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1. Small is Beautiful

The last few weeks have given me a chance to celebrate and network with librarians working in small libraries at two special events that reminded me again of my abiding respect and enthusiasm for those working in libraries serving small communities.

In September, I was one of the teaching facilitators for an intensive three day Wisconsin Youth Services Leadership Institute. Twenty-five library staffers involved with youth work, almost all from small libraries, were selected from over sixty applicants.

At the beginning, many felt that they didn't deserve to be called librarians because they lacked a master's degree. Over the course of the three days, through workshops on history, advocacy, leadership and more; through many individual and group conversations and expressions of mutual support for each other; and through some eye-opening goal setting, all the participants claimed their title as librarians and leaders doing great things for their communities in libraries.

Then I attended the recent Association of Rural and Small Libraries conference. I had long heard that this was one of the best library conferences out there and I can't disagree. Fifty-nine break-out session presentations; five major speakers at meals throughout the 2.5 day conference; and plenty of support for everyone to network and talk together during breaks, dine-arounds and receptions. The organizers made sure everyone felt welcomed.

I heard over and over people talking about colleagues they met from all over the country with similar situations (both triumphs and tears) and how great it was to touch base and connect. The focus on issues and concerns specific to the those working in small libraries had alot of meat for people from larger libraries and I found myself tugged between many great sessions scheduled opposite each other (eight programs per time slot!!).

Perhaps my favorite part was how many presenters were from small libraries sharing their expertise. It was great to hear new voices and ideas and perspectives and worth the price of admission. When I go to conferences, I love to hear from people working in many different library situations and my favorite panels are those that are made up of voices from multiple libraries of various sizes and regions.

As a longtime freelance storyteller in my state, I had the opportunity to go to many, very small libraries over the years. Each time I learned some new cool idea, some tip or trick, an arrangement of collections or services that was, well, completely brilliant. The creative librarians at many of these libraries became my role models, my go-to inspiration and pals.

Their work was echoed again in these two conferences and reinforces one of my deep and abiding beliefs. We are all librarians - regardless of education, all community advocates, all dedicated altruists who believe in the power of reading to change lives and that librarians from medium and large libraries have a TON to learn from our colleagues in small libraries.

Small is beautiful!

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2. Passive Program Palooza

Time is a precious commodity for us all in libraries. One way to create tremendous bang for our buck is by incorporating passive (or, as I like to call them, stealth) programs into our programming offerings.

I think of these programs as "stealth" programs because they subtly invite our kids and families into the library and help us do our work of literacy support through the effort the families put in rather than having library staff front and center directing.

"Active" programming (hosted/presented by staff or volunteers; taking place at a specific date/time/place) is often the most common type of programming found in libraries. Think storytimes, afterschool workshops and clubs, one time special events, field trips, etc.

But passive/stealth programs can present great opportunities to stretch time, budget and staff in ways that give agency to the children and families involved. These programs take some initial planning to set up but once in place are easily administered by staff. The families and kids provide the "power" on their own time and these types of programs encourage frequent return visits to the library.

Examples of stealth programs that we all do? Summer Library Programs! And 1000 Books Before K Clubs that many of us do are also great examples!

What are some other examples of these types of programs?

Check-out Clubs - these initiatives which can last from 3 weeks to 8 weeks or more encourage kids to check out materials and do a "thing." Great examples of these include Lego Check-Out club, BackPack Buddies, Ice Cream Club, Free-quent Readers and Smart Cookie club.

Scavenger Hunts - whether inside the library challenging kids to discover book collections or beloved characters or outside the library tying into larger community efforts, these often short-term initiatives are a perfect why to program during school breaks or to quickly have something ready is school is cancelled. Examples of these include Dinovember, Book Character Hunts, Gnome Hunt, and Undercover Spy Club.

DIY Stations - these ongoing efforts (or short duration!) invite kids to create, write, draw, imagine and make that require minimal staff effort. Some paper, markers or crayons easily changed writing/drawing/creating prompts and challenges support multiple literacies. Examples of these include Stories in Action tables, exploration stations, or check out Amanda Struckmeyer Moss and Svetha Hetzler's book DIY Programming and Book Displays (Libraries Unlimited, 2010) for a year's worth of easy and delightful DIY ideas.

Whether you are doing passive programs for Teens or kids, this Pinterest board is chockful of great ideas from librarians around the country to make passive/stealth programs as easy as pie!

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3. Giving a Little Love to NF

Sometimes, when we think of promoting or handselling books to kids in our reader's advisory work, we concentrate overwhelmingly on our fiction collections. But it's worth giving some attention to non-fiction as well as we help kids. It not only increases circulation in that collection area but also is eye-opening and interest-opening for kids.

There has been so much attractive non-fiction published over the past ten-twenty years, it's easy to put kids and information books together. Just looking at the bright, attractive wealth of independent non-fiction titles, there's alot to promote.

[[True confession: I am seriously addicted to non-fiction. It has long been my favorite collection development area as well as the type of reading I am most passionate about.]]

We have had success highlighting non-fiction over the years that has tempted kids into trying -and liking - these dewey-ed books. Here are just a few ways:

NF Book Bundles - 3 or 4 non-fiction books on a subject that includes a bright label (Big Teeth; Strong People: Heroes; Science; Let's Build) let's us mix and match attractive NF from different subject categories together. These mini-bundles are fun to create and popular with kids.

Booktalks - when we booktalk to groups or at schools we always mix nonfiction and fiction titles together, often looking for a common subject theme. It's a great spot to include poetry and biographies as well!

Face-out Displays - Lots of it! As staffers work their way through non-fiction, I always encourage them to bypass the formulaic, series non-fiction and instead look for interesting subjects; eye-candy covers and titles that might pique the interest of kids. The more we replace a book in empty spaces, the better it is - it means kids are grabbing the good stuff!

Class or Day Care Collection Packs - putting non-fiction with fiction selections in packs that go out to daycares or classrooms is a great way to promote information books. I always look for short books with easily digested info-bits to tempt readers to pick up a non-fiction.

Stealth/Passive Initiatives - we make sure non-fiction gets a space in these. Whether it's pick-a-stick, gnomes on both fiction AND non-fiction collections, or NF included in Mystery Read bags, we make sure we don't stay fiction-centric in our support of great books.

Reader's Advisory - when kids are looking for books, we also check with them on subjects they are interested in and head over to non-fiction as well as fiction. Kids who love fantasy books often gravitate to medieval history books; steampunkers see how inventions are linked to their genre love; etc. And when fiction and graphic novels can't satisfy a reluctant reader, delving into a non-fiction subject area of interest often does the trick to spark some reading enthusiasm.

What has worked for you to highlight your non-fiction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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4. Eight is Great for Tiny Tips!

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I am amazed to celebrate the eighth birthday of the blog this week.

From it's humble beginnings to an overwhelming 420,000 views later, I am so happy you have joined me to think about youth services over the years.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this journey with me. I can't promise my blogging schedule will increase (retirement finds me laying back and smelling the roses lots more) but I can promise that thinking and writing about youth services won't be ending!

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5. On the Road - Storytime Mojo

I'm in my hometown of Green Bay WI (yes, home to the Green Bay Packers and booyah) sharing some storytime history (did you know that storytimes for preschoolers in libraries didn't happen widely until the 1940s and 50s?), considerations and tips and hearing back from participants on what works best for them. 

I've presented over 3,000 storytimes for kids since the mid-70s and it's given me a long-eye view into the always vibrant early literacy adventure that is "storytime". Today's presentation includes some of my experience but also, more recently, that of colleagues at libraries I've worked in as well from those around the country and across the border (*waves*).

The following list of resources shared at the workshop is just the tip - the very tip - of the iceberg in creating strong storytime content. It contains lots of links that help readers explore further into more blogs, websites and research supporting our role as early literacy gurus for our communities.  Have fun exploring!

A Few Blogs with strong storytime content:
Mel’s Desk         


Upcoming Webinar:
 Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers – September 22, 2pm CST – Info People. Free 

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6. Check it Out!

Ice Cream Club glory
Over the years, we've done alot of playing with "Check-Out Clubs," special stealth (passive) programs. These clubs encourage frequent visits back to the library even if there isn't any program tempting kids in. And it encourages continued robust check-out: if kids check out, they get to do a "thing". The "thing" most likely adds to a "group build" that is eye-catching and a fun incentive for kids to add to.

We run these clubs during slower times when kids are less frequently in the library or we are on program breaks. When are those quiet times? They can be almost anytime of the year. For us, it's been:
  • August - when kids have finished the SLP, the pools close and families are looking for additional activities. It's often a time of heavy staff vacations. 
  • September  - when school starts again and the focus of families shifts away from the public library and staff continues to catch some well-earned vacation. 
  • December and January  - when holidays and cold keep people at home and bundled up from the WI cold and programs are sparse and sparsely attended. 
  • May - when kids are getting ready to end their school year and staff are busy doing SLP promos at schools.
Our other goal with the clubs is to make sure whatever we plan is exciting and interesting for the kids. By and large, they have really worked for our community and we've been super pleased with the results - both the enthusiasm of the kids and the resulting check-out. 

Free-quent Reader Club was created based on the concept of frequent flyers earning bonuses and air miles. Kids in this September/October club would earn a book. We also used this club for secondary goals like encouraging kids to bring their cards with them or increasing attendance at a specific program by offering double stamps. 

Smart Cookie Clubs have been popular doldrums December-January events. Each year we changed the character that kids got to add cookies to - Pete the Cat or Elephant and Piggie. We used our large storyroom doors as bulletin boards and kids added a cookie each time they checked out. 

Ice Cream Club is the new model of Smart Cookie Club. We used it this year in January and February when we are doing massive K and 2nd grade tours and cut back our programming to accommodate these intensive eight weeks of tours. Kids who checked out could add an ice cream scoop to our "build". Sweet!

Fire Up with Reading Club - we ran this September club to culminate during Fire Safety Week in October. Each time kids checked out they could fill in a raffle slip to win a "day with the firefighters." It was great working with the Fire Dept on this one and we had good participation.

Lego Check-out Club, Bryce's long held dream that fruitioned two years ago, was uber the first year and even better the second year when we lost the bags and just handed out the legos and had a new desk big enough to accommodate the organic build (rather than being closed away in our porthole). It has made December a much sought after "return to the library and check-out materials" month.

Back Pack Buddies - staffers were interested in having a brand new backpack raffle for kids in August. We figured rather than our usual scavenger hunts, it would be fun to get kids excited about school and the possibility of winning one of six fully-loaded backpacks. Kids who checked out could enter a raffle to win a backpack and put their name on a pencil to add to our "build." THIS was a big one!

Some of these clubs were one shot deals or needed some tweaking. Backpack Buddies was far more intensive than we realized - not just because of high participation but also coinciding with a time of short-staffing, SLP wrap-ups and general craziness. Our Undercover Spy Club started off with a bang - we handed out beaucoup spy buddies to kids to explore the city and report back but had very few return visits. Our Firefighter winner had to cancel a couple of the dates to go to the fire station making it far more complex for the firefighters. All of these were learning experiences and just gave us more ideas on how to run our next club a little better!

We've had far more ups than downs doing these clubs. As passive programs they bring in added excitement and return visits and better check-out. What's not to love?

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7. Talk it Up: Promo Power

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I've been thinking lately about how promotion of our services can really make a difference in the public's response to our efforts.

There are traditional methods of promotion in getting the word out: flyers, handouts, posters, press releases to the media and youth serving organizations, online newsletters, social media, email blasts and so on.

Then there is the more subtle - and I might suggest more successful - methods of simple word-of-mouth advocacy.  The information we relay while on the desk working with patrons AND wherever we see our community members - at the grocery store, place of worship, gym, bar, 5K, trail or across the fence - becomes a personal invitation that's hard to turn down.

I've seen some great examples of this over the years:

  • An early literacy librarian who inevitably found her way to each new parent she saw (whether at the library or outside in her civilian life), cooed over their baby and personally invited them to baby storytime. She always carried a business card with the days and times of our storytimes to leave with the family. Our storytimes never lacked for attendees.
  • Desk assistants who, while checking people out, always mentioned upcoming programs of interest to their various children. They relayed excitement and a hint of the fun to come. Our programs were always full of eager kids.
  • Storytime presenters who, when interest in 1000 Books initiative started to falter, promoted the program in their sessions. Sign-ups and participation perked up again.
  • Librarians attending community meetings chatting about our programs and services with tablemates and putting our literacy efforts out front for people to discover. Amazing opportunities resulted.

Like any kind of advocacy, these personal conversations and invites work best if they are ongoing and consistent. Once word-of-mouth promotion becomes a habit for staff, it's as easy as falling off a log to promote services, programs and initiatives. And the results can be amazing!

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8. Taking the Time

June and July are crazy busy times, amirite?

Sometimes the busyness goes right into August. But if we're lucky, there is a week we can steal to take a much needed vacation and break to relax and recover and gather our strength before heading into fall.

My holy grail that has kept me chugging through SLP annually was (and is!) a not-to-missed weeklong Canadian wilderness canoeing-portaging-camping trek in Quetico Provincial Park. For over 20 years our group of six paddlers has gathered in a celebration of wilderness, cooperation, and sheer delight in nature and the wonder of the wild.

A crazy 10- 17 hour drive (depending on launch points in Champaign IL, Madison , Milwaukee and La Crosse in WI) brings the six of us together in Atikokan ON. From there, it's seven days of alternating relaxation and challenge that puts crazy SLP times far, far away. The company of these five women, the amazing sights and the realization that age doesn't stop our strength and sense of fun and adventure makes this a much savored 9 day trek.

I always come back feeling powerful, relaxed and sure that no work challenge is harder than what we faced in the wilderness. That's a powerful panacea.

Whether we choose time in the backyard on the deck, at the beach or cabin, spending extra time for a roadtrip with the family, hiking or biking or fishing or luxuriating in reading three books, a little downtime after SLP is a cure we children's librarians can truly appreciate.

So go ahead, take that time! You'll never regret it and the boost to your readiness to tackle the next work challenge is worth every moment away!

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9. What We Did on Summer Vacation

We made some fun changes and adjustments to summer this year that worked out swell. Here are a few highlights:
  • We again went weekly-prizeless for preschool & schoolagers with positive results. We had robust registration and return visits despite no doo-dads. Instead of building a robot, this year kids got a sticker or two to cover a life-size Darth Vader cut-out. They loved the concept of "defeating" the villain by covering him completely. With three more weeks to go, we expect full coverage-defeat!
  • We lengthened our program to a full ten weeks. While it has definitely made the summer months feel longer, we are still seeing outstanding return visits and a longer chance to use the library - earn the ultimate book prize.
  • We changed our preschool SLP from monthly activity cards to weekly activity cards. This has definitely brought in more families for return visits and the younger kids have loved stickering up Darth Vader (or themselves!) more often.
  • One of our gamecard activity choices was for kids to be superheroes by bringing in kid-nummy boxed meals for donation to our neighborhood food pantry. Summer is traditionally a very low donation time for food pantries and they often have to expend precious cash reserves to keep shelves stocked. We were gratified with the number of kids participating (we've delivered over 300 pounds of food "for kids, by kids" so far this summer) and the deliveries have been greatly appreciated.
  • While we definitely had plenty of fun active programs, we also used plenty of stealth (passive) programs to engage kids - Craft of the Week for preschoolers, Kid Lab and paper-covered tables with writing/drawing prompts for schoolagers and DIY activities weekly for daycare groups. It helped keep the libraries a "destination" for fun activites to engage kids no matter what time of day they came by.
Finally, rather than a completely stealth August "continuation" program, we decided to offer a "Backpack Buddies" program. We have six fully-loaded backpacks for different ages. Each time kids check out books in August, they can enter their name in a raffle to be a lucky winner. We are excited to see how this goes!

It will be fun to see the final results of all this change when we shuffle our stats out but all looks great so far!!

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    10. Summer Check-in - How Are We Doing?

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    Our friend Abby the Librarian  commented on Facebook that even though it wasn't a terribly busy day, summer is so intense that she finds herself worn out. We all have that moment(s?). We are there too!

    Summer and summer reading just means more. More of everything. More intensity in that everything. More constancy in the more. More fun. More kids. More ickiness. More questions. More answers. More stress. More crankiness. More splendid moments. More small defeats. More unbridled delight. More success. More chaos. Just more.

    Whether we are in the midst of a six week, four week, ten week, twelve week or sixteen week program, the more-ness swirls up around us. At times it takes on the intensity of a blizzard we are trying to walk through (are you with me here, oh Midwest, Northwest friends?). Can we make any headway?

    No matter how much we have scaled back our SLP to make it kid and staff friendly, still it is intense. No matter if we KNOW it will be impossible to do anything except SLP during these weeks, it wears us down. Wouldn't it be great to do a little of our other work. Nuh-uh. It's summer!

    Is there a cure? Hmmm, getting into another line of work is a possibility. But most of us really don't want to do that.

    Is there a cope? Yes, I think there is. It has to do with self-care. We each have a secret way to recharge. A sure knowledge that the end of the intensity is in sight. A welcome adult beverage at the end of the day. That extra piece of chocolate or favored fruit or cracker or cookie or nut treat. An eye on the horizon of the last day and maybe a little time off. A long bath at the end of a tough day. Some TV zoning. A deep immersion in a well-loved book. Some gaming time. Some quality pet/family snuggling time. A small and special day off filled with friends and fun - or even a lunch away. Some time outside.

    Self-care is important. Whatever happens, coping and staying even means taking some time to recharge ourselves daily. Remember, each day we make a difference for kids - and for our coworkers. Taking care of ourselves means we can have energy to do this remarkable kid-filled summer reading thing each and every day.

    Hang in there, my friends. The end is in sight!

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    11. Exhibits Power

    ALA is many many things to librarians - a place to effect solid innovative change for librarianship; an opportunity to work on behalf of all librarians to fight the good fight on legislative issues, universal access, bridging the digital divide, IF and advocacy. It's a place to learn, to share and to network. Warm greetings and hellos from colleagues old and new, a chance to discover a little more IRL than we have time to on our social media accounts. There is time for committee work and attending Notables, leadership opportunities and division board meetings. Informal lunches, after hours get-togethers and hallway convos keep the crazy days interesting.

    One of my favorite parts of the conference is always the exhibit floor. While some spend time queuing up for author's signatures or advanced reader's copies - and I've snagged my share - I like to spend some quality time really looking at everything children's publishers have out AND up and coming in the next publishing cycle.  I like looking not just at the large publishers but also smaller publishers that publish for a smaller niche market or larger publishers that publish primarily in countries outside the US. This is where you can often find hidden gems of diversity that celebrate different cultures and countries.

    In the past,  these presses and publishers were often relegated to the last two or three rows at the end of the exhibit floor. But this year at ALA, there is a welcome change. The small press tables can be found at the end of rows - rows that put them next door to some of the biggest names in publishing, ILS systems and other national vendors. You won't have to go far to find a first time exhibitor like Karadi Tales, a publisher in India who has two books recently honored by the South Asia Book Awards - The Rumour won the young people's award in 2013 and in 2015 A Pair of Twins was on SABA's Highly Commended list. The books that are on exhibit from this publisher are delightful and easily open up our collections to needed diversity.

    This new juxtaposition of large publishers near smaller or more diverse publishers means that it will be easier than ever to take a few steps and discover presses outside the mainstream houses we know and love. So if you are coming to ALA, take some time to chat with these publishers from smaller presses or publishers from different countries and discover the true richness of our publishing world. Your community will thank you!

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    12. Digital Power!

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    I am excited to see the publication of two milestones for those interested in bringing digital literacy in to the library for kids and families.

    One is the publication of the full Young Children,New Media, and Libraries:A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5This book has been written as an online serial over the past year or so by some of the true movers, shakers and thinkers on this issue in the nation. It can be downloaded or accessed online.

    The second is ALSC's new White Paper on Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth. This paper was adopted by the ALSC board in March and is now available for downloading. It is a straightforward, well-reasoned, well- researched and helpful guide that places libraries and librarians squarely in a digital literacy role we so beautifully performed with print and nonprint literacy over the years. It is available on page chuck full of information on the many ways libraries are working on media mentorship.

    While some see attention to digital literacy and evolving our roles in libraries to include being media mentors as THE.DEATH.OF.LOVE.OF.BOOKS.AS.WE.KNOW.IT, I remain remarkably sanguine.

    Could be I've seen four decades of growth, evolution and radical change in libraries since the heady days of the 1970s. Could be I think that Ranganathan's Fifth Law posited in 1931 (The Library is a growing organism) is actually true. Could be that transliteracy and the remarkable resiliency of libraries to meet the community's needs trump any fear we might have of change. Could be I just like change.


    I welcome the great work being done nationally, regionally and locally to embrace digital literacy and media mentorship and applaud everyone who is stepping up and on. Go you's!!!

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    13. Thrive Thursday - June

    It's high time to celebrate a little pre-summer and SLP school age programming. What's up this busy month?

    May Stuff
    Holly over at the new blog Let the Wild Rumpus Begin has a great post up about robotics in her Maker Monday series.

    Miss Molly the Librarian loves cosplay so Free Comic Book Day was just about the best day ever.

    Jennifer over at In Short I am Busy has two programs to share: Raising Chicks and her highly successful 1-3rd grade book club (a 3-5th grade version will launch in fall).

    Brytani at The Neighborhood Librarian did a Fancy Nancy party just before Mother's Day. Oooh-la-la!

    Summer Stuff
    Jennifer at In Short I am Busy is going a new direction with her summer program and also shares her superhero masks passive program win.

    And Jenna, well known for her ALSC advocacy work guest posts on Tiny Tips and reminds us of what is really important in summer.

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    14. SLP - Breathe Deep and Go Forth

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    Today we have a guest post from Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC advocate extraordinaire and hardworking wisewoman/youth librarian/teaching adjunct in the greater Chicagoland area. You can reach Jenna at alsc.jenna@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter @ALAJenna. Take it away Jenna!

    For all my friends kicking off Summer Learning tomorrow, a few sage words (such as they may be):
    You might not feel ready, but you are. You're ready to dazzle kids and families by making them feel welcome, wanted, and valued at the library. They're coming to see you, not to see if all your programs are planned, if your bulletin boards are done, or if all your decorations are up. (Mine aren't.)
    Put aside those holy-cow-I-still-have-so-much-to-do lists that feel impossible because they are. That stuff pales in comparison to those little faces glowing with excitement and wonder about summer at your library. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather look at them than at mountains of paperwork, forms, or ungodly spreadsheets of numbers and statistics.
    You hardly need the reminder, but nothing and no one is more important than the child standing in front of you or little one sitting next to you. If your library kids know that, you're doing a kick-ass job with SLC. Everything else you "have to" do is secondary or even tertiary. (Trust me. It'll all get done. It can all wait. Kids can't and shouldn't have to do the same.)
    All you "have to" do is make the library a fun and magical place this summer, and you do that by simply being present and available for your kids. Greet them. Smile at them. Love them. And for heaven's sake, GET AWAY FROM YOUR DESK and have an amazing time with them.
    At the end of the summer or years down the line, kids won't remember the stuff they got by being part of your SLC. They'll remember the time you spent with them and how important you made them feel. Those are the real prizes, both for you and for them.
    Need a reality check at any point in the next 8-12 weeks? You know where to find me (alsc.jenna@hotmail.com or Twitter @ALAJenna .

    Love to you all

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    15. It's Almost Thrive Thursday Time!

    Hey all, whatcha got doin' for school age kids?

    It's almost time for our monthly compilation of all the good stuff you've been doing (or about to do for summer) for school age programming on Thrive Thursday. Because we have the summer thing going, we'll post the goods on Thursday June 11.

    If you have a program to share, please leave it in the comments.

    I can hardly wait to see what all you've been cooking up!

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    16. Sumer is Icumen In

    (Sometimes you just have to go 13th century! This fine blog post title goes back to my Middle English languages roots and I love to murmur it as the lushness of May unfolds inexorably towards summer)

    Kids will add stickers to cover Darth over the summer
    Here comes summer!

    I got totally inspired to write this post looking at all the great non-CSLP/iRead SLP reading/activity logs that people shared on alscl listserv recently. Microsoft Office and free fonts have made it possible for every children's staffer at any library without a designer on staff (that's like 99% of us!) to become a visionary planner and SLP materials design DIYer. It sure helped us!

    We love the CSLP superheroes theme and found it easy to design our unique activity cards. Again this year, there are no weekly prizes - only a final book prize for kids who finish four weekly game cards. We are doubling down on our going prizeless/weekly card mojo by wholeheartedly adding in our preschoolers. Brooke breaks down the new preschool program she designed here.

    For the school-agers, we loved how we morphed our long-time "experiential-SLP" model (developed  over fifteen years ago at my previous library with my smart school collaborator/colleagues) into game cards and we're sticking to it! Our new additions this year included, at the request of our nearby Salvation Army, a square where kids may choose to donate food for other kids as well as other heroic themes hatched out of the mind of Bryce.

    Rather than building a crowd-sourced robot like last year, this year we are setting up a giant Darth Vader at Main and D.V. posters at our two branches. Each time kids return with a finished game card, they get to slap a sticker on Darth. The ultimate goal is to cover (and defeat!) this arch-villain.

    To play on the superhero theme, we purchased a large and a couple of small Fathead Spiderman pix. We will cover these with post-it notes, hiding the character from the kids. Each day, staff will remove a post-it and slowly uncover our superhero!

    As always, other than a few superhero posters and super hero word balloons here and there, we plan to have kids use Crayola window crayons to be our main decorators on windows during a regularly scheduled program which really brightens up the place. We'll soft launch a few days before the public schools end to help us stretch out registration sanely.

    We feel heroically ready for a great summer. How about you?

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    17. Color Us Thrilled!

    Like most of you, we look closely at our collections, their arrangement and their kid-friendliness. We successfully morphed our Picture Book collection into Picture Book City "neighborhoods" and stopped fighting board books and made them 100% browseable in easy-to-access bins - both great "accessibility" decisions.

    Since Alan, our new head of Collection Management (CM), started two years ago - and we changed our ILS - these types of changes have been far easier. Why? He has two kids and he really "gets" youth services. He knows how challenging big collections are for children seeking information and favorite books. The Dewey Decimal and multiple fiction collections with strange letters and symbols sitting atop author's last names and so.many.books.everywhere. can make a library visit overwhelming.

    Our newest collection update was something that Al suggested as soon as he started working here. "Why," he mused, "don't you just color code the spine labels for your different fiction collections (early readers, graphic novels, chapter books, illustrated fiction)?" Why indeed. This coincided with an observation I made when I had first started. Since our catalog clearly spells out what particular fiction collection a book is located in (thank you automation), why do we need to even have a suffix (+, P, E, jgn or jif) as part of the call number in the catalog? We could save cataloging time by simply going suffix-less in the call number field.

    Then, like peanut butter and chocolate running into each other and producing a peanut butter cup, we realized that if we took our two ideas (colored labels and no call number suffix on both books and in the catalog) we would save a ton of processing time and reach a hoped for goal- easy kids access. Al's idea sparked us!

    We designated unique colors for each of our fiction collections - and while we were at it divided out our chapter book collection into tween and chapter books: early readers = pink; jgn = red; illustrated fiction = purple; chapter = green; tween =orange. Then we simply added the appropriately colored overlays to our existing collections and did global changes to wipe out the suffixes in the catalog's call number field (there's that slick new ILS!). All new books come down from CM without a suffix ((E, +, jgn, jif)  - the spine label simply has the first three letters of the author's last name or main entry. YS staff quickly determines which fiction collection each belongs in, puts on a colored overlay and batch updates the catalog.

    Colored overlays show what collection books belong to. Top three books display sleek new suffix-less labels!
    The results?

    • Kids (and shelvers!) more easily can spot the types of books they are looking for. 
    • The colored collections make a quick shorthand way for desk staffers to direct kids to books ("Let's find that in the red section where graphic novels are.") ,
    • Our Collection Management catalogers and processors no longer have to agonize over exactly which collection a book fits in or do small batch processing to cope with the differences between fiction collection labels. 
    • If we think a book would be better in a different collection, we simply make a quick change in overlays and a catalog update. 
    • The overlays themselves - which we have used on other collections around the library - are long lasting but still peel-offable if we want to do a reclass of individual books.
    Left: Illustrated fiction (purple labels). Right: Graphic Novels
    A strong partnership with a visionary CM manager and a willing YS team made the difference in making this user friendly and more efficient library workflow change.

    I think simplifying Dewey numbers may be next!

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    18. On the Road - 1000 Books B4 K and Programming Mightiness

    Pixabay Image
    I'm traveling to the beautiful southwestern part of WI along the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers to present a workshop on programming mightiness - and in particular 1000 Books Before Kindergarten how-to's. Below are the live links to the topics we plunged into!

    While programming isn't all we do, it is certainly the most public and often the most pressured thing we do (from preparation to conflicting demands). Today we look at strategies to program smarter and more effectively; the importance of balance and how to fairly meet the many needs of our public - and our funders. Creating a zen balance between service to all ages, finding time to recharge and plan, learning to get off the hamster wheel of constant programming and program shares were just some of what we explored.

    Here are the workshop resources that were shared with my colleagues:

    Today's Workshop Pinterest board
    Let 1000 Books Bloom Pinterest board
    Basic Resources how-to post for 1000 Books
    My general Pinterest boards  - (boards on different program types and samples)
    Pixabay (free images)  
    Struckmeyer, Amanda Moss.  DIY Programming and Book Displays: How to Stretch Your Programming without Stretching Your Budget and Staff. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2010.

    A *Few * Favorite Programming Blogs:
    Jbrary   (great resource list of blogs to explore!)
    Mel’s Desk  (great resource list of blogs to explore!)
    Kids Library Program Mojo (for a full list of fantastic program idea blogs AND great program idea posts- this is the class crowd-sourced blog from our spring CE course and has a ton of ideas from students!)

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    19. Talk That Talk

    Youth librarians have a tool belt full of skills that make us successful working with kids. I'm thinking programming, eagle-eye/mind youth literature chops, organization and planning, creativity, advocacy, child development and behavior management know-how, budgeting, PR, partnership-making, IF, digital chops and far-future seeing.

    But I have to say the one that is perhaps the dearest to my heart and present in the very most successful youth librarians (and really anyone who works with kids) may be the simplest and the one most taken for granted - translating adult concepts into readily understandable language that kids "get" immediately.

    This isn't talking down to kids in a babyish or patronizing way. It's simply taking something complex - whether a word or concept - and making it kid-friendly/understandable.

    It's easy when we get into any occupation, hobby group or organization, to quickly become submerged into the jargon associated with that activity. I mean it's just the shorthand used with those we are in close contact with so we can zip through what we're doing. I would for-instance ALA's many unit acronyms that, while they scare some librarians, are really a quick way to communicate.

    I applaud youth librarians who come up with great ways to let kids know how our library works or to introduce a concept. Here are a few samples from our shop.

    How This Whole Library Thing Works:
    During field trips, we  ask the kids who the books belong to (the librarians?  Nooooooo; the library? Noooooo; You?  YESSSSS!!!!)  The books belong to and are shared by all the kids and grownups in the community!  Then we tell the kids them the library is like a house that the books live in. But books love to visit with kids at their house. With a library card, children can take home materials for a nice visit. And, just like a visit from a friend (we all know that visiting friends don't stay forever), the books have to return home to the library after a few weeks so they can visit with other children.

    Old Maps = Google Earth?
    During a tour with middle schoolers of our amazing archives, our archivist was showing the kids a huge old map book used for fire insurance purposes. Peeking over her shoulder, it struck me how to make the experience connect for the kids. Our archivist facebooked: "Shout out to my colleague Marge Loch-Wouters - when I was showing groups of 7th graders a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, Marge summed it up by saying "This map is like an ancient Google Earth image." Nailed it!"

    The Animals Made Us Do It
    When we closed off a running/jumping/general amok portion of our big boat, the preschoolers were a bit taken aback. But our colleague Brooke came up with a great way to navigate them through the change. She shared with the team:  "I’ve started calling it our animal boat.  Because all of our animals decided they needed a place to live, so they picked the boat. The other side is our “people boat”. If they say they want to go up to the giraffe I just ask, 'Are you an animal? No, you’re a person, silly!' "

    How to Say It So Kids Listen/Understand
    In her "Management with an Iron Fist" series and soon to be taught CE course and day-to-day work, colleague Bryce breaks down how to communicate in a way that kids can easily understand and get the behavior you expect. These now classic posts break it down.

    What do you say to help kids understand how and why the library works that translates into real-kid-world understanding?

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    20. Shaking Up SLP - Creating the Zen

    Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. 

    Our guest today is Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, a colleague at LPL who joined our team last August. Kelsey is a thoughtful, let's-work-on-this-together visionary who is active on the Friends of the CCBC board and in library work. Before she joined us here she worked in a library in a small community (pop. 5000) in WI. In this post she shares thoughts about the path to change in your SLP based on a workshop she did for librarians in our system.

    What comes to your mind when you think about SLP? Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also a busy time of year, and sometimes stressful – for you, for other library staff, and sometimes even for patrons. While SLP maybe never be a smooth, stress-free zone, we can do a lot to make it easier on ourselves and everyone around us.

    Let’s start by considering what we’re really trying to achieve - what YOU are really trying to achieve at your library. Promoting reading during the summer, of course. But what do you aspire to when it comes to your own SLP? Spreading the word about the importance of early literacy, and getting parents with babies to participate? Showing middle-grade readers that books can be funny and interesting? Just getting more people in the door? Being thoughtful about what YOU want to do with YOUR SLP will give you purpose, common staff goals, and direction. The Harwood Institute, currently partnering with ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, has a great worksheeton thinking about aspirations. Though the worksheet has a broader community focus, it can easily be adjusted to focus on SLP.

    Another important step is to simplify. Do we really need so many sheets and rules and procedures when it comes to participation? Do we really need so many prizes and incentives to get kids to read? Or can we come up with ways to keep SLP fun and fresh and literacy-focused without jumping through so many hoops? Last summer, at my previous library, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make SLP work better for patrons and more sustainable for ourselves. We simplified procedures, reduced unnecessary elements, and cut way back on incentives. The results were that kids continued their  enthusiastic participation, parents were happy to have less plastic junk, and staff had a much easier time registering participants, explaining the program, and answering questions. Streamlining made everyone happy. Making things less complicated doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy or letting our patrons down. It means we’re being realistic about what we can accomplish, and being thoughtful about sustainable practices.

    Finally, let’s talk about prizes. Lots of libraries use them, and that’s okay. There is no prize-shaming here. But are there better ways for us to use incentives when it comes to SLP? I’ve recently noticed several libraries changing the way they incentivize SLP, with fantastic results. Some are thinking about ways they can incorporate altruism, with the “prize” being a Friends-funded donation to a community organization of the child’s choice. Some are giving away books as an incentive. Some are doing away with prizes altogether, focusing on recognition and activity. This past summer in La Crosse, kids could add a sticker to help cover a paper robot on the wall. Research shows that extrinsic motivation, which is the drive to do something because of an external reward, is far less effective than intrinsic motivation, which drives us to do something because we love it. Prizes tap into extrinsic motivation, and while that’s not bad, I believe we can find more effective ways to get kids engaged in literacy. Ways that remind them reading is a fantastic experience in itself.

    How about you? What have you been thinking about summer reading/library program? Join our conversation in the comments, on your blog or as a guest post writer (send guest posts to me lochwouters at gmail dot com). For additional thoughtful posts, stop by the Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board or read other posts in this series

    Shaking Up SLP - Facing Down Fear
    Shaking Up SLP - Questions
    Shaking Up SLP - Research-iness
    Shaking Up SLP - Workshop Power

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    21. Elephant and Piggie Wow the Crowd

    We have long been offering continuing education opportunities on a monthly basis for our day care providers. Because we are registered instructors, providers who take our free hour-long classes are able to gain credits for continued certification in our state's certification program. Libraries place such importance on early literacy that it makes sense to give providers the knowledge and encouragement to do just that through these workshops!

    We recently did a workshop demonstrating how to create story extension activities using a book and one's own imagination. Activities that extend a story help children play with characters, plots and situations in the just-read book and more firmly embrace and enjoy the story and the concepts inside it. These extensions can be craft-based; sensory-based; pretend-play exploratory; art-based and more. The point is finding the kernel(s) of the book and extend them into the activity. Since we wanted to explore this in a simple fun way, what better books than Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie (aka E&P in this post!) series to do the job?

    Here's how it went down:

    I read There's a Bird on My Head and demonstrated a fun nest hat the children could make. This was followed with I Will Surprise My Friend and a demonstration on how paper bag E&P puppets could help kids understand the situation of the rock hiding the characters (you can find the extensions used in this post).

    Providers then picked a Willems' E&P book, and were given 10-12 minutes to read it and either working as a team or alone, come up with an idea for an extension idea or two that might work. The crowd was enthusiastic and came up with some great ideas. Here's a few they shared when we re-gathered and book-talked their selection and made their suggestions. Look what great stuff they came up with in just a few minutes:

    Watch Me Throw the Ball - have the kids toss a ball and comment on all the different ways they throw (best throw to the left; highest; softest; kindest to the ball; best ball that went to the left; etc. Important to focus not on far the ball is thrown but how fun throwing the ball, no matter the result is!)

    I Broke My Trunk - using paper towel rolls, let kids hold them to their noses. Talk about what might break their nose. Let the kids wrap their broken noses in toilet paper as a bandage.

    Elephants Cannot Dance - have kids practice the dance moves Elephant does. Then ask them to try a new dance move (depending on the group, they may come up with plenty of their own). Add music and have a dance party!

    Let's Go For a Drive - let kids pack and unpack a suitcase with clothes. Show them maps. Make a map of a walk around the block and walk with the kids showing them how a map works. Let the kids draw a map. Ask kids what they want to pack for a trip to the store; to the woods; to the beach; to a very cold place with snow.

    My New Friend is So Fun! - Have kids draw a picture of their favorite friend.

    I'm a Frog - have kids pretend to be frogs and cows. Ask them what other animals they would like to pretend to be. Use pictures of real animals to extend the idea.

    Many of the providers had never heard of these books and realized that an early reader could work great with the kids in their care. It also stimulated alot of conversation of other books they love to use with the kids and how they could use the story extension concept to enhance the kids' enjoyment. Mission accomplished!

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    I've been thinking alot about the pressure we put on ourselves in our youth library world. We want to be good at our job and for our community but there is also a whole world out there in the profession that sings a siren song of opportunity and over-commitment. Striking a work balance, a professional balance and a personal balance is hard because of All.The Things. that call and call and call.

    Two recent blog posts brought this into particular focus. The first was this one at House at Katie's Corner.  Katie talks about those many things that pulled at her and drove her to exhaustion.  In the end, she reminds herself why she is a librarian : "It’s not to have the best blog or the latest gadget or the best-written article in Library Journal [although these things are fabulous]. I’m really doing my job to serve my people, my community, my kids. And if I focus so much on myself and how I stack up next to others, I’m not going to do the best job for them."

    The second is the first of three posts that Mel is doing at Mel's Desk about the nuances of no. Mel beautifully explores the difficulties and satisfactions of working towards balance and the power that "no" has in reaching towards that goal. She shares her journey of getting out of earshot of the siren song. I can hardly wait to read the next posts coming out on this.

    One of my first library directors taught me something valuable as a young librarian that has helped me work through this struggle in my own practice. He pointed out that there was time for everything in my career. When I was asked to serve on an award committee early in my career, he said no.  I was burning the candle at both ends with some amazing work projects and partnerships and he pointed out that the opportunity would come again. At the time, I was really angry with him. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! He was ruining everything! I could do it! I had the energy!

    But time proved him right. The opportunity not only came again but came at a better time - a time when I could commit energy and thought to it without shorting my work at the library. And it came more than once. He helped me see that in the course of a career, we have many opportunities to do meaningful work professionally without jumping on the train early or taking time away from work or family.

    I also learned as I went along that stress is not my favorite place to be. It helped me create balance and really pursue projects outside of work that made a difference without killing me with overwork. I say yes to very few outside professional commitments/projects at any one time (storytelling, consulting, professional association work, teaching, writing) since it has to mostly fit in my non-work time. If I take on too much, my blog goes quiet. I am out of balance.

    How do I juggle all the things to get to balance? My first  - and always  - bond and commitment is to the people I serve and who pay my salary. My best energy, my best ideas and my time go here first. Next is my family. From there, I work to serve and advance our profession - taking on commitments that don't overwhelm me or crowd into my workday.  If I don't serve my community and my job, everything else I do is really meaningless and false. This - this everyday and day-in-and-day-out work- is my center.

    Because I am closing in fast on four decades as a children's librarian I have truly learned that a career is a marathon and not a sprint. The sweetness of those "extra" things that I have done in the past ten years is better than many things I did early on. And there is room and time for everyone to get to that sweet place. Time brings all the things our way. We just need to be patient and realize that the journey is just as good as the destination. Give yourself time and space to grow and balance. The rest of All.The.Things. will come in their own good time.

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    23. Conferencing Outside the Box

    Library conferences often come to mind as the best places to put our bang-for-buck in-person attendance. But state and national library conferences are just the tip of the iceberg for great networking and learning experiences.  There are many opportunities to learn a ton if we step outside the library world and discover what else is out there.

    Just within this month here in our state, we have had/are having three great statewide conferences that are perfect for public youth librarians to attend. One is with our library media peers in WEMTA; one with the WI Afterschool Association and one an early childhood conference full of great sessions. We made sure we could get a staffer to each.

    Attending conferences outside the library world opens us up to new experiences, new ideas, new colleagues and new ways to approach our work. It's a great way to fill up our toolboxes and give even better service to our communities!

    What are your favorite "out-of-the-library" box conferences (national or local)? I'd love to hear about them!

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    24. Come Get This Job!!

    Well, kids, I'm hanging up my biblioboots at the end of July. One last SLP and offski I go into the land of retirement. A little teaching, a little writing, a little consulting, a little professional association work, alotta hiking, fishing, traveling and time with my honey ahead for me!

    It has been an amazing 39 years in the field. I was a hungry young thing in 1976 trying to land a MLIS-level job. Those darn "greatest generation" librarians were NOT retiring to make room for us clever boomers (do I hear an echo in present day grumpiness?). I took a parapro job right here in River City -aka La Crosse - got promoted and promoted again to be a manager and off I went in my career.

    Over the years, I was hired two more times at this library (a whole third of my career has been here) and have been thankful each time. Why? Because this is a library where innovation can happen, challenges can be met and problems solved.

    We're a three college, two large medical centers community with an emphasis on great cultural/art events, a great night life as well as incredible outdoor opportunities five minutes in any direction. La Crosse combines a small town/big city ambiance - a great family place as well as a place of struggle and poverty. Service for the kids, teens and families can expand a million ways from where we are today.

    If you thrive on challenge, problem solving, and making blue sky dreams of great service a reality - this is the place to make things happen. While we have the same struggles as many libraries with budgets, perceptions of the library, changing times and community needs, it is the readiness to go in new directions that helps us stay strong and vital. There is strong support for youth services both in the library and in the community. With two branch libraries in addition to the Main Library, opportunities abound to plunge hands into the guts of youth work to build always better models of service to the community.

    And best of all? An amazing team of youth staffers who move earth and stars to give great service to patrons. Innovative, passionate and fearless, this group of people makes it a joy to come to work. Combine that with a solid and strong team of management peers who have a sharp eye for the future and the ability to laugh and back each other up and this is a place to make magic happen.

    What are you waiting for? Come get this job!  It closes May 22! Youth Services Manager La Crosse (WI) Public Library

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    25. More Tech Talk

    Need more ways to polish up your thoughts and planning on technology and kids.

    You can start with the ongoing online chapter-by-chapter publication of Young Children, New Media and Libraries in Little elit, and reading this blog for ideas on using ipads in programming, seminal thoughts on librarians as media mentors and much more.

    You can attend this nifty LITA (Library Information and Technology Association of ALA) webinar Technology and Youth Services Programs: Early Literacy Apps and More in May with Claire Moore of Darien CT Library.

    You can stay updated on libraries that have been using ipads in-house at blogs like Reading with Red.

    And now we're thinking about the nifty and new to the market Launchpads.

    There's a world of things to discover! Let's do this!!

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