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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. Engaging Adults in Storytime

My library had a concert last week with Charlie Hope, winner of the Juno Award for Children’s Album of the Year. We had over 200 in attendance and it was a magical experience. Charlie’s beautiful voice and interactive songs delighted the audience of young children and parents. Afterward, she told me it was one of her all-time best audiences. She was impressed that our parents were so attentive and happy to join in the singing and dancing with their kids.

Photo courtesy of Charlie Hope

Photo courtesy of Charlie Hope

It got me to wondering: what helps children and parents focus and get the most enjoyment and learning benefit from a musical performance or storytime? I think establishing practices in your storytimes that encourage everyone to pay attention is the key.
Here are my top techniques for helping adults, as well as kids, stay engaged during programs:

  • Ask adults to silence their cell phones and tuck them away during storytime. I explain briefly that parents are role models for their children and that when parents are focused on the program it helps children focus, too. Paying attention takes practice, and that’s one of the important things we’re helping our children do in storytime–practice paying attention.
  • Ask adults to save conversation with nearby adults until after storytime. We put out books to browse after storytime and this is always an opportunity for parents to socialize–an essential part of our programs, too.
  • Use techniques that encourage parent participation. Early literacy consultant Saroj Ghoting recommends giving parents a specific part in a story. For instance, I read Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons in my two-year-old storytime recently and had the parents alone say the refrain “Did Pete cry? Goodness no. Buttons come and buttons go.” When adults have a role in the story, they know they need to listen and be ready to ham up their part!
Giving parents a role in The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin. Photo courtesy of the author.

Giving parents a role in The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin. Photo courtesy of the author.

  • Use rhythm and rhyme to engage everyone in the action. Singing books works like a charm. I find this is especially true with songs that lots of parents know and love like If You’re Happy and You Know It or The Wheels on the Bus. The versions by Jane Cabrera make terrific storytime books, for instance, because the bright and heavily-outlined illustrations carry so well in a group.
  • Count. To introduce a song or rhyme I often say, “I’m going to count: 1, 2, 3, go, and then we will sing (or say) it all together.” I then count clearly, showing my fingers. Even if parents are chatting during the “1”, everyone is usually on board by the time I get to “go”.
  • Calm and re-focus the group when you need to with simple breathing exercises, such as this one: ask everyone to pick an imaginary flower, then slowly breathe in its nice smell and blow out on its petals. Or ask everyone to take a big breath, hold it for a few moments, and then slowly let it out. These quick exercises help everyone relax and get ready to listen again.
  • Whisper. If you feel you’re losing the group, drop your voice briefly to a whisper. Everybody loves a secret!
  • Puppets are engaging for all ages. I took ALSC’s Storytelling with Puppets course and learned a lot about presenting stories and songs using puppets. Instructor Steven Engelfried’s YouTube channel has lots of great stories to get you started or enhance what you’re already doing.
A puppet with personality! Photo courtesy of the author.

A puppet with personality! Photo courtesy of the author.

We know how much children benefit when their parents are engaged in storytime: when parents listen to the stories and songs they have something to talk to their children about when the event is over, and those conversations lead to an enriched vocabulary and a better understanding of the stories and their meaning for the child. And as Jim Gill points out, when adults join in the music play the child learns more from the experience. Perhaps most importantly, your event becomes an opportunity for parents and children to connect and create joyful memories at the library!

What do you do to help children and adults stay engaged during storytime?


Sharon McClintockOur guest blogger today is Sharon McClintock. Sharon is a Youth Services Librarian at the City of Mountain View Public Library  in Mountain View, CA. Sharon can be reached at sharon.mcclintock@mountainview.gov.

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.

The post Engaging Adults in Storytime appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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27. Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work)

I took my first “Jazzercise” exercise class many moons ago, after the birth of our first child. Although I never quite regained my pre-pregnancy figure, I’ve been going to fitness classes ever since. An unexpected perk to the the time spent in pursuit of muscle tone is that it has taught me lessons which can be applied to my writing efforts as well.

Photo credit as Dianne Ochiltree

Photo credit as Dianne Ochiltree

1. GET TO THE GYM. This one has tripped up many a new health club member. I won’t see the results of a stair-climbing machine on my bathroom scale until I’ve actually stepped onto it. Likewise, I can’t finish manuscripts until I’ve spent the hours required in front of the computer keyboard.

2. WORK OUT WITH FRIENDS. It’s easy to become discouraged when facing the challenge of just one more leg lift–or one more revision—alone. A writers group and/or critique partners do more than provide feedback on your developing craft. Like workout buddies, fellow writers can encourage, commiserate and help you stick with it long enough to accomplish your goals.

3. VARY YOUR WORKOUT TO KEEP IT INTERESTING. The quickest way to fitness burnout is to do only one kind of exercise, day after day. The same can be said for writing! For example, you may not be a poet. Write a poem anyway. What you discover in the process may give your prose new energy.

4. DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE. You must breathe deeply when exercising. This is how your muscles get the oxygen they need to work hard. You can give your creativity breathing space by practicing mental yoga: as you exhale old thoughts of ‘blank page, no ideas,’ breathe in creative inspiration.

5. EXERCISE ON A SCHEDULE. To get fit and stay that way, you not only have to show up at the gym that first day—you have to keep showing up, week after week. So it goes with your writing. Give each project a deadline, as well as an outline of the steps needed to bring it to completion.

6. DON’T GIVE UP. Even professional athletes stumble when faced with a new physical challenge. But they keep running, jumping and lifting anyway. For writers, rejection letters and editorial notes are just part of the training program-a way to build strong writing muscles and stamina. Don’t allow a few missteps to stop your momentum.

7. STRETCH BEFORE YOU EXERCISE. A few minutes spent warming up muscles with a pool side stretch makes swimming laps easier and more effective. You shouldn’t dive into your writing projects cold, either. Stretch and flex with journal entries, brainstorming and other writing exercises before attacking your task at hand.

8. IF YOU GET CONFUSED, WATCH THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU. The easiest way to learn a fitness routine is to mimic the moves of someone in the row ahead. Make it a habit to read interviews, how-to articles, and biographies of writers you admire. What have they learned that can help you in your own writing?

9. NO PAIN, NO GAIN. In order to gain stamina and muscle mass, we need to experience a bit of discomfort. Similarly, a writer may have to to try new ways of crafting words that are out of your creative comfort zone.

10. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BREATHE. When rhythm-challenged me is faced with a complicated dance move, I hold my breath. My body and brain freezes up. I could get frustrated and quit. Or I can just breathe, listen to the music’s beat, and find my feet naturally back in the groove. Likewise, when the right words and images refuse to take shape on the page, I find it helps to just breathe, listen carefully to the words of the story that is trying to be told through me, and to take dictation.


Dianne beach, larger file

Stephanie Dubsky Photography

Today’s guest blogger is Dianne Ochiltree. Dianne is a nationally-recognized children’s author of picture books for the very young, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor residing in sunny Sarasota, Florida. Dianne’s most recent release is It’s a Seashell Day (Blue Apple Books, July 2015). For more information about Dianne and her books, go to dianneochiltree.com.

Please note 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.

The post Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work) appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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28. And a Sock Hop Got Me Thinking…

Each department at my library has been asked to take on the responsibility of raising money. This was a new assignment for me and one that I’m oddly excited about. For some reason, it allowed (forced?) me to take a different approach than I normally do when planning programs. I started thinking of opportunities our area families don’t normally get. And to do that, I started looking around at various community organizations and their services and fundraisers. I would hate to repeat another non-profit’s big idea. And while I’m still learning about this slightly rural-area of my county (I’m all city, baby!) I decided on a Sock Hop! Of course, I turned instantly to Pinterest where I was not disappointed in the myriad ideas: from music selection to DIY costumes and decorations. I happen to love 50s music (despite its inherent ridiculousness and rampant sexism) so this is right up my alley. Let the planning begin!


Photo Credit: Flickr User  Creative Commons License

The whole process got me thinking about how I plan other special programs. This might be old news to some of you, but investigating this sock hop idea was a good reminder for me to think about filling the gaps as I plan activities. As well, it was a reminder to see how my library can partner with these organizations in their own efforts to provide services to the community. Some places to consider when planning programs and fundraisers:

  • Parks and Recreation
  • Schools
  • Girl and Boy Scouts
  • Churches
  • Community Centers
  • Homeschool Groups
  • Animal shelters
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Goodwill
  • Junior League
  • Kiwannis
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Planned Parenthood
  • YMCA
  • YWCA
  • United Way

In looking around at these organizations, I found several fundraising events with which I would have hated to compete and a number of services our library could either promote or ride their coattails.  I also am considering contacting a few of these places to see about partnering in a fundraising event.  Anyone out there work with other non-profits in a fundraising capacity?


Our guest blogger today is Kelley Beeson. Kelley is the Youth Services Department Head at the Western Allegheny Community Library. She’s been working in libraries since high school and her favorite book is Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

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.

The post And a Sock Hop Got Me Thinking… appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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29. Visit the Science Playground

Last month during our students’ Fall Break, I offered a STEM program that was easy to prep, easy to staff, and cost us nothing! We held a drop-in Science Playground where I put out all kinds of science materials and allowed families to explore at their own pace.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

** This is the caveat where I tell you that the reason that this program was absolutely free to us is that we have been collecting science tools and kits for several years for our summer Science Explorer table. Worry not, I have some ideas in case you do NOT have science tools at the ready!**

I scheduled the program for an afternoon during Fall Break. It was drop-in and open to all ages, although the materials we had were mostly geared towards the early elementary crowd (and that’s the audience we ended up attracting). I set up tables in our meeting room and placed our science kits and activities out, as well as a large display of science books that families could check out. I put on some background music and opened the doors. As families came in, I let them know that they were welcome to explore all our stations and check out any books they liked. I kept a tally for attendance and the program pretty much ran itself.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

I set out the following stations:

  • Student microscopes with slides
  • Science Discovery Kits on magnets, motion, and magnification
  • Magnet wands with pipe cleaner “hair”
  • Color paddles and materials to draw
  • Bug sorting set
  • Science viewers
  • Wooden blocks
  • Plastic jungle animal toys
  • Soft vinyl shape toys
Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

We’ve purchased most of these materials from Lakeshore Learning.

Families explored most of the stations I set out. The microscopes were a little difficult because they really needed more one-on-one instruction on how to use them. If we do this program again, I would probably forgo the microscopes and put out more different materials to look at under magnifying glasses.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Although most of our crowd was in that early elementary age, older kids were eager to show the tricks they knew to younger kids or to the adults in  the room. They knew how to make the magnets do cool things or how to mix the colors with the color paddles and showed that to the other kids. Grownups browsed the display books (especially if I mentioned the display to them directly), but not many kids did browsing on their own.

The station materials did NOT stay neatly where I placed them, but that was no big deal. If a station had a quiet moment, I would go over and quietly group things back into their proper kits. I could have probably utilized a teen volunteer or two to help keep things organized and for set-up and clean-up, but it wasn’t a big deal for me to do these things myself.

We were in a fairly small room, so it did get pretty loud in there occasionally with all the great conversations going on, kids making animal sounds, etc. I knew this would probably happen, so I avoided stations that had to do with sound since I knew it would be difficult to hear.

Now, if you don’t happen to have all this great science stuff laying around, you could still totally do this program (and you could keep it pretty cheap, as well). Here are some ideas (which I might use next time!):

  • Building with cardboard boxes instead of blocks (ask your coworkers to save boxes of all types: cake mixes, cereal boxes, egg cartons all make great, free building material).
  • Challenge kids to construct a boat that will float or a tower that reaches so many inches using whatever materials you have handy (aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, yarn, spaghetti, etc.).
  • Sensory bins using dry beans and containers made of different materials to pour them with.
  • Put out realia to explore. You could put out leaves and/or rocks and accompanying field guides to try to identify them or just collect sticks, seeds, grasses, flowers, etc. and let kids explore them.
  • Sink and float station. Put out a tub of water and various materials. Encourage kids to guess beforehand and then test their hypothesis to see if they were right.
  • Any of these shadow activities that Amy Koester posted about on the ALSC Blog.

What other fun science activities would make good stations for a self-directed program like this?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

The post Visit the Science Playground appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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30. Trying something new

playing with sensory balls

Playing with sensory balls

A few months back I saw a photo from Hennepin County Library on Instagram. It showed how much fun they had at their Sensitive Family Time — a time for families living with autism to explore the library. As I was looking for a way to partner with our local Autism Centre, I jumped on this fantastic idea. After a few phone calls and emails, we had a date. We opened one of our branches for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, just for these families. The families had signed up in advance with the Autism Centre, so we knew who to expect. Staff from their centre attended, and welcomed the families. Our staff were on had to show them around the library, read some stories, and get them signed up for library cards.

We had some toys out (I had these already from storytime), and just let the kids roam around. They played, I read a few books, they enjoyed themselves. Many of the families had never taken their child to the library before– they feared disruptive behavior and did not want to cause a scene. The kids were great — once they found out that the library was a safe, welcoming place, they had a grand time. And so did I. I tried something outside my comfort zone, something I really knew nothing about other than I knew there were families that wanted to use the library but maybe felt uncomfortable doing so.

Program room is set up

Program room is set up

We’ve got another one in the works, and I look forward to it. It was such a simple idea, such an easy way to reach out. I have to thank Hennepin County Library for their great program, and for graciously allowing me to borrow their idea and run with it. Try something new. It just might be worth it.

The post Trying something new appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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31. Sibert Committee looking for great informational books for kids

Wow! What great informational books for kids we’re seeing this year! You’ve been reading them too- what about that fabulous science book and that verse novel that actually teaches you something and the silly, silly tale about just how that tricky bit of of physics actually works? Oh, and don’t forget that one about the kid growing up a long time ago – and by the time you finished it, you knew some of the favorite songs of the era, how far the medical system had advanced – and why they called them – whatever. The Sibert Committee has been reading all these books too and would love to know which ones you want us to take a second, or third, look at. You’ll have to wait until January to hear our final decisions, but please send your ideas our way. While we won’t be breathing a word of our favorites, why not make sure your favorites have caught our attention? Send them along by November 15th to Elizabeth Overmyer, Chair, 2016 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Committee, ove1817@gmail.com.

If you’d like to refresh your understanding of the Sibert criteria, they are available here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal/sibertterms/sibertmedaltrms.

Happy reading!

— Elizabeth Overmyer, Chair
2016 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Committee


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32. Children’s Literature of the Southwest

To learn more about a place, immerse yourself in the literature of that region. I want to take you on a journey to the Southwestern part of the United States through literature written for children. Here are some selected books for young readers to delight, learn, challenge, and inspire.

(Alphabetized by author’s last name)

efrainAstorga, Amalia (as told by Gary Paul Nabhan)
Efrain of the Sonoran Desert: A Lizard’s Life Among the Seri Indians (Published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2001)
This book tells the story of the Seri Indians. Dr. Nabhan retells the story from Seri Indian Elder Ms. Amalia Astorga, and Janet K. Miller is the illustrator. Ms. Astorga’s story about her friendship and death of her pet lizard Efrain. Cultural and linguistic descriptions give the reader a deeper appreciation for the Seri Indians who are at-risk of becoming extinct with a population decrease to little more than 600.

navajoBegay, Shonto
Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa (Published by Scholastic in 1995)
This is a book of poetry with paintings that depict Navajo life. Words flow together like songs. A treat for the eyes too with his beautiful illustrations. My favorite poem in this collection is one called, “In My Mother’s Kitchen.” This and the other poems take the reader into Mr. Begay’s world and life as a Navajo from the Southwest.

native american gamesBruchac, Joseph and James
Native American Games and Stories (Published by Fulcrum Publishing in 2000)
The father and son authors team up with illustrator Kayeri Akweks to share Native American tales and games. Contents include: (1) ball games and team sports, (2) bowl games and other games of chance, (3) games of skill, and (4) awareness games. This would be a great book for teachers or parents to use with children to have fun and gain a greater awareness of Native American culture.

Tequila WormCanales, Viola
*The Tequila Worm (Published by Wendy Lamb Books in 2005)
The main character, Sofia, is offered a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school in Texas away from the barrio and her family. Sofia is challenged when she is faced with having to learn how to survive in two different environments. A chapter book with 199 pages, The Tequila Worm has rich and relatable characters to interest tween readers.

Magda's Pinata MagicChavarria-Chairez, Becky
Magda’s Piñata Magic (Published by Piñata Books in 2001)
The tradition of the piñata is celebrated in this story of how a girl named Magda uses her imagination to create a joyful party. Full Spanish and English text is included in the book. Illustrated by Anne Vega with enchanting pictures of the characters and places. Here is an example of the rich description that accompanies the colorful images, “The children’s mouths fell open! It was a life-sized piñata of Gabriel, wearing his favorite outfit, too – a cowboy shirt, a fringed best, blue-jeans, and boots complete with toy spurs.”

HairsCisneros, Sandra
Hairs/Pelitos (Published by Dragonfly Books/Alfred A. Knopf in 1996)
In perfect unity, the author Cisneros and the illustrator Terry Ybañez tell the story of family diversity. Each family member has different hair. The book has English text at the top of each page, and Spanish text at the bottom of each page. A book has a beautiful message to celebrate what makes us unique.

In My FamilyGarza, Carmen Lomas
*In My Family/En Mi Familia (Published by Children’s Book Press in 1996)
Carmen Lomas Garza shows the many traditions she grew up with in the southwest. When you read this you will see that every time you turn the page you learn something about southwestern and Hispanic culture. A special treat is waiting for you at the end of the story where the author/illustrator answers questions from children.

Gum Chewing RattlerHayes, Joe
The Gum Chewing Rattler (Published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2006)
As someone who loves to chew gum, this story captured my imagination and interest. Mr. Joe Hayes tells the story of his beloved childhood past-time of chewing gum. Mr. Antonio Castro L. brings the characters to life with the brightly colored pages of a rattlesnake chewing gum and blowing bubbles. Hmmm, I wonder if the rattlesnake added peanut butter to make the bubbles bigger like they do in chewing gum contests?

unbreakable codeHoagland Hunter, Sara
The Unbreakable Code (Published by Cooper Square Publishing in 1996)
This is an incredible story about the Navajo Code Talkers. The author writes about the WWII contribution made by Navajo soldiers who created a secret code used to transmit sensitive information during war time. Ms. Julia Miner depicts John, the young boy, talking with his grandfather in earth tones and beautiful detailed pictures. Children will learn about an important time in our U.S. history, Native Americans and the Navajo Nation.

Bedtime in the SouthwestHodgson, Mona
Bedtime in the Southwest (Published by Rising Moon in 2004)
Animals in the Southwest are getting ready for sleep in this visual and poetic treat. Ms. Renee Graef illustrates this picture book brilliantly. Each page has rhyming text written in the form of questions. It is a wonderful story to read with a child when they are going down for a nap, or getting ready for bedtime for the night. Challenging sleep behaviors are questioned as children learn about the diverse animals living in the Southwestern habitat.

The CircuitJimenez, Francisco
The Circuit (Published by University of New Mexico Press in 1997)
The Circuit is an auto-biography written by Dr. Francisco Jimenez who tightly weaves story after story from his years as a little boy moving from Mexico to California in the 1940s and 50s. The struggles and joy he faced are situations many of our children can relate to. My heart opened up! This is a tear jerker and love story written about family. Every teacher should read this book to gain a deeper understanding of what children facing learning dual languages and/or immigration issues.

Way Out WestLund, Jillian
Way Out West Lives a Coyote Named Frank (Published by Puffin Books in 1993)
Frank is an adorable coyote living a carefree life in the southwest. He plays with his friends Larry and Melanie. The colorful illustrations show Frank surrounded by southwestern beauty in nature. He, along with his friends, encounter other animals of the desert. Children will enjoy Frank’s playful adventures.

Way Out in the DesertMarsh, T. J. & Ward, Jennifer
Way Out in the Desert (Published by Rising Moon in 1998)
Kids will love finding the hidden numbers on each page cleverly illustrated by Mr. Kenneth J. Spengler. Ten Southwest animals and their habitat in the Sonoran Desert are presented. A glossary is provided the reader at the end of the book, along with a song called, “Way Out in the Desert.”

Circle of WonderMomaday, N. Scott
Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story (Published by University of New Mexico in 1994)
Mr. Momaday tells the story of “Tolo” based on his own boyhood growing up in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. Vivid colors help tell the tale about a special Christmas. Circles, the center of circle, and light imagery are used. My favorite part of the book is, “Tolo knew then that he had been led to the center of the Holy Season. He thought again of his grandfather, who he know was near among the trees, and of his parents , and of the Christ child, who had come to live the twelve days of Christmas in his home” (p. 36).

Dona FlorMora, Pat
*Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2005)
Illustrated by Mr. Raul Colón, this story is about Doña Flor who is different from everyone else. Doña Flor is a giant towering over all the people in her community. She uses her difference to her advantage to benefit the town. This is a story that shows children that being “different” is a blessing.

Why oh WhyRabe, Tish
Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry? (Published by Random House in 2011)
This book is part of the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. The colorful pages will seem familiar to children if they watch the PBS show or have read the Dr. Seuss classics. The science of the desert is explained in a fun way. There are also helpful descriptions of how Spanish words are pronounced. When discussing a specific type of woodpecker, Rabe gives the reader a tip through a character holding a sign saying “Hee-luh” for the “Gila” woodpecker. At the back of the book there is a glossary and further readings on books about the desert.

Songs from the loomRoessel, Monty
Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave (Published by Lerner Publications Company in 1995)
This non-fiction book that portrays the importance of weaving in the Navajo culture. In the preface of the book, Mr. Roessel explains his role in passing stories and traditions from one generation to the next. His photography is featured throughout the book, along with a rich description of Navajo fiber arts.

Grandma FinaSáenz, Benjamin Alire
*Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas/La Abuelita Fina y sus sombrillas maravillosas (Published by Cinco Puntos Press in 1999)
This is a story about Abuela/Grandma Fina. She has a broken yellow umbrella that she takes with her on walks through town where she sees many of her friends and family. On her birthday, they throw her a party. Everyone brings her an umbrella. What is she to do with ten umbrellas? Dr. Sáenz teams up with the talented illustrator Mr. Geronimo Garcia in this bright and colorful treat for both children and adults.

Perfect Season for DreamingSáenz, Benjamin Alire
*Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar (Published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2008)
The main character is Octavio Rivera who is 78 years old. It is summer time when he goes on a dreaming spree. Talk to children about the dreams in Perfect Season. Ask children to share their own dreams. Mr. Andrade Valencia captures the story with his dreamy illustrations. This would be a sweet story to read anytime, but especially in September for Grandparents Day.

Songs ofTapahonso, Luci
Songs of Shiprock Fair (Published by Kiva Publishing in 1999)
This story takes place in Shiprock, New Mexico. The author, Navajo Nation poet laureate Tapahonso writes about this special fair through the eyes of a child named Nezbah, while Mr. Anthony Chee Emerson breathes life into the vivid illustrations.

*This book won the Belpre award from the American Library Association
in honor of the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.



Photo courtesy of Guest Blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Marisa Macy, a writer from Las Cruces, New Mexico. She writes about early childhood topics. You can read more of her work at www.marisamacy.com. Her website is called, “Buttercup.”

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.

The post Children’s Literature of the Southwest appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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33. A Transformative and Thankful Fall

“Maggie darted about like a black-stockinged bird, in search of wood for the fireplace. She and her grandmother lived at the edge of a lonely cranberry bog in New England, and the winds were cold at the edge of the sea.”81k6cZbsAYL[1]

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin (Parent’s Magazine Press, 1971)

So begins one of my very, very favorite books ever, set at this time of the year when we give thanks–and there’s been much to be thankful for so far this fall.

At the beginning of October I traveled to Ohio to visit my childhood library in Trotwood with my very own children’s librarian Tish Wilson, now assistant director for Youth Services at Dayton Metro Library. And even though the building has been renovated and expanded and my old elementary school is now just a big field next door, I was happy to see that the convenience store where we used to buy Now and Laters after school (and where, it turns out, the children’s librarian would go for caffeine before storytime) was still alive and well. It was extremely cool to come back, full circle, and pay it forward for more generations of library kids as ALSC president with our Babies Need Words Every Day posters.


With Tish in Trotwood (photo by Sarah Reynolds)

Another #ALSCtour visit last month (are you following along on Twitter?) included the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, home of our Immediate Past President Ellen Riordan and a wonderland of children’s services!

With Ellen at Enoch Pratt

Selfie with Ellen at Enoch Pratt

Then it was off to the Peoria Public Library, which has some of the most fun library seating+display shelving I’ve ever seen. And I was delighted to share the stage later that week at the Illinois Library Association Youth Services Forum breakfast with two-time Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka.

Peoria PL

Hooray for reading at Peoria Public Library! (Photo by @lillitlibrarian)

On Saturday, October 24, the ALSC Executive Committee gathered in Chicago. This working group of officers meets in between Board meetings to keep ALSC moving forward and, invaluably, the entire ALSC office staff is also part of the day-long meeting. The list of topics and documents covered during the meeting are here, and conversations ranged from the strong strategic and financial health of our organization (and how we can work together to keep it that way) to gearing up for Midwinter, just two months away!

A big deal in October was the release of the newly updated ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, which is a masterful accomplishment of our Education Committee. These vital and evolving guidelines will be the topic of both our fall Community Forum (#ALSCforum) on November 9 and the Leadership & ALSC session (#ALSClead) at Midwinter on January 9, which everyone’s invited to attend in Boston. These sessions will look at not only how to use the Competencies to support your own work, but also to advocate for our profession as a whole.

And finally, the end of October saw the launch of Libraries Transform, ALA’s new, multi-year public awareness campaign, the ultimate goal of which is to increase funding support for libraries and advance information policy issues in alignment with ALA advocacy goals. Check it out!

Libraries Transform

One of the Libraries Transform messages : “According to dosomething.org, 43% of kids have been bullied online. Libraries transform to inform parents and kids about online safety.”

Speaking of being thankful this month, and as the calendar year begins to wrap up, please consider a contribution to Friends of ALSC as a way to give thanks and give back, and many thanks to all of you!


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34. Participate in the Next ALSC Community Forum

ALSC Core Competencies

The topic of the next forum is the newly revised ALSC Core Competencies (photo courtesy of ALSC)

The ALSC Board of Directors and ALSC President Andrew Medlar will be hosting an ALSC Community Forum live chat on the freshly updated ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries.

Join us to discover how these recommended professional standards, newly revised to reflect our ever-evolving field while honoring our best traditions, can support you and your colleagues in providing the best service possible to the kids in your community. This event will be co-hosted by the ALSC Education Committee.

ALSC’s next forum will be held on Monday, November 9, 2015 at:

  • 2pm Eastern
  • 1pm Central
  • 12pm Mountain
  • 11am Pacific

Members are invited to logon to learn more about the revised competencies and to discuss their implications on the field.

Accessing the Forum

ALSC Community Forums take place on Adobe Connect. A few days prior to the event, ALSC members will receive an email with a URL link to the forum. You can also find a direct link to the forum from the Community Forum site.

Questions? Contact ALSC Membership and Marketing Manager, Dan Bostrom, or by phone, 800-545-2433 ext 2164.

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35. Fall programming for kindergarteners to tweens!

Building a Mystery (not the Sarah McLachlan song)

Have you ever attended one of those murder mystery programs for adults? Now you can make one for your tweens and teens at the library.

To run a good murder mystery program at your library you need to put your creative librarian hat on and let your imagination run wild. It is easy to spend money on a pre made mystery kit, but if you have the time, make your own. Create the mystery setting in your library, have a librarian go missing and set the crime scene. Caution tape and a duct tape outline of the body make for great props. Perhaps the librarian was found under a crack in the floor, or downstairs under a stack of books. Make sure evidence is planted and there is an estimate time of death. Identify what staff member will be the victim and the culprit and then the fun starts. Come up with a motive for each staff member involved. Write a short paragraph for each staff member including where they were the night of the crime and an alibi. Here is an example:

I left work around 2:30pm that day, I had a doctor’s appointment right in town and then I went home to make dinner and go to my kid’s school pageant. I would never do anything like that to Mary; she was one of my favorite people to work with. I really hope you figure out who did this”

 Write alibi’s for as many staff members as you can get to participate. Use these alibis to identify their time and location when the crime happened. These alibis will be recorded on video (use a video camera or your cell phone). Have each staff member read their alibi on camera, have some staff members look right into the camera, others not looking at all, tapping their feet and so on. When you show kids these videos have them look for different behavior that might make them look guilty or innocent.

Matching up with the times noted in each staff members alibi, make a fake schedule for all staff members, this will be used as a piece of evidence. Next write an email that has some back and forth between the victim and a potential suspect. Create fingerprints, using photos from online or dip your fingertips in pencil led and rub it on a piece of paper. Create writing samples of a note that was found with the victim. This is always the last clue, as the older kids will easily identify the matching handwriting.

It is always best to start with examining the crime scene, if you have the money in your budget go to the dollar store and purchase the mini composition notebooks that come in a pack of three. Kids will write their thoughts in here and feel like a real detective. After examining the crime scene, hand out the schedules to each kid, once the kids have those, show the videos and explain what an alibi is and what interrogation tactics are. Pass out the remaining clues one at a time and discuss. It always helps to have a large piece of paper with notes for each suspect hung up on the wall. Take a screenshot of the alibi movies and use that as the mugshot for each suspect. After kids have pieced all the evidence together and agree on a culprit, go ahead and make the arrest!

This program not only raises critical thinking skills, but also increases vocabulary and introduces children to careers.

Have fun!

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 3.39.08 PMMeredith Levine is Head of Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee. She is a member of the School Age Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at mlevine@lib.chattanooga.gov and follow on Twitter @schmoopie517


Grossed-out and fractured Halloween

Several years ago, I attended an excellent children’s librarian skill share on using how to add props to story time. One of my colleagues introduced me to Bone Soup by Cambria Evans, a Halloween fractured fairy tale based on the “clever man” fable, Stone Soup.bone soup My colleague poignantly noted that most kids love to be grossed out and recommended Bone Soup as the perfect grossed-out fairy tale.

Finnigin, a wandering ghoul, is shunned by the local townspeople due to his infamous appetite.  Through his wits and a little kindness from a tiny werewolf, he manages to trick the others into contributing their ingredients to soup made from a “magic” bone, as well as gooey eyeballs, leathery bat wings and all. Bone Soup is guaranteed to delight a wide range of children but if you want to gild the lily a tad, the story is even more outrageous and fun when accompanied by a theatrical production of making the bone soup along with the story. I went to my local witches’ supply store, also known as the dollar store, to purchase the ingredients: mouse droppings
(brown rice), spider eggs (cotton balls painted with black dots), fake centipedes, plastic eyeballs, glow-in-the-dark bat wings, fingernails (fake nails), a large cauldron, and of course, a magic (plastic) bone.

I usually make the soup as I tell the story, stirring the mixture along with Finnigin and his reluctant friends; though, if I have a very patient group willing to share duties, I let the children concoct the magic soup themselves. Of course, I pretend to slurp the soup at the very end and the kids always demand to see the final product. Many of the young patrons at my old library branch did not celebrate Halloween officially, but they always demanded Bone Soup when All Hallows Eve rolled around.

witchat“Interactive” Bone Soup is a great and an easy, if not foul, way to add props to your Halloween storytelling! Pairing this version of the story with another version of Stone Soup (I recommend Jon Muth’s retelling) should invoke an interesting comparative folklore discussion!
Kate Eckert is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at eckertk@freelibrary.org.

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36. A comic about creativity in the library

Here is a summary (in comic form) of the Center for Childhood Creativity’s Report: Inspiring a Generation to Create: Critical Components of Creativity in Children. I highly recommend giving it a read. It’s got a lot of information that apply to our work as children’s librarians, and lots of interesting frameworks for thinking about creativity!

Original comic by Lisa Nowlain

Original artwork by Lisa Nowlain

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37. Do YOU dress up for Halloween?

It’s almost Halloween!  Do staff at your library dress up? Do you take inspiration from your favorite children’s books?

halloweenStacey Rattner, the librarian at Castleton Elementary School in upstate New York, along with a teacher and a student, were inspired by Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl.

Let us know in the comments below how YOU mark October 31st at YOUR library.

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38. Not SCARY Scary (again)

Last year, I wrote a post about books for kids that have creep appeal but aren’t downright terrifying. I’ll make my shameful confession again:

I’m a wuss. And because of that, Halloween isn’t really my jam. I hate being scared!! I DO, however, enjoy some good creepiness or eeriness, and some good suspense. So here are some more titles (all of these are out in 2015) for you to share with your patrons. Good luck with your Halloween/Fall Festival/Harvest programs, librarians! Happy October!

Source: Goodreads

Pram can see ghosts. She’s always been able to. And it’s never mattered much that she doesn’t have many friends that are actually alive, but then her aunts put her in school and she makes a friend who has lost a parent and is looking for answers. This adventure takes them from spiritualists to haunted houses and they definitely land in more trouble than they bargained for.

Source: Goodreads

Lauren Oliver’s latest is about several children with extraordinary abilities growing up in an oddities museum. But when an antiquity–yes, the shrunken head–is stolen, the kids embark on an adventure to get it back, but they encounter several murders and shady truths from their past. Super fun and creepy, this one will delight your kids.

Source: Goodreads

Thomas Marsden is a grave-robber. It’s a bad business, but it becomes even worse when he opens up an unmarked grave one night and finds a boy that is the spitting image of Thomas himself. What’s going on? And what do spiritualism, death, and the faery folk have to do with Thomas?

Source: Goodreads

The Jumbies is a little bit on the scarier side, but it’s also just excellent. Rooted in Caribbean folklore, this book is the tale of Corrine, who definitely isn’t afraid of jumbies. They aren’t real, they’re just stories parents make up to scare kids. But then strange things start to happen at night, and a beautiful and bewitching woman shows up on the island. Can Corrine and her friends save the island?

Happy Halloween!!

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

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39. Gratuitous information (#librarylife)

Humor me by reading this, and I’ll return the favor.  :)

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I hadn’t seen a favorite patron in months – a chatty, precocious boy who, since a very young age, had been allowed by his mother to come alone to the library and read whatever he wished.  He would request every book in a nonfiction series about baseball, basketball, football, or whatever struck his fancy.  Never shy about seeking assistance, he once came to me inquiring why we did not have a book about the Seattle Seahawks (we’re in NJ).  I explained that unless the team has superstar players or has won the Super Bowl, there aren’t always current books available about them.  The day after the Seahawks won their only Super Bowl, he came in to place his hold.

In any case, I was thrilled when he popped in on a quiet Thursday night.  With his mother’s usual trust, he was carrying her driver’s license for identification.  He needed to print some items for homework. We had a nice little chat.  I told him that I’d missed him and how nice it was to see him. I asked about school.

When his homework was finished, he came to the reference desk to pay for his prints.  The cost was eighty cents.  He gave me a dollar and I gave him his change, commenting that I hoped to see him again soon.  He distractedly began scanning the surface of the reference desk.  “What do you need?” I said. “Tape? Paper clip? Stapler?”

“No, ” he replied, still clutching his two dimes. “Where’s the tip jar?”







Image credit:

By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


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40. Everyday Advocacy Challenge: Week 8 Reflections

On Tuesday, October 20, the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge (EAC) concluded eight amazing weeks of work with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:

Read the October 2015 issue of Everyday Advocacy Matters.

EAC cohort member Sue Abrahamson shares these reflections on how her participation over the past eight weeks has helped both herself and her staff make an Everyday Advocacy difference for youth and families:

I am fortunate to have longevity in my library career and the blessing to look back and see how librarianship has evolved in my community over the years. Librarians know we are engaged in an evolving profession, but there seems to be a lag in the communication about these innovative services to a large segment of our community.

Taking the Everyday Advocacy Challenge has inspired me to make sure I recognize our library champions and call them by that name when speaking with them. It is important for them to know how valued their relationship to the library is and to understand the role they play in spreading our story.

It started with me adjusting how I tell people about my work and how the mission and vision of the library steers what we concentrate on. I am delighted when I see and hear my colleagues modeling their own elevator speeches to each other. Five years ago, I suspect there would have been some push-back from staff if I had asked them to represent the library at meetings in the community (school PTAs, service organizations, county human services, etc.). Imagine my delight when staff members come to me now with suggestions of where we can collaborate.

This year, as part of my annual performance evaluation and goal setting, I included advocacy for early learning.  Using the “pay it forward” model, if I can use every avenue available to me to tell people the importance of babies hearing words and ask them to share that story with three others, I imagine people will recognize and support programming for the very young as a key indicator for the health of our community.

Sue Abrahamson is a supervisor and librarian at Waupaca (Wisc.) Area Library. She’s a member of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort, an 18-member volunteer group convening from September 1-October 20, 2015.

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41. Storytime Training Bootcamp Guide

So you want to train someone to do storytime? I’m here to tell you all the secrets of storytime training.

Okay. There aren’t really any secrets. But I will tell you how my library developed and successfully implemented a storytime (and programming!) training plan. I would incredibly remiss if I didn’t mention how much of this was designed and supported by my immediate supervisor and the rest of the members of the Kids and Teens department. You know who you are — thanks!!

Storytime Training Plan (in four parts)

Training Meeting
Since we were training two staff members (who haven’t previously done storytime), my supervisor asked me to write a storytime planning guide and present it at our monthly staff meeting. I had written a similar guide when I left my previous job. I just updated it with new relevant posts to read and current library storytime procedures. I included a wide variety of blog posts for new staff to read since everyone has their own storytime style.

A screenshot of the "Quick Guide to Storytime" storytime training guide. Photo courtesy of the author.

A screenshot of the “Quick Guide to Storytime”. Photo courtesy of the author.

Then, we sent our newest co-workers out to see a storytime performed by one of our veterans! This was an awesome chance for them to see how a provider interacts with parents and caregivers and adapts to the crowd’s needs. They also had to watch my YOLO Presentation entitled Early Lit 101. These building blocks helped prepare them to write their own storytime plans for the next step.

Me, reading to Applesauce, an easier storytime training audience. Photo courtesy of Andrea Sowers.

Me, reading to Applesauce, my storytime mascot. Photo courtesy of Andrea Sowers.

Performing & Feedback
Here’s where we really got into the training. Each new staff member presented a storytime to four librarians. And the librarians acted the part of true children to simulate the storytime experience. That included me running around my supervisor while she was on her phone during Toddler Storytime and also involved me taking my shoe off to show my teacher in Preschool Storytime. I’d like to think that we also broke the ice and became less scary while acting like kids. Afterwards, the librarians filled out a rubric and we had a meeting with each new staff member to discuss positives and areas to work on. I’m willing to bet that a puppet was an easier audience than us though!

More Observation & Planning
And that brings me to where our new staff members are now. They are currently observing at least three more storytimes in our fall session. They are also planning (but not performing) a seven week session of any programming — storytimes or otherwise — that they would like to do. And they have assigned storytime classes for our winter storytime session.

I’m really excited to see where our newest staff members will go! They’ve already proven themselves to be incredibly up to the challenge and I am so thankful that they have been open to learning storytime — I truly work in a wonderful library.

How do you train new staff members on storytime? Do you have any tricks of the trade for storytime training? Let me know in the comments!

[Oh, and if you want to see the Quick Guide to Storytime, please shoot me an email at simplykatie (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!]

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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42. Jr. Web Designers Find Their Voice

Website group discussion in the library.

Website group discussion in the library.

As our library prepares to launch a new website in 2016, the User Experience librarian is conducting interviews with both staff and patrons to aid in the design process. I was thrilled that she suggested coming to the September meeting of our library’s Kids Advisory Board to gather their thoughts. In addition to being avid patrons, this crew of kids happen to be the most tech-savvy group I know. Not only do they keep us current when it comes to preferred gaming systems, but they also assist in facilitating tech programs.

Asking kids how they navigate both the website and catalog was quite eye-opening and confirmed that it’s not just grownups that access the library’s website to see what’s new for books and programs. Not only do these tweens place holds on books independently, but they also frequently browse our digital catalogs like Overdrive and Hoopla for books and music. One member commented that Hoopla didn’t have the music he desires so, “Spotify just seemed to make more sense.”

Of course, this independent searching is not universal for all young library patrons, but we may be underestimating how frequently kids do visit the library virtually, and if so, would this change the way we design our websites and catalogs?

As hands shot up to offer feedback on color schemes and sidebar options, many of the comments were changes that the design team were already planning on implementing. Adding drop-down menus and having event happenings featured prominently were some of the most agreed upon discussion points. While library programs seem to drive website traffic, our group of kids did not want the collection to be left behind. Adding images of new releases and what’s hot in the book world were additions they would like to see. They also thought it would be cool to have the community vote each month on favorite books and have it featured on the website.

Overall, the meeting was an excellent opportunity to talk web design with young patrons in the community. Having kids give their uninhibited viewpoints was an incredible experience and made me question why we don’t allow their voices to be heard more often. It also reaffirmed the desire to provide more opportunities for them to learn the skills needed to explore web design as a profession. With extensive waitlists for current library coding classes, perhaps our focus should include other options for kids to explore the design and architecture of information on the web.

Here are some resources to consider:

How Do You Teach Children Web Design

Learning HTML for Kids

Codeacademy – CSS: Coding with Style

PBS Design Squad Nation

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children and Teen Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

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


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43. Final Week to Apply for Three ALSC Professional Awards

ALSC Professional Awards

Get your application in for an ALSC professional award today! (image courtesy ALSC)

November 1 is a significant deadline for three ALSC professional awards. Fall is professional award season for ALSC. Every year, more than $100,000 is given away through ALSC’s professional awards, grants, and scholarships. These funds are awarded to deserving individuals and libraries across the country. Submit your application or nomination for one of these great awards soon:

Applications open!

Opening soon!

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44. Taking Up the Elevator Speech

I admit it. I’ve been known to hide under tables when someone was looking for a volunteer to give a speech. Sometimes I’ve also relied on strategic exits. And then there’s my patented deer-in-the-headlights look that makes it clear to all concerned that I’m not the one who should be chosen to give that important presentation. And so, when the words “elevator speech” started being bandied about ALSC committee meetings last year, I have to confess that I at least mentally stuck my fingers in my ears and dived for cover. You see, I do not do speeches. Not with a goat. Not in a boat. Not in the rain. Not on a train. And no, not in an elevator, thank you very much.

Early this September, however, I signed up to take the Everyday Advocacy Challenge (http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/everyday-advocacy-challenge). By doing so, I committed to completing eight consecutive Take Action Tuesdays (http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/take-action-tuesday-blog) on a back-to-school theme, collaborate with other ALSC members also taking the challenge, write a post for the ALSC blog talking about my experiences, and nominate another ALSC member for the next round of challenges. Nowhere, I was certain, did I commit to giving a speech. And then, we came to the Week 2 challenge. I opened my email, excited for the task ahead, only to find the dreaded word, “speech,” right there front and center: I had to write, and presumably someday deliver, an elevator speech. After some heavy-duty procrastinating, during which time I cleaned my tables within an inch of their lives and weeded the entire 500s section, I finally sat down to tackle this chore, and discovered…it really wasn’t so bad.

You see, in my eagerness to avoid the whole business, I had never actually read the ALSC material on elevator speeches. In fact, there is an amazing info-graphic (http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/sites/ala.org.everyday-advocacy/files/content/elevator-speech-infographic.pdf) on the ALSC site, as well as some handy how-to tips (http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/speak-out/write-elevator-speech). Writing an elevator speech, as it happens, just meant me thinking about who I help and how I help them in the library, and then talking to folks about it. This wasn’t hard; this was just a helpful structure for doing what I do anyway. I may not be great at speeches, but when it comes to soap boxes, I’m a pro. While I doubt I’ll ever be in an elevator with New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, my ultimate boss as a New York City public school librarian, there will doubtless come a time when I am speaking to parents, other teachers, or my principal when having these speeches will come in handy. At the very least, I now have several answers ready the next time I get that annoying “aren’t libraries becoming obsolete” cocktail party question we’ve all come to know and dread.

Today’s post was written by Eileen Makoff, the librarian at P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School in Brooklyn, for the Advocacy and Legislative Committee of ALSC.

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45. Eerie Graphic Novels for October

October is one of my most favorite times of year for a variety of reasons. Crisp weather makes for perfect hiking, my scarf collection makes a triumphant return from the closet, and all things pumpkin can be found. The real reason October stands out for me though is the mysterious mood cast thanks to Halloween. As a fan of spooky stories of all sorts, this month provides the perfect opportunity to share some of my top picks for eerie and ghostly reads. The graphic novels highlighted below are not holiday specific, and would be great recommendations for readers year-round, but are especially fun during this season.

Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala. First Second; 2009. This quirky title by the talented Sala has it all-  dangerous mysteries, weird characters, hidden treasure, and creepy settings. K was raised in an orphanage where the children were trained to be professional thieves and now finds herself at Bellsong Academy, a suspicious boarding school with barely any other students. I’ll be discussing this title with my tween graphic novel book club next week and I can’t wait to hear their thoughts!

Possessions: Unclean Getaway by Ray Fawkes. Oni Press; 2010. First in the Possessions series. Possessions is both laugh-out-loud hilarious and totally disturbing, in the most fun way.  In Unclean Getaway, readers meet Gurgazon the Unclean, a demon who has possessed a 5-year old girl and is now bent on destroying the world…if she could only escape the Llewellyn-Vane House for Captured Spirits and Ghostly Curiosities. This is an ongoing series with the most recent title, The Final Tantrum, published in February of this year.

Photo by Nicole Martin

Photo by Nicole Martin

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow adapted by Blake A. Hoena. Stone Arch Books; 2014. Irving’s classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is adapted for graphic readers in this colorful title. This version is great for readers who may be new to the story as it provides an introduction discussing the real Sleepy Hollow and how Irving may have stumbled across the legend, as well as a glossary of vocabulary words.

Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales by Metaphrog. Papercutz; 2015. The dark story of Anderson’s The Red Shoes is wonderfully retold in this graphic novel, along with Anderson’s The Little Match Girl and an original story titled The Glass Case. The sickly color palette exhibited throughout this book really gives these stories an extra layer of spookiness.

Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World by James Kochalka. Top Shelf Productions; 2008. First in the Johnny Boo series. Johnny Boo and his ghost pet Squiggle take on the Ice Cream Monster in this introduction to the world of Johnny. This series is a good choice for young readers interested in something ghostly but not-so-scary.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Square Fish; 2014. Anya’s Ghost mixes realistic young adult issues and a ghost story to make one awesomely scary graphic novel. Anya is part of a Russian family and is already having a hard time trying to fit in at school when she falls down a hole and finds herself face to face with a haunted skeleton. At first this ghost seems to be a friend to Anya, but quickly we learn that she is not to be trusted.

I suggest that these titles be read under dim lighting, while wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping a mug of hot apple cider. Happy haunting!

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46. Partnering with Homeless Serving Organizations

Located in an urban area, my library has a large population of people experiencing homelessness. All of the schools in the area are Title 1 funded schools, which also indicates a high level of need for transitional housing and other services for families.   Although we regularly see homeless populations in the library, I wondered why we don’t see more and what we could do to make these potential patrons feel welcome and aware of not only our warm building in winter months but also our wealth of resources and programming for families.

I developed a loose plan to visit the shelters and homes that serve families, provide a storytime, talk about resources and distribute library cards. I honestly thought it would be a cinch to get the shelters on board. But I was setting myself up for difficulties. I had an elevator pitch that largely skipped why this might be a useful service. When it comes to populations that need food and shelter, the library may be pretty low on the priority list. Honing our elevator pitch to include the ‘why’ is especially important when developing new partnerships.

It was very difficult getting a hold of anyone at any of the handful of organizations I contacted.

I didn’t take it to heart and continued to call and leave messages.  What I neglected to do in those messages was to also offer myself up for whatever they might need.  Maybe they did not have the time or space for a storytime. Maybe parents really wanted information about our drop-in job hunting courses. Maybe they needed something else.   Instead of asking them what they need from the library, I unloaded my assumption of what I thought they needed.

After a few months of calls and email exchanges, one temporary housing organization said they did not have enough staff for my program and they were concerned about their populations’ privacy. That was eye opening because I had approached the partnership entirely from my perspective rather than theirs.   

Another transitional housing organization said yes and we were able to schedule visits.  Although it was wonderful to provide a storytime, I felt I had much more impact after the storytime when I talked casually with parents and children about the different things the library offers while distributing library cards.  In the end the partnership has been successful and we will continue to offer this service once a month at multiple homes.

What have you learned from difficult to cement partnerships?

Arwen Ungar is the Early Learning Librarian at the Vancouver Community Library in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  She is passionate about puppies and early literacy, not necessarily in that order.  You can reach her at aungar@fvrl.org.

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47. Everyday Advocacy Challenge: Week 7 Reflections

On Tuesday, October 13, the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge (EAC) called for a time of reflection with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:

Submit the Share Your Advocacy Story webform.

EAC cohort member Lise Tewes shares these reflections on our Week 7 challenge:

This week’s Everyday Advocacy Challenge turned the focus inward and became an examination of conscience, so to speak. But fortunately, the challenge required spending time looking for the examples of when I’ve been good, not when I’ve been bad! I learned these three things from our challenge this week:

It’s good to look back at what you’ve done right. Too often, in our hyper-critical society and workplaces, we are focused on the negative, on the things we didn’t do, or the things that didn’t work very well. The “woulda, coulda, shouldas.” Taking stock of the things that have gone well, that we did right, of the efforts that have been successful, is powerfully motivating!

When I started to think back in order to discover a successful advocacy effort that I could post on the webform, I discovered that there were actually quite a few examples of successful advocacy activities that I could choose among. Wow, that made me feel good! It energized me and made me realize that advocacy is not some weird, odd activity that I have to make a special effort to fit into my already over-extended schedule.

It’s basically what I do every day.

It’s the time I take singing the praises of my library, to everyone and anyone, and I do that at every storytime, outreach visit, and community meeting that I attend. Sometimes my “praise singing” is more vocal than others, more effective than others, or has a deeper impact in my community than others.

But all advocacy efforts, big and small, are important, and we need to pat ourselves on the back sometimes and take stock of how successful we are, at everything we are doing!

Advocacy = “Let me tell you what the Library can do for you.” As mentioned above, advocacy isn’t some weird activity that requires specialized training and time. It’s simply the efforts we make to ensure that the people in our community, state, and nation are aware of all the wonderful materials and services that libraries of all kinds can provide to improve and enrich the lives of everyone, which ensures that libraries have value in the community, state, and nation.

When the library is woven deeply into the fabric of the life of the community, then it becomes very easy to advocate at the level of lawmakers and budget-cutters, which is usually the level of politicians. And politicians seldom want to cut or eliminate services that are popular, i.e., deeply entrenched, in the community.

So start in the community, become an essential player in all the activities of your community, and you will have the community’s support and approval. And if the politicians even suggest that the library should be cut or downsized or, heaven forbid, eliminated, the roar of the community should silence those ridiculous politicians!

Success breeds success, so share your advocacy stories! Why do we have an Everyday Advocacy website and Share Your Advocacy Story webform?

Because we all need to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for the great work we are doing (re-read the first point above).

Because we need to see that, in libraries of every kind and all around the country, we are all working hard at advocacy, at making our libraries valued by its users and acknowledged as such by decision-makers. In other words, we are all in this together, and there is always strength and encouragement in numbers!

Finally, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! The advocacy story that is posted by another library in a state far away might inspire me to do a similar activity in my own Library. And I might inspire someone far away to try an activity that I have done successfully.

But if we don’t have a forum for sharing those stories, I’ll never have a chance to find out about the great activity that Library Faraway did, and then I’ll miss the chance to improve my own community and library. I want to hear about other libraries and the great work they are doing. I want to be inspired and challenged and encouraged in my work, and a simple click on the Everyday Advocacy website might be all it takes sometimes to get my mojo moving!

Here’s hoping that we all spend some time patting ourselves on the back for what we’ve done right, and then sharing our stories with everyone in the library world.

Lisa Tewes is a supervisor and librarian at Kenton County (Ky.) Public Library. She’s a member of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort, an 18-member volunteer group convening from September 1-October 20, 2015.

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48. We Don’t Need to be Superheroes!

As we become seasoned youth services librarians, it’s natural for our professional confidence and expertise around things like child development, children’s books, and summer learning to grow. At some point, we may feel like we’ve arrived! We are now ready to dole out ALL the brilliant advice! (I don’t know about you, but I can be an insufferable advice-giver. Just ask my family!)

A Deficits-Based Approach

And isn’t advice-giving sort of built into our jobs as librarians? When we work on the reference desk or the public service floor, we are there under the assumption that people will have problems for us to fix. Small problems (not finding the right book) and monumental problems (food and housing insecurity among a family of regulars) cross our paths daily. No fear! We have tools in our Super Librarian belts and resources to share!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But if we position ourselves as superheroes, doesn’t it follow that we assume library users are victims who need saving? Despite our best intentions, this deficits-based assumption can subtly suggest to families that we do not value their inherent worth and potential.

When organizations act as experts on resolving the problems of people, we deny and limit those particular individuals facing the problem the opportunity to explore what strengths and capacities they might have in the process of exploring, participating, taking control and learning (Herman-Stahl & Petersen, 1996).

 A New, Strengths-Based Approach

Applying a strengths-based approach to customer service can have powerful outcomes for you and your library. A strengths-based approach:

  • Assumes that all people have strengths, expertise, and potential
  • Promotes a relationship of trust between library staff and customers
  • Allows us to learn side-by-side with our customers
  • Takes the pressure off us to be experts
  • Recognizes that dominate cultural and organizational assumptions can limit the growth of individuals, families and communities

So, how might youth services librarians apply this strengths-based approach? The most important first step is simple in concept and enormously challenging in practice—we can change our attitudes and assumptions about the families in our libraries. This takes practice, and you might have to fake it to make it at first. But gradually, applying strengths-based assumptions will start to become more natural… and you may even find yourself feeling more optimistic about working in public service.

Here are some familiar library scenarios with examples of how applying strengths-based assumptions might positively change our interactions with families:

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

A mother texts on her phone while her two young kids run around the library.

  • Deficits-based assumption: This is an inattentive parent who needs to be informed of our rules surrounding unsupervised children.
  • Strengths-based assumption: This mother is a competent person who knows more than I do about her children. There may be complicated reasons behind her decision to use her phone rather than pay close attention to her children in this moment. How can we partner with this parent to make sure her children are safe in the library?

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

A parent insists that his son, a reluctant reader, must read high level books and stay away from graphic novels and “easy books”.

  • Deficits-based assumption: This parent doesn’t understand the importance of reading motivation and only cares about getting his child into the best university.
  • Strengths-based assumption: This father loves his son and wants the best for him. There may be cultural or other factors influencing his parenting decisions and beliefs. How can we have a non-judgmental conversation with this father starting with the assumption that he is the expert when it comes to his family’s well-being?

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

During Stay & Play, a mother mentions she’s worried that her 18-month-old isn’t playing well with other kids.

  • Deficits-based assumption: This parent doesn’t know much about child development, so she would benefit from learning about parallel play and being assured that her that her child’s behavior is normal.
  • Strengths-based assumption: Whether or not this parent is familiar with child development theory, she is an expert when it comes to her child. Instead of positioning ourselves as authorities on child development, how can we use this interaction with the parent to build a partnership around the child? What open-ended questions can we ask to draw out the parent’s expertise before offering advice?


This strengths-based approach can also be a powerful tool for youth services managers to use when working with staff. Staff members who feel acknowledged, valued, and heard will be more likely to extend the same courtesy to the public!


Madeline Walton-Hadlock is the Early Education Manager at the San José Public Library and a member of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. You can reach her at madeline.walton-hadlock@sjlibrary.org 

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49. Going on a Field Trip: It’s National Go On a Field Trip Month!

I’m not sure who or what designated October as “National Go on a Field Trip Month”, but it makes sense. Preschool/kindergarten classes and Head Start classes in our area have been busy with field trips to pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and our libraries. If your local teachers are looking for great picture books to accompany their fun outings, make sure you have these books on hand!


(image taken from Albert Whitman & Company)

Going to the apple orchard? Felicia Sanzari Cherensky’s From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!  (2015) is the depiction of a perfect autumn outing: picking apples, pressing cider, and having fun at an apple cider festival (complete with an apple cider doughnut). This story in rhyme illustrates the basics of apple cider production in a cheerful and inviting manner.


(image taken from Simon & Schuster)

Angela Johnson’s Lottie Paris and the Best Place (2013) is a charming and sweet ode all the fun that can be had in a library outing: finding awesome books and even finding a new friend! This is the sequel (of sorts) to Lottie Paris Lives Here; I hope Angela Johnson has more adventures planned for Lottie Paris and Papa Pete.



(image taken from Scholastic)

Our copies of Pumpkin Circle (1999) are constantly checked out during the autumn; George Levenson’s simple and informative text and Shmuel Taler’s enlarged  and eye-catching photographs of a pumpkin seed going through the growth cycle is a superb nonfiction read aloud.


(image taken from MacMillan)

Although trips to the zoo are probably more popular in the spring than fall, Lenny Hort’s irresistible The Seals on the Bus (2000) is frequently used in my transportation/animal sounds story times. This very noisy (and smelly!) bus on its way to a zoo (or a party at a zoo; the final illustration can be interpreted in different ways) will have your audience roaring, hissing, and yelling “help, help, help” (in empathy with the poor people on the bus!) with much gusto. As you can guess, the story is set to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Do you have any favorite stories about pumpkins/pumpkin patches, apple orchards, library visits, or field trips in general? Let us know in the comments!

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50. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Hosting Author Events

SPLC Committee WordleOne easy way school and public libraries can join forces is by hosting author talks and panels for student audiences. When budgets are combined, high-profile, popular authors can often build more engaging programming, which can benefit student audiences of all ages.

YALSA’s Teen Read Week 2015 is October 18-24; this year’s theme: Get Away @ your library. Here at DC Public Library, we have a sizable budget to book author events during this week, but attracting student audiences is a complicated task. One way we have tried to attract higher student participation is by partnering with our neighborhood school librarians, weeks in advance, to book a class or two to attend our programs both during and after school.

Our kickoff event in early October was a conversation with authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, who read from their novel All American Boys, “an unforgettable new novel…, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.” The topic was a current one—race relations among teen communities.

It wasn’t hard to attract a social studies teacher from a nearby charter middle school to bring about 18 students to participate in the discussion. The event was at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, but the students came with lots of questions to participate in a lively discussion! Afterwards, the teacher purchased a copy of the book for each of his students.

On October 20,  a similar high profile author panel occurred at one of our local branches, but this time during the school day. Among the authors featured were recently published Kat Spears (Sway); renowned graphic novelist and adaptor Gareth Hinds (Macbeth); Robin Talley (Lies We Tell Ourselves); and Ellen Oh (King). The topic of the panel was how the authors build setting and characters through their writing. There was time for students to submit questions to the panel, and a representative from a local bookstore was present so that students may purchase copies of the author’s work.

Our librarians were nervous scheduling this panel on a Tuesday at 1 p.m., but after some networking with librarians at nearby middle and high schools, a total of 70 students were scheduled to participate!

Neither of these events could not have been possible without the budgets and connections of our public library and the relationships with neighborhood schools who provide the student audiences.

Collaboration on author events is not only for Teen Read Week. This summer our highest prize for our “Super Readers” (ages 6 to 12) was to attend a special luncheon with five local authors, yet another example of the ability of public libraries to attract authors and schools (who helped us with summer reading sign ups) providing the audiences to attend.  Without the collaboration between public and school librarians, these events could never occur.

Locations of these author programs are not limited to public libraries.  In the past, we’ve also brought in authors to specific schools with the help of savvy school librarians, who can assist with author fees.

So what are you waiting for? Contact your public or school librarian today and brainstorm how to combine your resources to attract engaging and popular authors for your student patrons!

Anne Ledford is School Liaison at DC Public Library District and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

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