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The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, children’s literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and others who work with children.
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1. Blowing the Best Bubbles: Part 2

This summer has been a busy one full of fun science programs at my library.  A couple of months ago, I blogged my plans for a preschool bubble lab that I had scheduled in July. I thought I’d write a follow up post about how the program turned out.


photo by Michelle Willis

A few days before the program, I prepared my bubble solutions according to the recipes I had found. I labeled the jars but decided to add a few drops of food coloring to two of them so each would be a different color.

On the day of the program, we set up each table with a cup of each bubble solution, observation charts for the children, and my volunteers. We were ready to go.  The first snag we ran into was that the combination of it having rained heavily for several days prior to the program and the general excitement over bubbles made for a rather energetic group. It was easy to see that they did not have the patience for a book reading, so I did a very abridged reading of the book I had planned, just covering how and why bubbles form.

We then moved on to our discussion of the day’s activity. When we talked about the various bubble solutions that we were going to test and I tried to elicit observations from the children about the three solutions, we ran into a second snag. What became immediately obvious was that I should have left the solutions the same color. Although the solutions with the glycerine and the corn syrup were slightly more viscous than the detergent solution, the children focused in on the difference in color alone. There was no convincing them that the color did not matter, so we moved on to the next part of the program.

photo by Michelle Willis

photo by Michelle Willis

We divided into groups to test the solutions. This was the moment we were all waiting for and, to my relief, there were no snags. We tested each solution in turn and each child was able to try each one. They drew their observations on their observation charts and we worked as a group to determine which solution we thought was easiest to blow bubbles with and which we thought had bubbles that lasted longest.  When we gathered together again to share our results with the other groups, it was clear that the solutions with the glycerine and the corn syrup worked best. We talked about why this is the case and even hypothesized about how if we added more glycerine or more corn syrup, the bubbles might last even longer.


Bubble Observations

Judging by how the children were eagerly explaining their observations to their caregivers and how many came back to tell me they made their own bubbles at home, I would call the program a success. The children left with knowledge about bubbles and I left with the knowledge that sometimes programming is like science.  Things may not work out quite as you expect but the end result is still worthwhile.


Michelle Willis works as the Head of Children’s Services at the Scotch Plains Public Library in Scotch Plains, NJ and a member of the Early Childhood Programs and Services committee.

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2. What’s So Funny? Or How I Met Jon Scieszka Three Times in One Day

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

There were many things that made me laugh in Las Vegas at ALA Annual this year. There were zany, homemade costumes worn by street performers and sky high food prices (an $18 burger? You can’t be serious), but the best laughs were found inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. This being my first ALA Annual, I had spent a lot of time in advance researching which authors and illustrators would be visiting the publisher’s booths in the exhibit hall. When I looked at my final list, I realized that many of these picture book icons had one thing in common: they all wrote or illustrated humorous books that I love to use in Storytime. Following are my experiences in just one day of ALA Annual in which I met these talented people and ways in which you can use their books in preschool or family Storytime.

Jon Scieszka (1st time)

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

9:00am – I signed up for YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch for several reasons, but the top reason was a chance to meet Jon Scieszka. I was five years old when The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was published (the book celebrates its 25th anniversary this year) and eight when my mom brought home an autographed copy of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. She had just met Scieszka at a teacher’s conference. I had never seen an autographed book before and thought it was pretty much the coolest thing in the world. I read the story many times and continued to read any Scieszka books I could get my hands on all the way into adulthood. So, when the other young adult author enthusiasts at my Coffee Klatch table asked which author I was most excited to meet, you know what I said. Wouldn’t you know that when the whistle blew and the authors made their way to each table that Jon Scieszka came to our table first. And sat right next to me. Scieszka talked about the first book in his new series, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor which will be released on August 19th. Since each author only got five minutes at each table, there wasn’t much time for me to tell Scieszka how influential he has been on my life. It’s a good thing I got a few more chances!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
in Storytime:

In advance, gather several items and place in a large bucket, basket or cauldron. Three pig toys or puppets, one wolf toy or puppet, a bundle of sticks, straw, a toy brick, box of cake mix or bag of sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles.

Before reading the story, inform the kids that you have gathered some items for your ‘story bucket’ and you need their help to figure out which popular folk tale you’re going to be reading to them. Pull out the sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles before the others and see if they can guess what the story it about and who the characters might be.

After the story, sing “The Three Little Pig Blues” from Greg & Steve Playing Favorites. Shakers are a nice addition to this song. Have children huff & puff and say “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!” during the song.

Since it is the 25th anniversary of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the wolf is attempting to bake a cake for his granny, end the program with cupcakes!

Dan Santat

11:00am – As I waited in line for Dan Santat, I called my mother in Ohio and told her that I had just sat next to my childhood hero, Jon Scieszka for coffee. She was very excited for me and recalled her experience meeting him all those years ago. I told her that I hoped for another chance to meet him and to get his autograph.

As a huge fan of The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat, I was definitely eager to meet Santat. I practically squealed with delight when I discovered the free book he was signing was the follow-up to Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood. If you haven’t read these books you’re missing out. Ninja Pigs would make a nice addition to the “Three Little Pigs” Storytime theme. Another great book of Santat’s to use in a “Bad Moods” themed Storytime is Crankenstein.

Crankenstein in Storytime:

During the story, have children moan and groan along with Crankenstein. Make sure to get into it yourself! Other good books to use in this Storytime are The Three Grumpies by Tamra Wight, The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and The Not-So-Scary Snorklum by Paul Bright.

Songs and Rhymes:

Five Cranky Crabs

Old MacDonald Felt So Glad
Storytimes for Two-Year-Olds by Judy Nichols, second edition

I’m So Mad
Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes audio CD

Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

1:30pm – I couldn’t believe I was one of the first people in line for Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. Both have exceptional talent and have published many award-winning and beloved children’s books. Put them together and you’ve got something magical called Extra Yarn, a 2013 Caldecott Honor recipient. When many authors and illustrators are signing books at the same time at ALA Annual things can get a little crazy in the exhibit hall. Often there are no signs to mark which line is for whom and where it ends. You may find yourself arriving at a booth only to find the end of the queue is somewhere in the next aisle at the back of the hall. I took great pleasure in telling people that I was near the front of the line. However, I found myself getting rather annoyed that people kept asking, “Is this the line for Jon Klassen?” and overlooking the fact that another very talented person was appearing with him! I understand that Klassen has won the Caldecott Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and numerous other awards but he was not the funny man I was there to meet. In my opinion, Mac Barnett is a comic genius bringing the library world some fantastic read-aloud stories including Count the Monkeys, Mustache!, Guess Again, and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath. He has also written a hilarious mystery series for middle grade readers called The Brixton Brothers.

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

I was definitely star struck when it was my turn to meet Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I practically ignored Klassen and told Barnett how much of a fangirl I am for his work. I told him, “I want you to know that everyone has been saying this is the Jon Klassen line and I keep telling them it is the Mac Barnett line.” Well, Barnett thought this comment was hilarious and elbowed Klassen saying, “Did you hear that Jon? She said it’s the Mac Barnett line! Ha! I have fans, too!” Barnett took several photos with me and even purposely made Klassen lean farther out of the frame for one of them.

Count the Monkeys in Storytime:

I used this book during an evening family Storytime with much success. The book requires audience participation to help count the monkeys (which don’t actually appear in the book at all because they are scared of the various other animals in the book). Toward the end of the book, have a surprise guest reader sneak in the back of the room dressed as one of the lumberjacks from the book. He or she can carry mini flapjacks to share as a snack.

Extra Yarn in Storytime:

Extension activities to use before or after reading the story:
Have children and parents sit in a circle and toss a skein of rainbow yarn across the circle to someone. Have them loop the yarn around their finger and toss the rest to someone else. After the yarn has been tossed at least once to everyone, talk about the web you’ve made and how each person is important to your web and your world. If someone leaves the group, part of the web falls away. Have one or two people drop their yarn to illustrate this. Compare this to Annabelle’s magical yarn and how she uses it to change her world in the story.

Dancing Sheep action rhyme by Susan Dailey
(Use a sheep or llama puppet for extra fun)

Mustache! in Storytime:

In the book, King Duncan hangs giant banners and posters of himself all around his kingdom as a “gift” to his people only to find that his subjects have painted mustaches on all of them. After reading the book, give children a washable marker and a picture from a magazine (or a copy of Duncan’s face!) and let them graffiti the picture with mustaches. Other fun books to read with this theme: Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton. For songs give each child a paper or fake mustache to hold and adapt Woodie Guthrie’s song “Put Your Finger in the Air” to “Put Your Mustache in the Air.”

Mustache Song:
(author unknown)
You are my mustache, my trendy mustache.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
So please don’t shave my mustache away.

Jon Scieszka (2nd time)

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

2:00pm – This line was very long. Clearly, I was not the only fan of Scieszka’s at ALA and I was worried I would be too far back in line to actually receive a free book. Sure enough, when the representative from Penguin Young Readers Group approached me as I neared the front of the line, I was not surprised that they were nearly out of books. I asked if I could have him sign something else (I brought a special tote bag for just this purpose) and she said yes. However, as I got even closer to the front of the line I was handed a book! Some had left the line thinking they were not getting a book which turned out very nicely for me indeed. I received my copy of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and stepped up to have it signed. “Back for more, eh?” Scieszka said to me. He remembered me from that morning! Hooray! I told him the story about my mom bringing home his book so many years ago and how I had talked to her earlier that day to tell her how thrilled I was that we both finally got to share the experience of meeting him. He said, “That’s great. Tell your mom I miss her.” What a great guy.

Tom Angleberger

4:00pm – I was glad my husband, Travis, had tagged along to Las Vegas because he got the chance to meet Tom Angleberger with me. Travis has read all of the Origami Yoda books by Angleberger and I really enjoy his picture book, Crankee Doodle. Angleberger was just as we expected. Wearing a Rebel Alliance baseball cap and nerdy t-shirt, he looked like he had just stepped off the pages of one of his books. He was very gracious and friendly. We look forward to reading the final installment of Origami Yoda, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus.

Crankee Doodle in Storytime:

This book just begs to be read aloud by two actors/librarians. After seeing this book performed in a similar fashion, I just had to do it during a family Storytime because it’s fun for both children and adults. Young children may not understand the reference to the song, Yankee Doodle, but older children and parents think it’s hilarious. In the book, Crankee Doodle’s pony tries to convince him to go to town to buy a new hat, but Crankee doesn’t want anything to do with going to town. Read this book using a horse puppet for the pony’s part and a tri-corner hat (we made one out of paper) and baseball cap for Crankee’s part. Follow up with a rousing sing-along of the original song.

Mac Barnett & Jon Scieszka (3rd time)

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

4:30pm – Proof that dreams really do come true, I got to end the day chatting with both Barnett and Sciezska at the same time. Both remembered me and actually told each other about our previous meetings and posed with me for the most memorable photo of all. Barnett and Scieszka co-wrote a book called Battle Bunny, a “deliciously subversive piece of metafiction” according to Booklist. I told the authors that I love the book, but I am worried that library patrons will start to scribble all over future books using this one as inspiration. I haven’t yet figured out how to use this one in Storytime, but Barnett informed me that if you go to http://mybirthdaybunny.com/make-your-own/ readers can download and print the pages for their very own bunny story. Perhaps I will make my own called Funny Bunny and turn all of the fluffy animal characters into children’s book authors that I met one day in Las Vegas.

(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)


BookOur guest blogger today is Rikki Unterbrink. Rikki was a 2014 Penguin Young Readers grant recipient and is the Youth Services Director for Shelby County Libraries in Sidney, Ohio. She is a co-creator of the Teen Think Tank, a grass roots roundtable for teen and tween librarians in Ohio, a member of the Teen Services Division of the Ohio Library Council and a book reviewer for the Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group. This year she also received the Penguin Young Readers Award to attend her first ALA Annual. Rikki enjoys presenting at numerous conferences, performing family Storytimes, dressing up in hilarious costumes and playing with puppets at the library. She lives in Wapakoneta, Ohio with her handsome, band director husband (their life is just like The Music Man) and three crazy but charming cats, Ron Weasley, Katniss Everdeen and Chandler Bing (he’s adopted). You can find her posting for the Shelby County Libraries Facebook page, reviewing on Goodreads or you may contact her by email at steingri@oplin.org.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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3. Keep the Conversation Going – Services and Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays.  I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.

Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources.  Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs.  If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants.  This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.

One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals.  Communication with parents can be twofold.  It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community.  Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own.  Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.

I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs.  One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities.  I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned.  This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library.  You will learn more as you do more.  You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know.  Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.

Professional Development:

Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities


Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)


Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility – What you need to know


SNAILS – Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services


Resources and Examples:

Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.


Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children


Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time



Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries – Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada.  She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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4. The Benefits of Virtual Committees

Over the last few years many ALA divisions, including ALSC, have transitioned to having more committees, tasks forces and other groups operate primarily if not wholly via virtual methods. While ALSC continues to acknowledge the need for several committees to conduct much of their work face to face, several committees have successfully transitioned to entirely virtual, and all committees are encouraged to make use of ALA Connect and other tools to conduct some of their work.

The change toward more virtual work provides numerous benefits to individual members as well the organization and profession as a whole.

• Recruiting a wider pool of members and talent – Many current and potential members do not have the luxury of travelling to conferences regularly. This may be due to cost, family commitments, health restrictions, job restrictions or other possible reasons. Previously some members did not seek appointment or turned down opportunities due to conference attendance requirements. The opportunity to participate regardless of these obstacles provides many members a greater sense of involvement and allows more of ALSC’s many talented members to participate and contribute.

• Recruitment and retention of members – The ability to contribute also encourages more members of the profession to initiate or continue membership.

• Increased productivity – Committees designated as virtual conduct few if any meetings face-to-face but tend to meet frequently – at least once per month. The ability to meet virtually, usually via ALA Connect’s chat feature, enables committees to have brief meetings often as opposed to waiting until conference to meet. Many face-to-face committees take advantage of the ability to meet virtually between conferences as well. The frequent meetings keep projects moving forward and allow committees to accomplish more.

• Better attendance at conference sessions – Members of virtual committees who are able to attend conference will have greater flexibility to attend and present sessions rather than being tied to committee meetings. It also enables members greater flexibility to serve on multiple committees either within ALSC or across divisions by freeing up conference meeting time.

Many virtual chairs and members of committees have had positive experiences serving on virtual committees:

“As co-chair of the Great Websites for Kids Committee (2012-2014), my mission is to work with a committee of nine members in maintaining the ALSC Great Websites site. Working virtually, committee members are able to accomplish a rigorous amount of work while keeping strict deadlines. At the same time we have established an online rapport and have had the luxury of occasionally meeting each other in person at midwinter or annual conferences. Committee members have often remarked how they feel that this committee is particularly unique in that we have been able to accomplish so much each year.” Kimberly Grad, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library

Virtual committees have some unique challenges. One of the biggest concerns virtual committee members mention is the challenge of achieving the rapport and personal connection with each other that people develop during face-to-face interaction. The META team is always seeking advice and tips for virtual committees and maintains a Best Practices resource on the ALSC wiki. If you have a suggestion or success story about developing the connections between virtual teams to share, please send to Jill Bickford at bickford@wblib.org.

– JIll Bickford for the Metamorphosis Team Task Force

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5. ALSC Online Courses: New Semester Begins Sept 8!

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

This fall, get back into the swing of professional development. A brand-new semester of ALSC online courses is now open for registration. Classes begin Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

Registrants will find that ALSC has increased the number of courses offering certified education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the IACET. Courses include:

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014
CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytelling with Puppets
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014

Storytime Tools
Four weeks, Sept. 8 – Oct. 3, 2014
CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC website at www.ala.org/alsced. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Education, Kristen Sutherland, 1-800-545-2433 ext 4026.

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6. District Days

Until September 7th, members of Congress will be at home tending to their constituents.  This time period, known as “District Days,” is a good time to touch base with both your Representatives in the House and your Senators to let them know about the importance of the work you do every day.

I know that most of you are tired, your Summer Reading program has just ended or is ending very soon and the start of the new school year is fast approaching, but here are some simple (and not so simple – for the energetic) things you can do:

  • If your summer reading challenge hasn’t ended yet and a big party to celebrate another successful summer is in the works, invite your legislators to it.  If it is over but you are hosting another event before Sept. 7th, invite them to that event.  You can find contact information for members here. The YALSA District Days site has some great information on how to plan an event and make it effective.
  • If your summer reading program is over, bring a photo album over to local Congressional offices, or if that won’t work, send it to them. You can ask kids to help you make it!  Some things you might include are:
    • Photos (of course) and or links to videos taken,
    • Statistics detailing the number of participants and the number of days, minutes or pages read (whatever measurement you use),
    • Statistics detailing the number of programs presented and the number of participants who attended,
    • Information linking the types of programs offered to their educational value (i.e. STEM programs, early literacy storytimes, etc.). http://www.edutopia.org/stw-college-career-stem-infographic; digitalyouth.ischool.uw.edu and click on the “Project Views” link,
    • Information on summer slip
    • Stories or comments from patrons about why they love summer reading and/or the library.
  • Personalized stories and numbers make a great combination. If an album won’t work, ask patrons to send comments individually to their representatives about how essential public libraries are to their daily lives.
  • Remember to check with your library administrators before the outreach begins to make sure everybody is on the same page.

Finally, if it is too late to do any of the above, remember to mark your calendars for a date in early June 2015 so that you can plan to participate next summer.  And, as always, stay tuned to this blog and our Everyday Advocacy weekly challenges for other things you can do during the year to advocate for your library.


Today’s post was written by Helen Bloch, Librarian 2 in Children’s Services at the Oakland Public Library, for the Advocacy and Legislation committee.

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7. Hurray for Another Year of Intellectual Freedom!

ALSC Intellectual Freedom Commitee members are looking forward to a third year of BBW 2013contributing to the ALSC Blog. Our blog posts are usually scheduled for the third Saturday of the month and we have a whole pile of interesting topic ideas to work through.

The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee serves as a liaison between ALSC and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and all other groups within ALA concerned with intellectual freedom; we advise the division on matters before the Office of Intellectual Freedom and their implication for library service to children; we make recommendations to the ALA IF Committee for changes to policies regarding library service to children; and we promote in-service and continuing education.

This year we are planning to follow our blog posts with an intellectual freedom themed discussion on ALSC-L and we are looking at some options for intellectual freedom trainings for youth services librarians. We have a busy year ahead of us!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns for the ALSC IF Committee. We would love to hear from you!

Heather Acerro, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair

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8. ALSC Member of the Month — Beth Munk

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Beth Munk.

photo 1(1)

Photo courtesy of Beth Munk

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I am the children’s services manager at the Kendallville Public Library. I have been overseeing programming, collections, and staff here for 10 years.

2. Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I joined ALSC around 4 years ago because I wanted to get more involved in the library profession.   I have served on various local and state agencies boards helping organizations to achieve their missions. I’ve been involved in the Indiana Library Federation and Children and Young Person Division (CYPD) conference planning committees for years but was really interested in taking things to the next level.   Joining ALSC has allowed me to connect with librarians across the country and discuss the future of our profession.

3. What motivates you?

Forward movement. People can be divided into two categories – Builders or Maintainers –I’m a builder. Builders are innovators, creators, and explorers. They not only get to create new services, projects, and programs, but they also get to find ways to expand and enhance what is already there.   I heard someone say once that they “hate sameness.” That’s me, I am consistently telling my staff that we did a great job, but what can we do to make it bigger? Better?

4. What are you proudest of having accomplished in your professional career?

The thing I’m most proud of in my professional career is helping to bring the library to LIFE for the youth of Kendallville. I have pushed myself and my staff to be “there” wherever that may be, and promote the connections in our life to what the library has to offer.

5. Favorite age of kids to work with?

I LOVE to work with students in the upper elementary (grades 3-6). This group is able to enjoy a great picture book and a fun activity, but are also able to delve into deep converstations and participate in a multi-step project.

6. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was little I went through a variety of careers that I was interested in…the one the stuck around the longest, was that of the sports broadcaster.   I went to Purdue University and received a degree in communications with the hopes of landing an on air job in the news.

7. What’s one “rule” you wished every librarian followed?

I wish every librarian would follow the “rule” to sometimes, “just give them the pickle!” This is a story told by Bob Farrell on the importance of customer service.   Basically, it boils down to sometimes you have to break the “rules.” What’s your “pickle” in your job/library? Is it more important than a happy customer?

8. Movies or plays?

This is a tough one, because I love both.   For many years I have travelled to Stratford, Canada with a group of high school kids to enjoy the Shakespearean festival and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any movie. BUT there is a time to curl up on the couch with your kids and belt out “Let it Snow,” just one more time.

9. Have you ever photobombed someone?

I do my very best to never ever be photographed for any reason, so I have never photobombed anyone, but almost every time someone sneaks a picture of me there is someone making some face in the background.

10. What do you love about your work?

I love so many things about my work, but probably my favorite part is meeting authors and listening to their stories about why they write, what they used to do, or just the silly things they have been through. This in itself is wonderful, but taking that to a group of 4th graders and getting the feeling that I’m giving them some secret insight into the book or author we’re discussing is awesome!


Thanks, Beth! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to alscblog@gmail.com; we’ll see what we can do.

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9. Consistency is Key

My library always has a huge turnout for our Summer Reading Program. My branch alone (one of ten in the system) has close to 5,000 kids and teens participate in our Summer Reading Program which means we are busy all summer long. For as long as I’ve worked at the library (eight years) we’ve always brought in hired performers once a week to help take the burden off of staff during a busy programming period. We also continue with our regular storytimes and offer many special programs done by staff.

This summer we decided to try something new. We offered consistent weekly programs for special age groups throughout the summer. We hosted “Monday Madness” for tweens-we defined tweens as grades 4-8. We also added a weekly STEM program called “Science Explorers” for grades K-5. The program was hosted at the same time, but the theme changed every week. Staff did everything from LEGOs and tea parties to the science of spiders, and building catapults.

What we discovered was something we had long suspected-our patrons loved having a consistent day and time set aside for certain age groups. Many parents mentioned how much they loved having a program day and time set aside just for the tweens who often feel left out in other programming. Since we limited registration to 25-30 participants for the Friday events the kids loved having a chance to explore all sorts of science topics in a smaller setting.

Offering weekly programs was a lot to take on in addition to our three days of storytimes a week, Thursday performers and additional programs like our dance party, digital storytimes, and evening storytimes. But it was worth it to add the additional programs to make sure we offered something for everyone all summer long.

We felt like we finally found a great programming formula that worked for our library during Summer Reading Program and we can’t wait to try it again next year.


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10. Work and Life

On a recent solo road trip, I grabbed a random book on CD from the 658s and ended up with “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance” by Tony Schwartz. This book was recently re-published under the title “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live”. This was one of the best ways that I could have spent my 10 hours on the road. I’m an exempt employee who loves my job, so I tend to struggle with my work life balance, often leaning towards more work and less life.

The basic idea of the book is that we have four core needs that help us perform at our best: security, self-expression, significance & sustainability. We need to make sure that these needs are met so that we can be more efficient and focused when we are at work.

Significance: This is the “why” of your work. Why do you get up in the morning?

Security: Feeling accepted and appreciated for who you are.

Self-Expression: The ability to use your unique talents and skills.

Sustainability: Taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your work.

Sustainability is definitely my trouble area. Schwartz argues, with research to back him up, that powering through a 12 hour day is less productive than an 8 hour day with plenty of “renewal” breaks. Examples of renewal breaks include reading, taking a nap, going on a run or just getting outside for a walk.

Schwartz also argues that we run through a daytime cycle, similar to the 90 minute sleep cycle and we can only give 90 minutes of focused energy before we have to take a break. After 90 minutes, one becomes less productive. He recommends scheduling meetings for a maximum of 90 minutes and some for only 30 minutes. He said that in a 30 minute meeting, you tend to get more done because you don’t have the luxury of time.

He also talked about the myth of multi-tasking and the idea that we are always distracted, giving only a portion of our attention to any one thing; that we don’t fully engage in anything and definitely don’t spend enough time thinking about long term planning or big picture stuff.

Most importantly he mentions that it is important to turn off work and not check email constantly from home, but to fully engage in other activities in order to be better at work.

After I returned home I shared this book with my colleagues and I picked up a print copy for myself. After skimming through the material again I compiled a thirty-one item list of things to do to improve my work life balance. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so although I have only made half of these improvements, I feel good about my progress.

Right now I am looking very much forward to my second to last vacation of the year. I plan to leave work behind and enjoy my family and the last bit of summer.

If you are struggling to leave work at work, I highly recommend this read (or listen). If you are not sure if you could benefit from the book, take this Energy Audit quiz.

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11. Collecting Graphic Novels: What Belongs in the Children’s Library?

graveyardI was so excited when the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book arrived in my library this week. I’ve been looking forward to the graphic novelization for months – advance reviews were glowing, and it seemed like the perfect addition to our Kids Graphic Novel section, which serves all reading children in our library (mostly ages 6-12). Then I opened the book.

Gaiman’s Newbery Award-winner famously opens with the eerie, perfectly spine-chilling line, “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” The graphic novelization of a novel which begins with a family’s murder was always going to be on the dark side. I expected that. I did not expect to turn the second page of a book touted as acceptable for age 8 by 4 of the 5 major review journals and see graphic, bloody images of a family with their throats slit open, red blood pooling around them. These images are hinted at but not described in the novel ( I know, I reread the chapter to be sure!)

Where did you shelve The Lost Boy?

Where did you shelve The Lost Boy?

After quickly conferring with my coworkers, we decided to move the book to the YA Graphic Novel collection. The magic power of the internet helped reassure us in our decision: none less than the venerable NYPL had shelved the book either in YA or Adult graphic novels, depending on the branch. I was bummed to lose what I am sure will be a highly-circulating book to another department, and doubly bummed after reading it – the book was excellent, just not quite a fit for the Children’s Library. I was also glad this happened, as it made me think about how much I rely on reviews when adding to the collection, and how badly reviews had failed me this time around.

Here is my question to you, fellow graphic novel collectors for children: how do you decide if a graphic novel is appropriate for the children’s library, especially when the collection has to appeal to a wider audience than kids in grades 3-6? If a book is dark but not graphic, does it stay (The Lost Boy)? If the characters are battling in a fantastical setting (Battling Boy), does it go in YA or children’s? If there are romantic entanglements (a la Drama), where do you put the book? Where did you put The Graveyard Book?

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12. Nominate Yourself or a Peer for the 2017 Wilder Committee

Due to the ALSC Board of Directors recent action to annually award the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the 2015 ALSC Nominating Committee is seeking recommendations for candidates for membership on the Wilder Award Selection Committee. This ballot will be voted on in the spring of 2015 and members elected will serve on the 2017 Wilder Award Committee.

Do you work with a youth services professional whose knowledge, skills and experience you admire? Do you have a colleague who can communicate clearly, critically and concisely about children’s literature? Have you served on a committee with an ALSC member who embodies our core values like respect, collaboration and leadership? We want to know about them.

Don’t be shy – if you are interested in one of these positions and possess these qualities, put your own name forward as a possible Wilder Award candidate for the 2015 slate.

The members of the ALSC Nominating Committee look forward to your suggestions!

Please be sure that your nominee’s ALSC membership remains current. Nominees who have let their membership lapse are not eligible for consideration. Also consider encouraging your nominees to nominate themselves, as this provides us with more complete background information.

DEADLINE: Sunday, August 31, 2014

Access the ALSC Nominee Form for 2017 Wilder Committee.

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13. Sharing iDías : Diverse Programming at Your Library

One great initiative that the Public Awareness Committee works to promote is El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), which was founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora. Día is a special way for libraries to emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds while also encouraging Dia_Hi_Colorfamilies and children to connect with multicultural books, cultures and languages. Exposure to diversity on a regular basis is very important for children and the public library is poised as the perfect space to provide diverse encounters. You can read more about why nurturing cultural diversity in your library is important by reading Jamie Campbell Naidoo’s wonderful ALSC white paper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children.

At the recent ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Naidoo and Debby Gold of the Cuyahoga County Public Library presented a poster session titled “How Do You Día?”on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. They invited all who visited the poster session to submit and share their own Día success stories into their iDía jar.

Seven awesome iDías were submitted and here they are!

* A public library donates a book for every child to celebrate Día and partners with other organizations to donate goods for diverse programming.

* At the Salt Lake County Public Library four people demonstrated science experiments in four difference languages to introduce diversity into the community.

* Dallas Public Library offers bilingual Día storytimes and crafts.

* A library shares Spanish language uses for materials and provides multicultural book talks.

* Each New Orleans Public Library branch hosts a yearly program geared towards Día  programming. Themes may focus on different countries and their cultures, such as Africa, China, India and Italy. Local authors are also brought in.

* A libraDia bookmarks, etc.ry in Commerce, CA invited author Antonio Sacre to read during a storytime program.

* A library holds multicultural craft events, including creating Native American dream catchers, basket weaving and Egyptian vases. They also invited an Indian dance troupe to perform.

What stellar iDías! I especially love the iDía to hold a science program in various languages. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the poster session and shared their success stories! Do you have an iDía that you would like to share? Tell us! Better yet, show us! Share photos from your diverse library program by posting on the Día Facebook page.


Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at nicolemartin@oplin.org.

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14. Cultural Competence in the Digital Realm: #WeNeedDiverseApps!

At the recent ALA Annual in Las Vegas, I was part of a panel named “Whet Your Appetite: Rapid Reviews of Apps for Children from Preschool to Tweens” along with Paige Bentley-Flannery, Cen Campbell, and Claire Moore. Our session provided rapid reviews of an assortment of apps, and my portion was on multicultural apps for young people. Based on the ever-growing number of book apps for young readers available in the iTunes store, I wanted to learn more about multicultural book app offerings. Limiting our search to Apple products for the sake of convenience (since I am an iPad user), my graduate assistant Rebecca Price and I combed through the iTunes store, various review sites including Kirkus, School Library Journal, Hornbook, Publishers Weekly, many of the blogger sites that cover apps, such as Carisa Cluver’s Digital Storytime and Cen Campbell’s Little eLit. Frankly, we had a terrible time finding quality apps that reflected diversity. And of those that were available, many were flawed.

One such book app, A Song for Miles, by Tiffany Simpkins Russell, Ph.D., with illustrations by Raheli Scarborough, features beautiful illustrations that look like oil or acrylic on canvas, but there is no explanatory note about the art. The app has very limited interactivity, and is subsequently more of an enhanced book rather than a book app.  The text is about a father educating his young son about the music that inspires him, and he describes songs by artists from Earth, Wind, & Fire to Stevie Wonder, but unfortunately, none of this music is included in the app. In order to hear the music, on the last page, there is a list of the music described, and readers can “Tap on the song titles below to view artist catalog in iTunes.” I imagine that the author and illustrator may not have realized the licensing roadblock their story posed, and they may have had other intentions at the outset, but unfortunately, in the end, this book ends up being little more than a commercial of songs available for purchase.

The Story of Kalkalilh, by Bramble Berry Tales, developed by Loud Crow Interactive, is a book app based on an oral story told by the Squamish people of southwestern British Columbia. According to the developer’s site: “With Bramble Berry Tales we saw a need to bring three oral histories incredibly dear to the Squamish, Sto:lo, and Cree Nations to life”. In addition to English, French, and Spanish, the app can be played in Squamish. The app received a starred review from Kirkus and was included on the 2013 Kirkus list of Best Book Apps. Unfortunately, while this app featured easy navigation throughout and a nice feature of being able to click on icons to hear Squamish words pronounced and get background information on terms such as Potlach (Tl’enk) and Longhouse (Lam’), which are specifically relevant to the setting of the story, I am not able to judge the cultural authenticity of this app, nor could I find reviews that spoke to the app’s cultural accuracy.

The New York Times recently published articles by the late Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher about the lack of diverse books in the US. Christopher Myers cited a study by the Cooperative Children’s book center at the University of Wisconsin which found that Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 92 featured an African American character. As a result of these articles, writer Ellen Oh created the Twitter hastag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

As our roles shift and we increasingly are tasked with providing digital resources for our patrons, it is important that we seek out, collect, and provide access to balanced digital collections, just as we do with print resources. We need diverse book apps indeed. But we must maintain a critical perspective as we evaluate those, and separate blatantly commercial products from quality ones worth sharing with our communities.

Title: The Story of Kalkalilh

Title: A Song for Miles

Marianne Martens is Assistant Professor at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science and a member of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee. You can read more about her work at mariannemartens.org, and she can be reached at mmarten3@kent.edu.

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15. Excellent Explosions! Chemical Reactions for Preschoolers

Mine is one of the myriad libraries celebrating science this summer through our “Fizz, Boom, Read” summer reading program. Much to the delight of my STEAM-loving heart, all branches across my library system have hosted a ton of science programs this summer for every age. Some were led by outside groups like the St. Louis Science Center (always tap your local STEM resources!), and others have been led by in-house staff. They’ve all been a huge hit with kids and their families. One of my most successful in-house preschool programs this summer was a recent program titled “Excellent Explosions.” Here’s what we did.

Excellent Explosions: A Preschool Science Program

Experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. Photo by Amy Koester.While I did have plenty of materials on hand for attendees to check out, this wasn’t a storytime program, per se. That is, I didn’t share a book at the beginning of the program as I usually do in my Preschool Science programs. Instead, I started the event by talking with the group about physical vs. chemical reactions, and how when chemicals react, interesting things happen–like explosions.

After talking about reactions and answering any kiddo questions, we proceeded to the main event: four very exciting chemical reactions.

Reaction 1: Mentos & Diet Coke

I had three 1-litre bottles of Diet Coke and two sleeves of Mentos on hand for this reaction demonstration, which we did out on the library’s patio (warning: very messy). Before dropping any Mentos into the first bottle, I had the kids hypothesize what would happen. Hypotheses ranged from “Nothing will happen” to “It’s gonna EXPLODE!” From there, I dropped about three Mentos into the first bottle, with a decent-sized fizz geyser as the result.

Having seen what happens when three Mentos were added to a bottle, we made hypotheses regarding what would happen when we dropped in seven Mentos. That demonstration resulted in a slightly quicker, noticeably higher geyser reaction.

Then, with a pause for dramatic effect, I announced we would put a whole sleeve of Mentos in the last bottle. There may have been a few delighted shrieks of anticipation from the crowd. Friends, that last set of conditions resulted in a very quick, quite large geyser–one that was so quick and forceful, it pushed about five of the Mentos out of the bottle before they even had a chance to react with the Diet Coke. These three reactions gave us plenty of fodder to talk about how the amounts of ingredients that interact affect the reaction.

Reaction 2: Baking Soda & Vinegar

We stepped back into the program room for the rest of our program, which consisted next of a hands-on experiment. I had set out three long tables with paper plates, recycled prescription containers of baking soda, pipettes, and some vinegar for every child. I gave a brief introduction of the materials we were using (including introducing the word “pipette”), then encouraged the children to use their pipettes to drip some vinegar on the baking soda to see what type of reaction resulted. I moved about the room, asking questions about whether the amount of vinegar used has an impact on the fizzing reaction. A few kids dumped their baking soda on their paper plates and experimented there, while others dripped vinegar directly into the prescription bottles. I encouraged caregivers to ask their children to describe the reactions for them.

Using pipettes to mix water and Alka-Seltzer. Photo by Amy Koester.Reaction 3: Alka-Seltzer & Water

After all of the baking soda had exhausted its fizz, I had the children move to another set of three long tables. Each of these stations had a paper plate, pipette, and cup of water, with two children sharing a packet of two Alka-Seltzer tablets between them. I talked about what Alka-Seltzer is and what it is used for, and I posed some questions about why bubbles might help when you have a stomach ache. After our discussion, I had the kids put their tablet of Alka-Seltzer on their plate and use the pipettes to drop water on the tablet. Once again, I encouraged experimentation with the amount of water. Because the tablet will completely dissolve, we had the opportunity to discuss what that word means, too.

Reaction 4: Elephant Toothpaste

Our last reaction took the form, once again, of a demonstration. I introduced our demonstration by announcing we’d be making Elephant’s Toothpaste, and the kids and I came up with a silly story about a zookeeper who needed to brush his elephant’s teeth.

After we had completed our story, I discussed with the kids the ingredients we would be using in this reaction: hydrogen peroxide, yeast, dish soap, and food coloring. I also named all of our tools: the now-empty Diet Coke bottles from our first reaction; a funnel; a measuring cup; and a tub to contain any mess.

I used Steve Spangler’s basic recipe for Elephant Toothpaste, but in the interest of experimentation, the kids and I used different amounts of activated yeast in each of our three iterations of the experiment. Even though the resultant eruptions were not very different in size, the fact that kids got to see the reaction happen three different times was a huge delight to them. The looks of amazement, surprise, and excitement on their faces were outstanding.

That’s the note on which I ended our Excellent Explosions program, and what better note to end on? It is my goal in Preschool Science programs not only to introduce basic science concepts, like chemical reactions, but to instill a love of science in children as well. If their joyful faces and telling the checkout desk staff about the explosions were any indication, this program was particularly successful.

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16. Getting Organized

Image from creative commons reuse search "post its" - source Hyper Island FB

Image from creative commons reuse search “post its” – source Hyper Island FB

As summer winds down some public librarians are feeling thankful and school librarians are gearing up.  I have spent a considerable amount of time planning my year (and realizing that some of those plans will get sidelined).  Each year for the past several school years, I have tried some new organizational methods, but have yet to find something with staying power that smooths transitions and helps me in my day to day life.

I was excited when earlier in the summer #readadv had a chat on this very subject. How do librarians get and stay organized?  What is working for other people?  The storify for this chat can be found here.

It was interesting because folks definitely seemed to use a variety of tools – demonstrating that no one method works for “all the things”.  Being of a certain age myself, I have to say that there is an appeal to some of the analog methods and I am more likely to remember something if I write it down on a post-it than if I type it into my google calendar.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I live off my google calendar for the majority of my in the moment time, but when in comes to actual planning, I need something more visual.

Enter bullet journal.  Some folks have been talking about this on twitter and in blog posts for a while, and this is the method I have decided to experiment with for my overall planning of the school year.  The beauty of this system for me is that it seems infinitely tweakable to allow for my own idiosyncrasies.  I can color code, add post-its (and stickers!), dog ear pages, and blend as much of my outside of school life as my teaching life as I see fit.

I will check back in with you all later to see if I can make this one stick!

How do you all keep your library lives organized?

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17. A look back at the first half of the year on the ALSC Blog

Twice a year, we take a look back at the ALSC Blog to see how it’s being used. It’s time!

From January through June of this year, use of the ALSC Blog has continued to increase:

  • the number of sessions is up 8.31% (115,541 in 2014 vs 106,678 in 2013)
  • the number of users is up 11.90% (83,750 in 2014 vs. 74,841 in 2013)
  • the number of pageviews is up 13.69% (182,325 in 2014 vs 160,365 in 2013)

The five most popular posts published in the first six months of 2014 were:

  1. The Snow Queen, Frozen and Feminist Critique by Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla
  2. Gravity Science: A STEM Program for Preschoolers by Amy Koester
  3. Eggs Away! Egg Drop Science for School-Age Children by Amy Koester
  4. Your Librarians Are Reading, Too by Abby Johnson
  5. It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!… It’s a Superhero Training Academy! by the School-Age Programs and Services committee

We love to see conversations start in the comments. The posts with the most comments in the first 6 months of the year were:

  1. Unconventional Preparations for Storytime by Katie Salo
  2. Program in a Post – Torn Paper Landscapes by Heather Acerro
  3. Dream Book-to-Film Adaptations by Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla
  4. Engaging the Smartphone Generation by guest blogger, Kris Lill
  5. Is Science Funny? by Lisa Taylor
  6. Early Literacy Tips with Some Pizazz by guest blogger, Angela Bronson
  7. Mind Full or Mindful? by guest blogger, Jill Eisele
  8. Preschool Shadow Science by Amy Koester
  9. Getting Ready for Tablet Time by Angela Reynolds
  10. Summer Reading – One for All and All for One by Lisa Taylor

It is always fun to see which posts readers are motivated to share with friends and colleagues via twitter. The five most “tweeted” posts in the first 6 months of 2014 were:

  1. Notable Children’s Books Discussion List – Summer 2014 by Mary Voors
  2. Notable Children’s Books – 2014 Discussion List by Mary Voors
  3. Other KidLit Awards from #alamw14 by Angie Manfredi
  4. Making without a Makerspace by ALSC Children and Technology committee
  5. How Juvenile Books Portray the Prison Experience by guest blogger, Kate Todd

Such a great first six months! Let’s see what the rest of the year brings!

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18. On Going “Prizeless”

My fellow librarians, we (finally) ditched the cheap plastic Summer Reading Club prizes this year and we are NEVER GOING BACK!!!

Behold, a Science Activity Pack! Photo by Abby Johnson

Behold, a Science Activity Pack! Photo by Abby Johnson

Everyone’s serving a different community and you have to decide for yourself what is right for your library and your patrons. But make sure you’re thinking about the program that you’re offering and you know why you’re running it the way you’re running it.

Summer Reading Club is HARD to plan and can get overwhelming. It’s easy to take what you’ve done in previous years, tweak, and repeat. But you need to take a step back and take stock every now and then.

Is your Summer Reading Club creating lifelong readers by encouraging intrinsic motivation for reading (i.e. reading for the love and satisfaction of reading)? Or are kids reading just enough to earn that toy/coupon/entry slip and then stopping?

Many libraries have come up with different ways to address this issue, ditch cheap prizes, and create a program that staff and patrons feel great about.

Check out the following posts for some ideas:

Library Bonanza: Summer LIBRARY Club
This librarian speaks about how her library got rid of reading requirements in favor of a Summer Library Club, encouraging families to visit the library frequently over the summer.

Tiny Tips for Library Fun: Summer Prizes – Goodbye!
Marge Loch-Waters shares the ways her library rewarded readers with experiential activities, like helping to build a community robot, instead of plastic toys this year.

Hafuboti: Summer Reading Booklets
Rebecca ditched cheap prizes in favor of a booklet with creative activities and coupons kids can earn throughout the summer.

Abby the Librarian: Those Summer Reading Club Prizes
Yes, I said that we ditched the cheap prizes and here I share information about the Science Activity Packs we offered instead.

What, No Tchotskes? Creating an Experience-Based Summer Program
In this program at the ALA Annual Conference, librarians from several different libraries shared their experiences with choosing experiential programs over incentive-based programs.

Having taken the plunge this year and offered activity-based prizes and free books instead of our normal toys and grand prize drawings, I can tell you that it went over better than I thought it would. I had prepped my staff extensively on what to tell patrons who complained about the prizes, but I didn’t hear one complaint all summer. This was especially shocking and delightful because I have had at least one complaint every year when we were offering much more elaborate prizes.

Has anyone else gone “prizeless”? How did it work and what do you do for your Summer Reading Club?

– Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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19. Summer Reading Lists

Now that summer is winding down, many librarians are undoubtedly seeing an increase in patrons clutching stapled white sheets while approaching reference desks.  It’s time (or nearing time) for students to consult their required summer reading lists and hopefully choose something that will not be too much of a chore to read.

As I look at these lists, I occasionally think about what I would put on a required summer reading list. Would I even have a required summer reading list if that was a decision I needed to make? Although some summer assignments take me aback with the rigidity and amount of homework they require, I have to give credit to my high school’s freshman summer reading list; it introduced me to Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, which is now one of my favorite books.

If I were creating a required summer reading list, I would

–include a mix of standard classics and modern favorites

–include titles that featured diversity (not only racial, but geographic diversity, include differently abled characters, and the like)

–include nonfiction and graphic novels

–include authors that live in Virginia and write stories that take place in Virginia, either fiction or nonfiction (historical or present day). If I lived in another state, I would do the same for that state.

On the other hand, chucking the notion of a  standard required summer reading list is also appealing. It could be as simple as reading 2-3 new books, and to be be prepared to recommend them to the teacher and/or class at the beginning of school.

If you had to put together a required summer reading list, what would you put on it? Or, if you had the power to make such a choice, would you not have a required summer reading list?




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20. Every Year a Wilder Year!

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is given to an author or illustrator “whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”

During the 2014 ALA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, the ALSC board voted to change the frequency of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from every other year to every year.

There is such richness and depth among the field of children’s literature creators. Making the Wilder Award an annual honor gives ALSC increased opportunity to honor the significant contributions individual authors and illustrators have made over the course of their careers. It will also decrease confusion among ALSC members and others regarding when the award is given. No longer will the question, “Is this a Wilder year?” need to be asked or answered. Every year will be a Wilder year!


The Wilder Award was first given in 1954 to its namesake, Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was awarded every five years through 1980. The frequency was then changed to every three years, which began with the 1983 award and continued through 2001. It became a biannual award starting in 2003 and this schedule will continue through the upcoming 2015 award.


The transition to the Wilder becoming an annual award will begin with a 2016 Wilder Committee. The 2017 committee that was just elected by the ALSC membership in May will be renamed the 2016 Wilder Award Committee. They will begin their work at the close of the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting just as all the other 2016 ALSC award committees, and they will work within the newly established Wilder Award one-year timeframe to name a 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award recipient. (Under the biannual schedule, which the current 2015 Wilder committee is following, Wilder Award committees have done their work over two years.)

The Wilder Award will continue to be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting award press conference, and to be given at the ALSC Sunday night award banquet at the ALA Annual Meeting, which will be known from now on as the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet.

For more information on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, including a list of past recipients, go to: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/wildermedal

The board decision was in response to the report of the board-appointed Wilder Award Frequency Task Force chaired by JoAnn Jonas and including members Amy Kellman, Martha Parravano and myself.

As always, the board welcomes your thoughts.

Megan Schliesman for the ALSC Board

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21. What Do We Do With August?

The month of August is a hybrid of sorts as we transition from our summer reading program to the traditional activities planned for the new school year.  When August 1st rolls around, do you breathe a sigh of satisfaction after the completion of your successful summer reading club, or do you still have weeks and weeks left of the summer rush before the children return to school? What does your library do with August?

Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com

These last few weeks of summer  (Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

To Continue Summer Reading or to Conclude Summer Reading: That is the Question

In years past, our summer reading program ended on July 31st.  While June and July are much busier months in terms of the foot traffic we receive, there are still weeks left to most children’s summer vacation.  This year we extended our summer reading club to August 15th to allow children and their families more time to participate in our reading program and to collect their prizes.  What is your last day to conclude your summer club?

Less Programs, More Planning

Is there any break on the horizon? Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com

Is there any programming break in August? (Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

Our weekly scheduled story times take a break after July 31st until the 1st of September.   While we do temporarily discontinue our weekly story times, we offer the occasional preschool special, school-age program, or teen club to bring people into our libraries.  With more flexibility in scheduling due to less programming, staffing the desks becomes easier even with staff members on vacation.  We also focus our attention on our fall programming sessions, so we are able to hit the ground running when our story times resume and our special programs increase.  Is your August full of story times and outreach visits, or do you completely break from programming to best prepare for the fall?

Taking Training

It may be close to impossible to take training or make assessment a priority during those busy summer reading club months.  August is a time for renewal in terms of staffers’ professional development and is an opportunity for many of us to take in-person training, webinars, or self-paced study. It’s a necessary step for us to consider how to best enhance our own career development and also to assess the direction of our children’s libraries.  Is August a traditional training month for you, or do you focus on children’s services trainings during another time of the year?

Expanding the Vision

August is a time to recharge, to assess our services, and to plan for the fall ahead of us.   It’s an opportunity for us to consider major system initiatives and how to best streamline our efforts.  We are now working on our plan to partner with other county agencies through the Eleven Days of Love Drive for pet-supply donations.  We will include pet-themed elements in our programming as part of this collaboration.   Are there any programs or services at your library that you will implement in the future that you plan now before the kids return to school?

Within our individual libraries throughout the country, there is tremendous variation with our involvement in summer reading clubs and children’s programs during the month of August.  In your library system, August may provide the time needed to assess, evaluate, and focus on youth services training, or it may be a major programming month with a summer reading finale still on the horizon.   Please share how you address programs, services, and training at your library during the month of August.  Let’s begin a conversation in the comments below!

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22. Could a Child With a Disability Use Your MakerSpace?

There’s a wonderful article in the March 10, 2014 issue of People magazine called “A Helping Hand for a Friend” http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20795392,00.html.

It’s the story of a 17-year-old boy who used plans for a Robohand from www.thingiverse.com and the 3-D printer at his local library to make a prosthetic hand for Matthew Shields, a nine-year-old family friend who was born without fingers on his right hand.  Awesome and heartwarming, and way beyond what most librarians think of when they introduce this technology.

boy_makerspace(The original story, picked up by People, was covered by KCTV in Kansas City http://www.kctv5.com/story/24717704/teen-uses-3-d-printer-to-make-hand-for-boy. This photograph of Matthew Shields using his hand is reprinted with permission from KCTV.)

I loved the article, and it got me thinking…with or without a prosthetic hand, would someone like Matthew be able to use the library’s 3-D printer?  What if he were blind, or if he had ADHD or autism instead of a physical disability?  I would guess that few librarians who are now providing 3-D printers or offering MakerSpaces are asking those questions and making sure that the answers are “yes”.

Right now, MakerSpaces are all the rage in the library world. They are a wonderful way to introduce new technologies and to provide a new outlet for creativity, learning and community engagement.  But they are not for everyone, even in the libraries where they exist, though they can serve more community residents if accessibility becomes one of the considerations when designing MakerSpaces and Maker programs or when introducing new technologies like 3-D printing.

A couple of libraries are taking the lead in bringing Making to people with disabilities in their communities. One is the public library in Washington, DC. For example, in 2013 four students supervised by assistant professor Mega M. Subramaniam from the University of Maryland, collaborated with a team from FutureMakers (www.kidsmakethingsbetter.com) on a MakerSpace event for individuals with cognitive disabilities and visual impairments at a branch of the library. They introduced a number of accessible MakerSpace projects, including building and testing flying machines made from craft materials and designing tracks for a marble run. The students who worked on this project were so enthusiastic about it that they’ve written and are trying to publish a guide for librarians who want to design similar accessible MakerSpace projects.

Another library that has entered the arena is Brooklyn Public. They have offered robotics, CAD (computer aided design) graphic novels and Legos MakerSpace programs for tweens and teens and made sure that kids with disabilities could participate.

kids_makerspace(Brooklyn Public Library makes STEAM programming accessible for tweens with and without disabilities. This photo is used with permission from librarian John Huth, The Child’s Place for Children With Special Needs, Brooklyn Public Library.)

When librarians think about accessibility, what usually comes to mind is a person using a wheelchair who may need wide aisles between book stacks and a ramp to reach the library door. But that is a limited view. Several years ago, I participated in a disability awareness workshop called “It Takes More Than a Ramp”, and this has never been truer than in this age of MakerSpaces and advanced technology.  It does take more than a ramp to serve those in our communities with learning differences or physical challenges.  It takes a little thought and a little conversation with them or their caregivers, and a little ingenuity to see how things can be tweaked to make them work for everyone.  But, the extra time and effort is worth it. After all, just think about what the Matthew Shieldses of the world will be able to accomplish with the help, not only of a talented neighbor, but also of a friendly and accessibility-conscious librarian.

Barbara Klipper is a youth services librarian, consultant and advocate for library services for children and teens with disabilities. She is also a former chair of the ALSC Library Service for Special Population Children and Their Caregivers committee. ALA Editions published her 2014 book, Programming for Children and Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 Look for a version of this post, including additional resources for programming in the Fall 2014 issue of Children and Libraries.

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23. How Come Outcomes?

I encourage all of you to check out the ALSC Emerging Leaders report (Ask, Assess, Advocate:Demonstrating the Value of Youth Services) which articulates an important question for us. How do we accurately assess the value of children’s services in libraries?

Many of us must justify our services to our communities and stakeholders when we secure our budgets, write grants or report to City Hall and very often we are asked for more than numbers. This is good news. We know we are more than the sum of our parts. Numbers, outputs, only tell part of the story. The real value we have is in our impact in the lives of our families we serve.

We all have stories of this impact. These are the moments we hold dear: watching our customers grow from preschool storytime participant to confident young reader to successful student. In research, this ability to change behavior and influence future behavior is called an outcome. Outputs are what we do but outcomes are the reasons why we do what we do.

Our most recent Community Forum tackled this issue. How do we accurately access our “value”? Is our valued shaped by our communities? Is there a model of valuation that makes sense for us to adopt? It was a rich discussion and it is clear that many of us struggle to define our value. We all know that proving our worth, defining the outcomes we hope to achieve and then showing we achieve them, is critical to our success and future. I urge you to experience the discussion in the archives and to join in the discussion. We are counting on you.

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24. Young Children, New Media and Libraries Survey

In order to examine how libraries incorporate different kinds of new media devices into their branches and programming; we ask for your participation in the Young Children, New Media and Libraries Survey prior to Monday, August 18, 2014.

Participation in this survey will help us better understand the scope, challenges, and next steps for libraries regarding new media use. We would like one librarian from your branch who is able to answer questions regarding your library’s use of new media to complete this survey.

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NTN6PWT.

The survey includes 9 questions and we anticipate it will take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. Additional information regarding this survey can be found online: http://www.ala.org/alsc/young-children-new-media-and-libraries-survey.

This survey was created in partnership with LittleeLit.com, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, and the University of Washington. If you have any questions about this survey, please contact us at the below emails.

Cen Campbell (cenlibrarian@gmail.com)
J. Elizabeth Mills (jemills1@uw.edu)
Joanna Ison (jison@ala.org)

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25. Coming Soon…the ALSC Institute

2014 Institute LogoIt’s not too late to register for the ALSC Institute, but advance rates close August 24th, and we are reaching our registration cap, so don’t wait too much longer!

We’ve been giving you some teasers for what you can expect in our programs, and some thoughts on what to do around town. Here’s a few reasons you may want to come early and stay late (or at least stay UP late):

The Eat Real Festival at Jack London square will be going on all weekend, and is a great way to browse the Bay Area’s food scene.

You’d have to get into town very early to catch the First Friday Art Murmur events, but Oakland’s galleries are open. Check out their events listings, or just stroll by on Saturday.

The "women's smoking lounge" at the Paramount theater. Photographer: Cathe Centorbe

The “women’s smoking lounge” at the Paramount theater. Photographer: Cathe Centorbe

Music anyone? Maybe Caetano Veloso at the historic Paramount Theater (where you should make sure to use both the downstairs and the mezzanine powder rooms, to get your full Art Deco fix.) Or, check out the calendars at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, the Uptown Nightclub or The New Parish.

Baseball fans probably already know that the Oakland A’s are playing at home during your stay…and looking good.   Keep your fingers crossed.

The Oakland Museum goes Off the Grid every Friday night.  Follow them for detailed updates.

book-alice-coverAnd finally, a special author/illustrator event on Wednesday afternoon lands in town just in time for your arrival.  Meet Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Hayelin Choi, creators of Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious .  Publisher Philip Lee of Readers to Eaters invites you to their book launch at The Edible Schooyard on Wednesday from 2-4pm. RSVP to Philip Lee for further details: Philip@readerstoeaters / 206-849-1962

We are most excited, of course, about our own calendar, and look forward to your participation to make this a vibrant and provoking Institute.  See you there.

Nina Lindsay, Institute Chair and Supervising Librarian for Children’s Services at the Oakland Public Library

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