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There are kids who walk into the Children’s Library, walk right up to the desk, and tell you exactly what they’re looking for. There are kids with definite opinions and kids whose taste is harder to suss out. All these kids are a part of the joy of Reader’s Advisory – the easy ones make you feel like you’re aces at your job, while the difficult ones make you feel like a superhero when you find the perfect book for them to read.
But there is another group of kids that we noticed we were not reaching – the ones who won’t approach the librarian for suggestions, even when coaxed. At the same time, we noted our new fiction displays were not emptying out as quickly as they once had. In an effort to reach those children who don’t like to come to the librarian for RA and to help kids realize that there were worthy options among the new fiction, we started adding a simple and effective bit of hands-off RA to our displays.
photo provided by the author
What we did was simple and not groundbreaking, but it has amped up our new fiction turnaround to the point where are there are days that we run out of new books in the library! I used the die-cut machine to punch out roughly 1 zillion (a real number) bright yellow medallions, on which we wrote “For Kids Who Love….” and then inserted the title of a similar book that kids will know. The thing that makes this so effective is we exclusively link the new books to massively popular titles and authors. This lets both kids and parents who might not be familiar with popular but mid-list titles recognize books they may want to read. Does the book have family issues or emotional plot beats? For kids who love Wonder. Are there animals who talk/have feelings? For kids who love The One and Only Ivan. Is there any magic? For kids who love Harry Potter.
What’s your favorite book’s soulmate?
photo provided by the author
We started applying this to our themed fiction displays as well. For example, in February, we had a Book Soulmates display. We invited kids to discover the soulmate to their favorite book and then linked massively popular titles to older books that need an new audience. This allowed me to FINALLY convince a child to check out Good Night, Mr. Tom, a book with some of the worst cover art I have ever seen, but which I love so much I wrote about it here. I advertised it’s soulmate as Number the Stars, since they’re both about children’s experiences during WWII. And Mr. Tom hasn’t been checked in since!
The author’s favorite tiara and everyone’s favorite song.
photo provided by the author
We plan to keep this up for as long as it’s effective. Patron feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Both parents and kids have remarked that they love the new displays, and our only questions have been about whether or not it’s ok to disturb the display and/or take a book with a medallion on it.
Now I just need to figure out how to tie together princesses, RA, and like titles for this display, and I’ll be golden!
Kids’ reading platforms are proliferating like crazy. The best offer a great reading experience and some great books. But none of them have all the best books. And only a few are available to libraries.
Why do kids have to jump from app to app to get the content they want? This publisher here, that one there. History over here, science over here. Picture books in one place, chapter books in another.
Why can’t we pull it all together?
No matter how many books their families buy them, kids always need free books. Not a select list or a special of the week. The books they want the moment they’re ready for them. From the best and most reliable source, the library.
I want the library to be the first place kids look for ebooks.
I want to show them everything we have to offer in one place–our catalog.
I want to offer a great reading experience on any device, not just for chapter books, but for picture books, graphic novels, and photo-heavy nonfiction.
I want to load up our collection with the best books that publishers–all publishers– have to offer.
I want it all in our catalog and accessible with a click.
This is the experience libraries could provide. Why are we settling for less?
What do you think we could do to make better e-reading experiences for kids? Please share your ideas in the comments!
We would love to hear from you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please join our ALSC Digital Content Task force group on ALA Connect. Share ideas! Add to discussions!
This month’s blog post by Rachel Wood, ALSC Digital Content Task Force (virtual committee)
Acting Materials Division Chief
Arlington (VA) Public Library
This week I'm joining the Start with a Book
blog tour organized by Amy over at Show Me Librarian.
It was an easy yes when Amy asked if I might be interested in participating. The Start with a Book
site is so rich I almost feel like a millionaire when I am using it. So.much.at.my.fingertips.
As busy librarians, we juggle so many balls in the air - desk work, programming, budgets, selection, displays, outreach, planning and more. So time is often precious no matter what size library we work at. With summer around the corner, the speed of the balls increases exponentially.
When I discovered this resource, a project of Reading Rockets
, my work got immeasurably easier. While the site supports parents and caregivers, it a treasure trove for librarians as well. I'd like to sprinkle some gold and jewels on one of my favorite parts of the website: the 24 Learning Summer Themes
.Once there we are greeted by lots of fresh-faced and diverse children ready to take us on incredibly rich adventures in math, science, social studies - all with strong literacy support.
Pick a theme, click, and scream with happiness! You find a list of excellent book titles for multiple ages that can be used as a selection tool to strengthen your collection or to pull for a display inhouse if you already own them at the library. You also discover a nifty downloadable pdf "Reading Adventure Pack" that supplies activities, questions and information on effectively using both fiction and non-fiction books for kids. These packs could easily be put together and made available to your families to check out.
Each theme also has a number of resources featuring more activities, videos, apps and exemplary websites for kids and families to browse to learn more information. One of the perks of this portion of the theme is it lays out rich content that can be easily used to build programs for kids at the library. Everything in the themes truly underscores literacy and adventure for kids.
It's almost a steal to have this kind of resource at our fingertips as librarians. If you haven't been here before, be sure to dig into this treasure chest of ideas not only for summer but also year round!
Read the rest of this post
My husband and I have been shopping for a new refrigerator. The old one has been fine, keeping cold foods cold and frozen foods frozen. Other than that, I never gave it much thought. But now that our kitchen remodeling project is done, it’s time for a new one. We’ve searched three appliance stores and checked out all the new models. We’re leaning towards a French door-style refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom, although a side-by-side has its advantages, too.
The funny thing – for better or worse, is that by not looking at new refrigerators over the years, I didn’t know what I was missing. Now that I know what else is available, I begrudge each time that I have to get down on my knees to look in the vegetable and fruits bins. Who ever decided that freezers should be on the top anyway?
And that got me to thinking – who ever decided that beginning readers must be 8.5 x 6 x 0.2 inches, with a banner on the top and number in the corner? Though the publishers do not agree on readability levels, there has been apparent agreement in matters of shape, size and general appearance. For years, my beginning reader shelves were the neatest in the library – each book a perfect match to its neighbor.
Newer shapes and sizes have been steadily increasing in volume, however. The Elephant and Piggie series (Hyperion) stretched the genre by about an inch (the better to see the delightful duo). The I Like to Read series (Holiday House) is the same size as a typical picture book.
The always innovative Toon Books has turned the usual shape on its side with their new Level One books measuring up at 9.4 x 6.3.
(My kids grew up with the non library-friendly, but nevertheless tiny and wonderful, Bob Books, so I am familiar with the appropriateness of little books for little hands.)
However you measure them, it seems to me that there is a trend toward greater choice in the shape, size and appearance of beginning readers. One size does not fit all. The newfound possibilities are limitless – for readers and refrigerator buyers. My shelves have never looked messier and I’m happy with that. (My kitchen, I prefer neat).
One of the most energetic celebrations of El día de los niños/El día de los libros has to be the celebration hosted by the Farmington (NM) Public Library. Since 1997 this library has celebrated bilingual literacy. The Farmington Public Library does many things that other libraries do, like bilingual book readings and author programs. For several years they have also hosted a tailgate party in the library’s parking lot as part of a day-long celebration with vendors and partner organizations. Community groups and organizations are able to distribute information about their programs for youth while also offering educational activities, games, and crafts for families. I love the idea of a tailgate party because it takes any mess out of the library while still keeping the celebration at the library. It’s also a great way to handle limited meeting room space and supplements what staff can do by having partner organizations provide activities and games. Check out the library’s website for a diagram showing how the parking lot was organized and photographs from past tailgate parties.
Not every library will be able to pull off a big event like this but Farmington includes some other activities in their programming that is easily emulated elsewhere. For example, the April 30th celebration of El da de los niños/El día de los libros also serves as the kick-off for summer reading registrations. One of my favorite ideas is the poetry garden. Children and teens are encouraged to write their own bilingual poetry or copy a favorite poem onto a paper flower. The flowers are then shared in the Poetry Garden/Poesia Jardín. Children are encouraged to bring a book wrapped as a gift. In a literary version of musical chairs, books are handed around until the music stops. Each participant then leaves for the day with a new book. Donations ensure that every child has a book.
Located in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, it is natural that Farmington’s celebration would include the Navajo language (Ałchíní Baa Hózhóogo Bee E’e'aah Naaltsoos Wólta’ Bee E’e'aah is Dia in Navajo). Although you may not have Navajo speakers in your community, you can share this beautiful language and culture through books like The Navajo Year, Walk Through Many Seasons by Nancy Bo Flood. The text includes many words in Navajo with pronunciation assistance provided in the back matter and the book is beautifully illustrated by Navajo artist Billy Whitethorne. Salina Bookshelf, Inc. is the publisher of this and many other culturally authentic books, a number of them with accompanying CDs with both English and Navajo narration. There are other books that feature Navajo stories but Salina Bookshelf is the only bilingual English-Navajo publisher so check out their other titles.
Don’t forget that you can get ideas from other Día celebrations, register and share your own
Title: Art Authority
Platform: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 3.0 or later
I think a lot about how apps can extend the collection for teens or even replace materials on teen shelves. If you have art books in your teen collection, Art Authority provides new options for what you provide teens on the topic of art and art history. The screencast below gives you a view of how the app works and its benefits to teens.
For more App of The Week posts, visit the App of the Week Archive.
I have to tell you, I’m nervous about the state of YA collection development. Why? Because I worry that teen collections may transition from collections for teens who read YA to collections for adults who love reading YA. Don’t get me wrong, I am a reader of YA and I know that that reading can be just as good, if not better, than adult book reading. But, yet, I don’t think my library’s YA collection should be filled with the YA that I want to read if teens don’t also want to read it. And that’s why I worry. There is so much talk of late about adults reading YA and why that’s OK that I begin to wonder, who are we building YA collections for? The adults who love YA or the teens who are simply looking for a good book to read?
My take is that we always build for the teens. If adults want to read YA titles that aren’t popular with teens in the community, then those titles should go in the adult collection and be a part of the adult collection purchasing budget. Those serving teens often have to struggle with budgets as it is. So, if they are buying books for adults that read teen AND teens that read teen how are they going to have enough money to do both? They won’t. The teen collection is the teen collection. That’s the priority. That’s who teen library staff serve. That’s the bottom line.
Yet, I continue to worry. I think about the books a library buys that circulate and have great statistics and so more of that type of book is purchased and put on the shelves. Yet, if the library really delved into those statistics they may find that it’s not teens checking out the books, it’s adults. But, circulation can drive collection development so the books continue to land on the shelves. That just isn’t right.
I worry that a teen walks into a library filled with titles that are being read and titles that are published for teens, but, yet, the titles aren’t of interest to the teen or his friends. Or, for that matter to a large part of the community’s teen population. So, what does that teen think and do? He doesn’t think of the library as a place that serves his reading needs. And, he doesn’t use the library to find materials for leisure or informational reading.
Or, what about the teens who hang out in the library and notice that the stacks are always inhabited by adults looking for their new favorite teen novel? What message does that send? If you were a teen would you really want to be hanging out in a teen section filled with adults looking at and talking about the books that are supposed to be for you? Come on be honest. Would you?
I have to say, “be careful.” Sure, it’s OK that you and other adults you know read YA but don’t make that the focus of your teen collection. If you know adults in your community are really into a dystopian series but that the teens just don’t show an interest, then don’t buy that series. Inform the adult collection development staff of the adult interest. Save your money, and your shelf space (virtual or physical) for the books teens want and need. That’s really what you are there for. Right?
Are my worries completely unfounded? Let me know what you think in the comments.
With the school year winding down and the summer reading season gearing up, it’s a good time to reflect on the partnership of public youth services librarians and school media specialists. The recent cover story by Rebecca T. Miller and Laura Girmscheid’s, “It Takes Two,” in the May edition of School Library Journal offers up some food for thought, and I urge everyone to read it.
Many of the partnership ideas suggested in “It Takes Two,” are great ones, including “middle school booktalks, outreach to school groups, shuttle buses between schools and libraries, and age-appropriate book clubs.” Miller and Girmscheid also suggest the possibility of a purchasing collaboration, noting that “the results of SLJ’s first survey of public library spending habits on children’s and young adult services reveals a disturbing trend: only 30 percent of respondents say their library collaborates with local schools to coordinate book purchases to support the curriculum—leaving 70 percent that don’t.”
I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this. Here are mine.
My library system has a centralized collections department, but that isn’t to say that individual branches do not have some say in the purchase of books. Several times per year, I am offered the opportunity to submit purchasing or replacement requests. Having a close connection with my community, I, of course, request books that I know will appeal to local children or will fulfill the need for commonly requested resource materials (e.g., Ancient Egypt, Colonial America) However, there is a definite difference between a public library and a public school library, particularly when it comes to the library’s collection. Personally, I believe that the school library’s mission should be to support the curriculum of the school and the education of its children. To some degree, public libraries do this as well, but I believe that our main focus is to foster literacy and a love of reading and learning, and to provide appealing, inclusive, informative and desirable books, programs and materials, as well as a place to enjoy them. This, I feel, is where our paths diverge.
Anecdotally, I can say that, over the years, to fulfill homework assignments, I have had children request lower elementary school level books on the brown trout, sea lettuce, Chinese stirrups, Ancient Egyptian jewelry making, anchovies, and obscure local inventors. These materials (were they actually to exist) would not necessarily meet the collection development criteria of the public library. With school and public library budgets shrinking, we definitely have ourselves a dilemma. The school library often doesn’t have the needed books. The students come to the public library, which may not have them either.
I am very fortunate to work in town where I have very close connections with the local school media specialists, as well as some teachers and school administrators. When I contact my district’s media specialists, to let them know of my inability to find age-appropriate reading material on some of the aforementioned topics, they commiserate. They in turn, contact the teachers from whom the requests originate. The teachers may also commiserate. Their requests are often dictated by government requirements.
I’m not offering an opinion on the initiative, but like it or not, the Common Core is coming. (Read USA Today article here) Read more at the Common Core State Standards Ini
Collections are big and ungainly things. No matter how hard you try, they grow like topsy. But like any weedy thing, too much growth sucks up space, oxygen and *things* start taking over. Soon the weedy things completely obscure the healthy things and before you know it, kids and families start wandering aimlessly through the growth praying to the gods and goddesses to get them out of there.
Ah, it is clearly August in libraryland. A time when the minds of youth librarians turn to tending those shelves and making some progress through the weeds. There I found myself today working with a colleague and talking about what, for me, is an absolute favorite library activity - deselection!
Maybe I like it because weeding as an activity is a microcosm of management - a hundred tiny decisions that need to be made with confidence. Some are quick; some are slower and some can't be made at just that moment and the book needs to be re-shelved to see how it fares for a little more time. Perhaps a bit more face-out display time for this one or handselling to kids might jumpstart it. There is an element of careful consideration and finesse that I enjoy as well.
Today we were in chapter books discussing the kind of criteria that we need to think about to make good weeding decisions. Condition is always easy (Eeeee-yooooo = toss!). Of course, if it's popular, then we need to re-order.
How is the circulation on the item? With a three week check-out period, an item could have 17 circs per year in a perfect world of everyone keeping books exactly three weeks and no overdues. But more realistically, we expect most chapter books to have an annual turnover average of 4-6 circs. Way over that number and we may buy an additional copy. Way under...oh-oh, not making the shelf-rent and we'll have to evict you.
What is this book really? Has it stood the test of time and emerged as a keeper? Has the story, the writing, the plot and the language endured and found a home with the readers in our community. We have many books that are between 4-5 years old that have not crossed over that divide. Reviewed well but never truly a fit; sadly un-checked out; written by authors once - or never- popular, these books need thought but often must leave the island as well.
Books that are pedestrain in content (think the equivalent of series nonfiction - churned out; undistinguished; full of bad cover art and clearly aimed at a school audience that needs to "keep to a reading level") are an easy fling. Books once popular but fading in appreciation (oh Beverly Cleary, this is killing me), get to stay but only in a guilty way. As a resource library, we can always make the argument that our collection needs to be deep after all.
And finally, how does the book fit into the overall collection. Is it just one of eleventy-zillion fantasies and a poor circ'er? Good-bye. Is it our only book written from the viewpoint of a camel (let me check the circ on that and get back to you) with fairly wretched original reviews? Buy-bye. Do we only have the third book in the series and the rest are out of print? Sayonara.
Though the reader in me calls out to keep them all, the realist knows that we have reached a capacity that calls for one book weeded for every one cataloged. So it comforts me to think of these books going to our Friends who will sell them and give us the money to fund our programs and initiatives.
And don't our shelves look dandy and the beep of increased circs for the remaining books sound nice?Image: 'La caverne aux livres' http://www.flickr.com/photos/24183489@N00/395079578
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about transparency in teen services. Partly I’ve been thinking about it because I’m preparing for a YALSA Institute on advocacy and teen services. In my preparations it’s become more and more clear that without being transparent about what teen librarians do every day in order to serve teens effectively, it’s not possible to advocate for the value of teen services.
For example: If items are purchased for a teen collection and the teen librarian is a bit uncomfortable about how adults in the community will react to the items, then sometimes a teen librarian will hide the items away on the shelves, not displaying them or mentioning them to colleagues, administration or adults in the community, but hoping that teens with an interest will find them. Of course it’s good that the librarian is making the materials available to teens, but just as important is speaking up and stating why those materials are necessary to the teen collection. Without that second piece, the speaking up, it’s not really appropriate to expect community members to understand what teen librarians are working to achieve with a teen collection. The only way to gain that understanding is through transparency in collection development.
It might be difficult to speak up about materials when there is a fear of controvery, but think about it with the idea of transparency in mind. The speaking up doesn’t happen just when the item is added, it should start way before that with conversations with colleagues, administrators, parents, teachers and community members about the purpose of the teen collection. These discussions should highlight how items are selected for the teen collection and note materials that may be controversial and materials that may not be controversial and why they are added to the collection. If these discussions take place regularly, then community members gain insight into the process the teen librarian uses to select materials. Community members begin to understand that the teen librarian isn’t simply purchasing materials on a whim, but really putting thought into what materials are most needed for a collection. They learn why even materials that might make some adults nervous, are important to include in the collection. Transparency can lead to understanding and acceptance of what the teen librarian is doing in order to serve teens in the community.
Transparency is required not just to help in understanding related to collections, it’s required in order to help community members better understand the role of the library and library teen services. I’ve been thinking about this particularly in relation to comments made recently on the Buzz Out Loud podcast about libraries. The comments questioned why libraries are still needed in a world of digital content and the web. I’d say those comments are a perfect example of why librarians need to be transparent about what they do and what they provide. So often teen librarians don’t speak up and let community members know what’s going on with programs and services. It can feel more comfortable not to say too much about a program for teens on video games, or one that integrates social media, because if it just takes place without too much fanfare, then it’s likely pushback from community members, or
When I go to the garden to weed, I head straight for the pesky dandelions, the tenacious goutweed, the strong-willed plantains. I know what to pull, and I have no qualms. When I go to the shelves of the library, the weeds are a bit trickier. Some are easy to spot – those books with covers from the 80’s that haven’t checked out in years, the tattered covers that yell “Please, get me out of here!”, the series that you’ve never heard of, and apparently, neither have the kids who browse. Some are harder, like the Mildred Taylor book you read long ago and just know someone would appreciate, or the Mollie Hunter book that now lies on your desk, to take home and devour. This time I’m being ruthless. If it hasn’t checked out in 3 years, it is Off The Island. Some things have surprised me, though. Sweet Valley High, Encyclopedia Brown, and Goosebumps are still on the Island. Mary Kate and Ashley are slipping away without notice, Sleepover Friends are sleeping with the fishes, Gary Paulsen’s Culpepper series is off, accompanied by Peck’s Soup. Nancy Drew is still in charge of the mysteries, and the Hardy Boys are right in there with her. The Babysitters Club is holding on, but the knock-off series from that same era are gone (anyone remember Silver Blades?). As I fill box after box my mind begins to wander. Do authors feel a twinge when I remove every single book of their once-popular series off the shelf? Does the whole shelf of Dianne Wynne-Jones books nearly falling onto my head tell me something? (I kept most of those). I think I need a break—time to go wash the grime of well-loved reading off my hands and get a fresh perspective before I dive back in!
As the fiscal year winds down, many librarians are either spent out for their materials budget, or getting pretty darn close. It’s a fine line to walk between not overspending (and thus appearing fiscally irresponsible) but not underspending (and thereby failing to show that our libraries deserve the funds.) One sneaky little way to help manage that delicate balance is by creating wishlist carts throughout the year.
Most library vendors websites allow you to create carts (or lists) that can be modified and saved. At the beginning of each fiscal year (for many libraries that begins July 1st), set up a few open wishlist carts. Then, throughout the year, add non-essential items into those wishlist carts.
Some of the types of books I’ve thrown into my own wishlist carts include new chapter book or graphic novel series, additional copies of favorites titles, expensive non-fiction sets, oversized art books, and reissues of classics. It’s also a great place to record all those brand new titles you’d love to have, but aren’t bread-and-butter purchases for your collection.
By the end of the fiscal year, you will have several carts ready to go. If you need to spend a bit of money quickly, you can send out a wishlist cart or two. On the other hand, if you’re scratching the bottom of the barrel of your book budget, you can save the carts for next year.
photo courtesy of Flickr user Horia Varlan
Quietly ignoring the changing landscape of library services is getting trickier. Though it still happens, often at the expense of the eager digital minds with which we work. Transliteracy (literacy across multiple media) is a big part of what kids need to make it in the 21st Century and many of us are not part of the mechanism that’s equipping them with those skills.
I’ve been in my position as a Youth Services Coordinator for a large library system now 5 years and when I started, blogs, wikis, RSS-that whole Library 2.0 thing was just getting underway and I know there are libraries who continue to resist taking advantage of tools that not only make our jobs easier like Delicious, RSS, wikis and Google Docs but tools that kids/tweens/teens greatly benefit from as part of their education and in their personal lives. As information specialists, it’s our duty to get with it and here are some easy, mostly-free or cheap ways to jump in and get more comfortable while also engaging in little professional development:
- College of DuPage offers some great teleconferences that address this changing landscape and they make it a lot less scary.
- CCBC or The Cooperative Children’s Book Center offers some quick, free 1/2 hour sessions on books (yes, with paper!) So, in the process of learning about some new books, you’ll be actively involved in new technology! They even offer podcasts so you can listen on your own schedule.)
- WebJunction: even if your state isn’t officially a part of WebJunction, you can still take advantage of the professional development they offer like courses on just about everything and cool webinars.) Again, by participating yourself in some of this technology, you’ll be more likely to recommend and employ it in your own library.
- TechSoup is a great hub for nonprofits and they offer all kinds of guides on topics like creating RFPs, How to Tell Your Digital Story and How to Plan a Successful Webinar.
- The University of Wisconsin has some great resources like Creating a Vibrant Facebook Fan Page for Your Library and Gaming in the Library and Youth and Family Outreach.
- Hewlet-Packard Learning Center for all kinds of free courses on digital photography, Facebook and Twitter: Getting Started and
2 Comments on Jumping In, last added: 6/23/2011
Six months ago, I walked into a room full of strangers. When I walk into the room today, I’m going to greet my friends.
I met my Emerging Leaders group for the first time at ALA Midwinter in San Diego and since then, it’s been months of conference calls, brainstorming, and wonderful collaboration. Today, our hard work comes to a head as we present our poster on videogame collection development at the Emerging Leaders Poster Session.
Believe me, I have thought more about videogames these past few months than in the rest of my life combined! And I think we have come up with a really stellar project that will be helpful to a lot of librarians starting up or maintaining videogame collections. If you’re reading this from New Orleans, I hope you’ll stop by the Emerging Leaders Poster Session from 3:00pm-4:00pm in Conference Center Room 271-273 to check out all the amazing projects.
If you’re playing along at home, check out our project website and stay tuned because I’ll be blogging about the poster session later in the day!
PS: New Orleans humidity/rain vs. my flat iron. Who will win?
When it comes to physical books and materials, librarians are confident reviewers and collectors. We can distinguish between a so-so beginning reader and a truly excellent one. We know what makes a particular work of middle grade fiction absolute shelf candy versus a hard sell. We can appreciate what goes into the creation of a brilliantly designed picture book. The good news is that many of the same critical skills used to evaluate physical media are transferable when evaluating digital media. Ebooks and apps, however, do present new challenges as well as new possibilities. It can be helpful to go in armed with a simple set of criteria for evaluation.
The following is a rough checklist for evaluating book-based apps and enchanced ebooks, compiled from expert advice on the SLJ Touch and Go blog*, leading children’s app developers, and my own trials and tribulations navigating this brave new digital world:
1. Does it expand and enhance the traditional reading experience?
There’s not much point in offering an ebook or app if it is simply a page-by-page replication of the physical book. A great app or ebook should be interactive and encourage creative thinking and problem solving. It should take the characters, the setting, the themes, or the world of the book and allow the reader to explore them in new ways.
2. Does it allow a linear reading experience?
While cool games and interactive features can distinguish a good app or ebook, it can also be its weakest attribute. As Michel Kripalani, CEO and founder of Oceanhouse Media Inc., a leading children’s app developer, explains, “it is important that the games and additional features have purpose and do not diminish the reading experience.” Kripalani recently related the story of a friend who had a rather disappointing experience while sharing a book-based app with his daughter at bedtime: The app interrupted the story so many times with games and activities that the little girl and her dad were never able to fully enter into the narrative. The magic of that shared reading experience was lost. A well-designed app should strike a balance between opportunities for exploration outside of the narrative as well as opportunities to lose oneself in the story alone.
3. Does it engage multiple literacies and learning styles?
An excellent book-based app or ebook should offer the user a dynamic experience that engages the senses and allows for interaction in a variety of ways. For example, many apps are geared, by their very nature, towards visual learners. What about an app that also engages auditory or kinesthetic learning styles?
4. It is intelligently designed? Is it intuitive, flexible and customizable?
Just as a well-designed picture book achieves a fine balance between tension and surprise, and expertly employs the “turn of the page” as a means of creating drama, an intelligently designed app or ebook can maximize (and individualize) the unique relationship that exists between screen and user. Above all, a good app will be user friendly and easy for children to navigate. Beyond that, a great app may offer customizable features such as the ability to alter the settings (easy/medium/hard) and accessibility options (such as font size or narration speed.)
5. Does it have legs (i.e., longevity)?
As far as whether or not any particular ebook or app will be technically compatible with future devices and services is hard to say. That depends a lot on the vendor, the device(s) currently used, and how libraries wind up negotiating and reimagining terms of service contracts with publishers, developers, and service providers. Be that as it may, it is still useful to look at the overall shelflife of any particular app or ebook.
Title: Bluefire Reader
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch with OS 3.0 or higher
Android app is coming soon!! According to MediaBistro AND Bluefire Facebook page
As a school librarian, summer is one of my favorite times to catch up on professional development and read as much as possible. This year I was lucky enough to attend ALA Annual (post on this coming soon) where I was showered with galley after galley of upcoming summer, fall and even winter titles. I left New Orleans with an entire extra suitcase full of finds.
Only occasionally during my rounds through the exhibit hall was I reminded of the great service NetGalley, which allows “professional readers” (i.e. librarians and other eligible persons) access to DRM and DRM-free Galleys of upcoming titles.
The list of publishers in NetGalley’s arsenal is long, and I’ve found out about many great titles through this service. I turned a few books down when I discovered they were on NetGalley…less to carry.
Upon my return from ALA, I learned that the iPads we ordered for the coming school year were in, so I picked one up with plans to try it out. I’ve put several different reading devices on the iPad; Kindle, Copia, Stanza, Bluefire have all been added, to name a few.
All are free apps, and all have their benefits,* but I’m highlighting Bluefire for a few reasons:
Looking for a way to highlight your collection, increase circulation, put your expert knowledge of children’s literature to great use, and remind your users that the library is the beating, pulsing heart of your community? It may be as simple as a few duplicate copies, a handout of discussion questions, and a quiet corner for groups to meet.
A few of our popular Kids Book Club Kits.
Launched last fall, Kids Book Club Kits have been an extremely popular (and easy to manage) new service at my library. The kits are designed to make patron-led book discussion groups fun and easy. Each kit contains several copies of a librarian-selected title, a book summary, discussion starters and questions, further resources such as websites or extended reading opportunities, and suggested activities related to the book’s themes. In addition to the kits themselves, parents who register with the Children’s Library are also given the opportunity to reserve a meeting space to host their discussion group.
Choosing the Books
We began by surveying our Kids Fiction and Kids IRead (chapter book) collections, noting the titles we owned in multiple. We decided to start by choosing ten titles for early elementary (grades 1 to 3) and ten titles for older elementary (grades 4 to 6.) In addition to being available in duplicate, we looked for books that were exciting, highly discussable, slightly off-the-radar, and that naturally lent themselves to extended activities. It helped that we booktalk new titles each spring to our local elementary schools and purchase multiple copies of those titles. As a result, after a few years, we are able to go back and resurrect these great books as Book Club Kits.
Writing the Content
A selection of our Book Club Kit handouts.
The most time-intensive aspect of launching the Book Club Kits service was researching and preparing the handouts. We decided to make a template consisting of a picture of the book cover, a brief summary, 1 or 2 discussion starters (or icebreakers), 4 to 6 discussion questions, a list of further resources (often consisting of the author’s website or related material), and an activity related to the themes or characters. As an example, check out The Year the Swallows Came Early Kit.
While getting the discussion questions together took some time and consideration, it was one of the most enjoyable in the process. The entire children’s staff, including our summer intern, was encouraged to participate by reading and re-reading the selected books and thinking of great questions and activities to add to the handout. When stumped, we were often able to find questions and discussion starters from several publisher websites. Although we decided to create our own templates, libraries could just as easily print out discussion guides straight from the publishers.
Kits and Meeting Spaces
Once we had our 20 initial kits ready to go, we had to figure out how we would store them and how patrons would check them out. We decided, after a bit o