Getting on Board

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with our board of trustees about some of the changes that we are making in Youth Services.  We set an ambitious agenda for ourselves late last year and have followed through on much of what we set out to do. There has been some upheaval-level transformation in our traditional approach to service as this happened. I wanted to give the board a heads-up so they could answer community -and staff - questions and concerns that might come up.

Although boards don't always get into this kind of detail with staff, I think it is important to give them alerts when major changes are being planned for services, programs and spaces.  I don't mean telling them about dropping a storytime or offering a new afterschool series.  I am talking about those truly expansive, BHAG evolutions that nudge - or launch - service into a whole new direction.  Offering outreach to a new demographic; curtailing a longtime service because it is no longer used; launching a new literacy initiative for an unserved demographic; etc.

Director, management and  colleagues should be in from the start as well.  Their buy-in, contributions and ideas contribute to making the transformation happen.  But it is important that our citizen board of trustees have knowledge of the changes as well. I figure the more a board knows and  understands, the more on board they will be. And the more they will share with others in the community from a great knowledge base since they've been kept informed.

The other key piece is keeping them updated with the successes or failures of any projects. It's as important to tell the story of what doesn't work as well as what works. Couple that with a brief analysis on why an effort faltered and whether a new approach to the project may produce a positive outcome. If it is a successful initiative, briefly share stats that show increased usage; share anecdotes from the public or collaborators and explain how some of the concerns expressed when it was first proposed didn't come about.

All this can be quickly done (5 minutes) in a brief address to the board once or twice a year when you have a big change to discuss.  Work with your director to make sure you have this opportunity or s/he presents it on your behalf. And if you can't get on the agenda, create a very brief report and ask your director to share with the board in their packet. Support of Youth Services is something we help create and getting everyone on board for our work makes it that much easier.


Summer Timeout!!!

Over at Hi Miss Julie, Miss J. has a thoughtful and very passionate post up about summer library programs and their worth to libraries.  From questioning the need for summer vacations in a non-agrarian modern society; to whether schools are failing to support kids in reading during those months and putting the burden on public libraries to the overemphasis in many libraries of putting massive resources into the SLP at the expense of other times of the year, it is a meaty, thought-provoking piece.

As an inveterate children's librarian tinkerer, I like to make things easier and speedier and more fun for kids. I too deplore the time and effort spent on SLP at the expense of the rest of the year. I crave workshops regionally that address issues NOT related to SLP.

Each year, I want to see lots of school age kids using us during the summer and I don't mind encouraging them to read a little each day as a fun activity to keep their brains sharp.  I don't see what we are doing as replacing a school's responsibility - I see it as encouraging kids to love the library and spend time with us and our collections. We use trinkets but make sure a book prize is the best prize. The eternal optimist that I am says that kids who find that great space here in summer will visit us all year long. .

But still and all, I feel Julie's pain and am glad to hear a colleague share so honestly a needed perspective on the long SLP tradition in youth librarianship.  Time out indeed.


Summer Reading Fun has Begun...

To see PDF's of the bookmarks, stop here and here
(Note: To see what we are up to for summer 2014, stop here!)

...with a vengeance!
...with an exultation! 
...with a bang!

Holy smokers, what a first day!  We doubled our registrations over last year's first day and the place was rockin'.  There is nothing better, and with 95F+ heat and A/C struggling, we were the (but a wet) place to be!  Our Rubber Ducky Club got off to a great start but it was our school-aged and teen programs that really went through the ceiling.  We just re-vamped both and are we glad we did.  Today, let's look at the SLP materials for ages 3-10.

Our emphasis in past years for our SLP at this library was on encouraging kids to read.  When they registered, we handed them a folder and we asked them to read twenty to twenty-five hours over the course of our 8 week program.  Many kids came back after a week with the task completed, picked up incentives and announced that now that they were done, they were heading off to have fun (gulp). Others disappeared until the last week when they brought in completed folders, picked all the incentives and they were done.  Some came in once or twice a summer to check in and get incentives. Others simply never returned.

This wasn't working. So. How to create a more meaningful program? Over the years, research told us that summer reading is most effective when kids read a little every day over the whole course of summer vacation.  Beyond that, libraries are alot more than reading . They are a place to check out books, attend programs and a place where we promote literacy. We want to encourage check-out of our materials. We want kids to attend the fun events we plan. We want to be supportive of their literacy efforts on an ongoing basis. How could we include all this?

The answers were no farther than solutions we found at my former library. They evolved over a ten-fifteen year period when we experimented with alternative ways to complete the program in addition to reading  - and with collaborative work with our schools as we developed a mutual winter reading program.  I presented the re-designed program when I did system level SLP workshops around the state and colleagues suggested tweaks and more solutions.  We gave kids weekly bookmarks with a range of activities that reflect library use and literacy.

The results at my former library were amazing. By doing the program this way, we had kids coming into the library more frequently; checking out LOTS more books; attending programs and understanding that writing and games support their reading.

So we built on that model here this year and created "Travel Log" bookmarks:

Travel Log (pictured above)
1. Complete at least 7 activities (4 days must be reading) and have a parent or guardian initial.

2. Bring this list to the library and get a surprise and a different Travel Log each week! Surprises change on Monday.
3. You may complete up to 8 Travel Logs over the summer.
4. Compete 5 Travel Logs by July 30 and earn a free book! (pick-up between Aug 1 and Aug 14!)
Day 1 - Read/Be Read to 10-20 minutes____
Day 2 -Read/Be Read to 10-20 minutes____
Day 3 -Read/Be Read to 10-20 minutes____
Day 4 -Read/Be Read to 10-20 minutes____
Day 5-Read/Be Read to 10-20 minutes_____
Check out books at your La Crosse Public Libraries ____
Attend a free program at your La Crosse Public Libraries _____
Play a special game at the library ____*
Write - a poem, a joke, facts about a favorite subject or a letter _____
Play a word game at home ____

We expect the same results here and just after the first day I am confident in the change! It makes the library experience multi-layered and very fun and gives us lots more time to interact with the kids.

*The best part of this activity is that you can create games that highlight the collection. This year we have put a recommended book by grade level into a lunch bag with a suggested grade level on the front (P-K, 1, 2, etc). Inside we put great non-fiction or fiction to entice the kids and if they check out the "mystery" book and try it, they played the game. In other years, we have made "dewey decimal" slips and put them in a hat. Kids draw out a number, find a book in that dewey and check it out.  We also do book character trivia. These are great ways to intrigue kids and promote the collection at the same time!

Samples of our various SLP designs can be found  at the Winding Rivers Library System website under Summer Library Program on the Youth Services page.


Doing the Summer Thing

Like the rest of our colleagues, we are about to launch into our summer busy season here at the library.  We are particularly excited  - and maybe a little anxious - to be premiering not one, not two, but three new re-vamped programs for our kids.  We totally redesigned our ages 3-10 program; have developed a brand new toddler/baby program and have re-invigorated our teen program.  Today let's look at the newest addition to our SLP family: The Rubber Ducky Club!

We have long invited our one and two year olds to be part of our summer reading club but the fit was always...uncomfortable.  Food coupons and geegaws didn't really fit the tiny tots' interests or needs. And most little prizes were definitely not recommended for under three year olds.  But we wanted to encourage parents reading to their children and using the six pre-literacy skills. What to do, what to do?

And then, like all good things in children's librarianship, we discovered that someone had an answer that would work for us!  We stumbled on the great idea of the Rubber Ducky Club when Karen Burke at the Naperville (IL) Library in Illinois shared their information on this club on ALSCConnect newsletter (another reason to be an ALA/ALSC member...great ideas are shared!). We were intrigued. A quick email exchange ensued and Karen generously shared their club materials.  And here is what we developed:

Our club is split into two months.  Each month features six simplified pre-literacy skills with activities to do often with 0-35 month old kids during that time.  After July 1, the June sheet can be returned, a rubber ducky is presented and the July sheet heads home with the family.  That sheet can be returned in August and redeemed for a brand new book.

Record keeping is minimal and the focus is on encouraging parents in their great work supporting early literacy at home. This completes a wonderful trio of early literacy activities we launched: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten; Play Learn Read centers and now our Rubber Ducky Club.

And to make it all even sweeter, staffers created this little promo video featuring our newest spokes-creatures: Babe and Todd (baby and toddler). Get outta town! This is fun!