Building the Ship

Long-time colleagues and readers know that I hate standing still. I have been a children's librarian for all 36 years of my career and have been privileged to serve my communities in that capacity. I have never wished for more or less than what my career has happily been - serving youth and families in libraries.

This is my passion and my calling. So I have pushed hard in my jobs and profession to look for ways to offer the best. Looking for more and adapting to changing needs is what drives me.  I can't stand still when every tide brings a new treasure to the beach of my library. It often drives co-workers and professional colleagues crazy but most of those found treasures that generous colleagues have tossed out on the sea of youth librarianship have made a positive difference in how youth are served at the library.

But I always thought, "Just imagine, if rather than a flotsam of ideas, we could build a ship of them!" Yesterday, something happened that makes me believe that dream might come true in our state.

It was with real pleasure that I attended a pre-conference at my state library's association's fall conference on youth services. It was, of course, a wonderful experience. But more than that it represented a sea change in attitudes, power shifting and conversation from what has been going on in youth services in our state for awhile.Too often individuals looked to an ephemeral "someone else" to lead. Networking was hit-and-miss or concentrated on a few issues without looking at the bigger picture. Colleagues from large and small libraries just weren't linking.

But times have been changing in the state. Rather than popsicle sticks and lamentations, participants yesterday were treated to a power-producing afternoon that demonstrated concretely that our state level children's consultant, our WLA Youth Services Section leaders, our system level consultants and youth librarians were ready to enter a bold world of action, support and innovation. WE are what we make of youth services. I am ready for the ship we are creating - come on board with me!


Idea Sparklers #11 - Fun Notes form the Field

Today I had the pleasure of re-connecting with colleagues at the Wisconsin Valley Library Service. The headquarters are in Wausau and that is where we had our summer reading program and program idea workshop hosted by consultant and friend Kris Adams Wendt.  We had a lively discussion of programs and here they are!

Worm Races - Those libraries following the 2013 CLSP theme of Dig into Reading will want to try these. At Rhinelander (WI) District Library, they've been wowing the kids for 30 years and they are willing to share the how-to's.

Child Development Day - when the school district runs this day to screen rpeschoolers, the library is invited and sets up a table with booklists, books, giveaways and library card applications.  Returns of completed applications to the library tells staff that this is a great investment in time.

Magnetic letters and boards available throughout the children's area encourages wordplay and letter recognition

Read to Rover - therapy dogs arranged through Therapy Dogs International are a huge hit for child readers.

Raffle Ideas - one library has a quilting guild that donates a quilt to raffle off. Another idea is buying a kindle and raffling off chances to win it.

Deer Hunting Celebration - in communities up north where the annual deer harvest is a holiday and occasion, the library has blaze orange costume contests, coloring sheets , deer rack (antlers) contest for most unusual, smallest, biggest and so on. The library knows the community and the community responds!

2-Book Challenge Teen Program - for SLP, kids are asked to read and review two books and hand them in for a big drawing (a guitar; a nook) as well as receive a small prize (food coupon, etc). They can do up to four 2-Book challenges.

Teen Late Nights - the teens play games like scavenger hunt and more after hours. Very popular.

Ballot Box - one of the libraries sets up voting for favorite books during the lection season

SLP Teen Readers -  teens read to the little kids at pajama nights. One special night the little kids were challenged to dress as a superhero and earn a chance to enter a prize raffle twice.

Future Business Leaders Club Teen Volunteers - are a huge help to one library. They ran a book drive for kids and were able to get a huge nember of books donated.

August Community Service - during August, one library always ties a community-wide community service project into the summer reading program. This year they helped spearhead a collection of supplies for kids who are in need when being removed from dysfunctional homes  - pajamas; a stuffed toy, a blanket and a book - all in a pillowcase. They received over eighty sets of these needed items.

It's always a pleasure to travel and hear the great ideas from libraries working at libraries large and small. I learn somethings new every time!

Find more in the Idea Sparklers series: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  9 10 11


We Have an Early Literacy Kid's Librarian Opening!!

Hey, come work with us!! Due to an upcoming retirement, we have a fabuloso-fulltime job opening coming up here at La Crosse Public Library on our crack Youth Services team. Here's the ad. Now brush up that resume and throw your hat - or helmet - in the ring!

Amaze us! If you’re hungry for challenge, and welcome the opportunity to network within the community to create amazing results, love collaboration and trying out new ideas, and are fearless in your approach to great service using tech and non-tech means, you may be who we are looking for!  Due to a retirement, we seek a motivated, dynamic ideas person to join our children’s services team in beautiful La Crosse, Wisconsin - someone who loves to work with kids and families; has outstanding customer service skills; is outgoing with a great sense of humor and has the ability to sell the library and literacy to everyone in our community.  Strong skills in early literacy/preschool programming and services are key as well as ability to create reality from blue-sky visioning.  Bonus consideration to those who can leap tall buildings in a single bound! The successful candidate for this full-time position will have an MLS and experience working in public library youth services or the equivalent in education and experience.  In return, you will have the opportunity to work with a seasoned team of professionals, be coached by the 2010 Wisconsin Librarian of the Year, receive an excellent benefit package, be in a strong professional development environment and  transform traditional library services.  Salary negotiable from $44,000. For further information and necessary qualifications, please visit us at: www.lacrosselibrary.org. Electronic submissions only; interested applicants can electronically submit a resume with references and cover letter to Youth Services Coordinator Marge Loch-Wouters at marge@lacrosselibrary.org. Applications accepted until November 16, 2012.

La Crosse is famous for its exceptional natural beauty.  The city (metropolitan population 126,838 based on the 2010 census) is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River below towering bluffs. Abundant water and woodlands provide year-round recreation sites for hiking, biking, skiing, hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities.  La Crosse is also home to two universities, a technical college, a symphony orchestra, excellent theatrical and cultural events, and superb health care facilities. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is a major flyway for migratory birds and boasts the longest river refuge in the continental United States.

P.S. We know the webpage is ugly right now. Please forgive us. The new one is coming along nicely and will replace the current beast shortly!

My Bad

I wish decisions that didn't work out were as easy to dismiss as a simple, snarkily insincere, "My bad!". We all strive to make great decisions - at least I've never talked to anybody who started out their day planning to make nothing but bad choices. We weigh alternatives; look at what has come before and then look out at what's coming; listen to and talk with co-workers, patrons, colleagues and stakeholders; consider the impact library-wide and department- specific; and wrestle with how the decision will affect and be perceived by patrons and community members.

For me, decision making is a complex stew of the above factors...and time.  Sometimes the simmering takes an hour; sometimes a month; sometimes a year. The more rushed decisions under unexpected deadlines leave me trepidatious - the mixture is a bit underdone - is this going to work or we all going to be chewing on some hard and rather indigestible tidbits that make us sick sooner rather than later? Even on long-simmered decisions, the whole thing may simply refuse to boil. Whichever way the decision is made, the results are weak and unappealing. You make the best of it, hoping that you still are getting some nutrition.

When a decision outside the box is made or one that sets service on an entirely different track, the stew becomes immeasurably more complex. Some flavors you are trying for may be familiar and some a shot in the dark (I think this will blend in well). At first the finished product seems appetizing - but then you discover only for certain tastes. More people than expected are holding their noses, loudly decrying their hatred of lima beans or politely setting aside their stew .  You realize that this decision stew is truly a bad one.

Although some might force people to keep eating that dish, there is only one thing to do in this case.  Apologize, scoop up the bowls, toss the contents and admit that you used the wrong ingredients and that the stew is bad. Starting again and making smaller adjustments to the recipe may help everyone enjoy the experience more.

Decisions and changes need to be made to stay on top of great library service.  But knowing when to say when; owning and apologizing for the poor decision and being able to halt work resulting from a decision that isn't working out is just as important. That reflection and readjustment is part of life. Don't fear it, but face it. And, as my mother would say when we went to her with the results of our tasteless or badly done stew, "Oh, don't worry. Just try again and I think everything will come out OK next time." Such a wise woman.

Image: 'chicken stew'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/35034346243@N01/261246550 Found on flickrcc.net


Program Mojo

I love great programs for school-aged kids. They don't have to be crazy hard to plan and prep but they do have to be fun. Please visit three of my clever colleagues from around the country who posted today on three great easy programs that equal fun for kids and library love.

ALSC Blog rocked out a Star Wars party by Angie Manfredi, she of the fabulous Fat Girl Reading blog.

Amy over at Show Me Librarian showed us a super Super Hero party.

and Sara rounds out this idea-licious day with a report of her Angry Bird event on her blog Bryce Don't Play.