Going to School On Summer Learning/Library Programs

Are you feeling a sense of ennui or dread about your upcoming summer library program?  Are you ready to blast the top off it and re-imagine it as a fun, meaningful feast of discovery, adventure and literacy/learning support for kids?

Join my fab colleague Sue Abrahamson, children's librarian and long-time SLP change agent and me as we teach a 4 week continuing ed course: Creating the SLP of Your Dreams, January 28-Feb 24. We'll look at why we do summer programs, myths and reality of effective programs and look at tips and ways to create programs that fit your community and support kids ongoing learning.

From resources to crowd-sourced wisdom and experience shared by participants, we'll look at approaching SLPs with new ideas and energy. Hope you can join us (10% discount if registered by January 7!).

And don't forget to check out the other amazing youth centered CE that the UW-Mdison iSchool CE Dept is offering after the first of the year!


"Fine Free Libraries" Local TEDX Talk Goes National

I want to share some fun news about a colleague of ours, Dawn Wacek.

Earlier this year Dawn was invited by the local TedX hosts at UW-La Crosse to share an "idea worth spreading" - her ideas about creating fine-free libraries. Her talk caught the attention of the curation team at the international TED level and today, her talk was featured on the main page of the national TedX website! It's been fun watching the views head towards 180K.

Dawn, who is the manager of youth services at La Crosse (WI) Public Library, has been a fierce advocate for equitable access in the libraries she works at. It has been great watching the transformation of the youth area and the approach she has brought and encouraged among the staff to make the library more welcoming, more inclusive and a focal point of community for youth and caregivers. 

We're all happy to see this issue so eloquently advocated for by Dawn!


Why Conferences and Associations?

After a great conference I often reflect on why I think professional conferences and association memberships are so important. I had a whirlwind of fall events (ALSC Institute; MN and WI Library Associations; WI Reach Out and Read conference) and I had some thoughts on their importance!

Not just from interesting sessions but also from hallway conversations with new and old friends in libraries and areas of library work we all share.

We get to meet book creators and publishers and look through forthcoming titles that make us more knowledgeable. 

They have major speakers who help us and inspire us about our libraries and our work. While we can read award winning youth book award speeches, to be in the audience to hear their passionate and heartfelt remarks is inspirational!

Every conference allows us a chance to get to know a city a little better.

Publishers, book creators and speakers share their appreciation of the daily work we do. My spirit is always refreshed and my well of energy replenished so I go back ready to dive back in and work hard for my communities.

No matter what size library we come from, we can make our voices heard on important library issues WE care about.

Our professional membership means that we support legislative efforts, webinars, classes, booklists, book awards, and efforts to promote libraries of all types and sizes in America. That collective power moves mountains.

Our dues mean we are investors in keeping libraries healthy, supported and strong in ALL our communities in the state and nation. 

We can benefit from what we receive from our associations. But even more importantly, we can volunteer to move library work forward, represent libraries of OUR size, and develop into powerful advocates and leaders thanks to being more involved in association work. This amounts to a strong investment in ourselves and strengthening ourselves as librarians.

I hope you consider becoming an association member or attending local or national conferences. You truly reap far more than the dues you pay. I can honestly say, I would not be the librarian I am today without the support, opportunities, networking and learning that occurred and occurs through my membership and activity in state and national associations.

Wait, dues and costs too expensive? I hear you. Here's something that worked for me to help me afford them when my library couldn't support my attendance financially: 

Do you ever get tired of receiving heart-felt but sometimes useless things from the people you love during holiday or gift-giving?  Why don't you see if family members would give you a gift of membership to a professional association you love but pinch pennies - or can't afford- to join! My mom and my partner used to do that for me and I loved them for it (along with the zillion other ways I loved them!)! And no more bread-making machines, knitted mittens in day-go colors or card tables. Win-win!


Don't Be Fooled By the Weed-After-5-Years Myth

Pixabay image
In my consulting work with youth staffers at all sizes of libraries, I regularly run into  the belief that information books should be weeded after five years. While this may be true in adult information book collections (I doubt it, though), it is a slippery slope in youth information book collections.

Some areas of information books beg to be updated. Books about states or countries - although for my money database subscriptions and no print in this area make far more financial sense; books on technology; gaming; internet, coding and etc; some applied science and general science; updated information on social issues, cultures and history reflective not of a white majority viewpoint but of  people representative of the culture or marginalized group are just a few examples of areas that need frequent updating due to fast-changing information.

Other information books have content that is fairly timeless. The phases of the moon; the water cycle; mythology; biography; animals; pets; maker-crafts are examples.

So weeding calls for far more nuance than an every-five-years-toss.

I wonder whether a reliance on series non-fiction, many of which are "revised" frequently, fuels the 5-year-weed rule in youth books. While publishers of series nonfiction tout their oft-revised editions, careful examination of the revision often reveals that only 2-4 pages have been changed - one is inevitably the copyright page and the matching page in the signature which may feature a new photograph or box of information. The revision is slight but the spending of precious budget money to purchase the "revised" edition is huge. The old copy is weeded and the new one acquired.

While this may work for series nonfiction, it is a killer for quality information books.

Overall, the number of high quality information books published outside of series NF quality is fairly small. Information books that excite and inform with clear text, high quality writing;  illustration/photography that matches and enhances the text and a true respect for children's and teen's understanding are wonderful and rare. When I served on the Siebert Committee, each quality book, even if it wasn't honored by the award, was a cause for celebration (a book on coyotes! a book on Congo Square! a book on the White Rose movement! a book on Basquiat!).

When a quality information book is published, the care taken by the author, editor and publisher most often produces a timeless book whose purpose is to create a work of lasting information value for youth. They can be benchmark books that can used in collections for decades.

A biography like Barton's The Day Glo brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer's bright ideas and brand-new colors (2009); Gibbons' Cars and how they go (1983); D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths (1962); Branley's The Moon Seems to Change (1987) are just a few examples of information books whose information and presentation for kids have stood the test of time. There are lots more we can think of.

Authors/illustrators produce information books on subjects that might be addressed once every two or three decades - or even longer. Book creators like Russell Freedman, Jason Chin, Jean Fritz, April Sayre, Sy Montgomery, Kadir Nelson, Larry Dane Brimmer, Candace Fleming, Barbara Kerley, Jim Murphy, Carol Boston Weatherford, Steve Sheinkin, Phillip Hoose, Jan Greenburg, Nic Bishop, Ann Bausam, Susan Campbell Bartoletti and a host of others often write books that can be part of collections for generations.

By using a rigid five year weeding rule, we run the very real danger of eliminating books of great worth in our information book collections.

So before just looking at copyright date on information books, we need to look at the subject, how it is treated, whether there are other books of quality that address the subject and consider keeping a high quality nonfiction book with information that is still relevant and illustrative material that still works.

Our collections are deeper and better when we think beyond five year weeds to the true nature of quality information books for kids.


Youth Librarian as Guide and Sister?

I appreciated this recent reflection on "parenting like a librarian" from Michelle Woo, writing for Lifehacker. In the article she references the work of John Holt, unschooling pioneer, and his belief that parents need to "get out the way" and allow kids to discover.  Woo then compares that advice to how we in the library world do just that: offer diverse choices; don't dictate what to read; take part in the cultural conversation; and help people follow their interests.

Pixabay Image

This dovetails with something I share with grad students in my classes when we examine history and current practice in youth librarianship.

"Precepts and Practices" by Christine Jenkins published in the September/October 1999 issue of Hornbook has a much quoted set of  beliefs or central concepts in children's librarianship  that are part of our history as well as very present in our current librarianship. One of the seven beliefs she explicates is the the belief that children's librarians have "a friendly and unsentimental older sister's attitude towards children."

This particular description is one that often elicits the most discussion and controversy from students. (sometimes I wonder whether its because students might have fraught sibling relationships). So as I teach, I have given alot of thought to this. I think part of this belief description is turning away from the concept of youth librarians as motherly or grandmotherly; away from the concept of youth librarians as bosses; away from the concept of youth librarians as teachers.

Rather, the description enfolds the best of what an older sibling can provide: pathfinding guidance; experience; and support. Woo's article comes at this in much the same way and really speaks to me about how we approach our work with people of any age that use the library.

I like it!


Working on a Growth Mindset

Pixabay image

I was struck by a 2015 post on the InformED website that Stephen Abrams linked to on cultivating a growth mindset.

It wraps into much of my thinking as someone who feels like a day is a lost cause if I don't learn something new - about the profession, about myself, about the world (both locally, regionally and globally), about how others experience the world. Learning is what I do.

Sharing that learning is also what I do. I have been teaching and sharing through classes, lectures, presentations, mentoring, informal chats in hallways, linking people to people, (more recently) this blog for more than thirty years.  We are lucky to be in a marvelously connected profession where we can celebrate all the ways of knowing and providing services.

Over all that time my thinking and consideration of youth work has grown and changed as I have absorbed far more than I shared from my reading, listening and attendance at conferences.

Most recently, I was struck by the learning that went on at the ALSC Institute in Cincinnati. Sessions were focused on research and on "how I run my library good". The research was bracing. The practical sessions included not just the triumphs but honest assessments of the rocky path there - the obstacles, fails and solutions that made the project or plan truly work for each community.

A key to this conference is that it really is all learning all the time - not just in information sessions -and provides ample time to connect with and meet many new people. Because the Institutes are located in areas that ALA conferences never come to, it is an extraordinary opportunity to meet library staff from the regions surrounding the conference and learn a ton. I came knowing very few people and left knowing lots of new colleagues that I met during breaks, at receptions, at meals and sitting next to me at sessions. It's exciting not just to hang out with people you know but to reach out and include everyone.

That personal learning is powerful especially at a conference whose theme was diversity and inclusion. My take-aways included learning about links to inclusive programming; the importance of identity in programming, and sharpening my eye in terms of decolonializing book selection and my work in making sure I do this. It made the closing session a painful reminder of how there is much work to be done here and I need to be part of that work in my sharing and learning.

Growth mindset. Learning. A sense of and a re-commitment to: "We can all do better".


Power Up Conference is Coming!

The University of WI iSchool Continuing Education Department has opened up registration for its 2nd Power Up Leadership Conference for Youth Library Managers and Staff, March 29-20, 2019.

This day and a half conference with inspiring keynotes and amazing sessions spans two days  at the beautiful UW-Madison campus' Pyle Center. There are 18 different presentations to choose from as well as amazing networking opportunities to share ideas and learn informally with youth services leader/peers.

Speakers from around the US and homegrown WI children's librarian powerhouses will be your guides to learning.

The first Power Up Conference filled up quickly so don't delay in registering for this extraordinary opportunity!


Eleven is Heaven - Happy Birthday TTFLF!

If it's fall, it means it's time to celebrate!!
Pixabay image

Begun in the wild digital learning days of Web 2.0, this blog grew from an assignment into a place to think, share, learn and ponder over the past decade plus.

It has been an extraordinary opportunity to reach out and meet many colleagues and friends -  peers who work so tirelessly everyday on behalf of kids and families. The networking, linking and opportunities that resulted have enriched my practice of the profession and my life in a deep and profound way.

Thank you, dear readers, for being part of the blogging community as writers and readers and for reaching out to me and for sharing this amazing passionate journey we call youth librarianship. What an extraordinary adventure!


The Importance of Being at the Table

I'm at the ALSC institute this week in Cincinnati with a few hundred sister and brother youth librarians learning a ton and meeting many new colleagues. What I love about these biennial Institutes is the concentrated sessions with plenty of time network with regional librarians who don't often get the opportunity to attend ALA conferences. There is no committee work so all our time is learning and connecting with new friends.

This year, the overarching theme is the importance of making sure we get everyone at the table. We in youth librarianship should be leaders in inclusion, equity and diversity.

The programs so far have really celebrated this concept with thoughtful reflections and stirring calls to action on identity in children's programming; decolonializing our book selection methods; demystifying advocacy; true advocacy that recognizes every child and so much more yet to come in the next two days.

I will be presenting on the importance of reaching out and being a leader in connecting community and library to benefit all kids. It's exciting to be part of the group of energetic and innovative colleagues sharing programs, thoughts and action..

The next Institute will be held in Minneapolis MN Oct 1-3, 2020. You might want to mark your calendars now for this immersive experience.


Hey, Hey Harry Potter!

Whenever an anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book or HP's birthday rolls around and I read posts celebrating the milestone, I get nostalgic.

As a fantasy lover, I had HP and the Sorceror's Stone with me on an urgent care visit just after it was published. The doctor and I were chatting about my library work and the large children's book I had in hand. Then he asked if I could answer a reference question. He had been listening to a review of a children's fantasy book on public radio and thought he heard the word "muddles" or "muggles" mentioned. I laughed and said, "This is the book and it's great!" He still read to his teen-age children  and had been intrigued by the review. I laughed and said, "You can't go wrong with this book!"

The moment of kismet told me something special was happening around this book. And the ensuing embrace of the Harry Potter literary universe reinforced that sense.

When the second book was published in Great Britain six months before the American edition, I purchased it immediately on Amazon UK. I did the same for the third book even though the publication was done simultaneously in both countries. I purchased Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone too! I loved reading the British words and expressions in those original versions.

By the third book, we began having a weekly Harry Potter afterschool read-alouds for kids and families. A homeschool parent and I tag-teamed reading for the hour. And it took months. It was heaven. The group became a club that went together to see the first - and subsequent - Harry Potter movies.

Long car trips flew by as my partner and I listened to both the British and American editions of the audiobooks. And of course we purchased the movies for our own home library (although our first loyalty remains with the books).

We began holding Harry Potter sleep-over parties at the library on the eve of publication of the new books. Kids and parents came in costume, we played HP movie soundtrack music over the PA system and we held classes, adventures and feasts. At the stroke of midnight, we would "open" the wholesaler's box with the newest book (all cataloged and covered) and begin reading. The kids were mesmerized until they nodded off (the last one usually hung on until 4 am). When they awoke, the kids were never crabby- they all had been captivated by the magic of the book and the library after hours.

Over the years, we booktalked, recommended read-alikes, talked with kids and parents about the books and kept buying enough copies to fill the requests and always have a least a copy on the shelves.

So here's to JK Rowling and her HP books. They shone a spotlight on reading and enjoying books that lasted long past the time I ever expected! And they enriched my reading and library work immeasurably.


Wanna Know ALL.THE.THINGS. in YS-ville?

Pixabay image

Well, actually I can't *quite* guarantee that but I can open the door to learning a passle of useful information on creating amazing Youth Services in the library.

I'm back in the CE saddle again in September teaching an 8 week basics course on Youth Services called Youth Services 101 at University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool Continuing Ed Dept.  This course is perfect for library assistants, associates, directors of small libraries who wear ALL the hats, part-timers and full-timers...really, anyone who would like a more solid grounding in working with kids birth though age 18 and their families.

We'll look at child and adolescent development, programming power, outreach, library spaces, advocacy, savvy planning, service trends, teamwork and more. Its a chance to take a course based on the youth services coursework of Masters Degree in Library and Info Science students - so you'll be in the know.

The course is practical, lets you share your thoughts, challenges and successes and gives you the big picture thinking to increase your confidence in working with youth in your community.

Hope you can join me this fall as we learn and share together!


Power Up Conference - Last Call for Proposals

And now a word from our colleague, Meredith Lowe, Continuing Education Services at The Information School at UW-Madison:

Do you have ideas to share about management and leadership in Youth Services? The University of Wisconsin-Madison Information School is pleased to offer the second Power Up Conference to share your exciting ideas! The conference will take place in Madison, Wisconsin on March 28-29, 2019. The program committee will be accepting proposals until August 3, 2018.

Topics may include, but are not limited to: strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation, and innovation. Youth services librarians and staff from public libraries, schools, after-school programs, museums, etc. are invited to attend – we had 142 attendees from 20 states at the 2017 conference! More about the conference, including information about past conferences, is here

Our opening keynote address speaker is Andrew Medlar, former ALSC President and current director of BookOps, serving the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. Our closing keynote will be presented by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Statement
The Program Committee encourages a diversity of presenters representing a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, perspectives, and voices. We encourage submissions from anyone who is interested in presenting, including students, new professionals, first-time presenters, and representatives of allied professions.

Proposal Evaluation
The committee will evaluate all of the submissions as individual entries, and how they fit within the balance of conference content as a whole. The Program Committee will evaluate all proposals submitted by the deadline using the following criteria:
• Clarity and completeness of the proposal, particularly having well-developed content and sufficient speakers to address all relevant aspects of the topic;
• Originality and relevance of the proposed topic;
• Uniqueness of content in relation to other conference presentations;
• A range of speaker experiences and representations
How to submit a proposal

Please submit a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Meredith Lowe, by August 3, 2018. Sessions at the conference will be one hour. Please include an additional sentence or two about how this proposal aligns with our diversity, inclusion and equity statement outlined above. Note that the proposal will not be the finalized description for the conference program; the committee will contact selected proposal submitters for a final draft.

Panel presentations are accepted. All selected proposals will receive one complimentary conference registration ($300 value), which may be divided however the presenters of that session choose.


Let's Power Up Conference!

Do you have ideas to share about management and leadership in Youth Services?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Information School announces their second Power Up conference on youth leadership and management March 28-29, 2019 and this is YOUR chance to pitch your exciting ideas for a session proposal. 

The first conference was amazing, deep, dynamic and 100% empowering. The second promises the same with new voices, content and powerful networking opportunities.

Topics can include (but aren't limited to): strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation and innovation.  Pitch a panel; pitch a solo prezi; pitch a session that pushes the envelope. Proposals are due August 3 but don't delay!

And stay updated on the conference's Facebook page.


Heading to WEMTA

I'm excited to be heading to the WI Educational Media and Technology Association conference over the next few days to hang out with my school library colleagues and friends. I do a quick presentation on creating a dynamite youth info book collection today that I've presented in WA and in one of our northern WI systems based on my Sibert Award committee work.

Joining me are other YSS members who pitched programs to present to our school colleagues. It will be fabulous learning.

For me,  the real fun starts Monday when I am staffing a booth for our WI Library Association and Youth Services Section inviting our school colleagues to learn more about - and maybe even join - WLA/YSS. I look forward to chatting and re-connecting with lots of school colleagues and having them play at the booth! Every hour, people who stop at the booth can vote on a new pairing of book characters (gets us ready for our April 2 statewide voting!!)

I hope to see lots of friends there...maybe even you! Stop by and say hi!!


Library Consulting - Staying Connected

One part of my regular system-level consulting work with 28 member libraries involves keeping our  youth staff up-to-date and connected on news of note. Each week, I send out a quick newsletter with info that happens throughout the previous week, upcoming workshops, member tips, an occasional mini-consult on a burning question or expressed need (I survey the librarians biennially).  I think it's important to stay connected and thoughtful about what staff need to do their jobs. Here is this week's email newsletter.

Happy Spring-Equinox SWLS Youth Newsletter

Hi everyone,

Great to start seeing you all. Expect contacts within the next few weeks to book the rest of the year's visits to your library!

Please fill in your order by Friday April 6.

Linda at Cobb recommends Dubuque's Smithsonian National Mississippi River Museum's Outreach programs  For $175 and $.65 a mile you get a dynamic science based program! Details are here (price breaks for multiple sessions of same program)

Generally, almost all links in the newsletter are archived on our SWLS Youth Pinterest page! 

Friday April 13  9:00-2:00 pm,  
SWLS headquarters
Join Anna Stange for a hands-on, music-themed summer library program workshop that will  give you a lift and the inside scoop on confidently presenting and doing music with children and teens.  Discover new ways to use music and rhythm, chanting and poetry, beats and boxes (maybe even bottle caps!) in this interactive workshop. There will be time to share your ideas with everyone for the upcoming summer as well as tweak them based on what you learn at the workshop!  Anna Stange, a musician, singer, former elementary school teacher and longtime music teacher in the Chicago area, incorporates music and the arts into all aspects of her work. She warmly inspires participants through many styles of learning and engagement.
We will be distributing free books gleaned from the kits at the workshop. Don't miss your chance to take fistfuls home for prizes or your collections.

Tessa did a blog post with more detailed information about the workshops I mentioned last week.These workshops are different from our hoped-for mid-August SWLS school/public library collaboration workshop that we are still planning!

The first ever! Hope to see you there. You don't need to be a member of WLA or of WISL to attend. Please share this invite with another librarian!

MINI-CONSULT - STEM RESOURCES (also posted on our SWLS Pinterest Page)
Information on programs (active and passive) with STEM content has been a consistent request from lots of you. While we can't have a STEM system level workshop like Lisa Shaia's every year, we can still connect to great resources. Please try these and program madly and STEM-ly!!

Sowing Seeds Librarian blog - SWLS' own Emly Zorea has a super helpful blog in which she shares programs on STEM and Coding (among other things. If you are not subscribed to it, I highly recommend it).

PBS Design Squad - Lots of great do-able science-based ideas on this website.

STEM in Libraries blog - with the tagline: "We are scientists...library scientists" you know you are in the right place. A TON of programs.

STARNET STEM Activity Clearinghouse - vetted programs and activities perfect for libraries.

Teachers are Terrific webpage -   a TON of cheap and well-designed lesson plans for various elementary grades

Jbrary blog post on STEM resources - a one-stop shop of blogs and websites by the rpolific early literacy video gurus!

As always if you have questions or concerns, some news or pix to share with everyone, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.