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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. 10 Recent & Upcoming Picture Books Featuring Everyday Diversity

I first heard the term “everyday diversity” from Anna Haase Krueger. Everyday diversity books feature diverse characters doing everyday activities and in everyday situations. My favorite example to give people unfamiliar with the term is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The focus of the story is that Peter is enjoying the newly fallen snow and not that Peter is African-American.

[There are many more titles that are worthy of inclusion on a recent publications list and I’ve left several other booklists at the bottom of this post for further reading. This is by no means a comprehensive list — I know that there are titles and resources missing. A few of the books on this list feature large diverse casts without a main diverse character.]

15 Things Not to Do With a Baby by Margaret McAllister
An older sister welcomes a new sibling by learning all the things not to do with a baby — lose it in the garden, snuggle with an octopus — and all the things you can do with a baby. This story is perfect to share one-on-one with children expecting new siblings, but would also work in a preschool storytime setting. Expect lots of laughter.

Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin
This book is absolutely perfect for toddler storytimes, full of sound effects to make and colorful illustrations. Firefighters are varied in skin tones (although I don’t remember any female firefighters) and the book is engaging for all involved. Bonus points for a vertical spread down the firepole.

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Annual.]

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Annual.]

It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon by Jarrett Krosoczka
A picture book version of the saying “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”. A reassuring title featuring lots of diversity and everyday kid stresses. Also, make sure to watch the adorable YouTube trailer where kids narrate Krsoczka’s pages: YouTube.

Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk
After Juna’s best friend Hector moves away without saying goodbye, she turns to the kimchi jars that they used to collect treasures in to find comfort. What she finds is more adventures and maybe even a chance to come to terms with Hector’s disappearance.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
CJ and his nana travel through their neighborhood every Sunday. CJ questions why they always have to take the bus and why he doesn’t have the latest gadget and Nana thoughtfully answers his questions. A great trip through an urban environment with a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and status.

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Midwinter.]

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Midwinter.]

Music Class Today! by David Weinstein
One little boy is hesitant to join his more rambunctious classmates at music class. Lots of different skin tones are present in this fabulous book which will feel familiar for storytime librarians. An excellent read-aloud for large groups and one of my favorites of this year.

One Family by George Shannon
So much diversity is packed into this simple counting text. A great read for a storytime setting but also wonderful for one-on-one sharing to allow children to appreciate the details in each page spread. The last lines of the book are resonate and will (hopefully) remind children that we are all one family.

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Annual.]

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken at ALA Annual.]

Say Hello! by Linda Davick
My new favorite toddler storytime book. Lots of children with a variety of skin and hair colors show how they say hello to each other in a rhyming text. The big vibrant colors and basic illustrations make this book ideal for sharing with a large group.

The Smallest Girl In the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts
Best suited for an older crowd or a classroom read, this title is great because it includes a diverse classroom setting and also talks about size diversity. As a short person (5’2″), I’m always happy to see my height reflected in novels and stories. I know from experience that short kids feel the same way! Noteworthy: This book is written by children’s music superstar Justin Roberts.

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam A. Schiffer
This is the book that slightly toes the everyday diversity line, but it’s so wonderful that I had to include it. Stella has two dads and isn’t sure who to bring for her class’s Mother’s Day celebration. She finds a unique solution to the problem after talking with her classmates about what kinds of things moms do. The last few pages reflect a variety of family situations perfect for making kids of all families feel accepted.

[Book covers from SWAN Libraries catalog, an Illinois library consortium.]

[Book covers from SWAN Libraries catalog, an Illinois library consortium.]

(Ten bonus older favorites: The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz, Counting Ovejas by Sarah Weeks, Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown, My Nose Your Nose by Melanie Walsh, Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora, Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong, Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora)

Additional Booklists:
Best Picture Books of 2014 That Celebrate Diversity, Kirkus Reviews.
Culturally Diverse Books Selected by SLJ’s Review Editors.
A Diverse Book List for the Under-Five Set by Lisa G. Knopp, published by School Library Journal.
Picture Books About Diversity and Acceptance, Storytime Standouts.
Multicultural Books, What We Do All Day.

ALA Awards:
Coretta Scott King Book Awards
Pura Belpre Award
Schneider Family Book Award
Stonewall Book Award

ALA’s Día (Diversity In Action)
School Library Journal’s Resources for Diversity
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Diversity Resources
We Need Diverse Books & School Library Journal Booktalking Kit
We Need Diverse Books & We Need Diverse Books Guide to Where to Find Diverse Books

So, which books or resources did I miss? Tell me in the comments!

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

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27. Apply for the Penguin Young Readers Grant Award

ALSC Professional Award

Applications for the ALSC Professional Awards are opening this fall (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2016 Penguin Young Readers Group Awards. This award, made possible by an annual gift from Penguin Young Readers Group, provides a $600 stipend for up to four children’s librarians to attend their first ALA Annual Conference in Orlando.

Each applicant will be judged on the following:

  • Involvement in ALSC, as well as any other professional or educational association of which the applicant was a member, officer, chairman, etc.;
  • New programs or innovations started by the applicants at the library in which he/she works;
  • Library experience.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Thursday, October 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Penguin Young Readers Group Award Web page.

The post Apply for the Penguin Young Readers Grant Award appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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28. Call for input: media mentorship

In March 2015, the ALSC Board of Directors adopted a white paper on Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth. The paper outlines how librarians are well suited to serve as media mentors, and discusses the importance of this role to our communities.

The ALSC Children and Technology Committee is working on an article for Children and Libraries. They would like to include several examples of how librarians are incorporating media mentorship into their roles.

What are you doing already? What do you have planned for the future? Are you doing programming? Having conversations with caregivers? Vetting digital media resources?

Please send any contributions to committee member Rachel Keeler at rachelnk@gmail.com. Thank you in advance for any and all input.

ALSC Children and Technology Committee

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29. Call for suggestions – 2016 Newbery

In your year of reading so far have you encountered a character who came to life on the page?  Has an author transported you to a vivid locale? Is there a book with a plot that has lingered in your mind? Perhaps you’ve read a book presenting information or concepts in an engaging and informative way for a child audience.  Maybe a book has done all of this and more. Did you know you can suggest that book to the 2016 Newbery Committee for consideration?

NewberyThe 2016 Newbery Award Committee is asking the ALSC membership to submit titles for consideration. The Newbery Medal is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published during the preceding year. Honor books may be named (although on three occasions no honors were named *gasp*).

Distinguished is defined as:

  • marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement
  • marked by excellence in quality
  • marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence
  • individually distinct

Please remember only books by an American author from the 2015 publishing year are under consideration for the award. Also please note that publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not suggest their own titles.

Please send suggestions to Ernie Cox (Newbery Committee Chair) at ernest.cox@gmail.com


Today’s guest blogger is Ernie Cox, 2016 Newbery Committee Chair.

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30. Supporting the Arts in Libraries

Summer Reading Club is winding down and as I look at the list of programs our branch libraries have hosted, I am impressed with the fantastic array of choices. For a rural library system, we’ve got the arts covered! From Musical Zoo (two musicians take a big box of instruments and let kids go wild), to marionette shows to photography and crafts, the arts are alive and well in our little libraries.

Backstage at the puppet show - photo by Angela Reynolds

Backstage at the puppet show – photo by Angela Reynolds

This summer we hosted a touring marionette show. This stood out for a few reasons — one, this show was visiting from Quebec, and we’d never seen it in Nova Scotia. Two girls I spoke to at a show in our area had never been to a live puppet show before! I helped organize the tour, which went to pretty much every cove and cranny of our little province. The puppeteer stayed a couple of nights at our house, and we had some great conversations about the arts and public libraries. He told me how much he loved performing at libraries, and how much he appreciated the fact that libraries still believe in things like puppet shows and storytelling. He mentioned that there’s something special going on in libraries these days- libraries are a community place that people feel good about.

Now I know this sounds like something I talked him into saying. I wish I’d had a tape recorder because it would have made a great advertisement for what we do in our libraries. Not only do we provide great programming that allows kids to explore their artistic side, we also support the artists who create great programs for kids and families. We do workshops for librarians so they can expand their horizons in the arts. We host music concerts, art workshops, craft programs, theatre demonstrations, and so much more! What do YOU do in your libraries to support the arts — and the artists?

The post Supporting the Arts in Libraries appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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31. On Debriefing the Summer Reading Club

Maybe you are lucky like me and your Summer Reading Club is finished or winding down, or maybe you still have some weeks to go. Either way, let’s talk about debriefing after the Summer Reading Club is over.

I always dedicate our early August/late July department meeting to discussing the Summer Reading Club. We talk about what worked and what didn’t. We make notes for what we should change or keep for next year. We go ahead and pencil in dates so that we’re all clear about our schedule.

Here are some things we did this summer that we had discussed last summer:

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

Our prize cart was decorated and we always pushed it out on one side of our desk (the side without shelving carts) because last year we had some confusion about which books were prize books. This worked really well for us this summer and having a special, decorated cart got the kids even more excited about choosing a free book.

Last year, we had a huge issue with registration for programs. We decided to try out having NO REGISTERED PROGRAMS this summer and it went smashingly. The only programs we had capacity issues with were our large performers where we give out tickets to ensure we’re staying within the fire code. And it was amazing the amount of work it saved us in not having to sign up kids for all those programs. That was a benefit we hadn’t even really considered, but it was huge.

And here are some things we discussed this year and that you should consider as you’re winding down your program and making notes for next year:

  • Is the registration and/or logging process easy for patrons and staff? If not, how can we make it easier?
  • Do the prizes given out encourage kids to read and are they easy for staff to manage?
  • How was your program attendance? If it was low, how could you bolster it? If it was unmanageable, how can you make it easier for staff to handle?
  • What great programs did you offer that you might like to repeat? What programs would be good to repeat with some changes?
  • How did you feel at the end of the summer? If you felt like you wanted to die, what made the summer so hard? Is there anything you can change to make it easier?
  • How did your Summer Reading Club affect other departments? Is there anything you can change to make it easier for Circulation, Pages, IT, Marketing, etc.?

Do you meet to debrief about the Summer Reading Club? What items do you make sure to discuss?

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

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32. A Notable Summer

Source: www.chicagopubliclibrary.org

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot . . . These are strange and breathless days, the dog days.”

Natalie Babbit, Tuck Everlasting


Source: www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists

Odds are that at least one of your Facebook friends will post the above quote this week—and for good reason, as this is, IMO, one of the best descriptions of summer ever to come from an ALSC Notable Children’s Book. Tuck Everlasting was named a Notable Children’s Book after its 1975 publication and is now widely hailed as a classic. Announced each year after Midwinter, the Notables lists of books, recordings, and videos, bring well-deserved attention to those titles which are “worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding” and make superb resources for curating collections in libraries and homes. And Notables seals, just like those of the Newbery and its kin, help your library community discover these great titles. I’ve found that a great late summer project can be making sure that all of the Notables in the collection have this honor glinting from their cover, and you can buy Notables seals in sets of 24 here, or if you need 1,000 or more you can go here.

Thanks to all of the hard-working Notables committees over the years and best of luck to this years’!

Here are some other great summer-themed Notables from recent decades:

  • Blackout. By John Rocco, Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion Books (2012 Books list)
  • Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation. By Tommy Greenwald, read by MacLeod Andrews. Brilliance. (2014 Recordings list)
  • A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. By Marla Frazee. Harcourt. (2009 Books list)
  • The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. By Barbara O’Connor. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (2011 Books list)
  • Garmann’s Summer. By Stian Hole, translated by Don Bartlett. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (2009 Books list)
  • Georgie Lee. By Sharon Philips Denslow, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins. Greenwillow. (2003 Books list)
  • Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia. By Ted and Betsy Lewin. Lee & Low Books. (2009 Books list)
  • Hot Day on Abbott Avenue. By Karen English, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Clarion. (2005 Books list)
  • A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories. By Richard Peck. Dial. (1999 Books list)
  • My Louisiana Sky. Based on the novel by Kimberly Willis Holt. Hallmark Entertainment (2002 Videos list)
  • One Crazy Summer. By Rita Williams-Garcia. Harper/Amistad. (2011 Books & Recordings lists)
  • The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. By Jeanne Birdsall. Knopf. (2006 Books list)
  • Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. By Lisa Yee. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. (2006 Books list)
  • Summersongs. By John McCutcheon. Rounder Records. (1996 Recordings list)
  • Sweet Corn. By James Stevenson. Greenwillow. (1996 Books list)

Congratulations to everyone who is now beginning to wind down their summer programming, and warm wishes for an enjoyable rest-of-summer, and here’s hoping that these titles whet the appetites of our southern hemisphere colleagues for the season headed your way. Happy reading, viewing, and listening to all!

My favorite spot on the Lake Michigan shore by my house to read in the summer. Photo source: Andrew

My favorite spot on the Lake Michigan shore by my house to read in the summer. Photo source: Andrew Medlar

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33. Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet Videos

The award acceptance videos from the 2015 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet are now available. These speeches took place at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Below are the three videos from each of the winners. You can also watch the video of the full banquet (running time 1 hour 45 minutes 54 seconds). Enjoy!

Kwame Alexander – Newbery Speech

Dan Santat – Caldecott Speech

Donald Crews – Wilder Speech

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34. Happy National Respect for Parents Day!

That’s right, August 1st is National Respect for Parents Day. And while I’m not sure what the founder intended, we can show respect for all parents and caregivers by making sure our collections include books reflecting diverse families. We can highlight these books in storytimes, other programs, and displays. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark

Here Comes Hortense! by Heather Hartt-Sussman

Silas’ Seven Grandparents by Anita Horrocks

Monday is One Day by Arthur A. Levine

Spork by Kyo Maclear

The Family Book by Todd Parr

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Along with offering and highlighting materials reflecting diverse families, we can remember to use inclusive language, both spoken and written. For example, when approaching an unaccompanied child in the library, we might say, “Are you with someone today?” rather than, “Are you here with Mom or Dad?” In promotional materials for our programming, we could write, “Children and caregivers are welcome,” in place of, “Children and their parents may attend.”

There are lots of ways to show respect for parents, caregivers, and families! What are some techniques you use? What are your favorite books reflecting diverse families?

Amanda Struckmeyer is a Youth Services Librarian at the Middleton (WI) Public Library. She is a member of the ALSC Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers Committee.

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35. Crayons, paper, pencils…

Super Turtle (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Super Turtle (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Capes are flying in the air at the Deschutes Public Library!

Crayons, paper, pencils are scattered around the room, children are sitting on the floor sharing stories and ideas.  The theme, Super Animals!  What is your Super Animal?  What is your Super Animals’s super power? How will it save the day?

Super Speeding Turtle (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Super Speeding Turtle (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

As part of  the summer reading program, “Every Hero has a Story,”  children of all ages have been creating Super Animals and bringing them to the library to share.  I love hearing about their super animal power! The Super Turtle is speedy.   The Super Elephant has super water powers and the Super Rainbow Puppy makes mean people nice.  Every day, I receive a new piece of art.  This makes me smile all day long.  The children’s enthusiasm when they share each super animal power and how they will save the day is amazing.  I also love hearing how they created each piece.  Did they use glue? Magazine cut-outs? Paint?  Found objects? Nature? One child created a Super Rainbow Puppy and included flowers, leaves and grass on her canvas.

Super Bunny (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Super Bunny (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

One child added beads for eyes and a pipe cleaner for the mouth-Super Bunny!

I hosted weekly summer school visits and after hearing a silly story, learning about a new section of the library and checking out books, children created their own Super Animal at the library.  After, the art committee added foam core to each art piece, making them easier to hang in the meeting room.

The call out in the library event guide was open to everyone in any art form and in any size.  What other animals will appear? Maybe a HUGE Super Giraffe?

Super Rainbow Puppy (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Super Rainbow Puppy (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)


The art work goes up Saturday, August 1st and will be on view in the library meeting room the month of August.  We will also be part of the 4th Annual Friday Art Stroll, handing out popsicles while families, children and everyone enjoy looking at the children’s super animals pieces.  You can also create your own Super Animal with chalk outside the meeting room.  Super Bird to the rescue!

Super Bird! (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Super Bird! (photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)


I look forward to doing more art programs in the library and having art work displayed throughout the library.

Where do you display your art work in the library?  Do you have an art or craft room? Please share in the comments below.

Explore a few art inspired picture books for your next art program at the library.  Draw! Paint! Create! 

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.

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36. New Baby Books

With the imminent arrival of my own new baby, I’ve had baby books on the brain these past few months. From the books we recommend to sleepless parents to the books about childhood and technology we give to the parents of savvy teens, librarians are sometimes intimately involved in the struggles of our patrons’ childhoods. Never is this more clear than when we’re asked for books about a new baby. A great new sibling book can help immensely in easing the transition from being an only child to being one of a group.

julius_baby_of_the_worldKevin Henkes’s Julius, the Baby of the World is one of my favorite picture books, period, but it also is one of the best new sibling books I think I’ve read. I recommend it to parents all the time, and have the personal experience to back it up – this is the book my parents gave to me and my sister before the arrival of my much-younger baby brother. Children of all ages can identify with Lily’s excitement about her new sibling before he arrives and her horror at the way her life changes afterwards! The resolution, when it comes, is perfect. Of course Lily can say mean things about her brother, but no one else can!

peter's chairAnxiety over a new sibling is a universal issue, which is why a book first published in 1967,  Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats, as relevant today as it was the day it was published. When Peter’s parents repaint his crib pink for his new baby sister, Peter is perturbed but willing to let it go. When they decide to paint his chair, however, Peter takes a stand. Again, Peter’s eventual acceptance of his sister’s place in his life shows a way forward for children hearing the story that is both natural and comforting. Life will change with a new sibling, but it doesn’t have to change for the worse.

What are you favorite books about new babies?


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37. Comics for back to school!

I know, I KNOW. It’s July 29th. It doesn’t feel like it’s time to go back to school.

And for lots of districts, it’s not.

But for huge swatches of the South and the Midwest, it’s happening this week or next week. It’s so early, it’s so hot. The kids are so cranky (I would be, too, if I had to go back to school so soon!)

What’s the solution?


Here’s some great, recent comics/graphic novels to give to your kids. Throw these up on a display, handsell them, or stealthily slide them across your circ counter. Your tweens will thank you.

Gotham Academy Volume 1. Do your kids love Batman? This comic is set in a prestigious prep school right in the heart of Gotham. With great supporting characters, secrets, and possibly a ghost, this hits all the superhero buttons. The mysterious Wayne family might even make an appearance…

Oddly Normal! Image Comics just reprinted this with a new cover. It’s INCREDIBLY fun. Oddly is a half-witch and having a mother from Fignation isn’t always a walk in the park. It’s even less fun when her parents disappear and she has to go live in Fignation. She’s the only being in the whole world that’s even remotely human. Hijinks ensue.

Baba Yaga’s Assistant is out next week. It’s a bit spooky but not outright scary. Masha needs some adventure so when Baba Yaga advertises for an assistant, she decides to try it out. But she has to be clever and wily enough to earn her place.


I am Princess X is actually a novel, but there’s a story-within-a-story here that’s told in comics, and it’s a very cool example of mixed-format storytelling. May’s best friend Libby passed away a few years ago in a really tragic accident, and she’s been lonely ever since. But all of a sudden, she sees Princess X popping up all over Seattle: Princess X was a childhood creation that only Libby and May knew about. As May dives into the world of Princess X and webcomics, she begins to wonder–could Libby be alive?

Enjoy the last part of your summer!


Our guest blogger from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a Library Consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

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38. Interview with Author Michelle Houts

Michelle Houts, author of Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek, shares how her book highlights Kamenshek’s life of integrity alongside her professional achievements.  Houts, also the editor of Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, reflects on the role nonfiction plays in shaping children’s reading interests and how librarians serve these readers, researchers, and writers.  I received a complimentary copy of these two books in the Biographies for Young Readers series published by Ohio University Press before this interview.     

Author Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Author Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

1.  How did you first learn about Dottie Kamenshek, the famous baseball player loosely based on Dottie Hinson from the popular movie A League of Their Own?  What inspired you to write your book for young readers, Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek?

I first read about Kammie in a one-page entry in the book Profiles of Ohio Women. As soon as I read about her, I knew she would be a perfect first subject for the new biography series Ohio University Press was planning. She was a pioneer in women’s sports, a humble leader, and an outstanding person, on and off the field.

2.  Kammie on First is the first book in a new series, Biographies for Young Readers.  What unique challenges have you found when writing this type of nonfiction for children?  What makes biographies a unique and valuable resource for children to access in a public library?      

After three fiction books, I was so excited to be writing biographical nonfiction! That’s because I can remember selecting from the biographies section of my own local library. I loved those matching books about different historical figures. I wanted to replicate that excitement I felt, but I wanted the books to have an altogether different look and feel. The books I remember had a few line drawings, were text-heavy, and somewhat drab in their appearance. I was challenged to create a narrative arc in this new series and create a book that was factual and interesting all at once.

3.  What intrigued you most about the life of Dottie Kamenshek as you learned more about this athlete? What have children found to be most intriguing about her life after reading your book?        

Kammie on First: Baseball's Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

 Dottie was two things: a stand-out athlete and a humble leader. Sometimes it’s hard to find both those qualities in one person. Most young readers are fascinated by the fact that Dottie and her contemporaries played baseball in skirts, even if that meant sliding injuries were common. The readers are getting a history lesson about life in the 1940s and early 1950s when we begin to discuss the reasons the AAGPBL players wore skirts, had chaperones, and went to beauty school.

4.  In the author’s note from Kammie on First, you share a childhood memory about listening to baseball on the radio. How do you believe children’s memories shape their reading interests?  What should the role of children’s librarians be in encouraging these interests?

 What a privilege and responsibility librarians have when it comes to young readers! To be able to converse with a child, detect what sparks his or her interest, and to then suggest a great book is nothing short of magical. I’m not sure it’s children’s memories as much as their experiences that shape their reading interests. A positive experience with one book can lead a child to quickly choose another in the same genre or on the same topic or by the same author. I recall that as a child, once I’d found mysteries, I had to read every Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden book I could get my hands on.

5. How have public libraries impacted your process of gathering research? What do you believe the role of librarians is in providing accurate information for children and teens?

Since Kammie on First was my first nonfiction title, I started into my research alone and uncertain. It didn’t take long before I found the first research librarian eager to guide me along the path to discovering more about Dottie. Dottie had passed in 2010. She had never married and had no children. She was also an only child, so I would find no siblings or nieces or nephews. With the help of those well-versed in research methods, I was able to find her school yearbook, some early pictures, and eventually, two first cousins. I’m quite certain that libraries provide many children with their first experiences in research – how to look something up and discover more information. It’s a skill they’ll use their entire lives, and they most often learn it from a librarian.

6.  Kammie on First features a great variety of photographs to provide a snapshot into the life and times of this era.  Are there any particular images from your book that you recommend librarians share with a young audience when highlighting this athlete’s life?

 Students always seem to gravitate toward the picture of Lois Florreich being treated for a sliding injury. To me, it speaks to the fact that these women weren’t just out having fun. They were professional athletes, giving it everything they had, and sometimes enduring painful injuries. That’s a photo that tells a great deal about the grit of all the women who played in the AAGPBL.  My favorite picture of Dottie is one of her signing an autograph for a young girl outside the locker room. Even though they are both looking down, you can see that Kammie and her young fan are smiling. It was an important moment for both of them, I’m sure.

7.  How have public libraries shaped your experience as a reader growing up and as a writer today?

 I grew up in Westerville, Ohio, where we had – and still have – a fantastic public library. I can still tell you the exact shelf location of the first book I could ever read alone (I actually believe I had memorized it, but I was convinced I could read!) and the exact shelf that housed the Little House series, which I read through more than once. Going to the library was always a treasured experience as a child. I believe exposure to all kinds of stories at a very young age has really shaped the reader and writer I’ve become today.

8. How can librarians best promote nonfiction books to young readers?

Ah, well, it seems suddenly nonfiction is no longer playing second fiddle to fiction in a lot of situations. I think newer, narrative nonfiction reads more like fiction. I like to tell about how I was so engrossed reading Candace Fleming’s Amelia Lost a few years ago, that a small part of me forgot I knew the ending! As I read, the suspense was real, even though I knew the outcome of Amelia Earhart’s story. That’s what good nonfiction does to a reader. I think that if librarians are promoting great nonfiction right alongside fiction, the stories themselves will grab the reader and send them back for more.

9. What advice would you give to young people interested in a career in writing biographies? How can children’s librarians best support young writers?

 To the young writer, I would say, “Be observant. Be inquisitive.”  Great stories are all around you, and they don’t all belong to the famous. Your elderly neighbor, your teacher, even a classmate may well have had some amazing experiences worth sharing. Ask if you might tell their story and write it down. To the children’s librarians, I would direct young readers first to a book, but then also to the author or illustrator. Helping children realize that behind every book is a writer and sometimes an artist, and always an editor, just might lead a young person toward a career they will love.

10. The next book in the Biographies for Young Readers series,  

Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Missing   Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, chronicles the life of the author who wrote twenty-three of the first thirty books in the Nancy Drew Mystery series.  As you are the series editor, did Nancy Drew’s adventures resonate with you as a child?  Why do you think they are relevant to young readers today?

 When Julie Rubini approached the publisher with her proposal to write about Millie Benson, I was on board from the beginning. Nancy Drew has withstood the test of time. I’m amazed that young readers still know this fictional character. It’s very interesting that most of the qualities we love about Nancy are qualities Rubini found in Millie: independent, determined, confident, and hard-working.  Those qualities, whether they be found in fiction or in real people, will never become irrelevant.

Thank you for explaining your writing process and for sharing your perspective on the role libraries play in serving young readers, writers, and researchers!

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39. The Washington Office

Before speaking with Marijke Visser, Associate Director of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), I honestly had very little knowledge of what exactly was involved with the duties of the Washington Office staff other than advocating on behalf of ALA and libraries in general. In my usual over-imaginative fashion, I envisioned their days spent in conference rooms filled with charts (as seen in The American President), having power lunches (image courtesy of West Wing), and standing up for libraries using some incredibly uplifting call-to-action speeches (think Braveheart). While I’m sure these moments exist (or at least some version of them), talking with Marijke about the structure of the Washington Office and some of the exciting projects staff are currently exploring broadened my view of their work and inspired me to advocate for our profession with a renewed Scottish-like vigor.

As Marijke explained, the Washington Office is separated into two distinct offices: The Office of Government Relations and the Office for Information Technology Policy. When I thought of the Washington Office, I associated it with direct lobbying on the hill; The Office of Government Relations is the group that works to follow and influence legislation, policy, and regulatory issues on the hill. The Office for Information Technology Policy works with a variety of groups, such as the Department of Education and the SEC, on outward facing issues, such as issues supporting a free and open information society.

One way that the Washington Office, particularly the Office of Government Relations, helps to inform and influence legislation and policy is by identifying and building champions on key issues. This is one way that Marijke highlighted for ALSC members to help and become involved. Creating and nurturing strong relationships between legislative members and local librarians can provide opportunities for librarians to bring attention to key issues impacting library services to children while legislative members build connections on a local level and gain a more direct understanding and/or experience of how issues like literacy, media mentorship, or the digital divide are directly impacting youth. One example Marijke provided of this concept is an interest in how the digital divide is impacting disadvantaged teenagers. The Washington Office was able to connect interested legislative members with local librarians in their service area to discuss how the digital divide impacts teenagers and how libraries are able to help bridge the economic gap for this population.

Towards the end of our call, Marijke explained the Office for Information Technology Policy’s Policy Revolution! Initiative. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this initiative is in its second of three years. Described by Marijke as “shaking up how we do policy”, this initiative is designed to examine how libraries are branded to other organizations, look for more ways for their office to become proactive rather than reactive, and to build connections between agencies many people do not usually associate with libraries, such as HUD and Veterans Affairs. Ultimately the goal is to increase the perception of libraries as essential to policy and community conversations in a way that influences organizations to view library professionals as essential participants at the discussion table.

How does this apply to us? How can a little (seriously… I’m only 5’2”!) children’s librarian in Akron, Ohio stay current on legislative and policy issues? How can I best use this information to make a difference? Marijke suggested following the Washington Office’s blog, the District Dispatch. (http://www.districtdispatch.org/). You can sign up for news and alerts and locate a lot of other advocacy pages at http://www.ala.org/offices/cro/legislationandadvocacy/legislationandadvocacy. ALSC’s Everyday Advocacy website is essential for staying informed and inspired on all facets of advocacy. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out (what are you waiting for?!) you should stop what you are doing right now and visit it at http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/. Also, reach out to your local, state, and national representation to share successes and challenges. While you may not need to directly advocate for an important issue today, building those relationships now may someday prove to be invaluable.

Libraries offer such a valuable service to the public, and librarians are consistently doing important work that directly improves the lives of children. I urge each of us (myself included) to remember the importance of our work on the toughest days and to channel our inner William Wallace (blue face paint is optional).


Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest contributor is JoAnna Schofield, member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. JoAnna is a children’s librarian at the Highland Square Branch Library where she enjoys singing Laurie Berkner’s “I Know a Chicken” more than most people. She finds her greatest inspiration from her three rambunctious children, Jackson (5), Parker (4), and Amelia Jane (2). JoAnna can be reached at jschofield@akronlibrary.org. More than anything, she wants you to know if any information in this blog is not accurate, it is completely her misunderstanding and no fault of Marijke Visser. Marijke is truly lovely.

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40. Send Us Rainbow Book Suggestions!

Red: A Crayon's StoryThe Rainbow Book List Committee, a committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association, is seeking suggestions from the field for the 2016 Rainbow Book List. Suggestions from the field will be accepted through September 30, 2015.

So what is the committee looking for? Excellent books for children birth through age 18 that reflect the LGBTQ experience for young people.

The Rainbow Book List Committee members are currently reading over 100 titles (and any that you suggest) and nominating the best of the best for inclusion on the list. The committee will meet at Midwinter to discuss all nominated titles and select those that will make the final list.

You can follow along with committee activities at the blog and see what titles have already been nominated. We would love to know about any great LGBTQ books for kids and teens that you’ve read that have been published since July 1, 2014! For more information about the Rainbow Book List Committee click here.

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41. An Appeal to Librarians: Provide Leadership on Kids’ Tech

In her keynote address at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June, Microsoft’s Danah Boyd advocated for open access to information, a positive message that is consistent with longstanding librarian values. However, Boyd is best known as an observer of kids’ technology. In this role, she vehemently instructs adults responsible for educating children to back away from guiding kids’ tech use. This advice, if heeded, profoundly undermines librarians’ vital leadership on children’s use of technology.

Boyd is critical of parents who set limits on kids’ tech use, labeling them as “fearful” in her Time magazine article, “Let Kids Run Wild Online,” and says, “The key to helping youth navigate contemporary digital life isn’t more restrictions. It’s freedom–plus communication.” In her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, and in her editorials, Boyd tells adults that kids need little, if any, direction on tech matters. She says, “Some days, I think that my only purpose in life is to serve as [a] broken record, trying desperately to remind people that ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright.’”

A Dangerous Myth

Boyd’s advice, that kids can navigate the tech environment with little help from adults, is the basic premise of the digital native-digital immigrant belief, originally put forward by video game developer Marc Prensky. He suggests that kids (“digital natives”) gain expertise with tech simply by growing up surrounded by the latest gadgets, and that adults’ (“digital immigrants’”) proper role is to load kids up with devices and essentially stand back and watch.

While commonly accepted in our popular culture, the native-immigrant belief is a tremendously harmful myth, as it confuses the ease with which kids use their gadgets with something that is far more important: understanding how kids’ use, or more typically the overuse, of entertainment technologies affects their emotional health, academic performance, and chances of success. Librarians, teachers, and parents are much better able to understand these concerns because they have adult brain development and greater life experience.

Nonetheless, the native-immigrant belief—which is heavily promoted by those invested in kids having no limits on their gadget use—has helped convince American parents to “let kids run wild online,” as the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the “majority of 8- to 18-year-olds say they don’t have any rules about the type of media content they can use or the amount of time they can spend with the medium.” The result is that teens now spend an incredible 8 hours a day between various entertainment screen technologies (e.g., video games and social networks) and talking and texting on the phone, while spending a scant 16 minutes a day using the computer at home for school.

Our kids’ wired-for-amusement lives clearly interfere with librarians’ goals of advancing kids’ reading and academic success. The more kids play video games the less time they spend reading and doing homework, and the less well they do academically. Similarly, the more time kids spend social networking the less well they do in school. This overuse of entertainment tech is one reason American students are increasingly struggling against their global peers. The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are disturbing to say the least: the U.S. now ranks 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 20th in reading compared to the 64 other countries that took the exam.

Which kids are hurt most by advice that they should be given “freedom” with digital devices? Those of color whose parents have less access than more economically-advantaged families to guidance from college counselors and high-performing schools that kids are better served by focusing on schoolwork and productive uses of technology than playing with devices. A recent Pew Research Center report outlined troubling figures: 34% of African-American and 32% of Hispanic teens are online “almost constantly,” while 19% of White teens report using the Internet this often. Because teens’ top online activities are gaming and social networking, the extremely high levels of smartphone/online use by kids of color are likely to expand the racial achievement gap.

How Can Librarians Provide Leadership on Kids’ Technology

Consider these actions to advance children’s and teens’ success and help them use technology productively:

  • Help parents, teachers, and schools understand that the digital native-digital immigrant belief is a myth, and that children, and even teens, are not developmentally capable of navigating the tech environment alone.
  • Encourage caregivers to limit kids’ use of entertainment technologies, and instead foster their learning of educational fundamentals (e.g., reading and math) and productive uses of technology.
  • Advocate that families “parent like a tech exec.” In stark contrast to Boyd’s advice, Bill Gates (the co-founder of Boyd’s own company, Microsoft) set strong limits on his own kids’ tech use, as did Apple’s Steve Jobs and other leading tech execs, as described in the New York Times’ article, “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent.” Typical limits set by tech execs include no gadget use on weekdays, computers only being used for homework on school nights, and no screens in the bedroom.
  • Make special efforts to reach out to children and families of color, as well as less advantaged families, to promote kids’ focus on reading, academics, and the productive use of technology.


©Larry Odell

©Larry Odell

Today’s guest post was written by Richard Freed, Ph.D., the author of Wired Child: Debunking Popular Technology Myths, a practical guide for raising kids in the digital age. A child and adolescent psychologist with more than twenty years of clinical experience, Dr. Freed completed his professional training at Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the California School of Professional Psychology. He lives in Walnut Creek, California with his wife and two daughters. To learn more, visit www.RichardFreed.com

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

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

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42. Easy Access: Making eBooks a Breeze

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mikael Wiman

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mikael Wiman

Have you noticed a spike in eBook circulation this summer? At our library we have hopes and dreams of seeing an increase in our eCirculation, not solely during an intense reading period, but throughout the school year. There is no question that an increase wouldn’t just be dependent on patrons having knowledge of the library’s eCollection, but also their access and ease of use, both for parents and kids.

In the spring the teen department and children’s library decided to debut an e-Reading Room through Overdrive. The purpose of the offering is to provide youth with a safe and kid-friendly environment in which to browse the library’s eCollection. Bringing increased exposure to our digital collection is one of our continued goals in the department, both for kids and teens, but making it a lot easier to search and download may be a lot more difficult than simply creating a virtual kids’ space.

Has this ever occurred at your library? All 5 copies of a certain book are checked out and you happen to find the one copy available and it’s an eBook. The patron is ecstatic and you proceed to shown them the process for searching, downloading, and reading the eBook. At some point in the transaction you notice the glazed look in their eyes and hope that when they go home they actually succeed in getting the title. I’m speaking mostly about parents and caregivers, but this can be amplified even more if we are speaking of a child.

Thankfully a few libraries around the country are on mission to make this process a bit easier for everyone!

Library Simplified is a collection of organizations with the goal of making the eBorrowing process less complex, especially as the importance of digital materials continues to increase within libraries. Another plan is to give libraries the ability to offer collections from all their eBook vendors through one application. The promise is 3 Clicks or Less, which would be a dream come true.

American Libraries, in their eContent Digital Supplement put out an article about the Library Simplified project entitled, Click, Click, Read: Building a library-owned delivery channel for eBooks. Personally, I’m looking forward to the progress that Library Simplified has made and continues to make in the eBook world. Hopefully that progress is a bit quicker than the time it’ll take you to download your next eBook from the library’s collection!

What steps has your library taken recently to make accessing eBooks a bit more seamless for your young patrons?


Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is the Head of Teen and Children’s Services at Darien Library in Darien, CT.  For further questions, please contact at cmoore@darienlibrary.org. For more information check out the Digital Media Resources page on the ALSC website.

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43. Applications open for 2016 Bechtel Fellowship

ALSC Professional Award

Applications for the ALSC Professional Awards are opening this fall (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC and the Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship. The Bechtel Fellowship is designed to allow qualified children’s librarians to spend a total of four weeks or more reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, a part of the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The Baldwin Library contains a special collection of 130,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950. The fellowship is endowed in memory of Louise Seaman Bechtel and Ruth M. Baldwin and provides a stipend of $4,000.

Each applicant will be judge on the following:

  • the description of the topic of study for the fellowship period;
  • the applicants’ demonstration of ongoing commitment to motivating children to read;
  • the applicants’ willingness to spend a total of four weeks in Gainesville. The time spent does not have to be successive weeks.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 1, 2014. For more information about the requirements of the fellowship and submitting the online application please visit the Bechtel Fellowship page.

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44. Great informational books for kids

Read any good new informational books for kids lately? The 2016 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Committee is delving into this year’s eligible titles and we’d like to know what titles the ALSC membership would recommend for consideration. The Sibert Award is presented annually to the author, author/illustrator, co-authors, or author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year. Honor Books may also be named.

Informational books are defined as those written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable factual material for children from birth through age fourteen. (Traditional literature and general poetry are not eligible, although poetry whose primary intent is to present factual information is.) Authors and illustrators must be U.S. citizens. For complete terms and criteria, please refer to the ALSC Robert F. Sibert Award web site.

The award will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Conference to be held in Boston, MA, January 8-12, 2016. The award will be presented at the ALSC Award Presentation and Membership Meeting during the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL in June, 2016.

The 2016 Sibert Committee invites all ALSC personal members to submit titles for consideration. Please remember that only books from the 2015 publishing year are eligible for the current award. Publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not nominate their own titles.

Send all suggestions to Elizabeth Overmyer, Chair, 2016 Sibert Committee to ove1817@gmail.com.


Today’s Guest Post was written by Elizabeth Overmyer, Chair of the 2016 Sibert Committee.

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

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45. What’s Next?

For many of us, the beginning of the school year starts a new cycle.   Which programs and projects will continue, what changes will we make and do we have the time and staff to make it all happen?  This is a refreshing process for me and one I look forward to each and every year,  but this year I’m heading into it with a new gusto!

I attended a session at ALA in San Francisco called, “What I Stopped Doing.”  This session was essentially one librarian’s story about taking a step back and evaluating what she was doing.   She had things she enjoyed, things she didn’t enjoy, programs that are sacred  cows for libraries (story time),  and a variety of new things she  wanted to add to the mix.   The problem is, how  do you add to the mix successfully, when do you walk away from a specific kind of program, and what if there are outside organizations in the mix?

This really hit home for me.  As the manager of the three person children’s department at the Kendallville Public Library,  I have set a programming schedule that conducts more than 100 outreach programs a month in our elementary schools.   And that’s just one facet of our monthly program schedule.   It’s really crazy, but we’ve had great return on our investment.  Is this something we can walk away from?  No, probably not.   I believe our children’s circulation numbers jumping from 75,038 in 2013 to 132,208 in 2014 are directly connected with these programs and the relationships we have established with the schools, teachers, and students.   But not all partnerships have this kind of return.

There are a number of other programs that we conduct monthly, programs that we are encouraged to participate in with a variety of other local and national organizations.   Getting some of them up and running was tough, maintaining them has been tougher, and as I’m finding out walking away –on good terms — is toughest yet!

So, how do you know when to restructure and when to end?  There are indicators, of course, but as a library we make connections, and help to build a community, is walking away from a partnership ever really a good idea?

In a time when I am jazzed about quitting things so that I have room to grow and change, I need help!  What have you quit doing that has taken your library to the next level?  How did you gently walk away?

Beth Munk, past chair of the Liaison to National Organizations Committee

Kendallville Public Library, bmunk@kendallvillelibrary.org






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46. The Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee would love to hear from you!

Hello everyone!

My name is Brooke Newberry and I am the new chair for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. This year our major project, “Babies Need Words Every Day” finally launched. This project has been in the works for over two years and seeing the final product and the reaction to it has been amazing. We hope everyone has printed out these posters for their libraries and community partners.

This committee year we have some more big ideas in the works, everything from revamping our charge to expanding our “Babies Need Word Every Day” toolkit. We’re also working on new partnerships both within ALSC and the community. Make sure to keep your eyes open for future announcements from the committee!

We had an amazing committee year in 2014-205 and we want to keep the momentum going. We would love to hear any ideas the membership has in mind with regard to early childhood programs and services. What’s at the top of your mind right now regarding library services to young children? What is your biggest concern regarding early literacy?

The committee is proud to serve the membership and we look forward to this next committee year!


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47. Acknowledge the Moments

Last month, I spent a lot of my post talking about staying positive and trying to focus on the good during the hard months of summer reading.

Today I want to talk about the flip-side. The panic-inducing room scheduling mistake or the smelly poop on the rug or the bone deep exhaustion from six programs in three days combined with the worst hayfever you’ve ever had…simply put: the bad moments.

My job is amazing and I am truly blessed. But I would be a liar if I said that every moment involved sunshine, rainbows, and puppies raining from the sky.

But I think that we often see the perfectly cut movie version of library life instead of the day-to-day activities from our fellow librarians. Particularly in the online arena! I try to be incredibly positive on Twitter, on my blog, and here when I’m posting for ALSC. And while I think that certainly serves a purpose, I also want to take the chance to say that it’s okay to acknowledge the moments of bad. It’s okay that not every day ends with skipping and holding hands with the world.

I hope you noticed how I said “acknowledge” there and not “cling to these moments and define your job and existence by that incident”. That’s the other important part. Once you’ve acknowledged the moment, let it go. Shake it off. You don’t have to forget it, but you do have to move past it.

Talk to a co-worker, email your friends, dance it out, take a private moment to calm down, sing loudly in your car, breathe — whatever you need to do to get past it!

Your co-workers will pull the room together in time, the poop will come out of the rug, and eventually you’ll sleep and feel better.

Friends, hang in there. Summer’s almost over and that next (good) moment is on the horizon.

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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48. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): The Scene from San Francisco



JENNA and a group of seven school and public librarians are gathered around a flip chart in the corner of a crowded co-working space at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference. JENNA steps forward to start an informal, high-energy information exchange between library professionals.

(smiling and beyond excited)

SPLC Committee WordleHi, everyone! My name is Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us this morning to talk about ways we can work together to improve outcomes for the youth and families we collectively serve!

We’ll be starting from a very basic but very important premise: We all want to work together. School librarians want to collaborate with public librarians, and vice-versa. But even though our spirits are willing, we know there can be barriers to the effective collaborations we want to create and maintain.

So what can we do? Build bridges to understanding between school and public librarians. Learn what our counterparts’ typical days are like and the unique successes and challenges we encounter in our respective settings. From this understanding, we can start building relationships that foster effective collaboration and deliver the maximum benefit to youth and families.

Today we’ll be using the guerilla-style format made awesome by Storytime Underground. I’ve placed 20 prompts into this cup for us to use as starting points for our discussion. Let’s get started!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

How much involvement do school librarians have in creating assignments that require library use? For example, “Read a biography about Abraham Lincoln that’s at least 100 pages.”

(several hands raise at once)

The short answer? It depends! School-public library collaboration depends largely on the collaboration happening within the school building. Classroom teachers often bypass us when planning for assignments, so often we find out about them at the same time you do.

Public librarians should know we have very little planning time, and things can change very quickly in schools. Your positive tone and approach mean everything when trying to work with us. Relationships are definitely key!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What aspects or outcomes of your school or public library job do you consider most essential?


Even though we work in different settings, we’re all working toward the same goals: To facilitate positive relationships that benefit youth; to inspire kids to read and learn; to successfully integrate technology into kids’ lives; to improve outcomes for youth and families; and to prepare kids and teens for success both in school and in life.

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work as a school or public librarian?


(1) Advocating for my program and additional resources, which are very limited; (2) Administrators, parents, and teachers don’t know what we do; (3) Staff shortages; (4) Communicating and marketing services; (5) Not enough time to focus on the big picture/more meaningful work because of day-to-day responsibilities; and (6) Unpredictability!


What I’m hearing from our conversation is that we’ve got a lot of common ground. We’re facing similar challenges in our day-to-day work, but we remain steadfast in our belief that what we do makes a difference for kids.

(heads nodding in agreement)

Two complementary questions as we start wrapping up our time together: How can public librarians best support their local school librarians? And how can school librarians support their local public librarians?


Spend time just getting to know one another. There may be growing pains the first few times you meet, but definitely take the time to meet regularly. Plan events together. Make things happen for the community. Most of all, learn how to be better advocates for one another’s roles and one another’s programs!


One final question: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to ask/tell school or public librarians?


We’re so impressed with what public librarians do! Keep trying to work with us. And let schools know what’s new at your library, from collections and services to programs and special events!


How can public librarians best support their school library counterparts without stepping on their toes?


Thank you so much for this rich exchange today! As the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation moves into its next year of work, we’ll definitely capitalize on everything we’ve gathered from this session. Stay tuned for next steps in building our momentum and keeping the conversation going!

As participants begin to disperse, there’s another flurry of brainstorming about possible next steps: collections of best practices, Twitter chats, Google hangouts, asynchronous online working groups, and additional in-person meet-ups. JENNA can’t wait.




Today’s guest contributor is Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC Division Councilor, Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website, and Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Jenna writes the Everyday Advocacy column for Children and Libraries and blogs at Miss Jack & Mister Jill.

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49. Fantastic Family Film Festival

Last year I needed a last minute program to fill in our last week of Summer Reading. We have weekly performers at my branch every Thursday afternoon and we didn’t get one for the final week of July. So my staff and I threw together a Frozen-Sing-Along and had over 150 kids show up!

This program was so easy to put together and had such a huge draw that I wanted to repeat our success again this year. We cut back on the number of performers, so I had three open Thursday afternoons to fill with staff led programming. So our Fantastic Family Film Festival was born.

Our first one happened yesterday afternoon with a Big Hero 6 Robot Build-Along.


Movies tend to be hit or miss at our branch and we have more success with recent popular films with kids and families. The hero theme of Big Hero 6 went perfectly with the Summer Reading theme of Superheroes and the kids are still talking about the movie, so I knew it would draw a crowd. But I didn’t want to just have the kids sit and watch a movie-I wanted something else to happen to make it worth the trip. So we made robots!

I received a huge donation of shoe boxes from a local community theater who had used them in a recent performance. This was a fantastic gift because all of the shoe boxes were wrapped in nice white paper-a perfect surface for creating a robot. I set the room up with several tables and chairs for a work surface but left the front open for floor seating. I put out the boxes on one table and various art supplies on another (crayons, scissors, ribbons, glue, stickers) and told the kids they could gather supplies anytime throughout the movie. In order to help cut down on the mess I kept googly eyes, feathers, and pom-poms back at the table staffed by librarians and the kids had to come and get these from the librarians so we could ration these out and have a more controlled mess. This ended up working out great and we had very little clean up!

The kids loved making a robot while watching the movie and we had multiple parents comment on how they thought it was a wonderful idea. We even had an adult wander by the room and poke her head to tell us we needed to do programs like this for adults!

We ended up with just over 50 kids building robots on a rainy afternoon and the robots turned out great. Of course now I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of all their wonderful creations! My staff and I loved seeing the kids creativity shine through their projects and they had a blast creating while watching a movie.

Next week we’re repeating our Frozen Sing-A-Long and the week after that we’re hosting an Incredibles costume contest and mask making. This programming has been a big draw for families and is a nice break from very staff intensive programming as we finish up our Summer Reading Program.

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50. Program-a-looza!

Last month’s ALA Annual conference saw the arrival of a mostly school-age sibling to Guerrilla Storytime and YA Smackdown.  On Sunday and Monday morning, Amy Forrester and Kahla Gubanich of the Denver Public Library and Multnomah County Library’s Danielle Jones gathered youth services librarians in the Networking Uncommons for a speedy discussion of easy, inexpensive programming for children from birth to age 12.

Program-a-looza circleAt Monday’s session, each participant offered an outline of a successful program, including crucial details such as accompanying snacks and the best ways to reuse old supplies.  (This is how I learned some Minecraft enthusiasts enjoy perler beads.  Thanks for the tip, Aaron!)  The Denver Public Library contingent plans lots of passive programs–including animal science activities and a spy training event–which may require a bit more set-up but can appeal to kids of all ages, last for hours, and be reused.  Danielle shared her preschool success with an Elephant and Piggie party featuring readers’ (or listeners’) theater complete with pig ears and elephant trunks.  Elementary-aged kids at my library have flocked to our annual Field Day: relay races, water balloon tosses and other outdoor games topped off with a watermelon snack.  Others mentioned older kids loving weeks-long shelfie competitions and Minecraft parties with origami, LEGOs, and the aforementioned perlers.

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

After a round of pre-proven ideas, we started a speed cycle of sticky-note brainstorming, scrawling suggestions and details to build on initial concepts.   In two-minute bursts, we raced through emergent reader programs, superhero suggestions, preschool computer classes, imaginative play programs, and more.  Check out convener Amy Forrester’s comprehensive list of the (legible) sticky notes for each theme on her blog.  And don’t worry if you missed last month’s program-a-looza; just come join the programming party at Midwinter 2016.

Robbin Ellis Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY, and a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Feel free to write her at robbin@chappaqualibrary.org.

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