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1. Need More Programming Chops?

Pixabay Image
One of the most difficult parts of our work is often giving ourselves permission to try new things in our programming.  Sometimes we feel pressure from our administrators, our veteran colleagues or patrons to do - or not do - certain things. Combine that with tight budgets, tight staffing and tight time and the challenge really ramps up. We read exciting efforts in blogs and online but just can't seem to jumpstart them at our own place of work.

If you are looking to re-think, get re-inspired or explore programming a little more in depth, I invite you to join me in an upcoming online CE course: Power Children's Programming on a Budget.

This asynchronous course which starts on January 26 and runs for six weeks gives participants a chance to learn - and share experiences and tips that work wonders. We also explore strategic ways to plan, be a strong advocate and fit what you want to try into a busy work schedule. A bonus is our blog that will preserve ideas and thoughts.

Whether you live in Wisconsin or another state, this course is a great one to hone your programming skills! Hope you can join me!

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2. I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends

Image: Pixabay
As some of you know, I've recently been teaching as an adjunct and occasional instructor for continuing ed courses. I pretty much fell into it - never pictured myself teaching. With encouragement, I applied to teach a basic youth services in public library grad course online a few years ago. What's to lose?

Holy academia! I got hired! That first time, I had six weeks to develop a syllabus and content for the fifteen week grad course, find my textbooks and set-up the online course on a platform that was like learning a language from another dimension. It was without question the hardest professional challenge I ever experienced.

I was able to do it because I wasn't alone. The support from SLIS staff and many, many colleagues who mentored me, suggested pathways through this new dimension and from the students themselves taught me a ton and shaped me as a teacher.

Because of that experience, I found I love teaching and kept it up (it's gotten easier and far less other-dimensional since that first "polar plunge" semester).

And alot of that love is because of alot of you!

Teaching allows me to share the wisdom and experience of many of you out in the field blazing paths to great services for your communities. I have been able to link my students to many bloggers  and blog posts and the seminal thinking that is going on in the field. I thank you and hope you keep writing and sharing!

And I want to especially thank the kind colleagues who took the time to go the extra mile this semester for my students by creating videos talking about their passions and areas of expertise for my students. Huge hugs go out to Christine Jenkins, Mel Depper, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Karen Jensen, Abby Johnson, Terrie Howe, Megan Schliesmann, Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, Lisa Shaia, Amy Koester, Cen Campbell and Starr LaTronica. I know how busy everyone is and it was a privilege to share your thinking with the students.

While the course evaluations aren't in, I would say that these videos touched the students deeply (if the discussion boards and papers written are any indication) and were eye-opening glimpses into the thinking behind what we do as youth services professionals. Your expertise, so kindly shared, will make the students more mighty.

Thanks for joining me in this teaching adventure. I simply could not do it without you!

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3. Where Do We Learn?

Of course everywhere.

On social media, through blogs and in social media groups.

Through mentor-protege relationships - whether informal or set up through ALSC or a state association.

Image Pixabay
Through our libraries - in fact this post is inspired by Katie Salo's library asking staff to teach each other about their areas of expertise. Wow, libraries of the world, do this thing! Wouldn't it be great if every library cared to make sure all staff knows what all staff work is about?!?!

Through attendance at state and national conferences - both inside and outside the library world.

Through webinars and online classes like our state's continuing series of webinars with panels of practitioners at libraries large and small; formal CE credit courses through SLIS schools and our statewide Wild Wisconsin Winter Web conference with 10 national speakers.

Through attendance at workshops outside our usual territory - and often relatively nearby. In the past month, four of our YS team have attended three different seminal, breakthrough, slaying-sacred-cow seminars on shaking up summer reading programs around the state. While we already push the envelope in this area, we are inspired by other's stories, experiences and support. And we drove to learn more!

Through reasoned discourse like that going on here and here.

Through conversations with colleagues in the library, patrons and kids.

All our learning, all our sharing (we each have the power to reflect on and teach each other) pushes our practice and grows our understanding. No matter where we learn, we can't help but get better.

Our opportunities are everywhere. Carpe perceptum!!

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4. On the Road - Develop Your Inner Superhero

Image: Pixabay
I'm back in my old stomping grounds on the eastern side of the state where I worked for 22 years presenting a workshop on programming superhero-dom (told you I've been thinking about that alot!).

This workshop is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Association - it was a donation to their foundation auction and Winnefox Library System snapped it up. It's a great way of giving back to our association and also encouraging everyone to become state and national association members because, you know, together we are stronger!

While it has a superhero theme, the workshop isn't an SLP workshop.

As I mentioned in my last post, 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 looked 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.

What you couldn't be there? Drat! Well, there's a 6 week online UW-Madison SLIS course I'm teaching around the concepts in the workshop starting January 26 (registration is now open).

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

Develop Your Inner Superhero Workshop Pinterest board
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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5. Programming Superheroes

Image: Pixabay
That's what we youth librarians are you know.

I've been thinking alot about programming over the past couple of years. I've been writing about it, teaching about it, listening to ideas about it, revising my thinking about it and considering it in the context of all we do as youth librarians in our work day.

And one consistent theme that has struck me is that programming for kids in libraries - while not all we do - is the part of our jobs that is most visible, touches children's hearts most closely and consumes a great deal of our creative and imaginative energy.

We come into work, don our superhero librarian costume and plan and present amazing early literacy storytimes; school age programs, outreach visits and more. We think about how to involve kids through passive programs, DIY programs, partnerships with other organizations.

Back in our "Barbara Gordon" street clothes, we scan Pinterest, blogs and journals for new programming ideas. We talk to our colleagues, watch webinars, brainstorm and dream new ways to reach kids through our programming. We see program possibilities while we shop for groceries, stop by a festival, in our jammies while watching TV.

All the ideas get tucked away and pop back out when we don our superhero duds back at the library.

Part of being a superhero is finding ways to take those ideas and balance them to serve people without burning out. So we share tips on how to do programming and collection development and planning and advocacy and all the background tasks that make up a whole youth librarian's M.O. in a sane, fun and sustainable way. The hidden secret identity parts of our work are less visible to our public but just as heroic.

We recently received a lovely tribute to our youth staff- both past and present - from a patron whose children's reading lives were touched by staff helping the find the perfect book and presenting great programs.  These glimpses into the change we make as very public programming superheroes and quieter reader's advisors and information professionals reveal the depth of our good work. We all receive these positive boosts from our patrons and they warm our superhero hearts.

Whether thanks are expressed or not, the work we do to shine a light on literacy, learning experiences, and reading through our programming touches the lives of children and brings us out to them and them into our libraries.  Shine on, my superhero colleagues, shine on!

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6. Let's Go to School Together Again!

Hey friends out in youth library land....I'm baaaaaack!

We had such a great time in spring exploring together the range of youth programming and smart and savvy ways to make it easier, that I am repeating the course beginning in January.

Join me for  Power Children's Programming - on a Budget, a six week on-line course for the UW Madison SLIS Continuing Education beginning the week of January 26. It is open to anyone, in-state or out-of-state, who is interested in this subject.

This course is perfect for any youth staffer interested in digging more deeply into programming for children, preschool through elementary ages. We'll explore: why we do what we do; how to do it better; negotiating the tricky currents of available staff, time, money and patron reactions.  You'll expand your community of programming peeps through robust dialogue, program shares and down-right feisty argument. 

Since it's an asynchronous course, you can dip into the content anytime each week. Lectures and readings are a mix of written text, webinars, slideshares, video and links to seminal posts about programming from bloggers including  Sara BryceAnne Clark, Amy Comers, Melissa Depper,  Abby Johnson, Amy Koester, Angie Manfredi, Brooke Newberry, Katie Salo, Beth Saxton and our friends at the ALSC, Little eLit and Thrive Thursday blogs.

We'll revive our class programming blog Kids Library Program Mojo that will fill with new content as the ideas and programs start popping up in the course and being shared. Coursework in this pass/fail course takes about 2-3 hours a week and the two brief assignments allow you to hone your thinking on programming (be an advocate!) and create/share a program. What could be more fun?

I hope you consider joining me for this most excellent learning adventure. I plan to learn as much as I teach!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

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7. Together We ARE Stronger

We are just wrapping up our state library conference today. Again, what an extraordinary conference and what an extraordinary year. I counted 24 separate programs over the three days with content perfect for children's and teen librarians: school partnerships; book cycles to deliver books to kids in the summer; leadership paths; apps; refreshing field trips; bad girls in YA lit; learning to tame the sensory overload to help kids using the library; what boys like; keynotes by Kevin Henkes, Karen Jensen and Avi; Guerilla Storytime; ideas for school agers and more, more, MORE. We had an outstanding Teen Services preconference that connected our heretofore (hella word!!) unidentified teen advocates in the state.

During the Awards and Honors no less than three of our star youth librarians in the state were honored: Tessa Michaelson Schmidt received the Librarian of the Year award; Megan Schliesman won the Intellectual Freedom Award and Terry Ehle of the Lester Public Library won the Paralibrarian of the Year Award. Terry is an extraordinarily creative and active children's librarian who is generous with her time and talents and a leader in our state. This award is co-sponsored by our SOIS grad school in Milwaukee and includes a year of free tuition in their MLIS program. Terry has already begun her first semester.

Youth librarian leaders were everywhere in evidence over the past few days - introducing programs; serving on the WLA board of directors and the Youth Services Section board; sharing ideas, stories; challenges and laughs in hallways and restaurants and mingling and working with librarians from every type of library and library discipline. We brought in our colleague Cate Levinson from Niles IL to be part of a panel to share her amazing Armchair Astronomy program ideas and she stayed the whole conference.

We need healthy associations supported by librarians from all types of libraries and at all position levels for the learning and networking at conferences like this. We also need healthy associations to support our legislative agendas to protect and enhance library services and the public's access to them, intellectual freedom, everyday diversity, and to lead the way in sharing excellent library practice.

Please join your state association. Put in not just your money but your time and become a strong leader to support all our libraries. It's not what you get (although it's safe to say you get incredible networks, learn leadership skills and become smarter and wiser - and laugh more) but what you give in sweat equity that makes associations so strong and so profound. You share your passion with your colleagues. Your leadership in helping the association shine and be mighty through your volunteer work makes all the difference.

As I always say: together we ARE stronger!

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8. The Giraffe in the Room

I promised I'd let you know what was going on with our room rearrangement. For the past twenty years, our desk had us facing a boat (patrol duty) with our backs to 80% of our service area.

Now our desk faces the public and we have a view of the entire area. The giraffe proudly helms the front of the boat (complete with travel posters that we "inserted" a photo of him into) and other animal characters reading in the front nook. The back of the boat is still there for kids to read in.

Staff Reaction? Overall, we love it. Still some tweaks (wires we need to get safely hidden - hence the old SLP banners) but having a view of our entire service area is revelatory (imagine years of facing four red doors). The space is more open and the new carpet's slightly more subdued colors seem to bring down the crazy level.

Patron reaction? Not bad. We point out that the ancient giraffe is now protected and we now can see the whole area to help serve everyone better. There's been a grumble or two but that is the vast minority. We find if we address the change in a cheerful, friendly way as families come in, we get a more positive response.

Most kids are good about the change. The preschoolers are a bit taken aback. But 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!' "

Of course this is just the first week. We still have a heavy first few months of "Wha?!?!?!" and a good year ahead of people who come in less frequently being startled by the giraffe's new exalted no-kid area. But the team is ready to meet and greet to get our community through the transition.

The story of our adventure is here and here. And below are a few more pictures (think panorama) of what we see in our service area now.

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9. Clean Up Your Act!

As we are wrapping up the CE course on management tips I'm teaching, the discussion has focused on ways to create zen in work life. Everyone has had a ton of ideas - from "eating the frog" first thing in the morning (getting the hardest thing done first) to list making to no email until later in the morning.

Everything in this thread fascinated me. But one that especially resonated was the suggestion to get your desk together and cleaned up/organized before you head out the door from work. A neat desk at work? That would not be me - as my team can attest. But maybe it could be?

My home desk is far less chaotic but probably just as busy. This is the spot where I create, write, record, research and do all.the.things. for my classes, my blog, my workshops, my presentations for in-state and out-of-state conferences and all the stuff that has nothing to do with my day job. My computer and "stuff" is on an old wooden table that my parents got when they were first married seventy years ago. Solid! I spend a couple of hours there most days of the week. It's tucked away so I'm not ignoring my sweetie while I'm diving in to the work.

For some darn reason I can stay perfectly organized there. Maybe because nothing is coming in to the "wonk workshop" (my name for this space) except the assignments I accept or pursue. And it's small so if I'm not organized and feng shui-ish, I can't create. Of course, what makes this space more concentrated is that I have the time to keep it together. Nothing comes in  - no phone calls, patrons, emergencies - unexpectedly.

So keeping organized there has been key to huge productivity for me. There is a finite amount of home time I want to spend on this stuff. Because my sweetie, my family and friends, gaming, cooking, getting outside, reading, learning and looking out the window to watch the birds, trees and seasons pass by.

So maybe I can turn my work chaos desk

into my wonk workshop desk

Zen awaits!

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10. The Giraffe Made Us Do It!!!

We have this boat. You know THIS boat....a "feature" (of one type or another) that many of us in children's library spaces struggle with. I can wait while you read our sorrow so I can catch you up with the news.

Where's the desk?!?!
We know that the boat will never go. It's part of the wall and all. But that doesn't mean we can't create another scenario that makes more sense for a boat in a library. 
They are standing in our new desk spot!

Today begins our re-carpeting of the Youth area project. Everything has to be moved. We realized that this was our golden opportunity to re-locate our desk so we would no longer face the boat, but actually face our service area and families coming in and using our space. And we came up with a genius boat solution! It comes in two parts.

Part 1
The YS staff is taking over the front of the boat!!!! We retired our old desk. We bought a new desk unit that is more flexible. And we are enclosing the front (runway) of the boat into our workspace. The worst disciplinary-crazy-making part of the boat will now be staff-only. Kids can still read in the other reading nook of the boat so they aren't completely exiled.  Of course we expect some unhappiness and push back from the public but that's ok. We got it covered.

Have I told you about our giraffe? We have a fifty year old, 8 foot tall Steiff giraffe, Longfellow, that was almost loved to death. Play got so rough on this big guy that we finally sent him on an extended world vacation (basement storage) three years ago, much to the dismay of kids, parents and grandparents everywhere. We knew we couldn't bring him back until we could wall his delicate self in with a fence or plexiglass or....

Part 2
Longfellow is really taking over the front of the boat!!!! We realized that the giraffe would fit nicely on the front of the boat in a totally see-able but totally untouchable spot to protect him. Since he is returning from his world cruise it makes sense that he needs to be on the boat and in a safe spot where kids can't tug, kick, push, lick and ride him (yes, parents were complicit!).  So Longfellow will help us take some of the edge off our boat take-over. He's driving this change-bus..er boat!

I'm a big believer in giving something when we take something away. We stressed over this as a team - what would we put on the front of the boat to justify taking away that space- and worked through many possibilities.  Then the magic moment a few weeks ago when a staffer said, "Hey, will Longfellow fit on the boat?" Booyah!

I'll keep you posted on the new look and what our patrons say when we re-open in a week.

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11. Thing 1 and Thing 2 = Empowerment

Hafuboti expresses what everyone feels in the CE class
Two things are happening that make me happy and excited and proud and want to run in circles of OCD happiness (I am controlling myself).

Thing 1.
I am teaching an online CE course for UW-Madison on issues in youth library management. In the description I lay out the narrow set of issues we can address in a four week course - some good stuff but by no means ALL. THE. THINGS. I also, as in all my CE classes, made it known that this isn't a guru-to-grasshoppers paradigm: "The course will be collaborative as you share your experiences and ideas that have worked in managing your youth services area."

Bless the participants. They are taking me seriously! In our first week, over 300 posts flew back and forth. Questions, answers, ideas, sadness, happiness, problems, solutions, thoughts and support, support, support for each other. It is clear that a community of practice is budding. We are all learning a ton. And I think we are all learning to be unafraid to put our thoughts and fears out there. The graphic in this post is from Rebecca Brooks who blogs at Hafuboti. It's her meme on how she feels about wanting to jump in. That's what I'm talking about!

Thing 2.
Our state youth library consultant, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, is deservedly being named Wisconsin Library Association Librarian of the Year in a few weeks. Right there that is a Thing 2. It is very rare to have a youth person win this award and it makes my heart very happy.

Happier still, though, is what brings Tessa to this award. In just 2.5 years on the job, she created a statewide initiative, Growing Wisconsin Readers, that supports early literacy throughout our state with ready-made materials. She planned a Youth leadership Institute in 2013 that brought non-MLIS children's librarians together and gave them information and power that have made these people mighty. She has created shared system workshops and powered a new look at youth statistics that honors not just active programs and SLP statistics but all the ways we program and bring children to literacy.

But best, best, best of all??? Tessa has been a mighty person who has given voice and power to youth librarians (whether MLISed or not) throughout our state. She has empowered staffers from our smallest libraries to share their amazing work - through blog posts, through invites to present at statewide conferences and as part of webinars. She has opened the door and invited everyone through. As she says, "You're only leading if you're extending forward as much as you are reaching behind and pulling up others."


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12. Just to See if I Could

I love technology even when I'm less than facile with it. Having come from the horse and buggy days when overdue notices were handwritten, check-out cards (by the thousands) were hand alphabetized for each due date and slowly searched to unite card with returned item, and phone notices ate up a morning each week, how can I not love?

Back in the day, to reach out to your colleagues meant a drive or a long-distance phone call. It wasn't unusual for a director, sweating the bottom line, to ask you to use snail mail. Not exactly conducive to a conversation.

Technology has been powering our work and connectivity since the '80s. Each year it gets better, faster and more interwoven. Social media gets us brainstorming, learning, commiserating and celebrating with pals, new and old, near and far. Travis Jonker just wrote this article on power-using. Combine that with chats, google doc collaboration and we can be right there with each other all the time. I'm with you, buddy!

Bringing technology into our work with kids has also been great. Watching parents using iPads with their kids, kids gaming and solving in Minecraft, kids learning animation, coding, filmmaking, using iPads for trivia/scavenger hunts on tours and more in libraries (check out Jbrary's recent post on iPad programs) has been way exciting. I will never be the Luddite that screams "Books! Books! Nothin' but books!" There is room for all the ways to interact with print and discover and learn information.

So where is all this going? Well with new iPhone I bought last night in hand, for the first time I am free to blog wherever and whenever. So I did, just to see if I could!

Sigh! Technology I heart you!

[Although I couldn't *quite* figure out how to get the links and photo in...more study ahead!)

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13. ALSC Institute vs. ALA Conferences

We all only have so much continuing education/professional conference funding - whether it's from our institution or our own savings accounts. And of course there are many possible ways to use that money when thinking about national conferences - not just for ALA sponsored events but for groups like USBBY, Think Tanks, NAEYC, Computers in Libraries, STEM powered conferences, unconferences, and much more.  Choosing what works best and balancing our choices is definitely a challenge. Though we want to attend all the things, it just isn't possible.

Just off the end of the ALSC 2014 Institute in Oakland, I want to talk a bit about the differences in two of my favorite conferences.

ALSC Institute:
Held every other year at different venues around the country (next up Charlotte NC in fall 2016), this small intimate conference is focused, youth program heavy and -centric (16 unique sessions, plus at this year's Fairyland extravaganza, a choice of one of over a dozen other breakouts) and combines deep learning with great opportunities to hear from book creators/publishers.  This year, local and national authors in attendance and presenting or mingling numbered well over 40. That's quite an opportunity to speak personally with a book creator as well as hear their banter and thinking on panels!

It sounds bizarre to say that a conference with 350 youth librarians is intimate - but it is. You spend Wednesday night through Saturday noon with the same group of people - at meals, sessions and social events.  If you choose to take advantage of it, you meet and share with a ton of colleagues as well as run into people IRL that you only work with virtually. One of the true advantages of these "regional" national conferences is that you get a chance to meet many youth folks from the venue's surrounding areas. This year we saw lots of our CA, OR, ID and WA peeps who can't make it to annual. That was worth the price of admission alone.

Admission. Well, here is often where the rub comes. Even with sponsoring publishers and organizations, this remains an expensive conference when you combine registrations, transportation and housing. In terms of sheer opportunity to learn/network, these costs are more than made up for. This year, I paid the whole tab myself (PLA ate up the library CE funds this year) and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

ALA Conferences
Held twice a year these are the muscular conferences that move our association and profession forward. It's an opportunity for librarians to work on committees and task forces that hone leadership and problem solving skills by plunging hands, hearts and minds into the guts of improving service to our communities across types and sizes of libraries.

Vast, sprawling and often confusing, ALA conferences are also an extraordinary opportunity to work with librarians from all types of libraries on areas of passion (technology = LITA; Feminism = Feminist t\Task Force; Intellectual Freedom = Freedom to Read Foundation...and endless combos) outside of our primary focus. Amazing opportunities to see massive exhibits and get hands-on looks at new and upcoming youth titles are combined with opportunities to attend special events that publishers host (breakfasts, lunches, social hours) and let you rub elbows with book creators is definitely a perk.

In general ALA is far less programmatic. "What?!?!?!" you say, "There are a TON of programs to choose from!". Each division/unit is given a very small number of programs they can sponsor in the leaner paradigm adapted over the past few years. ALSC gets five, yes, I said FIVE program slots. Along with these there are independently pitched programs like Conversation Starters, Ignite sessions and Networking Commons opportunities that help attendees fill their dance cards.

I love the annual conferences for the committee work and networking opportunities across types of libraries. Its the way that I can give back to the profession by working on ALSC committees, task forces, the board and ALA Council. Working with my peers, we make a difference because together we are stronger.

If you can make it to both types of conferences, most excellent. If you need to choose, Institutes are more programmatic/intimate. ALA conferences are great for working hard towards a better profession and giving back to the profession by working on committees and learning leadership skills. Although, I guess I can say I never won a Pete the Cat doll at an ALA conference ;->

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14. Seven is Heaven for Tiny Tips

Photo via

It's blog birthday time again! Whew, seven years old.

And this kid is growing. I am amazed and grateful to see over 320,000 pageviews over the life of the blog.

Thanks for coming along for the ride, even with posts fewer and farther between. It's great to think out loud on the blog when I can and share the journey with you all on the road of youth librarianship.

You can't know how much I appreciate you spending time reading and sharing your thoughts and friendship with me. Here's to seven more!

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15. Thinking Outside the Storytime Box - ALSC 2014

Sometimes the smallest seeds tossed out in a Twitter convo can blossom into a beautiful growing thing. This is the journey in planning a group of us found ourselves in over the past two years. It began with our question about whether it was reasonable to ask staff to create more/different programs when they already busy and stressed. We were also thinking about the rich content and ties to multiple literacies available for preschoolers and their caregivers that can happen in programs beyond storytime. The Twitter conversation moved over to a Google doc and we kept going and expanding.

While almost every library, no matter the size and location, offers a (or many) preschool storytime(s), far fewer offer content beyond that. Sometimes it's because of staffing issues, sometimes because a staffer is unaware of the possibilities, sometimes because there is very real pushback from management if something is suggested outside of the silo of comfort or expectation ("We've always just done storytimes; why rock the boat?").

We questioned whether encouraging staff to go outside those silos represented a bridge too far. We also noodled around with the fact that staff may be reluctant to try newer programming avenues because many thought the prep work/planning should mirror the intentionality of a storytime prep.

Over preparation for non-storytime programs is a huge problem at many libraries. We sketched out more thoughts on unprogramming. We explored ideas and solutions.... and then we started doing! The first Conversation Starter presentation at ALA 2013 on Unprogramming and subsequent presentations, webinars and blog posts evolved from this kismet meet-up.

And now we are presenting at the ALSC Institute in Oakland on doing easy, fun, multiple literacies, experiential programming for preschoolers. Our intrepid group of chatters: Amy Commers, Mel Depper, Amy Koester and I are exploring the rich content of programs that we have tried as well as hooking up attendees to other colleagues who have pushed the envelope with Parachute Playtimes, Toddler Dance Parties, Stuffed Animal Sleepovers, Toddler Drive-ins and much MUCH more.

We are including research links to help youth librarians make the case for the importance of these programs with management (or yourselves!). We've also created a Pinterest board with examples of many programs from many people to keep those creative juices flowing.

Whether you could be at the Institute or not, with these resources you can explore, experiment, build on your already successful outside-the-storytime-box ideas, and, you know, be mighty!

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16. On the Road in Jackson Mississippi

Today I am with colleagues in Jackson Mississippi. It's a whirlwind tour of unprogramming, stealth (or passive) programming and even a few pieces on partnerships.  I promised everyone clickable links to programs that had blog posts/websites, so here we go!

Unprogramming - 7 part series with Amy Koester starts here

Sample Programs
Stealth (passive) Programs
DIY programs



Big thanks to my hosts in Mississippi and all my colleagues there (*waves*). Huge shout-outs also go out to my marvelous YS team at La Crosse Public Library, my admin team buddies, my friends and colleagues in WI libraries, my got-yer-back blogging and twitter friends and colleagues and my unprogramming co-conspirator Amy Koester. Without all the inspiration, support and brainstorming, I wouldn't be the librarian I am and doing the things I do today. You guys rock my world!

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17. The Rest of the SLP Prizeless Story

Image via
Yes, we've been as anxious as you to find out what effect our decision to stop giving out weekly prizes for summer would be.  Today we shook out the preliminary stats and....

wait for it......

wait for it....

wait for it....

wait for it....

wait for it....

...no difference!!!!!!!!!!!

We had as many preschool and school-agers coming back for return visits this year when we built our robot as we did when we gave out weekly doo-dads.


The team felt that with the simplified program we had more time for interactions with the kids and a less stressful summer.  We already have plans in mind for next year to help increase interest in the donation part of the program (three caped superheroes representing three different charities for kids to choose to put their sticker on).

It's good to see these results and put the final cap on a busy summer and great to know our adventure was successful. Onward!

You can read about our journey here, here and here!

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18. Going Off the Grid

SLP takes it out of a children's librarian. It does.

And guess what, it's OK, you can admit it. You can embrace it. No shame there.

Because here's the thing. There's that beautiful thing called summer. You know warm nights and fireflies and picnics and swims and a cool drink by the river or lake and days that go on and on. That's my face pressing up against the window looking at all that each and every summer.

Because in our world of children's librarianship, there's all these kids, and more, more, more kids and families and programs, and kids and parents and kids and storytimes and eager readers, and shortstaffing and readers checking in and winds of budget woes and kids and programs and reading ...and, oh no!, deadlines for fall programs and PR and kids and readers and booktalking and kids and SLP check-ins and robot building and kids and kids and families...and you know, everything.

No matter how streamlined or cool or fun we make the SLP, it's...um, BIG.

But it's fine because in the midst of a crazy time, we know what we do makes a difference with kids and families. The encouragement, warm words, right book and time to spend a few minutes extra with whomever comes in makes the library a welcoming place for the kids and a great way to spend our summers.

The SLP is done here except for a favorite part - kids selecting their well-deserved books in the Rooma-rama of Books (aka our program room). There is time to re-connect with the team, start working on our fall initiatives and services and take some time off.

And that's what I'm doing. Heading off with five other women for our annual wilderness canoe trip where we challenge ourselves through all day paddles and challenging portages carrying our canoes and 50# packs as we tramp and canoe from lake to lake. I'll finally get the treasured glimpse of summer I've been waiting for.

Time to get off the grid, relax and recharge. 'Cause, you know, that SLP takes alot out of us.

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19. It's a Library Camp Out!

This is the third year we have kicked off summer with a library read in-camp out. As luck would have it both Friday the 13th and a full moon made it imperative that the evening feature spooky stories.

 We do this after hours - the doors lock at 6:00 pm on Friday, we have a brief break and re-open for our campers. Everyone is invited to bring blankets or sheets, flashlights and wear PJs. We have a few teen volunteers who take chairs out from tables to create camping sites (whether under the table or using chairs) or help put blankets between shelves anchored by piles of books to create a cozy reading nook.

The room is darkened with just a little light coming in through the windows. The first half hour is spent building tents, signing up for SLP and reading. We gave everyone a few minutes heads-up to undo their tents near the end of the 30 minutes. Then we invited families into the program room, where spooky stories and walking s'mores were ready (2 boxes of honey graham bears + 2 packages of chocolate chips + one bag of mini-marshmallows = one cup of sweet fun) - and our our fake campfire. A display of fine spooky books were ready for kids to check-out.

We had some younger kids than usual so I started by reading Reynolds/Brown's Creepy Carrots. I let kids know that each story would get creepier so they could leave if it got to be too much. I told the "Coffin Story" and "Tailybone" with the lights low - but kept a bit more on the lighter side. Everyone made it (so brave!).

While the stories were happening our volunteers quickly put the room back together. Families had time to check out a few books (thanks to our director who staffed the check-out and did final lock-up).

This is one of the easiest, most pleasant and laid back unprogram one can do for summer - or any time of the year. Kids and families love the magic of an empty library and those that come love the reading and the program.  For more samples of how to do it, drop by earlier posts here and here and Amy did her own fun take on it last year.

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20. Going Prizeless in SLP - Update

Our robot is coming together -yellow is body,
red is arms; blue-legs; orange-neck, feet, hands.
We are just completing our third week (of nine) in the SLP. As I mentioned in our original post on going prizeless for the school age kids,  we've been thinking about this for awhile. This year we took the leap.

So how is it going? We have had over 300 return visits to check in and get new game cards. Rather than weekly doo-dads, each time they return, kids get a sticker or two to help us build our robot - and money is donated to kid-friendly community organizations for the stickers as well.

We haven't heard a peep about "Where are the prizes?" or "Don't we get something besides a sticker?"

We had a hunch that this would be the case. We use stickers for 1000 Books and Baby Book Bees at each level. We also have stickers during each year's Smart Cookie Club that we offer to kids. And our Lego Check-out Club let's kids add lego bricks to a collaborative lego sculpture. So a significant number of kids expect and enjoy the concept of "building" or "making" something bigger with their contributions.

Kids are very excited about completing four game cards to receive a book. That is a goal that really motivates. And Sara's adaptions for the game cards (based on our transliteracy design from previous years) have made the program for school age kids fun and worthwhile. Reading and literacy activities have morphed from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards.

Sometimes our fear of what "might" happen keeps us from embracing change that moves us ahead.  We'll keep you posted at the blog on how we do as we go further into the summer.

So far, so good!

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21. Books as Prizes - Where's the Money Coming From?

In the Afterschool Program Facebook group, we were chatting recently about books as prizes for SLP and the question came up, "How do you afford books as prizes?" We shared some ideas on inexpensive sources: Half Price books; Scholastic Literacy Partnership, Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse sales; ARCs from conferences.

But that begs the question - where does the money come from? After all,  books are our priciest prize.

One thing we did to find the money was change how we program.

We booked performers for years - singers, magicians, storytellers, performers of one kind and another.  A very few could generate a crowd of 100-150 kids in our auditorium. Most would result in crowds of 25-45 kids and adults - and this in a city of 51,000 population!

The costs involved with performers were substantial - $200 if we were lucky; $300-$500 and up more likely. Add mileage, hotel and expenses and ouch! When we had 25 people in the audience, it meant we were paying anywhere from $10-30 per person in attendance for the program. That didn't seem like a sustainable use of money.

We were also developing some amazing in-house programs led by staff.  It occurred to us that if we continued this strong staff programming and cut back on performers, we would have enough money to fund the hundreds of books that we want to give to kids as prizes.

So we made it so. We still book a performer or two for special events. The money we saved went directly to buying books as prizes for babies through teens. Parents and kids both love these books. Kids get to choose freely from a variety that we put out. We fill our program room for two weeks in August with books for kids to choose from who have completed their SLP in previous weeks.

Of course, we could also have written grants, looked for donors or sought money in other ways. But we chose to enfold books into existing programming money. By changing our priorities we made sure we could make a book in the hand of a child happen. Seems worth it!

(For more thoughts on sustainability and funding in Youth Services, see this series starting here that I wrote last fall).

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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22. Reflections on the Journey to ALA

I am not a fan of Vegas.

There I said it.

I usually look forward to ALA conferences despite any particular location. But this time....

This time the location had me dreading what I usually look forward to. I hate heat. I hate venues where I can't walk easily between meetings and events. I hate hype.

So I sucked it up to get ready for #alaac14. Did an awesome job prepping my materials (flights, parking, hotel, shuttle, ALA schedule, like that). Maybe did best best packing ever - EVER - and had the luxury of being able to leave at 10:30 am to make my direct flight between Minneapolis and Vegas.

On the drive I was teary-eyed. Was this my last ALA? Why was I so sad? I look forward to seeing my good friends and colleagues both new and old - those whom I have shared trenches with and those whom I stand back and watch fight the good fight as young turks ready to take on the world and teach us ALL. THE.THINGS. But I know I am stepping back and away as my time as an active librarian winds down.

Amidst this melancholy on my two hour drive up to Minneapolis I suddenly jolted. WTF?!?! In my perfect packing, had I put in my powercord for the laptop the library provides for conferences? I pulled off the highway in Rochester MN and no, I had not. A quick call to a colleague to see if she was still in town (nope on her way to ALA), a thought to ask my partner to overnight the forgotten cord, and a request of my iphone's Siri to find a computer store were my action plan. Siri got me to Office Max to a mobile Best Buy and then to a big box Best Buy where I found a cord to buy.

I was re-energized. No more tears, no more narcissistic self-reflection. I like action and solving problems and here was another one conquered. Time to get back on the road and to the airport after that unexpected delay. I was focused, driven and needing to hit the boarding deadline. And I did.

Once in Vegas, I was delighted to see familiar friends at the airport - greetings, hugs and the joy of unexpected and always welcome reconnections. My roommate got in touch with  Vegas relatives and we shared a sweet and lovely evening of what Las Vegas offers beyond the glitz, gambling and glamour.

And I am reminded again of how every place is really home. We are never really far from the familiar. It brings me contentment and a great deal of joy no matter how far I am from my own hidey-hole home.  I come to Vegas today ready to conference thanks to the connections I find that make ALA so vital. It's all good.

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23. Reflections on the Return from ALA

My Vegas anxieties were well-founded. Ick, I do not like the strip. But....

I stayed at a small conference hotel with a favorite old friend and colleague about a five minute walk from the convention center that was a normal, slot machine free space.  Cool iced water with slices of strawberries, lemons, limes and oranges made the walk worth it. A free breakfast with omelets made to order, healthy fruit and cereal choices and some fine evil bacon and sausages greeted me in the morning; at night the "manager's special" meant bottomless free drinks and fresh tasty veggies as well as the usual munchy chips. Two blocks away was a delightful tapas restaurant with extraordinary and inexpensive food. I felt renewed every day.

The shuttles done good. I never waited long, got to meetings on the strip on time and was kindly deposited in front of my far-from-the-strip hotel after receptions and evening events (despite printed info that indicated I would only be dropped off at a hotel four long blocks away). Each trip also = great conversations

Blogging tweeps selfie thanks to @berasche. How many can you name?
For the first time since I got on ALA Council three years ago, the council meetings got out early so I could actually participate in a few ALSC meetings and events. Niiiiice. My favorite meeting was the one talking about experiential SLPs and no prizes - right up my alley. And my next favorite was the ALSC membership meeting where I chatted - if even for a minute - with colleagues new and old.  I think the ALSC board, office and leadership are doing an outstanding job. It was good to be able to see that again after three years away from my  board service. The Newbery Caldecott banquet (SLJ editors invited me to sit with them and reviewing collegues) had great speeches, great food and great fun. And I was energized and renewed with the chance to meet, talk with and re-connect with many old and new friends. That ALWAYS is the best part of IRL conferences.

A friend and her hubby renewed their vows at an Elvis wedding chapel in some of the most fun moments of my conference. Late arrival but still making it for the vows, Elvis singing "Viva Las Vegas" while we all danced, a rainbow, funkadelic bridal party, being hustled out the side door after to make room for the next happy couples, a long wait to return in windy dry downtown Vegas with good dear friends made this as memorable a conference experience as I will ever have. I mean, Vegas.

I have always prided myself on being a process junkie but Council truly challenged that perception over the past three years. It was not an easy assignment for an action person like me but I was proud of my service. Here I am with my "diploma" certificate proving I sat through many meetings.

I can't say I was a change agent but I welcomed the opportunity to serve WI as a chapter councilor. I got to know some wonderful colleagues from many different kinds of libraries and was graciously welcomed over to the twitter crowd by microphone 7 to wrestle with angels that danced on the head of the Council pins. Mixed metaphor VERY intended.

Council and the ALSC board always meet on Tuesday (or the last day of conference). For the last six years I have had the rare opportunity to wander the convention center halls after the glitz and conference glamour has been packed and people have left the conference site a ghost town. It makes me ever eager to leave and find my way home. So let me leave you with those last few images that we "left-behind-to-finish-ALA-business" get to see:
Hallway to meeting rooms

Darkened food court

ALA Store

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24. Youth Management School - For Real!

Before I begin, let me just say, any of us who work in youth services, whether official "managers" or line staff, are managing (or perhaps I should say juggling) alot all the time.

We each make decisions on collections, services, partnerships, intra-library collaborations, advocacy decisions, media matters, best use of our time/energy and a whole lot more. Sometimes we stay safely in the lane, following tradition, received wisdom or direction from above. Other times, after going to a workshop, webinar or social media peeps on the computer, we hop out of the lane and zoom to a better place.

So we all manage.

I have blogged about how excited I have been to find so many people sharing program and service ideas over the past few years. I can't say how important these ideas are for my practice and to my community. It led me to develop my first CE course this spring on Programming Mojo.  More recently I've been exploring great youth management ideas from bloggers like Erin , Cheryl and Abby and blogs like Library Lost and Found. It got me thinking more on how we manage our youth work and thinking again about how we all learn to approach our practice. Seems like there's lots to discover and and ideas to chat about.

If you want to join a conversation on youth management this fall, come to school with me!

I will be teaching a four week UW-Madison SLIS online course How Did You Manage THAT?!?! that looks at many of the issues we face each day in the youth services area. We'll learn and share together and have a great textbook to guide us (Managing Children's Services in Libraries by Adele Fasick and Leslie Holt - a book whose many editions throughout my career have served me well as a guide and a goad). Since this is an asynchronous course, you dip in each week at a time convenient for you.

I somehow think a class crowd-sourced blog will be involved again too. Hope you can join me and explore!

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25. Going Weekly-Prizeless (and Robot) Update

We are within ten days of the end of our SLP. We'll figure out final numbers and the upshot in August.

For now, we can say that we have stayed busy and lots of return-adventurers have come back to help us build our robot with their stickers. The excitement of the gamecard design and stickers seems great for the kids and we have YET to hear kids or parents bemoan no weekly doo-dads. While we also included a charity component (our Friends will donate money to the Human Society, Eco Park and Children's Museum based on the kids reading), this has not seemed as motivational as the very visual robot slowly building.

We dreamed the robot like this in this first mini-model. Staff had a little trepidation on how it would all work.  We used quarter sheets of paper that kids could sticker as they went along.  This is how our robot has been growing:

Early June

Early July

Late July
Kids have loved watching the robot get bigger and bigger. Staff has loved NOT dealing with weekly doo-dads. Has the fact that we aren't offering weekly prizes but only the book at the end affected overall return visits to the library? We may be surprised (unpleasantly or pleasantly). Stay tuned for final results next month when we shake out the numbers from our database!

To read about our journey, please stop here, here and here!

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