Last Ideas for the Year

I had a great time reading my RSS feeds today.  People must have been saving some of their best for last.  So for your edification, here are a few EOTY (End-of-the-Year) Awards to my faboo colleagues. Drop by and read them and watch your work change!

Best December Programming Creative Ideas Award:
Jen the Youth Services Librarian plays with her programs and gets great results!

Most Fun Run-up to Newbery Award Announcement Contest Award:
ALSC Blog links you to a fun survey that lets you choose your favorite among the 90 Newbery winners. Ooooh-aaaahhh!

Best Space Saving Solution That Really Works for Kids Award:
My pal Georgia Jones in her Come into Delight blog solves two problems at once: creating more shelf space and helping kids find their favorite series books with visual cues.

Best Thought-Provoking Whose in Charge of You Award:
The always fascinating Stephen's Lighthouse blog links us to Seth Godin with hints on how to boss ourselves better.


Comic Books Comic Books!

Ok, ok, so I know that they are now called graphic novels but really they are just the nickel, dime, twelve cent, fifteen cent (I could go on but I am already starting to get scared) comix of our callow youth.  We kids in the neighborhood traded copies of Superman, Batman, Archie, Little Lulu; Donald Duck; G.I. Joe and read and read and read them until they were tattered and torn.  Then we'd read them some more.

Our parents hated them but we were in love.  We could buy mini-spy cameras and sea monkeys and laugh at the silliness or thrill at the heroics of the costumed crusaders. We didn't have comix in the library when I was a kid.  Richer neighbor kids had to buy 'em and share 'em.

But in the seventies, something changed.  Charlie Brown got popular and books featuring his characters and other newspaper comic characters starting coming out and libraries - gasp- started buying them.  As a college student and young librarian I was a total comix hound and collector.  I also knew that Marvel and DC were publishing books of their characters and wanted them in the library too.  I couldn't get them through any of the book wholesalers we dealt with so I would drive two hours to my comix store and buy them there for the library.  They got cataloged into the 741.5s but at least we had 'em.

Fast forward twenty years and library jobbers starting stocking "graphic novels" - material illustrated like a comic and that also included manga and anime.  One of my favorite stories is when BWI started offering graphic novels a colleague at a nearby library almost had an apoplectic fit and threatened to withdraw her business since they were now stocking trash (um, I could argue trash on all sorts of titles and authors through the centuries). But many libraries embraced them and started separate graphic novel collections.

Now fast forward to December 2010 and there is a movement afoot to start a Comic and Graphic Novel interest group at ALA. I am all for it.  If you are an GN/Comix advocate and an ALA member, click on over to 8bitlibrary.com to read all about it and sign the petition.  It's a great way to get ourselves together and to support a format in libraries that speaks to all ages with eye-popping and thought provoking art and text.

Image: 'DC Hero Minifigs - Wave 4'   http://www.flickr.com/photos/86805026@N00/2564337011


Field Trip Fun

We have been seeing a decline in the frequency of class tours of the library over the last couple of years.  Certainly, economics have played a big part - when schools have many choices for their field trips but limited funding for the buses, the library often suffers.  After meetings with our school library media center colleagues, they expressed an interest in having all second graders come to the library for visits and that got us inspired to look at visits for all ages.

So we put our heads together to see if we could ratchet up our usual tour and make a trip to the library into an adventure!  Our first step was developing more age/interest specific content so fifth graders had an entirely different experience than preschoolers or early elementary aged kids.  Our second was committing ourselves to enthusiastic presentation of info that may be old to us but is new to the kids.

For preschoolers through early elementary kids, we focus on basic collections they use (print and non-print); book check-out, book return area and info desk and fun explanations of how a library works; how to get a library card; and how to use our huge boat facade (as a place to read!!).  We wrap this "business-as-usual" tour around a theme. 

This school year, for younger kids, we are using a search for Knuffle Bunny and Mo Willems' book as our theme.  First we read the book to the kids. Then we tell them our Knuffle Bunny stuffed animal is lost and needs to be found - by them.  As we share the story, colleagues are putting book character dolls at strategic points in the library that we want to highlight (see above).  The kids then join us as we find characters and describe collections and points of interest.  We have no luck finding Knuffle Bunny, so return to the program room where Knuffle Bunny is discovered hiding.  A few more stories shared and we are good to go! 

Part of the fun with younger kids is explaining how a library really works.  Here is the way we do it:

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 the kids 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. This simple explanation hits home with kids and helps them see how a library works.

For first and second graders I am tempted to use John Perry's The Book That Eats People as the shared story and play with the concept that books aren't dangerous. Or maybe Eric Kimme's Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock  - we could search for stuffed animals that might also live in the village. Hmmm or.....?????  Any ideas out there for a good focusing book for first and second graders that would lend itself to field trip fun?

For older kids, we show a bit of the OPAC; the non-fiction and fiction. We talk about how a non-fiction collection is arranged very much like a grocery store - like thing is next to like thing.  And just like they may know words in a world language (Hola!), our language is Dewey and that's how we know what all those numbers mean.  The groups get a choice of a culminating activity pre-chosen by their teacher/leader activity - a chance to be cataloged and shelved (complete with barcode and a dewey number based on their interest); fiction booktalks; an easy experiment; some spine poetry; playing Book Bingo; or doing a easy origamil keepsake.

For our teens, we are in great shape because we have tied in mini-tours of the Teen area with middle school groups coming in to learn how to do research for projects for National History Day competition.  We see a large percentage of middle school kids on these visits and it is a golden opportunity to familiarize them with that area. It is a win-win situation.

We have been test running a few of the new field trips prior to heavy advertising after the first of the year.  Here's hoping for good results!
Image: 'Tour ->' http://www.flickr.com/photos/15923063@N00/298346278


Re-Aligning the Ship of State

We have been undergoing some interesting changes lately.  One of our co-workers, The Hedgehog Librarian, went off to academic libraryland so we been dividing out desk times, selection responsibilities and the myriad little pieces that go into wrapping up a colleague's time with us.  Amidst all the good-byes and the funny feelings of not-quite-completeness, we are also looking at other changes that are keeping us big-eyed.

When I came on board (just two years ago), the place was like a ship on storm-tossed waters.  The atmosphere in the public areas felt like free-for-all-free-fall. There didn't seem to be alot of procedures or limits on what we were able to realistically offer to our public so we did alot of everything - but often without focus.  Over time, we used technology to ease our way; re-examined and re-thought our services and collections and began to shift our focus in a way that helps us manage the physical space to make it inviting and a little more sane. Changes big and small are now suggested all the time by our able crew and we make progress each month in making a great space better.

Lately I have asked my colleagues to step up the pace of change.  They have really gotten on board and we are creating some exciting changes on our ship.

What's ahead?
  • Creating hands-on pre-literacy activity areas for preschoolers around the department
  • Launching an initiative to encourage parents to read at least 1000 books to their preschoolers before kindergarten
  • Reducing in-house programs for school-agers and doing more outreach programs to that age group.
  • Increasing the number of outreach visits at literacy fairs, school parent nights and other venues where parents gather while reducing the frequency of preschool outreach visits slightly to accomodate offering services to a wider age range.
  • Creating "field trip adventures" rather than tours that make a class trip to the library the best visit in town. The content is specially targeted to specific age levels of the kids.
  • Networking and creating more partnerships with our schools and community organizations to create great programs and services
  • Streamlining our workflow to create more opportunities for creative thinking and idea generation.
  • Revamping our summer reading program to create a simpler experience and one that recognizes that libraries are more than just  reading - they are about checking out materials; attending free programs; and a place for support of writing and other literacy activities.
  • Re-imaginging and remodeling our physical space to remove a much-beloved but non-ADA compliant and unsafe boat facade and replacing it with a homage to our beautiful Mississippi River and bluff country.
Some of these changes have been/are welcomed by our patrons, some less popular.  Navigating through the reactions to these changes is probably our toughest challenge as a staff.  It's hard to tell a teacher of one age group that we have to reduce a service in order to offer services to other ages as well; or that our new adventure field trips replace a provider's routine expectations of a traditional storytime; or that we are limiting the number of seasonal books so everyone has a chance to enjoy a winter book.  On the other hand, it's easy to accept the grins of kids who experience the new field trips; listen to the excitement of our school colleagues when they hear about our Dr. Seuss presentation or our gross-out book talk; or accept the praise of families who feel more welcomed in the calmer atmosphere of the room.

I am lucky to be working with willing colleagues who are brave enough to step up to a change (or twenty) in course.  It might be awhile before we hit calm water but the crew is ready to play.  I hope to blog a little more in-depth about some of our initiatives over the next few months - although I have been quiet lately and don't know if this is one of those empty promises!  And I'll share the reactions of our public as we sail between the shoals of change.  It is a good time to be aboard!

Image: 'Ship'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/31805905@N00/35838005