I need to share this amazing essay by Cassandra Neace in Book Riot. She explores and thinks about the act of reading and how books played such an important - though at the time unrecognized - part in the lives of her family.
Image: 'Notturno' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29931767@N00/105783011 Found on flickrcc.net
Yes, hard on the heels of the ALA YMA, SLJ has just revealed their brackets for the annual rock-'em, sock-'em Battle of the Books. And I'm telling you my friends, I am shakin' in my boots this year.
This awe-inspiring battle graphic is by SLJ's art director, Mark Tuchman
Post ALA youth media awards scuttlebutt is ever and always the same - as are my reactions.
People swoon. People go nuclear. People swear and threaten (they clearly have had bad days for other reasons). People cheer. People go bat-shit crazy ("I knew it all along and finally everyone agrees with my superior book sense". Yeah, right...let me run and get you that mirror, oh self-regarding one). People sincerely thank the committee members. People bemoan a favorite frozen out. People question books they haven't heard of or haven't purchased. People dance. People have 20-20 hindsight or claim prescience. People insist the committee members are uncaring; nuts or craven. People sigh over how unpopular the winners or honorees will be with kids. People glow in agreement.
I'm going to tell you all what I think and know and how I react...my ten truths as it were.
1. The committee people work carefully, hard, diligently and conscienctiously.
2. There is never a moment during the year they serve that they don't take their charge extremely seriously.
3. No matter how widely and much you've read, you have NOT- and I repeat - NOT read the books like committee members have.
4. No matter how much you've discussed, tweeted or blogged about these books, you have NOT - and I repeat - NOT discussed them in the depth and defended and advocated them at the level the award committees have.
4.5 (Ok, Ok I was so hot on this topic I lost count. Dyslexia strikes again) These awards are not for mad or even mild popularity - they are for quality literature for youth. Believe me, without awards like these we'd mostly have Barbie, fart and Star Wars books. Period.
5. Book creators truly care about being recognized for quality work. Here is Tammy Pierce's reaction. Here is Peter Brown's. I still keep in touch with a couple of book creators from my award committee years and each has said how much the honor or award changed their life and career. These.awards.matter.
6. If a book is honored that comes out of left field, by the goddesses, I am happy to find it, buy it for the public, read it and promote it. What is better than discovering something new and amazing?
7. I am proud of ALA and all the youth divisions for celebrating quality literature for youth. It makes my job easier and opens up the possibilities for kids and teens of having an amazing read.
8. I want everyone to have an award committee experience. It is amazing. But you must join ALA and one of the youth divisions - plus it would be great if you served on many committees and not just award committees. Share your talents.
9. I am inordinately proud of every award committee member and thankful to their families and libraries for supporting them during a very busy, very tough year.
10. They done good.
I seldom refer so quickly again to a post but I will re-point you again to Monica Edinger's post in the Nerdy Book Club in which she helps readers understand the enormity of what committee members do. Read it again and some of these Marge-truths will make sense.
February 1. Plus this blog post by Kelly over at Stacked also gives you a little what-for and additional information.
Image: 'Sad' http://www.flickr.com/photos/8830697@N08/5601369995 Found on flickrcc.net
The Rainbow List highlights noteworthy GLBTRT for youth. Thanks to 2011-12 Rainbow Project jury Francesca Burgess, Jane L. Cothron, Christie L. R. Gibrich (incoming chair, 2014), Christine Jenkins, Adela Peskorz, Victor Lynn Schill, and Anna C. White.
The Amelia Bloomer Project Top 10 list focuses on books with significant positive impact of women. Thanks to Amelia Bloomer Project committee members: Jennie Law (co-chair), Angela Semifero (co-chair), Ann Bever, Betsy Miguez, Katie Mitchell, Lalitha Nataraj, Linda Parsons, Kelly Rottmund, April Witteveen, and Joy Worland.
It's great to live in a world of outstanding books for youth!
I served on the 1995 Newbery and 2002 Caldecott committees. These remain two special moments in my career. Like dessert, it was sweet. But I can't have that diet all the time - that's why I love the meat and potatoes of the many "process" committees I serve on. I wish the experience of being on an award committee to each and every ALSC and YALSA member at least once in their careers and I hope that each member, having served once or twice on a prestigious award committee, makes room for others who wish to have the experience.
It's the night before the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards announcements. By now the discussion, the deliberation, the voting and the annotations are done. The frisson of excitement within each committee as the top honored book, recording or film has been determined is palpable. The committee members are as proud as new parents at their award titles and honorees. But it's still secret.
Roommates teasingly pry; spouses look for hints; colleagues wonder and give an extra squeeze to hands and shoulders of committee members, knowing the intense work of the past year. The committee members, though excited, appear serene. The decision that will echo through youth literature down through the ensuing years is done. It's finished. Often committee members spend some time together after the final meeting just to have people to talk with. Hearts are very full.
The ALA Public Information Office has kicked into high gear. They are reaching out to obtain phone numbers; writing press releases and press conference scripts; determining if there are immediate media opportunities for winners; scheduling committees for their Monday morning phone calls - yes, the honorees are called by the committee chairs backed by their committees prior to the press conference. In Seattle, it will be at a blessedly decent time - when at an east coast ALA midwinter, west coasters often get the call pre-dawn.
There is a little note of trepidation in many a committee person's heart on this night. How will the crowd of 500 librarians, publishers and booksellers present at the press conference and the audience of teachers, librarians, book creators, and makers and sellers around the world react to their committee's choice - with screams of approbation or the gasp of in-taken breath? I have heard both. That moment when the committee stands to face the dais, backs to the audience, and have their choices announced is nerve-wracking.
But that's tomorrow. Tonight, there is the sweet feeling of a job well done; a challenge met and the camaraderie of a group of people who have read, pored over, reflected and discussed books together in a rarefied atmosphere to winnow and seek that golden best. And that is enough.
For more insights on the award process, stop at this Nerdy Book Club post and read Monica Edinger's outstanding post myth-busting the Newbery Committee process and drop by Something Different Every Day blog for a peek at the day between the big days of an award committee member.
Image: 'Poesia' http://www.flickr.com/photos/58929717@N00/93235624 Found on flickrcc.net
I love the organic feel of how 1000 Books Before Kindergarten programs have spread. Started a few years ago in Bremen IN by the mighty Sandy Krost, it has popped up here, there and everywhere around the country. Recently, a colleague, Kathleen Larson at From the Short Stacks, posted my all-time favorite working graphic - a google doc map of places where 1000 Books Before Kindergarten programs have been developed.
Beth Crist of the Colorado State Library produced an excellent summary of what the program is about along with some great links. She also recently hosted a webinar on 1000 Bks B4K with Sandy. My colleague, Sara Bryce did an outstanding job of gathering research to buttress requests for grants, funds and convincing administration on the worth of programs like this at her blog Bryce Don't Play. I continue to pin programs on my Let 1000 Books Bloom Pinterest board.
While every program has a different feel and approach and theme, every program is alike in encouraging parents to read widely and muchly to their preschooler. Parents are always pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun the process is. And kids are proud of their achievements.
We have really enjoyed this stealth program here at our library. Kids and parents continue to participate as we near our 2nd anniversary. The program has resulted in over 2,500 return visits (plus families have read almost 197,600 books with La Crosse preschoolers who are in the Club!!) and fun interactions with kids and parents. We continue to improve on it - going from writing titles on 8"x11" sheets to bookmarks with 100 seeds to mark off books read; thinking about decreasing prizes and sticking to stickers and working to keep it publicized for new families coming in.
Our state also recently added a category in their annual report request that allows libraries to report out these statistics for stealth and DIY programs - a sea-change for us since only active program stats and SLP registrations were previously gathered on those reports.
For other links to 1000 Books posts I've done, stop here, here, here, here, and here. You can also view a webinar I did linked here. And as always, to find samples of our materials, check out our Winding Rivers Library System Youth website and scroll down towards the bottom of the page!
The posts in this series came to mind first after a School Library Journal article last year reported that overall school/public library collaboration was very poor. I wrote a post about tag-team librarianship to share thoughts when that came out. The recent article in SLJ referenced in Part 1 of this series focused on some fairly large libraries and systems with big staff infrastructures - a sure recipe for the vast majority of libraries that serve far smaller populations to feel, "Well, jeez, we can't do that - we so lack those resources/staff/time."
I.do.not.believe.that. No matter size, staff, budget or time, we all can be great partners.
Here and there, over the years, I've heard a few librarians say they "couldn't get in at the schools". Then a story is shared about how that librarian purchased "useful" teacher books - without consulting school colleagues - and these materials were never checked out. Or I hear that a colleague refuses to collaborate or look for ways to do outreach in the schools because if the public library starts, it will be an excuse to remove school librarians.Or a homework center isn't well-used but in further conversation, I find out that the library has not mentioned a word of it's existence except through in-house PR. The link in all these "fails" is that the public librarian has not talked and listened to, explored or partnered with their school colleagues. Building a service in a vacuum is never a good idea.
If we want to create those links, we truly have to forge a partnership of mutual respect and listening. School colleagues are under alot of pressure. We need to think in ways that address those pressures and make the case that partnerships will benefit kids and staff and make a positive difference. It's good to be low-maintenance in terms of what we propose or ask of school colleagues. It's worth it to be a good listener and investigator - what is needed; what would help them or what suggestions do they have for us. And I find that flexibility on our part always makes the partnership better.
A first small step can open doors. Jen the Youth Services Librarian, who started a new job in August, was out in the schools promoting Teen Read Week programs in October. Colleagues I know invite their school partners to breakfast, for cocktails; initiate youth book discussion groups; invite them along to conferences and workshops or to visit the Cooperative Children's Book Center in Madison; give short, snappy presentations at in-services.They set up an occasional meeting with school media colleagues and see what ideas and conversations result.
With Common Core state standards coming into play, there are even more opportunities to chat, talk, plan and collaborate with school colleagues. Many public libraries have strong collections of narrative non-fiction that can be explored and celebrated.
The possibilities are exciting and endless.We can keep the fires burning and do amazing outreach with our school colleagues. Partnerships work - no matter what size library you work at.
Image: 'Tiki torch' http://www.flickr.com/photos/83261600@N00/8189871269 Found on flickrcc.net
This is the fourth post in a series I did in 2009 on school and public library cooperation. Any effort we make to partner with schools is a great effort and the simplest thing can reap rich rewards for all the kids in our community!
"But Marge", you say, "we just are so overwhelmed. We want to do great partnerships but time, money, staff and energy are hard to come by. What can we do?" Lots! There are plenty of laid-back partnerships and efforts that even a part-time, one person library staffer can do.
Email Newsletters to School
Periodically mail out a brief, colorful newsletter to school staff (through each school's office - with permission of the principal of course) with children's lit or book news; services you offer; invites to take field trips to the library; suggestions of great new book read-alouds and maybe an announcement or two of perfect programs for school-agers. This kind of communication breaks down barriers and let's your colleagues know about the library and your services and collections.
Invite Classes to Visit
Field trips are fun and you can make them more inviting by using a stuffed book character as tour host for younger kids (Clifford; Very Hungry Caterpillar; Maisy) or jazzing up field trips for older kids by exploring non-fiction and making origami or cataloging and shelving the kids or playing Book Character Bingo in the fiction. Make the library fun and they will come!
Outreach Visits to the Schools
These are absolute bread-and-butter! Outreach gets you out of the library and into the schools where kids are. Offer to come to Literacy Nights and Parent Nights, do storytelling at schools, present book talks - and leave the books in the classroom for a month for kids to devour - and never forget - summer reading promotional visits are some of the best times to reach out to kids and entice them into good reading fun in the summer.
Offer to transform the library into an art gallery for student art and host a reception for the young artists and their families. Art teachers are often looking for end-of-the-year venues to display their students' creativity and the library makes a great gallery!
We often develop these to help staff and patrons find goodies in the collection. But consider developing graded booklists before summer and distributing to the schools. By recommending books that are age appropriate and in the collection, you make kids successful searchers during the summer for reads. Many teachers support these efforts and would love a list like this.
No matter where you are in partnerships with your schools, these ideas can really sparkle and help you create closer relationships with your school colleagues. A big tip of the hat to all my peeps on PUBYAC for sharing ideas and making me think about the vitality of school and library partnerships!
A recent post from a widely read blog, which will itself remain uncited, described a library's program for kids. It looked fun and had a ton of good ideas. It is a program we have done too. All was well and good until I reached the point in the post where I read about an activity that I had created and originated and blogged widely - and more than once - about. Sadly, I didn't see a link back here. Sigh.
I definitely like to scatter idea seeds - both ones I've thought up and ones I've learned from others. I let them fall where they may. I always hope for fertile soil; for sprouts and gardens to grow that let kids experience something amazing that they couldn't if their youth librarian didn't try something new they heard from me - or discovered on a listserv, blog post, workshop or book .
But truly, as much as I have scattered, I have also gathered from others. I have learned and borrowed and recreated ideas that others have pioneered. Each time I do, I have said, "Hey, I found it here; or this library or librarian was the founding mother or here was the acorn that produced this oak." Everything comes from somewhere and I appreciate the person that hatched the first egg of the idea.
Every time I read a post that describes a program, I love to see where it came from (the writer's mind; another colleague; a chance conversation; an adaptation of an article; like that). It leads me to that first place and adds a colleague and their work to my blog roll, my reading pile or my bookmarks.
I have been mellow about seeing stuff I've created go viral ("Oh, there's my little baby," I coo proudly, "all grown up") even if my hand in it is long gone. I rarely pitch a fit. But, somehow, this time, this missing link bothered me. I will totally get over it. I understand how in this world of Pinterest and links to links to links, things can easily fall between the cracks. But I send out a plea to my sister and brother pinners and bloggers and blog administrators - please remember to ask yourself and your writers to link to original content or at least lay a path that helps others find their way.
After all, everything starts somewhere.
Note: I composed this post last month and scheduled it for next week. But three incredible posts of the last 24 hours moved this up since they touch on aspects of support for each other in what I am writing: Hi Miss Julie's questions about who gets tapped for rock stardom vs. the librarians truly working in the trenches of youth librarianship; Kelly over at Stacked who thoughtfully and reflectively explores how we support each other in our work and blogging; and KM Librarian who thinks about networks and support that matter. All these posts are knock-your-socks-off thoughtful.
Image: '382e nestled in' http://www.flickr.com/photos/25171569@N02/6298805160 Found on flickrcc.net
This is the third in a series of blog posts I wrote in 2009 sharing ideas that worked for us when I worked in a library in a smallish (15k) community. I believe no matter what size the library, staff or budget, amazing collaborations can make a win-win situation happen for kids. Into the wayback machine, my friends!
Now you are cooking - teachers use your services, you have some great partner mojo working....what else can you do to make your school partnerships smoke?
Talk to school staffers who have cool hobbies, skills, passions and see if they would like to be part of a program or present a program for kids - or be open to them suggesting programs. It is amazing what colleagues who are knowledgable in how to talk to and reach kids can do. I have had teachers present Japanese and German culture programs for kids, a National Adoption Day program, as well as spearheading a monthly bi-lingual Spanish program series.
Shared Book Collections
If you and your school library media colleagues identify a mutual area of both of your collections that need beefing up, consider sharing a collection. We wrote a small grant for easy readers (90 at each school) housed at the schools Sept-May and then at the public library during the summer rush. It was a wonderful project and when we no longer needed to share the collection, simply divided it up between the public library and schools. It took a little oversight but really worked well to make more materials available to kids.
Kids as Book Buyers
What's better than getting a kids-eye-view of what books your collection should have. Book buying with kids for the library is a treat. We worked with our schools to identify at-risk third grade readers to join a public library club and visit a bookstore to select a non-fiction book for the public library. The kids picked carefully, we let them keep the books in their classroom for the first month and then had a party at the public library where the books were housed in a special display. It made a huge difference to the kids and us!
Early Literacy Projects
Gaining school support for library efforts to prepare kids for success in school is golden. If we can make the sale and help staffers see how we are helping them by working with preschoolers to increase literacy, school staffers can become our strongest advocates. It's worth the effort to bring them on board in initial efforts - or ask for a place at the table as they are planning literacy activities so you can let them know how many preschoolers and their families that you see!!
We'll tamp our fire down to embers for our final post and look at some simple ways to be a great partner even if you have no time, money or staff.
The second in my series of 2009-era blog posts on ideas that actually work for any size public library to do collaborative magic with their schools. Hop in the wayback machine please!
Ok, your teachers have fine-free and extended loan cards; you provide classroom collections and you are getting to know the schoool folks. What's next?
School Van Delivery
Many districts have a van(s) that make deliveries between sites. If you can arrange weekly or biweekly school van stops at the library to pick up and drop off materials, it is money in the bank. This takes a little initial negotiation but if this can be arranged, it creates a way to get materials, information and projects back and forth between the school and public libraries. For parochial schools, seek out willing parent-partners from each school willing to help with these kinds of deliveries.
Outreach Visits to the Schools
This is bread and butter stuff! Let your schools know you are available to come to Literacy Nights, offer storytelling at schools, consider book talking, present at parent nights, and the ubiquitous summer reading promo visits. All these activities stress the public library's literacy role and expertise.
Cooperative Winter Reading Program
Many schools run their own winter reading-encouragement programs -why not see if school staffers are interested in pooling resources, talent and ideas to create one community-wide effort. Working together can result in a program run by the schools and supported by the public library. Perhaps the library can provide design or printing muscle; extra programs and even small incentives to encourage kids to stop by during the reading program weeks.
Kids Read One Book
Classrooms make great partners in this kind of project. Work closely with a committee from the school to select a title; seek out funding together and provide book discussions at the schools as well as the library. With enough lead time this can be a tremendous project.
Another gimme! If you are bringing in a book creator, partner with the schools and other local organizations to give the author plenty of places to present and a great way to support both schools and public library. Our most successful ongoing project involved working with colleagues to bring in authors for third graders on an annual basis. We were able to sustain interest and funding from the library, PTOs and community funding sources for many years.
Watch for Part 3 when we start to get really jiggy with it.
I had the privilege of being interviewed for an article that was just published in the January 2013 issue of School Library Journal on partnerships between schools and public libraries. While only a quote each from my school collaborator and me made it into the article, it really showed some of the breadth of work we can do as collaborators.
One concern I have with the article is that the profiled libraries are fairly large. I have learned that dynamic school/public library partnerships happen in the smallest of libraries and communities with small staffs and budgets. I think it's important that we never say, "We can't do that; we're too little."
It seems like a good time to go back to the well with four posts I wrote in 2009 about this issue and experiences I had while I worked in a smallish community (15K) and share them with TTFLF readers. I'll finish up with a fifth new post to pull together other ideas to bring us into 2013. So step into the wayback machine with me....
School and public partnerships are one of THE most vital indicators of success in a community for a library. They are not always easy relationships to establish (who do I talk to; why don't they return my calls; why don't I return their calls; why do the projects we plan seem to fizzle?), but just like nurturing the tiny flames of a twiggy little fire, the results of that hard work are warming and renewing.
I just finished talking to an elementary ed student at our local university who wanted to know how teachers could benefit from the library. Between that visit and requests for ideas on school/public library partnerships that I see on various listservs, I decided to explore some ways that I have found success with schools in my public library career. Some are simple things we all do; some may be a re-working of ideas you have seen or done; some may be brand new.
Getting to Know You
Contact, talk to and meet your school colleagues. Don't just get to know your Library Media Center colleagues, though - include the reading coordinators, reading specialists, principals and staffers at each of the schools. They all need to be part of the partnerships and can bring many different skills, talents and ideas to the table. And they can help guide you to true success by being awesome collaborators with important insight and ideas to make any school service or project successful.
Providing cards that allow teachers to check out materials fine-free and often for extended periods of time for the classroom are an easy gimme. They are great PR; help teachers and caregivers expand their book offerings to kids and it means that teachers don't have to incur fines for classroom books. The trick with these is having great communication with the teachers and stopping abusers of the service cold (rather than making rules or guidelines that penalize everyone).
You are a Children's Literature specialist. Helping select great books for teachers on a variety of subjects is a real perk of the job! The collection materials can be prepared automatically on a rotating basis or by specific subject request from teachers. By preparing these collections you save teachers time and lend your expertise. And the subjects and authors requested give you insight into areas of the collection to boost in order to support community education efforts. Win-win-win!
Stay tuned for Part II where we explore a few more partnerships outside of the basics!
Sometimes it seems like programs are planned to a fare-thee-well. Massive amounts of time, sweat, money, prep and pain go into what is essentially a 45 minute adventure with kids. If you have a massive turn-out (The room is full! The self-check-outs are swamped! The staff is scrambling!), that kind of preparation and staff time commitment seems to be worth the investment. Then again, if you get a small turn-out, is all the prep worth it?
I've thought alot about this issue over the years. This post was sparked by my friend Georgia's post over at Come into Delight, many of the program ideas from Amy over at Show Me Librarian and watching the work of my colleague Sara, someone new to librarianship discovering the wonders of "stuff" readily available in our basement storage area and putting together programs with some thought and what amounts to a couple of bobby pins and scotch tape.
I wonder sometimes if over-preparation for programs happens because of pure dog fear - what if we don't fill up the time or the kids are bored? While it's realistic to have concerns about how substantive the content of an hour-long program is, planning so much "stuff" for kids that it would take three hours to do them all, simply isn't. Accepting that the program may end a little early is fine - and so is giving kids enough time to explore or experience each part of a program without rushing them from activity to activity.
It's hard for me to justify spending more staff time in planning and preparation for an actual event than the amount of time the event actually lasts. Ten hours of staff time for discussion, planning and preparation for a program is nine hours too many. I'm not being lazy here or uncaring. But I wonder if over-preparing for an event isn't a bit of a waste of time? I think balance is important. And fun is important. So it leads me to thinking of programs as un-programs so we can do them and still make time to be creative in other ways in our youth work (tackling change in collections, directions, and pushing the envelope on service).
I like to see programs that can be useful whether 10 kids or 110 kids show up. If time is spent making or buying a special prop, I like to see it used numerous times in numerous ways for numerous programs. Since numbers on the low side are more realistic at the libraries I work at, these things are especially important.
To unprogram programs, I stop and ask, "How does what I'm doing connect kids to a book or books; an author or illustrator; the library or our services or some aspect of kids' interests that relate back to the library?" I just can't do something that doesn't have that connection. But more than that, is what I'm doing and choosing relevant to kids right now - not 20 years ago; not 10 years ago; not 5 years ago - but right now with my community of kids right here? It's way easy to make the mistake of thinking because a program once worked, it's time to trot it out again. Bryce Don't Play has a great post on how she addresses the issue of what kids currently respond to.
Thinking about this informs the choices for programs and activities. It may be letting the kids free play or explore activities on their own with gentle guidance from us. If it's not a DIY craft or activity event, I think about how I want to incorporate books into the program - booktalking, talking about the book creator or their art or writing style or life or what people are talking about in relation to them, or starting a conversation with the kids and letting them talk about the books and reading - stuff that unlocks the books for the kids and gets them excited about the material. It's like extending and enriching the story.
Most kids are using the library and coming to programs because they like reading or books or our materials or us in some way. So rather than ignoring that aspect I look for ways to celebrate it in fun and creative ways. The result is a relaxed preparation, less emphasis on crafting and more on chatting and activities that tie directly into books or the library. Kids like it. Boom! Unprogrammed!
I hope to explore the concept of unprogramming and playing with programs a few more times in coming months (this is my first stab; I've been noodling at it for awhile which clearly accounts for its wandering nature). I am in good company with more and more bloggers sharing not just program content but their thinking beyond what they do - seems like there's plenty to talk about!
Cen Campbell has a guest post up at ALSC blog that encourages youth librarians in particular to get out of the echo chamber and really interact with and respond to their community. I love her seven steps that are a literal kick in the butt to engage and be engaged.
We all need reminders to get out of the lanes we're in and think beyond what we've always done. It's challenging; it's hard but it's worth it. What are you going to do this year to shake up your routine and really learn, build and serve your community?
Image: 'Grace and poise?' http://www.flickr.com/photos/92814092@N00/477256270 Found on flickrcc.net