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In this series of blog posts, sustainability is the watchword. We've looked at issues and thoughts about project costs and grant fails and triumphs. In this final post, let's consider the sustainability factor in our everyday programming work.
Programs are some of the bread and butter of our work with youth. The concept of sustainability becomes critical here.
Our patrons often want ALL THE THINGS. And many of us want to give them ALL THE THINGS. That's perfectly understandable. They pay us, they are the reason we are working at the library in the first place. However, ALL THE THINGS often leads to staff burn-out, stress, and an unsustainable pace and level of work for staffers. Work tasks leak into home life and extra unpaid hours. Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I hate you. I quit (literally or just check out emotionally and mentally).
Not sustainable. To create sustainability - and sanity - in programming, finding balance is an important factor. Budget
If we have a program budget, how can we best use it? Many of us are expected to and feel pressure to book outside performers (note: I work as a free-lance storyteller making the big bucks at schools and libraries so I know about this issue from the performer's perspective). If we spend all our money booking performers, does that leave us a budget for incentive prizes like books, bookbags or money to fund buses or another special project?
If we balance our planning and expectations, cut back on outside performers, it often frees programming money to allow us to fund special stealth programming projects or initiatives or try something entirely new. Our budget can then sustain a larger number of efforts. Patron Expectations
Teachers and parents have clear thoughts on what they need for kids in their care but often these fall into narrow personal concerns - we want to use the library without these crowds; the storytimes aren't convenient for my schedule; you should have more ________ (fill in the blank: baby/toddler/teen/K/school age/homeschool/single/continuous/Saturday/evening/Sunday/Monday morning -I could go on but you know what I'm talking about here) events; why can't you provide our group with a weekly storytime or monthly outreach visits?
Meeting all the expectations isn't possible to do in a sustainable way - especially if you want to balance services to all. The challenge in planning then becomes looking for ways - through active and passive programs; judicious deployment of staff for in-house and outreach efforts and critically looking at the arc of programs - to honor on some level most of your clientele's needs.
What might that look like? It all depends on what you can find sustainable - and what you feel you can fairly offer to all. Perhaps:
- Storytimes being offered for 25-30 weeks of the year.
- After school programs being offered once a month or in a three-four week series 2-3 times a year.
- Storytime breaks of up to two months to allow time to book field trips or do outreach to daycares.
- School age programs during school breaks and early release days including plenty of DIY activities.
- Programs presented once a semester to classes that make weekly/monthly visits.
- Outreach visits scheduled once a year to every day care or school classroom
- Passive programs made available more frequently
There isn't a one-way, right answer but there are many paths to help create a program structure that can be sustained and serve many needs.Balance and Sustainability
The point is not to deny patrons, jealously guard time and resources or alternatively force staff into working at a mad pace. To sustain programs, finding the balance is key. Looking at what we do and how to create balance - whether through program breaks; decreasing the frequency of some programs; offering the same level of service to all school or daycare groups or making sure that we have a balance of active and passive programs - means that our program work can be sustained.And in the End
Last but not least, learning when to say when is critical. When a program has reached the end of it's useful life, even though it is your favorite, let it go and put staff time and resources elsewhere. It keeps what you offer fresh, frees time for new initiatives and services and keeps patrons interested in your offerings.
And that's what sustainability is really all about!Part 1Part 2Part 3Graphic courtesy of Pixabay
In this series, I am looking at sustainability in our work. The first post addressed some larger issues and thoughts about costs of ongoing projects followed by a post on grant fails Today, let's consider the sustainability factor of successful grant-funded projects.
So what are key components to create sustainability in grant-funded projects?
First don't write it if you can't see a way to sustain the project, keep it fresh or easily make changes to evolve it to meet changing community needs. Taking a pile of money, creating a thing and letting it languish seems to be wasteful. If, in your grant planning, you figure what you need to keep the initiative or service going beyond the grant, it means two things: the grant start-up money is well-used to kick things off and you actually need the service or initiative enough to justify putting future general budget funds into keeping it fresh.Grant Wins
Here are two examples of sustainability thinking we
used in creating and thinking about projects we wanted to continue beyond their initial grant cycle.2nd Grade Library Stars
Based on meetings with our LMC colleagues who suggested we bring in one grade level for an introduction to the library, we decided to reach out to all second graders and offer a field trip adventure at our Main Library location. The biggest expense for this was going to be transportation - only one school is in walking distance of our Youth Services Department.
We wrote a Community Foundation grant for buses for $1000 and looked at our program budget for the future to fund the project in ensuing years. If we didn't book three outside performers, we would have that money.
The tours were a huge hit with the teachers, kids and staff. The worth of them was so apparent that the schools funded the buses the second year. Now we are looking at adding seventh grade and kindergarten field trips annually and the schools have agreed to split the bus costs. This makes these visits sustainable for both organizations. And because of the impact of the visits and the positives that have resulted, if we needed to fund raise to keep them going, I believe we would have no trouble in gaining support.Baby Book Bees
We offer our 1000 Books program to children ages 1-5 but really wanted to catch families with their children from birth. So we developed a pre-1000 BksB4K efforts asking parents to read 100 books to their baby before their first birthday. We decided that offering a little bib at sign-up with the library name and a book as a culminating incentive would be swell.
We wrote a Target grant to fund these two pieces and we received that grant - for twice the amount we asked for! This allowed us to fund the effort beyond a year and get better pricing on the bibs and books. And how will we maintain this effort beyond this grant funding? We plan to enfold this initiative into the funds for 1000 Books (that original $7000 raised). Once this money is expended, we'll look into using existing programming money to continue or do a special fundraising appeal.
I think, dear readers, you are starting to see how thread of funding for projects needs to be worked into the warp and weave of regular budgets for programs and collections if sustainability is a goal.
Next post, we'll leave special projects behind and look at the sustainability of our programs. See you then!Part 1Part 2
Part 4Graphic courtesy of Pixabay
In this series of blog posts, I am looking at sustainability in our work. The first post addressed some larger issues and thoughts about costs of ongoing projects. Today, let's consider the pitfalls of grant-funded projects.
It is exciting to plan, write and receive a grant - but the devil is in the details. What will you do once the funds are expended to maintain, evolve or change the grant-funded project. How will you keep it fresh? How do you build in sustainability?
I have noticed a tendency to create the project or service or kit or thing. And then when it is done, it is done. There is no money to add, enhance or change what has been created. The grant-funded initiative becomes static, dated and either reluctantly sunset long past it's usefulness or in place forever because it was...grant-funded!Grant Fail
Two examples of this grant-funded ennui in our library collection were a set of middle grade book discussion kits and "Treasure Boxes"- themed tubs full of preschool books and manipulatives to rotate to daycares. Both were outstanding original ideas, well-executed and did exactly what the grant was intended to do - for a time.Book Discussion Kits
The book discussion kits had ten books and a great discussion guide in special bags hung in a closet. As the years rolled on and the reading tastes of the target audience changed, the kits became less useful since no new ones were created or old ones withdrawn. Also compounding their decreased usefulness was difficulty in accessing them - both because they were out of browsing view in a closet and extremely tricky to find through the catalog.
The solution? Let the old kits go. Create new kits of five books each and house them near the fiction collection and accessible to the public. Buy enough bags to ensure we can develop 2-3 new kits each year for ten years and use the existing book budget to fund the purchase of the books. Be prepared to do great PR, withdraw kits that don't move and continuously add to keep content fresh.
Unsustainable was changed to sustainable.
Created almost fifteen years ago, these tubs were stuffed full of goodness - fifteen-twenty books, puppets, cassettes, teacher material, hands-on manipulatives. They rotated in our outreach visits to the daycares we visited. Each daycare had a box for the month. All good you say?
The problem again was that the content of the boxes never changed. For years, our providers received the same books over and over again. To me, the message we were sending was that these are the only books we had on popular themes. It was as if we were caught in a Groundhog Day time warp that no one could ever escape. While we are spending ten of thousands of dollars a year on new materials for the general public in YS, the daycares were only provided with the same 100-150 titles.
The solution? Let the Treasure boxes go. Begin new service to the same daycares - Books2Go. Ten books per classroom are selected, bagged and delivered monthly to daycares. Each daycare then has 40-70 unique titles to share among the classrooms. We use our existing collection and a variety of titles pass through the hands of the providers to the kids. For teachers interested in particular themes, we encourage them to contact us and pick up a collection of five books matching their theme that we pull on their behalf.
Static morphed into dynamic and the service is sustainable as long as our department aide can drive and deliver and our collection of picture books exists.
Next post, let's look at grant triumphs in terms of sustainability.Part 1
Graphic courtesy of Pixabay
This in the first in a series of blog posts addressing the concept of sustainability in our planning. As a management tool, it helps us build programs and initiatives in a way that points towards success.
I believe in sustainability - not just in my personal life but also in my work at the library.
When I think of projects and initiatives, a big question and discussion point as planning is done and over the course of the project is - can this be sustained? As a manager I like to see amazing efforts and accomplishments. I love to see big picture projects and ideas that push the envelope of our service to families and kids.
But I also like to see how the ideas and efforts can be maintained beyond the here and now. What are the implications - for the budget, for the staff, for continuation over the long-haul, for equitable access? Is the idea for a service or initiative one that will have longevity? Can it evolve and have a nimbleness factor that lets us adjust it for changing needs. Is this something that if we offer to one, we can offer to all?
To me questions like this that look into the future can inform our choices. They make planning deeper and result in a project or service that is more sustainable.
Let's look at an example.1000 Books Before Kindergarten
Many libraries are creating these programs for preschoolers in their community. The question is often asked, what are the costs of the program? I always like to say, it's what you can afford - and can realistically maintain. When we developed our program in Menasha, figuring in the cost for a binder for each child, CDs given out at every 100 level and a book at the end brought the cost per child to $14. I could see this would mean we would need to do continual fundraising to maintain this if the program proved popular.
It made me uncomfortable not to have a secure source of funds in place and to have such a high cost per child in terms of sustainability. The program has great worth and, philosophically, I wanted to offer it for as long as we could to involve kids for many years. The pressure of continual fundraising and grant-writing to maintain a project adds stress and uncertainty. I didn't want to repeat that feeling.
When we developed the program in here La Crosse, we had a goal of 1000 kids involved over the life of the program. We worked hard and raised $7000 dollars and figured the cost per child at $6 for stickers, book bag, finger puppet and book. We now have 750 kids in the program after two and a half years and still have a substantial cushion of funds to go well beyond our original projection (not all families who start will continue). I believe based on current and projected expenditures, our original funding remains secure for at least six years. By that time the program may naturally sunset or we can reach out again to generate donor-funding. This passes the sustainability test in my mind.
Our materials have also met that test. We have evolved our recording sheets and incentives to reflect participant feedback. It has helped us save money and still provide an amazing experience for families. We have not had to stay static and we look forward to more tweaks in the future.
In the next blog posts, I'll look at grant-funded projects and their pitfalls -
Graphic courtesy of Pixabay
I contribute to a statewide youth services blog and in the process of sharing a link
recently and tagging the blog post, I used the label "reference". To my surprise, even after 578 posts on that blog, this was the first
time that term had been used. I checked my own blog of 418 posts. Same thing.
It really stopped me short. And it made me think about whether and why- with all our discussion, posts, sharing and chat on programming and children's literature in the youth librarianship blogosphere - as practitioners we don't give props to youth reference, a less glamorous but very vital part of our work.
We are not alone in this.
When I first came to my present job, I know staff around the library didn't really respect the skills our youth services team had in the youth reference area. I consciously began to look at what we did at our stand-alone youth services desk and compare it to our stand-alone adult information services (we have a separate circulation department). What I discovered was...disconcerting.
Our Youth Services desk staff were expected to do many circulation functions (renew books; pursue missing pieces; decide on lost book and large fine forgiveness issues; hire and oversee shelvers of our collections). Adult Information services were not expected to do any of this. Their desk time involved reference, reader's advisory, research - so did ours. But on top of that were layered functions that took time away from our programming, collection development, planning and RA and ref.
I began to ask at management meetings why there was this tremendous discrepancy in job duties between the adult and youth reference desks. It surprised my management colleagues. Those were questions that hadn't been asked before. The more I probed and brought up the subject, the clearer it became to my colleagues that there was a fundamental inequity in the perception of youth service librarians' skills and work expectations for the service desks. "Do you do this at the adult reference desk?" became a question that was answered by realigning job duties to create parity between the two reference desks and returning circ functions to the circ department.
During this process, I also had to ask myself if a lack of respect among our own YS team for our professional skills and perhaps our acceptance of the "you work with kids, you are therefore a child and less powerful" paradigm, fed into expectations of our reference work being perceived as less valued. Certainly the team loved and adored programming and collection development work. But did we love the dig-into-the guts reference work we did with kids, teens and caregivers as much?
The YS team has worked on this over the years and I have seen a definite but subtle shift away from seeing themselves as a adjunct Circ point and more as the MLIS librarians and reference/reader's advisory superheroes that they are. But again it strikes me that we are not alone in struggling with this part of our professional lives in youth services.
What value do we - and our colleagues serving adults in the rest of the library - place on our reference and research skills in youth services? What do you think?
So, we did it, you guys! We got past summer and summer library programs!!! The Slog Days
have been conquered, we may even have had some weeks of no programs and *gasp* vacations. School is back in session and we are turning our minds to our fall initiatives and fun.
When we are in the midst of summer library program with huge crowds, double staffing, many programs and busyness amplified day after day, it's hard to remember that we can react or plan for anything that isn't happening RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. It feels like dark and endless days sometimes. Creativity - gone. Energy - depleted. Blog posts - ha!
When we hit the first week of September it is truly like a new leaf turning over or the sun coming up over the horizon in the morning. We breathe a sigh of relief and look at the adventure of a different rhythm coming to the fore. One that allows us to enhance the services and initiatives we offer our families and kids.
I knew we were there in the last two weeks when I looked around the department and saw all the amazing stuff the team has been putting together that has come to fruition. Like what?
Just launched:Ipads in the Early Literacy area
Last fall's fundraising letter (our director sends out project-centered appeals in spring and fall that typically generate $2500-$500) was for ipads to give kids and parents a chance to interact with curated content. Our new colleague Brooke took this project on and we debuted the ipads this week to general delight of kids, parents and staff.
Book discussion kits
We have had grant-funded kits with ten books each kept in a closet (ask for it please) for about twelve years. Almost no action. So Sara took this project on and developed fifteen new kits of interesting contemporary fiction, graphic novels and non-fiction - 5 books in each with suggested websites and questions. Best of all, we found a place to house them in the room. They too debuted this week. Our plan is to add to this collection rather than let it stagnate.Welcome Candy Bars to teachers
We deliver rotating book collections to many of our Headstarts and daycares during the school year. Included in these bags are often posters for the parents or information on events for the providers. And this year as a little surprise, my colleague Sherri is including a welcome-back candy bar with a wrap-around she created to thank the teachers for their participation. It's a sweet treat for little investment.High School lunch hour
We have been taking some baby steps to do more outreach in our high schools. But this year, with a new high school librarian of two years (who also just became a library board member!), the ice was broken. My teen librarian colleague Linda will staff lunch hours on two different days, chat up the library and library card sign-ups and hand out go cups to new registrants, kids who have their library cards or (smart people that they are) those who can recite their card number.Dinosaur vs. Libraries Field Trip Adventure
Each school year, we like to create a theme around which we build our field trips for preschool-early elementary children. In previous years, the character has been Pete the Cat, Spot and Emma Dodd's dog. This year, Dinosaur is the star. Colleagues Sara and Brooke developed a script around this raucous roarer and the debut last week with our first group of the year told us we have a hit on our hands.Early Literacy Poetry
We have long wanted to include rhyme and poems in this corner. Colleague Sherri had the poetry bug hit and created a series of poetry posters that will now be rotated in and out near the "parent" chair. We will be listening for some reciting to tots!Fire Up with Reading
Yes, I made a contribution despite being hip-deep in administrative work! Our fall firefighter-themed stealth program rewards kids for book check-out by offering them a chance to enter a raffle for some ALA posters, books or a chance to spend two hours at the fire station with the firefighters. That has the kids interested! We have long wanted to partner with our fire department and picking up the phone this summer was a simple solution. Our colleagues are just as fired up as we are!
Alot of the work and preparation on these efforts (with amazing support and wizardry from colleague Celine) happened during summer or in the months leading up to SLP. To see it all roll out in just a short two weeks really speaks to me of staff resilience, determination, effort and teamwork. And it tells me, that the sun does keep rising on our work and efforts.Sunrise photo courtesy of Pixabay
By: Marge Loch-Wouters,
Blog: Tiny Tips for Library Fun
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Amy over at Show Me Librarian
has a call to action for libraries to not just do fabulous early literacy programming but also make sure that school age programming is as strong a priority. In the post she questions whether the emphasis on early literacy recently has resulted in neglect for our school age clientele.
Just to continue the conversation Amy started, I think it is well worth considering where the emphasis on school-age programming went to. I think it stretches back further than the past ten years when ECRR woke us up to the possibilities of making our storytimes and work with parents and tots more..uber.
In the the late 1980s, the Public Library Association developed a list of roles for public libraries. Libraries and focus groups in a community went through a role selection process to determine the 1-3 roles that best described their service and service goals. The eight roles listed:
- Community Activities Center
- Community Information Center
- Formal Education Center
- Independent Learning Center
- Popular materials Library
- Preschoolers Door to Learning
- Reference Library
- Research Center
could be considered all-ages encompassing. But in reality, only one spoke strongly to youth concerns. The role that a huge majority of libraries selected was Preschoolers Door to Learning. After all, we are THE library for this age group.
So libraries started strenghthening and improving their service to our youngest audience. And I wonder whether this is where some of the school-age programming started to slip. There was no true role for this age group.
The roles have been replaced with newer paradigms as years have gone on but not all libraries got that message. Even here at my library as recently as the last year, a staffer cited the Preschooler Door to Learning as the reason we had to concentrate more staff hours on preschool services.
We have tried hard at the libraries I work at to serve all ages with excellent programs. Because kids are in school doesn't mean we should stop serving them during the school year. We collaborate with the schools; present programs during school breaks and early release days; and present afterschool workshops and events on weekends. We also make sure to have a healthy dose of stealth programs running nearly year-round to involve busy school-age kids in visits to our library.
This is all much on my mind of late. I am developing a six week online course of programming and great swaths of it will deal with creating programs for school aged kids and developing programs for preschoolers beyond storytime. Much of that territory is still ripe for exploration (think unprogramming and it's impact
I am so happy to see how strong the early literacy component of storytimes is and how powerful the voice of early literacy advocates have become in libraries around the country. The sharing of great ideas through Flannel Friday and Underground Storytime has put power into the hands of librarians.
But I'll still keep looking for those innovative school age program and service ideas from people like Amy and Abby
and others who are pushing the service envelope to school-agers. Hope you share your great school age ideas too!Image: 'Turn On The Bright Lights' http://www.flickr.com/photos/49722723@N00/261265808 Found on flickrcc.net
With next year's CLSP (Collaborative Summer Library Program) theme centering on science, I am starting to gather ideas and thoughts and pins on sources for fun programs. I have this idea that we are going to create a robot-mascot of some sort and use it in many thematic ways.
One idea I have is putting a robot head on the wall. Then as kids read and we set group goals, we start adding a body part on after so many minutes read. The more kids read, the more complete the robot will be - first a boot, then a leg, then a hand,then an arm and onward. Let's see if that motivates the reading troops!
But more than that, we get to do science all summer.
I know it will be a gimme for programs and activities. That's because STEM and STEAM have entered our public library vocabulary. It has freed us to look not just at fiction-based programming but at non-fiction-based science: makering, experiments and unprogramming
(where kids take the lead in discovery and learning in programs).
A recent post by Allison over at No Time for Flashcards
got me excited about the prospects of science for our tots. It goes hand in hand with another favorite blog, library makers Wonder Works,
where the littlest kids delve into science and go where few tots and gone before. I also depend on Amy over at Show Me Librarian
(and a frequent ALSC blog contributor on the subject) who generously shares STEAM programs through her blog posts on programs at her library.
You can drop my SLP 2014 Pinterest board
over the coming year to see what mischief I'm collecting.
Where are your go to blogs and websites for science and kids? Let's share the good stuff!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
By: Marge Loch-Wouters,
Blog: Tiny Tips for Library Fun
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For some insanely crazy reason, the stars aligned and in a few weeks I'll be on a two week road trip of storytelling and workshop presentations.
You know that feeling that you get when you are invited to present six or eight months before the event? "Oh, yes, that would be outstanding!" And it is. Many months in the future, no problemo. And then another request comes in for a nearby date. "That would be outstanding!" And it is. Still far off somewhere, easy-peasy. And then another request comes in, also in that window of previous bookings, and suddenly I'm thinking "Tour". And then another request comes in and doesn't this all fall trippingly into a convenient two week window. And it does.
So, starting September 6
in my own home town of La Crosse WI, with our Storytelling Festival
(where I do a little telling and emcee the Friday night spook tales), here's where you'll find me:September 8-11
Joining Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Leah Langby, Merri Lindgren, Megan Schliesmann and Sue Abrahamson as mentor/lecturers at the Youth Services Development Institute
with 25 youth librarians from around the state to make library magic.
Storytelling at a celebration for children in childcare in Marshfield September 13-14
One of the featured tellers at the Chippewa Valley Storytelling Festival
(Eau Claire) joining friends and colleagues Kevin McMullin, Tracy Chipman and the Saskill family.September 17
Doing a three hour workshop on Stealth Programming
for the Winnefox Library System .September 19
Joining many fantastic colleagues and doing a presentation on the how to develop a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten
program for multiple southern WI library systems at one of the first - if not the first - of seven workshops statewide to roll out the amazing new Growing WI Readers
initiative from DPI.September 19-22
Chilling out with feminist library colleagues at a four day retreat in Wisconsin's charming Door County. This chance to share discussion, support, great food and friendship is always a highlight!
The finishing touches are being put on the presentations. The GPS is loaded. The powerpoints are on the flash drive. The handouts ready to go. The puppets packed. See you on the road!Image courtesy of Pixabay
Our Youth Services team always takes an hour or so to gather and chat immediately after the dust of SLP has settled. It's helpful to consider the just completed chaos and chew on positives, negatives, ideas for the future and solutions to niggling problems that popped up - all while it is fresh in our minds.
There are pats on the back - we made it through an incredibly busy eight weeks! We came through and still like our patrons and each other! Now it's time for some Monday morning quarterbacking.
We usually have a few raw numbers to look at - number of kids registered, participating and earning a book; how many programs and how was attendance; total number of visits; circulation stats; like that. We look at the previous year and see if our sense of the summer matches those stats.
This year, our participation was down at our in-house program and up in our outreach program. The room itself was insanely busy but circulation figures were down overall. We sensed an ennui with the design of our SLP materials for elementary and preschool ages (both three years old now) and plan to change them up for next summer. We're looking at shaking up the teen incentives as well.
We see the need to interact more immediately with supervisors of summer groups to talk about library use and the responsibilities of the caregivers that accompany kids for weekly visits.
We hope to incorporate an element of "giving" with the kids...whether asking them to donate food for the food pantry (many food pantries see donations plummet in the summer and often have to rely on funds to buy food to stock the shelves) or giving them the choice, in lieu of a small prize, of putting a marker in a donation jar that we will use for a local charity. Each marker might be worth $.05 or $.10 and the Friends money we would normally use for a doo-dad would instead support an animal shelter or our community garden or another worthy cause.
While we didn't all see the summer through the same eyes (we liked the incentives; we hated the incentives; more programs; less programs), our discussion was helpful and gave the team food for thought.
Now the notes are done, and plans in place. We close the book on summer for as many months as we can before we get back to designing materials in February.
It feels good to let the summer go. It feels good to know we have a huge jumpstart for next year's planning. Good-bye SLP. We'll think about you again...in 2014.
My Wisconsin colleague Terry Ehle is our guest blogger today. She took unprogramming to heart and shares the dirt...on dirt. Terry has been a youth librarian for 15 years in Two Rivers, WI population 11,696. She says this about herself, “The thing I love most about my job is that it's never boring. If I lose interest in what I am doing I can change it. "What we've always done" does not apply at my library and I love it. I am really passionate about early literacy and want every child in my area to enter school ready to read. I enjoy talking about books with young adult readers and get a secret rush when asked, ‘Do you have any suggestions?.’ I love Zombie fiction and the color pink. Being a librarian is the most challenging job I have ever had and I wouldn't want to do anything else!”
After reading the posts about Unprogramming, I decided to share a successful unprogram at my library based on the book “Dirt” by Ellen Lawrence and 2 ideas I found online. This book is a part of the FUNdemental Experiment s series by Bearport Publishing. Easy, inexpensive ideas in this book. We had 75 kids attend and my maintenance man is still talking to me so it was a success!
Egg Shell Geodes – Super simple even for a big group. The hardest part is getting the egg shells and that wasn’t even that hard. Crack the eggs near the top so you have more shell to pour into and rinse. Mix together 1 tbsp. hot (but not boiling) water and 1 tbsp. Epsom salt. If all the salt dissolves add a little more. Add a drop of food coloring if you want, pour into egg shell and stick in fridge for a couple of days. I put the eggs in Dixie cups for the kids to take home. See picture to see how they turned out. I also had some real geodes that the kids could explore.
Dirt Catchers – Create a frame using popsicle sticks, add a loop of yarn to hang, tape a piece of packing tape across frame so that one sticky side is facing out and hang in a corner to see how much diit is in the air.
Worm Discovery – Get 2 tubs of night crawlers from a bait shop and set out wet paper towels to put them on. Let kids use magnifying glasses to observe what the worms do. The book has some other things to try. I had an adult supervise this one.
Dirt & Water – Using baby food jars and a few different types of dirt dug up from around town, have kids put dirt in jar and add water. Cover, shake, observe. It’s weird but different dirt does different things.
Dirt Discovery – I made copies of a piece of paper with 3 sections – living, non-living, once living and gave each child a cup of dirt. They poured the dirt onto the paper and dug through it with a toothpick and tried to find things in each category. One child even found a worm!
The only talking I did was to let everyone know what the stations were. I had a volunteer at the egg geode and the worm stations. The only supplies I bought were worms ($5.00) and Epsom salt ($3.00). Everything else I had on hand. If it seems complex it wasn’t, other than gathering egg shells from coworkers and eating lots of omelets myself, I pulled this together in 2 days.
More pictures on Flickr:
This was our second year of doing an after-hours Friday evening camp-out at the library. About a half hour after the library closes at 6pm, we re-open for kids and families who are ready to read and camp. Campers are invited to bring sheets or blankets and a flashlight.
Everyone enters the children's area where the lights are off (but since it's summer we have plenty of natural light). Teen volunteers have cleared the tops of shelves and pulled chairs out from tables to create maximum scaffolding to create cozy tents and reading nooks. As families come in we invite them to create a tent and read for 20 minutes or so. We have extra sheets and blankets for those who come without (note to self: next year have some extra flashlights in hand).
The tents kids and parents come up with are nothing short of delightful - I mean talk about the "E" in STEM. Thoughtful engineering goes into each reading nook created with blankets and book anchors.
After about twenty minutes we gather everyone together for a program. Last year we did spooky stories. This year, with our Dig into Reading theme we had another idea!
While colleague Sara Bryce
was at a NASA-sponsored workshop the previous year at UW-Madison, she had learned about a loan program from the UW Geology Museum
. Need some interesting rocks or geodes? Why, you can check them out for six months! We had a collection of geodes from near (IA) and far (Madagascar) that we had on "no-touch" display for a month. Now was the time to unlock the case and get up close and personal with these crytaline wonders.
When kids entered the program room, there were geodes everywhere. Sara did a fascinating presentation using styrofoam bowls and food coloring to show how geodes form and booktalked a book on dragons (geodes and dragon eggs). Then kids and families got to touch and examine the geodes. We gathered them again, handed out Tootsie Pops (how more geode-like could a treat be?) and I shared a story next to our fake camp-fire.
Camp-outs are a great way to create an "exclusive" feeling program where families get the library to themselves. With minimal preparation and kid-led activities (unprogramming!!), everyone comes away feeling great. Well-worth it!
You know what I'm talking about, right?
Those last one-to-two weeks of your summer reading program. Will it EVAH end?The Staffers
Getting to burn-out stage. Double desk shifts. Covering for ALA attendance or vacations or sick time. Needing to work on upcoming fall initiatives but idea energy is low. So busy that sharing information on upcoming plans and changes slips through the cracks ("You did what?!?!). Second guessing programs that had low attendance. Irritation levels with patrons and co-workers creeping up.The Room
Decorations starting to get tattered. Daily maximum capacity for hours at a time beginning to wear thin. People complaining about not enough computers, not enough seating and when is it quiet? The boat has now reached active staff-stink-eye-hate.The Kids
Are very bored. Daycare groups can barely control behaviors and after hours each day working for minimum wage have developed the "thousand yard stare". Fewer kids maintain their involvement in SLP. Ennui has settled in.The Adults
Have.Had.It. When is this thing called school starting? Easily irritated and sometimes actively testy with staffers. Giving a little love but not as much as usual.What's to do?
Take a deep breath, find that calm center and bring back a little sparkle and magic within yourself to the surface. Actively approach your co-workers and patrons with a bit more kindness, a bit more patience and a healthy dose of humor.
Then start the count-down and know that the end is in sight. Treat yourself and your co-workers to a treat, an extra pat on the back, a favorite restaurant, cafe or tavern reward.
And keep telling yourself all things must pass and this edition of the summer library program will too.
What do you do to make it through the last weeks and find or keep your mojo?
Those fabulous youth services leaders Amy Koester, Cory Eckert and Kendra Jones have just "officialized" Guerrila Storytime in it's own fabulous website, Storytime Underground
Not content to just invent Guerilla Storytime and premiere it at Chicago ALA, these ninjas have created a space to share storytime tips and tricks, best practices and materials and all-around support each other around a service that the vast majority of libraries offer - storytime!Stop here
and get excited about sharing YOUR mad storytime skillz in this new movement!
Let's hear it for "frontline literacy warriors!"
Amy Koester of Show Me Librarian and I are tag-teaming at our blogs this week to report out the Chicago ALA Conversation Starter -Unprogramming: Recipes for School Age Success - that we led on Monday July 2 (see below for links to the whole series). Please join our continuing conversation in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #unprogramming.
Amy and I were both so excited to have a chance to share the thoughts behind unprogramming at a national conference level. And we were uber pleased to have a SRO crowd of colleagues come to the program.
What's fun about unprogramming is that it really isn't new. Most of you are doing unprogramming already in big and little ways. We are simply pulling the threads together and encouraging everyone to try this more mellow approach and see real benefits. Just starting the conversation, so to speak.
The audience at our program joined the conversation and shared great ideas of how they have used the unprogramming concept in their programs. Below are a few quick ideas people shared of programs they are doing:Painting to Music
- kids pull up music on YouTube and then paint while listening to it. Disfferent beats elicit different art responses. The art the kids create is then hung in the room.Stamping
- using Ed Emberley's books as inspiration, kids use stampers and stamp pads to create their own nique creations.
- combining books with music and dance"Training Camps"
- train kids to be a cowboy or pirate or logger or astronaut in these free-form programs that allow kids to pick up "skills" they need to become mighty.Book Club
- kids choose individual books to each read and then videotape interviews with each other booktalking their choice.Guys Read Club
- always done with a book component as well as a "smashing" component (water balloons off a roof; TV drop)
Plus Stuffed Animal Sleepovers, Teddy Bear Clinics, Messy Art Club!
Please share ideas for your unprograms in the comments or under the #unprogramming hashtag on twitter.
We storified the twitter feed
for more audience reactions and ideas. Amy will finish our series today with our slide deck.
Thanks for joining us so we could share the fun of this program from ALA in the blogosphere with all of you. And thanks to Amy for being the best presentation partner one could have!
Amy Koester of Show Me Librarian and I are tag-teaming at our blogs this week to report out the Chicago ALA Conversation Starter -Unprogramming: Recipes for School Age Success - that we led on Monday July 2 (see below for links to the whole series). Please join our continuing conversation in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #unprogramming.What is it about unprogramming that we are so high on? One of the key pieces is that planning is greatly simplified - a matter of tagging ideas you read in blogs or hear from colleagues into a manila folder, Evernote, Pinterest or into whatever “possible ideas” bin you favor. Checking publisher and author sites, books in the collection and google results in possible activities. This very low-level on-going "aha!" planning lets staff address their other work without being overwhelmed as a program is decided upon and the date of the event approaches.Keeping the action within the program conversational and letting kids discover on their own contributes to the ease and simplified planning. By allowing kids more agency within the program, staff become free to guide rather than lead. One thing you quickly discover is how much kids enjoy the program when they have responsibility and freedom to direct their activities and make discoveries, talk about a book or author or the process they are going through.Worried about helping staff transition between over-planned programs and unprogramming? To create staff buy-in, encourage spending less time on preparation by connecting the budgetary dots: too much time spent prepping a stand-alone program isn’t financially worth it for the institution.
Consider partnering with an over-planner and modeling planning and doing a program together to show how preparation can be kept simple and the program rewarding. Goal setting with staffers can also be helpful. Challenge staffers to spend no more than 2 hours of prep per school-age program. Also encourage strategic thinking: if you spend money or time buying or creating a prop, where else can it be used.
The results are more mellow preparation, less emphasis on process and more on relaxed chatting and activities that relate directly to books.Stop by Amy's blog today to discover our Pinterest page full of programs and a real life example of how unprogramming works!
Part 5 - Why It Works!
Part 6 -
Part 7 -
Part 8 -
With ALA slamming up at breakneck speed, I feel the need to make sure I connect to each and every one of you who come to Chicago. Logistics tell me I'm nuts. But then again, it's worth the try.
Although there are some great social events in the offing, I think another youth services blogger and readers of blogs and twitter -peeps gathering would be fun to do especially if you're thinking of being at the Newbery/Caldecott awards banquet
on Sunday June 30 at the Sheraton or the speeches after! It struck me that lots of us would be hanging around this premier youth services celebration, so...
....if you plan attend the banquet or just drop by the speeches after the dinner (there are chairs set up and you can listen to the speeches free and gaze upon the glitterati in the audience!), we can do a meet-up!
Traditionally, at the conclusion of the banquet, a receiving line with the honorees takes place right after the speeches outside the hall. There is always a cash bar. It's a great spot to gather and chat late night (caffeinate early to be up late!).
So consider this for your schedule and say hi!
Post N/C Youth Blogger/Blog Reader/Tweep Meet-up Sunday June 30Sheraton Chicago
banquet area10:30-11pm-ish start
(or whenever N/C speeches end)
Last week I got a new office chair (my back thanks you!)
The next day, our office manager offered us the box it came in.
I found the good boxcutter. Intrepid Brooke found the brown butcher paper, scissors and a mile of tape and 45 minutes later...
I hope you note the nifty skylights, the comfy bean bag and the exclusive nature of our box...ahem Reading Cave. No sooner was it done, then kids hopped inside one by one for a relaxing read.
Now come on, do we work in a great profession or what?!?!
The concepts of creating school-age programs that take a reasonable amount of preparation time, are engaging and lead to literacy, and allow kids the freedom to explore within the program have been buzzing around in my conversations with colleagues and tweeps over the past few months. We all are exploring how, in a period of tight budgets and staff time, we can make the fun happen without killing ourselves. How can we "unprogram"
ourselves - and our programs?
Program preparation for school age programs is important but where is the line drawn when the time spent preparing is two, three, five, or even ten times more than the actual program length itself? Are we, as programmers, leading the charge in the program or empowering the kids in their exploration - are we guides or drill sargeants? Is there a way to organically link the books and materials that surround us every day into the programs and then back again to the collections so that kids understand the fundamental amazingness of the library and its resources?
These questions have led to many conversations and ideas. One of the people I have looked to during this conversation is Amy Koester over at the Show Me Librarian
. And now Amy and I would like you to join this conversation at ALA in a few weeks. We will be presenting a 45 minute "Conversation Starter"
on Monday July 1 at 1:30 pm at the Mc Cormick Center Rm S102D.
During this time we want to explore with you ideas on making programming more rich while keeping preparation in perspective. We'll also share resources that have helped us free ourselves and keep programming and preparation in perspective in our necks of the woods.
We think it's high time we start talking about this...how about you?
Well, of course, if the national Collaborative Summer Library Program (CLSP) theme is "Dig into Reading" and I am an avid gardener, how can we NOT do a children's garden this summer?
Two dedicated, innovative and energetic adult services librarians just started a Seed Saving Library
here in spring and I had the fun of meeting alot of gardeners through their efforts. Two of them met with me to talk about how we might make growing things happen in our our very urbanized location.Challenge 1
We have had a significant amount of small vandalism and we wanted to protect the children's garden. We talked with our adjoining historical museum staff and they agreed to let us put a garden in their locked courtyard.Challenge 2
- Location Again
No place to plant the plants. My gardening buds suggested building a square foot garden
. Perfect, I thought. I just happen to live with the handiest handy-guy in the world and building a frame would be presto-chango easy for him.Challenge 3
- Location Yet Again
Our museum is moving out and has some gigantic and very heavy architectural doo-dads scattered everywhere in the courtyard - and they need to move them out this summer. Our square foot garden would bein the way. Said handy-guy sez "Well, we'll just put the whole thing on wheels." And so he did.
So last week we dug and planted seeds and herbs and veggies with the kids.
We talked and chatted about growing plants.
We tested chive blossoms. Yes, you heard me right, the kids actually picked off the blossoms and tried them.
Each week we'll meet briefly with the kids to water, weed and test the plants and veggies. I'll keep you posted on how this weekly program goes throughout the summer. It may end up just being me out there...but I hardly think I'll mind!
|Naturalist Steph wowing kids with a turtle shell|
Some of my favorite programs over the years have involved collaboration with community partners or everyday experts who come in (or we go out to) to create fun experiences for the kids. When we saw the CLSP theme of Dig into Reading
for the year we knew that we were going to have plenty of opportunities to partner up.
Our city is absolutely blessed with wild, natural places: towering bluffs, the Mississippi River, marshland, forested areas and prairie (I know!!!). Combined with a significant number of residents who place high value on sustainability, preserving recreational opportunities and in "getting back to nature" (eating and growing locally and organically), we get a perfect storm of partnerships.
One such partnership was with our city Eco-Park
which includes significant acreage with trails in one of our marshes
. Beautiful at any time of the year, the marsh is filled with wildlife and wild places that are brought up close and personal with the trails laid through it. Bikers, hikers, strollers, skaters, birders and scientists flock to the area. It's a perfect place to "dig into".
|Checking for fish|
I contacted the park's naturalist Steph and asked if she would be willing to go on a marsh walk with us. I would episodically share the First Nations story of how the earth was formed on turtle's back (how handy - the tale features creatures found throughout the marsh and that we might see on our meander) at stops along the walk and she would share marsh facts. She agreed. And that was the extent of our communication. She knew I knew story and I knew she knew marsh.
We held the walk a few days ago and it was like a dream come true. Our gathering of kids and parents strolled, learned tips and facts about flora and fauna from Steph and pretty much thrilled to the tale of Skywoman's precipitous fall and the brave animals who helped save her and create the earth. The kids soon used their new nature-detective eyes to spot dragonflies (and red-winged blackbirds eating the dragonflies and leaving iridescent wings lying everywhere to be collected), ducklings, flowers, herons duckweed and more. Steph's shoulder bag held bug jars, turtle shell, a duck wing and skull, a beaver skull and other goodies to teach the kids more about what the were seeing.
We also share a library collection with the Eco-Park (identification guides and books about the flora and fauna found there) so it was a perfect place to promote books and reading as well. Kids and parents appreciated the opportunity to discover and learn about the ecology of a treasured natural resource right in their backyard. And a chance for their nature-nut children's librarian to get out of the shop and meander down the trail talking story, listening and learning marsh facts and chatting library on a perfect June day? Well, priceless!
Summer is an extra busy time because the library is a destination not only for our families but also daycares and organizations that care for kids during the summer. We are thrilled when we see people respond to our PR push for summer library use. But it is easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number of groups and daycares that come en masse into the Youth Department.
Often the groups and daycares come in with summer-job, college-aged staff who lack skills in managing room behavior. There are always some staffers who space out, text or chat together, hoping library staff will intervene to keep kids on the right track. While I understand the challenges of working with kids for hours on end daily, we want the caregivers to be actively engaged.
After a few years of chaos, our team put our heads together and figured out a strategy to try to make these visits successful for all. The results have really made a difference.
We reach out in May/June to directors of the groups who are regulars to ask what days and times they plan to drop by. If another group is already coming then, we recommend they choose another time.
We share the behavior guidelines we expect the organization's staff to actively enforce while their kids are with us. We ask for active engagement of the center's staff with the kids in their care at all times during library visits.
We explain our simplified "group SLP" option - a poster and stickers plus a prize that we send out to the location so kids who read can be in an SLP remotely. We offer this as an alternative to trying to get all the kids signed up for our main SLP program on visits.
Finally, we let them know that on their first visit we will do a lightning orientation with the kids. This is absolutely a key element.
When the group comes in, we either take them into our program room or gather them in a quiet spot and welcome them. Then in a brief two-minute orientation, we give the kids the information they need to use the room successfully:
- Qustions and help can be found by asking the librarians at the desk who are happy to help them.
- The location of browsing sticks and blue bins to put books they use in the room but don't check out.
- Walking feet please.
- The boat is for reading only.
- Voices at 1 or 1.5 please.
Care-staff and kids hear the same message. We have seen much better use of the room, especially since we started the mini-orientation this year. This also helps us when we need to remind care staff subsequently if they start getting drifty in their responsibilities - and keeps communication respectful and open.
Being pro-active in laying out the parameters of how to use the library is just one part of room management that keeps the busy summer time more manageable for staff. And the results benefit not just the kids in care but everyone using the library at the same time.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
I've been conferencing a loooonnnng time at ALA. I agree with colleagues posting and tweeting, this conference was a win in every way for youth librarians.
Maybe because this is the first newly compressed conferences - fewer days and fewer sessions sponsored by units and almost all programs held at the conference center itself. This seems to make it possible to attend more events than ever before.
Maybe the addition and continued support for member-driven content (ignite sessions, uncommons, conversation starters) that resulted in great youth presentations. The unit-supported content was pretty amazing as well.
Maybe because groups of librarians connected through blogs, the twitterverse and groups like EL, ALATT and Flannel Friday reached the perfect storm of connectivity creating kismet meet-up moments and IRL chat.
So, despite substantial time spent fulfilling my responsibilities as ALA chapter councilor for my state, I have to say that this conference was an amazing, robust and energetic one for youth librarians.
A few highlights:
This doesn't even begin to address the ALSC and YALSA supported programs, the exhibits, committee work, the auditorium speaker series...and just everything.
There was energy and innovation and excitement - not just to see each other but to strategize what else we can do to be uber superhero librarians back in our communities and looking at the future. I talked about this kind of collaborative energy here
And while I celebrate attending conferences, I also think we do so much outside of conferences to stay fabulous and tuned in and inventive. So whether you were at ALA or not, the doors are open for you to walk through!
Mel from Mel's Desk gets at the core of what I LOVE about this at-conference-and-not-at-conference paradigm in what I believe will be THE blog post
on personal learning, connecting with those who share your passion and empowerment for the next decade. Conferences like ALA are one way to connect and learn - but there are so many other ways too that happen everyday when we reach outside our workplace and connect. Let's go and let's do it.
By: Marge Loch-Wouters,
Blog: Tiny Tips for Library Fun
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Amy Koester of Show Me Librarian and I are tag-teaming at our blogs this week to report out the Chicago ALA Conversation Starter -Unprogramming: Recipes for School Age Success - that we led on Monday July 2. Please read Part 1 here and join our continuing conversation in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #unprogramming. So now that we've looked at the motivations and pitfalls inherent in doing programs for school age kids, let's explore what we mean by taking an "unprogramming approach" to these events.
Often, when we create school-age programs, we spend alot of time and energy in planning. Three, four, five hours (and sometimes more) are poured into that one forty-five minute event. We search through websites, books and blogs for content; decide on many activities to engage kids (just in case they get restless); buy materials for them; add a food component and plan decorations to make it all perfect. The effort to plan the event increases stress- what if, after all this planning, only a few kids come or we planned too much and kids couldn’t finish or kids didn’t seem to enjoy themselves or it was so intensive to plan, staff needs to take a long break before doing another program just to recover?Unprogramming allows us to take a step back, take a deep breath, and put the event into perspective for us as planners and for the kids as well. Focus shifts from a rigorous schedule of planning “things, things and more things” to a more mellow approach.Unprogramming allows us to balance fun and content without over-planning an event. It celebrates books, characters and subject areas by linking literacy content to activities and crafts to create successful programs.Unprogramming engages kids in multiple ways. Hearing stories and/or book talks provides auditory enrichment. Seeing demonstrations, videos, or examples from books provides visual enrichment. Hands-on activities provide kinesthetic enrichment. Blending these threads together helps us create a unified whole.Unprogramming lets us, as staffers, relax and focus on how books (whether information books or fiction in the collection) can be celebrated through booktalks, activities and crafts. Interestingly enough, it also allows kids to help lead the way in the programming. Staff become guides to literature and “making” as opposed to the leaders of what goes on in the program. There’s a lot of self-discovery by the kids and self-paced learning. It celebrates literacy much like we do in our storytimes - great content and a real focus on books.Tomorrow Amy will share how to unprogram at your library.
Part 1 - Programming Motivations and PitfallsPart 2 - Unprogramming - What the Deuce Is It?
By: Marge Loch-Wouters,
Blog: Tiny Tips for Library Fun
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Amy Koester of Show Me Librarian and I are tag-teaming at our blogs this week to report out the Chicago ALA Conversation Starter -Unprogramming: Recipes for School Age Success - that we led on Monday July 2. Please join our continuing conversation in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #unprogramming.
I don't know about you, but when I am looking for something new to cook and browsing through recipes, the ones I pick are often the simplest - ones with few ingredients, easily accomplished in a busy life and full of flavor. Not for me the ones that list 15 items to put my hands on and too much time in the kitchen.
Doing unprogramming is very similar. There is a kind of recipe to create these programs. But like all the very best recipes, it allows endless innovation to surprise and sparkle the palate.
1. Choose a book or subject
What's popular with kids - dinosaurs, Big Nate, space, Legos, Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Star Wars, ninjas, Magic Tree House, Elephant and Piggie, pirates, pets? Take advantage of built-in interest and tie that into your collection.
2. Gather activity ideas
Use Pinterest, blogs, publisher websites, pubyac and alsc listserv posts, ideas from professional journals and books that you've been saving to find book trailers; authors talking about their work; cool videos/websites on the subject material (Wimpy Yourself!). Then simply decide which three or four pieces you want to put into the program to appeal to the kids and highlight the books.
3. Mix in materials for kids to explore
If you are like many libraries you have a closet, cupboard, basement or under-the-desk area crammed with unused and left-over material. Browse though it to find materials to re-purpose for your purposes. Claw hand grabbers become robot arms, dinosaur arms, extensions for planet mining. Paper bags become puppets, demonstrate scientific principles, contain survival kits after a planetary crash landing. Paper scraps become gravity-defiers, art, disguise components for superheroes.
Set up simple centers or "stations of stuff" for kids to free-explore/discover as many times as they wish. Be there to chat, inform, elicit impromptu discussion.
4. Digital Camera or Smartphone
Take pictures of all the fun, learning and discovery going on around you (you have plenty of time because the kids are becoming their own leaders as they explore each component).
Now, gather the kids and highlight the book through reading; booktalking; author information; video or discussion of subject, character or author. Introduce the different activities available to kids and invite them to participate as they’d like. Mix in encouragement, informational tidbits and oversight and kids provide the motivated use at “stations-of-stuff”. Bake for 45 minutes.
Voila! A tasty mix of interesting content that is not too hot, not too cold, not too spicy, not too sweet - it's just right. And you didn't have to kill yourself for hours in a hot kitchen getting this enticing-to-kids dish prepared!
Tomorrow Amy and I will both blog with sources for great unprograms and ways unprogramming creates positive change.
Part 4 - The Recipe Revealed
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