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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. Kitty Café

Youth service librarians live and breathe the ALA marketing campaign of Libraries Transform. Childhood is the most epically transformative time for human beings. However, none of these thoughts were in my mind when the Nebraska Humane Society agreed to be part of a Cat Café event at our library. Instead, I was focused on how incredibly fun this community partnership would be.

It wasn’t until during the event, when I went into the room to get some video footage, that I fully comprehended that lives were going to change that day. This realization was triggered by seeing a woman sitting on the floor playing with one of the kittens while inquiring about the adoption process. I became emotional because families were going to be created or enlarged at this event.

Later, while looking through social media I came across an update to the Nebraska Humane Society’s Facebook post about the program. Christina Kadlec, the woman whom I had observed earlier, shared that she had adopted two of the kittens from that morning’s Kitty Café event; what she wrote had me in tears. I reached out to Christina and asked her to more fully tell her story, and she graciously agreed.

Over the past two years I lost both of my best friends: Bearcat who was with me for 17 years, and then 18 year-old Marbles. To say I was heartbroken would be a gross understatement. My cats had been comforting me through almost all of life’s challenges. Coming home to an empty apartment was a very hollow feeling.

The morning of the Kitty Café, I had been battling with myself as to whether or not I would visit the Humane Society that day. I saw the post for the event on Facebook and I was captivated by the fuzzy dilute tortie in the pictures. I decided I would head out to Gretna, if for no other reason, to play with the kittens and enjoy their antics.

Upon arriving at the Kitty Café, I hung back and let the kids enjoy the kittens for the most part. However, it so happened that the fuzzy gray tortie and I ended up playing together quite a bit. Her sister, a gray tabby, also made me smile with her outgoing, fearless sense of adventure. I talked to NHS staff at the event about adoptions and arranged to come see “the girls” after the event.

Needless to say, when I visited them later that day, it was love. We completed the adoption process late that afternoon.

I’m so happy to come home to my playful, lively kittens! They cannot replace my previous cat friends, but they provide a needed salve for the cracks of my broken heart. Every day we learn a little more about each other and everyday they become more a part of my home. I am so grateful to Nebraska Humane Society & Gretna Public Library for giving me the opportunity to find my girls, Abigail & Zoe.

Click to view slideshow.

Photos courtesy of Christina Kadlec

After reading about the impact that this event has had on the lives of one woman and two kittens, please seriously consider creating your own Cat Café at your library. It’s a magical event that can transform the lives of both people and animals in your community.


Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Today’s guest blogger is Rebecca McCorkindale. Rebecca is Gretna Public Library’s Assistant Director/Creative Director, oversees the daily operations of the Children’s Library, and serves as the 2016 Chair of the School, Children’s, and Young People’s section of the Nebraska Library Association. For more information about Rebecca and her work, visit her blog hafuboti.com or email her at hafuboti@gmail.com.

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

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

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2. New Semester of ALSC Online Courses!

Winter 2016 ALSC Online CoursesStart 2016 fresh with new skills and program ideas!

Registration for Winter 2016 ALSC online courses is now open. Classes begin Monday, January 4, 2016.

One of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). ALSC online courses are designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Courses are taught by experienced librarians and academics. As participants frequently noted in post-course surveys, ALSC stresses quality and caring in its online education options.

It’s Mutual: School and Public Library Collaboration
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Rachel Reinwald, School Liaison and Youth Services Librarian, Lake Villa District Library

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, January 4 – 29, 2016, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs
Instructor: Angela Young, Head of Children’s Department, Reed Memorial Library

The Sibert Medal: Evaluating Books of Information
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Kathleen T. Horning, Director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin- Madison

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC website at www.ala.org/alsced. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Continuing Education, Kristen Figliulo, 1 (800) 545-2433 ext 4026.

Image courtesy of ALSC.

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3. Comics Gift Guide

‘Tis the season for winter holidays!

Does the tween in your life or your library love comics? Here are a few that need to be on your radar and will make your kids go absolutely nuts.

Source: Goodreads

Peppi Torres is just trying to survive her first days middle school. Suddenly she finds herself being both the teased and the teaser, and in the middle of a club war! Can she figure out how to make middle school bearable for both herself and those around her?

Source: Goodreads

Do your kids love PrinceLess? Well, let’s not forget about Angoisse, the oft-forgotten middle Ashe sister. What’s she been up to lately? Wellllll, it seems that the swamp surrounding her tower is inhabited by monsters and goblins and vampires! Not to worry, though, because her sister Adrienne and friend Bedelia don’t think twice about helping Angoisse rescue herself! The PrinceLess books are all fantastic and volume 4 is no exception.

Source: Goodreads

Well, Squirrel Girl is 100% delightful for readers of all ages, and it’s just been announced that Shannon and Dean Hale are going to write a YA novel about Doreen Green, so this is a GREAT time to get caught up on this girl who has the powers of a squirrel, awesome tale included. Bonus? Volume 2 comes out before Christmas, too! Perfect for the superhero fan in your life that also loves humor.

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

Do you have a Steven Universe fan in your family or your library? Then get this fully-illustrated handbook to the Crystal Gems into their hands, stat! Fully authorized and written by Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar, this book is full of new facts and fun illustrations. I promise your SU fans will eat it up.

Happy gift buying and book ordering!

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

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4. Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using?


Most recently, I read about it in the ALSC campaign Babies Need Words Everyday.


It was such a clear campaign with great graphics that we immediately hung up in our library’s bathroom. And, it had research to back it up – the introductory flyer said “By the time children from low-income families reach the age of four, they will have heard thirty million fewer words than their more advantaged peers.” The initiative was created in response to the Obama Administration’s 2014 call to increase early literacy initiatives to bridge the word gap. It uses the research that coined the 30 Million Word Gap as a talking point, and integrates newer research done by LENA or Dr. Dana Suskind, both of which use the “30 Million Word Gap” research as a framework for theirs. My colleague Claire Moore and I were curious about this statistic, and did some digging to learn more.

The “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley was a 2003 article in American Educator (Spring: 4-9), which was an excerpt from their 1995 book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. The research, although it has been used as a rallying cry in campaigns across the country (including Too Small to Fail, Thirty Million Words, and local initiatives), has been shown to have some disturbing issues.

The issues that other researchers and educators have found in this study include:


Here is a breakdown of their critiques.

Sample size

In their most cited body of research, the researchers visited 13 high-income families, 10 families of middle socioeconomic status, 13 of low socioeconomic status, and 6 families who were on public assistance in Kansas City one hour per month for two and a half years. They made 1,318 observations and counted vocabulary words spoken to children by parents. The families only included African-American and White families that spoke English; bilingual children do have slower rates of learning vocabulary, but have other skills that monolingual children do not have (Dufresny & Madsey, 2006). They then looked at the number of words heard by each child by SES and saw the gap that has been trumpeted over and over again. The average child on public assistance heard 616 words per hour, the working class child 1,251 words per hour, and the professional family’s child heard 2,153 words per hour of observation. This number was then greatly extrapolated to show that by age four, there was a 32 million word gap between the child receiving public assistance and the child in the professional class. This assumes that the year had 5200 hours and the big assumption: that the number of words heard in an hour during observation was typical.

Data coding

After the observations, the researchers coded the words the children were hearing from parents. They coded for “quality of interactions” and spent very little time explaining how these codes are backed up by research – in fact, their explanation cites extensive research, but the footnotes only contain a reference to look at their earlier research. Sarah Michaels, Professor of Education at Clark University, said, “Hart and Risley coded for upper middle class/academic or professional politeness and interactional patterns, found that the upper income families used more of them, and simply asserted that more of the quality features is better in producing learning-related outcomes. They identified upper and middle class features of talk, coded and counted them and found, guess what, they correlate with class” (p. 26, 2013). Other researchers say “…by taking the language practices of the middle- and upper-SES families in their sample as the standard, Hart and Risley transformed the linguistic differences they found among the welfare families in their study into linguistic deficiencies” (Dudley-Marling & Lucas, p. 365). The Hart and Risley study set up the working class families and families receiving public assistance to fail. Teresa McCarty, from the University of California Los Angeles, puts it well: “Cloaked in well-intentions— ‘giving children the competencies they need to succeed in school’ (Hart and Risley 1995:2)—gap discourse simultaneously constructs a logic of individual dysfunction, limitation, and failure while masking the systemic power inequities through which the logic is normalized” (Avinerini, et al, p. 71).


This deficiency thinking is similar to the reaction to a 1961 book by Oscar Lewis called The Children of Sanchez which coined the term “culture of poverty.” The book was an ethnographic study of small Mexican Communities that attributed 50 shared attitudes, such as violence and poor planning skills, to the larger culture of all poor people. Unfortunately, this deficit thinking is incredibly harmful to both those under the microscope and the educators (and librarians) who work with them. Paul Gorksy says “Deficit theorists use two strategies for propagating this worldview: (1) drawing on well-established stereotypes and (2) ignoring systemic conditions, such as inequitable access to high-quality schooling, that support the cycle of poverty” (2008). Again, by using a deficit framework, we obscure structural inequalities.

“Valence” or the emotional character of the words was also coded: affirmative, open-ended statements were seen as quality, whereas directive were seen as low quality. Again, no research was cited. There are many reasons why coding in this way without an explanation is wrong – mainly, that white, upper and middle class ways of speaking to their children were valued as quality. In a 2015 article, Gulnaz Saiyed says, “While middle-class activities do lead children to develop a sense of entitlement, individuality, and set them up to feel comfortable in schools, they deemphasize other childhood experiences. For example, many working-class parents do not overschedule their children with extracurricular activities. Instead, they provide opportunities for play, development of curiosity, creativity, and respect for different perspectives.” Another point brought up by Saiyed is how African American children are disciplined more harshly in school, and parents may be preparing them for that. Michaels (2013) agrees, saying “Again, I want to remind you that people from different cultures talk differently to infants, and no one approach or style has been shown to be cognitively superior to another in helping children acquire their native language or grow up to be smart” (p. 29).


In addition, mobile technology has changed parenting for all social statuses. In other research conducted by Dr. Dana Suskind, middle and upper class parents have other bad habits: “[Anne] Fernald, who sits on the scientific advisory board for Providence Talks, told me, “Some of the wealthiest families in our research had low word counts, possibly because they were on their gadgets all day. So you can see an intermingling at the extremes of rich and poor. Socioeconomic status is not destiny” (Talbot, 2015). The blanket assignation of the bad culture of poverty is harmful to all parents.


The research makes sweeping extrapolations for its findings. In their book Meaningful Differences, Hart and Risley assert that vocabulary is an important indicator for future success, but spend very little time explaining why: “Because the vocabulary that individuals can command reflects so well their intellectual resources, we still have oral examinations, and vocabulary plays a major role in tests of intelligence” (p. 6). There are no citations of other research that describes why vocabulary is indicates “intellectual resources” – instead, they talk about how it is easy to measure.


As a librarian, I understand the importance of vocabulary as one aspect of literacy. However, I don’t understand why this study allows vocabulary to be the main indicator for school success, or why specifically children as partners in the conversation (as opposed to overhearing conversations) was seen as so important. As Susan Blum says in “Invited Forum: Bridging the ‘Language Gap’” (Averini, et al, 2015), “Anthropological research shows, in fact, that addressing the youngest children as conversational partners is extremely unusual in the world” (p. 75). Are we sure that makes it better?

Michaels says, “The deeply destructive, pernicious thing about the Hart and Risley study is that it presents what seems like totally rigorous, careful, objective science (what under careful inspection is nothing more than pseudo-science)—that gives teachers, educators, policy makers the ‘proof’ they need to believe that these poor kids aren’t smart, aren’t good learners, don’t have adequate language to think well with” (p. 35).  As librarians, when we cite the 30 Million Word Gap, we run the risk of continuing to enforce the bias and classism that this study did, as do some of the initiatives that have cropped up around this study. “In effect, the word gap interventions propose that improving social and economic outcomes for poor and minority families can be as simple as training them to act more white and middle-class (and monitoring their compliance with a ‘word pedometer’)” (Saiyed, 2015). While Babies Need Words Everyday does not go as far as to install word pedometers on parents, and instead simply encourages them to speak with their babies, the issue is very different – but by using word gap and deficit thinking, we may be treading in dangerous territory.

What can we do?

As librarians, we can help support literacy skill-building for both parents and children with Babies Need Words Everyday’s colorful posters and in our storytimes and outreach efforts. As public libraries, we provide free support to parents of all classes who may be struggling to find time or resources to provide early literacy practices to their children. Families in poverty also get support from public libraries to help them combat the structural inequalities they face. We also have to make sure we are creative and reflexive about encouraging multiple literacies, such as (all of which are strengths of a diversity of groups):


As centers providing informal learning opportunities, libraries are the perfect spaces for encouraging multiple literacies. For instance, “Low-income children are more likely than their higher-income peers to be in factory-like classrooms that allow little interaction and physical movement. As a result, these children spend more time sitting, following directions and listening rather than discussing, debating, solving problems and sharing ideas” (McManus, 2015). ALSC members have many brilliant ideas for programming to combat this issue on this blog. What else can we do?

If we are truly invested in literacy equity as librarians, being engaged in understanding our own attitudes and resources is important. I feel hesitant to use the 30 Million Word Gap as a statistic in my storytimes because of what it implicates, and I wonder what you all think. Even the newer research by the LENA foundation and Dr. Dana Suskind use Hart and Risley’s flawed framework. The newly updated ALSC competencies are full of guidance about recognizing and responding to structural inequalities, being self-reflexive, and culturally competent. I’ll end with one of them.


-Many thanks to Claire Moore – this piece is the result our meetings and conversations and her editing skills.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT (you can be the next one! Apply by April 1 at www.darienlibrary.org/mcgrawfellowship) She is also an artist-type (see more at www.lisanowlain.com).

Sources cited

Avinerini, N., et al (2015). Invited Forum: Bridging the “Language Gap.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), pp. 66–86. Retrieved from  http://www.susanblum.com/uploads/4/7/2/1/4721639/jla_-_language_gap_forum_2015.pdf

Dudley-Marling, C. & Lucas, K. (May 2009) Pathologizing the Language and Culture of Poor Children. Language Arts, 86(5), pp. 362-370. http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/med/langpoor.pdf

Dufresne, T. & Masny, D. (November 2006). Multiple literacies: Linking the research on bilingualism and biliteracies to the practical. Paediatr Child Health, 11(9), pp 577–579. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528653/#b12-pch11577

Gorski, P (April 2008).  The Myth of the Culture of Poverty. Poverty and Learning, 65(7), pp 32-36. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore.

Hart, B. & Risley, R. (Spring 2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator, 4(9).

McManus, M. (2015, October 12). Are some kids really smarter just because they know more words? The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/are-some-kids-really-smarter-just-because-they-know-more-words-47819

Michaels, S. (Autumn 2013). Déjà Vu All Over Again: What’s Wrong With Hart & Risley and a “Linguistic Deficit” Framework in Early Childhood Education? LEARNing Landscapes, 7(1), pp 23-41. Retrieved from http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/images/documents/ll-no13/michaels.pdf

Saiyed, G. & Smirnov, N. (2015, January 9) OpEd: Does ’30-Million Word Gap’ Have Gap in Authenticity? Chicago Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.chicago-bureau.org/oped-30-million-word-gap-gap-authenticity/

Talbot, Margo (2015, January 12). The Talking Cure. The New Yorker. Retrieved from  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/talking-cure
Other Resources

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5. An A-Maze-ing Library Experience

Sometimes you get a big idea. And sometimes you get to make that idea a reality. This year my department was given funds to create big family programming, and I got the chance to build my idea: a giant cardboard maze that would encourage caregiver-child interaction and create a memorable library experience for customers of all ages.

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

The Event

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

A families-only Harry Potter-themed after-hours party kicked off the maze, which measured 75’ long, 15’ wide, and 6’ tall, and sat smack-dab in the middle of the main hall of Denver Public Library’s Central Library. Customers lined up out the door to wait for their turn to explore the maze. A staff member at the maze entrance spaced out families in two minute intervals to avoid traffic jams. We also hid the four Hogwarts house crests inside the maze. Kids were given maze passports, and when they found a crest there was a staff member dressed as a Harry Potter character waiting to stamp their passport. This allowed us to have staff in the maze in case of emergency.

Other party activities included pin the sock on Dobby, magic wand decorating, and, of course, tasty themed snacks. Having a theme for the maze wasn’t necessary, but it did make the event easier to promote. Plus, it meant lots of kids came dressed as their favorite Harry Potter character.

After the party we left the maze up in our main hall for a week so customers of all ages could explore the maze. In addition to walking through the maze, customers could look down from the 2nd and 3rd floors to plan their route or watch others go through the maze.

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich



Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

I’d seen pictures of cardboard mazes online (thanks, Pinterest!), but I couldn’t find anything tall enough for adults. My goal was to create something that children and their caregivers could explore together. I wasn’t able to find any instructions online, so I decided to figure it out on my own. This process included lots of brainstorming and several mini-maze mock-ups. Here’s a list of things to consider, based on my experience.

  • Safety and Space. Measure your space and learn about your library’s safety rules and regulations. I met with the security, custodial, and facilities departments to get their input. From this meeting it was decided that we would have a minimum of 5’ of space on all sides of the maze. We also decided to include a third side entrance/exit to the maze in case of emergency.
  • Design the Maze. I had never designed a maze before so I was grateful to find some wonderful online resources. Jo Edkins has great info about maze layout and design and the tips on avoiding bottlenecks on Amazeing Art were useful. I found it helpful to first determine the entrances/exits and then divide the space into three “mini mazes.”
  • Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Planning and Paperwork. Make sure your plans are written down so others can understand them. This is the kind of project that requires teamwork and delegation, so it’s important that your paperwork is detailed and clear. Here’s a copy of the maze layout.

  • Purchase Materials. I purchased my materials from the following companies:
  • Purchasing Considerations.
    • Some companies require a minimum number of a particular item per order.
    • Freight shipping can add a significant amount to the cost of materials.
    • Height of your loading dock. Ours is very low, so this impacted delivery.
    • Talk to a representative. I was able to get more accurate quotes and ultimately a
      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      lower price by emailing and talking on the phone with a representative.

  • Prep as much of your maze ahead of time as possible. Call in your volunteers, friends, and family! Cutting and labeling our boxes required approximately 20 hours of prep time.
  • Putting It Together. It took us approximately 10 hours with 5 people working steadily to put the maze together with the prepped materials. This includes the 5 hours we used to construct 45 maze units the day before the event and stored them in our storytime room. The day of the event we had another 5 hours to assemble the other units and zip-tie them all together. Check out the step-by-step Maze Construction Instructions.
Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester


Yes, this maze took a ton of planning and staff labor, but it was worth it. From a numbers point of view, it was gratifying to have 300+ people come to the after-hours party. But it was even more satisfying to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and watch our customers find joy in exploring the maze. The maze was also an entry point for staff-customer interaction and encouraged customers to visit our 2nd and 3rd floors to look down on the maze. In short, it was an unforgettable library experience!

Photo credit: Will Forrester

Photo credit: Will Forrester


Amy Uke

Photo Credit: Sherry Spitsnagle, Denver Public Library

Our guest blogger today is Amy Seto Forrester. Amy  is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library and has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. 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.

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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6. Student-to-Staffers: Where are you now?

ALA Student-to-Staffers: Where are you now?

Way back in June of 2007, I had the honor of representing TWU’s School of Library and Information Science at ALA Annual in Washington, DC.  I was a member of TWU SLIS-buttonALA’s StudeALA Annualnt-to-Staff (S2S) Program, with assignment to the ALSC Division.  If you’ve never heard of the S2S program, you can read about it here.  There are 56 active ALA Student Chapter Groups at accredited graduate schools.  Each is entitled to submit one name for consideration for the program.  Schools have varying criteria. My school chose the student – me :) based on an essay contest.  Others have different criteria, but the end result is that 40 promising students receive a free trip to ALA Annual in exchange for working with  ALA staff during the week.  I was able to choose with whom I wanted to work. An aspiring children’s librarian, naturally, I chose ALSC.

It was my first connection with the national community of librarians.  It was during my week as an ALA S2S er, that I first met ALSC’s own Aimee Strittmatter, Laura Schulte-Cooper, and Marsha Burgess, and I began my continuing association with the division. I wrote a piece about my experience for  ALSConnect, now called ALSC Matters. (I am no less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed now.)

If you know someone in grad school right now, do them a favor and let them know about the S2S program.  If you participated in the S2S program, give a shout out!  Did you work for ALSC at the conference?  When or where did you attend?  How wonderful was it?

(The Student-to-Staff Program was established in 1973. There should be a lot of us out there!)


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7. Feature National Diabetes Month at your Library

 Mary Abel and 4-year-old, grandson, Robby enjoying a snack after story time

Mary Abel and 4-year-old grandson, Robby, enjoying a snack after story time (Photo courtesy of guest blogger)

There are perils to being a children’s librarian. This never occurred to me until I took grandson Robby to story time. At one session, the head came off of the turkey puppet that was helping to illustrate a story and song about Thanksgiving. While the librarian was trying to stick the head back on the turkey and sing simultaneously, the felt board fell over. The 3-and 4-year-olds seated in a circle erupted in laughter. The librarian was quick on his feet and rescued this “turkey” by playing his guitar and singing I’m a Little Turkey to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot as they all strutted around like Thanksgiving gobblers. My grandson thought it was the best thing ever.

This November when children’s librarians are strutting their stuff by cutting Thanksgiving turkeys out of construction paper, singing songs and playing with puppets, there is another important observance to headline: It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Years ago, Type 1 diabetes was rare in children and Type 2 did not exist. A nationally representative study[i] now has confirmed that from 2001 to 2009 the incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes drastically increased among children and adolescents across racial groups in this country. The study found that the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes increased 21 percent among children up to age 19. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among ages 10 to 19 rose 30 percent during the same period . Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have this disease.

Tear sheet from Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity showing a main character, Gideon, astride his horse, Stony the Pony, saving Pickles from drowning.

Tear sheet from Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity showing a main character, Gideon, astride his horse, Stony the Pony, saving Pickles from drowning.

As an author and journalist with a background in health care communications, I am passionate about writing books that empower and help children deal with medical conditions. The most recent effort is a self-help book for children with diabetes, Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity. Dr. Stan Borg, a family physician, and I collaborated to write this story across the miles—354.8 to be exact—to help youngsters understand and manage their diabetes.

A special section in the book is for teachers and parents. Teachers especially may benefit from this information because it helps them understand why, for example, a child with diabetes may need more bathroom breaks because of high blood sugar levels, or they may need to eat periodically throughout the day.

Informational links for librarians:


Discussion Questions:

Q. What special tools will help illustrate and promote National Diabetes Month for youngsters at our libraries?
Q. How can librarians find help and support for children and parents who are dealing with a diabetes diagnosis in our community?
Q. How can we use National Diabetes Awareness Month to garner publicity for our library?

Despite the occasional perils of falling felt boards and headless puppets, I believe that children’s librarians are important and necessary advocates for youngsters not only with diabetes but all children because you are fluent at knowing and interpreting their needs to teachers, parents and the community. So amid the sing-a-longs about gobblers and the Thanksgiving tales this November, National Diabetes Awareness Month might be a good topic to feature at your library, too.

[1] ] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health , Search for Diabetes in Youth, 2008-2009, multicenter, continuing  study to examine diabetes (type I and type 2) among children and adolescents in the United States from 2000 to 2015.


IMG_1530Mary Abel has been a professional writer for more than 40 years and is the recipient of multiple writing awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Mark of Excellence Award in journalism. She holds a BA in journalism from The Ohio State University. Contact her at: meabel@windstream.net.

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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8. Why Take Storytime Breaks?

I’ve written before about taking storytime breaks and so have some of my fabulous ALSC colleagues. We’ve just started our winter storytime break and will be off until the week after Midwinter in January. Each day I find myself explaining to another parent or caregiver that storytime is on a break.

But why take storytime breaks?

Storytime breaks serve a lot of great purposes. I have two favorites, the first being that storytime breaks give me time to brainstorm and create new things. I’ve written grants during storytime breaks, created new programs, developed new circulating materials, and re-organized collections.

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing several large scale projects completed and now available for our patrons to use.

[1000 Books Display, photo courtesy of the author.]

[1000 Books Display, photo courtesy of the author.]

1000 Books Display
Our 1000 Books program was launched in September (during another storytime break!) and this month saw a new advancement for this passive program. We received partnership funding from the Darien Rotary Club to fund the first 300 kids to complete the passive program. Additionally, the Darien Women’s Club helped us purchase this beautiful display. Each month we’ll feature a suggested title for kids to read who are participating in the 1000 Books program. Along with the suggested book, I’ve also created a recommendation booklist. This month’s featured book is Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera and the booklist is all about song books. I am in love with the picture frames that showcase our book. Also: the graphics and signs from our Marketing Department.

[Book Bundles and LeapFrog Kits, photo courtesy of the author.]

[Book Bundles and LeapFrog Kits, photo courtesy of the author.]

Book Bundles
I was finally able to put out our newest circulating kits: Book Bundles & Parenting Packs! These were funded by a Target early literacy grant. All of the work that went into these kits was done during storytime breaks, including purchasing all materials and developing the activity sheets/resource guides found inside each bundle or pack. Book Bundles are aimed at ages 2-6 and have books, puzzles, manipulatives, and more in twelve different topics like ABCs, 123s, Colors, and Shapes. I should also mention that all of the LeapFrog kits were developed during a storytime break in the summer of 2014.

[The re-organized Parent/Teacher collection, photo courtesy of the author.]

[The re-organized Parent/Teacher collection, photo courtesy of the author.]

Parent/Teacher Collection
This one, I confess, I worked on during this past storytime session. But it was finally completed and ready to roll out when our storytime break began. Our Parent/Teacher collection is now organized by subject instead of Dewey decimal/fiction. This means that all of our picture books are integrated with their subjects. This also means that hopefully families going through tough times will be able to browse for their own materials rather than ask a librarian about a sensitive subject. (Although we’re always willing to help!) I spent much of my off storytime time shifting shelves. The red totes at the bottom are the Parenting Packs I mentioned before. These are geared towards caregivers to use with children and include topics like Potty Training, Staying in the Hospital, and New Baby in the House.

So, what’s next during this storytime break? Creating a Language Learners area, purchasing new Playaway Launchpads, working on a monthly early literacy calendar for 2016, partnering with a local preschool for our first preschool fair, and of course, preparing for the next storytime session.

I leave you with this quote, one that my boss sent to me after a particularly stressful summer reading had just ended:

Think about it: Humans are the only creatures in nature that resist the pattern of ebb and flow. We want the sun to shine all night, and when it doesn’t, we create cities that never sleep. Seeking a continuous energetic and emotional high, we use everything from exciting parties to illegal chemicals. But natural ebbs — the darkness between days, the emptiness between fill-ups, the fallow time between growing seasons — are the necessary complements of upbeats. They hold a message for us. If you listen at your life’s low points, you’ll hear it, too. It’s just one simple, blessed word: Rest.
— Martha Beck

Will you join me in taking storytime breaks? What can you do for your patrons to fill the time?

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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9. Hour of Code is Approaching

HourOfCode_logo_RGB copyAs December approaches there is still time to plan for Hour of Code at your library. Computer Science Education Week is December 7 to 13, and is a global initiative to make the computer sciences available to all children. Last year President Obama even took part and became the first president to ever write a line of code using JavaScript!

There are many resources online to inspire those that might feel ill-equipped at teaching coding to kids, many which have been shared on the ALSC Blog by librarians from Fayetteville Free Library and Los Angeles Public Library.

In 2015 Coding offerings at our library gathered a lot of steam, and much to our surprise some of the classes began to have waitlists of over 50 students. Our foray into this area of the computer sciences began in 2012 when Gretchen Caserotti began Codor Dojo, a program that relies on mentors from within the community to provide free instruction to those passionate about learning a coding language. Lacking consistent mentors, we observed a group of homeschoolers who met regularly on Fridays in the library to teach themselves using websites like Code.org and Khan Academy. After the group dismantled, one of the students who had a desire to continue using the library’s tech resources, began instructing other students alongside his mother in both Scratch and JavaScript. In addition we have also recruited two local high school students to teach Python and HTML which provides them an opportunity to share their passion for coding, while also helps to develop their teaching skills.

HTML session. Photo courtesy of the author.

HTML session. Photo courtesy of the author.

Finding it difficult to recruit outside instructors? The Hour of Code tutorials are not only accessible for beginners, but also fun for a variety of ages. One of my colleagues still has her certificate hanging in the office after completing one hour of coding with Frozen’s Anna and Elsa. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are also new programs through Code.org that allow kids to code with characters from Minecraft and Star Wars. In a few weeks we are even going to be teaching young children the concepts of code without the use of a computer. Many of these classes are referred to as Unplugged Coding Lessons.

My favorite resource for introducing kids to coding is the app-based Hopscotch which uses colored blocks as commands, much like Scratch. The company is even preparing for December’s Hour of Code with in-app tutorials, guides, and lesson plans. There is a fantastic introduction to Hopscotch in video form, while a free eBook written by Wesley Fryer provides more complex challenges for ongoing sessions.

Whatever your experience, this December make a commitment to participate in Hour of Code. Whether that is by offering an introductory course for kids in your library, or earning your own certificate by taking 60 minutes out of the work week to learn a new skill. One of the moments that propelled our library into offering more of these opportunities was one parent commenting that the library was fulfilling a need in the community that was not being addressed elsewhere. Although this was one language I had not anticipated in honing as a children’s librarian, I’m thankful that this profession is opening new learning opportunities for me, the children’s staff, and the kids and teens we serve.

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

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

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10. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success

SPLC Committee WordleAs a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and sharing ideas with other dedicated librarians on how we can all work together to benefit the kids and teens with whom we work.

We’ve created the following list for both school and public librarians to use in sparking their own creative ideas for helping all youth become information literate.

Why not give some of these a try?

  1. Look for grant-funding opportunities specifically for school library-public library partnerships.
  2. Set aside time to visit with your public librarian to discuss your school’s curriculum and any big projects your teachers have planned.
  3. Schedule a few hours to shadow the public librarian and invite him or her to do the same. This will help you build mutual understanding about what the other’s job entails.
  4. Have a library card sign-up event at the school during Library Card Sign-Up Month (September). Make a special day of it or have an evening of gaming. Be sure to include the public librarian in the planning, promotion, and supervising the event. If an event isn’t possible, see if the public librarian can come to the school to hand out library card forms at lunchtime. This would work especially well in middle or high school.
  5. Create book lists and resource guides in cooperation with your public librarians. You might focus on materials that support reading in the content areas, science and social studies topics in particular. Include materials from both the public and school library collections.
  6. Co-host nonfiction book clubs for students and for teachers.
  7. Invite the public librarian to make a presentation to the teachers at your school during the school’s teacher in-service day about public library resources that support Common Core State Standards.
  8. Host a joint meeting with the public librarians and your fellow school district librarians to discuss Common Core, 21st Century Standards and state/local curriculum expectations and the public library’s role in student learning.
  9. Talk about early literacy programming in the public library and how it connects to the school librarian’s work with K-2 students.
  10. Use the public library as a facility for after-school tutoring for students, especially in reading. The public librarian and school librarian can collaborate to recruit volunteers.
  11. Coordinate joint activities that integrate the public library’s summer reading program with the school’s summer programming.

As you can see, there are many ways school and public librarians can work in cooperation. You may already be using some of these suggestions, but if not, what’s stopping you?

When we all work together, it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Linda Weatherspoon serves on the AASL Board of Directors and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

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11. Sensory Storytime On the Road

Over the past few months, my library has partnered with a local resource center that provides early intervention and lifelong support to individuals with a variety of developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.  The resource center originally reached out to us looking for a librarian to read a few stories to their clients. I knew a sensory storytime would be a great fit, but in their experience, visits to offsite locations were rarely successful.  Any activity we planned would have to take place at their location.  So I took my sensory storytime on the road, and got a chance to really put my skills to the test.

I’m fairly new to sensory storytimes.  Before this, I had incorporated concepts into my regular programming, and made real efforts to make those programs universally designed, but I certainly wasn’t actively promoting this. Partnering with the resource center gave me the opportunity to refine my skills and try new activities.  My first visit wasn’t without hiccups. For example, sign-up sheets and library card applications became problematic due to HIPAA and patient privacy concerns.  We also ended up with a lot more kids in attendance than we were expecting. But in the end, like Pete the Cat taught us in our story that day, “it’s all good.”

In taking these special programs out into the community, we’ve found that children and their caregivers can have a library experience in an environment that is comfortable for them, surrounded by people they trust. Plus, our partner organization has developed a better understanding of what we can offer.  It has inspired other collaborations, with new programs and training for children’s librarians in the works.

There is a lot of information on the ALSC Blog to help you prepare sensory and special needs storytimes. I found Ashley’s Waring’s Sensory Storytime Tips and Jill Hutchison’s overview of Renee Grassi’s Beyond Sensory Storytime presentation to be particularly useful posts for providing information and talking points for communicating with the center’s directors and staff.  In addition, an ALSC course I took this spring taught by Kate Todd, Children with Disabilities in the Library, was an amazing resource, and I recommend it for anyone interested in creating more inclusive library programs, or reaching out to children with disabilities in clinical settings.

Brooke Sheets is a Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

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12. Fight for School Libraries! #ESEA

Calling all Everyday Advocates! The fight for school libraries is real, and it needs you to make a difference.

Everyday Advocacy

Use the resources on the Everyday Advocacy site to help make your voice heard! Photo courtesy of ALSC.

Congress is poised to act definitively on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) very soon. According ALA’s Washington Office, we could know as early as next week if watershed language for school libraries, included in the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), makes it into this federal education bill.

This means there is important work for all of us to do! The last time Congress passed an education bill they left out school libraries and our kids’ futures can’t afford for that to happen again. As soon as the Washington Office learns what is in the new compromise bill language, they will be posting an alert to the Legislative Action Center with instructions for how you can help (including talking points you can use to call, email, and Tweet Congress). That will be our opportunity to make sure that every member of the House of Representatives (and after that, the Senate) hears from library experts before they vote, which could be as early as December 2. ALSC will also provide a heads-up when it’s time.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Be prepared to contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know that any agreement to reauthorize ESEA must maintain the school library provisions overwhelmingly adopted by the HELP Committee and the full Senate under S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act.
  • Give a heads-up to coworkers, family, and friends to take action as well by contacting Congress sometime between next week and mid-December.
  • Gather together stories about the impact of school libraries in your community which you can use when you and your supporters contact Congress.

For support in these vital efforts, check out the tips from ALSC’s Everyday Advocacy initiative at http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/

The more voices that speak up on behalf of school libraries, the better for all kids! Please keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for the upcoming alert.

Thank you!

Andrew Medlar
ALSC President

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13. Unsung Heroes

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

I had an encounter recently that shifted my perspective.  We are proud – justifiably – of our role as defenders of freedom to read and access to information.  And, as a colleague reported in a recent post, that role is extremely valuable.  But there are quiet defenders out there, too, who are our allies, and sometimes they are the ones we least expect.

I serve a diverse community with immigrants from Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa, along with upscale urban professionals.  Explaining the wonders of the public library system to immigrants – and it’s all free! – is the most gratifying part of my job. But sometimes a gentle explanation of access to everything, and the parent’s role as arbiter of what their children should read in print or online, is needed.

Source: HarperCollins.com

At the end of summer, a mother who brings her three children to the library regularly asked me for help in finding books for the oldest child, a boy entering 6th grade.  She wanted books to help him get ready because he was “starting middle school.”  The language barrier made it a little difficult to identify exactly what she was thinking of, so I selected several books on dealing with school issues, and also books on puberty. I showed her what I had, and we put them out for him to look over and decide what he wanted to take home.

While he was looking them over, she said to me, “Where I come from, they think you shouldn’t talk about these things.  But he needs to know!” This was certainly a teachable moment – for me!  It upended my assumptions and moved me profoundly to find that this woman is such a courageous parent, bucking her culture to do what she thinks is best for her children.

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14. Advocacy? Me?

At a recent state library association conference, I attended a great session on Everyday Advocacy. What’s that, you ask? I wondered the same thing myself before the presentation, and just 45 minutes later, I left feeling a little more knowledgeable, and a little more confident.

Child with books

Image from Everyday Advocacy website

Everyday Advocacy is the idea that we are all advocates for our profession, our libraries, and ourselves each and every day. It’s also an ALSC initiative working to equip us with the tools we need to be everyday advocates. As we build relationships, strengthen our communities, and connect with families, sometimes it’s hard to know how to talk about those things in ways that get attention. How can we empower ourselves, our colleagues, and our staff to feel prepared to engage in advocacy?

One of the big take-aways from the session I attended was crafting your elevator speech. We’re all probably familiar with the idea of an elevator speech:  a very quick summary of what you do and why it’s important. But here’s the key: when you talk about what you do, it’s not a list of job duties like “storytime, collection development, and the Summer Library Program.” You want to talk about how you actively impact a particular group and the larger result. So the phrase “I work with kids and families at the library” becomes “I help kids and families unpack their curiosity at the library so that the kids can go out and change our world for the better” (example from ALSC Everyday Advocacy website).

The Everyday Advocacy website provides information and tools to equip us to engage in advocating for ourselves and our communities. As you take a look, keep in mind that your behavior can have a powerful ripple effect. When we engage in advocacy, we’re modeling to our staff and colleagues, and hopefully empowering them to engage in some advocacy as well. Managers, remember that an important part of the supervisory role includes mentoring and enabling staff to become strong leaders themselves. When we say that advocacy is all about relationships, it’s not limited to relationships outside the librarian community! It’s also those we cultivate with our staff and peers. Take a look, feel empowered, and spread the word about the impact you’re having on your community every day.

Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser is a Youth Services Librarian at the La Crosse Public Library in La Crosse, WI and is a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee.

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15. Taking the Lead in Helping Kids Become Good Digital Citizens

Digital citizenship. It’s a complex subject that I’ve thought a lot about in recent years- and one that I’ve been figuring out how best to address in my role as a public librarian. For our kids to be contributing participants in the Digital Age, they need to be informed about a whole host of issues such as internet safety, privacy and security, cyber bullying, digital footprints, information literacy, copyright and creative credit, and more!

So when Mariah Cheng, one of my regular patrons who also happens to be an elementary school teacher, approached me about teaching a series of digital citizenship workshops at the library for children and parents I jumped at the opportunity to partner with her. Mariah had recently become a Certified Educator through Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Initiative which offers training and curriculum for free to K-12 educators so that they can teach their students and families how to be smart, safe and responsible online. 

During our planning stages I reached out to the Vice Principal of one of my local schools to see what topics she thought were most important for her students to learn and what ages would be best to target the classes towards. She and I had previously discussed how difficult it was for her teachers to find the time to address digital literacy with their students and how the library might be able to partner with the school to teach these topics. Unfortunately, whether she was overwhelmed with the start of a new school year or otherwise, I never heard back from her and moved forward with planning the classes along with Mariah and my Children’s Department staff.

Mariah and I decided to hold a series of three classes: one for parents, one for kindergarteners through 2nd graders, and one for 3rd through 5th graders. We capped registration at 16 attendees for each class, the capacity of the library’s computer lab. Ultimately we ended up cancelling K-2 session due to low interest, and we expanded the 3rd-5th Grades session to include older students after many inquiries by parents. For the Parents session Mariah addressed how to help their children use social media responsibly, how to address cyber bullying, and how to talk to their kids about their online activities. I especially loved that Mariah’s lessons were pragmatic. It’s a fact of life that adolescents are online and using social media already. Instead of being alarmist or didactic Mariah gave parents the tools they need to set reasonable limits on their children’s screen time and to help their kids be safe and healthy while doing so. She introduced parents to a variety of tools they could use to limit or monitor computer time and gave them some great resources for evaluating websites, apps and other media. For the Student session, Mariah talked with kids about their online activities and what to do if you see or are the target of cyber bullying. She also talked about “digital footprints” and reminded participants that and nothing is truly “private” or “erasable” online. The kids wrapped up the session by playing Common Sense Media’s Digital Passport, a collection of free computer games that teach kids about respect, safety and community online.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

These programs were a great way to start the conversation about digital citizenship with kids and parents and we definitely plan to hold more to address subjects like information literacy, copyright and creative credit. I would encourage anyone who is interested in holding digital citizenship programs to take a look at the wealth of resources available from Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum. There are ready made lesson plans, toolkits, online games and assessments, activities, videos and downloadable materials all free for librarians and teachers to use with students. There is even a list of Certified Educators on the website. You may have one working in your school or district already!

Have you offered digital literacy classes at your library? Did you work with local teachers or have you used Common Sense Media’s resources? Share your experiences and let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!

Diana Garcia is the Children’s Librarian at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library in California where she has the privilege of serving a diverse community through storytimes, creative programming and tutoring. Her afterschool literacy program for English Language Learners won the PLA Innovations in Literacy award in 2013. Diana is currently serving on the ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California and serves on their Awards Committee. 

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16. ALSC Endowments

Last year, the ALSC’s 11 endowments disbursed more than $51,971 to award and support authors, librarians, and library programs across the country dedicated to children’s services. The first ALSC endowment fund to be established was the Melcher Scholarship, announced in 1955, while the newest is the Carole D. Fiore ALSC Leadership Fund, established in 2009. The ALSC endowments all together have increased in value from $1,687,372 in 2005 to $2,684,430 in 2015. These endowments often bear names that are familiar to ALSC members: Arbuthnot, Belpré, and Wilder. However, several of these funds were started by names that are not so familiar. For example, in 1986 the Antonio Mayorgas Estate gave ALSC an unrestricted gift, which was used to establish the ALSC Distinguished Service Award. The amount that ALSC is able to spend each year is based on a formula used by ALA. It is a percentage of the quarterly balances over five years. In fact, that is precisely what distinguishes endowments from other types of funds: They are intended to preserve the long-term viability of the initiatives they support and are not intended to be spent down to zero. How long have these endowments been in place? Who started them? And who exactly do they target? Here’s a closer look:

ALSC Distinguished Service Award Fund

Photo of Kathleen T. Horning, 2015 winner of the Distinguished Service Award.

Kathleen T. Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is recipient of the 2015 ALSC Distinguished Service Award. Photo credit: J. Matzner.

Founded: 1986
Benefactor: Unrestricted gift by the Antonio Mayorgas Estate
Purpose: In 1991, the Board established the DSA to honor an individual member of the ALSC who has made significant contributions to, and had an impact on, library services to children and ALSC.
Award: $2,000 and an engraved pin.
Past recipients: The first winner was William C. Morris and the most recent was Kathleen T. Horning.
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/profawards/distinguishedservice

Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Fund

May Hill Arbuthnot

May Hill Arbuthnot (1884-1969), along with educator William Scott Gray, wrote the “Dick and Jane” series published by Scott, Foresman and Company. Her greatest contribution to children’s literature was her book “Children and Books,” first published in 1947. Photo credit: ALSC.

Founded: 2002
Benefactor: The ALSC Board, via an approved net asset balance transfer from the operating budget. The lecture series was originally funded through the sponsorship of the Scott, Foresman Company starting in 1970 through the late 1990’s.
Purpose: For the presentation of a paper considered to a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature by an author, critic, librarian, and/or historian at the Arbuthnot Lecture series.
Award: $2,000 honorarium and travel expenses for lecturer; $2,000 support to the lecture host site. ALSC board has plans to build the endowment to support a $5,000 honorarium within the next five years.
Past recipients: In 2015, Brian Selznick presented “Love Is a Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books.”
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/arbuthnot

Belpré Award Fund

Duncan Tonatiuh accepts a 2015 Belpré honor plaque for Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation with (l to r) Silvia Cisneros, 2014-15 REFORMA president, Sylvia Mendez, subject of the Honor Book, and Ellen Riordan, 2014-15 ALSC president. (Photo courtesy of ALSC)

Duncan Tonatiuh accepts a 2015 Belpré honor plaque for Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation with (l to r) Silvia Cisneros, 2014-15 REFORMA president, Sylvia Mendez, subject of the Honor Book, and Ellen Riordan, 2014-15 ALSC president. (Photo courtesy of ALSC)

Founded: 1996
Benefactor: The ALSC Board authorized transfers from the operating budget’s net asset balance, ALSC and REFORMA members, and other individual and corporate donors.
Purpose: Support the expenses related to administering the Pura Belpré Awards. The awards honor Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work best celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of children’s or youth literature. This award is co-sponsored by ALSC and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA), an ALA affiliate.
Award: A medal for the winners; award plaques for Honor Book authors and illustrators.
Past recipients: Author Meg Medina for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass in 2014 and illustrator Raul Colón for, Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart in 2006.
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal

Children’s Library Services Endowment

early-elem-readsFounded: 1982
Benefactor: Helen L. Knight
Purpose: To support long and short term projects and programs of the ALSC
Award: Funding up to $1,500 in a given year to a specific ALSC committee; Board authorized expenditures to support programmatic activity.
Past recipients: School-Age Programs and Services Committee designed and produced the brochure “Great Early Elementary Reads;” funded attendance for an Advocacy and Legislation Committee member during the 2015 National Library Legislation Day in Washington, D.C.; and funded the design and printing of a toolkit created by the Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee.
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/alsc-childrens-library-services-fund

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Fund

Photo of 2015 Geisel winners and committee chair

2015 Geisel Award winners, Anna Kang (l) and Christopher Weyant (r), with Geisel Committee Chair Kevin Delecki (c). Photo credit: ALSC.

Founded: 2005
Benefactor: San Diego Foundation’s Dr. Seuss Fund; Random House
Purpose: The Geisel Award is given annually to the authors and illustrators of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.
Award: A medal for the winners; certificates for Honor Book authors and illustrators.
Past recipients: Mo Willems has won the award twice (2008, 2010) and honored five times (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/geiselaward

Frederic G. Melcher Scholarship Fund

Frederic G. Melcher

Frederic G. Melcher. Photo credit: ALA.

Founded: 1955
Benefactor: various members, including the publishers of each year’s Newbery and Caldecott awards.
Purpose: To fund scholarships for two graduate students pursuing an MLS degree with a focus on children’s librarianship.
Award: two $7,500 scholarships; increased from $6,000 in 2015.
Past recipients: 2015 recipients: Elizabeth Pearce and Melody Tsz-Way Leung
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/scholarships

William C. Morris Endowment Fund


Morris Endowment Fund logo, designed by William Joyce for ALSC. ©ALA/ALSC.

Founded: 2000
Benefactor: Bequest of William C. Morris with principal of $400,000.
Purpose: To fund programs, publications, events, or awards in promotion of children’s literature. The Bill Morris Book and Media Evaluation Seminar, held at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and Breakfast with Bill, held at the ALSC Institute in alternating years, are supported by this endowment.
Award: In addition to supporting the events noted above, the Fund provides a $200 stipend for selected attendees to defray hotel and other expenses for the Bill Morris Seminar.
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/william-c-morris-endowment-activities

The Charlemae Rollins Fund

Charlemae Rollins (photo courtesy of ALSC)

Charlemae Rollins (photo courtesy of ALSC)

Founded: 1982
Benefactor: The ALSC Board and various members.
Purpose: Enhancement of the quality of the ALSC President’s Program.
Past events: ALSC President Ellen Riordan’s 2015 President’s Program brought Melissa Sweet and Judy Cheatham to speak about, “More to the Core: From the Craft of Nonfiction to the Expertise in the Stacks.”
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/aboutalsc/coms/pg4orgsupport/als-charoll

Wilder Award Fund

Karen Nelson Hoyle, chair of the 2015 Wilder Award Committee, and Donald Crews, winner of the 2015 Wilder Award. (Photo courtesy of ALSC)

Karen Nelson Hoyle, chair of the 2015 Wilder Award Committee, and Donald Crews, winner of the 2015 Wilder Award. (Photo courtesy of ALSC)

Founded: 2000
Benefactor: The ALSC Board.
Purpose: To support the administration of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.
Award: A bronze medal, honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. The award is given annually.
Past recipients: The first Wilder Award was presented to Wilder herself in 1954; Donald Crews received the Award in 2015.
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/wildermedal

Carnegie Fund

2015 Carnegie Medal Winners

2015 Carnegie Medal winners, Paul Gagne (l) and Melissa Reilly Ellard (r), of Weston Woods, with Carnegie Committee Chair, Caitlin Dixon Jacobson (c). Photo credit: ALSC.

Founded: 1989
Benefactor: The Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of the Carnegie Video for Youth grant.
Purpose: To establish and endow the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video.
Award: The Carnegie Medal is presented annually to an American producer for the outstanding video production for children released in the United States in the previous calendar year.
Past recipients: Weston Woods (most recently 2015), Katja Torneman (2013), Aviator Films/Hyperion Studio (2002), What a Gal Productions (1997)
Website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/carnegiemedal

Carole D. Fiore ALSC Leadership Fund


Photo courtesy of Carole Fiore

Founded: 2009
Benefactor: Carole D. and Stan Fiore
Purpose: To enhance leadership development with ALSC by offering activities to develop members who have an interest in and commitment to the American Library Association and ALSC as future leaders.
Award: None to date, while the principal builds. We expect to award the first leadership activity to take place in 2016.


Our post today was written by the ALSC Budget Committee. If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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17. RPL BookBike: A Wheelie Good Season

Sarah on sidewalkIn May, I wrote a blog post about Rochester Public Library’s new BookBike program. Now that we are waiting for the snow to fall here in Minnesota, it seems like time to update you on our wonderful BookBike season.

The BookBike program took a lot of planning, details, money and scheduling magic. It took us 9 months from the moment we had this bike-tastic idea until we started our outreach schedule; we worked through a single spaced to-do list that was five pages long and involved people from every division of the library. It has been worth every bit of effort that we put into it. So many great things happened out there on the road, where we met people who had never been in our building, where we made connections with kids about reading and biking, and where we shared information and provided access to resources and services. It was a wheelie good time. I’ll stop with the the bicycle puns here. I promise.

We had the BookBike IMG_0009on the road from late April through September. We carried books for check-out, incentives (bike lights, water bottles, sidewalk chalk, bubbles), technology (iPad running Sirsi Mobile Circ, scanner and wifi hotspot), library information (program schedules and brochures), community resource information, and bicycling and safety equipment (spare tubes, first aid kit, sunscreen, etc.). While out at a BookBike stop we signed customers up for library cards, checked out books, talked up library programs and spaces, provided e-book and digital support, and handed out incentives.

We purchased a collection of materials just for the BookBike and shadowed it in the library catalog. We wanted customers to have access to some of the newest and most-popular Spine labelitems when they visited the BookBike. We created our own spine stickers in house to make sure they didn’t get confused with other items in the collection and could make their way back quickly to the BookBike collection storage.

Our outreach schedule was pretty hectic, we had the BookBike out (weather permitting) from five to seven days a week over the summer months. We kept the BookBike within a one-mile radius of the library, which is located in our downtown area. We set up at Honkers baseball games, Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, Rochester Pride Fest, RochesterFest, Art on the Ave and many, many, many local parks.

Seventeen staff volunteered to ride the BookBike and were provided with training on bicycle safety, the Mobile Circ application and general outreach. We also relied on many partnerships to provide us with specialized training, support and opportunities to set-up and meet customers.

Eric & Laura on 2nd StreetWe emailed surveys to everyone who checked out materials during our grant period which ran through June 2015. Of the 59 people who completed the survey:

  • 54% indicated that they learned something new about the library at the BookBike
  • 98% rated their experience at the BookBike as good to outstandiBack displayng.

For April through September we attended 113 events, had 5,696 visitors, answered 1,172 questions, checked out 697 items and created 60 new library cards.

We are already  making plans for next year for  marketing, outreach, collection development and staffing. We learned a lot and will put all that we know to good use as soon as warm spring weather arrives.

The BookBike project was funded in part with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, through a Community Collaboration grant from Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO).

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18. Survey on Summer Reading Trends

Summer reading. We all do it! We all spend so much energy, creativity, resources, and sanity on this one extraordinary time of year to promote the joy of reading and learning in our communities and to combat the summer slide. As we wrapped up summer reading this year my team and I were wondering about what other libraries were up to during this crazy busy season. We sent out a survey and 59 libraries responded. Here is what they had to say.

To Theme or not to Theme?

37.5% of respondents use the CLSP theme for summer reading, 18.75% use the iRead theme, 18.75% selected “other,” 12.5% create their own themes and 12.5% don’t use a theme at all. One Canadian respondent uses the TD summer reading club site (http://www.tdsummerreadingclub.ca/).

When does summer start?

13.33% start registration on the last day of school for their district, 13.33% start on the Monday after the last day of school, 26.67% of our respondents catch em’ before school ends, and 46.67% selected “other” with the most common response being June 1st.

How many weeks of programming do you offer in the summer session?

40% of respondents offer 8 weeks of programming in the summer session and 6.67% offer 6 weeks, but several noted in the comments field that they offer 9 weeks, and there were a few stalwart souls who offer 11 or 12 weeks.

Pete the Cat storytime

Pete the Cat storytime (Photo courtesy guest blogger)

Can participants log reading for a longer period of time than you offer summer classes and events?

46.67% of respondents said yes, while 53.33% end it all at the same time. Several libraries commented that they extend logging for a week or so after programming ends.

Do you require a library card for participants to…

Only one library required a card for participants to log reading and/or activities. Two respondents require library cards for participants to attend high demand programs, classes or events. 80% of respondents do not require a card to log reading or attend programs.

What do you track?

78.57% track time spent reading or listening to books and 35.71% track titles read. None of our respondents track pages read. 42.86% also track learning activities, challenges, or anything other than reading. In our library, we decided to track learning activities in addition to reading because we wanted to recognize and encourage the learning taking place around our city all summer long. Several respondents commented that they track early literacy activities for pre-readers. One library shared that they have a Summer STEM program with this great quote: “Students do five STEM explorations to get a science themed prize. The goal this year was for kids to recognize that many of the activities they already enjoy, like playing with LEGO blocks or catching hermit crabs, are STEM related, and that science isn’t just something you do in a classroom.” Several respondents commented that they give credit for program attendance and bonus activities completed that are tied to their themes or that encourage participants to check out library resources like STEM kits, e-books or audiobooks.

Do you set a reading goal for participants, or can they choose their own goal?

64.29% set a reading goal for participants and 35.71% have participants choose their own goals. Set goals included amounts of time like 600 minutes of reading for all age groups, 5 hours or 30 minutes each day.

One library commented that they set a goal of 3000 books to be read by all of their participants. They did not set individual goals. “Some kids read 1 book, while others read 30. The kids smashed the goal with a final total of 3621.” Another library noted that participants can read more than the set goal, but additional prizes are not awarded. A respondent said that they ask students to read 2.5 hours as a goal, but participants can complete the goal as many times as they’d like over whatever time period they’d like. A library that encourages participants to set their own goals commented that the “participants decide how many books they would like to read (or listen to, if they’re not yet reading) during the summer months. We don’t hold customers to their goal-if a child sets their goal too high and doesn’t reach it, they can still claim their participation prize.” Another library stated that “in special circumstances, individuals that feel they need to set higher or lower goals for themselves are allowed to do so.”

If you offer summer reading online, what do you think of the software product you are using?

There appears to be some frustration out there about online summer reading options. Several libraries mentioned wanting more customization, family registration options, a less cumbersome registration process, simpler logging procedures or a more user friendly product. Positive comments on summer reading software included liking the online compilation of statistics and helpful support staff. Several libraries mentioned that they are looking for new software products for summer reading for next year.

If you offer an online summer reading program, do you also offer a paper logging option?

61.54% answered yes and 30.77% only offer logging online.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! What prizes can participants earn?

Books were the most commonly mentioned prize with 87.10% of our respondents and entries to grand prize drawings followed at 77.42%. 74.19% use coupons donated by local businesses as prizes. Virtual badges and abandoning prizes all together were not popular choices for our respondents, although one respondent commented that “I would like to go prize-free, or do prizes that are a logical extension of the behaviors we want to encourage (like books, entry into events).” Another library shared that “this year for the first time one of the prize choices was to staple a ticket to the bulletin board. Each ticket represented ‘a donation’ (kept purposely vague because this was the first year and we didn’t know what the response would be) to a local charity. This was especially popular with the older students.”

If you offer grand prizes, what are they?

Libraries gave away some amazing grand prizes this summer including museum memberships, tickets to Broadway shows, Kindle Fires, book store gift cards, sets of books, STEM activity backpacks, Story Time backpacks, gift baskets or prize packs with donations from area businesses, a 3D doodler pen, a Spin Bot, lunch with a Hero, a ride in toy car, a doll with accessories, a guitar with an amplifier, iPads, experiences like a disco party or stadium tour, and birthday parties or family memberships from the city’s athletic center.

If you offer virtual badges, what can participants do with them after they earn them?

The few responses we got on this question were evenly divided between sharing them on social media, displaying them on a certificate, and earning a prize or grand prize entry for completing a certain number of virtual badges. One library commented that the goal of virtual badges is to keep track of what you’ve learned. Another library participates in a City of Learning program. Virtual badges are earned in conjunction with that program. Library staff submit their participation to the site, it emails them telling them that they earned a badge and how to claim it. The badges live on the City of Learning site.

Do you offer a grace period for prize pick up after your program ends?

59.38% answered yes, we continue handing out prizes for a little while after the official end date. One library hands out prizes until they run out or participants stop asking for them. 31.25% have a firm end date. None of our respondents offer online prizes that participants can print out on their own. One library noted that they like to have a grace period when possible, especially for groups.

What was your most successful summer program, class or event this year?

At our library, Pete the Cat’s visits to our 3-5’s story time classes were a huge hit. We saw a massive demand for our smaller hands-on learning STEM classes for our elementary kids, and our Teen Tech It and Take It events were very well attended. For our respondents, performers, especially those that featured animals, were frequently mentioned. One library had a very successful “Super Hero Boot Camp.” Another library offered a tween program called “League of Heroes Unite” in which participants got to create their own superhero personas, hunt evil villains, and dispatch them with water balloons. A weekly “Lego Lab” was very popular as was a “Cupcake Wars” program. A “Cowboy Round-Up” included cowboy crafts and pony rides. One library offered a maker space that was packed every hour that it was open. Other successful events included a Frozen Sing Along, Minecraft programs, puppet shows, music and movement story times, a ladybug release, a STEAM camp for 3-5th graders that met once a week for 4 weeks, a Star Wars celebration, and a Teen Anime Con. One library mentioned that although their book clubs had smaller attendance, they received great feedback from these participants.

Any lessons learned from less successful summer classes or events?

  • “It turns out that heroes don’t have a lot of spare time to read to children. We had programs interrupted when firefighters had to go fight a fire etc.”
  • “For myself, my monthly Science Afternoons were my least successful programs. I sabotaged myself by trying something new each time and having something go wrong two of the three programs because my preparations were not sufficient.”
  • “We were excited about the superhero theme and went overboard scheduling superhero-themed programs, but our community didn’t turn out in droves for those events. So I’d make sure to do a more well-rounded calendar of programs, despite the theme.”
  • “It never hurts to try something out! I am relatively new to my library and was warned that movies and story times get a low turnout. Well, movies may have been a dud, but story times were a hit. I am so glad that I attempted both.”

Tickets, Waiting Lists, and No Shows, Oh My!

61.29% offer tickets for some programs but not for everything. 6.45% offer online ticketing and 16.13% offer paper tickets in the library. 29.03% do not require tickets for anything. Responses were pretty evenly divided between releasing tickets 30 minutes in advance, 1 hour in advance and 2 weeks in advance of programs. Several libraries mentioned using Eventbright, Eventzilla or Evanced for online registration or tickets.

Respondents had quite a bit to say about strategies for meeting demand, avoiding no shows, and handling waiting lists.

  • “When we see a huge demand for a particular class or event, we do our best to add additional sessions in the future. This is, of course, not helpful for the unhappy potential participants that did not get to attend that day. We did see a decrease in ‘no shows’ when we started distributing tickets an hour before each class instead of handing out tickets for everything when the library opened. We plan to move this to 30 minutes in advance as we typically run out of tickets quickly.”
  • “We pad the tickets by 15% and have a waiting list to let folks in in place of ‘no shows.’”
  • “This year we partnered with [the Civic Theatre] to host our special performance programs. The theatre seats up to 700 guests, this ensured that all families would not be turned away. For the first time in years, parents and younger children were able to attend the performances. The change was greatly appreciated by the community. Zero complaints this year.”
  • “We only limit attendance on programs that require expensive materials or that would be best attended in small groups (workshop type). In these cases we physically call all sign-ups the day prior to the event in an attempt to confirm attendance. We still have no shows with this method, so we have learned to expect that and encourage the first few people on the waiting list to come on in and just wait to make sure we have room. It almost always works out.”
  • “We struggle with this! We have a waiting list, but that doesn’t always work, and our registration is early enough that people forget. We are going to try to have more drop in programs next year.”
  • “We pass out tickets 30 minutes prior, and they must be in line, so there are no no-shows. We used to allow online registration for programs, but stopped. That has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on most programs.”
  • “We more or less avoid registration at all costs because of the no show problem and because we don’t want to exclude interested families or add barriers.”

How do you market your Summer Reading Program?

Libraries are using a variety of methods to get the word out including pop-up libraries at Parks and Recreation events and billboards! The library website, social media, flyers to share with schools and in the library and school visits are the most common marketing methods.

How did this summer compare to last summer?

  • 51.92% of respondents selected “Wowza! Our numbers are up!” whereas 48.08% selected “Oh no! Our numbers are down!”
  • “Our numbers are down. We have had online summer reading software for 2 years now and we have learned that if it is not easy to register and to log, especially when a parent is logging for multiple family members, they simply will not use it.”
  • “Numbers are up-I think we satisfied our customer base and attracted new readers in our teen category.”
  • “I think numbers are up due to the streamlined approach we went with this year. We wanted it to be an all-inclusive program. We also gave out free reusable bags when patrons signed up for the program, so that may have helped as well.”
  • “I wish I knew! We have a lot more working parents in the community. We are trying to find new ways to reach the grandparents who are doing the majority of our local childcare. Unfortunately, we can’t get the families to come to evening events either.”
  • “The accessibility of being able to sign up online clearly helped, and having the pressure off of the individual children to read a certain number of books allowed them to read what they were comfortable with. This freed kids to go all out without feeling like they missed something because they exceeded the reading limit, or read up to the prize maximum as they liked.”
  • Several libraries mentioned school visits, outreach in the community, and increased publicity as contributing factors to an increase in participation.

What is the funniest thing that happened at your library this summer?

  • “Well, a kid did wander up to the desk and take a big swig out of a staff member’s water bottle! We are all keeping a much closer eye on our beverages now!”
  • “The juggler asked before the show if it was ok to juggle fire. We have a carpet floor. We said yes, but were ready to grab the fire extinguisher the whole time!”
  • “A child kept all her check-out receipts from the books she had checked out and read this summer, taped them together, and then unfurled them for us when she picked up her prize. It was like 10 feet long!”
  • “The funniest thing this summer was how less stressed the staff were. We didn’t worry about how many kids were registering. We just offered the program and didn’t worry about whether we were higher than last year. It was great!”
  • “We give out Chipotle coupons. A teen was at the desk while I was telling some kids about the SRG. He looked at me after they walked off and said, ‘so…tell me more about this free burrito. I’m NOT saying I’ll sign up. I’m just saying that if I did, it would be for the burrito.’”

Is there anything else you would like to share about summer reading at your library?

  • “We took a week off programming in the middle (July 4th week) and ran a Scholastic book fair. Did very well, and staff finished the summer much less exhausted.”
  • “I love my beanie baby program! Every year I purchase or receive donations of beanie babies. On the last day of the school year, they go up for adoption. Kids select their beanie baby and pledge to read 3 books and write 3 book reviews to be able to take them home. The beanie babies themselves are great salesmen, attracting a lot of attention.”
  • “It is fun, but there has to be a better way to make it more about literacy and reading instead of performers. Performers and big blow out programs get the people in the door, but unless they check out I am not sure it’s worth the $$ spent.”
  • This is my summer reading plan http://inshortbusy.blogspot.com/2015/05/summer-reading-2015-edition.html and this is the evaluation http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2015/09/this-is-what-summer-looks-like.html
  • “People seem to like our program, because they get to set their own reading goal, and it’s a simple program (set a goal, reach your goal, get a book as a prize).
  • “I changed the name from last year’s ‘Tween/Teen Crafts’ to ‘Middle School Makers’ and saw my attendance quadruple, despite offering very similar activities.”

Whew! You all had a lot to say about summer reading! Many thanks to everyone who completed our survey! This survey was performed independently of ALSC. If you have questions about the survey or would like to have more detailed information about the responses, please contact me directly at jcummings@friscotexas.gov.

(Photos courtesy guest blogger)


Cummings_JenniferOur guest blogger today is Jennifer Cummings, Youth Services Manager at the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas. She just survived her 14th summer reading program, and it remains her favorite time of year!

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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19. Organizing Easy Readers

Easy Readers

A still life with easy readers. Photo courtesy of the author.

Let’s talk best practices for organizing easy or beginning readers. I mean the books used by new readers to facilitate print word recognition. The easy reader collection is difficult to browse. Not easy! There are as many leveling systems as there are publishers that use different letters, numbers, or colors depending on the series; sometimes a level 1 is harder than something marked as a level 2 or 3. This makes parents and new librarians confused when browsing the collection. How can we simplify things?

I am looking to you for help! Give me some ideas of how your library treats the not-so-easy-to-browse easy reader collection. Help me (and maybe others) in future decision making by answering the following questions in the comments:

  • Does your library separate materials in the easy reader section using a leveling system?
  • How easy is it to browse the easy reader collection in your library?
  • Are fiction and nonfiction easy readers interfiled, or where are your leveled non-fiction books?

Every public library I’ve worked in (that would be four) has a different way of treating this collection. In the library where I work now, the easy reader fiction books are in near the picture books, organized by author’s last name (or popular character if there are multiple authors working in the same character series.). The easy readers that have the easiest-to-read content have a green dot on the spine label to help with browsing. The leveled non-fiction books are interfiled in the children’s nonfiction collection.

Now for more questions – Should we devise our own leveling system or use the A.R (or lexile or whatever) number to create levels for the titles in our easy reader collection, and shelve the books by those levels? Should the leveled non-fiction instead be interfiled with the easy reader fiction, or should we have a separate easy reader nonfiction collection? Is there another system that libraries have used successfully that you’d love to share here?

Please share your thoughts and best (or even pretty good) practices. I would love to learn how other libraries (public, school or otherwise) treat the easy reader collection.

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20. Favorite Bits

Creative commons wiki image - free use.

Creative commons wiki image – free use.

Let’s face it…we all have favorites. Favorite authors, favorite bits of curriculum, (favorite patrons…shhh!).  I am at a favorite point of teaching with my second graders right now.

We have been embarking on an American Tall Tale Study. I use Mary Pope Osborne’s American Tall Tales, as well as several stand alone picture books, including Osborne’s New York’s Bravest, and Isaacs’ Swamp Angel with the children.  We talk about geographical truths and wild exaggerations. We talk about humor and fear. We talk about who tells the stories and who is represented.

At the end of our study, I ask the children to create their own tall tale character who would fit into the world of Paul Bunyan.  Fun, right?

Turns out, in the past, it has been super hard for some students, and I figured out that I wasn’t being clear enough about world building.  7 and 8 year olds are sometimes a bit contrary, and the moment I tell them they get to create a tall tale character, the hands shoot up and inevitably I get asked, “Stacy! Can I make a character who is 5 inches tall?“, “Stacy! Can my character be from outer space?“, “Wait…does it have to be human?“.  This year, I really set the scene talking about setting, place and similarities with my students.  We spoke about the realities of the time period, as well as the fact that the characters don’t have super powers like we know super powers…rather they tend to have exaggerated human abilities (though of course there are exceptions).

When it came time to start designing their characters, the students had to think about things like age, gender and size.  But this year they thought more carefully about naming their character, and about where their character would live based on the special abilities they wanted the character to have.  One student even said, “I think my character would be better friends with Paul Bunyan than Davy Crockett because he’s a hard worker — not a bragger”. 

Sometimes it’s hard to remember we have to slow down and really set the scene for young readers.  When we do, the outcomes are often head and shoulders above what have come before.

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21. ALSC Member of the Month — Stephanie Smallwood

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Stephanie Smallwood.

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

Photo courtesy of Jamie Johnson

Photo courtesy of Jamie Johnson

I am the early literacy specialist for the Springfield-Greene County Library District in Springfield, Missouri. I provide training, support and mentorship in early literacy and early childhood development for internal staff, conduct an outreach program which serves families and community organizations, and of course, advocate for families with young children. And like many other librarians, assist with ALL THE THINGS.

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

Youth librarianship, much like other professions that serve children and teens, is sometimes not regarded with the respect it deserves. ALSC works very hard to improve that. I am not currently a member of other ALA divisions, but I am a long time member of NAEYC.

3.  Who is your favorite book character?

Olivia! I give those books to the kids in my life all the time, but it turns out that the only Olivia book I own myself is in Latin… (because I have the kind of friends that buy you your favorite picture books in Latin. It’s ok, you can be jealous.)

4.  What are three things you are thankful for?

Only three?

1) My support system, which includes my fiancé (A.K.A my biggest fan), incredibly close circle of friends, my family, and my supervisor and colleagues.
2) My career. I’m nurturing the roots of my community every day, what is better than that?
3) Beauty. Whether it is nature, music, art or people’s actions, beautiful things remind us that life is worth living.

5.  What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

I’m not sure if it is the scariest, but I just finished The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. It has an intense, underlying creepiness on multiple levels, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

6.  Are you a dog person or a cat person?

While I appreciate dogs, I’m definitely a cat person all the way. I have a black and white kitty named Dani who has been my furry companion for 11 years and I adore her.

7.  What’s your favorite thing to do at your Library?

Telling families how amazing they are and all the wonderful things they are doing for their children. So many caregivers feel uncertainty about how well they are raising their kids, my happiest moments are the ones where I watch a mom (dad, grandparent, foster family, etc) become visibly lighter when I tell her that those tiny things she does everyday are exactly what her child needs. And I give kids free books which is pretty awesome too!

8.  What do you wish every children’s librarian knew?

That they are having a positive impact on their community every single day. It is so easy to forget that when facing the everyday challenges and frustrations, but every reference interaction, safe place for a teen to be a teen, collection decision, carefully planned program, behind the scenes work, and smile we provide matters. And it matters a lot.

9.  What was your favorite book as a child?

Owliver by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariana Dewey. No existential reason other than I just loved it. And The Poky Little Puppy which I checked out of the library every other week until one time it was overdue, my mother swore we had returned it, and then we found it months later. Oops…

10.  What is a hobby you are working on?

I really enjoy cooking, which is a surprise because I never thought I could cook. I like the challenge and creating things that I and others can enjoy. And garlic. I really like garlic.


Thanks, Stephanie! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to alscblog@gmail.com; we’ll see what we can do.

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22. Best Practices for a Streaming Author Visit

This article will focus on using Google Hangouts on Air.

We’d all love to have our favorite author fly out and visit us in person, but the cost and logistics can be daunting. Streaming visits allow authors to connect with more readers and are easier on your budget- sometimes your author will even speak for free! Here are a few tips that will help ensure your event is a success.

Why Google Hangouts on Air?
Setting up a YouTube channel to associate your Hangout with will automatically archive your event to YouTube.  No problem that you weren’t able to get all the kids in one room at a time, they can watch later. See the King County Library System’s Hangout page for examples of past events.  Creating a new YouTube channel will automatically create your Google+ page for you. Alternatively, if you have a channel you can associate it with a Google+ page. You will need to verify your channel through SMS.

Technical Run Through
Set up a practice session with you author at least a week prior. Send them the link to Google Hangouts so they have the most current version installed. This also gives you a chance to chat with the author and figure out the flow of your event.

Equipment Set Up
You’ll need a webcam so the author can see who they are talking to, possibly a tripod to set it up on, a microphone for questions, and speakers so everyone can hear. For streaming events this is where you may incur some costs, but you only need to purchase these items once!

Hangout Settings
Hover at the top of the page to access your settings. Check that your microphone and speakers are selected and test your sound. You may need to change your main preferences through your Control Panel.

Inviting Participants
We’ve found the least stressful method is to click the person + icon at the top of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.50 PM

Copy the permanent link and email the link to your author. Please note that if you send the invite through email your author will need to login to Gmail or Hangouts to see the invitation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.58 PM

Starting the Hangout
After you invite your participants you aren’t broadcasting yet. To get your archived video you need to click the Start Broadcast button. When you are finished (yay!) click End Broadcast. YouTube will need to finish processing your event, but it should be finished in a few hours.

Final Tips
Don’t panic if people look reversed during the Hangout. During the processing everything will be flipped and anyone watching remotely will see everything correctly.

Concerned about recording student faces? Make your videos Unlisted and only share the URL with staff and parents.

Help Resources
How to Dominate Google+ Hangouts on Air
Hangouts On Air common questions

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23. Building STEAM with Día in 2016!

Día: Diversity in ActionALSC is accepting proposals for the 2016 Building STEAM with Día mini-grants. To launch the yearlong celebration of Día turning 20, ALSC will award up to ten (10) libraries $2,000 each to implement a Building STEAM with Día program in their community. The project year for this grant is January 2016 through May 2016. This mini-grant opportunity is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation through the Everyone Reads @ your library grant awarded to ALSC. For more information and to apply for the mini-grant, please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/diaturns20.

ALSC President Andrew Medlar can attest to the importance of a culturally inclusive approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming, so he is “excited that ALSC is able to provide a second round of funding that will help libraries incorporate diversity into their STEAM efforts.”

Celebrating Día

The Building STEAM with Día program is part of the El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) initiative, commonly known as Día. This nationally recognized initiative emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds, and 2016 marks the 20th year of its observance. Día is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. This is the first of two funding opportunities that ALSC will offer this year to help libraries celebrate Día all year. ALSC also manages the National Día Program Registry to help libraries and community partners share information about their Día programs throughout the year.

The common goals of all Día programming are to: celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries; recognize and respect culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities; nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture; and to introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies. For more information, visit http://dia.ala.org/.

Image courtesy of ALSC

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24. With Information Comes Advocacy

Last month, a cohort of ALSC members wrapped up the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge. I was particularly interested in the 8-week Everyday Advocacy Challenge because it presented an opportunity to advocate while working in a non-library setting. What helped me feel comfortable was having information I eagerly wanted to share with others no matter the setting, and the #EAChallenge presented several opportunities for information-sharing.

In week 3, we were prompted to send an email to a local school or community-based organization presumably about our library’s services.  Admittedly, this was challenging since I don’t work in a library, so I tabled this challenge for a later date. However, upon reflection I realize that I visit my library almost weekly, and I subscribe to and read the library’s newsletter. I have access to local library-related information to discuss with schools or organizations, though it might not be as readily available as if I worked directly with patrons. I’ll be ready next time.

Week 4 challenged us to write or call our elected officials to talk about our work in libraries. Some participants said, and I agree, that this challenge is much easier when there is a specific issue to discuss. So, I went straight to the District Dispatch website to learn about a current issue that ALA is supporting. I read about the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and tailored my letter to that bill.

For the fifth week, our prompt was to talk up the EA challenge with a colleague. Sometimes my face-to-face interaction with library colleagues is limited but this did not stop me from talking up the challenge. I found it easy to talk about the challenge when friends asked what I’d been working on lately. I used this question as an opening to discuss the challenge. It helped to have examples of the advocacy work others are doing and current legislative work, so previous challenges came in handy.

Perhaps my favorite challenge was the last one, in which we were urged to read the October issue of Everyday Advocacy Matters. I had recently received the newsletter via email and glanced at it, but the challenge prompted me to go back for a closer read. I’m glad I did because the Everyday Advocacy Spotlight affirmed my thoughts about the challenge as a whole. The first tenet of Everyday Advocacy is Be Informed. Throughout the 8-week challenge having information about library issues helped me find my sweet spot – lifting the weight that I sometimes experience when thinking about advocacy work. Of course, advocacy work involves more than information-sharing but it is a desire to share information about issues important to me that drives me to champion, promote, or push for particular services and issue.

I hope others use the Everyday Advocacy Challenge and weekly Take Action Tuesday prompts to find an advocacy sweet spot. I especially hope others approach the challenge and prompts as an opportunity to be a library advocate no matter your workplace setting.


Africa Hands, MLIS, serves on the Advocacy and Legislation Committee and was a member of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort convening from September 1-October 20, 2015. She’s on Twitter @africahands.


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25. Roller Girl Rocks

Image from http://www.victoriajamieson.com/

Image from http://www.victoriajamieson.com/

I just got around to reading Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015) and boy, was it awesome!

This great graphic novel for middle-grade readers follows twelve-year old Astrid, who is inspired to join a summer youth roller derby camp after her mother takes her to a Rose City Rollers derby match. Astrid immediately falls in love with the sport and aspires to be like the rad roller ladies, whose colored hair, witty names, and rainbow socks absolutely scream cool. Unfortunately, Astrid’s best friend Nicole doesn’t seem quite so impressed by the roller derby. Soon after Astrid discovers that her bestie will be spending her summer at ballet camp with one of her not-so-favorite people, Rachel. So begins Astrid’s summer of growth as she learns that sometimes friendships change and that skating is not quite as easy as it looks.

The story felt very authentic to me, capturing the sort of girl drama that can blossom between friends, especially during those difficult and emotional middle-school years. Jamieson herself is a roller girl, skating with the real-life Rose City Rollers under the name “Winne the Pow” (how cute is that?!). Jamieson’s personal experience provides readers with a realistic glimpse into the world of women’s roller derby, while her bright, colorful illustrations bring this world to life. This book just may inspire readers to seek out their local derby team and become roller girls themselves!

Roller Girl is a stand-out graphic novel and an impressive debut from Jamieson. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next! This title is a perfect book to put in the hands of Raina Telgemeier fans or young tweens who may feel like outsiders looking for their own place to fit-in. I might even use this title for a future tween graphic novel book club meeting, as there is plenty to talk about and relate to for girls and boys alike.

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