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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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1. First the Newbery, then the Cinema!

The Newbery Award, over its long history, has produced many enduring classics. But just how enduring are those classics when they are transferred from the page to the big screen? As my library plans our next season of R.W.D. (Read, Watch, Discuss) we took a look at some Newbery movies to see how they stack up to their literary predecessors.

2003's Holes

I think my favorite Newbery-award-winner-turned-big-screen-phenomenon is Louis Sachar’s Holesthough I will admit a bias: I am a huge fan of the book, and think it is one of best-plotted middle grades around. It helps tremendously that Sachar himself wrote the screenplay, an honor afforded to very few authors. Even J.K. Rowling didn’t get to adapt her own books! Any adjustments to the plot seem to flow organically and make sense. The cast is also excellent: Shia LaBeouf, whatever has become of him since, was magnetically watchable as the down-on-his-luck hero, and the always charming Dule Hill added extra pathos to Sam, making his demise even more tragic. If you’re looking for a great Newbery book-to-film adaptation, look no further.

terabithiaBridge to Terabithia is another classic Newbery-winner that was adapted into a well-regarded film, in this case, 2007’s version starring a young Josh Hutcherson (Peeta!). The trailer for this film made fans of the novel anxious when it was first released, as it seemed to over-emphasize to “magic” of Terabithia while containing almost none of the real-world issues that continue to resonate with readers today. It took me a long time to see the movie because of those fears, but when I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised by how faithful of an adaptation it was. The performances from the  young actors are great and the film manages to evoke the same emotions the book does.  When I was in school, we watched the 1985 TV Movie version, which has a decidedly more low-budget aesthetic but still holds up as a decent version of this beloved novel.

Then there are less successful adaptations. The Dark is Rising, which became The Seeker: The Dark is Rising in 2007, is notoriously terrible, with a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Time Out London noting that Susan Cooper’s fans “…are appalled by what they see as this dumbed-down version.” It stands as a good example of how not to adapt a beloved and award-winning fantasy series.

What are your favorite Newbery movies? Are there any you’d love to see on the big screen?


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2. Spring Cleaning: Storytime Style

Friends and colleagues, it is time to get organized! Spring is here — even though the nearly half a foot of snow Chicago just received might indicate otherwise — and summer is on the horizon. Now is the time to prepare for the chaos awaiting us come June.

So here are my tips and tricks for getting some simple office supplies and storage solutions working to keep us in tip-top shape.

Closet Storage Bins + Library Hanging Bags = Felt Flannelboard Solutions
Hanging File Folders + Sandwich Bags = Clip Art Flannelboard Solutions

Storage bins (left), hanging bags (upper right), hanging files (lower right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Storage bins (left), hanging bags (upper right), hanging files (lower right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

I store my flannelboards in two different ways. For the felt sets, I use six closet storage bins and library hanging bags to organize. Each bag contains all of my flannel pieces and a sheet of paper explaining the rhyme, story, song, or game to be used with the pieces. These are in alphabetical order and I allow all of my co-workers to borrow any set as long as they let me know. It takes up two shelves in my cube, but I feel it is well-used space since I have an estimated 150 flannelboards.

The second way I store flannelboards are for my clip art laminated flannelboards. I use a simpler system. I put all the pieces in a sandwich bag and write the name of the flannelboard on the outside of the bag. Afterwards, I toss them in these alphabetical hanging files. I don’t include the rhymes in these since most of these sets are my Letter Puzzles and different versions of the “If You Have…” song I use often.

Desktop Organizers + More Bins + Clipboards = Storytime Solutions

Desktop organizers (upper left), cloth bins (lower left), and clipboards (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Desktop organizers (upper left), cloth bins (lower left), and clipboards (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

I use a simple trick to get my books organized for storytime. Desktop organizers are absolutely perfect; the ones in this picture are typical called vertical file organizers. [A very similar one to mine looks like this example from Staples.] Each slot holds a week of storytime books, flannels, and CDs. I can grab a whole slot with ease on my way to step up!

The cloth bins are where all of my personal finger puppets (in the little ones) and hand puppets (in the bottom ones) go. I got both of these sets on clearance once college organizers hit the sales rack. The little ones I’ve had for quite a few years, but the tubs at the bottom are new for this year. All of these were fairly inexpensive since I waited for sales. I like using cloth bins because it doesn’t smash the puppets down like other storage solutions might.

Clipboards! At this point, you might have figured out that I never grew out of shopping for back-to-school supplies. But clipboards make my life so much easier! I keep a clipboard for each of my three weekly storytime programs. Before the sessions starts, I print out each week’s activities and attendance sheets. I put them all on the clipboard. I’m able to have this nearby in storytime in case I blank on an activity and can immediately circle the activities that we used that week. Keeping the papers on the clipboard allows me to write anywhere and also makes sure the papers don’t get crinkled in my storytime bag.

Plastic Bins + Old Kit Bags + Small Bins = Drawer Solutions
Managing the In-box Solutions

Inside of my drawer (left), the in-box solution (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Inside of my drawer (left), the in-box solution (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Manage the little minutia by hiding it in a drawer! In here you can see I try to compartmentalize my mess. All of my little office supplies (tape, post-its, expo markers, tacky glue) lives in a small cloth bin, with easy access. The plastic bin underneath the batteries, HDMI cord and cleaning cloths contains my felt supply at work in case I need to make a back-up felt piece. The green kit bag has all the extra charging cords and cables associated with our circulating LeapFrog kits. (That’s what the batteries and cleaning cloths are for as well — part of my job maintaining that collection means cleaning and battery checking once a kit comes back.)

Now for the paper in-box. Get three bins. The top is for weekly to-do items, the middle is for items to be filed, and the bottom is for on-going projects. Right now the top bin has a muffin tin to remind me to make felt cinnamon rolls. The middle bin has some strategic planning documents and ILS training sheets. The bottom bin it contains a replacement order I have to wait to order until after our ILS change in April, an audio order catalog to go through, and my clipboards that have programs that need to be written up from this week. The hardest thing to remember about the in-box is when your week ends, it should be empty except for on-going projects. I’ve used this system for years, including when I was a manager. It is GOLD for me.

I hope you feel confident and full of new ideas about tackling organization now! If you want specific product information, please email me [simplykatie(at)gmail(dot)com] and I will send you more information. If you want to trade tips and tricks, please feel free to do so in the comments! Do you have a favorite organization technique? Or a great idea to share? Let us know!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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3. Tali Balas: 2015 -16 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate

In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for 2015-16 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Tali Balas and Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This afternoon’s interview is with Tali Balas:

1.  What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?

Tali BalasI think the most important role of the ALSC President is to be a leader; and by that I mean she needs to be able to listen, build consensus, and make tough decisions. ALSC is an amazing organization filled with bright, caring professionals who come from a variety of backgrounds and who are in various stages of their careers. The President needs to be able to listen to the members and help build consensus so that the organization and the members continue to thrive. Sometimes this means making decisions that are not 100% agreed upon but we need to trust the process we have so that we can continue to grow and move forward.

2.  What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?

Passion, creativity, consistency, and organization. I have an enormous amount of energy and drive and would be honored to apply my skills to keeping ALSC vital in the 21st century. I am a process nerd and love figuring out how an organization works and how it could improve without losing its core values.

3.  What area of library service to children is your favorite?

I love it all! Outreach, programming, teaching, collection development, cataloging, finances. The beauty of being a school librarian is that I am able to do everything from processing books to putting on puppet shows. This variety is why I love being a children’s librarian!

4.  Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?

ALSC offers library professionals the opportunity to meet people from all over the country who have different experiences and points of view. This mix of people creates a dynamic space that allows for new ideas and relationships to form. ALSC provides its members with so many opportunities to develop professionally which is imperative whether you are early or late in your career. It is because of ALSC that I learned about the difference between endowments and long-term investments, how to create a strategic plan, and conduct a webinar. ALSC provides experiences that are not necessarily available at a local level.

5.  What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?

The advantage of being a member of ALSC is the impact you can have at a national level and the relationships you can develop with people from around the country. We need our current members to speak with their local colleagues and find out what they need, bring that information back to ALSC, and find ways to meet those needs. Recruiting new members is something that all of our current members can do to help ALSC remain active and current. I would also like our current members to create a reel for youtube on the benefits of ALSC to help us reach even more potential members.

6.  How has ALSC membership impacted your life? How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?

ALSC has completely shaped my professional life. My career and my program have been elevated in ways I would never have expected. At the beginning of my career I learned new programming skills, heard about innovative services others were offering and fell in love with first time authors. Later, ALSC provided me with opportunities to learn about organizations, management, and process in ways I wouldn’t have had in a one school environment. But, most importantly, it gave me the courage to try new things in my program that have had a huge impact on how my students experience the library. On a personal level, I have been introduced to amazing professionals who have become lifelong friends and supportive colleagues.

7.  Changes in the economy and advances in technology are dramatically impacting libraries. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children?

We need to encourage librarians to embrace the change and go boldly into the future. ALSC will continue to broadcast the importance of libraries and support librarians in their communities. We need to make sure that people understand the value that librarians bring in an age where everything is done by consensus. There is a major difference between a librarian’s expertise and the reviews on Amazon. ALSC needs to be at the forefront of advocating for librarians and libraries.

8.  ALSC has a commitment to conversations on diversity and inclusion and the essential roles that children’s librarians have in ensuring rich and diverse collections and programming. How will you work to enhance this commitment?

I want to continue to build on the momentum that is focused right now on ensuring that diversity, in all of its manifestations, is reflected in materials for children at all levels. Having the books themselves is not negotiable if we want to create diverse collections and programming. We also need to make sure that those books reach children, that librarians are buying the books for their collections and that they are getting on the shelves. I have always wanted to create a legion of librarians who makeover a library in need by processing, cataloging and shelving books leaving the librarian time and energy to create quality programming with a revamped space.

9.  What is your motivation in running for this position?

My desire is to make sure that ALSC is front and center in the national discussion when we talk about what services are imperative in a child’s life. I want to translate the passion I have for making sure that high quality library services are available to all children into tangible items that will help our members and the organization move forward.

10.  What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?

I believe that the gravitas of ALSC needs to be deepened through a marketing campaign that is followed by actions that are strong and clear. I have a vision that ALSC is well known in all types of learning and political institutions and can advocate effectively for funding for all communities. Libraries will once again be recognized as the cornerstone of a democratic society and our goal should be that everyone should have access to the myriad variety of services we provide.

Thank you, Tali!

The post Tali Balas: 2015 -16 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn: 2015-16 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate

In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for 2015-16 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn and Tali Balas. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This morning’s interview is with Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn:

1. What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?


Photo by Christine Caputo

As president I would serve as the presiding officer for our organization’s governance. Yet I would consider my most important role to be the ALSC communicator-in-chief, keeping our association united around our goals and objectives and eager to face what the future brings. Our association is organized for the purpose of “creating a better future for children through libraries,” so that through free and equal access to library services, children can & will develop a love of reading and learning and become responsible citizens in our communities. It is through the united strength of our dedicated children’s librarians & educators that ALSC makes a difference both locally and nationally. Representing the ALSC membership within ALA and on the national stage would be another important aspect of the communicator’s role. To accomplish this, I pledge to listen to our members’ suggestions and concerns and encourage all means of two-way communication as a crucial part of my becoming the members’ true representative.

2.  What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?

Organization and communication are my top two professional strengths; and through years of management experience, I have honed them into skills. I believe both would be excellent assets for the office of ALSC president. In addition, I have the time, energy, experience and enthusiasm to accept the challenge of standing for election to Vice-President/President-Elect.

3.  What area of library service to children is your favorite?

Training/ Professional Development would have to be my favorite, and I was fortunate enough to serve as a Continuing Educator/Inservice Trainer for children’s librarians at the Free Library of Philadelphia and in the state of Pennsylvania. Although I spent most of my library career working on city-wide library programming for children, teens, families, caregivers and educators, participating on the 2014 Newbery Committee brought back to me the JOY of reading and evaluating children’s books. Several grant-funded programs allowed us to experiment & evaluate youth programming using the latest technologies. It’s hard to pick just one favorite area of library service from my many experiences; really the only task I didn’t enjoy was cataloging.

4.  Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?

Nowhere else can you find such a welcoming cooperative community of dedicated professionals united around our common goal of providing excellent library service & reading materials for children, than ALSC. Especially for new members, ALSC offers graduate scholarship money and travel scholarships to attend annual conference. Our association gives grants and fellowships to recognize our members, support outstanding programming, and aid in continuing education; there is also special funding to support library programming and collections. ALSC is a treasure-trove of educational opportunities with formal and informal mentoring, sharing in-person through programs, conferences, and institutes, virtually through online courses, ALSC blog, and Connect, and through CHILDREN AND LIBRARIES and other print materials. The opportunities to participate in ALSC process and award committees provide seasoned members with unparalleled professional and personal development; it’s better leadership training for librarians than any MBA program. As an ALA member with many years of experience under my belt, ALSC is still “my professional family” that provides education, comradery, supports and challenges that keep me actively involved. And I am proud that ALSC is a voice on the national level advocating for free, equal library services for all children.

5.  What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?

Communication in all forms within ALSC is as important as our outreach for new members, and I pledge to keep this communication two-way and interactive. Because growing ALSC membership is such a critical priority for our association, I would commit to becoming an ex-offico member of the ALSC Membership Committee while serving as Vice-President/President-Elect. This hard-working standing committee has always executed excellent recruitment activities that promote the advantages of belonging to our association, as well as the many services and programs available to all members. I have enjoyed participating in ALSC 101 at past annual conferences, when I served on the ALSC Board, and I wholeheartedly support the ALSC Roadshow and continuing the funding for our ALSC volunteers to present, staff booths or coordinate social events at state and local conferences. Another support provided by ALSC through the Education Committee is the opportunity to be matched with an experienced librarian that has volunteered to share their knowledge and mentor newer members.

6.  How has ALSC membership impacted your life? How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?

ALSC keeps me up-to-date and knowledgeable about the latest innovations and information in our profession. This organization has enriched my personal and professional life with friends, mentors, and educational programs, as well as numerous opportunities to develop my professional skills. I was privileged to present on conference program panels, to serve on the ALSC Board of Directors, and to serve on two Newbery Award Committees. All of which helped to build my knowledge, confidence and professional reputation.

My membership in ALSC has always made me a better and more informed children’s librarian and administrator of children’s library services and programming. The professional development materials including annual conference programs, institute sessions, and training materials such as Every Child Ready to Read, were and are so outstanding, I brought the information and sometimes even the official trainers to the Free Library of Philadelphia for our children’s librarians and other interested staff. And today I promote ALSC online materials and membership to my grad students at Drexel.

7.  Changes in the economy and advances in technology are dramatically impacting libraries. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children??

Challenges to the national economy have only re-enforced my commitment to ALSC and its strong national advocacy, which provides information and support for state and local resources for children in both public and school libraries. ALSC must continue this vital leadership role of advocacy for children and increased funding for libraries no matter what is happening in our nation’s economy. Another positive force from ALSC is the Everyday Advocacy project that empowers librarians to speak out. So whether on the local or national level, the association must ensure that it has a “place at the table” whenever decisions are made that affect children’s rights to libraries that are staffed with professional librarians.

Staying ahead of the curve with technology is essential for providing excellent library service to children, and ALSC serves as the fountainhead of knowledge in the field of library technology & its effects on children. By demonstrating, evaluating and educating our members on the best tech devices, systems, programs, applications, and materials currently available, our budget-starved libraries can wisely spend their limited funds on the best products & materials for children. Dealing with new media and technology is when I rely on our association’s newer members to help me & the other more experienced librarians to become more tech-savvy.

8.  ALSC has a commitment to conversations on diversity and inclusion and the essential roles that children’s librarians have in ensuring rich and diverse collections and programming. How will you work to enhance this commitment?

One of ALSC’s strong commitments to diversity can currently be seen in our joint support with Reforma for the DIA: Diversity in Action program. As ALSC President, I would certainly want to continue the exciting efforts that culminated at ALA Mid-Winter 2015 with the Day of Diversity and the Diversity Matters sessions. These conversations included finding practical strategies for increasing diversity awareness in the publishing and library worlds, ways to increase diversity in print and digital materials available for children, how to attract diverse children and families into libraries, and ways to build partnerships to create and share resources that support multicultural programming. From these rich conversations, our association will be able to formulate a plan of action and what our next steps will be. I believe that ALSC will institutionalize our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and if elected, I pledge to make this a priority. In addition, I have a strong commitment to support diversity among our membership.

9.  What is your motivation in running for this position?

I want to pay forward the numerous benefits that ALSC has provided for me. My membership in ALSC has enhanced my professional career and increased my enjoyment of children’s librarianship and literature so much. I look at standing for this election as my way of giving back to the organization that has given so much to me.

I wholly support the ALSC strategic plan and its blueprint for our organization, but we also need re-evaluate the plan and increase our commitments to diversity and emerging technologies. This is not a criticism of our strategic plan, which was formulated in 2010-11 when I was a Board member. Our strategic plan calls for a re-examination in 5 years (in 2017), and I would like to be part of this re-assessment.

10.  What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?

Here are three miscellaneous facts:

  • When not reading children’s books, I enjoy non-fiction, biographies and historical fiction. I guess the college history major in me still comes through.
  • I have come full circle since retiring from The Free Library of Philadelphia, by returning to my alma mater Drexel University to become an adjunct professor and teach Children’s Literature. Taking an earlier version of this same Children’s Literature course at Drexel was what convinced me to become a Children’s Librarian.
  • My orientation trainings as a new Children’s Librarian were led by Carolyn W. Field and Helen Mullen, both of whom served as ALSC presidents.

Thank you, Betsy!

The post Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn: 2015-16 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Building a great e-audio collection

The audiobooks in your library’s digital collection are easy to access from computers, tablets, iPods and smartphones. As you build and market the collection, keep in mind the different ways that children and families use audiobooks, and select titles to meet a variety of needs.

Preschool children may be drawn to the stories and characters of their favorite picture books. Think carefully about how the text will play without the pictures that help tell the story. You’ll also want to take checkout limits into consideration. Collections of multiple books, like Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss, and early chapter books like Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! may be more attractive to borrowers than a title which only lasts a few minutes.

Families listening together need titles that appeal to everyone. Stories like The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher include characters of multiple ages. Parents listening with older children will find a lot to talk about in nonfiction like The Port Chicago 50.

Children who have their own tablet or iPod can download and listen independently. For older elementary kids, having what they want the first time they look is crucial. Order at least once a week and pre-order when you can, so that your homepage shows the freshest new titles and you always have the latest books in their favorite series.

What are your secrets for building a great e-audio collection? Please share them in the comments.


This month’s blog post by Rachel Wood, ALSC Digital Content Task Force

We would love to hear from you. Please email us at digitalcontenttaskforce@gmail.com and join our ALSC Digital Content Task force group on ALA Connect. Share ideas! Add to discussions!

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6. Young Children, New Media & Libraries Infographic

Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey

Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey (image courtesy of ALSC)

Between August 1 and August 18, 2014, 415 children’s librarians responded to a survey of 9 questions concerning the use of new media with young children in libraries. The survey was created as a collaborative effort between Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), LittleeLit.com, and the iSchool at the University of Washington. Preliminary finding are available through an infographic created by ALSC’s Public Awareness Committee.

You can download a copy of this infographic from the ALSC Professional Tools site.

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7. Leveling and Labeling: An Interview with Pat Scales

Pat ScalesAs school districts across the country continue to adopt leveled reading programs like Accelerated Reader, school and public libraries are under increasing pressure to label library materials with leveling information. This can be a distressing proposition for many reasons, but it is particularly concerning from an intellectual freedom standpoint. What does it mean for young readers when they are limited to certain reading levels, and what might be the effect of having one’s reading ability stamped onto the cover a book for all to see?

Librarians want to support their local educators, parents, and children. So when does leveled reading begin to infringe on students’ intellectual freedom, and how can we help our communities understand these problems?

We asked Pat Scales, retired school librarian, past President of ALSC, and spokesperson for first amendment issues, to share some information on leveled reading systems, labeling, and their relationship to intellectual freedom.

Additional resources that you might find useful include Labeling and Rating Systems: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights and Questions and Answers on Labeling and Rating Systems, both from ALA.org.

School Library Journal also offered a free webinar in September 2014, School Library Journal Webinar: Let’s Talk About Banned Books, which is archived and can still be viewed. Pat addressed many of these questions in more detail during her section of the webinar.

How do book leveling systems such as Accelerated Reader, Lexile and Action 100 limit intellectual freedom for children?

There are many troubling things about these leveling systems, but the systems don’t abridge freedom to read. It’s the practice of limiting students’ access to materials based on reading levels that infringes on students’ right to read. Unfortunately this is common practice in many school libraries, and some public libraries feel pressured to implement such restrictions.   Librarians serving children should evaluate how these systems are used and develop policies that promise free and open access to students of all ages.

Some school libraries are labeling their entire collections so that children can find books on their required reading levels quickly. What issues do you see with this?

Labeling is an unacceptable practice, and violates the spirit of the Library Bill of Rights. “Organizing collections by reading management program, level, ability, grade, or age level is another form of restricted access.” (Restricted Access to Library Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights) A library promotes reading, but isn’t a reading classroom. Instead it should be a place where children discover the magic of story, and the power of information. Reading levels shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honor or a badge of shame. That is what happens when libraries are reduced to reading laboratories. Additional points:

  • Students may be able to handle books that are beyond their “tested reading level” if they are interested enough in the book. Chronological age and emotional maturity play a much greater role in what children choose to read than reading level. Gifted students are often expected to read far beyond their maturity level simply because they can read a text. There are documented censorship cases where elementary schools purchased books more appropriate for young adults all because the books had a higher reading level.
  • Students who need a quick overview on a topic may find it in an “easier” text, but may then be led to more difficult books on the subject.
  • Students should expect a certain amount of privacy when making their reading selections. If books are labeled with reading level stickers, whether on the cover or on the inside of the book, there is the possibility that other students take note of the labels, thus violating a student’s privacy.
  • Librarians are trained in collection development and reader guidance. Reading leveling systems preclude them for doing their job.

How should school and public librarians work together to ensure that children get access to the books they are required to read as well as the books they want to read?

Public librarians should ask to meet with school librarians or teachers in the spring when reading lists are likely developed for the following school year. Ask that schools share these lists to assure that public libraries have the books in the collection. Exchange email addresses so that the public library and schools can stay in touch regarding services. Sponsor a back to school program for teachers and parents (advertised on the public library and school websites) and include the following:

  • Encourage the group to share their favorite children’s books – whether from their childhood or ones they share with their students.
  • Ask adults to share their library experiences as a child. Take what they say and lead a discussion about best practices. How did their experience shape their view of libraries today?
  • Make sure that parents and teachers understand that a child shouldn’t be tested on every book they read. And, the point should be made that children don’t need to comprehend every nuance in a book to enjoy the story.
  • Invite readers (from the summer reading program) to share some of their favorite books.
  • Encourage older readers to suggest titles for younger readers.

Often librarians struggle on the front lines when parents refuse to let their children check out books not in their reading system or on their reading level. Do you have any suggestions for gentle ways that librarians can advocate for the child’s intellectual freedom while respecting the parents in the middle of a readers advisory or reference transaction?

  • Ask to speak with the parent in private and explain all the reasons that children read.
  • Suggest that the parent allow the child to take several books – variety of topics and reading levels.

What are some of the limitations of book rating websites such as Common Sense Media, The Literate Mother, and Facts on Fictions?

These sites aren’t really book review sites, and some of the people writing the entries don’t really know children’s books. The focus isn’t on the entire book as a work of literature. Instead they rate the content of books using emoticons or graphs – calling out issues related to sex, profanity, violence, and drinking and drugs. Some of the sites make specific reference (by page number) to what they view as troubling content.   This is a real threat to libraries and the patrons they serve. For example, a chaste kiss may be interpreted as having a lot of sex in the book. There are documented cases where books have been removed from libraries based on Common Sense Media reviews. The most troubling thing of all is that there are librarians who rely on these sites because they think knowing about “controversial content” protects the library. These aren’t selection tools. Don’t be sucked in by such a false sense of security. Instead take the time to get to know these sites, and it will become crystal clear that these people don’t know how to evaluate books.

While we know that librarians are the best resource for connecting kids with the right books, how can librarians let their communities know they are there to help? How should we be advocating for ourselves?

Find opportunities to speak to civic groups and tell the public library story. Share a little of the history of children’s programming in the local library, and make a connection between services offered in the past and those offered today. Civic groups tend to respond to statistics, but tell human interest stories as well. Perhaps a teen parent brought her baby to the public library to find books for him, and you worked with the teen parent to help her know how to interact with her child through story.

Also, be in touch with various agencies and organizations serving children and families and suggest books and materials that may help them with their work. These may include the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, a homeless shelter, Safe Houses, detention centers, the city or town’s parks and recreation system, arts councils, etc.

Consider a library blog that showcases public library programming.   Encourage parents to ask librarians reader guidance kinds of questions. For example, “My daughter loves the Harry Potter Books. What else what else might she like?” Respond with a specific answer, or simply ask the parent to bring the child to the public library so that librarians can guide her.

BIOGRAPHY: Pat Scales is a retired middle and high school librarian whose program Communicate Through Literature was featured on the Today Show and in various professional journals. She received the ALA/Grolier Award in 1997, and was featured in Library Journal’s first issue of Movers and Shakers in Libraries: People Who Are Shaping the Future of Libraries. Ms. Scales has served as chair of the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder Award Committees. She is a past President of the Association of Library Service for Children, a division of the American Library Association. Scales has been actively involved with ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee for a number of years, is a member of the Freedom to Read Foundation, serves as on the Council of Advisers of the National Coalition Against Censorship, and acts as a spokesperson for first amendment issues as they relate to children and young adults. She is the author of Teaching Banned Books: Twelve Guides for Young Readers, Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your School Library and Books Under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children’s Books. She writes a bi-monthly column, Scales on Censorship, for School Library Journal, a monthly column for the Random House website, curriculum guides on children’s and young adult books for a number of publishers, and is a regular contributor to Book Links magazine.

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8. Spring Break

Creative Commons Search Crystal Ball Take #3, by Isabel T

Creative Commons Search Crystal Ball Take #3, by Isabel T

While I listen to the meteorologist telling me to expect snow tomorrow, and see the pictures of my friends’ vacations on Instagram, I find myself reflecting on my library year and the changes that I want to be making.

When I first started in the school library, the culture shock was fresh and up front. I was used to working in a large public library with a population ranging from babies to teens in my section. We rarely saw parents. We rarely questioned book choices. We were always running. Finding books, readers’ advisory, RIF programs, lapsits, story-times, loads of programs and lots of desk time.

When I started at school I had a full compliment of classes, but the collection I was working with was a fraction of the size.  Parents were always in the library.  This was different.

Anyone who has worked both in school and public libraries understands that the charges of the jobs are different. As a school librarian, my main role is to support the mission of the school. I also support the classroom teaching and of course all of the readers. It is wonderful really getting to watch students grow into readers and scholars.  But there seemed to be an element of fun that was missing at school that was always present in the public library.

As I have spent time at school (13 years and counting), I find myself adding elements of my old public library life into my school library life.  Crafting and making, heart throb biographies, and DEAR are all making their way into my curriculum. Puppets may be next.

So as I look back at this year and at the soft goals that I try to have most if not all of my work with the students connect to, I have figured out one more to add.


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9. April is Autism Awareness Month – Partner Up to Reach Families in Your Community

Why not make this April your chance to reach out to the families in your community who are affected by autism? Anything you do can make a positive impact: from offering a program like Sensory Storytime to something more passive like creating a display, booklist, or web post. The important thing is that families with children on the autism spectrum feel welcome and included in the life of the library.

One way to get families with children with all types of disabilities into your library is to offer an informational program for parents and caregivers. Did you know that in every state there is a dedicated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) that offers information and workshops about disabilities, special education rights, and local resources for families? PTIs are funded by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.

Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC), which offer the same types of support as PTIs, but focus on reaching underserved populations (rural, low income, or limited English proficiency). You can use this interactive map to find the PTI or CPRC in your area.

Why reach out to a PTI? They can come to the library and do a workshop on Early Intervention, special education basic rights, the IEP process, or transition services (just to name a few). By offering a parent workshop like this, you can highlight the library as a place where families of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, can come together for learning and support. Once those parents and caregivers are inside the library, you can begin a larger conversation. “How can the library better support you? What types of materials or programs would be most useful for you and your child(ren)?”

While you’re at it, partner with your local Early Intervention office, Special Education department, Special Education Parent Advisory Council, and Arc. These established local organizations can help promote your event, and even be on hand to answer questions, hand out brochures, etc.

Have you offered parent workshops at your library? Did you work with your local PTI or another group? What topics are most useful for parents in your area? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

Ashley Waring is a Children’s Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA and a member of the Liaison with National Organizations Committee.

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10. Stealth Programming During Spring Break

During the hustle-and-bustle of Summer Reading prep lurks the mini-test of your Busy Summer Room abilities: Spring Break. The schools aren’t in session, the weather is getting better, and kids are itching for something to do.

Spring Break is a great time to try out some passive/stealth programming, which can run with minimal staff involvement. You’ll ensure the kids will be engaged no matter when they show up!

Leaving a few self-directed activities around the room during Spring Break tells kids and their families: “Welcome! We’ve been expecting you.” And since many of these kids may be new or less-than-regular visitors, this is a really strong message to send. It shows that the public library is a thriving part of the local community, in tune with what’s important to local families.

Need some last-minute ideas to be a Spring Break sensation? Here are a few sanity-saving kid-centered activities you can use right away:

  1. LEGO Check-Out Club: get out your box of LEGOs (or have a colleague bring some from home), and have each child add a LEGO (or a couple) to a structure in the room. Programs like this help the public visually understand the magnitude of library usage, and an enormous tower that your kid patrons built themselves is a pretty cool way to advocate for your library. This year, rather than bagging up the LEGO, we ended up just handing the kids some blocks. Here are two other iterations by Jenny and the Librarians in Washington, DC (find some more librarian thoughts and reblogs at http://jennyandthelibrarians.tumblr.com/) and Rebecca in Gretna, NE (check out her programming at http://hafuboti.com/).
  2. Interactive displays and writing prompts: a question or a challenge, some paper, and you’re good to go. Angie at Fat Girl Reading has used a Boggle display and a crossword display that have promoted an ongoing initiative while doubling as a passive program. Jennifer at In Short, I am Busy adds a writing prompt to an art table to highlight language and literacy (as well as decorate the room!). I also really love Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things’s “Draw a Yeti” writing prompt. In a pinch, you can never go wrong with a question and a table covered in paper!
    3. Room Hunt: There are lots of ways to do room hunts. What I love so much about them is that 1) they are super easy to make, 2) you can print them on stock paper or laminate them and use them forever, and 3) they plug directly into kid patrons’ curiosity and autonomy. They’re up for the challenge and they want to do it themselves. Anna at Future Librarian Superhero has a fun room hunt using Diary of a Wimpy Kid characters. Brooke at Reading with Red shares a gnome room hunt that she deftly differentiated for use with preschoolers AND elementary kids. If you have more tweens hanging around, you might want to try an Adventure Time Fist-Bump room hunt!

What’s your go-to Spring Break program? Let us know in the comments!


Today’s guest blogger is Sara “Bryce” Kozla, Youth Services Librarian in Wisconsin and virtual member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration (SPLC). Bryce blogs about youth services programming and issues at http://brycedontplay.blogspot.com/. Email her at brycedontplay <at> gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @plsanders.

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11. Program in a Post: Tape Games

With this post, a lot of tape, yarn and a few toys you can create a fun and dynamic program for kids of all ages.

Lazer Maze

Lazer Maze


  • Tape (painter’s tape is the best)
  • A few sheets of paper, crumpled
  • Yarn
  • 3 tennis balls
  • 2 large toy vehicles

Prep work: Print signs, gather supplies and collect books about games and rainy day activities for display. If you would like signs with activity instructions, comment here and I will send them to you.

Room setup: Set up four different activities with signs around the room.

  • Skee-Ball: Make a target with tape on the floor and assign different point values.
    Photo courtesy of the author.

    Skee Ball

    Make a line for kids to stand behind and put out tennis balls or crumpled paper balls. Kids will try to score as many points as they can with the three balls.

  • Dump Truck Race: Make two zig-zag race tracks on the floor. Put out some crumpled paper along each track. Put the dump trucks at the starting line. Kids will race the trucks along the track, picking up paper balls as they go.

    Photo courtest of the author.

    Dump Truck Races

  • Spider Web: Run tape between to chairs in a giant messy spider web. Make a tape line on the floor (for kids to stand behind) and put 7 crumpled balls of paper nearby. Kids will stand behind the line and throw the balls into the spider web, trying to get as many to stick as they can.

    Photo courtesy of the author.

    Spider Web

  • Lazer Maze: Make a line of chairs near a wall. Tape yarn from the chairs to the walls and back over and over until you have a “lazer maze”. Throw a few crumpled balls into the maze for kids to pick up. The object here is to get from one end of the maze to the other, picking up the paper balls and not getting hit by a lazer.

Format: Open house.

Tape games work for group visits, up to about 60 kids, depending on the size of your space. It is also a great family open house event. Little kids will need some grown up assistance with the games. Have a blast!

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12. Programming Over Breaks

This past week was our local schools Spring Break. We always see a spike in attendance and interest in programs during school breaks, so this year we decided to have something happening every day of the week. I focused on having things that were a balance of passive and come and go programs, regularly scheduled things as well as a couple that were more staff intensive. Our week looked like this:

Monday: Lego Movie Build-a-long (we watched The Lego Movie and built with Legos)

Tuesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Super Smash Brothers Tournament for teens

Wednesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Scavenger Hunt Afternoon (a come and go event that featured various scavenger hunts throughout the library)

Thursday-Crafternoon-(one for kids, one for teens, both come and go events where we put out various craft supplies and let the kids make whatever they want)

Friday-Fairy Tale Bash (a more staff intensive program with lots of stories and activities)

Saturday-Storytime (regularly scheduled program), Pi Day Party (another drop in event but it was a bit more staff intensive with prep and planning)

Throughout the week we had a steady attendance and the library itself was busy. But as the the week went out, the attendance for the programs also waned. It was a mix of people being busy, programs not happening at a time that worked for people, and competing against the first wave of warm and sunny weather.

While I think it’s important to provide programs for our patrons, I also spent the week wondering if we were doing too much. Throughout the week we received call after call about what we had going on, so I know the interest was there. But I also struggle with how much to offer. How much staff time do I spend to make sure patrons have something to do over a school break? And does it really matter?

I’ve been struggling recently with how much do we really need to provide as far as programming. We’ve started doing more passive activities in the department, we have a play and learn center in the department for the younger set, and  we’re putting out STEM related activities for the school age crowd. We have books, games, computers, magazines, and toys, yet I always seem to hear those patrons asking “but what else do you have?” How much do we really need to have? Do we need to program something every day during a school break? Do our summers need to be filled with programs happening all the time? Or can we step back, take a break, and say we have the library when they ask “but what else?”

I’d love to know-how much do you program around school breaks?

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13. The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, Featuring Brian Selznick

Greetings, colleagues!

I want to invite you to visit Washington, D.C. this spring. Azaleas, moonlit walks to the Lincoln Memorial, and Brian Selznick—does it get any better?!

Color Photo, Jamey Mazzie

Color Photo, Jamey Mazzie

I’m sure you know that Brian is giving this year’s prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot lecture. His topic is Love Is a Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books. Sure to be provocative as well as entertaining, the event takes place on Friday, May 8, at 7:00 pm at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. Doors open at 6:00 pm. The lecture is free, but tickets are required. Visit dclibrary.org/selznick for everything you need to know, from a special hotel rate to evening logistics.

Bring the family! On Saturday, DC Public Library will host “A Visit with Brian Selznick” at 2:00 pm. Children may learn about his life and work during the Q&A and will then have a rare opportunity to meet him in the signing line. Book-related activities will be part of the fun. Guests are also encouraged to explore the interactive, multi-media exhibit at the library entitled, Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick. Enter 8’ pages, play with an automaton, “pilot” the route that Amelia and Eleanor flew in a Google Earth simulation, discover Smithsonian treasures in the Cabinet of Wonder. Still wondering if you should reserve your trip? Check this out: Spring in DC

We hope to see you in May!

Wendy Lukehart
Youth Collections Coordinator
DC Public Library

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14. Advocate for Your Diverse Community

April 30th is the annual celebration of the diverse culture and heritage of our community.   As a library, our mission is not only to advocate for the library, but for our community.  What better way to do this, than to celebrate that which makes each culture so special?

The first library I worked at embraced this philosophy. The Hoover Public Library created a program called, “Celebrate, (insert country).”   By contacting the local university’s multicultural council, local cultural groups, and reaching out to the community, the library spends a week celebrating the diverse population it serves.  During their programs that week, the library highlights that culture’s literary and local contributions.

  • Book clubs read and discuss books from that culture.
  • Story times incorporate the cultural theme.
  • Community programs are created which hire authentic local musicians, and artists. Ethnic cuisine is also served to embrace and welcome everyone to celebrate these cultures.

Being a part of this program made me realize that it is the library’s duty to reach out to its community, to advocate for all members, and to emphasize the importance of literacy for all cultural backgrounds. In turn, those communities will advocate for the library, as well.

Gloria Repolesk is the Children’s Library Manager at the Emmet O’Neal Public Library in Mountain Brook, Alabama. She is writing this blog post on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

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15. Nominate a Colleague for the 2016 ALSC Ballot

Do you have a colleague who is a well-organized and knowledgeable manager, a skilled and articulate book evaluator, or an intelligent and creative leader in the field of youth services? Do you recognize one or more of these qualities in yourself? We are looking for ALSC members committed to our core values — Collaboration, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Integrity and Respect, Leadership, and Responsiveness — to serve our association. The 2015 ALSC poll will open soon for voting, and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s slate of candidates.

The members of the 2016 ALSC Nominating Committee encourage you to make recommendations for the following positions for the spring 2016 ballot:

  • ALSC Vice-President/President-Elect
  • ALSC Board Director
  • New to ALSC Board Director
  • ALSC Fiscal Officer
  • ALSC 2018 Caldecott Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Newbery Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Sibert Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Wilder Award Committee Member

The deadline for member nominations for the 2016 slate is Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Simply fill out the online suggestion form at:

Suggestion Form for 2016 ALSC Ballot 

We appreciate your assistance, and look forward to hearing from you.

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16. Cultivating Creativity: Technology that encourages learning about art

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. - Pablo Picasso

Two of my favorite types of programs to offer at the library are science and art programs. Many times I find the boundaries between the two blurring, discovering connections between the two areas. That’s probably why I loved adding the “A” for art to STEM to form STEAM (a movement started by the Rhode Island School of Design: http://www.risd.edu/about/STEM_to_STEAM/).

Pointillist style paintings of eyes

A 6th grade class used art to explore how the eye mixes colors that are adjacent to one another.

Children experience deeper learning about science through creative, artistic activities and correspondingly, discover more about art through the lens of science (think about light and the Impressionists, Georges Seurat’s scientific approach to pointillism, Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura.) So I’m adding a little art into your Pi day today!

Children are, as Picasso noted, natural artists. For preschoolers, scribbling is a first step toward writing and drawing.

hands pasting paper onto a mural

Preschooler and parent work together to glue shapes onto a mural.

Cutting with scissors, pasting and gluing, molding shapes with playdough, and scribbling all help to develop those fine motor skills that will be needed in school. Learning to appreciate art can be a bit more challenging, but something that can be encouraged. I didn’t take an art history class until college, but with online opportunities offered through Khan Academy and the Google Art Project, among others,  kids can explore art quite closely these days even if they live far from a large city with a major art museum. These sites also can develop vocabulary for talking about art. Experience with story is helpful in appreciating art, and it works both ways — children can learn about stories through art, and their knowledge of story and history can help them to understand and appreciate art.

Below are a few technological resources to support your exploration, to encourage you to help create a culture of art at your library. Hopefully these will be considered as starting points and as extensions for other activities, for there is no substitute for messy, hands-on creative activities or for an actual museum visit where you see a painting and think: “Wow! I didn’t know it was so big!”, experience a sculpture in all three dimensions, or wonder at the movement of a mobile.

Background Knowledge & Virtual Museum Visits:

Khan Academy

Web, free

From the main page, under “Subjects”, choose “Arts and Humanities” and the second heading is Art History. You might begin with the basics or try “Why Look at Art?

There are lots of great videos and resources included here. Preview videos before showing them and consider the ages and sensitivities of your audience (no fig leaves!)

Google Art Project

Web, free

Zoom in on some objects and be amazed at how close you can get — close enough to see brushstrokes. So close that if you were in a museum, the guard would likely be coming over to talk to you!

Playing with art:

NGAKids, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

iPad, free

Explore different paintings in the collection with different interactive experiences.With some activities children will gain familiarity with the work of art: for example, adding boats, figures and changing the light of a seascape before setting it in motion. In other activities they will create their own work in that artist’s style, as when they blend rectangles of color like Mark Rothko. Their works will be saved in an online art gallery and can be shared with parental permission.

MoMA  Art Lab, Museum of Modern Art, New York

iPad, free

Explore different artworks with engaging activities — for example, try to make mobile a la Calder, though it can be tricky to balance it just right.  Or “Draw with Scissors” and create a collage in the manner of Matisse. You can also choose a blank canvas to begin and create a completely original work with the tools provided.  Children can create art they can save and share, and get a smattering of art history along the way.

Lazoo: Squiggles

iPad, free

For the preschool age, this app is a fun early literacy tool to encourage pre-writing and fine motor skills. It is easy for young children to use themselves, open-ended and responsive to a child’s touch. After children make squiggles to the cartoon drawing they press “go” and the picture becomes animated. The more squiggles the artist makes, the more exciting the result.

For more apps that encourage creativity, see the recent Common Sense media guide:

“Modern Kids Guide to Creativity (to Crafting, Coding, Composing and More)”

which features many apps and games to encourage creativity. The guide offers detailed content reviews, recommended ages, information about in app purchases and ability to share with social networks. Some are low cost or free, while a few DS games are $30.

Additional Resources:

“The Art Room” by Heather Accero, ALSC Blog, Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/09/the-art-room/

“Library as Art Gallery” Karen Choy, ALSC Blog. May 29, 2014. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/05/library-as-art-gallery/

Library as Incubator Project. http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/

Making Art with Children blog from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art

“Meet Art” by Heather Bentley-Flannery. Jan. 27, 2015.  http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/01/meet-art/ – describes a great Matisse program

“Meet Art: Creative Hands-On Art Programs” by Heather Bentley-Flannery, ALSC Blog, Oct. 30, 2013. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/10/meet-art-creative-hands-on-art-programs/

Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.


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17. Winning Traits

Skill in presenting programs, an understanding of child development, and a love for working with young people are all traits required for staff working in youth services. There are other important traits which outstanding youth services staff must possess. When the time comes to replace a member of this department, what skills, characteristics and strengths do you seek? What do you admire in your colleagues?

It is true that youth services staff must have the special ability to connect with young people and their caregivers, but there are other characteristics that are necessary for staff to be the best team players they can be and for them to have the most positive impact on the team. A positive mind set, a strong work ethic, and problem-solving abilities are qualities that make staff excel.

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

For a positive mindset to truly make an impact in the workplace, it must be all encompassing and not selective. I’ve seen the most successful staff not only exude that warmth and their encouraging manner to customers of all ages, but to staff members at all levels as well. Not only do staff that are the most positive become the most productive in the workplace, their uplifting attitude often spreads to those around them. Positivity is a choice with healthy and long-lasting consequences. How have you found staffers’ positivity to benefit you and your work team?

Youth services staff also work hard! The physical aspect and the emotional energy they spend on presenting programs and engaging their patrons often knows no bounds. Typically, the amount of programming they produce is exhausting and the scope of the audience they reach is expansive. Staffers must have a strong sense of the importance and the efforts required in their position for them to most successfully complete all the demands their work requires. How do you see your colleagues’ work ethic impact the productiveness of your library system?

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

Youth services folk often have the uncanny ability to excel in problem-solving and the knack to think outside the box on any given issue. Do your supervisees or youth services colleagues easily see challenges that can be overcome or obstacles that hinder their growth? Perhaps youth services staff are so solution-driven because they fully grasp the significance of their work and the powerful impact they have in shaping young people’s lives. How do you see youth services staff being able to turn life’s headaches into highlights?

Our field is filled with youth services professionals demonstrating positivity, a strong work ethic, and problem-solving skills. What are the other characteristics that you see that are necessary for staff holding youth services positions in your libraries? What traits in your co-workers or supervisees are required to build the best possible team? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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18. Librarian currency

Librarian “Currency”

pile of cash

Image credit: openclipart.org

No, not this.  No, not “relevancy” or “state of currentness” either.

I’m talking about items that are sometimes more precious than cash and harder to come by—librarian currency—traded for goodwill, future favors, or goods of equal value.

Here are some items that pass for currency in my library:

  • Oatmeal boxes: Useful for drums, tubes, castle turrets and more,  they’re an invaluable resource, and trade well in the children’s librarian barter system
oatmeal box

Photo credit: L. Taylor

  •  Toilet paper tubes: The “penny” of the YS currency system,  useful but low-ranking

Photo credit: L. Taylor

  • Lego ®: Need a program in a hurry?  Better borrow some!

Image credit: openclipart.org

  • Cans – hey, you never know
Photo credit: Lisa Ferrara

Photo credit: Lisa Ferrara

  • And these little creepy heads?  Well, I’m not quite sure what they traded for, but someone took them!
Photo credit: Lisa Ferrara

Photo credit: Lisa Ferrara

So, what items are in your barter system?  Share yours – the curiouser, the better. :)

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19. Children’s Literature Connections in San Francisco

San Francisco is thrilled to host the ALA Annual Conference again this June. The Bay Area has a rich literary tradition and children’s books definitely are a part of it. Years ago, I wrote an article for School Library Journal (Déjà Views: A Tour of San Francisco Settings You’ll Recall from Children’s Books, SLJ, June 1997) that highlighted the city’s ties to Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, Kathryn Forbes, Berta Hader, Jade Snow Wong, Virginia Lee Burton, Eleanor Cameron and Laurence Yep. Several of the books mentioned in it are now in limited supply, if not out of print. This is not surprising: Wilder’s letters to her husband Almanzo, chronicling her journey to the city to visit their daughter, popular journalist Lane, and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, were written 100 years ago (West from Home). Wiggin’s work to establish the first free kindergarten in San Francisco (funding it with proceeds from the sale of The Bird’s Christmas Carol) took place almost 30 years before that. Maybelle’s uphill battle to save her species—can anyone conceive of a San Francisco without its cable cars?—was based on the successful Citizens’ Committee to Save the Cable Cars, almost 70 years ago (Maybelle the Cable Car, by Virginia Lee Burton).

But the literary spirit lives on, and thrives. A list of current local children’s and teen authors and illustrators, or books set here, would be a long one.

Indulge me, then, as I mention just a few, and the ALSC Preconference: Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books, on Friday, June 26, 2015, 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM, as there are several Honor Books (and their authors and illustrators) with Bay Area connections:

  • Yuyi Morales (Caldecott Honor Viva Frida) lives part time in San Francisco, and learned to make puppets from books borrowed from the Western Addition Branch Library.
  • Jon Klassen’s partner-in-imagination, Mac Barnett (Caldecott Honor Sam & Dave Dig a Hole) is from Oakland, and as teen, he was Peter Pan at Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland.
  • Belpré Illustrator Honor Little Roja Riding Hood, Susan Guevara, received her BFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Author Susan Middleton Elya lives in the Bay Area.
  • All California children benefitted from Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (Belpré Illustrator Honor, Sibert Honor), written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.
  • Several of the illustrious people profiled in Portraits of Hispanic America Heroes (Belpré Author Honor, by Juan Felipe Herrera) are well-known to the Bay Area, including Joan Baez and Rita Moreno.
  • We are so proud of talented local illustrator Christian Robinson, who created the Sibert Honor book Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker with author Patricia Hruby Powell.
  • And of course, those top-of-the-food chain Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands (Sibert Honor by Katherine Roy) are from our neighborhood (on a clear day, I can see the Farallon Islands from the park at the end of my street).

The Gold Rush may have ended almost two centuries ago, but San Francisco continues to offer literary gold—and several have shiny silver medals this year. Please join us in honoring them, and all other ALSC book honor winners, at the ALSC Preconference. Welcome back to the Bay Area, ALA!


Today’s blog post was written Carla Kozak, the Children’s and Teen Collection Development Specialist at the San Francisco Public Library, for the Local Arrangements Committee.


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20. The Beekle Experience

beekleAs a member of the 2015 Caldecott committee, making “the call” to Dan Santat on the morning of February 2 was such a thrill. The good folks at ALA make it possible for you to experience it HERE. Once the announcements of the Caldecott awards were made public, the Internet buzzed. One of the first things I saw online after the announcements was this short video from Dan Santat. It melted my heart. I was running on adrenaline, very little sleep, and home-made ginger cookies at this point, and that little clip just really got me. Dan Santat’s first Tweet of that day was “I’m so bummed the Patriots won the #SuperBowl last night. My whole day is ruined.” I immediately thought, “The guy is funny!” You can follow him on Twitter @dsantat. When I got back to my hotel room, I saw this amazing craft from This Picture Book Life blog. It inspired me to create my own Snow Beekle once I got back home.

When I was home I really dug in to read the Caldecott news. There are several interviews that will give you more about Dan Santat, like this one from Publisher’s Weekly, this one from NPR, this one from Dan’s local station in Pasadena, and this one on the 7 Impossible Things blog. And there’s this fun podcast from Picturebooking.

So, there’s a lot of Beekle love out there, and it is well-deserved. This year’s Caldecott medal book is one that you can share at preschool storytime. There’s already a craft you can make (with preschoolers I’d use frosting scribblers instead of Sharpie marker to make the face because you know they are going to want to eat it). You can use The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend with older groups, too. It is a seemingly simple book, but so much is going on. Embedded in this story is the archetypal Hero’s Journey: Beekle leaves home on a quest, heeding his call to adventure. He leaves his normal world and ventures out into the unknown. He then experiences trials in that world: he is looking for something, and searches valiantly. Once Beekle finds what he is looking for, and has bonded with his new friend, he can return, and do the unimaginable. For more on the Hero’s Journey, and how Beekle relates, try this link.

Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Look closely at that art! Each section of the journey is denoted by color and slight style changes, and fits the pacing just right. Look for the color yellow to tell you that change or something significant has occurred. Look at the emotion on our hero’s face when he meets his friend. Explore those end pages. Take that dust jacket off and revel in the lovely board cover underneath. Find the joy in this book that so many young children do. And don’t forget to look for the Beekle Bum – that image gets noticed every time I share this book in storytime.
Have fun with this book, and if you have more ideas on how to use it in storytime or in the classroom, share in the comments!

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21. The Joys of Reading through Windows

We all know that when it comes to stories, children need both mirrors and windows to understand their place in the wide world.

This never ending winter has given my life a different pace. Curtailed from Saturdays scheduled with errands and voice lessons, sewing lessons and play dates, my children and I have been reading aloud. They are both independent readers and have been for some time. My son is 16 and my daughter turns 11 this month but the joys of reading aloud are even richer than when they were little. Our options are more varied and their views of the world are wider. As librarians we have always known and advocated for reading aloud to older children but at least for me, making the time has been a challenge.

My pledge is that after the snow melts, I will still suggest and make space for Saturday morning readings that start our day with ideas, passion and a look into other worlds. This ability to glimpse into other worlds and gain greater empathy for others is the kernel of our concern and commitment to diversity in all its forms in our profession. While this is a personalized call to action and one I tend to avoid, having time to share books with my children in this amazing and profound way, reading aloud, makes me grateful for our public library and all its offerings. I really have everything I need in our literary backyard.

For our families, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), celebrates the stories in our communities. Our libraries are the perfect place of acceptance, inclusion and harmony. While we celebrate Día on one special day, April 30th, its name also stands for Diversity in Action and through this work, we reaffirm our daily commitment to ensure that all families have access to diverse books, languages and cultures. Without access to stories from other cultures, places and passions, we are a lesser world.

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22. Advocacy, Not Pity: An Interview about Early Literacy for Special Populations

For this blog post I interviewed Sarah McNeil, Outreach Librarian and Read Aloud Program Coordinator, and Lauren Dennis, Library Program Associate, both from the Early Literacy Department (ELD) at the Denver Public Library, CO (DPL). I have compiled our discussions, however, please note that the answers in this post are not verbatim quotations.

What special population(s) do you serve?

The largest special population served by DPL’s ELD is children who are affected by poverty or lower socioeconomic factors. They may be from immigrant families, families with low levels of literacy, and/or English language learners. This population is not identifiable by sight, which can make it difficult to serve.

Do you create programs specifically for this special population or  make your programs more inclusive?

ELD aims to make programs more inclusive, while still targeting the special population. If something is good for a special population it tends to be good for all community members. For instance, ECRR applies to all families, not just special population families. ELD assumes that everyone can use this information, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, etc.

What are some of the planning elements you consider when serving this special population?

  • Look to create partnerships with organizations that are already working with your target audience.
  • When choosing materials, look for a diversity of titles that reflect the experiences of your target audience, as well as provide a window into other cultures. Consider all the demographics of your target audience, not just one facet.
  • Movement is a great way to get everyone involved, no matter the language in which you are reading or speaking.
  • Use humor to establish trust as you build relationships.

What can libraries do (in-house or outreach) to make early literacy more accessible this special population?

Book/material giveaways are attractive to this special population. ELD tries to pair them with modeling opportunities, so that giveaways can be used to bring early literacy activities home. you can model dialogic reading when giving away books or make a song cube with parents and show how it can be used to encourage singing at home.

ELD has had great success with their Play and Learn Groups. These sessions take place at community centers outside of the library and use a storytime + craft format to connect with families and model early literacy practices. Each session focuses on a different ECRR2 practice (read, sing, talk, play, write). These sessions allow ELD to frame storytime as a learning activity and the library as a community resource.

What are some of the challenges serving this special population?

  • The Fear Factor – If you’re not a part of a population, it’s common to feel as though you don’t have anything to offer. No matter your life background, you have something to offer. It’s hard to walk the line between being a community resource and being preachy. Just remember, your job is to advocate, not pity.
  • The Language Barrier – If you don’t speak the language of your audience, choose materials that can be understood by language learners, such as picture books that rely on visuals to tell the story. Whenever possible, bring materials in the language of your audience.
  • Generalizing – Every person is a unique individual, so don’t expect all members of a special population to behave or like the same things. Think about validating the individuals’ experiences.
  • The Slow Build – It can take a while for a program to settle in and become successful. Start small and slow to give your program time to succeed.

How do you measure the success?

Lauren and Sarah admitted that the success of their programs can be difficult to determine. Attendance numbers are important, but they have found other ways to define success. For instance, ELD provides many parent presentations on early literacy. At the close of a presentation, a provider will often ask for participant feedback, such as what they will take home and use. They also look for evidence of relationship building, such as being invited or referred for another presentation or establishing a new community relationship, as successful markers.

Experience shapes brain architecture by over-production followed by pruning. Source: Center on the Developing Child - Harvard University.

Experience shapes brain architecture by over-production followed by pruning. Source: Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University.

How do you get special population parents/caregivers to buy into the importance of early literacy?

Sarah suggested showing them brain research. Caregivers always love to see and hear about the brain development of children when delivered in an easily digestible and humorous. Visuals, such as images of brain scans, are universal and helpful.

Sarah also encouraged library staff to think about what families want to do or be, rather than what they have or do now. It can help to show them how their goals can be met using the resources you are sharing with them. Because at the end of the day, parents are parents and they all want the best for their children.


Amy Seto Musser. Photo courtesy of Sherry Spitsnaugle/Denver Public Library

Amy Seto Musser. Photo courtesy of Sherry Spitsnaugle/Denver Public Library

Amy Seto Musser has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University and is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.com/

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

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23. Día Every Day

Coming soon: on April 30, we will celebrate the culmination of Día. But did you know that Día doesn’t end there? It’s the beginning of a new year of Book Joy, emphasizing the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds, and in all languages.

viva frida

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales. Image from http://us.macmillan.com/vivafrida/YuyiMorales.

How can you keep Día in your heart, and your work, every day? Commit to including a book, song, or rhyme from or about another place in every storytime. Creating a book display? Include diverse books on the theme, but then add translated editions of those titles; kids and adults need to know that their favorite reads are available in their first language. Visiting a site with your bookmobile? Check your stock for titles published in the languages spoken in the community before you depart. By demonstrating how easily all people can be represented, we encourage our peers, families, teachers, and caregivers to do the same.


Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Image from http://www.bookinaday.org/.

But where to find materials? So many resources are generated within our profession and beyond:

  • Check out the resources on the Día website at dia.ala.org, especially the recently-created “Building STEAM with Día” booklists.
  • Not ready to start a Día Family Book Club? Use the curriculum to guide discussion in any setting.
  • Need more? Bookmark the ALSC Book & Media Awards page and utilize the links to lists of vetted, quality titles and authors for kids from all backgrounds.
  • Look beyond libraryland: a quick web search leads to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which hosts a fantastic guide to booklists celebrating everybody!
  • Finally, talk to your peers! Share books at every opportunity. Make yourself familiar with your collection, pick favorite authors, and then include them in your programming, readers’ advisory interactions, school visits, and summer reading presentations.

Stay conscious of the need to represent the world to your families. With enough repetition, we’ll build a tolerant, inclusive, well-read, and better-educated community in which everyone is reflected in books. Keep Día in your heart and mind every day!


This post was written by Robin J. Howe, MLIS, Children’s Librarian with the King County Library System for the Public Awareness Committee. Reach Robin at rhowe@kcls.org.

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24. A successful author event!

Roland Smith 2015 photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Roland Smith 2015
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Last week, the Deschutes Public Library hosted author Roland Smith.  He visited middle schools throughout Central Oregon and I loved spending the day with him, traveling to different schools and hearing about his writing experiences, his popular books and his amazing animal adventures!

“Writing is revision”  —Roland Smith

Smith was inspiring as he shared his history and expertise with animals, how he became a writer and then highlighted his twenty-five books. They asked curious and a few silly questions.  One of the most popular questions asked was, what is your favorite book?  Smith’s favorite book is To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.  He’s read and listened to it over and over.

Writing  photo by Roland Smith

photo by Roland Smith

Another favorite question was, “Do you write in first or third person?”  He said it depends on the story.  “First person is more personal.  Beneath is written in first person but not really.  It’s an epistolary story so it has newspaper articles, tape recorder conversations, emails,” replied Smith.  He wrote one of my favorite books, Tentacles, on a cruise ship, working through the rough draft from Rome to the United States.  He said, “A cruise ship is the perfect place for writing.”

A question I always ask authors and illustrators is, what odd or unusual object is in your office?  Smith’s answer was an Elephant Bell. What’s an Elephant Bell?

Elephant Bell (top right corner)  photo by Roland Smith

Elephant Bell (top right corner)
photo by Roland Smith

“The bell is made out of teak by the Burmese oozies (mahouts) deep in the Burmese jungle. The timber elephants are let go in the afternoon after work to wander freely. Early the next morning the oozies go out to find their elephants for another day of work. They find their elephants by the sound of the bell. Each bell has its own unique tone. The rope attached to the bell is made by the oozies out of tree bark. There’s no hardware store where they live. I spent several weeks in elephant camps doing research for Elephant Run,” said Smith.

Roland Smith welcome sign photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Roland Smith welcome sign
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

School librarians and teachers were so involved in getting their students excited about the author visit.  (Thank you teachers and librarians!) By reading his books aloud in class, creating displays in the halls, and painting and drawing his book covers for a welcome sign, it all made for a successful visit! I visited each school with book talks and asked them what kinds of questions they would ask Smith.  I even brought my typewriter! (Roland Smith collects and writes with typewriters.)

paintings and drawings photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

paintings and drawings
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

After one of his visits, Becky, a sixth grade teacher at Sisters Middle School said, “The kids raved about him… if I had 100 copies of Beneath, they’d all be checked out!”

What is our favorite Roland Smith book?  Have you read Beneath?

For more information about Roland Smith, his writing adventures, and his latest books please explore his website. www.rolandsmith.com
Follow him on twitter @RolandCSmith or hang out with him on facebook.com/Roland.Smith

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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25. Sunny Books for Springtime Reads

I couldn’t stand it any longer. Even though we were facing significant snowfall the following day, I put up a springtime themed display on March 1 (several patrons and staff members who were aware of the forecast were amused, but I didn’t care). I had the last laugh, though, because several patrons added a spring book or two to the piles of books they carried to the checkout desk. (Nothing like a good snowstorm prediction to boost circulation statistics.)

Happily, the snow packs are starting to melt, and our springtime books are marching out the door with happy patrons. Here are some of my favorites:


(image taken from Macmillan website)

And Then it’s Spring is perfect for these not-quite-spring days. A young boy and friends are looking for signs of spring, but the grass and trees are rather dull-looking. This is the time to plant seeds, though, and plant them he does. And waits….until the longed-for green appears. Julie Fogliano’s text is poetic but down-to-earth, and Erin E. Stead’s illustrations are the perfect antidote to cold March days.


(image taken from HarperCollins website)

Finding Spring has been an enormous hit at our libraries, ever since we received it in the dark days of February. This little bear cub is in no mood for hibernating and is anxious to experience his first spring. However, he’s too early for spring, as snowflakes are definitely not an indication that spring has arrived.  Bear cubs need to hibernate during winter, so back he goes to Mama Bear, until spring finally finds him. Carin Berger’s text and illustrations are endearing and captivating; this is already on my Caldecott 2016 shortlist.


(image taken from Scholastic website)

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons is another sublime creation by Il Sung Na. Although animals endure the winter in different ways (some hibernate, some migrate, etc), little rabbit’s activities don’t change much throughout the winter. Rabbit’s brown coat reveal at the book’s conclusion shows that the shift in seasons brings a change even to him. This is a perfect choice for a “Rabbit Reads” story time that doesn’t include Easter Bunny books.

Do you have any must-read springtime favorites?


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