Now THAT'S Thinkin'

I am never very excited or impressed when libraries report on using some variation scavenger hunts in the library - hiding a picture somewhere in the library and having kids find it.  I mean there's nothing much wrong with it - it's always reported as popular -  but where is the connection between books, the library and the child?  It's a great hide-and-seek but it could be done at the grocery store, the gym, the home.

But over at Show-Me Librarian, Amy introduces a twist that brings some purpose to the whole process. They always choose a book character (a different one each week).  Staffers ask the kids to describe where they find the picture - what books are nearby; what sign is at the end of the shelf; and so. The goal is to familiarize the kids with lots of different parts of the collection. I can get behind that!

At Rachel Moani's blog Crafty Life of an Almost Librarian, she details a fairy/tale folk tale puzzle scavenger hunt.  Again, this has something more than just the finding - it introduces or refamiliarizes kids with classic tales. A great end result.

Learning about something or discovering something doesn't have to be didactic dulls-ville.These two bloggers point the way to involve something beyond finding and a prize to helping kids learn even more about books and their library.  The hunt is on!
Image: 'not quite clear on the concept'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/1431384410


Spooky Camp-out

Because the national CLSP theme is so darn-tooting varied - and because, in my heart of hearts, I don't believe we even need to stick to any theme - I found it ridiculously easy to program this year.  We are doing an overall space theme but I also thought spooky stories and a camp out would be uber-swell.  So Friday night, after hours, we re-opened the library for a family campout.

Everyone brought blankets and flashlights. We pulled all the chairs away from tables and encouraged parents and kids to set up their tents in any way they wanted. Books were everywhere (including a fine selection of spooky stories for every age). We played the movie soundtrack from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone softly over the P.A. which lent a magical air to the proceedings.

After a half hour or so we gathered in the program room near our plug-in campfire (borrowed from LMC director friend) and read scary stories from some of our books.  Everyone was served a cup of "walking s'mores" - we learned that 2 boxes of honey grahams, plus 2 # of chocolate chips, plus one bag of mini-marshallows mixed together and served in dixie cups perfectly treats 50 hungry kiddos.

The book check-out was great. The families loved being alone in the library.  And two other staffers and a few teen volunteers made set-up, doing the program and clean-up a snap. Boo!


Caldecott Classics

I always appreciate it when Roger Sutton writes about Maurice Sendak. His appreciation, respect and friendship always shines through. In a recent Horn Book post, Roger writes about what winning the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are meant to Maurice.

In the course of his ruminations, he mentions that in his opinion, though many Caldecotts have been awarded, only three books are ones he would truly consider "classic": Make Way for Ducklings, The Snowy Day and Where the Wild Things Are.  At first I was like, "Wait! What about the winner the year I served on the committee; or the year this colleague served or that colleague...?"  But then I stopped and thought.

The three books mentioned are truly touchstones.  When I served on the Caldecott, I used Make Way for Ducklings to train kids and adults on how to help your eye see excellence.  The warm brown lines on creamy paper were the only color, yet those illustrations were so powerful and told the story so well, the text was barely needed to convey the plot, emotions and story. This book is the quintessential Caldecott winner for me.

Re-thinking and re-reading Roger's post and going over the list of seventy-five Caldecotts draws me to the much the same conclusion as Roger. I might quibble here and there. But he has named true touchstones of children's literature.  What do YOU think?


SLP Decoration Awesomeness

I have really enjoyed looking at some of the cool decoration ideas bloggers have been posting:  Katy Salo on the ALSC blog; over at Libraryland, astute purchases combined with staff creativity made the library awesome; Lester Public Library in Two Rivers WI really got a bang for their Star buck. And, of course, if you don't know Rachel Moani's blog, you must get her on your feed. She's a librarian/designer/artiste extraordinaire and I pick up a ton of ideas from her.

Kids are our main decorators. We usually hold an event at all three libraries during the second week of the SLP and let them create on our behalf - sometimes with sidewalk chalk; sometimes with window paint; sometimes with left-over craft materials.  We put out the stuff and the kids in true "D.I.Y. Make-over" go creative on us.

This year, we chose a space theme and gathered craft supply odds and ends and let the kids go.  An hour and a half later, we were cosmically decorated.  Here's pictures of some of what they did.  We love it!  And so do they!


Summer Reading - My Hair is NOT on Fire

So it's arrived. We are three weeks into our summer reading program and things are going swell.  It's busy but stress levels are pretty low and we have the time and luxury to spend time connecting kids with books.  Wow. What did we do right?

For some amazing reason, we made the decision not to wait for all schools to be out for vacation but to jump in and begin on a the first Monday in June with a "soft" launch.  That really helped to spread out the registration process (explaining the program is always a little more effort than is needed on the return visits). We already had a couple of hundred kids signed up, so when the public school kids joined the sign-up throngs, it wasn't as intense.

Next we didn't offer any programs until the second week of SLP. So all our efforts went into getting kids set up for the SLP in that first week. We typically sign up about half of the total kids in that week so that is no small thing.  The program we offered in the second week was a DIY decorating program that had kids create space decorations that we used everywhere. It was mellow prep, one staffer responsible and left most of the staff free to serve the kids.

Next good idea - we didn't start our storytimes until the third week. By the end of the second week we have the majority of kids who will be involved signed up. So now we just had the preschool crowd for late sign-ups and they have more of the room to themselves during our nine storytime sessions.

Combine all this with our simplified elementary age SLP and we have a recipe for a much lower stress summer.  And it needs to be, since I am heading to ALA and abandoning my teammates! But I tell you I feel way less guilty since we made summer reading easier for staff, families and the kids!


Self-Publishing - Gaaaaahhhh!

In a post entitled "The Self-publishing paradox; or, why I love my editor", author Shannon Hale carefully lays out her reasons to celebrate books that are professionally published as opposed to self-published.  I am with her all the way. As a long-time reviewer; as someone who has served on both the Caldecott and Newbery committees; as someone who cherishes beautifully crafted writing, plot and illustrations for children, I am aware of how grating most self-published books are.

Agents, publishers and editors fulfill a key role in the evolving work of authors. I am sure I am not alone in listening to book creators talk about multiple rejections that spurred them on to re-craft and refine their writing and make their books even better. Editors work closely with writers and illustrators to bring out the best quality books.And the publishing houses provide massive support for the books they publish that a self-published author handles on their own. Editorial Anonymous also advised on this topic here.

I blogged about our current library policy in dealing with author's of self-published materials here. I fear we will continue to see more self-published works. While I appreciate the passion of those who write, I find myself, with ALA about to happen and all the amazing book creators celebrated there (Susan Cooper! Kadir Nelson! Jack Gantos! Chris Raschka! Duncan Tonatiuh!Melissa Sweet! Josh Schneider! Shane Evans!), wishing that those who can't stand the heat of the publishing crucible would re-consider their path. A look in the mirror; an honest look at their writing might yield a re-commitment to honing their craft.

I thank Shannon Hale for her words and hope we see many someones out there listening and reflecting on them.

Image: 'letter writing is a dying art' http://www.flickr.com/photos/62033724@N00/3539175858


Blogsy - Are You My New Conference Friend?

So I'm fretting about how much digital tonnage I will need to take to ALA conference this week. Iphone - check. Ipad - check. Hulking heavy 5 year old laptop that breaks my back - gulp, check. I always need my laptop because, although I heart my Ipad, it is a bear to post with. Formatting means nothing to it and my posts have to wait until I get a computer at ALA to fix the monkey formatting.

While lamenting this on twitter, tweep @mciszek, suggests Blogsy, an Ipad app that could make my life bright and free at conference. Laptop dog could stay home? Ooooh. Ahhhhh. I have never been an early adapter (still waiting for contacts to be perfected - it's only been forty- nine years since Brian Belisle got his in fourth grade and I'm waiting to hear whether he's gone blind yet). I am always appreciative of friends and colleagues who plunge into the scrum of new tech/apps and etc and find goodies that they share with me to make life better.

Soooooooo. App downloaded. Video how-to guides quickly perused. This test post almost written. Launch!!!


Summer Reading Prizes ...Or Not!

In a recent blog post in School Matters, Stephan Krashen goes back to one of his themes - rewarding kids for reading.  He questions public libraries offering rewards during their summer reading programs. "Research consistently shows that rewarding people for activities that are inherently pleasurable can result in less interest in doing the activity. Rewards send the message that the activity is not pleasurable and nobody would do it without a bribe."

That paragraph knocked me on my heels. It is not new news for me.  I am familiar with Krashen's work and philosophy.  But this time he wrote about it in a way that echoed an observation made by my co-worker, Sara Bryce, when we were struggling with our boat issues: "Why are we rewarding kids for expected behavior?"  Why indeed?

I have never minded rewarding kids for reading - kind of based on my own feeling that I really enjoy my twice-monthly reward for working - my paycheck!  We give a fair amount of doo-dads to the kids but also make sure they can earn a book as an ultimate reward.  But I also appreciate and admire folks who have made the break with prizes...just couldn't quite see my own way through to it.

This week, we are giving kids one of the primo SLP gifts  - a plastic book bag. This was, with the exception of the book prize, our most expensive purchase (think bookmarks, stickers and tattoos as the usual prize in our arsenal). Kids have been slightly blase. And one of the parents expressed surprise that we were giving out a prize so quickly. In other stealth or passive programs we do (1000 Books Before Kindergarten; Reading is Key Club; Cookie Club), there are very few prizes despite many return visits and check-ins. And here we are... giving out weekly loot.

And, most troubling of all to me, it isn't like more or better prizes are bringing greater numbers of kids into our summer reading program. Numbers of participating kids are continuing at about the same rate as they have in the previous three years I've been doing SLP here.

It also occurred to me that, in our summer Rubber Ducky Club for kids birth through three, we give the kids just two incentives: a rubber ducky and a book. In our summer teen program, we give the kids just two incentives: a USB drive and a book.  What is so different for the age 4-10 years old program that we think we need to give out so much loot?  As a co-worker pointed out to me, we are still thinking in the same manner we did when we ran the program much differently and traditionally.  We have broken new ground with our stealth programs and with redesigning and re-imagining our SLP for elementary-aged kids. Now we need to complete the evolution.

Fear of change is a powerful de-motivator. Despite being a change agent in bringing in and/or welcoming new initiatives and ways to give great service, even I have my balking-at-the-precipice moments.  But, on the no-prize/low-prize front, I think I may be almost ready to leap.

[Note: To see where we are on this issue in May 2014, stop by this post: Summer Prizes - Goodbye!]

Image: 'Sinister Ducks'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503078599@N01/141843714


Yeah, It's Not Just the Reading

I love this article brought to my attention by LIS News today. It talks about the importance of print knowledge in a preschooler's journey towards reading. It's not enough to just read to kids - it's important to involve them in the words and print experience.  The blog post cites a study published in the May-June issue of the Journal of Child Development as one example:  "Ohio State professor Shayne Piasta and her coauthors report that when preschool teachers drew students’ attention to print while reading to them, the children’s skills in reading, spelling and comprehension improved. These positive results were long-lasting, too, still showing up a full two years later."

This is an early literacy skill that librarians have been working with parents to develop for many years now. I am glad to see it receive more study and more ink and publicity. The reading parents do with their kids with print knowledge in mind can be so much more enriching. Articles like this inspire me to keep going!


Can Ya Pipe Down Please? True Conference Etiquette

As you prepare to go to ALA conference...or really any workshop, CE opportunity or speech...you need to read and own my friend Ingrid's blog post at Magpie Librarian on badly behaved librarians. And if you see yourself in her post, please, would you keep it down? The rest of us are trying to listen  - and not to YOU!

Image: 'IMG_6851''  http://www.flickr.com/photos/24630636@N03/6976435455


Are We Really Glittery Cockroaches?

Hey-yell yes!  The always provocative Hi Miss Julie has a fascinating series of blog posts about to begin that are based on her hilariously skewed recent tweet,  "Children's librarians will always survive. We are adored. We are loved. We are the glitter covered cockroaches of the library world".

She goes on in her first post on this subject to tell librarians from all types of libraries to follow the model of what youth services librarians do to find their karmic pathway to success: "we provide unique, superior value and we make sure people know about it. Also, we’re the nicest people in the library world, and that keeps people coming back."

Julie will be following her first post with a series of posts on services children's folks do really well. I can't wait. Now where's my glitter?

Image: 'iPhone Background - PARTY!!!'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/60057912@N00/5596912586


Extra, Extra - Who's Got It?

I read a post by Jessica Olin over at Letters to a Young Librarian that really got me thinking. In it she reflects on what it is that motivates her to reach out and beyond herself to stay fresh in her work. She read Daniel Pink's book Drive and talks about his use of the mathematical concept "asymptote".  As Jessica writes, Pink "uses this concept to talk about motivation and skill mastery and about how, if you're really passionate about something, developing your practice never stops."

"If you're passionate about something, developing your practice never stops." 

Those words really struck me.  I think they encompass the difference between a great worker and an adequate or poor one.  When I look at colleagues I work (and have worked with) with at my libraries (at all position levels), colleagues professionally in my state and across the country, colleagues online and on social media sites, I know I most appreciate those who constantly strive and look for ways to do a better job and learn more each and every day.  They listen to the public and peers and leap out with great service.

They help ME learn. They help colleagues learn. They share ideas and enthusiasm generously and constantly. They aren't afraid to try, fail and try again.  They are collaborative. They care passionately about making life better for the customer. They are intrigued by solving the puzzle of advancing librarianship.

It isn't who they know.  It isn't how much they know.  It isn't how much knowledge and expertise they "own". It's how they process the things they see and hear to build consistently better service in collaboration with co-workers and the public.

And they don't stop. They don't phone it in after 10, 20, 30, 40 years of work. They bring it and they bring it every day for their customers.  When they feel badly managed, they bring it. When funding collapses, they bring it. When doors close in their face, they bring it. When their personal life is challenging, they bring it.

I'm not sure I'm enough of an uber-manager or colleague to help create that passion and ongoing commitment to developing practice where it has never existed or simply no longer exists. I don't know if I have the skills to expand very narrow passions ("I just want to be a grandma to the little kids and do storytimes"; "I know everyone in town, but you don't"; "I have a skill but it's mine and I'm not sharing."; "I served on state library association board once and I'm done with that forever").

But I know the people who truly are passionate, who have that "extra", are the ones that are most satisfied with their work, the most worry-free and take the most pleasure from the sharing, learning, collaboration and innovation they help create.  They love the moment that they step into work each day even if the challenges they face are discouraging. They don't give up. And they never stop developing their practice.

Are you someone like that?

Image: 'IMG_1904'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/45339532@N00/95202050


Pinterest, SLP and Me

So.  This is my first SLP post-Pinterest newbie-dom. Is it mean to say that it has been by far - and I mean BY FAR - the easiest prep I ever had to do running up to the day? Well, it is. 

Colleagues have been pinning away over the past five months (maybe more..I'm that new) and I have been picking up great ideas. Far, far too many to use.  But I have a boatload of goodies for the kids thanks to the shared websites. 

Here are a few of my top favorites pins that made my summer EZ:

Our main decorations are going to be kid-made planets, aliens, rockets and space stuff made by kids and hung on crepe paper. Based on an idea seen at this clever site.

Walking s'mores idea came from this site (edited by me but written by someone far more clever - Amanda Struckmeyer!). We'll use them at our After-Hours Camp Out and Scary Story Night

We are running a series of space adventures with various staffers. The two that I am in charge of will incorporate this oreo-moon phase idea and the other will so be this constellation making on the grass.

Our Stars Wars Party is chuck full of ideas from here

I got the idea of the Future Book Look (that's ours pictured above) pointing kids to non-fiction written on craft sticks from here.  Here's our intrepid staffers Sara and Sherri demo-ing it.  We know kids will be excited to try non-fiction and we know that whichever book they pick will be a future read ;->
Pinterest - and all my Pinterest friends who pin so generously and creatively - thanks!


ALA is Almost Here

I seldom miss the ALA conferences. Ever since the days I worked at a small library and sent myself on my own dime (why should folks only from larger libraries be active in professional association work?), I have been committed to being active in my association. To keep costs down, I always room with a bunch of folks - this time we found a condo near the conference center for $48 each a night!  Energy bars, nuts and instant soups are my friends and the Gale shuttle buses my transportation of choice. I now have financial support from my library and state association to cover expenses (finally after 32 years!) but my frugal ways haven't changed. The less I spend, the more money available to others to attend conferences as well.

Although I have been most active in ALSC committees and leadership positions, I am now on Council representing the Wisconsin Library Association and having a great time working in the larger arena. Besides Council work, I plan to check out the exhibits and pore over the upcoming fall books; re-connect in person with friends and colleagues; attend some programs; attend my committee meetings (School Age Services and ALSC Nominations); listen to the Newbery/Caldecott speeches (attending the banquet is pricey; listening is free!); micro-blog for the ALSC blog; stop by a few parties and soak up a little California sun.

Bloggers are beginning to share their tips for conference. Here are two that are getting me psyched. Bobbi over at Librarian by Day has great travel tips and links and Allison at Reading Everywhere shares some strategies on partaking of the conference cheaply. If you don't have plans to be at conference this year, start saving for Chicago next year. That is truly a great conference city and home to our ALA headquarters.

If you will be in Anaheim, drop me a note or a tweet (@lochwouters) and let's get together.