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1. 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.

Interlude
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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2. 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."

Word.




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3. 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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4. 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.

Upshot?
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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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

Partnerships

Resources

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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8. 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.

Score!!!!

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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. Reflections on the Return from ALA


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

THE HOTEL
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.

TRANSPORTATION
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?
THE MEETINGS/THE PEOPLE
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.

THE ELVIS WEDDING
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.

ALA COUNCIL
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.

FINALLY
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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. This Magic Moment

Eros Sleeping from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It's Summer Library Program!!! We are two weeks in!!!! And I am at a magical place that happens maybe once or twice a year.

I am caught up.

Yep, I am standing on the mountaintop. All things summer library program have been prepped, planned, put in play and are rolling out like threads from the hands of the Fates.

Of course that is why I have long maintained that SLPs are prime examples of passive programs or stealth programming characterized by:
  • Programs that take some initial planning and set-up but, once in place, are able to be administered easily with little ongoing time devoted to them. 
  •  Encourage return visits to the library without an active program
  •  Families & youth provide the “power” and activity on their own time at home
  •  Encourages check-out through reading incentives and drawing kids into the library
While they feel ACTIVE, the reading encouragement program part is extremely passive. Our scheduled events take up the more active programming component and certainly our areas FULL of families and kids mean our reader's advisory and motion is active and amped up by mega-degrees.

Once I get into work today, my plate will slowly fill back up and deadlines will once again start nipping at my heels (August events PR; ALA final preps; Library of the Year nomination wrap-up; final preps for this week's program; management "stuff").

But for this one moment, it's beautiful to savor the quiet of "caught up" - and to recognize that it bores me just a little!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has now made over 396,000 images available online for use by the public: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/254502?rpp=30&pg=2&ft=relaxation&pos=41

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18. Chocolate Fountain of Creativity


As we come to the final posts on the School Age Programming survey Lisa Shaia and I developed, the spotlight turns to YOU. Our respondents generously shared the many ways that they find programming ideas.

The breakdown:

We are wired, baby!

The internet, web, google searches, listservs like pubyac and alsc were mentioned 92 times. Pinterest and library blogs were mentioned 57 and 59 times respectively. It is clear that respondents used the rich content available online to spark ideas and find new content.

But lest you think we are tied to our phones, tablets and PCs, I must disabuse you of this notion based on survey responses!

Another huge source of inspiration was talking, brainstorming, collaborating and chatting with colleagues. 62 respondents found this method of inspiration to be a great idea source. Another 34 found in-person conferences, workshops and meetings to be invaluable in their idea generation for programs. And 34 respondents found their ideas in print sources - journals and magazines, professional resource books and newsletters. SLP manuals were the go-to inspiration for an additional 11 respondents.

Plus a huge source of inspiration (28 mentions) is the media, popular culture and what books and series are hot with kids.

And finally, on a more personal level, many, many people said their inspiration came from talking to kids, teachers, parents and families. They celebrated their own imagination and ideas ("warped mind," "in dreams," "idea fairy," "the recycling bin") as well as dipping into their own experience or files to come up with great content. And many simply stated that ideas for programs are everywhere.

They are indeed.  To see additional survey results, please stop here, here, here, here and here.

Image: 'Chocolate fountain #nomz'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/12700556@N07/6876057805
Found on flickrcc.net

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19. Nurturing Ideas - and Each Other

Stellar Nursery in Orion

This is one of my favorite photos at the always amazing Astronomy Picture of the Day. It shows the Great Nebula in Orion - a huge cloud of gas and energy where suns are forming in a stellar nursery. While the science intrigues me, I see it as a metaphor for what we can do best in youth services - help support and lift up our colleagues anywhere on their career path.

I've been thinking alot about this lately - partly because I've been teaching. There is this aspect of giving information in the act of teaching but a far deeper piece where the students give just as much -  sharing, problem solving, teaching and supporting each other. I always learn when I teach.

I've also been thinking about this - partly because I have been looking at management and hiring not just in our own library but also as I develop workshops, presentations and courses on  youth services management. Part of what you do every day as a manager is look for ways to open a path for the team members to work more smoothly - whether its removing a rock from the path, helping re-find the way, putting the breaks on a cart careening off the path or providing a little muscle to help ease the passage up a tough hill.

Partly because I have been in so many conversations with colleagues all over the country about how to encourage the sharing so we can preserve knowledge but also build on it. We should each want to plug into librarians at all points in their career to network, to share and to encourage their work and passion. Whether new or a vet, we can lift each other up by asking for our colleague's opinions, program ideas, and youth librarianship thoughts.

Amy Koester wrote recently about this is Storytime Underground and I couldn't agree more. We all have something to share, to learn and to gain. It isn't just the bloggers and presenters who have a platform though. It is every youth librarian every day in their work pushing that envelope further out. The stellar nursery isn't just for the beginners in librarianship - it is for everyone along their career's path. We all need that nurturing and support - and we all can give it.

Maybe, in addition to our PLN (personal learning networks), we need to commit to a ULN (universal learning network). Open ourselves up not just to our familiar network but build further and more openly outside of our tribe and our group and our lanes of connectivity. If we each think ourselves as a mentor - even if we are just six months into our first position - and our job is to lift each other up, how powerful could that be?!?!

We can then consciously support a youth librarian idea nursery that spreads and supports the work of us all by connecting to the unconnected, the un-cohorted, the un-MLISed. We can build the network by including never-before-presenters to panels we are creating to present at CE/conferences/webinars at all levels. We can make sure our blogs are open for guest posts. We can nurture those who don't have a path to leadership or an audience and are hesitant to step forward.

Flannel Friday, Storytime Underground, Thrive Thursdays and lots of bloggers are leading the way to this kind of universal support. Our challenge is to continue and reach more deeply out to those unconnected who can use the support just as much. I know we do it. But can we do it more? Oh yeah, we're youth librarians and we all are that nursery for each other.

Image Credit: R. Villaverde, Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA

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20. Does Big Budget = Lotsa Programs? The Survey Says...


Lisa over at Thrive After Three and I did an informal survey recently to look at the state of school-age programming. We had 171 responses to help us get a snapshot of services.

Today we want to look at number of programs that people reported as well as if there is a a correlation between that number and how much budget is devoted to programming.

From the survey results, it is clear that we librarians love to program for school-age kids. On average, respondents presented 42 programs annually.  The high was 200 - at a shop with five librarians. The lower end included 2 programs at another shop with 5 librarians. So you never know!

A pleasant surprise was how many passive programs libraries were reported. Out of that average of 42 yearly programs, almost 10 were passive programs. Over 3/4 of respondents run active and passive programs.

Annual program budgets varied from 0 to $12,000; the average was $1,169. Looking at 42 programs annually, that breaks down to about $27 per program. We know that contracted performances (singers, jugglers, magicians, storytellers, etc) that need $300-$500 to fund can really eat up a program budget fast. So we might speculate that that $27 per program may be on the high side.

We were especially curious to see if a large program budget meant more programs. This is clearly not the case. The programming budgets  of respondents varied widely as did the number of programs. Most interesting, over half the respondents had an annual budget for programs of $500 or less and on average had the same number of programs as libraries with large budgets.  Some spend on average $1-2 per program. This may indicate these libraries are not spending money on contracted performers but more likely running program series with materials on hand, book clubs, etc.

Libraries that have large program budgets and staff are lucky - but programming numbers don't seem to correlate with that large budget. Youth librarians have long used creativity and ingenuity to create programming magic and the survey seems to bear this implication out.

To see more published results of the survey, please stop over at Lisa's blog Thrive After Three here and here!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay







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21. Building Trust


YA author Jessica Khoury writing over at NPR gave me food for thought on my approach to working with tweens and teens. She describes how, despite living in a very conservative area and in a very conservative family where reading Harry Potter was NOT allowed, she convinced her parents to let her read the series. Their trust in her and her honesty with them was a powerful influence on her life.

Her post resonated personally for me.

As a tween, kids that I hung around with were often grounded - a way to keep wayward, mostly harmless but definitely annoying tween behaviors in check. When I asked my parents why I never got hit with this punishment, their reply changed my life in a way that was similar to Khoury's experience.

Mom and Dad said they trusted me and trusted my decisions. As long as I made good decisions and demonstrated that I could be trusted, they would not ground me. If I made poor decisions, they would treat me like other kids  - grounded! Their trust was a huge gift and just blew me away.

I made sure that I made good decisions from then on, knowing that I was entrusted with their trust. Combined with their willingness to share the knowledge of it with me, this trust kept me from doing some incredibly stupid things. And it opened up a channel of dialogue and communication with my parents that created a deeper relationship because we knew we could all talk together.

I have tried to include that element of sharing and trust in all my work with tweens and teens and have received positive results back far more than I  have received negatives. Kids want trust and want to share. As a caring adult in their lives, all librarians can take this step. And all we have to do is support them....and give them our trust - and our honesty.

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

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22. Whispering an SLP Start


This robot needs a body! The more kids read, the more stickers
 they add to the blocks that will become arms, legs, body.
We hope kids build her big!
We have often plunged into summer reading immediately on the last day of school. The result: screaming mania!!!!!!!!  Half the the kids of our eventual total come in the first five days and the staff feel like they've been hammered (they have!). We start those summers drained.

This year we made sure to "soft" launch our program while most of kids are still in school.  Parochial and homeschool kids come in first and then, afterschool and in the evenings, some of the public school kids make their way to the library. It will be a full nine days before the big public school crowds are on vacation and come pouring into register.

What does this mean?

  • We have a "practice" week with a steady stream of SLP registrants - never overwhelming, but enough to hone our spiel and figure out the best, most economical and fun way to explain the mechanics of SLP.
  • We sign up about a quarter of our total number of kids so subsequent weeks have far less registration stress.
  • Staff is excited and energetic going into the following weeks when the pressure of wall-to-wall kids, programming mightiness and kids-in-care visits need all our attention.
It always feel a little like we're whispering into the start of SLP when we do this. Starting softly means more energy later. 

We wish all our colleagues a happy summer library program and hope you have a calm but busy adventure!





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23. Avoiding Additional Asshat-tery


Slide from a solo Unprogramming presentation
that acknowledges my co-conspirator
I laughed aloud when I saw AmyKoester's title on the  Storytime Underground post with guidelines on avoiding assholery when giving credit where credit is due.  I also was happy to see such a strong statement about the importance of knowing and stating where stuff comes from.

I've blogged about this before - especially in relation to the our penchant to be good sharing  - and taking - people.  You can't ever forget where something comes from and it is a beautiful thing when you can do that acknowledgement - most especially in a professional atmosphere (blogging, presentations, workshops, Twitter and Tumblr and etc). We all stand on the shoulders of those before us. We may tweak and we may tinker but somebody got that ball rolling.

I want to add another thought to the conversation - or throwdown from a management perspective: thinking about taking the "I" to "we."

I have always worked in a strong team environment. From the smallest library to larger libraries, many people - not just youth services staff - from director to Circ clerks to custodial staff have had a hand in contributing to conversation and idea-building. They have put in an oar, a thought, a suggestion, a brilliant solution that has made each and every project and program far better than it began.

I can count on one hand, ONE HAND, the actual stuff that I, me, myself, *I*, created, invented or totally birthed ON MY OWN in my 38 year career.

Uh-uh. Didn't happen. Dozens of things I am known for were the result of collaboration - free, wild, plunge-into-"what-if, what-if, what-if", brainstorming, tornadic, mosh pit, scrum-filled collaboration. When I've changed something, I am still building on something that went before that provided the ignition spark to push my own practice. Same goes for all of you, my friends and colleagues, out on the internet - you have shared and changed so many ideas that have helped me grow an idea and make it better. It's ours!

When you look at my blog posts as I am sharing a program, idea or innovation, you seldom see it written in the first person. Far more often, it is written as "we" and "our" because the progress or change or light bulb moment was built by many hands in the department and the library and out in my ULN/PLN land..

While it is vital to credit your colleagues when you are sharing ideas that are clearly theirs and give them "mad props", it is also important to move away from the "I" and acknowledge the true "we-ness" of what is created through every-day and every-way collaboration.

I believe we are stronger together in everything we create. What do you think?

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24. I v. We


So Amy wrote this. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Then I wrote this.

Then Amy extended the conversation with this. Again, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

My post was chewing around the edges of something else that isn't quite as linear but is a huge piece of crediting people who create and citing them.

When I wrote about management perspective I was not referring to "management privilege". I detest anyone who poaches and claims credit or by omission leaves out the people who do the true heavy lifting. It's not how I try to run my shop or thankfully been managed by others - or most importantly  -been treated by all my many colleagues around the state and country.

And I think that there is a great deal of professional pain that youth librarians feel from work they have not been credited for, celebrated for and appreciated for. I am definitely not arguing the great teamwork-kumbaya (we're all in this together, la-la).

I am coming at the discussion from one place as a long-time manager, a long-time active association member and a long-time consultant/presenter. And from the other place, I am coming as a newly energized researcher and teacher who demands citations and digging down to the original roots of work - most especially from myself! It is this perspective that I want to pursue.

As I have been studying the history of children's programming in public libraries, it is increasingly clear that youth librarians have been pushing the envelope of service since the beginning of the profession. Over the last century, children's librarians were at the forefront of developing SLPs, outreach, use of technology (radio, TV, films, filmstrips, record players), programming to parents (my mom was in the parent group while I was in storytime!), and many many of the practices that some in the profession are currently "inventing." Everything old IS new again.

There is a huge scaffold of practice upon which each and every one of us builds our own scaffold of service and innovative ideas. My concern is for some in the profession that don't want to recognize that foundation. Our foremothers and current colleagues have done work that we all build on - whether its oppositional building or complementary. When we don't acknowledge that debt - and appreciate where our own work is coming from, we do a huge disservice.

My point in my original post about how collaborative we are comes from that place. It is the "we" I am trying to get at.

So how do we acknowledge the "I" while being true to the "we" - and visa versa?

As Amy writes: cite!
Seek permission from those whose work your work is based on to share.
Communicate and don't steal.
Never false claim.
Know that your support of someone else's work enhances your own.
Acknowledge that the brainstorming power of coworkers, tweeps, Facebookers, a conference hallway conversation informed that idea that you brought to full fruition.

You cannot be harmed by acknowledging and citing. Rather you can be the power that raises up those around you. And that is a powerful "I" and a powerful "we".


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25. Program Plethora - the Survey Sez

Lisa Shaia at Thrive Thursday and I put together a survey recently to take a snapshot of school age programming. We had 171 responses (yay, yous!). We've looked at how many librarians create how many programs; the role of budget in number of programshow often programs are offered and the scoop on outreach.

Today let's take a peek at what kinds of programs for school-agers people reported out on and where they find their best go-to inspirations.

Almost 70% of respondents offered ongoing program series for kids - multiple week or continuous programs like a Lego Club , Book Club or Pokemon Club. But an almost equal number also offered one shot programs that capitalized on celebrating the publication of a new book, a book character or a special season or holiday. Seasonal reading programs similar to a down-sized SLP were also offered by over half of the respondents.


It is clear that school age programs show a rich variety of approaches by librarians. We didn't ask about individual program names but a dip into any youth services blog, Thrive Thursday monthly round-up blog hop or PUBYAC perusal would reveal a perfect sampling of what is being done with school-agers.

Our next post will look at where our ideas come from!

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