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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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26. Reviews & Common Sense Media

Kids using the computerDuring late March and early April, the ALSC Discussion List was active with comments and concerns around Common Sense Media (CSM) and that organization’s reviews of children’s materials.  I followed this discussion with particular interest for two reasons. First, the organization is located in the city where I work.  Second, when they were just getting started, members of the organization came to our library to meet with us to discuss their values and seek our support.   We declined as we believed that their practice of labeling was in violation of the ALA Bill of Rights and the core values of library services for children.

I do not intend to rehash all of the comments and statements of the online discussion (sigh of relief on your part!).  Hopefully, most of you followed it and certainly many of you actively participated.  I found it to be a robust and lively exchange.  That being said, I believe that there are some points that bear repeating regarding CSM reviews:

  • The qualifications of the “expert” reviewers are not always clear with regard to their knowledge of children’s literature and their background in bringing children and books together.
  • Reviews contain a not-so-subtle bias that the values of CSM should be shared by everyone.
  • Ratings that focus on a checklist of incidents that CSM considers problematic (i.e. violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs, smoking) cannot provide a balanced and truly insightful evaluation of a literary work.  There is no context.
  • The “Parents Need to Know” ratings are presented to the left of the reviews and are the most immediately visible component.  Even if the review itself does present some balance, a parent in a hurry will find it all too easy to simply look at the rating as a guide to deciding if the book is one they consider appropriate.

Nina Lindsay, Supervising Librarian for Children’s Services at Oakland Public Library, focused on this issue in a way that I found particularly insightful.  With her permission I am going to use her comments:

“…it is indeed the “What Parents Need to Know” section and ratings of CSM that I find inherently problematic, and totally different than, for instance, VOYA’s ratings on popularity and quality.  First of all…”Parents Need to Know”?  That very statement presupposes that what is about to follow is what every parent should value.  Try looking up some reviews of titles with complex stories in them, and picture yourself as a parent who is browsing this site to sanction or veto your child’s reading choices.  Does this section really tell you what you need to know about the book?  The point is it is different for every parent, every family.”

Thanks, Nina!

If you haven’t done so, I would like to encourage you to read a blog post from the Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and a Booklist editorial by Pat Scales.  On March 28th, 2016, Joyce Johnston posted a piece to the OIF blog titled Common Sense Media:  Promoting Family Values or Dictating Them?  The original editorial from Pat Scales, titled Three Bombs, Two Lips, and a Martini Glass was published in Booklist in August of 2010.  It has just been reprinted with updates as a result of the ALSC-L discussions.  Both pieces are succinct and on target.

Are two blog posts and an updated editorial on top of the previous discussion excessive on this issue?  I would answer no.  The discussion about labeling in order to limit what children read is a vital one to our profession.  It is one that we should weigh in on whenever possible.

Finally, I encourage you to think about volunteering to serve on the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.  Several of us currently serving are coming to the end of our appointments at the close of the Annual Conference.  This will provide openings for those who might be interested in participating in this critical committee, and working with great people who share your passion for intellectual freedom!

Toni Bernardi, San Francisco Public Library

Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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27. Poetry Timeline: Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa, Hooray!

Poetry School Visit photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Poetry School Visit photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Do you have poems swirling in your head?  Do you have one poem memorized that you share every day with someone new in the library?   Do you dress up during poetry month?  Have you created a poetree display? There are so many amazing fun things to do during poetry month!  This year, I switched up my school visits a bit and added a poetry timeline. The poetry timeline works great with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.

Below are two options for adding poems to your timeline-Movement: Day 1 and Historical Events.

Historical Events Poetry Timeline: Before your school visit, create your poetry timeline on a huge piece of colorful paper using makers or paint. Select a series of interactive poems that match up with a specific date. For example, Velcro by Maria Fleming invented in 1955. Start with a really really early date and end with 2016.  Add between 7-12 poems with a variety of dates. (This will change depending on your school group size and how much time you have.)

Sample Historical Poetry Timeline:
1753 Liberty Bell by Linda Sue Park in Amazing Places Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
1912 Fenway Park by Charles Waters in Amazing Places Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
1958 Art Kane’s famous photography Harlem, 1958 in Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photography by Roxane Orgill

Recommended Poetry Books for Historical Events:
28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr.Shane W. Evans (Illustrations)
Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Editor), Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator), Christy Hale (Illustrator)
Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World by Jan Greenberg
Pritelli (Illustrations)Rutherford B.,
Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents by Marilyn SingerJohn Hendrix (Illustrations)
World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of  by J. Patrick LewisAnna Raff  (Illustrations)
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by Ekua Holmes.
Voices : Poetry and Art from Around the World by Barbara Brenner
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick LewisMichael Slack (Illustrator)

Day 1 Poetry Timeline:

Day 15 - walk, crack, dance, pop, and fly. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Day 15 – walk, crack, dance, pop, and fly. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Hold your school visit either in the classroom or wing/meeting space, use a white board or bring in big pieces of butcher paper.  Have the classroom or group select a day-Day 1, Day 22, Day 245, or Day 6,780. Have fun selecting the number.  Let’s start with Day 1.  Have the teacher assist with writing the poems on the timeline after you read them.  Students will select (yell out) where the poem will go and what time of day the poem should happen. For example, after reading the poem “A Smoothie Supreme,” students might select the poem to start at 6pm.  Write the poem and time on your timeline-6pm A Smoothie Supreme by Deborah Ruddell.  After-this is the best part! – read together and act out each motion-Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa (roller coaster noises while pretending to ride a roller coaster up, down and around.) Hooray, yells the group together.

Tell your group the name of the poem again and remind them what the action is that matches up with each poem and book.  This is a great way to introduce new poets like Deborah Ruddell, Julie Paschkis, Bob Raczka and more!  The poetry timeline creates interaction and movement.  You will be loud, be silly and be smiling.

 Day 1 Poetry Timeline
8:30 a.m. – Snake by Julie Paschkis (Slither-ssssss)
9:00 a.m. –The New Running Shoes by Fran Haraway (Run!)
11:00 a.m. –21 Things to Do with an Apple by Deborah Ruddell, (Crunch)
12:00 p.m. –A Bird in the Bird Feeder by Judith Viorst-Spring Haikus (Flap!)
6:00 p.m. –A Smoothie Supreme by Deborah Ruddell (Slurp!)
7:00 p.m. –Roller Coaster by Joan Bransfield Graham (Aaaaa!)
8:00 p.m.-Arrival of the Popcorn Astronauts by Deborah Ruddell (Hooray!)

Poetry Timeline Popcorn photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Poetry Timeline Popcorn photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Have fun with each timeline by adding illustrations-markers, pencil drawings or cut-out magazine collages.
You can also create a seasonal poetry timeline-fall, winter, spring and summer or theme poetry timelines-Sports, Animals, Food-so many options.
For more poetry ideas, explore past Poetry Paige ALSC blog posts.
Please share your school visit ideas and photos below (especially, if you dress up during poetry month.)





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28. Creating Spaces that Celebrate Every Child Ready to Read 2

How we serve the youngest of children and their families is, of course, a major priority for children’s librarians.  Besides our services, our spaces can also accommodate each of the major practices of Every Child Ready to Read 2 for our smallest of learners and their grownups.  At this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program:  Libraries: the Space to Be, we will be discussing President Medlar’s vision of how to bring both big and small ways into our libraries  to enliven spaces to maximize learning outcomes.

Whether you have a grant for space redesign or are just adding a little nook space, there are practical and easy ways to plan for, and then create space for the five practices. In Orlando, we can see and learn from best practices across the nation so that we all can find ways to activate your space for talk, sing, read, write and play practices:  all so essential to young children and their grownups.

First, creating a play space in your library allows for a new type of learning in our spaces:  active, engaged learning that allows children to problem solve and take on the role of learning by doing and being the ‘expert’ in any situation.  Play spaces help families learn together and celebrate their successes as important roles in children’s learning.  It has been documented at the Chicago Public Library that where we have put in play spaces we see families staying up to 40% longer, returning more often, attending more programs and coming together across communities to learn together as families and build friendships.  These all benefit 21st Century’s library goals, and are important for us as we promote our services to stakeholders.

The benefits of play are numerous and the LEGO Foundation spells them out in their Power of Play white paper which cites play as critical to the ‘balanced development of children’.  Play allows children to use their imagination and creativity, and is, at base, a form of communication.  It has been called essential to human development, and the UN calls it a fundamental right of children.  And libraries are proudly joining in as places for play as we embrace learning in its many environments.  Of the five types of play:  Physical Play, Play with Objects, Symbolic Play, Pretend and Socio-Emotional play and Games with Rules,   can you find some easy ways to incorporate play into your spaces and programming?

And what about the other four skills?  Think about ways you can encourage talking in your library.  A library pet goldfish in a bowl with a simple question or prompt about the fish each week, a comparison chart of your height to various animals, bean sprouts growing in baggies on the windows or a whisper tube such as the one Amanda Roberson at Hartford County Public Library, St. Mary’s County Library has installed are all inexpensive, fun and whimsical ways to encourage families to talk with one another.  Close your own eyes and visualize the moment a whispered “I love you” between a parent and child travels all along the talk tube and into the ear, the brain and the heart of the receiving child.  Or consider the thrill families will have upon finding and discovering their bean sprouts have grown since their last visit to you.

Singing happens in story hours all the time: we sing songs, action rhymes, play music and dance, but why leave it for just program time?  What if you had a nursery rhyme or children’s song station and a small, play microphone?  Encourage children and their adults to take turns singing the song of the week.  What a goofy and fun station that can encourage breaking language down into its basic parts.

Reading we know has its foundations in various aspects of ECCR2 such as letter recognition and print awareness.  Add letter toys such as Lakeshore Learning’s Alphabet Apples or their Magnetic alphabet maze into your play areas to help encourage letter recognition.  These toys encourage play with letters and phonemic awareness.  Integrate such toys into your books for a fun, literacy play experience.

Writing:  Dr. Nell Duke talks about the significance of writing in early literacy development, but how can we add this into a physical space?  Think about an easel white board that can be put in your space with accessible markers,  write and wipe lapboards for writing letters in story hours, or a letter writing or post box station.  Sentence start strips are also great ways for children and families to feel ownership in the library and can be an easy way to decorate:  Start a bulletin board with the letters “On my way to the library, I saw….” And then leave sentence strips out for families to complete.  Young children can dictate their sentence or story which can lead to a great bonding experience and fun narrative skills.  Then, add these to your board as a fun and easy way to create a fresh display that is child centered.

Please join President Andrew Medlar at this year’s ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program: Libraries: The Space to Be to learn more from the experts around the country:  folks like you!  National experts in space design and children’s creativity will be side by side for a fascinating panel discussion on creative children’s space.  Best practices for small, medium and large libraries will be showcased in this important look into how space and our programs in libraries transform.

We hope you can join us!

Liz McChesney, Chicago Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

Christy Estrovitz, San Francisco Public Library
Co-chair Charlemae Rollins President Program 2016

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29. Exploring Self Collaboration — via MU

In my thirst for all things related to libraries—books, information, technology, trends—and how librarians—in the U.S. and abroad—view their work, I started to think about all of our different perspectives and what this means short and long term for librarians, libraries, and most importantly, our patrons. I understand the focus is different in schools and public libraries, yet the skills we learn are transferable, and many of us employ outreach and collaborate between schools and public libraries. Through modeling collaboration, we create a network of professional librarians who master and implement 21st century life-long learning skills, sharing those same collaborative and transferable skills with our patrons. We manage this process quickly, effectively and differently. Different, is key—just look at MU.

Within Monster University’s website, I came across some very interesting reading to help focus my thoughts. In the article, Are Two Heads Better Than One? the author states, “…self-collaboration leads to better results in a shorter amount of time than solo brainstorming” (Stillwater). This is a new twist I had not thought of, and I wanted to learn more about MU. Their webpage, About: MU at a Glance, indicates the university, “opened [in] 1313”, and is still going strong, housing “16 computer labs”, with a library that holds, “89,000 books…” (2016). Based on the information on MU, now I know, we are not alone. Libraries–their image, impact and social role, will be around, in very different forms, for a very long time. I have also found that author Stillwater’s “solo brainstorming” offers some really fascinating ideas to think about.

For now, while I do engage in a monstrous (sorry, couldn’t help it) amount of self-reflection and research to improve my performance, I still find that multiple (separate) heads are better than one. With mindful leadership and collaboration on professional best practice, and its implications for patrons, we define the professional role of all librarians and libraries. I think MU President Victoria Gross indicates our role very clearly, in her Welcome.

If you would like to observe Monsters University’s library resources, activities and the impact their librarian has in supporting student collaboration, click here.

“Monsters University.” Disney. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.


Courtesy photo from Guest Blogger

Courtesy photo from Guest Blogger

Our guest blogger today is Brenda Hahn. Brenda’s permanent home is in Florida, where she and her family live. As a Teacher/Librarian, her experiences include, U.S. public schools, public libraries and several IB schools. Brenda’s vivid imagination keeps her library full of fun and applicable 21st Century life-long learning skills. She can be reached at neverendinglibrarian@gmail.com.

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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30. Hamilton and the Children’s Library

hamiltonBroadway’s hit show Hamilton is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon: sold out until January 2017, its cast album just became a gold record, meaning it has sold more than 500,000 copies; meanwhile the cast recently performed live at the Grammy Awards and at the White House. For those not yet obsessed with the show, Hamilton mixes hip-hop with show tunes to tell the story of America’s “ten dollar Founding Father/without a father.” The cast is stunningly talented and diverse, and young people (and their friendly neighborhood librarians) across America are obsessed.

So how can we capitalize on this Hamilton hunger in the children’s library? True, the musical is based on a book, but not many 10 year-olds are wiling to haul an 800+ page, Pulitzer-prize winning behemoth to school. Prior to his recent fame, Hamilton was an oft-ignored Founding Father. In fact, Chernov’s book bills itself as the “first” full-length biography of the man, written nearly 200 years after he died. So what can we offer Hamilton‘s younger fans?

Luckily, offerings for the young reader are not as slim as you might think. The following books are in-print, well-reviewed, and fun to read:

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider (2012, Gr. 6+)

The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (2009, Gr. 5+ )

The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America (2015, Gr. 2+)

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History (2015, Gr. 2+)

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery (2013, Gr. 5+ – yes, this one is not about Hamilton. But it’s excellent, and tells the story of another early American whose story has been reduced to one thing: traitor)

Better Nate than Ever (2014, Gr. 5+ – again, not about Hamilton. But a kid who loves Broadway will love this book. And so does Lin Manuel Miranda!)

What books would you give to a young Hamilton fan? And what’s your favorite song from Hamilton? Mine is (currently) “Dear Theodosia.”




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31. Taking Advantage of National Resources – The Smithsonian

As children’s librarians we give a lot of attention to reading and various literacy skills, and on many occasions we use fun activities to explore a variety of subjects with children. Through this blog and upcoming ones from me, I want to introduce and/or remind about us about the national based resources that can provide information and program ideas. Although I am spoiled with a wealth of program resources by working in Washington, DC at DC Public Library (DCPL), my colleagues and I should not be the only librarians taking advantage of these opportunities.

The Smithsonian site is overloaded with program resources from most of its 19 museums and galleries. Unfortunately this site doesn’t have a consistent method for accessing them. But by clicking on “educators”, “Kids” and/or “student” pages you should be able to find activities to checkout. Below are a few examples of the ideas and resources available (lifted from the site on Saturday, April 02, 2016).

American Art Museum
The American Art Museum (through its Renwick Gallery) has a project for creating a 3-D collage about your state through the program: Superhighway Scholars.

Although there is no direct link from the “Educators” page to some of the museums such the American Indian Museum and the Museum for African American History and Culture (which opens this September) you can go to their site to look for resources.

The above examples are not only good for you, but are great resources to recommend to teachers and other educators to check-out. You don’t have to do the lessons on the site exactly as presented but hopefully they will spark some new ways for fun programs with children. And, of course, promote your collection by showcasing related resources before and after the program.


Carmen Boston is a children’s librarian and the Children’s Programs and Partnerships Coordinator for DC Public Library and a member of the ALSC School-Age Programs and Services Committee. You can contact her at Carmen.Boston@dc.gov.

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32. Upcoming Día Celebrations

El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros is a celebration of children and reading across all language and cultures. While it is intended to be celebrated all year long, the culminating event is held annually on April 30. This year is the 20th anniversary of promoting literacy for all children from all backgrounds through Día. Check the Día website to discover a wealth of information, including the history of the celebration and how it came to mean what it does; booklists; and tons of suggested activities. Support materials include downloadable publicity, coloring sheets, bookmarks, and activity sheets. Take a look!

The 20th Anniversary of Día!

You’re invited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Día! (image courtesy of ALSC)

Many different programs fit under the vast umbrella of Día celebrations at libraries across the country. The program registry on the above webpage allows you to publicize your own programs, as well as to look at what others are offering. Location, time, and descriptive information are provided. Registrations so far include libraries from Louisiana to Michigan and California to Massachusetts!

Here’s a sample of some different programming approaches:

King County Library System, outside of Seattle WA, will host programs during the week of 4/23-4/30 that include a Steel Drum Party, South Indian Classical Dance Performance, and Story Telling through the Harmony of Koto. Story times will be held in 11 different languages across the county. And that’s in addition to multicultural-themed story times in English. For more information, look at www.kcls.org/dia.

Seattle Public Library will host two separate events on 4/30 called Celebrate Día! One features an Open Mic for participant-sharing, and both will have stories. See more on these programs and others at SPL at http://www.spl.org/audiences/children/chi-calendar-of-events.

Denver Public Library will host a celebration on Sunday 4/24 that reflects a partnership with local museums. Activities are planned for children and adults, including dance, storytelling, and artmaking. More details can be found at https://www.denverlibrary.org/event/kids/celebrate-d%C3%ADa-del-ni%C3%B1o.

These examples are just a smattering of the programs that will be taking place in libraries this month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Día. Share your plans in the comments!

Jennifer Duffy works at the King County (WA) Library System. She is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee.

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33. Día Turns 20 Capitol Hill Event

The 20th Anniversary of Día!

You’re invited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Día! (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC is heading to Washington, DC, to kick off the 20th anniversary celebration of Día!

Pat Mora, children’s book author and founder of El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), will join ALSC President Andrew Medlar on Capitol Hill to bring national attention to the importance of connecting children and their families with books that embrace all languages and cultures.

The Día Turns 20 Capitol Hill event takes place on Wednesday, April 27. Stay tuned to find out how you can celebrate the 20th anniversary of Día from your hometown on April 30!

Visit dia.ala.org or follow #díaturns20 on social media for more information.

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34. By Design: A New Way of Thinking #PLA2016

Idea generation phase of the Design Thinking session at #PLA2016

Idea generation phase of the Design Thinking session at #PLA2016

I was first introduced to Design Thinking last August while attending the ALA Leadership Institute. Seeing it in action was what drew me to this session hosted by librarians from San Jose Public Library, Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, and YOLO County Public Library, who have implemented this process in planning for new services such as trivia nights, pop-up outreach, and after-hours craft events. It’s no surprise that many great ideas come from using one’s imagination to think broadly about services.

Design Thinking most notably came out of Stanford’s d.school, where students were asked to think of a creative way to make a new type of incubator for infants in developing countries. After much research, a visit to Nepal, and abandoning pre-conceived notions, the student team created the Embrace Infant Warmer, and have made a lasting global impact.

How can we bring this new method of thinking to libraries? The presenters had the entire room of public librarians participate in a few exercises which helped with idea generation and implementation. The steps for the process are:

  • Define the Problem
  • Empathize
  • Brainstorm
  • Prototype
  • Iterate or “Try again and again”

The first exercise had one idea generator come up with a concept for a party. Each time they made a suggestion, the rest of the group met the idea with, “Yes, BUT.” This was extremely challenging for the idea generator who felt continually stifled. The next step was to have group members respond to new ideas with, “Yes, AND.” A much better result and leads to more growth and collaboration.

The final exercise was to have groups think magically about the possibilities of library service and how to make work more fun. Once we had an idea, the group had to use physical materials to create a prototype. The Rules of Brainstorming which the librarians provided were:

  • Think of as many ideas as you can
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Defer judgment
  • Be visual
  • Yes, And thinking
  • Headline

Many of the projects, including my own group’s design were completely out of this world. We made a prototype for a Library Lunar Lending program for the moon. This was certainly a wild idea, but seeing how the speakers used this method of brainstorming innovative services was inspiring for my own department’s planning process.

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35. Anythink Open House at #PLA2016

I was lucky enough to snag a free ticket for the Open House at the Anythink Huron Street location held Wednesday morning. We met the very friendly Anythink staff at the Convention Center and were ushered into a party bus-like shuttle to travel the 12 miles to Anythink. It was a great time to meet some other people, see more of Denver and talk about branding and the Anythink philosophy and service. “Anythink” comes from the idea that “anything” is possible. The library gives us access to and endless array of possibilities.

When we arrived at the branch, we were able to explore and see the branch working in action. I was so impressed by their emphasis on hospitality (rather than “customer service”). The entire branch was focused on making users feel welcome from babies to adults and there were clear places for everyone to enjoy the library in their own way, whether quiet or more interactive. There was also some fantastic fresh fruit and quiche!

My favorite things about Anythink:
bright, open spaces
anything seems possible attitude
hospitality–incredibly welcoming

And of course the children’s room. In the children’s room, a Denver Science museum was visiting and providing interactive activities, toddlers and parents were reading board books and playing, and there was plenty to explore. There were also quiet tree-fort like nooks that my introverted kid would just love!

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36. We are all media mentors!

Media mentorship continues to be one of the hottest topics in children’s librarianship. As touch-screen devices and hand-held (or worn) technology become increasingly pervasive, and more content is created (for better or for worse) for young people, the library is an ideal venue for conversations about these topics. Though the phrase “media mentorship” may be new, the concept certainly is not. While for many it may invoke images of tablets, apps, and the latest in technology, there are ways that all of us are and can be engaging in media mentorship every day, regardless of our technological resources.

The reality is that not every library has the resources to contain within its walls the latest technologies. There are various barriers, including higher-prioritized projects and needs, budget, staffing, etc.. But our young patrons do still have technological needs and the right to digital literacy, and their families do still require mentorship on what media is best for their children. And simply put, you have the knowledge and resources to help parents determine what is developmentally appropriate content for kids of all ages, whether it is a book, a website, a computer game, or an app.

Here are some ways that you probably already are (or easily can be) providing media mentorship to children and their families:

Public Access Computers – Many children and families rely on these computers for internet access for both entertainment and education. For both of these purposes kids almost always still rely on random Google searches. At the most basic level, you can select kid-friendly, fun and educational websites and create icon links to them on your desktops. If you are part of a consortium or larger library system, you may have access to kid-friendly databases or online services. Highlighting these on your desktop or library website is a great way of steering kids in the right direction in the large sea of the internet. This may seem very obvious, but although libraries have been dealing with computers and the internet for decades, several generations later, kids still need guidance. Try to stay abreast with the latest and greatest websites (keep up with updates from ALSC’s Great Websites for Kids) to curate a collection on your desktops.

Downloadable Materials: Do your patrons have access to downloadable materials through Overdrive, Hoopla, or another product? If so, it is still likely that many of your patrons either don’t know about these services or don’t know how to access them. Furthermore, they may have not considered that there are materials available for children. Be ready to inform your patrons and guide them through the download process. If your patrons do not have access to these programs, they may still have devices through which they can access free resources for downloadable materials such as the Internet Children’s Digital Library, Librivox, and more. Save your patrons time and money by connecting them to these resources.

Books about Technology: Consider ways that your book collection can promote healthy media use and encourage digital literacy skills. Books that promote problem-solving skills for young children, books that introduce the concept of coding, non-fiction books about technology – all of these are key resources in a collection that can support a technologically-savvy new generation.

You!: Even if your library’s technology consists of one public access computer with an out-of-date operating system, it’s still important for librarians to stay sharp when it comes to technology. You may be less visible as a media mentor if you don’t have ipads lining every wall, but the way you present yourself as a professional resource matters. Be open to discussing media mentorship when you observe patrons interacting with their children and technology. Share information from the wide and growing body of expertise out there, much of it from librarians. Above all, trust in yourself as the media mentor that you already are!


Clara Hendricks is the Youth Services Librarian at the O’Neill Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, and a member of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee.

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37. Every Child Ready to Read and Its Impact on Parents in your Community @ #PLA2016

My job title is Early Literacy Specialist, and I’m pretty I would neither have that job title, nor would my job even exist (in it’s present form), without Every Child Ready to Read. I discovered ECRR shortly after it was introduced in 2004 and it was, in all honesty, career-changing. I was hooked on empowering parents through 5 simple practices (or, 6 skills in the first iteration) to help their children get ready to read and fascinated by the brain science behind it. Libraries around the country, including mine, began being more intentional in their storytimes about talking to parents about how the things they were doing were helping children develop vital pre-reading skills.

ECRR changed the focus of storytime from the child to the parent. Has this change in focus been effective, though? Are we having an impact?

It was, then, with great pleasure that today I attended Susan Neuman’s presentation on her latest research, funded by a grant given to PLA and ALSC, into how libraries implementing ECRR has impacted families.

The grant looked at:

  • Libraries social institutions that enable parents and caregivers to build social capital that can then be grown into information capital;
  • Early literacy opportunities – not the specific outcomes (like test scores) but in terms of play and interaction; and
  • Parent engagement.

The grant is a three year project and Neuman was reporting on year 1. Her methodology involved observations/ethnography in libraries, interviewing library staff, observing and recording some storyhours, surveying parents, and looking at librarians’ activities. She visited libraries in several states, and in each state at least two different library systems.

Her findings: there have been shifts in four areas:

  1. Library spaces: They have become more interactive; families hang out more. They are social centers where families engage with each other and interact. Libraries have spaces now for play and interaction, and books are included in that “play” which adds to the connection between books and joy. Parents are more frequently getting on the floor and engaging with their children.
  2. Librarians’ roles: Librarians are now taking on an educator or parent educator role. We are seen as more “hip” and as community workers. We are becoming role models and confidantes to parents. Those who go to work in libraries do it more so now from a desire to “do good” in the community than from a love of books. Librarians are increasingly trained in early childhood education and early literacy, and are gaining legitimacy as early literacy specialists.
  3. Programming strategies: Libraries are programming now around things like “guided play” and preparing children for school. Programming also includes socializing with others, engaging families more integrally in the activities with children, more multicultural and diverse programming, and using an expansive definition of literacy – it’s not just reading books, but also singing, talking, writing, etc. that are all part of literacy growth. Parents are expected to participate in storytime now, and we include parent “asides” are included.
  4. Library’s role in the community: We are community spaces, cafes, and welcome diverse families.

What does this mean for us?

Well, honestly, my own feeling is that those of us who work in early literacy in libraries know that these changes have taken place (although it’s nice to have a study to back it up). But this research is important to share with those outside our circles who haven’t yet figured out all that we’re doing to help parents help their children. When Neuman publishes this study, I will be the first to try and get it into the hands of those who still don’t “get” it and forget to include the library when forming task forces or committees to discuss growing test scores or increasing the number of children reading on grade level at  3rd grade or empowering communities. I may share it with funders as evidence of how the work we’re doing is promoting family engagement.  The work we are doing IS having an impact – now we need to keep telling our story about that impact.

If you’d like to read more about Neuman’s research, check out “Libraries emerging as leaders in parent engagement” and “Libraries at the Ready” (you will need your ala login and password for access to this one)

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38. The Forgotten Years

It’s Friday at #PLA2016! Today I attended a session entitled Middle Childhood Matters: Revitalizing Services and Programs for School Age Children by Peggy Thomas and Diane Banks of the Toronto Public Library.

This was an excellent presentation covering what they did and why they did it. A lot of their reasoning rang true for me personally. The trend to bring a lot of light and attention to the importance of reading to children birth to age five is particularly strong. As it well should be! The developmental stages that children go through in this time period and the importance of early literacy is well documented. However, it seems that we don’t have the same elevator speech for why library programming for six to twelve years is just as important. We need to be able to tell stakeholders such as parents, teachers, and funders why library programming is imperative for this age group as well. This is a time of self-discovery and finding one’s talents and interests. Once again, we need to demonstrate beyond middle grade programming is nice to have. We need to demonstrate that it is necessary.

The Toronto Public Library had such a multifaceted approach to this including outreach, after school clubs, and space innovation. They took into account languages spoken in their urban area along with what the barriers to program attendance were. Their afterschool clubs focused on topics that were really engaging for this group, but were not covered in the formal education system such as robotics, coding, magic tricks, and dinosaurs (!!!) They incorporated evaluation and assessment in order to make data informed decisions for the future. Additionally, there is a middle grade curriculum in development. This is pretty exciting stuff, folks!

They also discussed new space renovation specifically for this age group and the plans they have for the future. Feltro and the EverBright Wall were seriously cool. I really loved the ideas I came away with from this session. It was as if they put a title on an issue I was aware of but never thought to name.

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39. Out at the Library in comics at #PLA2016

image image image

All illustrations copyright Lisa Nowlain, 2016.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT. She is also an artist-type (see more at lisanowlain.com).

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40. Begin Your Sensory Storytime Today!

Many librarians that I have talked to are reluctant to start a sensory story time. Familiar refrains that I’ve heard go something like this:  I don’t know the first thing about children with special abilities; I don’t have specialized training; I don’t want to do the wrong thing and upset a child who already has special needs; I didn’t go to library school to do sensory storytimes; don’t I need a really big grant in order to secure materials for something like this?

Much has been written about how to begin a sensory storytime. We won’t cover that here.  There’s plenty of stuff out there for you research, plus we’ve included some references below.  However, you should know that you’re probably already equipped to do a sensory storytime right now!  Joshua Farnum, the play, and active learning specialist at Chicago Public Library has started a string of successful sensory storytimes across the city and is expanding to more branches.  Joshua states, “sensory storytime is a storytime that works for you.  It’s a lot like traditional storytime, but it puts a particular emphasis on repetition, interactive activities, and sensory play. The best way to discover what sensory storytime is all about is to experience it yourself.”  Indeed, a sensory storytime is, after all, just a storytime, with the special touch being the care you take to have things like a schedule, and manipulates  (just to name a couple). With a very basic understanding of the abilities that your patrons exhibit, you will go a long way to making your storytime one in which a child or children with developmental differences can thrive in.

If you’ve ever wondered what people of special abilities need to feel comfortable? Then just ask!  There are plenty of parent groups, cohorts, and organizations who host fairs for children and families who have developmental differences.  Most parents would be happy to talk to you about their kids and what works or doesn’t work for them.  If you have play manipulatives, already in your library, then you probably have a some essential items for some children with special abilities.  You may not have gone to library school to be a sensory storytime librarian, but let’s face it, children with special abilities are on the rise in this country. Many parents of these children don’t feel comfortable in the library because of negative experiences with insensitive staff and or fear of being ostracized by other parents.  By starting a sensory storytime for this group, you fulfill a need and help to serve an already underserved population. Sensory storytimes also foster literacy, engage the senses, and it’s a ton of fun!

Remember it’s for everyone!

Storytime for the Spectrum


Libraries and Autism


ALSC Sensory Storytime Pinterest Board


Sensory Storytime: A (brief) How-To Guide


SPD Foundation



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41. Fingerprints and Forensics with First-graders

Did you know with a few simple, inexpensive materials and some creativity you can create your own forensics lab for early elementary kiddos? You can! I lead a STEAM focused program at my library for first, second and third graders entitled Imagination Lab. The idea is that for four weeks in the fall, and again in the winter, we meet up after school to explore a variety of concepts that fit under the broad umbrella of STEAM. We experiment, sometimes I demonstrate, and we always create something to take home. In the past few weeks we have explored the science behind sound, polymers, and color, but my favorite topic may just have been forensics!

Inspired by the awesome Mad Scientists Club CSI program, I crafted my own 45-minute program for first through third grade patrons. I think this is a great program that can be easily modified for older children and held without breaking the budget purchasing special science equipment. The most fancy items you’ll need are magnifying glasses.

First, start off discussing what the word “forensics” means and what sorts of evidence might be helpful at a crime scene. Since my program was for early elementary school students, and I mostly have first graders in my group, we kept our discussion of crime scenes to stolen cookies, missing stuffed animals and library robberies.

Once you think everyone has a good basic understanding of the topic, you’ll want to get into the really fun part which is hands-on experimenting! Be sure to share some cool facts about fingerprints and using fingerprints to solve crimes before you start. You can find more neat facts in the great book Crazy for Science with Carmelo the Science Fellow by Carmelo Piazza . I have used this title for many program ideas, including our fingerprinting experiments. Check it out if you have it in your collection! Each chapter introduces a different branch of science and all the experiments are linked to science curriculum requirements for grades K through 3.

Below you can see some of the details from the program so you can easily replicate this at your library!

Fingerprinting Detective Supplies. image from Nicole Martin.

Fingerprinting detective supplies. Image from author.

Examine Your Fingerprints


  • Pencils
  • Clear tape ( I used book tape)
  • White paper (copier paper works fine)
  • Fingerprint pattern cards (You can find many images of typical fingerprint patterns online. I printed out the images on cardstock and distributed a card to each child.)
  • Mini-magnifying glasses
  1. Color a small square (about 4 inches) onto the white paper with a pencil.
  2. Press the top part of your index finger onto the pencil square, rolling it back and forth several times. You should have a very dirty finger!
  3. Press the clear tape firmly onto the dirty finger.
  4. Slowly pull the tape off the index finger and press it onto a clean sheet of white paper. The fingerprint should now be visible on the paper!
  5. Look at the details of the fingerprint with a magnifying glass. Try to identify what pattern each individual fingerprint is using the fingerprint pattern cards.
  6. Try this process with other fingers and compare patterns with your index finger as well as neighbor’s fingerprints.

Lifting Fingerprints 

Fingerpritns! Image by Nicole Martin.

Fingerprints! Image from author.


  • Small paintbrush
  • Corn starch (I measured a couple tablespoons into small plastic cups for each table to share.)
  • Clear tape ( I used book tape)
  • Dark black paper (construction paper or cardstock)
  • Paper plate (ideally coated paper plates, not just the regular white kind) 
  1. Rub the fingerprint part of your index finger down the side of your nose or in your hair/ scalp to get your finger dirty. (Gross, I know. But it works.)
  2. Press your oily finger against the center of the plate.
  3. Dip the paintbrush into the corn starch. You don’t need a lot! So be sure to shake off the extra powder before removing from the cornstarch.
  4. Use the brush to lightly “paint” the powder over the center of the plate where the fingerprint should be. The powder should stick to the oily fingerprint. Be sure to not press too hard or you will smear the fingerprint! This might take a couple tries to get right.
  5. “Lift” the fingerprint from the plate by placing a piece of tape firmly against the fingerprint. Then slowly and carefully peel the tape up.
  6. Place the sticky side down on the black paper.
  7. You should see the fingerprint on the paper!
  8. Take it farther and see if you can lift fingerprints off of nearby counter tops or door handles!
Mystery powder identification. Photo from Nicole Martin.

Mystery powder identification. Photo from author.

After our fingerprinting, we identified a “mystery powder” (aka powdered sugar) by observing chemical reactions. The kids loved it! I used instructions from Quirkles.com that you can find and follow yourself here. If you have time you can also create some fingerprint artwork using washable ink pads and markers, but my little detectives had so much fun we ran out of time! The kids were so excited to be able to take their fingerprints and fingerprint pattern cards home to share what they learned.

There are so many more fun ideas for forensic experiments and extension activities out there- this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to do this program again but set up a mock crime scene involving a stuffed pigeon, caution tape, and stolen cookies. Happy investigating fellow librarians!

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42. Share Your Thoughts on the Institute and HB2

Give ALSC your feedkbac on how to move forward with the National Institute

Give us your feedback on how to move forward with the National Institute (image courtesy of ALSC)

I’m reaching out today, International Transgender Day of Visibility, to share information regarding the 2016 ALSC National Institute and last week’s passing of North Carolina’s HB2 legislation, with the objective of gathering more member feedback within the next few days.

Thank you to everyone who has already expressed thoughts, concerns, support, and questions regarding this extremely important situation.

This is not an abstract issue. In addition to this law’s conflict with ALSC’s core values, purpose, and diversity work, in the past week ALSC leadership has heard from members who are personally affected by it in a very real way. During this time we have been consulting with ALA management and President Sari Feldman; ALA Conference Services; the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT); the ALA Public Awareness Office; the Institute Planning Task Force; the North Carolina Library Association; the Charlotte Marriott City Center; and, most importantly, as I mentioned, ALSC members on ALSC-L and via e-mail and social media.

With the Institute less than six months away and an ALSC calendar scheduled literally years in advance, unfortunately moving the event to another state is not a viable alternative even with a change of date. The alternative to moving forward with the Institute as scheduled in Charlotte is to cancel it.

We are working with GLBTRT on a continuing course of action and to prepare should the Institute proceed in Charlotte, a city with a culture of inclusiveness and library support. Indeed, it was Charlotte’s transgender-inclusive, nondiscrimination ordinance which was subsequently and egregiously reversed by the state’s HB2 legislation. We have already sent a letter to Governor McCrory urging him to support a swift repeal of HB2, however please be aware that we are a 501(c)(3) organization and must be very conscious that actions such as calls for boycotts and electioneering may put ALA at risk.

The Institute schedule does include programs specifically on equity and inclusion for all and we are actively looking to develop further programmatic content to help raise awareness and share resources. We have begun speaking with local LGBTQIA organizations in Charlotte on how we can actively support their work, and welcome suggestions of any of which you’re aware.

We continue to monitor and assess the situation closely and want to hear from you as your immediate feedback will help us plot our course moving forward and make a decision regarding the Institute within the next two weeks. To respond, please leave a comment below. If you would like to reach out to me privately, please feel free to do so at andrewalsc@outlook.com.

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43. April Fools’ Day at the Library

Are you planning April Fool’s hijinks at your library? Even if you don’t plan to announce to your Facebook followers that books will now be shelved according to color, you can celebrate with reading or displaying books that involve trickery or unexpected endings:


(image taken from Scholastic)

I’m leaving off several titles in the name of brevity, but I couldn’t forget Eric Kimmel’s retelling of Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.  The clever spider (in some stories, he’s human) tricks the other animals in the forest with much glee and abandon, until he meets his match in shy little Bush Deer. When parents/community members ask for recommendations for a “guest reader” session in which they are participating, I inevitably recommend this title.



(image taken from Julia Sarcone-Roach’s website)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich was one of my top favorite pictures books of 2015. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you ever needed to get the concept of “unreliable narrator” across, you should use this as a perfect example.



(image taken from Margaret Read MacDonald’s website)

Mabela the Clever is one of my favorite folktale adaptations by Margaret Read MacDonald. This folktale, adapted from the Limba culture in Sierra Leone, is a clever cautionary tale about the importance of keeping your wits about you and paying attention, as told through the perspective of a young mouse who must outsmart a cat soliciting members for its special and secret club.

snip snap

Snip! Snap! What’s That?

(image taken from Scholastic)

Would you be scared if an alligator broke into your house? YOU BET YOU WOULD! This tale of three children who get tired of being freaked out by the alligator has a delicious amount of suspense perfect for keeping toddlers on the edge of their story mats, but without causing them to run out the story time room.

What other books would you add to an April Fools’ display or story time (that isn’t specifically about the day)? Discuss in the comments!

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44. Library Town

I knew my library was going to be very busy over Spring Break so I wanted to create a passive program to engage our patrons but that wouldn’t require a lot of staff time. We have our early literacy centers, but those are geared more towards toddlers and preschoolers and I knew we’d get a larger amount of school age kids in during break. When I thought about how much the kids love imaginative play in storytime, the idea for Library Town was born.

Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

Spreading out throughout our story hour room, Library Town included a restaurant, grocery store, doctor’s office, train, telephone booth, and of course a library. We also re-used some of our homemade building blocks that we created for the summer reading program to look like buildings for kids to create their own mini town and added our community helper dolls to the mix.

Community helpers standing guard.  Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

Community helpers standing guard.
Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

The set up was fairly easy. We collected lots of boxes in the months leading up to Library Town. Then to set up the event, we arranged small spaces for each location and add paper, crayons, and other supplies the kids might want to use.  We made menus for the kids to fill out for the restaurant, had paper and stamps for them to make and decorate their own library card and used withdrawn books so they could shelve and check out books, and we had prescription pads printed off so kids could write out a prescription at the doctor’s office and take notes.


At the doctor’s office Credit Sarah Bean Thompson


Checking up on stuffed animal patients. Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

We set up Library Town on a Monday morning after storytime and left it up until Thursday at 5. Throughout the week we had kids going in and out of the room playing and having a blast. We had promoted the program in our program calendar, but we advertised with a big sign in front of the room saying that Library Town was open and we made sure to announce it patrons when we noticed a large crowd and also let families know when we talked to them.


Shopping at the grocery store. Credit Sarah Bean Thompson

We had storytime during the week, but instead of hosting it the story hour room as we usually do, we held it in the middle of the children’s department and read books about around the neighborhood and community helpers and sang The Wheels on the Bus before we let kids into Library Town to play.

The entire program went wonderfully and kids and parents loved it. It was a great passive program and it was a wonderful way to highlight a lot of our community helper books-we were refreshing the book display in the room on a regular basis! I also loved this program because it worked for a wide range of ages and it was perfect for families. I’m eager to open up our Library Town again!


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45. ALSC Member of the Month – Rachel Fryd

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, Rachel Fryd.

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

Photo courtesy of Rachel Fryd

Photo courtesy of
Rachel Fryd

Currently I am the Young Adult materials selector for the Free Library of Philadelphia.  In the past 12 years I have been a children’s librarian, branch manager, and the youth services coordinator.

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

I joined ALSC so I could go to conferences!  But the best part of being an ALSC member is participating on committees where I can meet and learn from other librarians who are just as passionate (if not more passionate) about library service for children as I am.  I like to think of my far flung colleagues as my camp friends that I see once or twice a year at conference with tons of emails and social media contact in between.  I’m always surprised and intrigued by the new ideas and programs that librarians around the country come up with!

3. What form(s) of transportation do you prefer? 

I’m really into trains right now – I took AMTRAK from Philadelphia to Boston for the Midwinter Meeting this past January and it reminded me how pleasant travel by train is compared to flying.  It actually inspired me to take a cross country train journey this May – Philadelphia to Oakland over the course of two weeks!

4. What is your dream job?

I’ve actually been really lucky to have had quite a few of my dream jobs already – I loved working on Summer Reading for the entire city of Philadelphia as a Youth Services Coordinator and I’m currently having  more fun than should be allowed at work as the Young Adult Material Selector for our library system.  But if I had to choose the all-time dream job I think it would be to own a children’s book store.  In fact, sometimes on the weekend I wind up doing accidental readers advisory in my local independent bookstore.  I figure I’m just a few million dollars short of achieving this dream.

5. Vegetarian, Vegan, or Carnivore?

Just a picky eater – have been all my life, but my particular brand of picky eater happens to overlap mostly with a vegetarian diet.  I still don’t like broccoli though.

6. What’s the favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is finding the right thing for the right person at the right time – be it a book they are looking for or helping a colleague fill out a tricky purchase order or introducing – I love learning and then sharing that information and ideas.

7. Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

I have my ears pierced but I almost never wear earrings – which is silly because I BEGGED my Mom to let me get my ears pierced as a kid. I don’t have any tattoos – just when I think I might be interested in getting one a new “20 Worst Tattoo Fails” article comes out… and I scare myself out of doing it.

8. What is your favorite age of kids to work with at the Library?

I really like kids of all ages – there are so many great things about all ages – but I think my favorite age is that middle grade age – your 8 to 12 year olds.  There is a fearlessness and an unselfconsciousness to them.  They are happy to tell me that they loved or hated the book I recommended and why.  This is also the age where they are most likely to come in afterschool and reenact a Lady Gaga or Beyoncé video for no reason other than they love it.  (True story – the kid in question is 17 now and still does Beyoncé  just on his Instagram instead of in person.)

9. Coffee, tea, water… or something else?

Coffee.  Also coffee with maybe a side of coffee.

10. What do you wish every children’s librarian knew?

That being flexible is more important that being right.  That library service is about relationships.   That you might be the only nice or supportive adult a kid interacts with all day.  And the kid causing you the most trouble is the one who will remember you the most in 10 years – and the one you’ll remember the most too.


Thanks, Rachel! 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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46. Jacqueline Woodson to Present Closing Session at #alsc16

Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the Institute

Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the National Institute (Image courtesy of Jacqueline Woodson)

ALSC announced that award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the ALSC National Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. This event will take place at the Charlotte Marriott City Center on Saturday, September 17, 2016 and is sponsored by Penguin Young Readers Group.

Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Other confirmed special events include a Breakfast for Bill program with Phil and Erin Stead, Laura Dronzek and Kevin Henkes. On Thursday, September 15, David Shannon will present the Opening General Session. Attendees will benefit from an on-site bookstore where they can buy books to have signed by their favorite speakers.

The Closing General Session is free for all individuals registered for the 2016 ALSC National Institute. All special events are included in the cost of registration. Registration fees include Thursday dinner, Friday breakfast, and Saturday breakfast. For more information and registration details please the visit the 2016 ALSC National Institute website.

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47. Language Apps Pour Les Enfants

In the early days of our Libros y Cuentos bilingual storytime, I would try and integrate some language apps into the program. With a small group, apps such as Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes fit well with our Parts of the Body lesson. At the time it was a challenge to discover usable apps for storytime that were also good enough to recommend to parents. Thankfully developers have produced more options for kids interested in language learning via a tablet. Below are apps that are well designed, easy to navigate, and full of interactive ways to grasp definitions, pronunciation, and even a new alphabet are key.

Kids Learn Mandarin

This free game-based app takes players on a journey around China with Pei Pei the Panda. The digital curriculum includes word games, Chinese character tracing, and a badge earning option for tracking progress. Kids will learn a total of 240 Mandarin words, and will have English prompts for every word learned. A paid premium version is available for more progressive lessons.

The Very Hungry Caterpiller & Friends First Words

Recognizable illustrations will appeal to children learning their first words in English, Spanish, French, and German. Designed as a 3D pop-up book, each page features themed lessons with 4 to 5 objects introducing new words. The ease of use and interactivity makes this a great choice for preschoolers. It also has the potential to work well during storytime.

Endless Spanish, 2015, Originator Inc.

Endless Spanish, 2015, Originator Inc.

Endless Spanish

Possibly one of the most entertaining and popular series of apps in our children’s room, Originator Inc. has introduced a new Spanish language offering, with hopefully more languages on the horizon. A cast of monster characters reinforces pronunciation, spelling, and new definitions in a hilarious and engaging way. Two modes are available for total Spanish immersion, as well as English translation. It’s hard to believe that the Endless Spanish app is free!

Rosetta Stone Lingo Letter Sounds

A KAPi Award winner, the key to this app is the speech recognition tool similar to the one used in their core language learning software. Emphasizes pronunciation for young speakers which determines the rewards for tracking progress. The parenting corner allows adults to move beyond single-syllable words to more advanced vocabulary, as well as checking pronunciation accuracy. Yet another free app from a reputable global language-learning company.

Learn Japanese by MindSnacks

Bunny Fun app teaches Spaish words in storytime.

Bunny Fun app teaches Spanish words in storytime.

Recommended by both Apple and USA Today, this Japanese language app is  well-designed, and complex enough for both older kids and adults to enjoy. Over 50 lessons to introduce vocabulary visually, highlighting both Kana and Kanji characters. The voice pronunciation is clear enough to reinforce sounds for beginners. Learners are prompted to move up in levels by playing a variety of fun interactive games based on themed lessons. MindSnacks also offers apps to teach Italian, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, and Portuguese.

These apps are just a few suggestions for providing additional language-learning resources to young patrons. Load them up on your iPads, or include them as digital recommendations for your library’s website.

Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.

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48. On Tween Programming

Programming for tweens can be difficult; we all know this. The kids in this age group are constantly in flux and their needs change a lot. Figuring out what exactly they need and how best to serve them is a challenge that many librarians are familiar with. Today I’m talking to librarian Amy Diegelman, Young Adult Librarian at the Vineyard Haven Public Library in Vineyard Haven, MA, about how she’s meeting the needs of the tweens in her community.


Amy Diegelman


ALLY: What were the needs that you were seeing from teens in your library that weren’t being met?

AMY: We found ourselves with a group of kids coming into the library to hang out after school (awesome!), instead of going home or to one of the two or three other local after school options. What we ended up with was predictable- hungry, energetic tweens bouncing off the walls. More than anything, they just needed a place to goof around with their friends – but our children’s area doesn’t accommodate them and our YA area is near the quiet study tables.

ALLY: How did you adapt your programming for this age group to better serve the tween patrons coming into your library?

AMY: Our program room provides space and seclusion from other patrons, but the tweens were uninterested in the activities we’d been offering (Wii, Legos, etc). But I did have one thing they were totally interest in: snacks. So on one day that  they commonly come in, I had a simple snack ready for them (baby carrots and cheese crackers), had them come sit with me, and asked what they wanted. The answer was easy enough to come up with – a snack, an unstructured activity, and permission to play. Now those program timess include a snack and a very light activity like coloring, simple origami, or magazine collage making. The activity is not mandatory, though, and the tweens are free to chat, play, or make videos on their phones.

ALLY: How is this working for you and how might you continue to change your programming to meet the needs of your kids?

AMY: The results have been great! The tweens, staff, and adult patrons are happier and we are now drawing more kids to these programs because they can make the time their own. The big lesson for me has been flexibility. I’ll be checking in with the tweens often and using this new structure to respond more quickly to their interests and build on their feedback. I’ve already had several program ideas just watching what they choose to do when left to their own devices!

Thanks, Amy!  You can find Amy on twitter at @amydieg.

How do y’all best serve the tweens in your library? Sound off in the comments!

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a library consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

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49. Family Fort Nights FTW

IMG_0881Kids are ridiculously excited about books. Families cram into your library. The level excitement is high. You have everything ready to go, supplies gathered, and then you just sit back and orchestrate. Thanks to Jbrary, Amy, Laura, Marge, Jane, and Katie, the program is pre-planned. If you browse those links, you’ll find a list of supplies you need as well as exactly how to do this program. I’m talking about Family Fort Night folks, the best thing since lined paper.

I’ve been around libraries for a while. I’ve done a lot of programs. This had to have been the easiest, most rewarding program I’ve done in ages. I’m not going to rehash how to do it– follow the links above and you’ll find out all you need to know. What I want to crow about is how easy it was, and how much fun it is. Librarians love to share- and those links up there prove it (really, have you NOT read those posts yet?) When I heard about Family Fort Night, I got incredibly excited. Not only did it look like fun, it seemed a pretty simple idea. And it is. Links, people. Go. Now.

Ok, now that you are back — here’s the good stuff that happened. Moms askedIMG_0883 when we were going to do this again. I heard from one family that there were forts all over their house the next day. Kids were as excited to read in their forts as they were to build the forts. Turning out the lights to play flashlight hide & seek? Priceless. Dads and Grandfathers and Moms and neighbours and friends and siblings were all there. It was a community of fun. I could go on and on about the warm fuzzy feelings this program generates. But I will just end with this– put your pyjamas on and try it. Open your library after hours and build forts. Get some cheap flashlights and watch the magic happen. Go forth and fort, my friends.

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50. An Invisible Minority: Serving LGBTQIA Kids and Families

Rochester (MN) Public Library’s core values focus on being a welcoming and inclusive environment. A few years ago we started to hear from adults and teens in the community that there were not a lot of safe spaces for LGBTQIA teens to hang out, so in our 2015 Action Plans we included “Develop programming to specifically meet the needs of Rainbow Families and LGBTQIA teens” and got started.

Training posterBefore we share our ideas for serving LGBTQIA kids and families, let’s talk about “LGBTQIA”. LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Ally. Without including the word “queer”, this alphabet soup is not inclusive of the entire spectrum of sexual and gender identities out there. But as you can imagine, when we use the word queer in our program descriptions or trainings, people have a lot of questions.

Queer is a word with a terrible history, a confusing present, and a bright future. It was used negatively for many years, but over the last 30 years or so has had a comeback as a word that is embraced by many people as an identity, and is used regularly as a positive umbrella term for the LGBTQIA community (think: “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”).

Like any word, it can still be used negatively. It is all in how it is used and delivered. We would not label someone as queer who had not self-identified, nor would we refer to someone as “a queer” – those would be negative and inappropriate uses of the word. Our use is to be inclusive of the many teens and grown-ups in our community who self-identify as queer or under the queer umbrella. Embracing their choice of word further proves our commitment to creating a safe space for them. If you would like to read more try this website, this article, or this.

Why are we focusing on serving LGBTQIA kids & families?

Rainbow Families booklistYouth Services at RPL started undergoing changes in 2011 that included things as small as purchasing and displaying more books with LGBTQIA content. Once these books were on display and available in the library catalog, we started to hear from customers who appreciated having access to them. We also started regularly printing and keeping on display a Booklist for Rainbow Families which received a lot of positive attention. The conversations that we had around the books and booklists brought to light a need in the community: LGBTQIA kids and families needed safe spaces, they needed to see themselves represented in the library collection, and they needed to feel welcomed!New non-fic display

We also have bigger reasons for wanting to provide a safe space for LGBTQIA youth and families.  The Human Rights Campaign study “Growing up LGBT in America”  reports that 4 in 10 LGBTQIA youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people, and and only 21% say there is a place where LGBTQIA youth can go in their community and get help or be accepted.  LGBTQIA youth face higher rates of bullying, homelessness, substance abuse and suicide, but teens who have supportive families and friends or safe spaces in their community are better equipped to deal with these additional challenges.

So what can libraries do to serve LGBTQIA kids & families?

Create a Safe Space

The most important step a library can take to create a safe space for LGBTQIA patrons is to train staff to be LGBTQIA allies and hold staff accountable. It is important that you have buy-in from the library administration, and that the people at the top understand why safe spaces are important, but it isn’t necessary to start there. Start with yourself and the staff Promaround you, sometimes change has to trickle upwards. If you don’t have resources in your community such as an LGBTQ Community Center or a local college Gay/Straight Alliance which can provide you with training, there are plenty of options online to get started:

There are easy things you or your staff can start today to be good allies.  Being inclusive with your language doesn’t hurt anything, and can go a long way to making everyone feel more comfortable.  For example, when talking to kids about their parents, use “grown-ups” or “adults” or another neutral term that feels natural to you. Not every kid has a “mom” and/or a “dad”.  You can also choose to use gender neutral terms to refer to individual kids or groups of kids. Use “people” or “friend(s)” instead of “guys” or “ladies”.

Pronoun name badgeAnother easy change is to wear a pronoun name badge. Even if you have never been mis-gendered, wearing a name badge with your pronouns on it sends a message to everyone who sees you that you accepting and welcome conversations about pronouns. It also opens up opportunities to talk about how and why your library is a safe space or the LGBTQIA programs you offer.

Once your staff is better equipped to be allies, you’ll need to make sure you have policies in place to protect your LGBTQIA kids and families, and train staff on how to handle issues that may arise.  For example, does your written code of conduct include a statement about harassment? Are staff ready to step in with words connecting back to your code of conduct if they overhear teens saying, “That’s so gay!” or “No homo.”? For example: “The library doesn’t allow abusive language and your words are not inclusive or nice.”

All staff should pay attention to what is happening in your space (bullying). Some bullying can be subtle; watch the way teens are interacting in your teen space. When a certain group arrives, does another group always leave? Talk to your teens and make sure you know what is going on. Some bullying that starts at school may continue at the library after school.

Your library may also have business practices and procedures that need to be updated in Pride Cakeorder to be inclusive to your LGBTQIA community.  Does your library card application ask for a person’s gender?  Does it need to? Do you allow a patron to use a preferred name on their library card in addition to or instead of their legal name?  What about your bathrooms – do you have single stall restrooms that you could convert to gender neutral spaces?

The next step is to start the safe space conversation with the rest of the community. Meet with other youth workers in your community to talk about LGBTQIA services and creating safe spaces. The library can be a great neutral ground for offering training that is open to community youth workers.

Create LGBTQIA Inclusive Collections & Displays

ZinesIt’s important for LGBTQIA youth to see themselves reflected in the books they read.  According to GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, only 19% of LGBTQIA students report that positive representations of LGBTQIA people are included in their school curriculum.

There are a lot of really great books (fiction and nonfiction) available with LGBTQIA content, with more and more books coming out (get it?) every year.  Not all of them are published by big houses, and not all get picked up for reviews, but it’s worth the time to seek out the titles to make sure your collection is representative of the full 5th grade booklistspectrum of gender/sexual identities.  To get started, check out the ALA GLBT Round Table’s Rainbow Booklist.  The Rainbow Booklist Committee reads hundreds of books with LGBTQIA content and publishes its best-of list for kids and teens annually.  In addition, ALA’s Stonewall Award and the LAMBDA Literary Awards  both have categories honoring Children’s anYA displayd Young Adult Literature.

Once you’ve got the books in your collection, you want your patrons to know they are there!   While special displays highlighting LGBTQIA materials are great, it’s important to include LGBTQIA materials in all of your displays and booklists.

Offer LGBTQIA Programs

Once you have created a safe space and opened dialogues with LGBTQIA customers and community members, you will start to hear about programs and resources that people would like to see in your community.

Our first program focusing on LGBTQIA teens was q club. q club began in September 2014 with just one teen; it now boasts regular attendance of over twenty at each meeting, and is hands down our highest attended teen program. Like all of our teen programs, we let the teens decide what activities we plan and what topics we discuss.  Last summer, in partnership with Gay/Lesbian Community Services of Pride Prom themeSoutheast Minnesota (http://www.glcsmn.org/), we hosted the first ever Pride Prom “Smells Like Pride Spirit” in Rochester. Forty-four teens attended and afterwards some called it the best night of their lives! We are currently in the early planning stages of our 2nd Annual Pride Prom.

q club teens are interested having the chance to just hang out and be themselves, and they are also embrace opportunities to have their voices heard in the larger community.  They have created zines to celebrate Pride, National Coming Out Day, and Transgender Day of Remembrance which they distributed at the library and at local businesses.  q club teens were a large voice in our October National Coming Out Day celebration, and will soon be participating in a community health needs assessment.

In addition to q club and in response to community requests we currently offer:

  • Parents Empower Pride: a meet up for parents of LGBTQIA kids to talk about how to PEP postersupport their kids on their journey.
  • Pride Prom: An annual a safe & welcoming after-hours party for LGBTQIA teens and allies in grades 7-12 held during Rochester’s Pride Fest.
  • Rainbow Family Storytime: During Rochester Pride we offer Rainbow Family Storytimes for preschool children and families.

Just in the last month we have received two more requests: one to offer a q club for tweens and the other to offer a meet-up group for kids of LGBTQIA parents. As staffing and space allows, we will make these programs happen. Even without special programming just for LGBTQIA youth, you can ge started by integrating inclusive LGBTQIA materials into your regular programs, such as storytime or book clubs. The possibilities for inclusion are endless. We would love to hear what you are doing to serve LGBTQIA kids and families at your library!

Heather Acerro is Head of Youth Services at Rochester (MN) Public Library.

Sarah Joynt is Teen Librarian at Rochester (MN) Public Library.

Heather and Sarah use the pronouns she/her/hers, but they are okay with they/them too, even when you are just talking about one of them.

**YALSA just released research on Teens, Libraries, and LGBT issues.**

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