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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. Is #Mentoring Right for You?

There’s a lot of research out there that suggests that mentoring is pretty good for you. In adult-mentoring-children scenarios, research shows that the mentoring relationship assists in developing stronger ties to the community. Individuals who participate in a mentoring relationship experience:

  • improved self-esteem
  • improved communication skills
  • reduction in depressive symptoms
  • greater social acceptance
  • better academic attitudes

Career mentoring isn’t much different. Professional mentoring relationships help create connections and foster career growth. In fact, these are two of the objectives of the ALSC Mentoring Program. The others:

1. Build the skills and confidence of early career children’s librarians and those new to the profession
2. Encourage personal and professional connections
3. Give members the opportunity to acquire peer-taught skills
4. Re-energize and re-invigorate members in their work
5. Create interest and familiarity with ALSC committee service and participation
6. Build familiarity with ALSC’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries
7. Foster the development of a new cohort of leaders

The ALSC Mentoring Program is entering its second year of existence and we’re looking for some good mentors and mentees. Applications for the Fall 2014 program are now open. Please submit your application by Friday, August 25, 2014.

We hope that you’re interested in participating, because we think you’ll get a lot out of it.

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27. Serving Parents of Children with Disabilities

Being a children’s librarian goes beyond serving children.  Certainly, that’s a HUGE part of the job, but the reality is that our jobs are more encompassing than that.  We are challenged and rewarded to serve the needs of patrons of all ages, and that includes the needs of parents and caregivers.  If your library is focusing on outreach to children with special needs, don’t forget that the parents of these children require our services, too.  Here’s just a short list of things that public libraries can offer parents of children with disabilities.

Special Needs Collections: If your library already has a parenting collection, think about expanding it or adding a new, targeted collection of items focusing on special needs related topics.  Whether this collection is simply made up of adult materials, or if it includes a combination of materials that both adults and children can use, there is a variety of ways you could serve the informational needs of your community.  And highlighting those materials in a separate collection makes those items more accessible and noticeable.  Make sure to gather input from your patrons first–you might discover that your community is interested in this collection having a specific focus.

Parent Workshops: Libraries are community centers for learning, so it makes sense to offer learning opportunities for parents about a variety of special needs related topics.  You could bring in guest experts to speak on topics, such as education, technology, language development, medical issues, or even advocacy.  Providing a forum for discussion of topic issues is a great way to get your community informed and involved.  At my former library, we hosted a series of Tech Talk parent workshop programs.  We knew we wanted to serve this audience of parents specifically, so we partnered with a local assistive technology specialist and offered a parent program called “Is There An App For That? Using iPads with Children with Special Needs.”  It was well received and well attended!

Booklists:  It’s been my experience that sometimes parents who have a child with special needs are looking for ways to introduce a new concept or topic to their child.  Often times, those parents are looking to the library to find a book to help that conversation along.   Quick and handy, booklists are perfect for getting book recommendations into the hands of you patrons right away.  They act as great passive reader’s advisory tools, as well, for those that are not comfortable asking more personal questions at the desk.  Be sure to freshen up your display of booklists often to check for currency and accuracy.  For a great example of what you can offer, check out Skokie Public Library’s comprehensive resource guide for parents and educators of children with disabilities.

Social Stories: Did you know that there are now free social story templates available through Microsoft Office?  Autism Speaks has partnered with Microsoft Office to offer free and customizable Social Story Templates available for download from their website.  As with any social stories, parents can use these tools to help teach various social situations to children with autism.  Topics include potty training, taking turns, going to the doctor, and even bullying.  Helpful tips like this one could easily be shared on a library’s social media page, as a way to quickly get the information out to those that need it.

Meeting Spaces:  More and more libraries are making their meeting spaces available to the public–sometimes even at a reasonably minimal cost to the user.  If you already are in touch with local support groups or parenting groups in your area, they may be interested to know that the library is a place they can come together and meet.  Once you have made contact with these groups, they may be interested in having a representative from the library come in and speak with them.  The more conversations we can have with actual library users (or non-users) to find out what they want their library to be, the more informed we are.


….and these are just a few ideas.  What are YOU doing at your library to serve the unique needs of parents of children with disabilities in your communities?  Share your ideas below!

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28. 5 Ways to Turn Homework Help into Summer Fun

We usually think of our library’s online resources as homework help, but in summertime kids can use them to explore the topics they really love.

1. Animals- Who doesn’t love animals? Online encyclopedias include pictures and even video, along with articles on everything from aardvarks to zebras.

2. Places- Young travelers can find out about, or just plain find, destinations near and far in geography and history resources.

3. Celebrities- Whether they’re into sports, movies, or music, biography and news databases are keeping up with kids’ favorite stars.

4. Family- Tap genealogy resources to clarify the family tree when visiting relatives. Figure out who’s a third cousin and who’s a second cousin once removed or find great-grandma in the 1930 census.

5. Weird stuff- News sites just for kids include many stories of the bizarre. Is it true that an accountant fell on a crocodile? Look it up!

Have you tried marketing your databases for summer or used them in a program? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Blog post by Rachel Wood
Arlington Public Library
ALSC Digital Content Task Force

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29. Soldering in the Library

It has almost been one year since my library opened our makerspace for kids, cleverly branded the T|E|A Room for technology, engineering, and the arts, by Kiera Parrott. While we have seen a flood of new experiences in the library due to the growth in STEAM-related programming, the most inspiring thus far have been T|E|A Room family programs. The majority of maker programs offered could have easily been transformed into family programs, and our plan is to combine this new wave of library programming with our desire to grow intergenerational activities in the community.

A grandfather and his grandson working on their skill badge. Photo courtesy of author.

A grandfather and his grandson working on their skill badge. Photo courtesy of author.

One program that caused families to make the library a destination point one cloudless spring day was the Intro to Soldering class. Neither my colleague nor I had ever soldered anything before, and to be quite honest we both couldn’t even tell if the L was silent! Fortunately there were many reasonably priced soldering kits available to teach families as well as ourselves. We also made it a point to ask the library for assistance and both the Assistant Director and Building Engineer graciously offered to help us with supplies, and even gave us a tutorial on soldering basics.

The project we decided to use, mostly for its simplicity, was the Skill Badge from the Maker Shed. This is a perfect introduction to soldering and because the families learned so quickly we were able to make multiple blinking robots. Here are some tips for any librarians who may want to take their makerspace programs to the next level with soldering:

  • Safety First: Make sure to provide all the necessary items to ensure safety. This includes safety goggles for both parents and kids. Check to see within the community who might be able to donate or loan goggles for the program. In the beginning of the class I stress listening, wearing goggles, asking for help, and never touching the tip of the soldering iron. One thing I noticed was that online there were many images of kids soldering without safety goggles. I made it a point to not use those images in the class. Also, make sure to purchase lead-free solder when working with kids. It’s difficult to find, but available online.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: I’ve definitely winged it for some programs, but with soldering that’s not an option. You want to be knowledgeable about the process so you are best equipped to help your participants. If you are terrified (like me) then ask some of the library staff to assist. I discovered many staff members and parents had soldered before and were more than willing to lend a hand. It only took two skill badges before I got the hang of it, and both of blinking robots’ eyes lit up with ease.
  • Provide Visuals: I found it helpful to make each step visible to help guide us through the activity. Since the project we purchased had clear instructions on the website, it was easy to use the photos and text to explain how all the parts came together. I created a Keynote document which helped to open up discussion on defining soldering, objects that need to be soldered, and the tools and materials we would be using. Accessing tutorial videos whenever possible allows kids to see soldering up close and personal before they even heat up the iron.
  • Location, Location, Location: Be wise about where you decide to host a soldering program and feel free to limit the amount of families. We ended having two separate classes so we could manage the activity effectively. We also needed a location that had enough outlets, ventilation, and space. Smoke does come from the hot soldering iron, so I brought additional fans and asked parents to fan away the smoke.

Both sessions were a huge success, both for the kids and their adults. Those in attendance included parents, teenage siblings, and grandparents. One mother mentioned recently that a few days following the event her son’s grandfather dug out his old soldering kit so they could work on other projects together.

When I became a children’s librarian I had no idea it would lead me to the art of soldering. This program has far exceeded what families thought would happen within the library. T|E|A Room programs have challenged both my staff and I to discover ways of exposing kids to new learning opportunities. It’s refreshing to think that libraries are now becoming known for both reading and robots.

Want to learn more about soldering? Check out these resources:

Tech Will Save Us – How to Solder and Desolder A hilarious kid-friendly video on how to get started soldering. The instructor does a great job of stressing the importance of safety.

Science Kids – Soldering Lesson I specifically used this video to show how to tin the solder.

Raspberry Pi Blog – Soldering is Easy Comic

This seven-page comic is an illustrated guide to more in-depth projects. The visuals are descriptive, accurate, and fun.

Claire Moore is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is the Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Darien, CT.  For further questions, please contact at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.



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30. “Help, Thanks, Wow”

When ruminating over this past year as ALSC President, the above title of a book by Anne Lamott comes to mind.

Help! Luckily, there was always plenty of it!

  • The stellar staff in the ALSC offices was always available for support.  From guiding me through the appointments process, organizing Community Forums and other events with members, editing (so many) communications, cultivating collaborations to expand and enhance our work, to finding a way to make some cockamamie ideas concrete, they never lost their patience or good humor.
  • My fabulous fellow Board members engaged in lofty thinking and diligent deliberation to move the work of the Association forward and always stepped forward to volunteer for each new task and accept every assignment.
  • The truly remarkable membership continues to humble and astound me with their vision, passion and commitment to raising issues and producing results.

Thanks!  So, from the above, you can already see that I have an abundance for which to be indebted. But, in addition, I had the opportunity to steep myself even more than usual in this wonderful, dynamic profession for an entire year. It was my honor to be the voice of the association, to represent libraries at the White House and children’s services in national media. It was my pleasure to be the ears as well and to get to know my amazing colleagues from across the country as I listened to their concerns and their aspirations for the association and the profession at large.  I thank you all from my heart.

I was recently reminded of the multitude of hats we wear when I had the good fortune to see Pepito’s pom-pommed velvet topper at the New York Historical Society’s Bemelmans exhibit. (Not a bad hat at all!) I am grateful to have had the chance to don the hat of ALSC President this past year. I encourage you all to throw your hat in the ring (or in the air) to create a better future for children through libraries by working together in ALSC.  Please, do yourself, the association and the profession a favor–volunteer for a committee or task force, write a blog post, participate in a Community Forum, or consider running for the ALSC Board.  The possibilities are endless and the rewards are infinite.

And finally…

Wow! That’s just about all I can say. Wow!


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31. Reusable Book Tags

Returning from the ALA Conference, I was inspired by the notable tags used by the vendors on the exhibit floor.  I didn’t want to print up tags because with our library’s circulation, the books on display are constantly changing.  I needed a tag that was easy to see, but also adaptable to whatever book it was placed in.  Thankfully, I have a really creative staff at my branch and by brainstorming with my branch head and afterschool leader, we were able to create some fun and useful book tags.  To begin, I found some speech bubble post-it notes and laminated them.  (Moment of honesty:  These were a giveaway by Sam Hain Publishing at ALA this year.  There are so many benefits of going to conference beyond the great programming!)  When I cut them out, I kept a tail of laminated plastic on the end: 

postitIt’s a little hard to see in the picture, but I cut a slit into the tail so it would slide over a page in the book.  Now that it’s laminated, it can be written on with a dry erase marker.  (My after school leader told me about this and it’s revolutionized my life!)  Here is a picture of some of the books:

do not reshelveI added a security tag to the back of each post-it, so they won’t accidentally walk out the door inside the book. Because the security tag is white, you really don’t notice it.  Here is a group of books on display:

bookcaseThe picture is a bit dark, but they look great in person.  If we lose any, we’re only out a post-it and some lamination paper.  When I make more, I’m going to make the tails a little longer.  I was able to make 9 tags out of one lamination sheet, but I think 6 would be better.  This will allow the tail to be a little longer and fit more securely in the book.  I’m using them in my picture book area currently, but I think the possibilities are endless. 


Christopher Brown Headshot

Photo courtesy of Christopher Brown

Our guest blogger today is Christopher Brown. Chris is a librarian for the Wadsworth Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  He received is MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and his MA from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2013.  His current books obsessions are The Sittin’ Up by Shelia P. Moses, the Green Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston, and Leah Wilcox’s Waking Beauty.  He’s probably book talking at least one of these titles right now.

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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32. Top Ten Things You May Have Missed in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, the city of distractions, proved to be an entertaining and exciting location for my first Annual Conference. With so many wonderful restaurants, an energetic exhibit hall, and lots of great meetings and sessions to attend, it was very easy to miss out on something. The following list highlights 10 things you might have missed at Annual 2014:

1.  The Long but Super Fast Registration Line!

registration lineWith over 18,000 people attending ALA Annual in Las Vegas, it is no surprise that the registration lines got a little long. As nervous as I was when I first stepped into the line, it went incredibly fast! The staff did a fantastic job getting everyone in and out, all of our questions answered, and communicating their excitement for the conference. Thanks ALA staffers for your hard work leading up to and during the conference!

  1. The Banned Book Video Booth

IMG_0806The energy and excitement at the Banned Book Week Video booth was evident every time I walked by (located near the exhibit hall). Librarians and other library-loving individuals seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to read some of their favorite banned books and talk about the importance of intellectual freedom and free access to materials. One of my favorite moments of the conference was watching a captivating librarian read And Tango Makes Three!

  1. Networking Between Sessions and In The Exhibit Hall!

IMG_0809One of the highlights of every conference is networking with other passionate professionals in our field. While waiting in line to meet Marcus Zusak (who truly is a delight!), I met two charming librarians from around the US. What began as a quick chat about how excited we were to meet Zusak turned into a longer discussion about makerspaces and the maker movement in school and public libraries. Thanks Lynda Reynolds, Director of the Stillwater Public Library (Oklahoma) and Jessica Stewart, Librarian at The Meadows School in Nevada for the great conversation!

  1. Author Meet and Greets
IMG_0812 IMG_0817

Every time the exhibit hall was open, there seemed to be at least one fantastic author signing copies of our favorite books and answering some of our best questions. Each author seemed pleased when I told them I felt like I was meeting a rock star (which to us, authors and illustrators are our rock stars!). Two of my favorites this trip were Kadir Nelson and Tom Angleberger.

  1. Dinner with Friends from Afar

IMG_0814Conferences are some of the best times to get together with other professionals from near and far to eat dinner, relax, and enjoy both library and non library conversation. Las Vegas in particular had some of the best restaurants to choose from, and the air conditioning offered an appreciated chance to rehydrate and reenergize.

  1. The Scholastic Literary Brunch

IMG_0818Over a hundred youth librarians gathered in one of the ballrooms at Caesars one morning to eat, network, and listen to some wonderful authors talk about and read from their new books. In groups of three, authors performed an excerpt from their new books reader’s theater style. It was a really wonderful experience!

  1. The Starbucks Line (A Great Place for Networking!)

IMG_0837No surprise, but librarians love their coffee! The line at the Starbucks next to the exhibit hall always seemed to be out the door, but the coffee was good and the conversation was always great!

  1. The Comic Book, Graphic Novel, and Trade Paperback Aisle in the Exhibit Hall

IMG_0844As a first-time ALA Annual attendee, the comic book, graphic novel, and trade paperback aisle in the exhibit hall was an unexpected treat! While there, I got to meet so many wonderful artists and writers; Stacey King, an author for UDON Entertainment’s upcoming “Manga Classics” line was wonderful to talk to, signed my books, and posed for quite a few pictures!

  1. The ALSC Membership Meeting

The 2014 ALSC Membership Meeting offered a great opportunity to chat with other youth librarians, meet members of the ALSC board, hear about the awards and accomplishments of professionals in our field, and discuss the very important white paper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. If you have not read it yet, I encourage you to stop reading this blog and go check it out at http://www.ala.org/alsc/importance-diversity.

10. Your Flight!

IMG_0798Flight delays were plentiful on the way home from Annual due to thunderstorms in the Midwest and Northeast. Anyone flying anywhere near Chicago was probably stranded either in Vegas or somewhere along your route!


Thank you so much to everyone who agreed to be pictured in this blog and to everyone who made my first ALA Annual Conference such a wonderful experience! A very special thank you to everyone involved in helping me attend my first ALA Annual Conference, especially everyone involved in the Penguin Young Readers Group Award. I look forward to seeing everyone at Midwinter 2015 in Chicago and Annual 2015 in San Francisco!


IMG_0661Our guest blogger today is JoAnna Schofield.  JoAnna is an Early Childhood Librarian at the Highland Square Branch Library, part of the Akron-Summit County Public Library System in Akron, Ohio. She passionately enjoys her toddler, preschool, and school age programming and outreach. She is eagerly awaiting her great artists themed preschool story time series and her STEAM after school club this fall. When she is not connecting with the Highland Square community, she is training for her first half-marathon this September, spending time with her family at the Akron Zoo, and looking at the newest memes of Grumpy Cat. Her inspiration comes from her three beautiful children: Jackson (4), Parker (3), and Amelia Jane (16 months). She can be reached at jschofield@akronlibrary.org.

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

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


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33. ALSC Member of the Month – Jenna Nemec-Loise

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, Jenna Nemec-Loise.

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

Courtesy photo from Jenna Nemec-Loise

Courtesy photo from Jenna Nemec-Loise

I’m a relationship architect, a community builder, and an early childhood specialist. I’m an Everyday Advocate for youth, families, and libraries. On occasion, I’ve been called Flannelboard Ace and Teen Volunteer Coordinator Extraordinaire. And I’ve been doing it all at school and public libraries in and around Chicago for 14 daring years. (You thought I was just going to say “children’s librarian,” didn’t you? Ha!)

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

Doesn’t everyone join ALSC to be more awesome for the communities they serve? That’s certainly why I did! When I got my first job as a librarian at a small private school, I had no idea what I was doing. But I did know that in order to be awesome at my job, I had to do two things: (1) get an MLIS, which I earned two years later from Dominican University, and (2) join ALSC, which I did immediately. Guess which one started paying off right away?

I’m also a member of PLA and YALSA, and my involvement with both divisions has been equally rewarding.

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

By far, it’s been my advocacy work on behalf of children, families, and libraries through ALSC-related opportunities.

Through a four-year term on the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee, I helped coordinate a 2012 membership survey on early learning partnerships. Our data not only contributed to the May 2013 IMLS Growing Young Minds report, but it also made it into the hands of a White House Domestic Policy Council member at National Library Legislative Day 2013 in Washington, D.C.

I’ve also been honored to serve as Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website and electronic newsletter since February 2013. Most recently, I had the privilege of representing ALSC and PLA during the 2014 Opening Minds Innovation Award showcase, where educators, administrators, policy makers, and funders voted Every Child Ready to Read @ your library as the next game changer in the early childhood field. What an incredible experience!

4. Favorite age of kids to work with?

Those babies! I can’t resist their fascination with everything and the sheer joy that comes from sharing books, songs, and rhymes with them. That magic is the elixir of my library life!

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

People over paperwork.

In these days of budget cuts and staffing shortages, we have to arm ourselves daily with endless streams of facts, statistics, and anecdotes to ensure we stay relevant in our communities. It’s easy to get lost in this climate of urgency, bogged down by this report or that deadline. We have a choice, though, and it’s a simple one: Stay grounded.

The child standing in front of you deserves every ounce of your attention. For the precious minutes you have with him, make him feel like the Most Important Child in the World. The paperwork can wait; the child can’t.

6. What do you collect?

Is it too nerdy to say Folkmanis puppets? Because I’ve got about 50 of ‘em! They’re the biggest hit you can imagine at all my book sharing programs, and even the big kids get in on the fun when we bring them out at the library.

My first puppet was Mabel (a big wooly sheep), who was quickly followed by Snap (an alligator) and Wally (a camel). The fan favorite, though, is Otis, my big floppy sheepdog. The little ones love rubbing their faces in his fur!

7. Who is your role model? Why?

Hands down, it’s Fred Rogers.

As a young child, I desperately loved Mr. Rogers and his Land of Make-Believe. He piqued my sense of wonder and made me feel safe with his soft-spoken demeanor and familiar routines. When Mr. Rogers talked to me, I felt smart and important.

And that’s why I love Fred Rogers to this day. His respect for young children and every aspect of their physical, socioemotional, and psychosocial development inspires my adult passion for engaging in developmentally appropriate library practice.

(Funny Mr. Rogers story: My mom called the pediatrician once because she was concerned that I was talking out loud to no one. When Dr. Mabini asked what else I was doing, she told him I was watching Mr. Rogers on TV. Dr. Mabini chuckled and said, “Well, Mr. Rogers asks lots of questions. When someone asks you something, you answer him, right?”)

8. What’s the best thing you’ve learned this year?

I learned a new definition of advocacy that clarifies the whole murky business! During the ALA Advocacy Coordinating Group meeting in Las Vegas, Office of Library Advocacy Director Marci Merola defined advocacy as “turning passive support into educated action.” Awesome, right? (Thanks, Marci!)

9. Favorite part of being a children’s librarian?

Building relationships with children, families, and communities. My library building is starting to show its age, and our children’s collection could use some refreshing. But I know I’m doing something right when kids and families stop by just to say, “Hi, Miss Jenna!” I treasure those moments when I get to say in return, “I’m so glad you came by to see me today! Have I got a book for you…”

10. Do you have any pets?

I sure do! Trudy is my two-year-old mini-lop rabbit and the unofficial mascot of my library’s animal-themed summer program. Kids and families love hearing Trudy stories and seeing pictures of her various bunny shenanigans. (Trust me—there are many.)

I’m proud to say my little gal has inspired lots of reading this summer! Back in May, I challenged kids at my library to read 150,000 minutes as a group during our eight-week program. I promised that if they met this goal, I’d adopt a second rabbit as a mate for Trudy. With two weeks left to go, kids have read a whopping 120,000 minutes, so it looks like it’ll be double the bunny fun at my house come August!


Thanks, Jenna! 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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34. Putting it in Writing

Have you worked in a library system where procedures and best practices weren’t written down? Have you worked in an environment where the organizational and institutional knowledge was in different employees’ heads, but nowhere on paper?

Putting things (procedures, best practices, responses to common questions, etc.) in writing is an important step to becoming a transparent and accountable organization. In an ideal situation, you will be part of a workforce that understands how a library functions, knows where supplies are, displays exemplary behavior, produces high quality programs and events. What happens when a person is hired – and there’s no training plan or written documentation to help them become acclimated to how the library operates? What happens when expectations aren’t in writing, and you need to correct poor choices and behavioral issues? What about retirement and having a succession plan?

In Youth Services, do you have a storytime outline or template that you use to train new storytime planners and presenters? Do you have anything in writing about how (and when) to book performers or special guests? Having documentation specifically for how things are done in your library is very useful for you as a manager, and your employees (both current and prospective). It is a great way to allow staff members to contribute and improve the day-to-day tasks in the library, as well as allow some input for how the library operations might be improved.

In certain situations, you might not be able to create policies without the approval of your stakeholders (library board and/or City Council), but you can instead focus on creating best practices and start putting in writing what has worked (and not worked so well) in your library. If the idea of writing a large document is overwhelming, start with small things and go slowly. Producing documentation doesn’t have to be done overnight, and there’s no reason to try to do it all by yourself. There are writers in your library – use the existing expertise that you have in your staff.

Documentation and putting things in writing helps take you and your library to the next step. What have you put in writing already?

Our guest blogger today is Claudia M. Wayland, the Youth Services Supervisor at the Lewisville Public Library in Lewisville, Texas, who wrote this piece as a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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35. Serving Parents and Toddlers through Early Literacy Boxes

As a new parent, I was spending hours looking for new toys for my baby and searching books and other activities to pair with each toy.  I quickly realized that the toys I wanted were costly considering how quickly babies and toddlers grow. The toys and books that parents buy in one season may be completely irrelevant to their youngsters a month or two later. We want our children to benefit from these types of toys but it is just not economical for most families, mine included, to purchase all of them. As a librarian, I know that linking literacy and play is effective in building a lifelong love of learning. As a mom, I realized that not all parents have access to the necessary resources.  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for the library to provide parents with more tools to encourage literacy and play.

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My proposal, which consisted of creating “Literacy Boxes” including one toy, one book, and one activity sheet for parents, was funded by our Library Foundation to the amount of $3000.  Our Heads of Youth Services worked together to select appropriate toys and books for 50 boxes and then created activity sheets for parents to help them use the literacy box contents with their child.  After a few months we quickly realized that these kits were a hit among our patrons and used some of our remaining budget to order the contents for 30 more kits, which we are currently in the process of assembling.

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While we knew that parents and children would love these kits, we also tried to keep in mind the work that maintaining them would put on other departments, mainly Circulation.  We tried to be cognizant of the number of pieces in each box, knowing that Circulation would have to count and clean those pieces every time they were returned.  We also chose not to select toys that required a battery or that were made from cloth.  This makes upkeep and cleaning a bit easier.  Kits are stored and checked out in clear plastic Sterlite containers.  These are also easy to clean and help protect the toys.

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                                                                                                 Photos taken by blogger

Each box’s book and toy pairs together either by theme or skill, and the activity card gives ideas on how to share the book with your child, linking the book and toy together, and different ways to enjoy the toy.  There are boxes appropriate for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  For a list of all of our boxes, visit our catalog at www.geaugalibrary.net and do a subject search for “literacy box.”


Kara Fennell Walker works as the Head of Youth Services at the Middlefield Library in Middlefield, Ohio. She is writing for the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. If you would like to learn more about her early literacy boxes, you can email her at kara.walker@geaugalibrary.info.

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36. Talking Dewey-Lite: A Solution to the Non-Fiction Problem – ALSC Institute Programs

2014 Institute LogoThe upcoming ALSC Institute in Oakland, CA, on September 18-20, 2014, provides an abundance of outstanding programs to attend, from exploring innovative ways for youth services librarians to engage with community to the latest in early literacy research and best practices.

Among the many programs offered will be Dewey-Lite: A Solution to the Non-Fiction Problem, offering solutions for increasing the browsability of non-fiction collections while enhancing the patron searching experience. Program presenter Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla gave us a few minutes of her time to talk about what Institute attendees can look forward to.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the Collection Development Coordinator and Assistant Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library. My co-presenter, Kiera Parrott, was the Head of Children’s Services at Darien during our non-fiction reorganization and is currently the Reviews Editor at School Library Journal.

Tell us about your program in just 6 words.

Dewey is dead, Long Live Dewey!

What’s one thing you feel people should know about your program?

Kiera and I are not out to destroy the Dewey Decimal System. We have tried to create a non-fiction model that utilizes the best of Dewey while minimizing the things about it that can be confusing for patrons.

What’s one thing someone who attends your program will be able to take back to their libraries and use right away?

People who attend our program will leave knowing how to implement Dewey-Lite, or something like it, at their own library. Right away, they’ll have a better understanding of how their patrons browse and use non-fiction collections.

Looking at the list of other programs on the lineup, which one are you most looking forward to attending?

The program I wish I could attend the most is Easy Programming for Discerning Tweens, since that is an audience with have a yo-yo relationship with at our library, and I always love to find out what other libraries are doing to reach this unique population! Unfortunately, it’s at the same time as my own presentation, so hopefully someone will take excellent notes!

If you could be any kid’s lit character, who would you be and why?

I would most definitely be Hermione Granger, because she’s smart and capable and magical and saves the world. Plus, she has a cute ginger husband. Or I would be Betsy Ray, because she has amazing clothes and excellent friends and goes on a world tour and becomes a writer. Or Anne Shirley, for her imagination and her puff sleeves and her swoon-inducing romance with Gilbert.

Ted McCoy, ALSC Institute Task Force Member and Children’s Librarian at Springfield (MA) City Library

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37. You Would Be a Great Online Learning Instructor!

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

The great part about a professional association is that it brings together some of the best minds of one field. We have members doing some pretty incredible things. We also have members who would love to know about those incredible things that their peers are doing.

The ALSC Education Committee is adding to ALSC’s online course and webinar offerings. If you are interested in teaching a course or webinar, please fill out an Online Education Proposal. How does it work? We’ll for starters you’ll need an idea or topic that you’d like to work with. Then we’ll ask you to provide a few things like:

  • title
  • description
  • learning outcomes
  • target audience
  • course level and prerequsitites
  • instructor bio

You’ll also be asked to submit a few things that will help us get to know you:

  • copy of your resume
  • teaching references
  • course syllabus (only for online courses)

So what’s the compensation like? Online course instructors are compensated $700 for course development and 15 percent of registration fees for their first session; following sessions are compensated at 20 percent of student registration fees. Fees are $115 for ALSC members, $165 for ALA members and $185 for nonmembers. Webinar instructors are compensated $100 for webinar development and 10 percent of registration fees for each webinar presented.

To make it easier on you, we’ve provided a copy of the form below. You can fill this out right from the ALSC Blog. Please consider applying! It’s great to have options and the more proposals we get, the more quality options we can provide to members!


Online Education

Contact Information

This form can not be saved prior to submission. All required fields are marked with a red asterisk (*) and must be filled in; screen readers will say the word star.
First Name
Last Name
Job Title
Address 1
Address 2


My proposal is for:
 Online Course 
Learning Outcomes
Target Audience
Course Level and Prerequisites
Instructor Biography Information

Additional Information

Please upload a copy of the following documents.
Instructor Resume
Teaching References (name, relation, phone number, email address)
Please list up to three people who can describe your work as an instructor or presenter.

Online Courses

Please fill out this section ONLY if you are submitting a proposal for an online course.
Length of Course
 Four Weeks 
 Five Weeks 
 Six Weeks 
Please describe your pre and post course evaluations
Session Dates
 Fall 2014: Sept. 8 – Oct. 17 
 Winter 2015: Jan. 5 – Feb. 13 
 Spring 2015: April 6 – May 15 
 Summer 2015: July 13 – Aug. 21 
Instructors are not limited, but must pick at least three.

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38. Highlighting the National Association for the Education of Young Chilren and the Operation Backpacks for Kids run by the Volunteer of America

The ALSC Liaison with National Organization Committee works to build liaison relationships with national organizations who serve children and youth and who share similar goals to ALSC.  Committee members work with these organizations to make them aware of ALSC’s activities and goals, and to involve themselves in the activities of these organizations.

One of the organizations that I work with is the National Association for the Education of Young Children. I have asked them to provide a brief description of the work they do for young children. Below is a description provided by Stephanie Morris from the NAECY organization.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — the world’s leading membership association working to ensure that all young children, birth through age 8, experience excellence in early childhood education. NAEYC’s vision for excellence and equity in early childhood education is built on the framework of developmentally appropriate practice. NAEYC brings together early childhood teachers, administrators, professional development specialists, adult educators, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to share cutting-edge information regarding early childhood related research, policy, and practice and to work to advance each of these areas. To learn more, visit NAEYC online or NAEYC’s For Families website.

I am also presenting an initiative that I feel very strongly about. Each year the Volunteers of America – Greater New York  try to place backpack filled with school supplies into the hands of children living in homeless shelters. Below is a description from Colleen Magri.

“More than 22,000 children live in NYC’s homeless and domestic violence shelters, according to the NYC Department of Homeless Services. One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact is has on a child’s education. Each year since 2001, Volunteers of America-Greater New York has been collaborating with companies, community groups and individuals to distribute new backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies to homeless children throughout New York City. A filled backpack relieves parents of a financial burden and provides a sense of normalcy to the otherwise chaotic lives of these children, helping them to look and feel more like their classmates. More importantly, a filled backpack allows these children to start the school year feeling prepared and confident, with the knowledge that their education is important and that someone believes in them.”

This program is run in other states as well, even though the needs and requests might vary. Here is a list of active states that provide a backpack or school program through the Volunteers of America:”

VOA – Chesapeake

VOA – Delaware Valley

VOA – Kentucky

VOA – Illinois

VOA – Michigan

VOA – Pennsylvania

VOA – Northern California & Northern Nevada

by Danielle Shapiro – Brooklyn Public Library

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39. Confessions of a Lazy Advocate

When I first received the email asking if I could serve on ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation Committee, I almost said no. It’s not that I feel that advocacy is unimportant. Quite the contrary, I’ve long romanticized advocacy. I had this vision in my head of the tireless, dedicated, and most of all, supremely well-informed volunteer, who spent her days storming Capitol Hill and her nights penning letters to Congress. As much as I admired all that, I was sure I could never be that person. My biggest fear was that I simply wasn’t well informed enough, and all my previous attempts to become better informed had left me drowning in a mire of acronyms and bill numbers. At the end of the day, however, I decided there was no better way to learn about something than to join a committee.

I very quickly learned two important facts that made the whole business much less daunting. First, you don’t have to join a protest on a weekly basis to be an advocate; you can fit it into your daily life quite easily. Indeed, as I discovered, I already am a powerful advocate. I am a school librarian, and a large part of what I would consider to be simply doing my job falls under the heading of advocacy. I keep my administrators and teachers informed about the value of the school’s library through a monthly newsletter. I keep parents informed through a website and periodic Family Reading Night events. And I push for our local public library at every opportunity, letting teachers, administrators, parents, and students know the value of their local branch.

Second, there is a well-developed and completely non-intimidating toolkit already out there for anyone interested in doing any advocacy. Candice Mack wrote about these resources in an excellent blog back in March: http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/03/everyday-advocacy-for-everyone/. I invite you to take a look. Two of my favorite tools are the website Everyday Advocacy, which provides tips for on-the-ground library promotion, and Take Action Tuesday, a column in Everyday Advocacy that gives the reader simple weekly suggestions.

Knowing about these tools didn’t necessarily mean I’d use them, however, and even as a committee member, I let the five months between Midwinter and Annual go by still in a state of guilt-ridden inertia. I knew I should be reading Everyday Advocacy, especially on Tuesdays, but somehow never quite remembered to do so. (Yes, I was getting all those helpful reminders through ALSC-l, but my inbox is so choked with mail from ALSC that it’s hard to focus on any one message).

On the plane back from Vegas, I realized I would have to plot my own escape from Newton’s First Law. What could I do to make everyday advocacy actually happen? First, I placed a repeating note in my calendar for every Tuesday at lunchtime to check Take Action Tuesday. Second, I bookmarked Everyday Advocacy in Symbaloo, which means that I can access it regardless of which electronic device happens to be holding me captive at any given moment. Third, I liked the ALSC blog on Facebook and added it (@alscblog) and the Everyday Advocacy content editor Jenna Nemec-Louise (@alajenna) to my Twitter feed. Call me superficial, but I’m much better at getting to social media than I am to my inbox.

Finally, since deep down inside where it really counts, I still have visions of being that woman storming Capitol Hill, I added the contact information for my national, state, and local representatives to my electronic address book, so that I can fire off impassioned emails at the touch of a button. You can find contact information for your senators at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and for your representatives at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. For local representatives just Google your state and local representative body (e.g., “New York State Assembly”); it should be easy to find the information from there. I also added a note in my calendar for early April to think about attending National Library Legislative Day, which takes place every year in early May in Washington D.C. This gathering is where ALSC members contact members of Congress personally to discuss why libraries provide vital services to all.


Eileen Makoff is a school librarian at P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School in Coney Island, NY. She is writing this blog on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

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40. Beware of Open Manholes: An Interview with Daniel Handler

I had the opportunity to meet with Daniel Handler at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas last month to ask him a few questions about Intellectual Freedom and some other stuff.

Do you have a favorite banned and/or challenged book? What is it?

Well, Lolita is one of my favorite books in the world, so that would be my favorite in terms of the literary quality of the work being challenged. But the fact that there are forces keeping Lolita out of the hands of young people doesn’t sound like the most dire battle I’ve ever heard in my life. In my neighborhood in San Francisco, the closest library to me is the Castro branch which has a wide assortment of books for queer youth, both fiction and non-fiction. They always have a little flyer about how many times this has been challenged or where it’s been challenged and if you work at a table at the library, as I do, you see the number of people who check those books out, young people and their parents, and that’s what I think of when I thing of banned books; Books that are really crucial to someone who is trying to find their bearings, so that seems like a more poignant fight than Lolita. But if you ask me what my favorite banned book is, it’s not one of those.

What inspired the creation of “The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity”?

I guess noble librarians faced with adversity and the fact that the success of the Snicket books has been driven by librarians all across our great country. The plight of librarians has been on my mind all the time. I visit countless libraries and the number of libraries that say “Everything is great, no one is giving us any problems” is pretty few and the number of libraries that say “We’re actually having a problem or two” is large. It literally feels to me that librarians put money into my hands, so to not put money into their hands seems rather silly. I’ve been a donor to libraries all over the place, but I felt like this prize was a fun way to single somebody out and certainly our first winner is a pretty amazing story. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of amazing stories.

Librarians do face adversity every day and they have been known to try to protect themselves by guessing what their community is going to get upset about, by not buying a controversial title or tearing out pages. I just heard a story today about a school librarian who tore out page 36 of a particular book because she didn’t want kids to see what was on that page. What words of wisdom would you have for librarians who are tempted to censor in this way?

Words of wisdom? Gosh, now they have to be wise words! I have utter sympathy for librarians who are working diligently and sensitively with their community. I don’t have the temperament to be a librarian who would be challenged a lot on those sorts of issues. I would become short tempered and stubborn. I always like to hear the stories of librarians who are solving those problems through whatever means they can. I wouldn’t tear out page 36 of a book particularly if it sounds like the page isn’t worth tearing out, I don’t know what page would be worth tearing out, but I’m often not the best poster boy when banned book week comes along. When I was in middle school, if someone had asked me what I would like to see in the library, it would have been a lot of dirty magazines that would have been great. The fact that those aren’t widely available in the school libraries, I don’t find to be shameful censorship and so I think librarians have to make a lot of tough calls.

I attended the Guys Read event at ALA in 2012 where you read aloud the sex scene from The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Could you tell ALSC Blog readers about why you chose to do this?

My mother was going through bookshelves at my childhood home and she gave me this stack of books and said, “These were really your books and here they are.” They were kind of my favorite novels from age seventeen to twenty and I re-read them. One of them was The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love and I found to my amusement and surprise that all of the books that were my favorite books were filthy. And the thing is they were all high works of literature, not cheap trash at all. I was a serious reader by then. What I remember was, I really liked Robert Coover’s novel Gerald’s Party, but what I didn’t remember was there is a ton of sex in it. That was interesting to me. I was called on to be on this panel and talk about what guys want to read and I thought if you say one book that I think guys want to read would be The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love you might say “Why particularly that”, but if I read that scene you would think “Oh my god, that’s the truth”. I thought it would be fun to read it and to read it with no introduction whatsoever so people would think, “Oh my goodness what is this person saying.” Then I would say “HA! It’s from a Pulitzer prize winning book.” That was interesting to me.

Out in the audience, I observed that some librarians were extremely uncomfortable and some reacted quite emotionally to your reading. Did you hear from librarians after the event?

No, I certainly didn’t hear any complaints. Sexuality in literature is something that is interesting to me and I think that one of the things that we are concerned with is boys falling off the wagon of reading at a certain age and we know that this is a large slice of what they are interested in. And this is exactly the kind of book that gets pulled off the shelf, that’s interesting to me.

As an author, do you approach a book differently if it has a potentially controversial theme? Meaning, do you consider the censor as you write or re-write?

No. I don’t have much of a sense of what offends people, is what I’ve found out. So I don’t think I can second guess people at all. By far the most controversial thing that we’ve gotten letters about in A Series of Unfortunate Events is that there is a building demarcated in The Unauthorized Autobiography as “The Church of the Alleged Virgin”, which I just thought was funny. And they said, “How dare you say that Mary might not be a virgin?” and I say, “But alleged means you think it happened, right?” So the answer is: I don’t know what would offend people.

How much did you think about and or/discuss with your editor the use of the word “damn” in The Reptile Room?

There have been a few little challenges. There is a small sex joke in one of the other volumes. Challenges to Snicket have been small. It’s the other reason why I’m not a good poster boy for banned books. People assume that my books have been banned all over the place, but in fact it’s kind of here and there, very small. For instance, the use of the word damn in The Reptile Room comes with this long explanation about whether you should say the word damn or not and it concludes that you should not. It really couldn’t be a stronger object lesson on not using that language. There are many books I would challenge in terms of say, gender roles. I don’t know that I would challenge them as in take them off the shelves, but I would not push them towards my son.

Has an editor ever asked you to tone down a potentially controversial scene?

No, not my book editor. A couple of magazines have asked for Lemony Snicket pieces and then not been comfortable with them. It wasn’t because of outright sexuality; they weren’t comfortable with them at all. The Lump of Coal was originally commissioned for a magazine and they ended up kind of running it, but they didn’t like it at all and they couldn’t put their finger on what they didn’t like about it.

Tell me about the first time you heard that one of your books had been challenged.

Well the first time I heard about it was on a very early book tour and I was in Decatur, Georgia. I arrived at a school to do a school visit and I was met out front by a principal and the principal said, “We’ve canceled the school visit, because of the incest.” That was the first I’d heard of it, it’s a very jarring feeling to literally not be let in a building. I don’t mean to make it more dramatic than it was, but as a Jewish person, it kind of gets my dander up. It feels almost instinctual to me. It felt really awful, but I went to lunch with the people who were running the bookstore there at the time and they were full of stories about all the work that they have to do when books are challenged or banned for one reason or another. I was so new to children’s literature then that I didn’t really think about it being part of the job, but it’s a huge part of the job if you open a bookstore in Decatur, Georgia to be sensitive to what that community is going to be prickly about. I always thought, just have a bunch of books in your store and then you’re all done

Do you feel that the presence of censors has impacted the quality of writing for children?

What I actually think has impacted the quality of writing for children, maybe quality isn’t the right word, but what has impacted children’s writing in recent years is the influx of attention. I think that children’s writing for a long time was in kind of a ghetto in terms of public attention. The practitioners who came to it felt like they could do whatever they wanted to do because no one was paying attention. Now a lot of attention is being paid. Other writers I know have said that and I think that. The notion that you could sell a YA book on a pitch and get $500,000 had way more effect on what kind of YA is being written than any kind of censorship. The best writers who are tackling controversial topics are all doing fine. I haven’t heard anything about them giving up or hiding or anything like that. But I think the notion that this is something from which you could make a nice living has probably had more of an effect.

One problem that librarians are facing right now are the leveled reading programs currently used by many schools, which require children to read only titles at a particular reading level. I’ve seen books kids ripped out of kids’ hands “You can’t read that yet, it’s not on your level.” What are your thoughts on this?

I’m against it. I find it hard enough to see children’s literature and adult literature kept in different areas. For instance The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love which could find a wide readership for adolescents. Despite a very moving speech at a recent ALA, I don’t think it is being offered to teenagers. I have enough trouble with that. I think the reading level thing is pretty silly.

They put A Series of Unfortunate Events at 6th and 7th grade and kids are reading it much earlier than that.

It’s not noticeable, but we had a big push to put an age range on A Series of Unfortunate Events when it was first being published. My editor was against it. I didn’t know about children’s publishing at all so I said “Whatever they need to do on the back of the book, what do I care?” So what it says there is “10 up”, but it looks weird, it doesn’t say “ages recommended” or anything, so you might not know what that means. In one way I’m sympathetic because I think there are a lot of middle-schoolers [who want to read] A Series of Unfortunate Events and you don’t want to say “That’s a 4th grade book” to a 7th grader who wants to read it. So it works that way too. In general the categories seem pretty silly to me.

I heard there is a drink called the “Lemony Snicket”, what is in it?

There are many drinks called the “Lemony Snicket”. The original “Lemony Snicket” was made [because] my friends had an overactive lemon tree and this was before I was writing books as Lemony Snicket, it was just kind of a name that was bumming around with me and my friends. We had a bottle of white rum and we just did like a mash of lemons in the bottom of it and we would just put in rum and soda. There are all kinds of “Lemony Snickets” now and rum is no longer my go-to hard liquor so I don’t like to spread the original “Lemony Snicket” around.

So what’s your favorite “Lemony Snicket”?

I like a “Lemony Snicket” that has a little brandy, bitters and lemon. That’s what I like.

Anything else you want to tell the ALSC Blog readers?

Beware of open manholes.

Heather Acerro, Chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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41. Making a Difference Together

Can I tell you about the best thing I’ve ever done? I stood up in a Youth Services meeting and asked for help.

In the fall of 2012, by chance I’d learned about a seasonal shelter for homeless families within our service area. The Road Home’s Community Winter Shelter, I’d heard, was a converted warehouse; instead of storing bags of onions or drums of chemicals, we stored people. Appalling description, isn’t it? I didn’t know how much community support the Road Home has, or what a wonderful organization it is, and I certainly didn’t know that The Road Home is a nationally recognized leader in rapid rehousing. I just knew I wanted to do something to promote early literacy to families.

I drafted a proposal suggesting that we do weekly early literacy storytimes in the shelter and submitted it to my branch manager and our administrator. We secured approval from the shelter, and then I took the project to our youth services committee. I was nervous, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone: I have neither the off-desk time nor the emotional resources to visit the shelter myself every week. I braced myself and asked my fellow librarians for help.

Photo Credit: Annie Eastmond Photo Credit: Heather Novotny Photo Credit: Heather Novotny

How did it go? Easiest sell ever. I stood up, described the shelter, told my peers what I wanted to do, and how to sign up. I sat down, and my colleagues stepped up. Last season, twenty librarians visited the shelter to donate books and present early literacy storytimes at the family shelter. We presented 33 storytimes and donated hundreds of books. The work is hard, but rewarding. I’ll always be grateful I found the courage to ask my colleagues for help.

Tips for Working with Homeless Children & Families

  • Understand that these families live in chaotic circumstances.
    • Our goal is to engage the children as future readers and library users.
    • Some days the most valuable thing we accomplish is giving the parents a break so they can go take a shower.
  • Children living in unstructured environments often deal with the extra pressures they face by trying to control their environment. We try to be especially patient with kids who act out.
  • Many children in the shelter are not used to group activities, and are easily distracted.
    • We plan storytimes that are shorter, with more music and gross motor activities.
    • We accept that some kids can’t focus. It is OK to let those children play with toys while we focus our attention on other children who are engaged in the storytime.
  • Listen to the parents’ concerns and reinforce that you understand they want to help their kids get ready to read.
  • Parents appreciate having something to look forward to. We schedule our programs in advance and promote them with posters.


Our guest blogger today is Heather Novotny.  Heather is a Senior Librarian, Children’s Outreach & Programming, at Salt Lake County Library Services.

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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42. Learning From Other Professions

I grew up singing, dancing and storytelling. My mom is an elementary music teacher, so music and movement have always been part of my life. So it’s a natural course for me to include a lot of music and movement in my storytimes.

My mom had been telling me about a method of teaching music known as Orff, which is a way to include music, movement, and drama in your teaching. She would tell me about the fun activities she would do in her music classroom and I would immediately think of how I could adapt it and use it at the library. So when the chance came up last month to attend a music workshop with my mom that was being facilitated by two leading Orff educators, Artie Almeida and Denise Gagne, I jumped at the chance.

I was a librarian in a room full of music educators, yet I felt at home. Here was a three day workshop on creative movement and singing, using dramas to tell stories, choreographed parachute routines, clapping and rhyming games, playing instruments and so much more. I came away from the workshop feeling energized and excited about using music and movement in my storytimes.

I took a few tips from what I learned from the workshop and applied them to storytime this past week. Before I got out my rhythm sticks, I explained exactly what I was going to have the preschoolers do, demonstrated what they would do, and had them practice several times before I passed out the sticks. Then the preschoolers accompanied me as I read Tap, Tap, Boom, Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle and played along to Tap Your Sticks by Hap Palmer. At my library dance party, I had the kids choreograph a parachute routine to Let It Go-as the music came to a crescendo, our parachute got larger. As the music was faster we shook the parachute quickly and slowed it down as the music became slower. These are simple things to incorporate into my programs and took what I was already doing and made them even better.

Attending the music educator workshop made me wonder why children’s librarians don’t collaborate more with other professions. We share a lot of similarities with elementary music teachers and could learn a lot from each other. I’m hoping to get involved in my local Orff chapter and learn more music and movement ideas. I hope to build a great collaboration between the library and my local music teachers and build on the music and movement programs I’m already doing. I think partnering with other professions and learning from their experts is a great way to expand our knowledge and also promote what we’re doing in the library.

So I encourage you to go out and meet your local music teacher! And collaborate with other professions to see what you can learn. And if you get a chance, attend an Orff workshop-they’re a lot of fun!


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43. Speaking Their Language

Several months ago, I wrote a post that I titled Engaging Parents After Storytime which was all about how to encourage parents to do activities together at home that would re-enforce storytime and early literacy skills.

A couple of commenters mentioned that they thought the article might address how to talk to parents/caregivers. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that question and am prepared to offer some tips from a non-parent perspective!

Talk about the babies/children.

While I don’t have my own adorable anecdotes or years of experience to share, guess who does? The parents and caregivers in my storytimes. Before storytime formally begins (I open the door five minutes before start time) and after storytime formally ends, I spent a lot of time talking with the adults about the milestones I see have happened or are about to happen.

“Oh, I see that [baby] is working on sitting up — good job, [baby] and [caregiver]!”

This often results in other adults chiming in on their own experiences with milestones, creating a community share. If you don’t know the suggested ages for milestones, you can do some research to catch up. I do not emphasize where a baby “should” be and instead focus on providing information for parents/caregivers who ask development questions after storytime.

Talk about activities/library.

I can give you a ton of conversation starters for this heading:

Image courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.

An interactive wall panel from PLA, available from The Burgeon Group.
[Image courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

“[Baby] really enjoyed when we played The Shape Game today. Did you see these books on shapes?”

“I saw your family’s picture at Family Night. Did you know about our upcoming event this Thursday?”

“It’s great to see you together working on this puzzle!”

“[Child], you have the letter H in your hand. Let’s name things that start with ‘H’ together with your grown-up, okay?”

“I missed you last week! The theme was farm — here are the books we read since you were at the doctor’s.”

I talk about activities and the library to further connect parents to the library and its resources. Since we are all well-versed on what our libraries have to offer — this kind of conversation should come naturally!

Talk about common interests.

Just like you would do with anyone else in the world — be aware of your surroundings and talk about what you notice. I gain a lot of my information from the clothes the children come dressed in! I had one child dressed in a sports team jersey one day. That led to an easy conversation about the team’s standings in the play-offs. Just a few weeks ago, another child was dressed in a Muggle shirt and I got to have a great conversation with a parent & huge Harry Potter fan!

I’ve also noticed what books & DVDs are tucked in the diaper bags or in the bottom of the stroller. I’ve heard parents humming popular songs. I’ve even noticed dog hair on my pants and started talking about pets — anything I can do to make a personal connection with a parent!

Talk about what everyone has been reading.

We’re librarians, after all, aren’t we? If there’s a moment where you need an icebreaker, it’s easy to ask what everyone has recently read. That includes picture books and adult books, too! Be prepared to offer suggestions for the newest board books for your babies and read-a-likes for all.

Talk about relevant current events.

Like the recent New York Times article about the American Association of Pediatrics preparing to recommend reading from birth.

Or the amazing article from Mashable that Renee Grassi linked me to this past week about 3D printing being used to create raised illustrations of classic picture books for the blind.

Or stay up-to-date on baby product recalls — an invaluable resource for parents.

Where do you find articles like this? Twitter is a great suggestion. Or watching the news once a week. My favorite suggestion is reading the headlines online — People magazine does a daily round up on its Moms and Babies page that includes both celebrity news and parenting articles.

Talk about the weather and seasons.

This might not be as fun if you don’t live in Chicago, land of crazy weather and temperamental season changes. But I’ve never had parents laugh so hard as when we’re commiserating about the third straight day of torrential rain or the sudden fifty degree weather in July.

A thank-you card from a parent after storytime session.  [Courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

A thank-you card from a parent after storytime session.
[Courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

Building these relationships with the parents and caregivers has given me so much back — hugs and colored pictures and thank-you cards and a wonderful sense of community and belonging. I hope employing all or some of these techniques will help you make personal connections with your storytime adults. Do you have any other ideas to share? Let me know in the comments!

(And a special thanks to Jennifer and Awnali for the great blog post idea!)

- Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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44. The Classic(s) Question


Creative Commons Search – Jessie Wilcox Smith picture books in winter from A Child’s Garden of Verses 1905

As a mom-slash-librarian, I have worked pretty hard to try to make sure that my daughters are readers.  There are books of all sorts in every room of the house, I read in front of them on our commute, and at home, and I read to them when they let me.  As my oldest daughter reached tweendom, I thought, “This is it! I will finally be able to share all of my favs with her!” Cue sad trombone music.  I had to accept the fact that while she is a reader, she is her own reader.  Some of our tastes overlap, but there are often times when we aren’t interested in each other’s books.  And that’s okay.

Many times other parents see my kiddos reading and ask me how I did it.  Or assume that my job did it for me. And many other times the follow up question is how they can get their own kids to “elevate” their reading, meaning  “the classics”.  At these moments I do my best to avoid all signs of side-eye, give a reassuring smile and ask them why the classics?  Is it because they themselves have fond memories of reading the classics?  Are they looking down at the children’s books their kids are reading as somehow “less than” with regard to the classics?

I remind them that the vocabulary in capital L literature is often difficult and unfamiliar to younger readers, which can lead to frustration.  I then tend to recommend reading the classics together so that the parent can scaffold the unfamiliar bits, define some old fashioned language, and add some context.

Ultimately, the message I always try to get across when presented with the classic(s) question is that all reading is good.  If your child is super excited about a mass marketed series paperback, go with it.  Ask your child about what makes it so great.  Read along with them and earn their trust.  Then when you leave the piles of books around the house they can be made up of best sellers, series and classics.  Over time, readers might just pick one up on their own, which in my opinion is the best way to have it happen!

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45. The Science Explorer Table

A couple of years ago, we introduced a make-and-take craft table in our Children’s Room. The table sits right by our Reference Desk so that it’s easy for staff to keep an eye on it and refill supplies as needed. We found, however, that our craft table did not work so well during the summer months. To accommodate the increased traffic at our Reference Desk, we moved the table a few feet away and we found we were refilling supplies constantly, which was a big pain.

So this year, we debuted our Science Explorers Table. Instead of a craft, we’ve put out various science-related activities for children to explore while they visit the Children’s Room. It’s been a hit! The table is very frequently used and provides a learning experience as well as entertainment for kids.

Science Explorer Table at the NAFC Library. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Science Explorer Table at the NAFC Library. Photo by Abby Johnson.

The table is self-directed, and signage lets parents know that materials stay on the table for the next child to use. We may include some questions or guidance as to how to use the materials, but kids also have fun picking things up and exploring on their own. We switch out the activities every couple of weeks to keep things fresh. The table also provides some space to set out leftover program handouts (all relevant since we’re doing so much science programming this summer!).

We purchased several of the Can Do! science sets from Lakeshore Learning, which are super easy since they come with everything you need. We’ve also used some of our own activity ideas like these magnet wands with pipe cleaner hair (SO simple and popular!) and the mystery boxes my colleage Miss T made.

I’ve been asked by colleagues about keeping statistics and to be honest that’s a part that I hadn’t thought of and we didn’t figure out for this summer. Some possibilities for keeping stats on an activity like this might be:

  • selecting a week or a few typical days during the summer to keep a tally and extrapolating statistic
  • including some kind of take-home element or something kids can contribute to and then counting up how many were taken or how contributions were made (adding notes or pictures to a notebook, etc.)
  • Angie Manfredi at the Los Alamos County Library System posts challenge questions and asks kids to come to the Reference Desk to answer the questions and earn a small prize (I think they use candy, but it could be a sticker or a hand stamp)

I’ve blogged about the Science Explorers Table on my personal blog; see Fizz, Boom, Read: Self-Directed Science Activities for more ideas!

Are you doing any self-directed science in your library this summer? Please share what you’re doing in the comments! We may decide to keep the Science Explorer Table year-round (in lieu of take-home crafts), so I need all the ideas I can get!

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

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46. Tap the STEM Resources in Your Community!

My monthly post here on the ALSC Blog usually chronicles my personal adventures in STEAM programming at my library–programs that I’ve created from the bottom up, and which I lead. Since this is the summer of all STEAM all the time, however, I’ve been thinking about the variety of community resources that libraries can tap in order to supplement their home-grown programming. Are you looking for knowledgeable, engaging presenters to help diversify the STEM options at your library? Here are some ideas of places to look in your community.

Children’s Museums & Science Museums - Children’s museums and science museums can range from small operations to massive institutions, and pretty much all of them are interested in education and outreach. Find a museum in the general vicinity of your library, then check out the museum’s website. Oftentimes, the museum will list their ready-to-go outreach programs on their website, allowing you to get an idea of what programs might fit your library’s needs and budget. If examples aren’t listed, you can generally find a name and/or phone number to contact someone at the museum who could answer your queries.

Zoos, Aquariums, and Animal Sanctuaries - Tapping the zoo resources in your community is pretty similar to tapping the museum resources. Find accredited zoos and aquariums in your area–there are likely more than you realize–and set about discovering what outreach education opportunities they can offer. In my experience, smaller operations have more outreach resources, so don’t skip over a lesser-known institution just because you think it’s too small.

Botanical Gardens - Visiting botanical gardens has become one of the great pleasures of my adult life, and not once have I visited a garden without seeing children enraptured by the nature around them. Nature programs are a hit. Lots of botanical gardens have their own outreach programs, but if they don’t, they generally have connections to volunteers in the local horticultural society who would be happy to make an educational visit to your library. You can find all sorts of gardens and horticultural society members here.

Local Interest Clubs - Most communities offer a variety of interest clubs surrounding common hobbies–think garden clubs, stargazing societies, model rocket groups, and the like. You can always use your internet sleuthing skills to find out about STEM-area clubs near you, but I’ve found it’s almost easier to ask around the library to find these groups. More often than not, these club members are also your library users, and when they hear you’re looking for new program presenters, many will offer their services and enthusiasm. Do keep in mind that you’ll likely want to help club members as they craft their presentations–they may not be familiar with speaking to a young audience.

Local Businesses - If you’ve got businesses in your community that work in STEM areas, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to have access to expert STEM presenters. Many STEM companies provide incentives for their employees to do volunteer work in the community, and educational programs at the library definitely fall into that category. Some companies even have established education programs–just last week, I got a letter from a major bioengineering company with offices in the area offering their staff expertise for a library program. You can seek out information about STEM businesses in your area, see what they can offer, and then decide what programs would mesh with your library’s goals and vision.

These are just a handful of the community resources you could tap to offer new and engaging STEM presentations at your library. Who are your favorite community partners when it comes to offering STEM programs?

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47. Inclusion of ALSC Award Titles on the Notable Children’s Book List

Occasionally ALSC members wonder why ALSC award titles are automatically added to our list of Notable Books for Children. The ALSC Board periodically considers issues such as this to make sure we’re shepherding our awards and lists of recommended media appropriately. At its Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, the ALSC Board reaffirmed the policy that all award and honor books chosen by ALSC book award committees will be automatically included on our Notable Books list. I am writing as a member of the Board because we wanted to share a summary of our discussion and thinking.

It was the consensus of the Board that the Notables list represents our division and, as such, should include the books cited by our award committees. Although some have argued that the Notables list should only include titles chosen by the Notable Books Committee itself, the Board sees the list as a cooperative effort between the Notables Committee and the awards committees. When members accept appointment to the Notables Committee, they do so with the understanding that the award titles, as specified in the Notables Manual, will be included on the final list.

It has also been suggested that including the award titles limits the number of books the Notables Committee can cite on its own. This is not at all the case. The Notables Manual does not specify a maximum number of titles for the Notables list. Clearly some Notables chairs prefer a shorter list than others, and some years produce more outstanding books than others, but the inclusion of award titles in no way limits the number of books the Notables Committee can add to its list.

This policy only applies to books honored by the ALSC award committees – Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Belpré, Geisel, and Sibert. The Board respects the significance and value of other ALA youth book awards; only the ALSC award books, however, will be automatically included since these are the books chosen by our division’s members on our division’s committees. The Notables list on our website will include links to the other ALA youth book awards.

We welcome responses to this policy from our members.

Rita Auerbach on behalf of the ALSC Board

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48. Let’s talk public awareness.

Hello, friends and fellow ALSC members. I want to introduce myself to you: I’m Amy Koester, and I am the new chair of the ALSC Public Awareness Committee.

In case you’re not particularly familiar with this committee, allow me to share its charge:

To promote awareness of the value of excellent library service for all children. To plan, execute, coordinate, and disseminate public awareness campaigns about the importance of library service for youth. To provide public awareness learning opportunities for library staff and other stakeholders.

Over the course of this next year, this committee will be working to expand public awareness of the excellent services that libraries offer to children and their families. That means any and all services–including those that we as professionals consider to be widely known.

I want to encourage you to think for a moment about the community you serve. Not just the folks who visit and use the library, but the community at large. Thinking about that community, ask yourselves some questions. Do all families in your community:

  • know how to get a library card? Do they understand what free services come with library card ownership?
  • know they can bring their children to the library for free programs?
  • understand that the library is a resource and partner for the development of their young children?
  • recognize that the library has materials that reflect and celebrate diversity, so no matter what their family looks like, they can feel welcome?

These are just a few questions we can start to ask ourselves when we step back from our day-to-day work and consider what, in fact, the public is aware of when it comes to library service for children. It is the work of myself and this committee to do everything we can to help bring awareness–and to help you bring awareness in your communities–to what the library can offer.

In conjunction with that work, you’ll continue to see monthly posts from the committee here on the ALSC Blog. We aim to make these posts as useful to you as possible, so if you have particular areas of library service that you’d like your public to be more aware of, I hope you’ll share those ideas in the comments. Or, if you’d rather engage in a more private conversation, feel free to email me at amy(dot)e(dot)koester(at)gmail(dot)com.

Chances are, if folks in your community don’t know about something the library offers, then folks in other communities are missing out, too. And we don’t want families and children to miss out on these excellent, vital library services just because they don’t know about them.


Amy Koester is a Children’s Librarian with the St. Charles City-County Library District and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee.

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49. Experience the Book & Media Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches (image courtesy ALSC)

The 2014 ALSC book and media award acceptance speeches evoked plenty of emotion. Some were funny and warm. Some were emotional and informative. You can read them yourself on the ALSC website! Download a copy of the PDF of each of the speeches:

You can also watch reaction videos from the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winnersVideos of the award speech presentations and inspiration videos that concluded the banquet will be posted soon.

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50. Book to Film: Coraline

Tomorrow marks the return of my favorite program we offer at the library: R.W.D., or Read, Watch, Discuss! I’ve written about my book-to-film club previously, but tomorrow kicks off our special summer session. First up: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline!

coraline3Oh, how I adore this book. I was always a fan of plucky heroines (and heroes!) and books that made me afraid to fall asleep. Coraline is all of those things and more. I read it as an adult first, but I know I would have loved it as a child, fan as I was of Betty Ren Wright and The House With a Clock in Its Walls. Coraline tells a remarkably creepy story – remarkable because it feels like something that really could happen, especially if one lives in a creeky old house with eccentric neighbors and parents who love you but don’t really have any time for you. The writing is wonderfully evocative, the tension nearly unbearable, and our heroine is fond of thoughts like, “Coraline wondered why so few of the adults she met ever made sense. She sometimes wondered who they thought they were talking to.” What’s not to love?

The film has two key differences from the book. First, there is the inclusion of a friend, Wyborn, whose grandmother’s sister was also taken by the Other Mother. Giving Coraline someone to talk to was a smart choice, as most of the book involves her inner monologue. I just wish Coraline was still allowed her solo, triumphant final defeat of the other Mother by the well, without the help of the added boy character.

Movie Coraline, blue hair and wellies at the ready.

Movie Coraline, blue hair and wellies at the ready.

The second major change is Coraline herself. Film Coraline, as voiced by Dakota Fanning, can be more than a little obnoxious, a choice by the filmmakers that I both respect (not too many borderline-unlikeable protagonists in a movie for kids) and dislike (borderline-unlikeable!) simultaneously. The personality change is jarring, especially since her literary counterpart is a slightly strange, mostly polite and good child.

What the film gets deliciously, marvelously correct is the eerie sense of dread that pervades Coraline’s world. Even when Coraline first visits the Other Mother, you can tell (to quote another famous literary mother figure) “Something is not right!”

Coraline is placed in her magical surroundings in this still from Animation Magazine. http://www.animationmagazine.net/features/coraline-set-photos/

Coraline is placed in her magical surroundings in this still from Animation Magazine. http://www.animationmagazine.net/features/coraline-set-photos/


And of course, there’s the animation itself. The Other Mother’s hand, skittering across the screen, is literally the stuff nightmares are made of. When Coraline first arrives, the seemingly perfect world is warm and colorful, with just the right touch of menace added by crooked shapes and gaping mouths. The character design is wonderfully evocative. Coraline is all spindly limbs and blue hair. Mr. Bobinsky’s anatomically impossible elongated arms and giant potbelly are the picture of someone gone to seed. The Other Mother goes from perfectly normal to hellish and creepy. When the world begins to disintegrate, the creators literally peel away the sets in front of our eyes. It’s marvelous stuff.

The beauty of the film is what wins me over to Coraline despite changes from the source material. We’ll see what the kids at my library think this afternoon!

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