Idea Sparklers 5 - Fun Notes from the Field

Ideas today come from our colleagues in the Southeast Kansas Library System, a multi-type system with libraries that serve from very small to medium size communities and rural areas. They rocked the house.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) - Successful programming means not over-planning and not over-doing.

Special Community Days - have kids create art projects posters and coloring projects and hang them in the windows of businesses onn parade route or where people gather. The child's name is visible and the library name so people see the cool things the library and kids are doing.

Teen Geo-caching - place books/objects around the area near the library and set up a geo-caching program where the teens work to find all the locations.

Every Day is Prize Day - Give kids a stamp when kthey attend programs and then an additional stamp if check out books the same day. 10 stamps earns the kids a larger reward - monster candy bar (or pencil or bookmark or... perfect passive/stealth ongoing program!)

Community Scramble Game - Kids solve the puzzle letter by letter - it keeps them coming in and stimulates their brain cells! A dictionary is available to help them. Whoever finally can't change a letter earns a piece of candy. Simple, effective and fun.

Take-It-and-Make-It Bags - Give out little bags weekly with craft supplies and simple instructions for parent and child to do together. Very popular.

Take-It-and-Make-It Random Bags - same principle as above but more randomized "junk" (qtips, straws, jar lids) saved throughout the year and put in a lunch bag. Kids take home, create something and bring creation back to the library for display.  Another suggestion built on this with 20 random items in a bag and ask kids to make an invention to display. Building further on this, the suggestion was made to ask businesses to donate leftover stuff to really make it cool.

Newsletters- don't underestimate written newsletter delivered not just to schools but businesses and churches. It's a way to reach out and spread the word to library users and non-users.

Grand Opening Ideas - have local authors as guests with their books so people can meet them and discover their books.  Another idea is to partner with local museum to bring in an author and then have an event at the museum as well.

Game Board in the Summer - Kids put their names on object - the more books they read, the higher the object goes. We also discussed doing this between schools or classes or working mutually to reach a goal and create a reward (the librarian does something silly or the Friends of the Library adopt an animal or star)

Create an Essay Contest for Teens - Sent flyers to all middle school students advertising 200 word essay contest on the importance of Black History Month. Got a great response. Asked two professors to judge the essays with the winning essay published in the newspaper.

More in the Idea Sparker series here:   1  2  3  4  6  7  8  9   10  11

Image: 'Sparkler Star'   http://www.flickr.com/photos/29434419@N03/4763133932


Touching My Heart

Today I spent a wonderful four hours with sixty librarians and system staff from the South East Kansas Library System in Iola Kansas. These wonderful librarians were from communities that range in population from under 100 to a few thousands to a few larger communities serving 12K-20K. And man, they are bringing the service.

It struck me once again.  Communities who care about education, knowledge, reading and literacy put their hands and hearts together and make sure they have not just a school, but a library that serves the needs of all ages. That is an amazing statement. In America, most communities don't have "math houses" or science museums. But almost all communities have libraries.

This support of reading and literacy - from major urban communities to tiny 87-person townships - is fundamental and important to our democracy and an informed and knowledgeable citizenry. It touches my heart and makes me proud of my country and the people who care so deeply for literacy and education. And it makes me feel even more strongly about the importance of libraries while communities struggle financially and try to keep all their services intact. I think we can make the case for libraries and their importance by speaking about these fundamental truths.

And I know my colleagues in Kansas will keep on bringing it.

Picture of a SEKLS workshop


Surrounded-By- Awesome Saturday

So here I am immersed in literacy, literacy, literacy - and I thought it was going to be a typical, somewhat slow, Saturday morning.  What's up?

Thirty members of our university's education honor society, Kappa Delta Pi, are crammed in every space in the Children's Room sharing stories and activities with kids at the Literacy Alive Day they created for us. We provide the space, they provide the magic.

The Friends of the Library are holding a booksale. We provide the discards, they provide the money for all our programs with their profits.

Families who knew nothing about either event are pouring in, bringing in their completed 1000 Books Before Kindergarten sheets. We provide the "stealth program," families provide the reading and return visits.

Teachers and kids are looking for books and info: "sharks; Curious George; teeth and dental health; books better than Junie B. Jones; more of Bergen's Samantha books; locating Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back; what's going on in here?" They provide the questions, we provide the answers...with a smile.

2nd grade kids who came to the library for a field trip adventure and became Library Stars the past two weeks are stopping by to check out materials and pick up their flashing star. We provide the amazing visit, they provide the enthusiastic return.

I think I'm happy that this is only a half a day for me. And I think I am happy that people love our library so much!

Image: 'Storm Crowdhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/83346641@N00/3574716051


Will We Stand Together?

Abby (the) Librarian has a thoughtful post up about the change YALSA (ALA's Young Adult Library Services Section) has made in making more of their web content available to members and asking non-members to fill out an information form before accessing.  Is it a bother? Well, yeah.  Is it necessary? I'm thinking yes.

As Abby explains, "Maybe some people who use these lists have never stopped to think 'Hmm... It costs money to facilitate the creation of these lists. I would like to help support them.' Maybe some people who use these lists have never even stopped to think about what YALSA really is and what it does. Getting an email address from people who use the lists could feasibly be a way to target non-members who might be interested in joining YALSA".

I always lean more towards making as much info available as possible to show non-members that THIS is the place to make magic in youth services. But professional library associations are just as much a victim of the economic downturn for shared tax-payer supported services as our libraries are. Travel and training budgets have been slashed; staff reduced and we are fighting for hours and money to run our libraries amidst angst about how vital libraries are in our inter-connected, ebook-tipping culture.

We can keep the information access open to booklist/award/info webpages at ALA and at our state association level by one very simple solution. Join. Join now. Keep renewing. Keep working for all libraries by staying active and committing time (even non-work time) to ensuring the success and continuation of national and state associations.

I know money is tight.  I live in Wisconsin, after all, where almost all public sector workers - union and non-union - took a 10-12% pay cut this year (unless you were a political appointee, in which case the wage for the position was increased). But because I live in Wisconsin it has come heart-stoppingly home to me that if we do not stand together, we will march into reduced services and oblivion alone.

Our professional associations work to stand up for libraries politically by lobbying for affordable bandwidth, intellectual freedom, access to information and so much more. They pull us together to create lists, awards and work that highlight the best of library service and work to get out ahead of trends and then share that knowledge with library staff in all types and sizes of libraries.  Alone, individually in our libraries, we simply would not have as strong a voice.

I know it's expensive to join and then volunteer your time to work hard.  But the rewards are many - a great network of colleagues; a never-ending fountain of support and ideas and a chance to make a difference - a real difference - in how library service is delivered around the state and country.  There are also more subtle things that happen - leadership chops; learning to work in a truly collaborative way and the excitement of conference attendance.

I spent a huge chunk of my career saving to pay my own way because I felt it was important that folks like me from smaller libraries should have a strong voice in their associations. I created a savings account and skipped extras so I could make it to national conferences where we jammed in 4-5 to a hotel room; ate instant noodle soup for days on end and endlessly shuttled from hotel meeting to hotel meeting. And yes, I had debt and made the same crappy librarian salary that the rest of us do.  Now that I am in a new position where I negotiated support for conference attendance, I still have that savings account and make sure I attend Legislative days and other conferences where I can stand up for libraries and youth.

It's a matter of priorities and whether we think we are stronger on our own than together. Really.


Peeking Behind the Scenes at the Library

We are going full-tilt with our Library Stars 2nd grade field trip adventures. By the end of the week we will have seen kids from five of the eleven schools who will eventually come before May. We are super happy that all the thought and planning has resulted in a great program and many return visits so far from our "Stars".

By dividing each group into three, all kids get to experience each piece of the tour as a small group which leads to alot of spontaneity and sparks interest. That brief 15 minutes per "station" provides a glimpse at the collections in Youth Services; some lively booktalks of high interest books, and a background look at the parts of the library that only staff gets to see. I want to expand on this last component because it has been such a fun part of the adventure.

We start at Circ and let the kids see how a book comes through the book drop into a comfy, lined bin.  They learn that over 3,000 books a day are checked out and returned and get to see the busy Circ workroom where books are staged to go back on the shelves or shipped to other libraries with faraway names like Black River Falls, Mindoro or Viroqua.  We open the door to the outside bookdrop and let them know that we empty those books every four hours to avoid puking bookdrops.

Then, on to the adult area where they walk past the Reference desk and into the back storage shelves for both Reference and Archives. That's where we have the slick movable shelving with hand cranks. We explain that this is where we keep lots of the history of our community but the shelves are scrunched together - only Harry Potter's Knight Bus could get between the shelves unless we crank them open. They love that demo.

We head over to Tech Services to see the boxes of new material ready to be opened (like Christmas every day!) and the carts of new books ready to get cataloged and "dressed" with labels, stamps and plastic jackets. We tell them that we choose all the books, CDs and DVDs to buy for the library and spend about $8,000 every month on new materials.  If we have time, we open the door to the busily humming server room, show them the old mini dumb waiter elevator used for book delivery and then whisk them back down to the Children's Room.

The kids are wide-eyed amazed to see what goes on in the library and staffers in those departments enjoy having a spotlight on their often unseen and under-appreciated work. It's fun to insert a few facts along the way as well.

Do you have favorite background tours? What stuff do you show?


Idea Sparklers 4 - Fun Ideas from the Field

Today's ideas come from our youth colleagues at the Outagamie Waupaca Library System. They met for their summer reading workshop at an area nature center and got some great info on bats for the Dream Big theme.

Superbowl Sundae – done in collaboration with the Park and Rec who provided fun kid-friendly football activities/games and local high school who sent players to work with kids.  Library read football stories and helped kids make pennants. A local ice cream store donated sundae makings to wrap up the fun.

Pirate Party – a number of activity stations are set up (tattoo parlor;  walk the plank; toss the cannon balls; fishing game; pirate puzzle; pirate stories)  and kids go from station to station on their own. Successful strategy to engage their interests.

Family Literacy Night – the school district does the planning and it is hosted at the public library. This year the theme was Mo Willems. Kids made nest hats with bird inside; Pigeon book was read and acted out “I’m Invited to a Party”; kids made pig cookies; scavenger hunt with a pigeon button reward. Raffle. Huge crowds.

4K Outreach – school district hosts a night once a year at the library. The library provides the story and the school created the activity stations. Can also be done with Head Start.

Weekly Crafting Bee – library invites adults to bring unfinished craft projects – mostly retirees and stay at home parents. Runs at the same time as storytime and kids come after to watch and learn crafts from the adults.

Spinning the Wheel – alternative to SLP prizes. The wheel has silly suggestions: draw an animal blindfolded; do a silly dance; etc. Kids love it.

Drop Everything – announce it and have an activity ready – kids can play instruments or have another activity to do.

Ocean Drop – a jar with water and some oil in it. Kids drop objects in and watch them slowly drop.

Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese – picture “day in the library life”; invited cheese carver to carve cheese and gave samples away; cheese crackers and used Mo WIllems theme (he put on his blog!) . Also provided a photo album with scavenger hunt items.

Name-O-Saurus – make upnew dinosaur names and let the kids draw and write about them

“Go” Night - run weekly, a staffer plays “Go”, an ancient Chinese game with anyone who shows up. It started in the summer with the multicultural theme. The American Go Foundation provides free supplies and lots of middle schoolers to adults.

Stop at Idea Sparklers #1, #2 and #3  for more ideas from other Wisconsin library system Summer Reading Program workshops.  I'll be visiting Kansas twice in the next month to do Summer Reading Program system workshops and I'll report out more program fun  from there:  5  6  7  8  9  10  11 


THAT'S What I'm Talkin' About!!

Apologies for this post showing up again. My blog is, rightly or wrongly, where I archive some of the good stuff we do. A week ago I accidently deleted the following post while dinking around with my ipad. I was able to back key it and have it stay for long enough to write out the post before it disappeared. Jeez. I am so NOT a digital native!

Here it is again from my badly scribbled transcription. I discovered that though I don't keyboard well, without constant practice, I write REALLY badly. Here goes anyway:

Throughout this week, our business manager put together our circ and program stats for our state's annual report. Today, she reported out the final piece.

Holy smokies, my friends, be sure to sit down because I am about to blow you away.
  • We offered 39% fewer traditional children's programs in 2011 than in 2010.
  • We had 32% fewer attendees at these programs
  • Our circulation of children's materials increased 10% (usual increase is 2-3% annually)
  • Our circulation of children's materials increased 15%!!!

What!?!?!?!?!  How'd that happen?!?!?!?!?

We didn't institute a big weeding project; we struggled with a rather messy transition to a new ILS that often had patrons- and staff - frustrated and we cut the number of programs.

I think it is due to three initiaitives we introduced this year. Each of these encouraged check-outs and return visits to the library and are part of our "stealth" or passive programs:

Thinking outside the box and looking for ways to stretch our staff and resources - but still encourage our families to return and use our services frequently - made the difference.  I love it when statistics back up the leaps of faith that we made in changing services.

To find samples of our materials, check out our Winding Rivers Library System Youth website and scroll down towards the bottom of the page!

Image: 'What????'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/33501059@N02/4059486159


Paying-It-Forward Mentoring

I've had some fun conversations lately with colleagues about how important it is to support each other and connect librarians - new and old - to our networks.

Children's librarians in the public library world are a pretty collegial bunch, by and large. We like to share and play well together. Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr have joined PUBYAC and blogs as great ways to connect and pass information and fun ideas around as well as put our heads together to solve problems.

But I think we can all go a step further.  I'd like to see even more support for extending a hand towards our children's colleagues and helping them step up and into our networks and circles of influence.  It's easy to say "Look at me!";  "Look what I did!";  "Look what I invented!"  It's trickier to look around,  listen and say "Look what I discovered from a co-worker!"; "Look what I found from a colleague across the state!"; "Look what this smart and sassy librarian is doing in this small, rural library!" It's a matter of going from ME, ME, ME to HER, HIM, HER and even US, US, US.

Is there someone you know who you can encourage to share their great ideas through guest posting at the ALSC blog or on listservs or Twitter?  Is there an opportunity within your state for a newer librarian to serve on a panel, a committee, a board?  Can you partner with a colleague and encourage them to join you for a visit to a library; a Legislative Day, a conference or a system workshop that allows both of you lots of travel time to talk, hatch ideas and brainstorm? Can you float the name of a colleague to your networks as someone to tap as a speaker?

And once you do this, will you continue to support this colleague through mentoring, conversation, support, advice, a shoulder to lean on and cheerleading to let them know how valued they are and that you stand beside and behind them in their path?  We all can take responsibility, no matter what stage we are at in our careers, to bring our colleagues along and shine a light on their ideas for others. Let's help each other together!

Image: 'soccer practice' http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/1384952210


Hey, What DOES a Librarian Look Like?

Oh my friends, we know what we look like but do others?  Bobbi Newman, she of Librarian by Day blog and the creator of the Library Day in the Life and Libraries and Transliteracy projects, has created another great project: This is What a Librarian Looks Like.

She is asking librarians to submit a photo of themselves to show the world who we are. After just two days, the delightful variety of pix is dazzling and fun.  You can find me with my canoeing buddies.  Head on over there and show us what you look like!

Picture attribution: well, I'm not sure...it's heading around Facebook and I first ran into it from Craig Anderson.  Whoever made it, please accept my heartfelt humble thanks for your spot-on humor.


In Love with an Animated Short

I had the pleasure last night of joining a friend at a cool and funky old movie theater to watch this year's Oscar-nominated animated shorts.  One of them is William Joyce's   The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  Dedicated to both Bill Morris and Colleen Salley, this is a wonderful homage to books, libraries, librarians, reading and writing - with some Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina tossed in to get the mojo going.  I loved it. Hope you too get a chance to see this film sooner rather than later. It will become a favorite!

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.


E Books - Quit It!

I guess publishers will quit...on libraries.


The news, out and about, about Penguin (here, here, here) make my eyes bleed.  I love the attached photo. Get your patrons involved and let's start fighting back.


Storytimes- Take a Break!

Creating breaks in storytime series is a practice I have long advocated.  If your community is like ours, people would love to have a full 52 weeks of continuous storytimes.  And even though I like to give our families what they want, this is one area where I always draw the line.

All of us need quiet mind-break times to recharge, plan, think and imagine other services we want to bring to our public (see yesterday's post for the kinds of things I mean).  Breaks allow time for staff to address the many parts of our job like collection development, weeding, outreach planning and developing new initiatives that are hard to squeeze in during storytime sessions.

Librarians often worry that breaks will mean people will stop coming to the library or go somewhere else.  I don't worry about that - if your storytimes have value because what you offer is rich, vibrant and supportive of pre-literacy skills, families will be back. For all the years we've done storytimes with breaks in the sessions, we have maintained outstanding returns by our families.

Our breaks vary from three weeks to up to two months during  December and January.  We try not to leave our families high and dry, though. We build in a preschool program or two (dance parties; bubble party; book character party) during storytime hiatus.  We also might offer a passive program like Cookie Club to encourage use of the library.

We sometimes create mini-coupon books with coupons to redeem between the storyimes ("Get $.50 of your family's fines"; Get a free used book at our Friend's Bookshop"; "Get a high five and a Hershey kiss at the YS desk"; "Good for a book picked especially for you by your librarian). They are quick to make and remind our families that we hope to see them often.

Interestingly enough, when we talk to our families and explain what we do with our time, most understand why we are creating breaks. They look forward of the resumption of storytime, knowing that their librarian is rested, ready - and may even have a new trick or two up her sleeve!


Storytime Literacy Tips at Your Fingertips

I am so pleased that Mel over at Mel's Desk is going to start a new series on her blog: Storytime Literacy Ideas. Her first post tells me it will be full of great practical tips to help us all take advantage of the new Every Child Ready to Read early literacy suggestions: reading, writing, singing, talking and playing.
It is so delightful that she is sharing her planning and energy with us in yet another way (oh, maven of Flannel Fridays).

Wrapping Up 2011

It's that time of year when we look back at the previous year and report out to our board and community about the changes we made.  Our team keeps an ongoing list during the year of new events, initiatives, partnerships and programs that have been significant - things that have had an impact beyond our usual work of collection development, desk work and programming.

This year we surprised even ourselves.  Without looking at circulation or programming stats, here's the big changes we made.

Major New Initiatives

·         Play Learn Read children's literacy center developed with constantly changing content

·         1000 Books Before Kindergarten Club, parent/child reading initiative launched - 500 signed up

·         Rubber Ducky Club, summer reading club for kids birth-35 months successfully debuted

·         Story Action Pod to support Early Literacy activities for K-2 kids created & updated

·         Monthly rotating daycare  deposit collections begun

·         Cookie Club, an incentive program to encourage library use during Dec – Jan premiered

Notable Changes

·         Re-branded the boat as a "Reading Area" to encourage kids to read rather than run

·         5,735 visits generated by our “passive programs”:  SLP, 1000 Books, Cookie Club

·         kicked off “Rocky and Flare” and "Babe and Todd" videos to publicize events

·         relocated new materials and teacher/parent resources to be more visible/accessible

·         Created an e-newsletter and after hours program just for 1000 Bks B4K kids             

·         Created a "Between Storytimes" coupon book to encourage library use even when no programming is being done

Who knows what 2012 will bring? I'm excited to see!

Image: 'Wrapped Gifts Retirement Party 7-8-09 8' http://www.flickr.com/photos/10506540@N07/3703145222


We Are Not Alone

I just came back from presenting my fifth  - and last -  Summer Library Program workshop in Wisconsin focusing on the Dream Big/Own the Night theme. I probably shouldn't really say I focused on the actual SLP theme. I really only alluded to it.

At the workshops, I spend most of the time exploring and asking participants to explore how and why we do summer reading incentive programs and how easy it is to grow and evolve a program to meet constantly changing community needs.  I never claim to know the best way to do SLP. I am just fascinated with the process of why we do the things we do and how we move forward to truly meet the needs of our families and children.

One of the things that I think we all tend to get bogged down in is the huge inevitablity and implacability of SLPs. Many of us over-prep for a short two month period, spending so much creative energy on that part of the year that the remaining ten months get a shorter creative shrift. I'm there to encourage workshop attendees to focus on fun and consider giving SLP an importance commensurate with its short duration. And I'm there to hear how librarians have saved time and effort (less stats; no prizes; one prize; book bucks).

I also love to hear about what successful events or initiatives that people have been using in their communities. For those of you following the blog, I have been periodically posting little tidbits of the ideas shared (here, here and here). I have picked up a ton of great ideas from librarians from libraries large and small.

It always makes me happy.  Most of us don't create independently of each other. We find ideas from blogs, conferences, workshops, Pinterest, from hallway chats, books, Twitter and Facebook.  The more we rely on each other for ideas and share the ideas and successes we have, the more we and all our colleagues benefit. I am looking forward to heading out to Kansas at the end of the month and hearing more ideas from my colleagues when I present my SLP workshops there. And I'm glad I'm in a sharing profession!

Image: '3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept' http://www.flickr.com/photos/22177648@N06/2137735924

Idea Sparklers #3 -Notes from the Field

January brought more great ideas to the fore from participants at my Summer Library Programming workshop at the Arrowhead Library System in Wisconsin. There were ideas from last year's One World Many Stories SLP plus great ways to partner with area businesses and organizations.

Backyard Bird Count - held during February, do a bird themed storytimes; kids make toilet paper tube binoculars duct-taped together. There is a website to record bird counts done at the library. Small bird cut-outs are placed throughout the library for adults (and kids) to find.

Stuffed Animal Search – a stuffed animal is put at various small businesses in town with a clue at the library to help kids find out where each one is. A small form at the business can be filled in and brought back to the library and put in a drawing. The animals are then given away at the end of the program.

Passport Game – in the same line as above, kids were given passports with participating business names. The businesses are given 3 clues for kids to guess what country they are representing. The kids have a passport that the business stamps when they guess correctly. If they got all the countries, they received a pencil prize.

Find the SLP Character – a character is hidden in the department. Kids are given 3 oral clues by the staff to find it and earn a high five when they do. The beauty of this is that kids have to interact with staff to get the clue and staff and kids love it.

Trivia Wheel - Kids spin the wheel and land on a country and are asked to do a silly activity – polka; dance like a kangaroo; etc. When they finished they got a hand stamp or tattoo.

4H Partnership – 4 H comes in monthly and presents a free program featuring crafts and a snack with a different theme each time.

Kid Decorators – children decorate large outline shapes relating to the theme during the first week or two of the SLP. This works with large people shapes as well that kids and staff decorate together.

Space Pix – Use Google Earth to print out pictures of different locales in the area. The library provides clues and kids who guess correctly get their names put in a drawing.

Year-round Scavanger Hunts – during slow times or during spring beak make an all-ages hunt on different themes (Edgar Allen Poe – hide ravens around the library). When people get stumped, there are signs: “ If you are stuck, come see your Lifeline at the desk!”

Grades 3-5 Reading Incentive – instead of prize, kids can choose a party ticket (Wii Fun) to attend a fun party with their peers.

Find more in the Idea Sparklers series:  1  2  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11

Image: 'a flowing current'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/63595585@N00/3413370118


Storytime Resource Links - Thanks Mel!

Melissa over at Mel's Desk just updated her storytime resource list. Check it out.  And you can also peek at a few annotated links I just gathered over at the YSS Blog.  Storytimes are covered. If you can't find content and ideas...well, uh, you're just not connecting ;->

Ahhhh - Ology Program

I don't give enough props to the fun stuff our newest Department member Sara B. comes up with. Let me correct that.

Her newest idea was to hatch an afterschool series based on the wildly popular -ology series (Dragonology, Spyology, Wizardology, etc). Drop by her lively blog Bryce Don't Play for a report of the first successful session.


Rolling with the Punches

I think that those of us who work with kids can agree that flexibility is key.  The more we roll with the punches and adapt to changes, glitches and disasters big and small, the more fun we and the kids can have.

Although unexpected mini-disasters happen no matter how much we plan, the one that sticks in my mind happened a few years ago.  At a former job, we worked closely with our Parks and Rec Dept to schedule and host a series of performers at one of the park shelters.  On the day that one of these performances coincided with the big city-wide "Kiddie Karnival" parks celebration, a sharp-eyed staffer was double-checking the Parks schedule. To her horror, she noticed the Karnival was actually scheduled for the following week.

There was much hasty calling our park buddies (oops, they changed the date in spring and forgot to tell us and the shelter stage was booked by another group); recommending affordable performers for them to book for the Karnival next week; arrangements and explanations for the public who were expecting a concert and Karnival; strategizing where to have our singer within the park.  And while all this was happening thunderstorms were predicted for that night.

In the end, the concert went off without a hitch.  Our singer graciously set up outdoors. The rain held off to only a few drops.  The lack of a karnival was taken in stride (after all, it was something to look forward to the following week) and the families easily adapted to no park benches to sit on - hatching lawn chairs and blankets from their vehicles when we explained the glitch.  Everyone laughed, danced, sang and enjoyed a great event.

Because we didn't sweat the small stuff ("Who's to blame for this?", "Oh no, this isn't what we planned!"), the whole process was just another "day in the life" for the Children's staffers...and our public just thought, "Hey, another home run by that library!"

Image: 'Making a snowman'   http://www.flickr.com/photos/45940879@N04/5509506804

Second Grade Library Stars

Next week marks the beginning of our field trip adventure for all second graders in our community.

The idea was hatched at a meeting between our public library youth librarians and our school district's LMC folks. Our LMC colleagues came up with the grade level suggestion and we looked into how to make it happen. We wrote and received a mini-grant from our local Community Foundation (combined with a small starter grant from our local Parents magazine Coulee Parenting Connection) to help us fund buses for so all kids could visit the Main Library Youth Services area.  The schools collaborated by providing us with class lists so we could forgive outstanding fines and send library registrations out before the tours.

When we wrote the grant, we noted that only 25% of our community's kids participate in SLP. And no wonder - as we are going through the school lists, almost half the kids don't even have cards. Those are statistics we want to turn around.

We are making this into a mega-big deal. We want to introduce the kids to the library but also encourage return visits to check out books.  We are calling the kids "Library Stars" and using that as a thematic thread. Stars are on the specially designed registration forms, bookmarks and in the room.  Kids who return to the library once and check out material will receive a cool flashing star pin. After three return visits between the time of the tour (scheduled in February - May) and August, families can enter their names into a drawing to win a free night at a Marriot Hotel.

The nuts and bolts of the field trip: we plan to welcome the kids and then divide the groups in three, with each group rotating between the three activities:  a tour of the Children's area; booktalks/stories; "background" tour of Tech and Circ. And, of course, there will be free time just to explore as well.

We have created a simple database to trace return visits and see if this kind of initiaitive results in better use of our library. We think it will!