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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. Setting Program Attendance Limits?: She Said/ She Said

Does your library limit attendance to children’s programs, requiring some sort of advance registration? Or are all programs planned with an eye toward accommodating any size group?

In a nod to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, children’s librarians Lori Faust and Kendra Jones debate the pros and cons:

LF: Well, Kendra, I will begin with a very obvious “pro” in favor of pre-registration to a set limit: if staff knows how many people to expect at a program, it is much easier to plan, prepare and purchase supplies without over-buying and wasting those limited budgets.

KJ: True, but limiting attendance can create more work for staff as they will have to take registration, follow up, pass out tickets, etc., plus there is the unpleasant task of informing interested patrons that a program is full.

If we allow walk-ins, we are more apt to have kids attend whose parents do not want to/cannot commit ahead of time and those who do not know the great things the library has to offer until they drop in one day. To then be unable to attend a program is not great customer service.

LF: That’s a good point, Kendra, and we always want to make sure we have some programs that are open to all. I’ve worked at libraries that run things both ways. One did not like us to limit attendance; we had fabulous turn-outs, but because we always had to expect 100+ kids (on a very small budget), we could only offer inexpensive programs that accommodated huge groups. And I found that kind of limiting creatively.

In response to your point that turning people away isn’t good customer service, I’d argue that for some libraries, with limited space perhaps, keeping the crowd to a manageable size can make the experience better for those in attendance. I’ve had complaints from patrons when programs have been very crowded, too!

KJ: I understand how that can be challenging, however, there are other options for programming for large crowds of people. Identical programs can be held back to back, for example. Only one program has to be planned and is then repeated. Not only does this offer patrons more choice in time but allows more patrons to partake in a library program.

LF: That would be a great option, IF…Well, there are several “ifs” depending on an individual library’s situation – can the youth services staff book the space for double the time? Is there enough staff to cover the department and run multiple programs? Is there enough money to cover twice the program? I want to mention, too, that requiring registration for programs doesn’t necessarily mean that patrons get turned away. Often, a program doesn’t “fill up,” but having a good idea of how many kids will attend helps the staff prepare for (and sometimes tweak) the program.

KJ: So true, Lori, that some libraries do not have the resources to do a double header. However, if a program is not getting filled up, perhaps registration is acting as a barrier to one of our most prized resources.

When I worked in a system where registration was required, even with reminder phone calls, patrons did not come for the program. And since they were under the impression that registration was required, there were no drop-in patrons to attend the program, meaning supplies went unused and the program was smaller than intended. Which may not bode well with statistics loving stakeholders who often provide funding for youth programs.

Now we have had our say, but we know there is so much more to this issue! It is your turn to make some arguments for, or against, program attendance limits. Add your thoughts in the comments.

*****************************************

Our guest bloggers today are Lori Faust and Kendra Jones, who wrote this piece as members of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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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2. Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter?

Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language.

Poet Janet Wong said that it’s easy–and vital–to create science literacy moments in the classroom and at the library. The key is to be bold. “Science and technology are accessible to people if they’re not afraid.” As gatekeepers of information, teachers and librarians should embrace the responsibility to expose kids to all subjects. Linking language and science may be a key way to make science more approachable. It doesn’t even have to be an elaborate lesson: just a few science literacy moments a week will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Check out these great resources:

Jill’s post about Thursday’s edition of “The Science of Poetry”

Presenter Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children blog

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s blog and book, The Poetry Friday Anthology.

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3. Every Day You Do It! #alsc14

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s closing session talk was a great end to the ALSC Institute experience.  In addition to giving us a wonderful peek into her creative process, she clearly identified herself as a lover of libraries and librarians.  She called us “Fairy god-librarians!”  (Time to make new business cards?)

And, you know what?  We are.  That’s one thing that I will take home from the ALSC Institute: the pleasure of meeting colleagues from around the nation who are incredibly generous, dedicated and brilliant.  I hope this is something that you already know and that you hear on a regular basis, but regardless, please take a moment to recognize how amazing you are.  You work so hard and your work has a huge impact on the children and families in your community.  As Pickney said “Every day you do it!”

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4. Beyond Sensory Storytime at #ALSC14

Renee Grassi led this informative session on serving children (and adults) with special needs. She started off by sharing the rationale behind expanding services to this population: To provide a supportive and inclusive environment for a traditionally underserved group in your community.
She also shared some startling statistics:
Nearly 20% of the US population lives with a disability- about 13% with a severe disability. Only 56% of students w/ autism finish high school, even though there are more than 1 million people w/ autism in the USA.

For those wondering where to begin w/ developing services for people w/ special needs, Renee suggests starting with conversations- get to know people and talk to them about what they need and want. One way to do this is by offering family tour services at the library. This can be available for any family- special-needs or just new to the community or library. They simply make an appointment and have a customized personal library tour with a librarian, just for that family, adapted to their needs and interests. Other ways to find out about community needs include surveys and focus groups.

Renee talked about where to find partners to help your library reach and serve families with special needs: parks, museums, disability organizations, therapists, health centers & hospitals, support groups, special educators & schools, and other librarians who are already working in this area.

Renee described her major partnership w/ her area special-education district- the spedial-ed teachers & specialists provided training and expertise to the library staff, and used their connections to get a community needs survey distributed to the families they serve.

Top 3 library materials requested in that community needs survey were:

  • high interest/low reading level books & booklists
  • chapter books paired w/ audio books
  • more parenting books on special-needs topics

Top 4 services requested:

  • storytime designed for children w/ special needs
  • book discussion for teens & adults w/ special needs
  • eReader & downloading demos
  • social stories about the library- these are first-person stories used to introduce a person with special needs (especially autism) to a new concept or experience.

Next Renee discussed the concept of person-first language: Say “The child with autism” vs. “The autistic child” – or better yet, learn and use their name! It’s important to watch your language even when talking to fellow staff- you never know who hears you, and how disability has affected them.

We talked about ways to adapt existing programs to include children with special needs, and specially-designed programs just for this population. Libraries can offer integrated programs that are open to a mix of ‘”typically-developing” children and those with special needs, or programs that are just for those with special needs- there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and what’s best to do depends on the needs and priorities of the families being served.
One great idea that Renee shared, that I hope to try at my own library, is for when you have a great big noisy program for a large crowd, like a magician or puppet show: ask the performer if they can offer a second, much smaller session that’s adapted to be sensory-friendly. This would mean keeping the lights on, turning the volume on the sound system down, reducing sudden loud noises, and allowing the audience to move around, talk, and fidget with toys. Publicise this extra session as “autism and sensory-friendly” and require registration or tickets to keep the crowd small.

There are many ways to make sure that your library services are accessible and welcoming to everyone, and Renee’s great ideas make an excellent starting point for doing just that.

Handouts from this program:

PowerPoint Slides (available online only)
Presentation Resources
Handout: People First Chart
Handout: Universal Design Checklist

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5. Using Volunteers to Expand the Walls of the Library

Laurie Willhalm started off this session by telling the history of Books for Wider Horizons, an outreach program of the Oakland Public Library that sends well-trained storytime readers into childcare centers and preschools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. They started with about 3 volunteers and have grown over the past 20 years into a corps to 60 volunteers making 71 weekly storytime visits to 1300 kids at 31sites!

Celia Jackson explained the logistics of how the program works:
They are continually recruiting, in order to replace volunteers who drop out or retire. The m ajority of their volunteers are reached by word of mouth, and they also list themselves on a website called Volunteer Match. Careful screening is key to ensuring that the volunteers area good match for this program and understand the training and time commitments. There is a wirten application with references (which they carefully check), and a phone interview with 4 key questions:
-how did you hear about our program?
-what interests you about this opportunity?
-do you understand the training requirements and volunteer commitments?
-Do your have any questions?
Once recruited, volunteers recieve a binder stuffed with all the info, resources, and paperwork they’ll need, and go through an intensive training institute of 7 session over 3 weeks. All the sessions are required; not only is every element of the training important, but this also weeds out those who may want to vounteer but can’t really committ- if they can’t make all the training sessions, they probably can’t make all of their weekly storytime visits over the long term.

Gay Ducey described the training program- it indeed sounds excellent and intensive! She starts every training session by saying: “Thank your for conisidering your time and your energy spent in the service of the children of Oakland, who deserve the very best that we have.” They teach that the role of a story reader is not to teach- there are plenty of adults in their lives to do that. Their role is to bring joy in reading- to create a special, protected, magical time with books and stories that will make the children associate reading with joy and fun, so that they never stop reading.
Training sessions consist of a brief lesson, a demonstration by a librarian or active story reader, then the volunteers practice what they’ve seen in triads. They get homework to go home and practice. They progress from familiar concepts like reaading alout & singing to more unfamiliar skills like fingerplays. and feltboards. There is a survey of classic and contemporary children’s literature, and lessons on child development. The hardest thing to learn is how to hold the book- the volunteers need lots of practice! Gay says: “Our training is long, and it’s hard sometimes, but it’s fun and entertaining and it moves along at a good clip. Otherwise we might all come down a case of terminal earnestness.”

Randi Voorhies is a longtime Books for Wider Horizons volunteer, who shared her experience in the program. She echoed what Gay had already said: if any of us decide to start a similar program, don’t water down the training! Its length and depth are essential in the volunteers’ success and long-term commitment. talked about her experience.

Laurie Willhalm, in her conclusion, responded to a comment from an earlier session from a librarian who despaired of being able to build a materials collection and volunteer corps on the scale of BWH- “You are sufficient as you are.” Start with what you have and build from there as you’re able.

Laurie Willhalm’s contact info for more information: lwillhalm@oaklandlibrary.org, 510-238-2848

http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/Building%20Walls.pdf

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6. Aiming for Inclusion Breakout Session at #alsc14

At tonight’s Breakout Sessions I participated in Aiming for Inclusion in Public Library Early Literacy Programs.  Tess Prendergast and Kelly Clark, of Vancouver Public Library, discussed strategies that they initially used in special programs for children with disabilities, but then found to be very useful and appealing to a group of children with a wide range of abilities.  For example, children with special needs often benefit from getting to re-tell a story in several different ways.   Guess what? So do typically developing children!  They brought up some barriers that families with children who have disabilities may encounter with library programs, such as group size and program pacing, and discussed ways they’d tried to minimize these issues.

We got to meet Moe the Mouse and to sing the Pete the Cat song together.  It was really nice to be in a smaller group where everyone was able to participate in the conversation and the lovely Fairyland back-drop didn’t hurt either.  If you want to delve deeper into how to make your early literacy programs more inclusive take a look at Tess’s blog.

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7. Friday Highlights @ #alsc14

Friday was a whirlwind of excitement, from start to finish–how can you top a day that begins with Breakfast for Bill and ends at Fairyland? It exceeded all expectations!

Highlights included:

-Gene Luen Yang’s revelation that as a pre-teen, he smuggled home comics in oversized Egyptology library books. He also had an amazing, hilarious–and pretty convincing–theory about how Superman is really Asian.

-Rita Williams-Garcia read aloud parts of her childhood diary, which included a prophetic letter to William Morrow (which later became her publisher).

-Tim Federle’s astute observation that kids don’t classify books and authors as “GLBT” or “Asian.” To them, “books are books.”

-Pam Munoz Ryan said that she personally didn’t become an avid reader until she was in 5th grade. She pointed out that sometimes it just takes some kids a little longer than others and that books enter a person’s life at the right time.

-Author Ginger Wadsworth (First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low) sat with my group at breakfast; she was lovely to meet. Each table at Breakfast for Bill featured a special guest local author.

-Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz’s program about integrating math and science into our existing preschool storytime repertoire was inspiring. They made it sound extremely easy, as Erin discussed in her blog post “STEM and Nursery Rhymes.” It’s something I’ll definitely try when I get back to the library.

-Oakland, Oakland, Oakland! The amazing Friday Farmer’s Market, steps from the conference center; markets and restaurants in Chinatown; the sunset over sparkling Lake Merritt; and the wonder that is Fairyland!

-Mingling with #alsc14 attendees, who are so energetic, smart, and fascinating. There was even a group of librarians dressed up like pirates, in observation of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

-Fairyland guests Mac Barnett, Daniel Handler, and Jenni Holm, who pulled questions out of a bag and provided spot-on, hilarious answers that kept the audience thoroughly entertained. There were even hot tub jokes. This definitely wasn’t the type of Q&A you’d get during a school visit!

What a delightful day. This is my first time attending an ALSC Institute, and I am having the best time ever!

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8. Taking a moment to rest at #alsc14

llama

My new friend taking a moment to rest.

I have already learned so much at the ALSC Institute and my brain is buzzing with new ideas to take back to my library system.  Thanks to our fabulous presenters I’m thinking about ways to advocate for the importance of the work we do, ways to collaborate with community partners, ways we could better welcome children with special needs into our branches….and so much more!  I know this afternoon will bring even more great new ideas, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and collect yourself for a moment.  How do you keep yourself feeling energized at conferences?  (Or during your work week?!)  Whether it’s catching up with a colleague over lunch, taking a little walk to explore your surroundings or taking a nap with the stuffed llama in your ALSC gift-bag, I would recommend fitting a little self-care into your conference experience.   It will help prepare your brain for all the new ideas coming at you!

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9. Beyond Sensory Storytime #alsc14

In Beyond Sensory Storytime: Expanding Library Services to Children with Special Needs, Renee Grassi shared some great inclusive customer service strategies. These strategies include:

– Person First Language

Person First Language is words or phrases that that puts the person before the disability. For examples of First Person Language, visit www.disabilityisnatural.com.

– Adjust Your Mindset

Programs for people with disabilities will not look exactly like your usual program, and that’s okay.

– Be Patient and Allow Processing Time

Children with disabilities may have a hard time expressing what they need. By being patient and allowing processing time, we are giving them time to find a way to express themselves.

– Simple Questions and Offer Choices

Offer a choice board that features both text and pictures at the service desk so that nonverbal children (and adults!) can communicate.

– Make Accommodations

Is the program room too cluttered or too bright? Make accommodations to the best of your ability so that everyone can feel welcome.

– Offer Visual Supports

Use both text and picture supports for your program. Have the program plan written down with pictures. Remove the pictures as you complete the task. For example, for a storytime, have a picture of a book, then remove it when you finish the book.

– Assistive Technology

There’s a lot of great assistive technology that can be used in programs. For example, a Big Mac Button is a large, easy to press button that can be preloaded with a certain phrase. So if you’re reading Bark, George in storytime, you can preload the button with the phrase, “Bark, George” so that non-verbal children can participate.

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10. Trivia Night at #alsc14

Trivia Night at NI14

Dewey Lewis and the News at Trivia Night (image courtesy ALSC)

Last night was the Trivia Night at the 2014 ALSC National Institute. A big thank you to our hosts, the Pacific Coast Brewing Company. Nearly 100 librarians packed the place to battle for bragging rights (and some swag).

The questions were tough, but everyone had a great time. Perhaps the best part of the night were the team names. I’m going to share a few of them for you here (the ones I remember anyway):

  • The Original Pickle (you had to be there)
  • Dewey Lewis and the News
  • The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Trivia Team
  • Win!
  • Undercover Geniuses

Congratulations to the winners and everyone who participated. It was a blast!

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11. Gene Luen Yang at Breakfast for Bill #alsc14

This morning’s Breakfast for Bill program was such a treat. I absolutely love hearing authors speak about their work, personal writing journeys and library experiences. The wonderful panel today consisted of four special authors, but I was most excited to hear Gene Luen Yang speak. I loved American Born Chinese and was equally impressed with his recent Boxers & Saints titles.

Yang shared his difficulty finding reading at the local library once he reached 5th grade which led him to discover the local comic book store. He hilariously told how his friend would join him in sneaking comic books home in large library books out of his parents sight. As an elementary school student I also snuck my Spider-Man comics home in library books and was pleased to hear that other kids used this tactic!

It was an overall great panel full of funny stories and touching recollections. What a great way to start day two of the institute!

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12. The Science of Poetry @ #ALSC14

I love science, and I love poetry, so attending this session was a slam-dunk decision for me! This program was hosted by Sylvia Vardell and featured the poets Alma Flor Ada, Susan Blackaby, F. Isabel Campoy, & Janet Wong

Sylvia Vardell started us off by reading a poem call ed “Recycling” by Susan Blackaby, then walked us through the steps of “Take 5 with Poetry & Science:”
1. Read the poem aloud
2. Read again, inviting kids to participate in the reading
3. Discuss and research the poem and its topic
4. Connect the poem to a specific science topic with a demonstration or hands-on activity
5. Share more, related poems & other readings

Susan Blackaby shared some of her lovely poems and discussed the connections and similarities between poetry and science. Both science and poetry require precision, careful use of language, trying and trying again, and making revisions. Both use observation and description. Both are beautiful.
She also told us how, when her book Nest, Nook, & Cranny was reviewed by a biologist to make sure she had all the science right in her animal poems, there were no problems with the simple poems… but she had a wrong fact about beavers that forced her to make a change to her villanelle, a poetry form so complicated that “it can just reduce a poet to tears.”

Alma Flor Ada talked about the importance of children seeing “people like them” reflected in the people and subjects they read and study about. She said, “I think every child needs to know the richness and diversity of everyone who contributes to culture and science.” Ms. Ada read us a lovely essay from her and Isabel Campoy’s book Yes! We Are Latinos. Isabel Campoy followed with another moving essay from the book.

Janet Wong shared her insight on the value of reading poetry aloud with children, not just studying poems on the page. Reading aloud together, discussing poems, joining in and making connections with the poetry are much more engaging then dissecting them as a written assignment. She also talked about something that disturbs Janet Wong: at teacher conferences, her general poetry anthology sells out quickly, & some teachers say “Oh, you only have the science book left? I don’t do science.” That’s not responsible, Janet says, because teachers model their attitudes towards science to their students.

All of the poets talked about the ways that science poetry can be both a way into science for kids who think science isn’t for them… and a way into poetry for kids who think they aren’t poets.

The excellent handout from this session lists the books these poets have written, lots more books of science poetry, and a long list of websites to suppor science learning (and link to science poetry):

http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/ALSCHandoutScienceofPoetry.pdf

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13. Making Advocacy Awesome @ #ALSC14

Making Advocacy Awesome @ #ALSC14

My first program of the conference was led by the awesome triple-threat team of Jenna Nemec-Loise, Helen Bloch, and Katie O’Dell. They jam-packed their session with information and inspiration to turn us all into powerful advocates for libraries and children’s services.

Jenna Nemec-Loise started us off with a tour of the excellent & comprehensive resources on the ALSC Everyday Advocacy Website: www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy, and described the elements of advocacy:
Be Informed
Engage w/ Community
Speak Out
Get Inspired
Share Your Advocacy Story

Helen Bloch talked about “building the foundation,” or having the groundwork already done, the relationships already established, etc. so that you are ready to advocate for your library at any time- to respond to crisis or to seize an opportunity.
Think about advocacy in terms of Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How.
Who- budget deciders, possible allies, local media
What- Demonstrate the value of the library and of children’s services
Where- Advocacy takes place both inside & outside the library
When- All the time
Why- the work we do is important!

Katie O’Dell explored the roles of advocacy- for administrators, frontline children’s staff, as a partner of other organizations, & more.

After the panelists’ presentations, we formed breakout groups:

Jenna Nemec-Loise led a group in developing example elevator speeches, using a 3-step process:
Identify a group you serve, list one service or program you provide to them, & describe it in terms of why that’s important. This was mine:
“I help childcare providers find & use resources to transform their centers into rich learning environments.”

Katie O’Dell walked the group through her excellent planning form for developing an advocacy campaign (posted online here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/MakingAdvocacyAwesomeProjectManagertemplate%20%281%29.pdf)

Helen Bloch led a brainstorm to identify actual and potential allies to help spread and support the library’s advocacy message.

We finished by banging the drum loudly as we cheered for advocacy and went forth to change minds and save the world!

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14. #alsc14 Inspired by Early Childhood Partnerships

Talk about inspiration! I attended a fabulous program, which highlighted a panel of early literacy librarian experts. They talked about their wide variety of experiences developing collaborative partnerships in their community. Here are 3 of my quick takeaways:

  • If you can train other community partners to extend your reach and support the goals of promoting literacy and school literacy, your impact multiplies.
  • Our role as early literacy advocates should be to partner with local social service agencies to work together to break the cycle of illiteracy. Seek out homeless shelters, food banks, and other childhood agencies and connect with their professionals.
  • Start up a conversation with parents and caregivers! Sometimes a quick 5-10 minute convo that includes a few early literacy tips is more meaningful and accessible to at-risk families, rather than offering librarian-led lecture style presentations about early literacy. Make it personal and get to know their children individually.

What tips do you have for maintaining successful and meaningful early literacy partnerships in your community?

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15. STEM and Nursery Rhymes #alsc14

The Sing, Talk, Read, Write and Play with Math and Science session focused on including STEM concepts in storytime. One of the biggest take aways is the fact that science and math concepts are not separate from early literacy, but a part of early literacy. Highlighting STEM in storytimes provides children with background knowledge. The more background knowledge a child has, the more likely he or she will recognize and understand concepts when reading.

The best part of this is that STEM is already present in many storytime classics, including nursery rhymes. Take, for example, the rhyme, Jack and Jill. This rhyme provides opportunities to discuss cause and effect, force and motion, the term crown, using a pail as a tool, and measuring volume with water.

Examine some of your favorite nursery rhymes. What STEM concepts can you find?

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16. Happy to be connecting in Oakland #alsc14

Happy Hour at Institute

Enjoying happy hour on the patio at the Oakland Marriott (photo courtesy of ALSC)

Hello Institute goers! Thanks to everyone who joined us last night at the happy hour. We had great weather and even a chance to spend time outside on the patio.

If you weren’t at the happy hour, don’t worry. There are still plenty of opportunities to interact with your colleagues including the upcoming ALSC Connection events. At 12:15, we’ll be hosting a condensed, but exciting version of ALSC 101.

It sounds cliche, but getting to know people from across the country is a big part of the Institute. You never know who you’re going to meet! Personally, I’m really looking forward to the ALSC Connection and getting to know more about the people and representative of ALSC!

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17. Live Blogging from the ALSC Institute #ALSC14

Last night, the biennial ALSC Institute kicked off in Oakland, California with a Happy Hour. Today, the Institute will really begin and attendees will be treated to an amazing assortment of programming focusing on youth services; presentations by an incredible line-up of authors including Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Tim Federle, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Rita Williams-Garcia, Gene Luen Yang, Steve Sheinkin, Mac Barnett, Daniel Handler, Jennifer Holm, & Andrea Davis Pinkney; and many, many, many networking activities.

For the next few days, we will not have our regular, daily posts on this blog. Instead, we will have multiple shorter posts each day. To make it easier for everyone to follow the excitement on Twitter, each post will include the hashtag #ALSC14.

A HUGE “Thank You” to the seven bloggers who have committed to writing short “micro-posts” throughout this Institute so ALSC blog readers can have a feel for what is happening in Oakland:

    • Dan Bostrom
    • Erin WarzalaInstitute Badge 2014
    • Gesse Stark-Smith
    • Jill Hutchison
    • Karen Choy
    • Nicole Martin
    • Renee Grassi

We hope you enjoy these snippets of Institute attendance over the next few days. We’d love to know what interests you about the ALSC Institute. What do you hope the live bloggers snap a picture of or write a quick post about? Let us know in the comments below.

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18. Sometimes things don’t work out…

As a result of my work with ALSC committee, Liaisons with National Orgs Serving Youth, I’d had high hopes that this year’s Dia Day celebrations would be well attended by Big Brothers Big Sisters “Bigs” and “Littles” across the country. I’d worked with my liaison at the org in the months and weeks leading up to Dia, our anticipation building, getting more and more excited as April wound slowly towards the end of the month.  I’d even anticipated writing a blog post for ALSC featuring happy photos of Bigs and Littles participating in joyful parties celebrating multicultural books.

Please note the absence of aforementioned photos in this blog post.

While it’s possible that some Bigs might have taken their Littles to a Dia Day event, it definitely didn’t happen on the scale I’d imagined possible.

Bummer.

So, why did I choose to write about the experience of working towards a partnership initiative that essentially flopped? Because I think it’s important for us to reflect when programs fail, when kids don’t show up, or when the perfect book you picked for storytime turns out to be a dud with the audience. Go ahead and be bummed out, but don’t dwell on it, and don’t let it discourage you from trying again. More importantly, try to figure out what went wrong, and what you might do differently in the future.

In trying to identify why this flopped, here’s what I came up with:

  • I’d counted on most public libraries holding Dia Day events, and registering them with the Dia Day Event finder.  They didn’t.
  • Dia Day events were scheduled for a variety of dates over a two-three week period, making it challenging to message (nationally) where/when events were scheduled (locally).

I definitely want to try again to get Bigs to take their Littles to Dia events in future years, and I think with some effort it’s possible that it can happen.

We spend a lot of time celebrating our successes – Let’s remember that we can celebrate our failures, too, as long as we learn from them!

What have you learned from programs or initiatives that didn’t go off quite as planned or expected? Did you revamp and try again? Please share in the comments!

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Sylvie Shaffer is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at Maret School in Washington DC. In addition to her work with ALSC’s Liaisons with National Organizations Serving Youth, she is also a member of DC area notable book selection committee Capitol Choices and has enjoyed serving in its 10-14 reading group since 2009.

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19. ALSC Member of the Month — Renee Grassi

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, Renee Grassi.

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

ReneeI am the Youth Department Director at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. I’m relatively new to this position, having started at Glen Ellyn in June of 2014. Previously, I was the Head of Children’s Services at the Glencoe Public Library for two years, and was a Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library for four years.

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

One of the many reasons I joined ALSC was that I wanted to participate and advocate for the profession on a larger scale. What I particularly love about being an ALSC member is that I have so many opportunities to connect and learn from children’s librarians across the country. I have always appreciated ALSC’s commitment to innovation in the field of children’s library service, and I am continually inspired by the work that we as an organization do to enrich the lives of children. Besides ALSC, I am also a member of PLA and am a member of the ALSC Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers Committee.

3.  Cats, dogs, or Butterflies?

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t even have to think twice about my answer–cats, for sure! One of my favorite things to do is to volunteer at local cat shelters. When I lived in downtown Chicago, you would often find me at Harmony House for Cats taking care of and socializing with the kitties. In my spare time, I enjoy the company of my two feline family members—Sanchez and Gus.

4.  E-books or Print?

Both. As much as we are hurdling towards everything digital, nothing will compare to the experience a child has holding a book for the very first time. For us as children’s librarians, I think it’s all about the balance between both.

5.  How do you prepare for the start of a new school year?

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for school to start. I was that kid who, mid-July, was just itching to go school supplies shopping, buy all of my notebooks and folders (and label them), and practice trying on my “first day of school” outfit. As of late, a new school year is synonymous with the end of Summer Reading. And as much as I just love Summer Reading and all of the exciting preparations that take place, there is nothing more enjoyable and therapeutic than taking all of the decorations down, cleaning off our desks, and starting fresh for the new school year.

6.  What do you love most about living and working in Illinois?

The librarian in me would respond by say that I feel so lucky to be in the company of countless incredible Illinois librarians, who continue to challenge and inspire me each day. We have strong support of libraries in this state and are fortunate to have such a fantastic Illinois Library Association as well. With Chicago being the epicenter of the American Library Association, we have the expertise of librarian leaders and powerhouses right at our fingertips. And the fact that the ALA Conferences always come back around to Chicago is pretty awesome, too.

The foodie in me would say one word: pizza!

7.  Are you a morning person or night person?

Night person, for sure. Some of my best ideas come to me at night, so I keep a journal next to my bed to jot them all down.

8.  Favorite tv show?

I have to choose one? Well, you will often find me tweeting about Glee, Parenthood, How I Met Your Mother, Sherlock, or The Big Bang Theory. And does the Tony Awards count? That’s like my Christmas.

9.  What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Chocolate. That was easy.

10.  What do you love about your work?

The variety. The challenge. The impact. The people.

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Thanks, Renee! 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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20. App Advisory: Where to Start?

App-advisory can be intimidating, especially for those of us who are not heavily engaged in touch-screen technology in our personal lives.  Although I am excited to be a new member of the Children and Technology Committee, and this is a professional interest of mine, I must confess: I don’t own a smartphone or a tablet.  But I strongly believe that whatever your personal habits or philosophies, as professionals, we need to be willing and able (and enthusiastic!) to be media mentors, modeling responsible new media use and providing recommendations for parents and families.  With so many apps out there, many of which are labeled “educational,” we need to be able to provide parents with trusted recommendations and advice.  If you can do reader’s advisory, you already have the skills to do app advisory! Here are some suggestions, based on what we did at the Wellesley Free Library.

Get to know your material!  Read app reviews (see list of review sources below) and keep track of the apps about which you read. We use a Google spreadsheet, so that all Children’s Department staff can contribute.  This includes, when available, recommended age (though this is something significantly lacking in many app reviews), price, platform, categories, and our comments.  Keeping this information centralized and organized makes it easy to come up with specific apps to recommend to a patron, or to pull for a list.

Play around with the apps!  If you have money to spend (consider asking your Friends group for money for apps, especially if you will be using the apps in library programs), download some apps that seem interesting and try them out.  Even if you can’t spend money, you can try out free apps or download free “lite” versions of apps.  Playing with the app allows you to give a more in-depth description and detailed information in your advisory (consider the difference between recommending a book based on a review you read and having read the book itself).

Choose your method of advisory. App advisory can take many forms. There is the individual recommendation at the reference desk, there are app-chats (the app version of the book-talk), which have been discussed in an article on the ALSC blog by Liz Fraser, and then there are app-lists.  For the past year, we have created monthly themed app lists, mostly for young children between the ages of 2 and 6.  The themes have included: interactive books, music, math, letters, and more. Be sure to include free apps as well as apps available for non-Apple devices on your lists.

Provide advice, along with recommendations.  On the back of our paper app lists, and on the website where we post links to the app-list Pinterest boards, we offer advice to parents about using interactive technology with young children.

A year later, still without a smartphone or tablet, I feel much more confident about recommending apps to patrons, reviewing and evaluating apps, and building our collection, and you can too!  You already have the tools for evaluating media that meets children’s developmental needs and creating interesting and attractive advisory methods for families.  The next step is simply taking it to a new platform!

Some of our favorite review sources for apps:

Children’s Technology Review
Cybils Award
Digital Storytime
Horn Book App of the Week
Kirkus ipad Book App Reviews
Little elit
Parents’ Choice Awards
School Library Journal App Reviews

Clara Hendricks is a Children’s Librarian at the Wellesley Free Library in Wellesley, MA. She is a member of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee.

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21. Exciting Changes for ALSC on Pinterest

More links and pins are coming to the ALSC and Día Pinterest accounts!

Photo by Katie Salo

Photo by Katie Salo

In an effort to increase the material pinned to the Pinterest account, all ALSC committees will have the opportunity to maintain their own boards and content. ALSC committees will then be able to share relevant blog posts, links, and resources that relate to their committee’s work and charge. Committee chairs that are interested in using social media should contact Amy Koester, chair of Public Awareness Committee at amy(dot)e(dot)koester(at)gmail(dot)com.

ALSC’s Public Awareness Committee will continue to maintain the Día page, but with more regularly pinned content. Look for new ideas and inspiration to bring your Día programming up to the next level.

We’re looking forward to the changes that will be taking place and hope that members will find loads of useful information about the work that ALSC is doing! If you have any suggestions for boards or pins that should be on the ALSC Pinterest board, please feel free to leave those in the comments.

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Katie Salo is an Early Literacy Librarian at Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, IL and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at simplykatie(at)gmail(dot)com.

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22. Institute Tips: The Do’s and Don’ts of #alsc14

2014 ALSC National Institute

2014 ALSC National Institute (photo courtesy ALSC)

So you’re going to the 2014 ALSC National Institute in Oakland, California. Or…you’re not.

Either way, you can participate. The conversations that happen at the Institute will inevitably spill over into social media and that is a beautiful thing. We put together a do’s and don’ts list to help those participating on both sides: on-site and online:

Do: Check out this Steve Sheinkin video from the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting

Yup. He’s our Thursday evening opener!

Don’t: Be Timid About Becoming a Live-Blogger

We’re still looking for live-bloggers for the Institute! Don’t be shy. There are people out there depending on you to report your favorite programs, speakers, moments, places to eat, and exciting new ideas. You can participate by simply emailing ALSC Blog Manager Mary Voors.

Do: Join the Conversation

We’ll be tweeting, posting information to Facebook and live-blogging via the ALSC Blog. A few hashtags for your consideration: #alsc14, #alscleftbehind, #CCSS, #oakland. Also look for some pictures that we’ll post to the ALSC Facebook page.

Don’t: Miss the site selection for the 2016 National Institute

Already thinking about 2016!? Are you crazy? Nope, just preparin’. At the 2014 ALSC National Institute, we’ll be announcing the location for the 2016 ALSC National Institute. Keep an eye out for that announcement.

Do: Bring the ALSC14 Recommendation Map

The National Institute Task Force has done the dirty work for you. They’ve scoped out all the best restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. They put all of these great tips into the ALSC14 Local Recommendations map. Remember to keep this map handy and don’t miss everything that Oakland has to offer!

Don’t: Forget to Bring Your Pirate Gear

Friday, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. There no will be no formal acknowledgement of this day at the Institute. But, please don’t that stop you…

Har! See you in Oakland!

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23. Parents Just Don’t Know How to Play!

Toys scattered among the stacks, puzzle pieces askew, kids popping from mess to mess and over in a corner you see a parent on their cell phone or device. Does this scene sound familiar to you?

Libraries with play spaces often report that they have parents who seem disengaged from their children’s play. While this isn’t the majority of library users but seems to stand out because of the mess and noise children who are not engaged in meaningful play can create. While it is our intention that parents will use the play space to interact and play with their children, they often observe play or expect their little ones to discover the play on their own.

How do we teach these parents to use the play spaces provided as an interactive time to share with their little ones?

  • Model play! Library staff can often engage a parent by simply asking a question or starting a conversation with a child. When you see a child playing alone, ask them open ended questions that extend the play. When the parent sees the interaction they will become interested and then you can pull them into the play as well. We model how to share a book in story time, let’s model play on the floor.
  • Provide signage! Be simple with your signs and remember you are not posting rules but suggestions for play. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/03/instructions-included/
  • Keep it Clean, Keep it Organized! While children can look at anything and find the play in it, somewhere adults loose that ability. Make your play spaces clean, organized and obvious. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/04/keeping-it-clean/
  • Choose meaningful play! When selecting your play spaces and what is included think of what learning is going to take place and what values the parents will see in the play.

Your turn! How do you engage parents in play?

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24. Membership Suggestion Notice for Batchelder Award

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to committee chair, Diane Janoff, at diane.janoff@queenslibrary.org. The deadline to submit suggestions is December 31st, 2014.

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/. Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”

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25. My Parents Open Carry

  • My Parents Open CarryWhat obligation do public or school libraries have to purchase materials that present a range of views on controversial subjects?
  • Must every controversy be treated the same way?
  • How do our personal biases affect our purchasing decisions?
  • Should libraries take the opinions of their patrons or the ethos of their communities into consideration when making these decisions?
  • If there are no materials that meet our selection criteria, should we add materials of poor quality simply to ensure that all viewpoints are available?
  • Should well-known titles on controversial topics be retained once better-written books are available?
  • Is there a difference between adding donated materials and spending taxpayers’ money to purchase them?

These are a few of the questions which occurred to me in response to the recent discussions about MY PARENTS OPEN CARRY by Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephew (White Feather Press). The publisher kindly sent me a review copy of the book in response to my emailed request and it arrived yesterday, giving me time to examine it carefully and to share it with my coworkers.

Though formatted as a picture book, the character whose parents “open carry” is a 13-year-old girl named Brenna. And despite the title, she doesn’t narrate the text. As the authors indicate in their, “…note to home school teachers: This book is an excellent text to use as a starting point on the discussion of the 2nd Amendment,” which suggests that they are hoping to reach a market with a broad age-range.

I was hoping the book would be well-enough written that I would find it a plausible purchase for our collection, but my hopes have not come to fruition. The text is tedious, the conversations are repetitious and attempts at descriptive writing fail to convey information.

Here are some examples of the writing:

“One morning, Brenna was sleeping and dreaming dreams only a 13-year-old girl would dream.” (p. 1)

“All in all, Brenna had a great day with her mom and dad. She again realized how much they loved her and how lucky she was to have parents that open carry.” (p. 21)

And then there are the creepier moments: “To increase Brenna’s awareness, her dad often tries to sneak up on her to catch her off guard; it’s a game they play.” (p. 15)

In addition, the robotic figures depicted in the illustrations with their stiff postures and eerie, fixed smiles are rather discomfiting.

I confess that the level of paranoia Jeffs and Nephew express to justify their need to carry guns in plain sight whenever they go out in public disturbs me, but I won’t debate the Second Amendment here. Whatever our personal opinions on the matter may be, we librarians still must grapple with the sorts of questions I’ve framed above.

I feel honor-bound, however, to point out that Jeffs and Nephew espouse the consumption of canned spinach and this is a sentiment that any right-minded person would find abhorrent. Fresh spinach is delicious and frozen spinach is an acceptable substitute in recipes calling for cooked spinach, but canned spinach is an abomination. The only proper use for a can of spinach that I can think of would be to aim at it during target practice.

But spinach aside, if this book had received a starred review, would you add it to your collection?

Miriam Lang Budin, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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