Getting Ready for Summer

Yep, some of us are already in the throes of SLP; some just on the verge. Here at my library we're verge-ins yet. The materials are ready, the surprises are counted out, the database is empty and awaits our first registrants, our team is wrapping up school SLP promotion visits and our mystery bags are ready for their mystery books. Bulletin boards and book displays are just about ready too.

We are putting up  few decorations (although with the Deke Slayton Space Museum nearby and endless kids' collections of Star Wars, we feel like cheaters).  We are holding off doing most decorating because we built in DIY decoration/craft days right away to encourage kids to create space-y fun. Their art will rule the room!

Non-public schools have had their last day and families are flocking into the library already. Public school kids are stopping in after school, excited about what they heard from the children's librarians visiting their schools. Check-out is already creeping out of the May doldrums and our reader's advisory and reference is skyrocketing as well.

What tips will I keep in mind for the next eight weeks when it gets crazy busy?
  1. Have fun.
  2. Make sure the kids have fun
  3. Put aside all other work and concentrate on all the kids in front of us.
  4. Don't stress over the boat
  5. Do what we do best - connect kids to books and reading
  6. Again, have fun!
After all, it, a mere 8-9 weeks out of 52 weeks.

Ok, I'm ready, are you?

Image: 'Take off of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-117)'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/8228351@N07/536653708



Stop Driving Our Customers Nuts!

My friend Cheryl Becker has a great post up at her site bemoaning how difficult many library websites make it to find contact information. She was inspired by the M Word blog.

Man, I totally get behind this.  I find that on so many levels, libraries make it hard on customers. Our website is a perfect example (I am not linking to that monstrosity; if you want to see it, please use your google skills). I can barely find what I need. How can a customer?  On the good side, we are in re-design mode.

But then there's the on-line catalog.  Eeeee-yooooo. People gamely try to get it to give them the info they need but it is absolutely non-intuitive.  We don't foresee a time with our current vendor where the average user will be able to successfully use it without constant staff assistance. That makes it easy on the customer. NOT! It does mean job security for staff though. Hmmm, stealth vendor support of librarians?

Or let's consider signage.  Why do we assume that kids can read anything that we have posted around the place?  Why are we not relying on pictures and graphics to help our pre-emergent and emergent reading kid-customers find what they need? Gack.

How about information on programs. How many hoops do we make people jump though to get the information they need? One thing that has helped us is immediately posting programming on our website as a downloadable PDF as soon as we have it nailed down (even before any printed handouts are out) and putting out business-card sized handouts with bit.ly URLs pointing there. People can get a sneak peek months beforehand.

It's worth looking around at our work places, our websites, our handouts and our procedures to find ways to welcome our public by making it easy to use and peruse the library.  I can't help thinking that it  would help relieve nuttiness for all!

Image: 'Nuts 1'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/82607712@N00/2079743107


Labeling Books - Eeeee-Yoooo!

Tasha over at Waking Brain Cells is well known for her thoughtful reviews of children's and teen lit.  A recent article in USA Today on labeling teen books for their use of profanity earned a well-deserved rant from Tasha on the insanity of labeling and the importance of letting kids discover books for themselves. Word.

Image: 'Against Banned Books (Please Spread This Pic+&+The+Text)'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/77512700@N00/44227093

Pop Culture Book Hooks

I loved the recent post at the Nerdy Book Club blog about taking advantage of the hype and publicity surrounding the publishing of a book to ramp up excitement in the library. I would also include the debut of a movie or DVD in this strategy to get kids interested in books and characters. And of course just linking in to popular series and trends that kids are interested in is golden too!

Over the years we have found that this is a great way to get kids excited AND to take advantage of material and activities provided by the publisher or movie studio to enhance the fun. And often, since the media is also participating in publicizing the book/movie, it creates a higher awareness among the kids and parents about the material and a ready-made audience for anything you do.

In past few years, there has been a bonanza of movies out based on children's and teen books. It's great fun to use the movie PR to link back to the book. Most recently, we (and many others in school and public libraries)  had fun with the Hunger Games. Our teen librarian got some movie posters available at the theater that added fun and a look of authenticity to her party before the movie premiere. When we did Diary of a Wimpy Kid (both movies and books) parties, we found Abrams to be extremely helpful with PR and activity kit material.

Book debuts are fertile ground for fun too. Many libraries participated in Rick Riordan's roll-out in May of his Serpent's Shadow, last book in the Kane Chronicles series heavily hyped through social networking sites and by his publisher.  My colleagues at Hedberg Library in Janesville just did a Zombie Prom to coincide with Friday the 13th and the general interest in zombies. Libraries have focused fun teen parties on steampunk, Harry Potter, Twilight. Kids parties and workshops are also abundantly represented - Captain Underpants, Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, -Ology  (based on the Drake books), Mo Willems and more. Book trailers, which are becoming much more prevalent, add to the fun.

By keeping a weather eye on and hooking up to what is popular and trending with kids in the book and media world, we can create fun events for kids that celebrate books and bring in eager kids to our libraries.

Has it worked for you?


First Annual South Asia Book Award for Youth Announced!

The South Asia Book Award (SABA) established by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium (member National Resource Centers funded by The US Department of Education, Title VI) promotes awareness about South Asia (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,and the region of Tibet) to librarians, publishers and teachers. This annual award recognizes a recently published work of fiction, non-fiction, poetry or folklore, from early childhood to secondary reading levels, published in the US, Canada or United Kingdom, in English  which accurately and skillfully portrays South Asia or South Asians in the diasporas, that is the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world. The culture, people, or heritage of South Asia should be the primary focus of the story.

I had the privilege of serving on the first award committee with a wonderful group of people and the first awards have just been announced! More information can be found at the South Asia Book Awards page

2012 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

2012 Winners

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (Henry Holt and Company, 2011). Pen Pals Elliot and Kailash discover that even though they live in different countries—America and India—they both love to climb trees, own pets, and ride school buses (Grade 5 & under).

Island’s End by Padma Venkatraman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2011). A young girl trains to be the new spiritual leader of her remote Andaman Island tribe, while facing increasing threats from the modern world (Grade 6 & above).

2012 Honor Books

Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni, illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar (Groundwood Books, 2011). The  Ramayana, one of the greatest legends of ancient India, is presented in the form of a visually stunning and gripping graphic novel, told from the perspective of the queen, Sita (Grade 6 & above).

Following My Paint Brush by Dulari Devi and Gita Wolf (Tara Books Pvt. Ltd, 2010). Following My Paint Brush is the story of Dulari Devi, a domestic helper who went on to become an artist in the Mithila style of folk painting from Bihar, eastern India (Grade 5 & under).

No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2011). Valli has always been afraid of the people with leprosy living on the other side of the train tracks in the coal town of Jharia, India, so when aa encounter with a doctor reveals she too has the disease, Valli rejects help and begins a life on the streets. (Grade 6 & above).

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan (Simon & Schuster, 2011). In 1919, independent-minded Rosalind lives in India with her English parents, and when they fear she has fallen in with some rebellious types who believe in Indian self-government, she is sent “home” to London, where she has never been before and where her older brother died, to stay with her two aunts (Grade 6 & above)

 2012 Highly Commended Books

Beyond Bullets: A Photo Journal of Afghanistan by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter (Annick Press, 2011). Award-winning photographer Rafal Gerszak spent a year embedded with the American troops in Afghanistan to bear witness to its people, culture, and the impact of war (Grade 6 & above).

The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World by Shahrukh Husain, illustrations by Micha Archer (Barefoot Books, 2011). Meet Mulla Nasruddin, a legendary character whose adventures and misadventures are enjoyed across the Islamic world (Grade 5 & under).

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2011). Eleven-year-old Dini loves movies, and so when she learns that her family is moving to India for two years, her devastation over leaving her best friend in Maryland is tempered by the possibility of meeting her favorite actress, Dolly Singh (Grade 6 & up).

Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Razorbill, Penguin Group, 2011). Written in free verse poems in a diary format, this novel straddles two countries and the clash of Indian cultures in the tale of 15-year-old Maya (Grade 6 & up).

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Scholastic Inc., 2011). Zulaikha, a thirteen-year-old girl in Afghanistan, faces a series of frightening but exhilarating changes in her life as she defies her father and secretly meets with an old woman who teaches her to read, her older sister gets married, and American troops offer her surgery to fix her disfiguring cleft lip (Grade 6 & up).


Leaving with Class and Style

I ran into a post from my friend Ingrid, the Magpie Librarian this week that I really adore. She talks about the process she went through as she decided to accept another position in her library system. In this thoughtful post, she considers what she should share, how she should break the news to her patrons and when she should say good-bye.

Most impressive to me is her care in taking responsibility for the decision and not trashing and burning her way out of a job that seemed to have had some tough personnel aspects. She wants the transition for her patrons to be painless and wants to make sure her colleagues left behind short-staffed for the short term get the benefit of her planning and leaving updated files and info.  Her tips are so thoughtful I had to share.

In the same vein, Jen the Youth Services Librarian's in a recent blog post revealed she would be leaving her job in weeks and shared the programs she had planned for the summer she won't be there. That is so thoughtful. Today on Facebook she posted a picture of the storytime mom and kids who surprised her with a goodbye visit.  You receive in karma what you give.  Both of these librarians do and will!

 Image: '004/365'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/29559659@N03/6010519164


Reading is Key Club

I have been writing over the past year about our approaches to programming.  We are balancing traditional staff-led programs with more participatory programs that allow kids and families to control the pace and level of involvement.  We call these types of programs "Stealth" programs but you may know them as passive programs.  The point of the initiatives, which require some pre-planning and set-up but then basically run themselves with little staff time needed, is to bring families into the library for frequent visits (think SLP here).

Our various programs have various goals. One encourages more check-out and program attendance at an under-used branch. One encourages visits and check-out in December and January, traditionally very slow months for our library. One asks parents to read widely to their preschoolers and keep track of their reading as they read towards 1000 books.  Many of them work well for school age kids and older preschoolers. But we wanted something for our very youngest babies and infants.

So our current Reading is Key Club was born.  Our early literacy librarian designed the program for children birth through age two.  She wanted to use it as a bridge between the end of spring storytimes and the beginning of our summer ones. The program encourages weekly use of the library. Her ultimate goal in the design, though, was to introduce parents of our youngest patrons to the wide variety of collections we have for that age.

A little mascot, Key-Key (my colleagues stopped me from naming it Little Keyster ;-> ) introduces tots and parents to seven areas of the collection - Cds, rhymes, board and baby books, easy non-fiction, fingerplays, paperbacks, concept books - and encourages parents to use these materials each week. If parents participate for at least four weeks their child receives a set of plastic key rattles or a book bag to color for older tots.  And they can pick up that prize during summer storytime registration.

We love these programs that run between storytimes and allow our staff to take vacation time while this effort rolls along. And we get to emphasize books, the library and reading. What could be better?


Power and Children's Librarianship

I had a very reassuring conversation at our recent WI Assoc of Public Libraries (WAPL) conference with one of our YSS (Youth Services Section) board members. At the board meeting and meet and greet with our new state youth consultant, one of our veteran members said (and I'm paraphrasing here to get at the gist) that we need to step up into leadership and stop reinforcing the stereotypes of children's librarians as fluffy -headed, deely-bopper wearing characters.

As the young board member and I were talking over the meeting the next day, she said in relation to that comment, "You know, we are already there. You guys fought that battle and it's been won. The newer youth services folks coming in don't feel that same condescension and are already leading." And you know, she is right.

When I was coming up as a young librarian thirty-five years ago, it was unusual to see any youth folks in leadership positions outside of our unit. We were awesome in YSS but you didn't see us active in the WAPL committees and boards or on the larger WLA committee and board.  We were developing leadership skills, camaraderie, networking support systems and life-long friends but we were not doing it outside our specialty. There WAS a patronizing and condescending attitude on the part of our colleagues who served adults. And why not?  We were so insular that who could get to know us? Everyone was pretty happy for the status quo.

Then, about twenty five years ago, YSS people starting waking up and rocking the boat. If we couldn't get elected onto the WLA board, then we needed a seat at the association board to represent youth issues. We fought for it and it happened.  We started nominating our youth mentors for association awards. And they began to win them and be honored for their work with youth. Members began to move from YSS leadership positions and run for positions in WAPL and WLA to be leaders among all types of libraries. We reached out and looked for friends and mentors outside of our youth group and made friends and networks across the association.

Today, it is not surprising that six of the fourteen WLA board members are school, academic or public library youth people.  It is not unusual that three of seven WAPL board members are youth advocates.  It is simply not astounding that youth people running for these offices defeat library directors and adult services people. It is not jaw-dropping when a youth person wins a major association award. New youth folks can enjoy the support of YSS but don't feel constricted by a leadership path that leads only to active participation at the youth services level.

But perhaps most important of all, in a reflection of the larger society, lots of the younger librarians are coming into the profession ready for leadership. They are already connected to networks through twitter, blogs and Facebook. They have taken risks and leadership roles already and approach work in the association and their libraries with confidence and skill sets. They present confidently at state and regional library conferences. They easily balance uber-storytime chops with reporting to the board on successful efforts to reach more families and kids and planning statewide conference programs. They have a quiet - and sometimes not so quiet - confidence in their power and ability to deliver the goods on the many stages of librarianship. They are less likely to wait, and more eager to leap in. Power doesn't dazzle or intimidate them.

Hey Rosie, we did it!!!!  And I like that, yes I do.


WAPL Wowza Indeed

I am just back today from our annual WI Association of Public Libraries (WAPL) spring conference and I am inspired!  The variety of programs and wealth of information; the breaks that gave us all plenty of time to connect, reconnect and schmooze; the central location at a facility that was not too big, not too small but just right really made it a pleasure.

Our revitalized Youth Services Section (YSS) really put out a a great raft of programs: an award winning team of doctor and librarian shared their collaboration to put books into the hands of babies. Great facts and insights and poignant stories made "Books Build Better Brains" a template and a motivator for becoming more involved in well baby visits - library partnerships.  At the same time another program based on knowledge gained at PLA described Exploration Station an hour long class that involves preschool children and their caregivers in hands-on math, science and writing.

A panel on using technology with kids had the audience discovering great content to let kids loose on including Zimmertwins, Xtranorml, Wordle, Make Believe Comix, kids creating book trailers and teens piling into the building to work on laptop labs.  Another panel (I was part of it!) delved into easy ways to stretch budget and staff time by developing DIY and stealth programs. A swap of ideas on elementary aged program ideas produced not only great new ideas but support and solutions for programming conundrums . An exploration of summer reading outreach programs rounded out the YSS offerings.

Other programs not sponsored by YSS were just as informative for my work: a discussion of the process of combining a youth services and adult services service desk into one to address budget cuts; websites to be aware of; African American body image in youth literature; and tips on successful presentations and panels at conferences (wonder how ours did!).  Thrown into the mix was participation in the YSS board meeting and a chance to chat informally with our state's new Youth consultant Tessa Michaelson Schmidt. Members continued the conversation over meals and later at parties and in hallways.

And, blessedly, there were no programs about summer reading programs - a pet peeve of mine is when every darn conference has to keep flogging SLP.  When I leave a conference with more ideas taken than the number I came to share, I know my time was well spent. Kudos to my WAPL colleagues who planned this conference. Ya done good!


Tag-Team Librarianship

I absolutely love SLJ editor-in-chief Rebcca Miller's May editorial titled We Need Tag-Team Librarianship.

Why would I love a piece that points out that only 9% of surveyed public librarians work together with school librarians and teachers on homework assignments?  That only 30% collaborate on book purchases that support the curriculum?  I love it because it points out a huge area that we can be throwing our efforts into - if we haven't already.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of posts about school/public library partnerships that are possible among libraries:
These posts don't have every possibility in the world of ways to reach out and work with our school colleagues but they list a panoply of initiatives and services that have worked. Most of these collaborations and partnerships happened at my former job where I worked for 22 years. There I had the time and luxury to build and deepen relationships and work with many, many innovative colleagues in the schools.

At my new job of three years, I have had to start all over. We had some, but not always great, relationships with our schools. So I started knocking at doors...principals, administrators, school librarians...until they understood that we were really there not to make their work lives harder but to support them in their efforts. It took awhile but the bridges have been building and we have been getting better. 

We have been invited to more literacy nights and mornings, K registrations events, and times to tell and share storytelling with kids. We initiated a very successful 2nd grade field trip series with transportation funded by a grant (and next year the schools are looking to fund the buses!). We are looking at the new Common Core standards for our state and finding ways to bring more quality non-fiction into our collection. Our schools access our Tumblebooks database. We support their efforts in Battles of the Book by buying additional copies of the book for kids to access. We are collaborating with our middle and high school librarians on "One Book-One Community" reads, programming and field trips.

I often hear my public library colleagues talk about their lack of success with making inroads with school colleagues. I understand. But I also believe that if you just keep trying and working, eventually a door will open a crack...and then a little more ...and a little more until soon you and your school colleagues are doing amazing things.  Like my previous post on SLP visits, there is more than one way to interact with your schools.  Becoming a tag-team partner is a goal worth working on!

Image: 'Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/22177648@N06/2137737248


Are Traditional SLP Schools Visits Worth It?

There has been an interesting discussion among a few tweeps about the efficacy of school visits to promote SLP.

One of our colleagues just can't find enough hours in the day to do them. She's at a small library with a small staff and responsibility for all services from birth through teen, plus hiring and training responsibilities and other administrative work as assistant director. Her experience and statistics show that the SLP participation has stayed about the same whether she does visits or not.

I am pretty much on the fence about it. If going to the schools in May is the only time that the library staff gets into the schools, I don't think it is particularly helpful. When I first started working, we would visit 2800 kids and get 400-500 in our program. A dismal return on our efforts. We plunged from one school to another, all squeezed into a few weeks in May. Face-to-face time with the kids was great but was that twenty minutes effective?

As the years have rolled on,  we have tried to add a couple of substantive stops into each school, each year, beyond SLP promotions. My goal is for staff to see the majority of kids at least two other times - or more if we can. Strategies we've used include offering a free storytelling event; doing booktalks; running mock Caldecotts; doing Dr. Seuss programs; attending before school and after school and evening literacy nights, book fairs and other events bringing children and parents out; Kindergarten registrations; parent teacher conferences...like that. The more we offer, the more times we are taken up on our offers.  Even though I've only been at my present job a little over three years, we are already seeing more buy-in from the schools for this.

It helps to build the kids' familiarity with library staff and stretches out the good connections over a longer period.  Though I'm not quite ready to give up our SLP visits, I think it is indeed a possibility.  Using our time better (and that includes my various rants here and here about creating more breaks in in-house programming to accomodate more outreach) means more opportunities. It sure has got me thinking.  What about you?

Image - you got me. Found it on a Facebook meme. Somebody..is it yours? May I please use it?


Star Wars Day- May the 4th Be With You

I've just put up a post at the Wisconsin Library Association's YSS blog with great links to Star Wars party ideas for the summer. Check it out!


Blogger Heaven - Wisconsin Style

When I started my blog almost five years ago, I wanted to talk specifically about children's services in libraries. However, I didn't just want to talk.  I wanted to listen to others too.  I thought about how the pubyac listserv served that purpose wonderfully. Still, I wanted to read longer pieces so my blog search was on.  It was a bit lonely there for awhile.  I could find lots of book reviewing blogs but it was a struggle to find blogs that talked about my passion - how we do our children's public library work good. 

As the year's have rolled on, I slowly built up more and more blogs on my RSS feed where lots of content addressed programs, planning, behaviors, thoughts and issues in youth public library services that I could learn from.

I want to list a few of my favorite local blogs about youth services here in case you don't know them and want to add them to your arsenal of great stops. They don't do much book reviewing but spend lots of space talking about issues in our youth library world. Here is where you can read about youth services - Wisconsin style!

Heart of a Child - I'll start with the newest first. Good friend and colleague (and writer, humorist, former children's librarian, storyteller, youth lit prof and raconteur) Rob Reid steps up and into blogging through the Children's Literature Network.  He hopes to blog 3-4 times a month.

Bryce Don't Play - in the interest of full disclosure, Sara is one of my YS team members. Brand new to public children's librarianship (but not to kids - she has been a 2nd grade teacher and received a Masters in Reading as well as her MLIS), she brings a fresh and quirky eye to everything from delving into chapter books as a selector to the thought processes behind fun programs she has developed that are wild successes. No punches are pulled.

Future Librarian Superhero - a chance meeting at a conference brought me into contact with Anna K, a thoughtful, funny and hard working youth librarian/assistant director in a small community in Northern WI. Active in Flannel Friday and in the twitterverse, her blog is mostly quiet but when she has something to say, you want to be reading it.

Come into Delight - my dear friend and colleague, Georgia Jones works in a small library up nort' in WI.  She is inventive, creative and shares her program ideas complete with pictures and tips. Many of my programs that have been born from and built on her creativity and that of her library co-worker, Cynthia.

Jen the Youth Services Librarian - again, in the interest of being honest, Jen is my protege in We Lead, a great initiative sponsored by our WI Library Association. She is a year or two into her job in a small suburban library outside of Milwaukee and is rocking it out.  Although the blog isn't uber active, each time she posts, there is something exciting being thought up, reported on or experienced. Always worth a visit.

Keeping Up with Kids - this blog is administered on the system level by Leah Langby at the Indianhead Federated Library System in west central WI. Librarians share ideas and content and I always find gems here that start me on my way to new and better service.

YSS blog - This is the blog of our state library association's Youth Services Section.  Since January, when four member administrators (yep, one of 'em is me!) joined forces to provide content, the blog has taken off and is full of not just announcements of events but news about programs, services and initiatives that matter to public youth librarians.

Image: 'Cheesehead Bot'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/7315825@N04/5419614313