls and dips resulted.

Snowball Toss - crumpled up recycled white paper formed the snowballs. They were tossed into the middle of of a parachute and each team slowly used the parachute to bounce the snowballs off.

Winter Clothes Relay Race - Two teams had to don sorrel boots, a jacket, scarf and gloves. That was a tie!

Luge Races - Kids made luges from three tongue depressors duct- taped together and launched them down PVC pipe cut in half.

Olympic Torch Making - We rolled white paper into a cone and then stuffed a sheet of orange tissue paper in for the fire. They looked good!

Olympic Bingo - That was fun..we used candy hearts as markers! Downloaded cards from here

Mitten Toss - How far could kids toss a big old blaze orange hunting mitten (surprisingly far!).

Medals were snowflake rings that we had on hand. Kids picked up three each. We had lanyards that we gave out at the end and our Olympians clipped the rings to the end. A good time was had by all!


Just in Time for Valentine's Day

The Hedgehog Librarian has a wonderful post about how to treat co-workers right - with just the right amount of chocolate squirreled (or hedgehogged) in exactly the right special office spot. With just over two years in her job, I can attest to the fact that HL's sweetly stuffed desk drawer is a gathering place better than a water cooler and more frequented than the office coffeepot. Having stopped there often in my nom de guerre disguise, I can say from first hand experience that it is a trick and a treat worth trying at your place of work.

Image: 'Peanut Butter Cup Heart'


What's the Best Skill You Picked Up Post-Degree?

As I was designing and putting up signs for the new concept book collection (part of that big Picture book shift) today, I was thanking my lucky stars that I took commercial art and design course work between library jobs many moons ago.

That design work - learning composition; type; color work; different art mediums; theories behind catching the eyes and minds of viewers and so much more - really has helped me again and again over the years. It helped me develop an eye for creating posters; handouts; newsletters and projects that has stood me in good stead at jobs where we have no pr or design person. I'm not saying I am an expert - just that I have a decent chance of creating a quick and readable poster/handout/thing without alot of fretting.

It helped me as well in my work as a children's picture book reviewer for SLJ and was invaluable in my time serving on the Caldecott committee many years ago. I always considered those six months learning graphics know-how as the best money I ever spent in terms of making my library job easier and increasing my skills.

How about you? What additional learning opportunities or coursework enhanced your skills and made you a better youth librarian?

Image: 'Crayons' http://www.flickr.com/photos/35237092540@N01/3286004323


Top Shelf Magic

Yesterday a little bit of magic happened in our Picture Book collection.

When I started the new job 14 months ago, I was bummed to see that area jammed tight with books. We had a huge collection and too few shelves. The result was that an extra shelf had been added in every range so many of those beautiful picture books - all so tall and free - were shelved turned down so their spines were impossible to read. They couldn't tell or shout or whisper their name to browsers. They were hidden among their spine-out-look-at-me-sistah shelf buddies. And no one wanted them.

They were hard to shelve, hard to find and gave the shelves a raggedy,unkempt look. Families browsing for books passed them by. They were most uninviting, poor books, through no fault of their own!

Everyone in the Youth Department saw the problem. The need to weed was strong. But as a resource library for a system, we had to be careful on how we went about the process. We made a couple of decisions:
  • We would start buying series picture books in paperback format only (Berenstain Bears; Clifford; Little Critter; superheroes; Barbie; Thomas the Tank Engine etc) to free up the shelves for the hardcover collection.
  • We would weed heavily and downsize duplicate copies of materials that were not high demand.
  • We would re-purpose display shelving, record bins and anything we could find to give us enough room to remove those cramped extra shelves and spread those picture books in this makeshift shelving so they could all shine.
The weeding was ongoing and we created the paperback collection to the delight of users throughout the past year. We were scheduled to do the rearrangement in the fall of 2009. But something kept me from moving forward on that piece of the plan. Too much, too complex, too hard for the patrons, too hard for our shelving staff. Then yesterday, it hit me. We had weeded enough! If we squeezed just a little, gave up a little face out display on each shelf and just did displays on top the shelves, we could remove that extra shelf and maybe the books would fit - all spine up, spine out.

So staffers pitched in and literally shifted the entire collection of picture books in a day. The extra shelves were removed and all the books fit!

Now they parade their beautiful titles to everyone, all standing up side by side. They look amazing, inviting and eager to leap into the hands of our readers. As the collection that everyone sees first when entering the department, we have transformed the experience of coming into our space. Now that is real magic!


Are YOU Connected?

Tasha over at Sites and Soundbytes has a great post today about the importance of rethinking policies that prohibit staff and patrons from mixing work and social activities especially as it relates to our increasingly networked world. As more people use facebook, twitter, IM, maintain blogs and websites and other cool new technologies, the lines become more blurred.

I know that with all of the social networking tools I use, it is totally a mix of work and play. Being allowed to learn and use these tools while at work has helped me to help people who come in -as well as make a quicker connection with them. And I know I haven't been slacking at work while this is all happening...on the contrary, I think it has helped me do more! Score!



As a woman was walking into the library to some person behind her (who was out of view), "You need to come into the library before you start getting undressed."

This turned out to be a mom with her young son bundled up coming in behind her. It's ROTFL moments like these that make me adore my job and my office right off the entrance!


"Shining Acolytes of the Sacred Flame of Literacy in a Dark and Encroaching Universe"

That's what Terry Pratchett says we librarians should call ourselves rather than "information providers" in his Boston Globe-Hornbook Awards acceptance speech for Nation. It is a wonderful speech - funny and witty and profound in the same way all his writing is. But that phrase, mentioned again today by one of my colleagues at work, particularly tickles the Children's Librarian in me.

We have such seriousness about us lately. Much is just the worry of family and friends jobless and struggling; our communities reeling from the nasty tone of so much discourse; concern about where everything is heading - from books, to reading, to libraries, to the economy, to civility, to just the way things are going (can you tell it is early February in WI....seasonal affective light disorder is stalking us all...).

To this life-long comic book reader, Pratchett's words let me re-imagine my work life as one of Super Librarian getting out there and fighting the good fight for advocacy, reading, literacy and libraries. I mean how cool is being a Shining Acolyte of the Sacred Flame of Literacy in a Dark and Encroaching Universe? Onward!

Image: 'Athena' http://www.flickr.com/photos/12426416@N00/103708820

Dotting the "I"s

We read alot about what kinds of changes are happening at libraries and that we need to consider in our future. Few of us have crystal balls yet we all want to make sure we are ready, trained and responsive to the waves of the future. LISNews had a goodie-bag full of posts in the last day or two that has me thinking...

Merry-the-Librarian has a thought-provoking post on the many facets of her identity as a librarian and millennial and her work with students. There is so much that we are as librarians and people...bringing those pieces together in work and our non-work life create a marvelous meld and may help us navigate what is coming.

Today on Groundhog's Day, out pops Marilyn Johnson's book This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All to check for the shadow of the future of libraries. Looks like the forecast is healthy yet. I'm about 100 pages in and it is a fascinating look by a layperson at our library world. It's always good to read another perspective.

And finally, on the thinking about libraries radar from the always-at-the-pulse-of-libraries LISNews, is a post from a writer in Ontario about the changes in his library that point the way for all of us to think about the many technological and social changes happening.