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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. ALSC’s Next Steps after Day of Diversity

On Friday, January 30, 2015 the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council hosted the invitation-only Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming. Recognizing the conversations at the event was of interest to a much larger audience than we were able to accommodate at the Day of Diversity, ALSC and the CBC Diversity Committee sponsored a follow up program at ALA Midwinter. ALSC will continue to share information and outcomes from this event widely.

On Monday, February 2nd during their Session II meeting, the ALSC Board of Directors reflected on the Day of Diversity and put together a list of commitments by the Association for the next three months and the next six months.

This isn’t the start of the diversity or inclusion conversation for ALSC, nor by any means is it the end. This list reflects the measurable next steps that ALSC’s leadership has committed the Association to taking in the short term. These steps include educational opportunities for our members and opportunities for all ALSC members to add their voice and ideas to this conversation. We look forward to your participation and feedback throughout.


  • At the ALSC Board of Directors Session II on Monday, February 2, 2015 – the Board voted to move the start time of ALSC’s All-Committee meeting, during Annual Conference only, to 10:30AM – 12:00PM to allow for more participation by ALSC members at the CSK Breakfast. The Board recognizes that this may limit the amount of time committees have to work, but encourages chairs to work throughout the year virtually between meetings to disperse the workload.

3 Months

  • ALSC President Ellen Riordan will host an open online Day of Diversity Forum in February 2015. Stay tuned for the finalized date and time.
  • ALSC will host a free Building STEAM with Día webinar.
  • ALSC will craft, and make available, a value based elevator speech about Día in order to assist youth services librarians in advocating for resources to plan Día and other multicultural programming.
  • ALSC will convene a taskforce that will review multiple areas within the Association including materials, services and profession; and propose high level changes to move the diversity needle forward within children’s librarianship.

6 Months

  • ALSC will complete a Building STEAM with Día Toolkit.
  • Together, ALSC and the Children’s Book Council, will compile Day of Diversity survey results, resources, and participant’s personal ‘next steps’ and make information available online.
  • An “action” tab will be placed on the Día website which will contain resources shared at the Day of Diversity with additional content added. Additionally, ALSC will link to these resources from the professional tools portion of the ALSC website.
  • ALSC award and evaluation committee chair trainings will include a discussion about inclusion and diversity.

The post ALSC’s Next Steps after Day of Diversity appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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27. Making Early Literacy an Intentional Act

As I was flying home from Maryland after having visited relatives and gorged myself on way too much pie, I had the luck to sit next to a wonderful family of four. A mother, a father, a little four year-old boy and his sister, aged two.

First, the boy and his father sat next to me. They played a few games together on their iPad (all apps, I noticed, that we at the library recommend for young children). They were wonderful to listen to (admittedly, I was asleep through most of the father/son interaction – like I said, a lot of pie had been eaten!) — but the real treat came at the end of the flight when the mother and daughter switched to the seats next to me.

They also spent some time on the iPad, though the apps were different and much more developmentally appropriate for her. Again, there was lots of conversation being had, lots of counting, talking about animals, telling stories, laughter and smiles! Then the iPad was put away and a favorite book was brought out that had to do with rock and roll animals (who wouldn’t love that!). They read the book together, always taking time to stop and talk about the pictures in the book. At one point, the little girl even counted to ten in English and Spanish just for the fun of it!

My little librarian heart just soared listening to them having so much fun with literacy! Finally, at the end of plane ride, I began talking to the mother and wouldn’t you know it – she was a librarian too! She said she was an elementary and teen librarian and hadn’t had an opportunity to work in early literacy but had been going to classes and workshops at her library ever since her children had been born. Then she said something that I’ve heard before but I guess I’d never really heard until then.

She loved how intentional one can be with early literacy, and when that intentionality is focused on, how much more fun the process becomes for both her and her child. And they really were just having tons of fun, living in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. As a result, I was having tons of fun just listening to them!

Children grow up so fast and life can be so hectic that this sense of intentionality or purposefulness can sometimes be hard to find. I have a hard time finding it in the busy-ness of my work day. But her statement and her actions reminded me that finding even a little bit goes a long way. So I treat it like meditation. Before each story time or when I see a child approaching the desk, I take a breath and remember my purpose. My purpose is not something I will get to tomorrow or when my to-do list is clear. It is right now, with this child, this parent, and this moment.

How do you demonstrate intentional early literacy with your families?


Photo taken by Andy Laviolette

Photo taken by Andy Laviolette

Our guest blogger today is Lisa Bubert. Lisa is a Youth Services Librarian with the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, TX. Early literacy and writing are her two passions and she enjoys taking any opportunity to put them together.

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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28. Mentoring and Me

Last year I read a post about the ALSC Mentoring Program, and it struck a nerve. To apply for the program, I had to fill in some basic information and state whether I would like to be a mentor or a mentee with another fellow librarian. ALSC would set up the match, and shepherd us through the program by offering helpful tips and guidelines.

When I came to the part where I had to check if I’d like to be a mentor OR a mentee, I checked both. Feeling a bit schizophrenic that day? No, I just could see myself in both positions. Even though I’ve been in the library world for about 10 years, I don’t feel that I ever had a true mentor. There was never one person who took me by the hand and showed me the whole world of librarianship, taught me what to do when a child started crying hysterically in storytime, or learn how to incorporate early literacy practices into my programs. Maybe I was asking for too much and should realize that most people aren’t lucky to have this kind of a mentor, or maybe this kind of person doesn’t even exist!

When the blogosphere exploded a few years ago, I suddenly had the internet at my fingertips and couldn’t learn fast enough. I pored through blogs like Mel’s Desk, Storytime Katie, and Abby the Librarian. Suddenly there were people out there that I could learn from, and boy did I learn. I actually contacted Melissa, of Mel’s Desk, one day when I recently started the Tiny Tots program for children aged 0-12 months. She was so kind to reply in a timely and caring fashion and her advice was invaluable. I almost cried because I wished she lived closer!

So, not having a mentor made me realize how important it is to help others along the way. I also have an elementary school teacher upbringing and educating is in my blood. I love to present ideas to people, see how they are collected, and watch them bloom. I know that I could really benefit from having a mentor, but maybe now was not the time. Maybe it was time for ME to help someone and give them the guidance I feel I lacked.

ALSC matched me with a wonderful young woman named Mary. During our first phone call, I knew that something would be a bit different about this match. Mary was also going to San Jose State University for her MLIS program, and she had started just about the same time I had. Not only was she going to graduate school full time, she was also working in a library, and teaching dance classes. Wow, she has energy!

Mary is almost the same age as my oldest daughter, so one would think that I should feel more mature and experienced. Not so, though! With all of her energy and enthusiasm, Mary has taught me more about the library world than I think I’ve taught her. She is dedicated and determined, and is already connected to committees and book award groups.

I hope I’ve helped Mary during this year, but I have also gained so much from her. We have talked about graduate school classes, shared book titles, and learned about the different book award committees we attend. It’s been a definite win-win in my opinion!

In a less formal manner, I have also been mentoring another young woman at our library named Alyssa. This came about because I told our Head of Children’s Services that I really wanted to gain some supervisory experience. She suggested that I mentor Alyssa with her first story time program – which would be a pajama story time. This was so exciting because I was able to work with Alyssa from the ground up. We discussed what books she would use and the songs she would sing. As we talked about the merits of certain titles, I could see that she was beginning to understand how a book would work in story time, and what would be the most engaging for the audience.

Working with Mary and Alyssa has taught me that my way of doing things is not always the right way, and I should offer guidance, but let them try and figure things out for themselves. I started the mentoring process because I hoped I could offer help to both young women, but I’ve learned more from them than I expected.


Allison MurphyOur guest blogger today is Allison Murphy. Allison has worked in the marketing department of a number of children’s book publishing companies. She has been a children’s library programmer and most recently, a children’s librarian, for about 10 years. Allison has been on the CT State Nutmeg Award committee and is currently pursuing her MLS degree from San Jose State University. She hopes to finish before she has grey hair or grandchildren, whichever comes first!

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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29. Kids Need Monstrous Words

“Procrastination,” “negotiation,” “dramatically,” “in-lieu”; these are words that you would probably not expect to appear in a picture book. Which, in my opinion, is unfortunate. I am a picture book author, (Monster & Me™ series published by Mighty Media Press) and one of the reasons I like to write is to introduce new and interesting words to kids. Vocabulary is so important in the art of communication, so why do we as parents, writers and educators insist that children can’t fathom a monstrous word?

When my first child was born I fell into the same idea that a young child would never be able to understand a big word. It wasn’t until my son was three and I needed to take him for a physical. Blood needed to be taken and I figured this was going to be a horror show of screaming and fear. I don’t like needles so I figured a three-year-old wouldn’t either. I didn’t want my son to fear the doctor from this day forward, so instead of saying we were going to the doctor’s office, I said we were going to see the Phlebotomist, the person who takes your blood. I used the word several times with him and by the time we sat down in the office he could say it.

Now saying it and understanding what it means are two different things. This is where things got interesting. As the technician came into the room and began to prepare the needle my son asked, “Are you the Phlebotomist?” At that point the technician put down the needle and walked out. He then returned with a nurse and asked my son to repeat what he said. My son did so and also added, “The person who takes your blood.“ They were stunned that not only could he say the word, but knew what it meant.

I figured my son was obviously a genius, but forthcoming spelling tests proved that theory wrong. All joking aside, I realized that if you say a word enough times and take the time to explain it, no matter how big or complicated, a child will understand it. Children are like sponges and are able to understand and absorb a great deal more than what we give them credit for. So why do we insist on dumbing down the first pieces of literature they come in contact with?

During the writing process I frequent a critique group with books that I have written and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the comment, “Would a child say this word?” Or, “Would a child know what this word means?” My answer usually is no, not yet, but they will. During a library or bookstore reading of one of my books, I love it when a child asks what a word means. When they do, I know I’ve done my job. So let’s give kids the monstrous words they deserve. They may just surprise you and your Phlebotomist.



Photo credit: Tracey Czajak

Our guest blogger today is Paul Czajak. Paul is the author of Seaver the Weaver and his award winning Monster&Me picture book series with its most recent addition Monster Needs a Party published by Mighty Media Press. For more information on Paul please visit his web site at paulczajak.com.

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

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

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30. Missing You #alamw15

Chicago still has long coffee lines, it’s really snowing, and ALA staff is just an L ride away, but it’s just not the same around here without all of you! (I think most planes, trains, and cars have finally made it out, am I right?)

It really was another magnificent Midwinter and my yesterday, Monday, was a great way to wrap it up.

The Youth Media Awards, obviously! Congrats & thanks to all of the committees and staff who made it a reality. Well done, also, to the folks on the podium with the early morning responsibility and thrill of telling the world! Afterwards, I was reunited with my ALSC Budget Committee compatriots as we tied a bow on the preliminary proposed budget for FY16, which the Board later approved. We also recommended applying some of the generous Friends of ALSC donations to supporting early literacy work and connecting babies and words. Also approved!

The second ALSC Board meeting from 1:30-5:45 was one of the most productive I’ve ever seen! We made changes to the Annual conference schedule so that there aren’t any ALSC committee conflicts with the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast, moved forward with a strategy for the strong future of ALSC’s Online Continuing Education, adopted a proactive conflict of interest policy, and built on our commitment to diversity by enhancing our Day of Diversity action plan. There are many great things to come!

Then some relaxation at the joint ALSC & YALSA reception, thanks to 3M, and a toast to fantastic times ahead and a better future for kids through libraries. Cheers!

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31. The State of the Union, er, Youth Services Department

Do you get caught up in the goal-oriented, stats-oriented, what-can-we-accomplish-next part of your job? I certainly do, so this past December, I took the Youth Services staff meeting (ahem, party) to the next level, adding in a look back over all the major accomplishments of the past year.

We always have plenty of fun at our December meetings, included a white-elephant gift auction, pot-luck lunch and a Secret Santa-type gift exchange. In 2013, we did a food theme for the gift exchange, but most of us (except for those lucky few, grr!) are watching their weight, so my colleague came up with the idea of socks for 2014. It was awesome—I got peacock feather socks and socks with books on them!

This year was the first of what I hope will be many “let’s celebrate what we have accomplished” themed meetings.

I created an “Annual Report” type document replete with pictures and fun quotes, printed it up big and taped the sheets up around the room. It took me about 3 hours from start to finish, and I wondered along the way whether it was worth it. I wouldn’t have been able to tackle it without the Board Reports I do every month (I knew those would come in handy someday). And I wouldn’t be able to do the Board Reports without the Monthly Updates I ask my staff to submit, which miraculously, they do!

When I had everything interesting and noteworthy culled from the Board Reports all together in a document, I saw that everything fell into these categories:

• Our Space
• Community Partners
• School Partners
• Our Staff
• Program Highlights
• Summer Reading Club Highlights
• Technology Ups & Downs
• Summer Reading Highlights

Here’s a sample of one of the pages:Our SpaceNext year, it might be an electronic slide-show or it might take a different format. But watching my staff as they looked at all we had accomplished this year all together, and remembered things that seemed like they were from ages ago, and pointed things out to each other, made the few hours I spent on it totally worth the effort.

Let us all know what you do to remember and celebrate accomplishments at work!


Shelley Sutherland wrote this piece as a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee.

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32. Joint ALSC and YALSA Member Reception at #alamw15

After my last meeting of the day, I went straight to my hotel, removed my snow-covered boots and sat down on my bed.  Part of me wanted to stay in my cozy spot, but I’d told a colleague I’d meet her at the ALSC and YALSA Joint Member Reception.  So I figured I’d better put my boots back on.

And I’m very glad I did!  In addition to catching up with my colleague, I got to see some other familiar faces and meet a few new brilliant librarians.  I loved getting to hear about everyone’s conference highlights and favorite Youth Media Award recipients.  Whenever I am in the presence of a large group Children’s and Teen Librarians, I am astounded by their vast knowledge, passion for their work and openness to new ideas.  What a perfect a way to end my conference.

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33. Diversity: Special Needs at #alamw15

Lately, I’ve been investigating and thinking about ways we serve young people with special needs, and how it ties in with the heightened focus on diversity.

At yesterday’s “Diversity Matters: Stepping It Up With Action!,” publishers and librarians engaged in a fascinating dialogue about practical ways we can include all voices. We should: hire more diverse staff; reach out to authors from underrepresented backgrounds; do targeted outreach; and develop partnerships with community organizations. But, as many audience members pointed out, our efforts should not only address race, culture, and sexual orientation, but should also include people with special needs.

Here are a few highlights of special needs resources found/represented at #alamw15:

*Remarkable Books about Young People with Special Needs: Stories to Foster Understanding by Alison M. G. Follos (Huron Street Press, 2013)

*Children with Disabilities in the Library – an ALSC online professional development course.

*Schneider Family Book Award, which “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

*The Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), a division of ALA which provides support and services for libraries and librarians serving special needs communities.

*AccessAbility Academy training module (ASCLA): “Positive Interactions: Making the Library a Welcoming and Empowering Place for People with Disabilities”

* @DisabilityInLit (Twitter feed) – Disability in KidLit, which focuses on the portrayal of disabled characters in MG/YA novels.

*Brooklyn Public Library offers the Child’s Room for Children (and Teens) with Special Needs, which features a universal design space and inclusive programming: a universal Makerspace, gaming, garden club, Legos, and story hours.

*Weplay – #alamw15 was the first time this vendor came to an ALA conference. Their focus is “physical movement and cognitive development equipment.” They offer a free 94-page Sensory Storytime handbook, developed especially for libraries.

Do you have more resources to share? Please post in the comments field.

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34. Bonus Day at #alamw15

This morning I awoke bright and early (read: 5:45am) to line up for the Youth Media Awards. As always, it was an unforgettable experience to be in the room when the honor and award titles were announced! I laughed, I cheered, I tweeted, I gasped, I was in awe of the extremely talented ASL interpreter.

After the exhilarating announcements, I quickly checked my flight status only to find that my flight this afternoon had been canceled. Although it took a bit to get everything settled (2 hours on hold with the airline…but who’s counting?), after it was all said and done my flight was rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

Even though I’m longing to see my family and get back to work (my to-do list is so long!), I’ve decided to embrace this “bonus” day at the conference. As I type this, I’m once again sitting on the Notable Children’s Book as the committee examines non-fiction titles. I’ll be able to meet up with wonderful friends for dinner, and for the first time attend the ALSC and YALSA Joint Reception this evening.

So I hope if you’re also stuck in Chicago for a “bonus” day that you’re able to spend this extra time with wonderful friends (old or new).

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35. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews wraps up ALAMW15

The jazz is hot as Trombone Shorty and his band wraps up the conference. Check out Brian Collier’s picture book biography of Trombone Shorty.

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36. Some themes from ALA Conferences

As I sit sadly at the airport and hope to make it home, after an exciting morning Twitter trawling about the Youth Media Awards, I’ve had the time to reflect for a sweet minute on a great conference. The blizzard was apparently the fifth largest in Chicago history, so that makes me feel pretty cool!


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37. Diversity Matters at #alamw15

This wonderful session was a report back from Day of Diversity, a meeting of publishers, librarians, and other leaders in literacy. Check out the summary in comics! The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks is blowing up with joy right now after the Youth Media Awards, make sure to check it out.



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38. The YMAs have been announced at #alamw15

The 2015 Youth Media Awards have been announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting. I could not be prouder of the hard work EVERY committee did in selecting a phenomenal list of winners! (And I can’t wipe this silly grin off my face. I love the YMAs!)

Check out this press release from ALA for all the details of the winners and honor books which were announced this morning.

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39. Heading back to the real world:)

#ALAMW15  It’s been an amazing conference, blizzard and all.  I have just left the Youth Media Awards and have to say I am still wiping little tears out of the corners of my eyes.

What an impressive statement.  What an incredible group of people were on these committees.  In case you missed it, the message of the utmost importance of diversity in our books for children and young adults was shouted through an enormous sound system… US!

It rang through most of the categories and as each was announced I just got more and more thrilled and goosebumpy (apparently not a word but should be).  This was history being made.  This was a group of very courageous, savvy and smart librarians who stood up and said take a look at our winners… every child matters and every child deserves the Mirror Book.

Wow… stunning. Wow…. so wonderful.  Wow… takes my breath away. We can make such a difference by giving young readers a book that helps them find their sense of identity and their sense of place and their sense of value.  It is certainly time and it is incredible to see the wave begin to spread.

On a personal note, in the middle of the Awards announcements  I got the email from my airlines that my flight has been canceled:)  Don’t you love it?

So, where do we go from here?  I was texting the librarians back home at my library in Maryland who were running all over the place to find the award winners!  We’ll share them with our customers in the library and reach children that way.  I added some of the winners..couldn’t keep up with all… on my abookandahug.com Facebook page and I saw many people around me doing the same thing so we are getting the word out one caringn librarian at a time.

On Sunday, Feb. 8 I’ll share some of the award winners on Baltimore’s NBC TV affiliate, WBALTV Channel 11.  If you hear of other television coverage, please email me at bookandahug@gmail.com.

It’s time to make children’s and young adult books part of the national conversation and this wave of diversity is a great place to start.  If you remember the TODAY Show bringing the Newbery and Caldecott winners on for interviews…well…that stopped about four years so ago.

I hope you all enjoyed the LIVE BLOGGING here at ALA MIDWINTER 2015.  It was wonderful sharing this conference with you.  What we do is amazingly important!  Every child deserves a book and a hug and the golden knowledge that she or he makes the world a better place.  Let’s go tell them!

Bye for now, Barb Langridge


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40. It’s Almost Time! @ #alamw15



In just a few minutes, the ALA Youth Media Awards will begin. The excitement is palpable!

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41. The Limo Ride

#ALAMW15  It’s still dark this morning in Chicago. In about two hours we’ll all be sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear each one of the astounding committees announce the winners of this year’s Youth Media Awards.

Right this minute though my mind is running back through last night.  A fortunate crew gathered at The Gage restaurant on South Michigan Avenue..in the blizzard mind you…and spent the evening sharing books and stories with some very lovely people from Penguin.

Everyone had to write their favorite book on their name tag as they came in the door…I chose A Wrinkle In Time.  I saw Winnie the Pooh on Nancy Paulsen’s nametag.  Ben Schrank of Razorbill had Arrow to the Sun..apparently he has been reading this to his own 3 1/2 year old.  Susan from Putnam who sat next to me had Island of the Blue Dolphins, a woman across the table had Charles and Emma…you see how wide the spectrum was.

Alexis who acted as a hostess for Table 7 asked us if everyone in the world had to read one book… as though they were all instructed or assigned to read one book…what book would we choose for them?  Oh, that was a tough one.  I was thinking The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B.Lewis. , or The Hundred Dresses or Stone Fox. Ben suggested The Chocolate War or Animal Farm.

Then the truly beautiful Shanta Newlin asked us if we could live in one city in the world and not lose our standard of living by moving, what city would we choose.  London got a number of votes.

So the night was filled with great food and interesting conversation and authentic sharing. Then it was time to head back to the hotel.  They announced that the restaurant was trying to call taxis but they were scarce as the blizzard was raging outside.

Well, to make a long story short… I had the business card of a limo company in my coat pocket.  Tony, who owned this limo company, had sent his fleet of stretch limos out to help out the hotels who had guests who needed to get through the city despite the wind and snow.

Rebecca, the hostess at the restaurant, took the card and called Tony and darn if he didn’t show up in about ten minutes, pulling the stretch limo up to the curb in all the snow right in front on South Michigan Avenue.  Four of us piled in.  Mary Anne S. from the Bay Area who had lost her voice, a lovely lady from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one more lovely librarian.  The four of us piled in and there we were with the bar all lit up inside, the huge champagne glasses, and over our heads there was a constellation of lights.  It was hilarious. Think prom.

Tony drove us all back in our “coach” and got us safely to the hotel.  The four Cinderellas got out laughing our heads off.  A limo through the blizzard.  Life really does deliver some unexpected delightful twists.

It’s about an hour and a half now until the Youth Media Awards.  It’s really quiet right now but that buzz is going to be huge…. here we go…..


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42. How I Spent the Past Two Days of #alamw15

For the past two days I haven’t been live blogging.  Why? Because, I’ve been in award deliberations.  This year, I had the honor of serving on the GLBT-RT’s Stonewall Book Award Committee.

Stonewall Sticker


Starting last March, I began to receive a whole slew of books- ranging from Children’s/Young Adult, to Non-Fiction, to Literature, and was tasked (along with other committee members) to highlight books that held merit.  The award is the first, and most enduring award honoring the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

This evening, we announced the Literature and Non-Fiction award and honor books- tomorrow morning we announce the winners in the Children’s/Young Adult category.

Literature Winner: Prelude to a Bruise by Saeed Jones

Literature Honor: The Two Hotels Francfort by David Leavitt

Literature Honor: Bitter Eden by Tatamkhulu Afrika

Literature Honor: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Literature Honor: My Real Children by Jo Walton

Non-Fiction Winner: Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims by Scott Kugle

Non-Fiction Honor: Gay Berlin: A Birthplace of a Modern Identity by Robert Beachy

Non-Fiction Honor: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Non-Fiction Honor: Hold Tight Gently by Martin Duberman

Non-Fiction Honor: Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves


Tomorrow morning the Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children and Young Adult Literature award will be announced at the Youth Media Awards, 8 am CT.  To watch it online please click here.


photo credit: ALA website

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43. Interview with Author E.K. Johnston

THE STORY OF OWEN (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

THE STORY OF OWEN (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

E.K. Johnston has set her fictional world on fire in THE STORY OF OWEN: DRAGON SLAYER OF TRONDHEIM.  Receiving recognition as a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Award, the author discusses the relationship between libraries and young readers.  She gives us a glimpse into her latest novel, PRAIRIE FIRE, scheduled to be released next month. I received a complimentary copy of THE STORY OF OWEN before participating in this interview as part of a blog tour.   

THE STORY OF OWEN has broad appeal for readers with varying interests. How do you briefly summarize this book for the audience not familiar with these characters and their adventures?  

I usually tell people that THE STORY OF OWEN is about a dragon slayer from Southwestern Ontario, who moves from Hamilton to a small town called Trondheim, and has to adjust to slaying dragons in a rural environment. You know, passing algebra. Getting his driver’s license. Not getting lit on fire. The usual stuff.

Many professional reviews have noted your skill in world-building.  What advice do you have for young writers on how to best develop rich settings?

Steal. Borrow. Incorporate. Whatever word makes you the most comfortable, do that. I took real events, real places, and, despite my editor’s initial impression of Lester B Pearson, real people, and then I added a dragon. The key for me was always to give the reader the actual world…and then light it on fire, and I think that applies to world building in general.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), selected THE STORY OF OWEN as a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Award; according to YALSA, this award honors the year’s best books written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. How did you find out this news? What was your reaction?

I was at a friend’s house, another author actually, baking Christmas cookies when my cell phone rang. I don’t usually leave my phone on when I’m in company, but I was expecting a call from my sister, so I had it with me. It was our agent, and there was certainly some dancing in the living room! And then, you know, we had all those cookies on hand anyway…

E.K. JOHNSTON  (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

(Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

This book appeals to readers served both by ALSC and YALSA.  Did you write THE STORY OF OWEN with a specific audience in mind, or did the age of the potential reader not influence your process?

I didn’t have a specific audience in mind when I wrote, so no, the age of my potential reader didn’t influence me. I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid, and often read books that had things I didn’t understand in them, and loved them anyway, because the story was good. If I aimed for anything, it was probably that.

Why are awards and professional recognition valuable?  How can libraries best promote books for young readers?

Well it certainly helps to bolster my spirit on bad writing days! But in all seriousness, recognition is fantastic because when more people talk about a book, more people buy and read it. That is huge, and I am profoundly grateful for it. I think that sort of communication and accessibility are key parts of what libraries are great at.

How have libraries shaped your life as a reader and a writer?

I did a lot of my reading in libraries. At school, it was because I didn’t want to go outside for recess. My hometown library was also air conditioned, which my house was not. I could read whatever I wanted at the library, whereas at home my parents kept an eye on what I was reading (Mum wanted me to read kiddie CanLit. I wanted to read pretty much anything OTHER than kiddie CanLit). When it comes to writing, libraries are a great place to work and find resources.

Which books were influential to you as a child and teen?

As a child, The Hobbit, Heidi, and The Chronicles of Narnia were the biggest, but The Lord of the Rings, Anne McCaffery, David Eddings were close runners up! As a teen, I read a lot of Sci-Fi, including every Star Trek tie-in I could get my hands on. I didn’t read Tamora Pierce until university, somehow, but she is tremendous.

PRAIRIE FIRE (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

PRAIRIE FIRE (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

Owen’s next adventures are explored in PRAIRIE FIRE, scheduled to be released on March 1, 2015.   How did the experience writing PRAIRIE FIRE compare to your process of writing THE STORY OF OWEN?     

Writing PRAIRIE FIRE was a little easier, because I already had everything I needed. I had “seen” the ending before I ever started writing OWEN, and I knew a lot more of the plot. The hard part was crowd management. There are a lot of two person scenes in OWEN, and a lot of 14 person scenes in PRAIRIE FIRE.

What writing projects are you working on at this time?  What battles are next for Owen?

Owen’s battles are over, sadly. PRAIRIE FIRE has them until just before Owen’s 20th birthday, and then it’s not a YA novel anymore. It’s up to fic-writers now! I am working on a couple of other projects, though. One, out in the fall, is a re-telling of THE 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS (“re-telling” might be a strong word). I am quite excited about it.  

Thanks to E.K. Johnston for sharing these delightful details about Owen’s adventures and her valuable feedback on the role of libraries!

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44. ALSC Collection Management Discussion Group #alamw15

Hands down, my favorite part of an ALA conference is the ALSC Collection Management Discussion Group.

Whether you select children’s books for your branch, a small military library, a school library, or an entire library system, you are welcome to join this open discussion group to talk about the issues unique to this part of librarianship.  Popular topics include comparing vendors, the challenges of collecting self-published books, how floating collections work at public libraries across the country, or how to deal with Common Core.  E-books? DVDs? Cataloging issues?  The topics run the gamut and are really vital to compare and discuss with people who are dealing with exactly the same issues.

Like so many things in our division, finding colleagues to share the load is great for moral and for saving yourself the time & effort of re-inventing the wheel.  Join us!

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45. My First ALSC Awards Committee Experience at #alamw15

Today I attended my first meeting as an official member of an awards committee. When I found out I chosen for the Geisel Award Committee I was very honored and excited. And nervous.

I was excited to have an excuse to read lots and lots (and lots) of books for beginning readers. I’m looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of this art form through repeated readings and thrilling discussions.

I was nervous because they’ll be lots and lots (and lots) of books to read in just a year! Where will I put all those books in my teeny, tiny house? Will my notes be detailed enough?

Thankfully, this first meeting calmed my nerves, and simultaneously raised my excitement level. Our chair was so friendly and supportive. She talked about the suggestion and nomination process, as well as logistical elements (deadlines, meetings, etc.). We also discussed ways to organize our notes, the importance of getting feedback from kid readers, and the detailed criteria for this award.

So how do I feel now? Anxious! I can’t wait for books to arrive so I can start the process!

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46. Librarians stop for no snow @ #alamw15

Another early morning began with the leadership of all the divisions meeting with ALA leadership for breakfast bonding and strategic planning. This was soon followed by the ALSC All-Committee meeting where folks have the opportunity meet, work together, and consult with ALSC Board members. (See Dan Bostrom’s blog on that very topic earlier today). Soon I was off to join a committee I’m serving on, the ALSC Budget Committee. This is a great group that advises the ALSC Board on money matters and is led by chair Paula Holmes and benefits greatly from all of the wisdom of ALSC Fiscal Officer Diane Foote. We’re so fortunate to have a superb Executive Director in Aimee Strittmatter and ALSC is in a strong financial position to support our work. Award seal sales are a major source of revenue for ALSC and all of the copies of The Giver which sold with the recent release of the related movie sold a lot of Newbery Medal seals for the covers.

And, of course, it’s been snowing a bit in Chicago. I’ve lived here a long time and don’t remember that many actual blizzards, but this is one for the books. Thanks to the intrepid shuttle bus drivers and everybody’s good spirits, we’re ignoring adversity and carrying on, and will all have snow stories to tell for years to come.

See you at the Youth Media Awards announcement tomorrow morning, in person or online!

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47. Young Children, New Media, & Libraries @ #alamw15

This afternoon I attended a session called “Young Children, New Media, & Libraries Survey” presented by Amy Koester and J. Elizabeth Mills. Back in August of 2014, ALSC, LittleeLit.com, and the iSchool at the University of Washington conducted a survey where they asked public librarians how they use new media with youth in their libraries.

To put the survey into perspective, the definition of new media is technologies and the definition of young children is age 0 to 5.

We each received an infographic with the results and some were pretty surprising! Here are some of the highlights:

  • A total of 415 libraries participated and user populations ranged from less than 5,000 to over 1,000,000
  • Of those libraries, 71% use at least one type of new media in programming with young children
  • The most popular type of new media used are tablets, 91% of which are iPads
  • 58% of those libraries plan to increase new media availability in the future while 13% plan to maintain that level and 0.5% plan to decrease theirs
  • The most popular ways that that libraries are using new media devices is in tethered devices, in storytimes, and as check-outable materials

Amy and J. Elizabeth then went on to discuss the implications of their findings. The biggest point that they made was that as librarians, we need to be Media Mentors for our communities. Meaning, we need to be providing not only access but guidance on using these devices. Amy made the point that they weren’t trying to tell everyone that they have to start using iPads in storytime, but we need to be aware and mindful of the technology that our young patrons and their parents are using.

How does your library use technology with children?

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48. Doin’ Business at All-Committee #alamw15

What a great group! The 2015 ALSC Liaisons with National Organizations Committee (photo courtesy of Lori Hancock)

What a great group! The 2015 ALSC Liaisons with National Organizations Committee (photo courtesy of Lori Hancock)

In my position at ALSC I work with many of the 60 committees that move ALSC forward. These committees range from the Membership Committee to the Advocacy & Legislation Committee to the Liaisons with National Organizations Committee. Each has its own function and purpose within the organization. Most of these committee came together this morning at the ALSC All-Committee meeting.

The ALSC Liasion with National Organization meets at All-Committee (photo courtesy of Lori Hancock)

The ALSC Liasion with National Organization meets at All-Committee (photo courtesy of Lori Hancock)

When people ask me, “what do committees do?” I often point them the All-Committee session. This when committees come face-to-face to talk about the business of the association. They talk what’s happening in their libraries, how to connect with new members, how to best serve our current membership, i.e. the things that drive us as a profession. To do so, each committee reviews the ALSC Strategic Plan and evaluates whether their current/future actions fall within this document.

I should also add a big shout-out to our virtual committees who meet online and over the phone. These committees have the more difficult task of getting their work done without ever actually seeing one another. Still, they produce fantastic final products, from book lists to digital resources that are downloaded by thousands of librarians across the country. Thank you all for volunteering your time and knowledge to the association! And you’re interested in volunteering, get your Committee Volunteer Form in soon!

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49. Giving Blood at #alamw15

Meetings, networking, the serendipity of meeting old colleagues, visiting exhibits, talking to vendors, learning, reflecting… they are all part of the Midwinter Conference. This year there was also an opportunity to give back by donating blood.

blood mobile

January is national blood donor month. I did my part by donating blood at the bloodmobile conveniently located at the back of the exhibit hall. Thanks to Libraries Build Communities, an ALA membership initiative group, for this opportunity to “give back” to the community at large — and maybe save some lives — through LifeSource.

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50. Caught up #alamw15 #odulibs

I have gotten caught up in all the excitement and forgotten to post!  The sessions I have attended have been great.  The YALSA Quick Picks For Reluctant Readers meeting was entertaining.  I loved listening to their discussions of the books and whether they liked them or not.  There were some unique perspectives!  I might volunteer for this committee in the future.

Today I went to see LeVar Burton and he brought me to tears.  He read his book The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm to us.  It is such a beautiful story!  During question/answer time so many commented how much he impacted their lives with Reading Rainbow.  This was so inspirational and touching.  Afterwards at the book signing, he took time to not only personalize books, but also speak with each person.

Now with the blizzard we are snowed in and trying to reschedule our flight home.  The silver lining to it all is that now I get attend the awards announcements tomorrow.  For now I will curl up with one of my free books from the Exhibits Hall.

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