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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Andrew in Asia

Andrew Medlar getting ready for his trip to the Philippines

Andrew is reading Pedro and the Monkey by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Michael Hays (Morrow Junior Books, 1996) at the Dr. José Rizal sculpture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Dr. Rizal (1861-1896) “is the Philippine national hero, the ‘father of his country,’ the founder of its modern literature, the inspirer of its educational system” (Reines, Bernard. A People’s Hero: Rizal of the Philippines. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1971.).

The National Library of the Philippines is sponsoring an International Conference of Children’s Librarianship in Tagaytay City next month and I’m very excited to be attending to represent ALSC! The theme of the conference is “Connecting and Linking of Information through Transformed Children’s Libraries to the Digital Era,” and I’ll be giving a presentation on the first evening, October 13,  on the topic of “Envisioning a 21st Century Children’s Library.”

This topic is right up ALSC’s alley as our core purpose is creating a better future for children through libraries, and I’m looking forward to reaching out and sharing how we’re moving together into our association’s envisioned future in which “libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them.”

I would love your help in telling this story! What is your vision of a 21st Century Children’s Library for your community? We’re talking collections, technology, programming, spaces—and anything else you can think of. What innovations in library service to children can you imagine developing in the 85 years still to come in this century, and what traditions and proven tactics will we be carrying forward?

Please share your ideas you’d like me to spread around the world by September 16 in the comments section below or by clicking and submitting them here. If you have a picture of something special you’re doing now that you feel represents the future and you’d be willing for me to include it in the conference presentation, please e-mail them to me at andrewalsc@outlook.com. You can also tweet pictures and any other thoughts using #21stkidlib.

And please follow me on Twitter (@ammlib) where I’ll be gearing up for the trip by exploring Filipino folklore (find my reading list here), practicing ordering coffee in Filipino (Higit kape mangyaring), and warming up my taste buds at some of Chicago’s delicious Filipino restaurants. And throughout the trip (October 10-16) I’ll be sharing my experiences and the amazing ideas of our colleagues across the globe using #andrewinasia.



Andrew Medlar is the 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect and the Assistant Chief, Technology, Content, & Innovation, at Chicago Public Library.


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2. Chain Reaction Challenge

We’ve all seen Rube Goldberg machines: overly complicated machines that use everything from dominoes, to motors, to squirrels in order to complete a simple task. But have you ever thought about hosting a Rube Goldberg competition at your library?

Back in July, I hosted the Chain Reaction Challenge: an event where families were given supplies and two hours to construct a Rube Goldberg machine. I admit that I had my doubts about the program initially – especially since our target age was grades K– 5. However, I found that this is a great family program that emphasizes teamwork, critical thinking, and STEM!
CRC 1Interested in hosting your own Rube Goldberg program? Here are a few components you might consider:


Our theme was Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’, and the objective was to have a golf ball roll from one side of the machine to the other and trigger the next machine (creating the chain reaction). While having a theme is pretty optional, it’s imperative to have an objective so that the teams know what they’re working toward. I felt that the golf balls were an excellent choice for this age group, but there are other objectives you could do, such as:

  • Machines must have dominoes
  • Machines must incorporate gravity in some way
  • Machines must involve matchbox cars
  • Machines must start and end with catapults
  • Machines must start and end with a string being pulled
  • Machines must involve trained squirrels (okay, I’m joking on that one)


While many Rube Goldberg machines require motors and technical aspects, we wanted this to be a simple, age-appropriate program. We told families that they were welcome to bring supplies from home, but we also provided a lot of simple, everyday items:

  • CRC 3Paper towel and toilet paper tubes
  • Small cardboard boxes (such as tissue boxes, frozen dinner boxes, etc.)
  • Lots of duct tape
  • String, yarn, wire, pipe cleaners
  • Legos, tinker toys, blocks
  • Various other toys
  • Things that make noise (bells, chimes, buzzers)
  • Things that roll (cars, cylinders, balls)
  • Wooden dowels
  • Balloons
  • Rulers, crayons, markers, scissors
  • Just about anything you can find


Maker Know-How

I was lucky enough to partner with a local nonprofit organization http://tekventure.org/ that specializes in the maker movement. Therefore, we had engineers on hand to mentor the teams and give them some ideas and suggestions for how to build their machines.

But you do not need engineers to run this program! You can just as easily start the program with a slideshow to demonstrate some simple machines (such as ramps, pendulums, etc.). Or even have handouts with suggestions on it. As a matter of fact, the teams that participated in this program came up with most of the ideas themselves, and many of them had zero maker experience prior to the program!


We had awards for ten different categories, such as: tallest machine, most colorful, most musical, etc. This worked well for us because we had five teams that participated, so each team was able to get two awards! However, the biggest reward was watching the finished machines run. There was a great sense of accomplishment for both kids and adults to see that they created a simple, working machine.

(all photos courtesy Guest Blogger)


Erin WarzalaErin Warzala is a Children’s Librarian at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  She is passionate about early literacy, STEM/STEAM programming, books of all genres, and tea.  She blogs somewhat regularly at http://fallingflannelboards.wordpress.com/ and can be followed on Twitter at @fallingflannel.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.


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3. Serving the Underserved: Lunch at the Library

hunger-in-america1-300x300There are many ways for us to serve the underserved in our library communities.  Whether we provide outreach in local preschools or daycares, visit incarcerated youth, or serve children with disabilities, outreach is a crucial part of inclusive library service.  This summer, we at the Glen Ellyn Public Library served–quite literally–children with a different type of need.

Food for Thought

Here’s a brief look at some statistics and information about hunger in our  communities.  The numbers might surprise you.

  • According to the USDA in a 2013 study, 49 million people in the US live in homes that are “food insecure” – meaning that they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.
  • 1 in 8 Americans rely on help from food banks each year.
  • 20% of households with children and 9% of elderly people living alone are food insecure.
  • In 2012, 16.1 million or approximately 22 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
  • Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity.  In other words, healthy bodies mean healthy minds.

Summer Reading, Summer Eating

Last summer, our library launched their 2013 Summer Reading Program entitled Read to Feed.  Children of all ages were encouraged to keep track of the number of hours they read during the summer.  Not only did they read to accomplish an individual goal, but a community wide goal was set, challenging all of the kids to read 70,000 hours throughout the course of the summer. In response to the community’s commitment to reach their reading goal, the local Rotary Club committed to making a donation to the local food pantry, providing funding to feed 500 local individuals.  This year, when the idea came up of having the library participate in the Summer Meals program, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB), we felt that this would naturally coincide and continue with the mission of last year’s summer reading program.

After evaluating our school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics, we realized that we qualified to offer free summer meals in our library community.  The NIFB made a site visit in preparation for the summer meals program, providing the required training for staff that would supervise the program.  In addition, our School Liaison shared the news with various community contacts, making sure that the word got out to the families that needed the most.  And so, for several weeks throughout the summer on Mondays through Fridays from 12 – 1 pm, the library was an open site, serving free boxed lunches to children 18 and younger.

Hungry for Connection

The main focus of this program was to provide healthy, well-balanced lunches to children free of charge.  However, soon after we launched the program, we noticed something else significant happen.  Our library has a group of kids who use our building as a safe haven during the summer months.  They may have working parents that are not home, so often times, they stay for hours on end utilizing our collections and our services.  In some cases, these children might not have anywhere else to go.  And once the Summer Meals program began, we observed a change  in some of those kids.  Some of these kids began to open up to us even more than usual, interacting with staff and starting conversation.  In some cases, even our rapport with the children’s caregivers grew as well.  We were able to connect with new families that have never utilized the library before, promoting the library and all of its services.  We also served some of the families that already were regular library users.  It may have been the summer lunches that initially drew families to the library, but I do think that it was the personal connection with staff that kept them coming back.

In A Nutshell

Think about how this program fits in with your library’s mission.  What might be the added value of a program like this in your library community?  The first step would be to determine and evaluate your school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics.  If your community qualifies, reach out to a local food pantry or food bank to see if there is a comparable program in your area.

You may also want to consider the cost and the impact of a program like this.  The main cost to the library is not the cost of food; boxed lunches are delivered daily free from the food bank.  The primary cost is staff time.  Staff would be needed to be available to set up and clean up the room, monitor the room during the hour-long program, communicate with the food bank about delivery times and number of lunches delivered, and make sure that the proper documentation is in place.  Once that is taken care of, the program runs quite smoothly.  The impact, though, can be much greater.  While many of us promote reading programs during the summer, the fact is that food insecurity could be inhibiting some children from being able to primed for learning and reading.  A child that does not have access to quality and well-balanced meals may not be as mentally equipped or motivated to read.  And with a program like summer meals, the library can help serve that need.


If you are heading to Oakland next month for the 2014 ALSC Institute and want to learn more about how to implement a summer lunch program at your library, be sure to check out Summer Lunch at the Library  presented by the California Summer Meal Coalition, the California Library Association, and the amazing staff from the Sacramento, Fresno County, Oakland, and Los Angeles Public Libraries.  For more information about the upcoming 2014 ALSC Institute, click here!

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4. Keep the Conversation Going – Services and Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays.  I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.

Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources.  Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs.  If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants.  This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.

One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals.  Communication with parents can be twofold.  It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community.  Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own.  Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.

I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs.  One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities.  I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned.  This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library.  You will learn more as you do more.  You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know.  Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.

Professional Development:

Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities


Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)


Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility – What you need to know


SNAILS – Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services


Resources and Examples:

Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.


Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children


Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time



Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries – Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada.  She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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5. Sharing iDías : Diverse Programming at Your Library

One great initiative that the Public Awareness Committee works to promote is El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), which was founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora. Día is a special way for libraries to emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds while also encouraging Dia_Hi_Colorfamilies and children to connect with multicultural books, cultures and languages. Exposure to diversity on a regular basis is very important for children and the public library is poised as the perfect space to provide diverse encounters. You can read more about why nurturing cultural diversity in your library is important by reading Jamie Campbell Naidoo’s wonderful ALSC white paper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children.

At the recent ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Naidoo and Debby Gold of the Cuyahoga County Public Library presented a poster session titled “How Do You Día?”on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. They invited all who visited the poster session to submit and share their own Día success stories into their iDía jar.

Seven awesome iDías were submitted and here they are!

* A public library donates a book for every child to celebrate Día and partners with other organizations to donate goods for diverse programming.

* At the Salt Lake County Public Library four people demonstrated science experiments in four difference languages to introduce diversity into the community.

* Dallas Public Library offers bilingual Día storytimes and crafts.

* A library shares Spanish language uses for materials and provides multicultural book talks.

* Each New Orleans Public Library branch hosts a yearly program geared towards Día  programming. Themes may focus on different countries and their cultures, such as Africa, China, India and Italy. Local authors are also brought in.

* A libraDia bookmarks, etc.ry in Commerce, CA invited author Antonio Sacre to read during a storytime program.

* A library holds multicultural craft events, including creating Native American dream catchers, basket weaving and Egyptian vases. They also invited an Indian dance troupe to perform.

What stellar iDías! I especially love the iDía to hold a science program in various languages. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the poster session and shared their success stories! Do you have an iDía that you would like to share? Tell us! Better yet, show us! Share photos from your diverse library program by posting on the Día Facebook page.


Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at nicolemartin@oplin.org.

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6. Excellent Explosions! Chemical Reactions for Preschoolers

Mine is one of the myriad libraries celebrating science this summer through our “Fizz, Boom, Read” summer reading program. Much to the delight of my STEAM-loving heart, all branches across my library system have hosted a ton of science programs this summer for every age. Some were led by outside groups like the St. Louis Science Center (always tap your local STEM resources!), and others have been led by in-house staff. They’ve all been a huge hit with kids and their families. One of my most successful in-house preschool programs this summer was a recent program titled “Excellent Explosions.” Here’s what we did.

Excellent Explosions: A Preschool Science Program

Experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. Photo by Amy Koester.While I did have plenty of materials on hand for attendees to check out, this wasn’t a storytime program, per se. That is, I didn’t share a book at the beginning of the program as I usually do in my Preschool Science programs. Instead, I started the event by talking with the group about physical vs. chemical reactions, and how when chemicals react, interesting things happen–like explosions.

After talking about reactions and answering any kiddo questions, we proceeded to the main event: four very exciting chemical reactions.

Reaction 1: Mentos & Diet Coke

I had three 1-litre bottles of Diet Coke and two sleeves of Mentos on hand for this reaction demonstration, which we did out on the library’s patio (warning: very messy). Before dropping any Mentos into the first bottle, I had the kids hypothesize what would happen. Hypotheses ranged from “Nothing will happen” to “It’s gonna EXPLODE!” From there, I dropped about three Mentos into the first bottle, with a decent-sized fizz geyser as the result.

Having seen what happens when three Mentos were added to a bottle, we made hypotheses regarding what would happen when we dropped in seven Mentos. That demonstration resulted in a slightly quicker, noticeably higher geyser reaction.

Then, with a pause for dramatic effect, I announced we would put a whole sleeve of Mentos in the last bottle. There may have been a few delighted shrieks of anticipation from the crowd. Friends, that last set of conditions resulted in a very quick, quite large geyser–one that was so quick and forceful, it pushed about five of the Mentos out of the bottle before they even had a chance to react with the Diet Coke. These three reactions gave us plenty of fodder to talk about how the amounts of ingredients that interact affect the reaction.

Reaction 2: Baking Soda & Vinegar

We stepped back into the program room for the rest of our program, which consisted next of a hands-on experiment. I had set out three long tables with paper plates, recycled prescription containers of baking soda, pipettes, and some vinegar for every child. I gave a brief introduction of the materials we were using (including introducing the word “pipette”), then encouraged the children to use their pipettes to drip some vinegar on the baking soda to see what type of reaction resulted. I moved about the room, asking questions about whether the amount of vinegar used has an impact on the fizzing reaction. A few kids dumped their baking soda on their paper plates and experimented there, while others dripped vinegar directly into the prescription bottles. I encouraged caregivers to ask their children to describe the reactions for them.

Using pipettes to mix water and Alka-Seltzer. Photo by Amy Koester.Reaction 3: Alka-Seltzer & Water

After all of the baking soda had exhausted its fizz, I had the children move to another set of three long tables. Each of these stations had a paper plate, pipette, and cup of water, with two children sharing a packet of two Alka-Seltzer tablets between them. I talked about what Alka-Seltzer is and what it is used for, and I posed some questions about why bubbles might help when you have a stomach ache. After our discussion, I had the kids put their tablet of Alka-Seltzer on their plate and use the pipettes to drop water on the tablet. Once again, I encouraged experimentation with the amount of water. Because the tablet will completely dissolve, we had the opportunity to discuss what that word means, too.

Reaction 4: Elephant Toothpaste

Our last reaction took the form, once again, of a demonstration. I introduced our demonstration by announcing we’d be making Elephant’s Toothpaste, and the kids and I came up with a silly story about a zookeeper who needed to brush his elephant’s teeth.

After we had completed our story, I discussed with the kids the ingredients we would be using in this reaction: hydrogen peroxide, yeast, dish soap, and food coloring. I also named all of our tools: the now-empty Diet Coke bottles from our first reaction; a funnel; a measuring cup; and a tub to contain any mess.

I used Steve Spangler’s basic recipe for Elephant Toothpaste, but in the interest of experimentation, the kids and I used different amounts of activated yeast in each of our three iterations of the experiment. Even though the resultant eruptions were not very different in size, the fact that kids got to see the reaction happen three different times was a huge delight to them. The looks of amazement, surprise, and excitement on their faces were outstanding.

That’s the note on which I ended our Excellent Explosions program, and what better note to end on? It is my goal in Preschool Science programs not only to introduce basic science concepts, like chemical reactions, but to instill a love of science in children as well. If their joyful faces and telling the checkout desk staff about the explosions were any indication, this program was particularly successful.

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7. Could a Child With a Disability Use Your MakerSpace?

There’s a wonderful article in the March 10, 2014 issue of People magazine called “A Helping Hand for a Friend” http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20795392,00.html.

It’s the story of a 17-year-old boy who used plans for a Robohand from www.thingiverse.com and the 3-D printer at his local library to make a prosthetic hand for Matthew Shields, a nine-year-old family friend who was born without fingers on his right hand.  Awesome and heartwarming, and way beyond what most librarians think of when they introduce this technology.

boy_makerspace(The original story, picked up by People, was covered by KCTV in Kansas City http://www.kctv5.com/story/24717704/teen-uses-3-d-printer-to-make-hand-for-boy. This photograph of Matthew Shields using his hand is reprinted with permission from KCTV.)

I loved the article, and it got me thinking…with or without a prosthetic hand, would someone like Matthew be able to use the library’s 3-D printer?  What if he were blind, or if he had ADHD or autism instead of a physical disability?  I would guess that few librarians who are now providing 3-D printers or offering MakerSpaces are asking those questions and making sure that the answers are “yes”.

Right now, MakerSpaces are all the rage in the library world. They are a wonderful way to introduce new technologies and to provide a new outlet for creativity, learning and community engagement.  But they are not for everyone, even in the libraries where they exist, though they can serve more community residents if accessibility becomes one of the considerations when designing MakerSpaces and Maker programs or when introducing new technologies like 3-D printing.

A couple of libraries are taking the lead in bringing Making to people with disabilities in their communities. One is the public library in Washington, DC. For example, in 2013 four students supervised by assistant professor Mega M. Subramaniam from the University of Maryland, collaborated with a team from FutureMakers (www.kidsmakethingsbetter.com) on a MakerSpace event for individuals with cognitive disabilities and visual impairments at a branch of the library. They introduced a number of accessible MakerSpace projects, including building and testing flying machines made from craft materials and designing tracks for a marble run. The students who worked on this project were so enthusiastic about it that they’ve written and are trying to publish a guide for librarians who want to design similar accessible MakerSpace projects.

Another library that has entered the arena is Brooklyn Public. They have offered robotics, CAD (computer aided design) graphic novels and Legos MakerSpace programs for tweens and teens and made sure that kids with disabilities could participate.

kids_makerspace(Brooklyn Public Library makes STEAM programming accessible for tweens with and without disabilities. This photo is used with permission from librarian John Huth, The Child’s Place for Children With Special Needs, Brooklyn Public Library.)

When librarians think about accessibility, what usually comes to mind is a person using a wheelchair who may need wide aisles between book stacks and a ramp to reach the library door. But that is a limited view. Several years ago, I participated in a disability awareness workshop called “It Takes More Than a Ramp”, and this has never been truer than in this age of MakerSpaces and advanced technology.  It does take more than a ramp to serve those in our communities with learning differences or physical challenges.  It takes a little thought and a little conversation with them or their caregivers, and a little ingenuity to see how things can be tweaked to make them work for everyone.  But, the extra time and effort is worth it. After all, just think about what the Matthew Shieldses of the world will be able to accomplish with the help, not only of a talented neighbor, but also of a friendly and accessibility-conscious librarian.

Barbara Klipper is a youth services librarian, consultant and advocate for library services for children and teens with disabilities. She is also a former chair of the ALSC Library Service for Special Population Children and Their Caregivers committee. ALA Editions published her 2014 book, Programming for Children and Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 Look for a version of this post, including additional resources for programming in the Fall 2014 issue of Children and Libraries.

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8. Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me.  This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time.  If I’m being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth.  If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open.  This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

S S IMG_0214

It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse).  The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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9. 5 Ways to Turn Homework Help into Summer Fun

We usually think of our library’s online resources as homework help, but in summertime kids can use them to explore the topics they really love.

1. Animals- Who doesn’t love animals? Online encyclopedias include pictures and even video, along with articles on everything from aardvarks to zebras.

2. Places- Young travelers can find out about, or just plain find, destinations near and far in geography and history resources.

3. Celebrities- Whether they’re into sports, movies, or music, biography and news databases are keeping up with kids’ favorite stars.

4. Family- Tap genealogy resources to clarify the family tree when visiting relatives. Figure out who’s a third cousin and who’s a second cousin once removed or find great-grandma in the 1930 census.

5. Weird stuff- News sites just for kids include many stories of the bizarre. Is it true that an accountant fell on a crocodile? Look it up!

Have you tried marketing your databases for summer or used them in a program? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Blog post by Rachel Wood
Arlington Public Library
ALSC Digital Content Task Force

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10. Reenergize Your Teen Advisory Group #alaac14

It’s tough thinking of things to do every month with your TAG. I know that’s why I ended my TAG 2 years ago. But I’ve been inspired to give it a second go after visiting the Harry Potter Alliance booth in the exhibit hall.

The HP Alliance provides community service opportunities for teens through  book donations (Accio Books), voting campaigns, civil rights, hunger, and much more.

You can start a chapter at your school or library and if your teens are not into Harry Potter, your group can campaign under the Hunger Games or other groups.

For more info on The Harry Potter Alliance, visit www.thehpalliance.org

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11. Research and Re-Thinking at ALA Annual 2014

I attended two jam-packed sessions this Saturday morning at #alaac14.

The first session was Every Child Ready to Read 2–Does it Really Work?  Once attendees found the session room location at the end of the South Hall maze, we were rewarded with some cheese.  Cheese in the form of proven RESEARCH that shows that yes, what libraries do during early childhood storytimes makes a difference!  Two researchers from the University of Washington’s Project VIEWS2, led by the late Eliza Dresang, gave an overview of the multi-year project investigating the work of librarians and the effect on children.  Unsurprising to those in the library community, the verdict is in–we are doing great work!  Suprising to me was the fact that this was the first formal research of its kind to show that “purposeful focus on early literacy principles makes a difference in programs and in children’s early literacy behaviors.”  More insights and hard facts are in production from the Project VIEWS2 folks, including a white paper and website with practical tips and videos.  Handouts from this session (and a previous presentation at PLA) are available on the conference websites.

The second morning session I attended was What No Tchotskes?: Creating an Experience Based Summer Program.  If the reward of the first session was the proof in the pudding, the reward of this session was that PRIZES ARE NOT NECESSARY in summer reading programs.  Three Illinois librarians presented ways in which they have completely re-thought their summer library programs.  Oh wait, I mean summer learning challenges!  The librarians emphasized experienced-based activities such as group art projects, cards with challenge suggestions to try at home or at the library, curiousity kits/stations, and a host of other ways to get kids doing/trying/thinking rather than counting/earning/winning.  “Make the incentive coming to the library versus soming to the library for an incentive,” was my favorite quote of the session.  Research shows that if we want kids to love reading, they need to develop intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. The Illinois trio were happily surprised there were no major complaints about the lack of plastic toy prizes or other accountability rewards.  Instead, kids and their families were engaged and engrossed in the experience itself, rather than the structure, theme, or incentive.  Lastly, the panel recommended taking small steps toward radical change by stating that it’s ok to fall, as long as you fall forward.

Bottom line: youth librarians are boss and we’ve got data and experience to prove it.

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt
Public Library Youth & Special Services Consultant
Madison, Wisconsin

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12. Online Course Registration Deadline is July 14

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education

Whether you’re going to Las Vegas or not, ALSC has great professional development opportunities for you. This summer ALSc is offering three online courses focusing on red-hot topics that you can take back to your library.

Each courses will run between four and six weeks and will be taught in an online learning community using Moodle. All courses are offered asynchronously (self-directed) meaning you won’t need to logon at a specific time. Courses start Monday, July 14, 2014.

Children’s Graphic Novels 101: Selection, Evaluation and Programming for Children
6 weeks, July 14 – August 22, 2014

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytime Tools
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Education site. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer Kristen Sutherland, 1-800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

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13. When it’s Time for a Program Makeover

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

Children’s librarians offer tons of awesome and successful programs every day. But what about the programs that are not so successful? When is it time to make changes or pull the cord on something?

A “successful” program means something different to every librarian. It might be a program that has a large draw, bringing many families into your library to check out materials and use library resources. It may be a program that results in a few kids or parents gaining valuable skills. The first step to figuring out whether your programs are succeeding is to think about what you want them to do.

And then be honest with yourself. Is this program doing what you want? Is preparing and implementing this program a valuable use of your staff time and programming funds? Are there ways that the program could be changed to maximize impact?

If you’re not getting what you want out of your programs, it’s time to rethink! This is okay. This is not a failure on anyone’s part, but it’s an opportunity to grow and change and serve your population and staff better.

Some ideas?

* Is attendance down in storytime? Miss Julie had success with changing up her marketing. Try calling it a “class” instead of “storytime”. Maybe it’s time to try out digital elements in storytime or STEM storytimes. Or take a break from storytimes and try some different types of preschool programs.

* Are your large programs taking up more staff time than they’re really worth? Give unprogramming a try.

* Did a program you were excited about turn out to have low attendance or unanticipated problems? Librarians get free do-overs. Try it again and tweak what didn’t work.

* Is an annual or recurring program getting out of control? Angie explains how she saved her program by throwing out everything she thought she knew and starting over.

* Having trouble attracting the afterschool crowd (or any other population you’re trying to reach)? Start with some outreach. Take the library to them and make valuable connections.

* Is your Summer Reading Program driving you crazy? Find ways to make it easier for staff and patrons. Not everyone is in love with Summer Reading, I promise.

It’s part of our jobs to take stock of what we’re doing and make sure that it’s working. What experiences have you had with revamping programs that were not working?

– Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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14. Counting & Measuring: A Preschool Math & Science Program

I’ve been branching beyond straight preschool science programs lately to incorporate more of the overlap between all the STEM areas. My latest endeavor focused on counting and measuring–both math skills that are important in many science activities.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Doing simple tasks like counting and measuring in a storytime setting shows caregivers that they do not need to be scientists or mathematicians to be able to engage with their kids in science and math activities. We can all handle preschool-level activities in these areas, and our recent program illustrated that fact.

First, we read a story. I knew I wanted to use books with cooking in them to illustrate counting and measuring, and I ended up using one of my favorites, Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington. There are lots of interesting things going on in the illustrations, giving the children and me plenty of openings to include counting, color matching, and cooking vocabulary into our reading. If you want to replicate this program, you can use any sort of cooking story you prefer.


Photo by Amy Koester.

Next, we “told” the story of how pizzas are made. I created a felt set for making a pizza. It includes images of the common ingredients, like flour, tomatoes, and cheese. We told the story of our pizza from the bottom up. First we pretended to measure flour, salt, yeast, and oil to make our dough. We used our new cooking vocabulary as we talked about kneading, stretching, and tossing our dough to get to a pizza shape. We talked about and mimed making sauce, then grating the cheese. Finally, we talked about the types of toppings we wanted on our pizza, then counted them as we distributed them over the top. We ended up counting slices of green peppers, onions, and pepperoni.

We got hands-on with measuring by making no-cook play dough. Each child had a plastic cup and spoon, which they brought up to the measuring station. Our no-cook play dough recipe was very simple:

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c salt
  • 1/4 c water

I had plastic measuring cups on hand for the children to measure out their ingredients. Note that the recipe isn’t always super precise, so we added extra tablespoons of water or flour as the consistency of the play dough required.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

And then we counted and measured as we played with the play dough. I set out a number of random cutting and stamping tools for use with the play dough. Some of the children pretended to make their own pizzas; others created designs in their dough; and others cut their dough into lots of pieces and then counted the pieces. I purposely didn’t give specific instructions for playing with the dough aside from encouraging counting and talking about what kids were doing–I wanted the caregivers to see how math and vocabulary flow naturally in so much of the play that preschool-age children do. When kids were done with their dough, they put it in baggies to take home.

Everyone got to take something home to encourage more counting and measuring. I set out a number of our counting and measuring books–both fiction and nonfiction–and I also created a half-sheet handout that included ideas for counting and measuring together, as well as a recipe for making pizza at home. I heard lots of chatter about how families would be making pizza together over the weekend following our program. Our program definitely inspired at-home conversations and hands-on activities around counting and measuring!

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15. Get Ready for Día!

What celebration are children’s librarians across the United State getting ready for on April 30th that involves families, fun, food and of course, books? Although every day is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of reading, El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora, “Día” is a wonderful way for libraries to reach out to their community and emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds. In addition, Día connects them to different cultures through books, craft activities and recipes.

 Your celebration can be as small as promotingDía at a storytime with a bookmark making craft or as large as an evening event with a special guest such as an author or storyteller. To get started with some excellent ideas, check out the Día Facebook page or the Día Pinterest account.Register your program on the Día Registry and receive special bookmarks, stickers, and posters. Don’t forget about the wonderful Día Family Book Club Toolkit available for free download! A special bonus offered this month only to help you prepare and incorporate Día into your library programming are the four free webinars offered through ALSC. What are you planning for Día?


Debra S. Gold is blogging on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee and has been a Children’s Librarian for Cuyahoga County Public Library (Cleveland, Ohio)  for the past thirty years.  She served on the Newbery Committee in 1996, the Caldecott Committee in 2004, and the Coretta Scott Book Award Committee in 2011 and 2012.

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16. Program in a Post: Build Your Own Belching Arena!

With this blog post and $30 you can have kids in your library belching, farting, making poop and all of the other totally disgusting things that adults are usually asking them to please stop doing.

Room setup: Open house style with stations for each of the activities:

  • Belching Arena: We used stanchions (chairs and ribbon would work) to block off a corner of the room and put up “Belching Arena” signs. In the middle we placed a table with a supply of dixie cups and root beer. Surprisingly, this was the most popular event in the room and we had some real world class belchers show their stuff. ($5)
  • Fart Zone: This area was also created with stanchions and “Fart Zone” signs. One kid asked, “Fart Zone? What are we supposed to do over there? Oh! I know!” and then he ran over to get started. Another very popular, though stinky, attraction. ($0)
  • Poop Making: With a few common pantry items we created beautiful examples of excrement. While everything we used was edible, these were not meant to be treats, but mere artifacts. Many a kid left the program proudly carrying fake feces on a plate. The recipe is not mine to share, but you can find it in Hands On Grossology by Sylvia Branzei. ($11)
  • Gross Out: Hidden under paper grocery bags with holes cut in the bottom were six  disgusting tubs of stuff for kids to feel: vomit (1/2 can of beefaroni, 2 containers of butterscotch pudding, 1/2 can creamed corn), scabs (slivered almonds), maggots & flies (rice and raisins), brains (cooked fettuccine), and bloody guts (fettuccine & maraschino cherries). We also had hand wipes at this station for cleaning the vomit off ($10).
  • Identify the Poop: Here we had the classic baby shower game of melted candy bars in diapers for kids to try to identify. ($4 for candy bars. If you don’t have diapers handy, you can just melt the candy bars on a paper plate and add a clump of toilet paper for a classy touch.)
  • Color the Vomit: We put out coloring sheets, a sign that said “What did HE eat? Color in the vomit with your favorite foods” and crayons. ($0 if you have a printer and crayons on hand.)

We also put a selection of gross books on display, so the kids could take home more repulsive fun.

Sixty kids and grown ups came to the hour long open house to belch, color, create, squeal, laugh and have a good time. Our program supplies were $30, but as you can see from the list above, it is a scalable program and there are plenty of fun things you can do for $0-$10. I am happy to share the signs I created with you if you would like try any of these activities.

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17. Minecraft Programming for Tweens

Has your library ventured into the realm of Minecraft?  Are you looking for new ideas to serve your tween patrons?  I encourage you to consider investing in a Minecraftedu account.  This digital environment offers your tweens and the librarians serving them a wealth of programming options.

Why spend money for an edu account? As a school librarian the edu account gives me control over the Minecraft experiences I offer my students (including the “freeze students” feature). It allows me to custom build what will happen in this space.  If you’re ready to step into the role of digital media mentor this is a prime opportunity to do so.  Tweens will come to Minecraft programming (you will have a waiting list!).  Many of them will bring a wealth of previous experiences. Others will come with little to no knowledge of how to get around. As a librarian using a Minecraftedu account you can offer this wide range of kids a similar enriching experience.


Minecraftedu teacher & librarian control panel (http://www.graphite.org/game/minecraftedu)

One of the things I enjoy about this space is the collaborative potential.

The first group expedition is through a tutorial world. The entire class enters this space (using their real names) and begins to explore. We challenge them to help each other navigate through the world using only the text chat  (improving keyboarding skills has never been this fun!). Tweens’ willingness to share their expertise with each other is limitless.

tutorial world Our options for programming also seem boundless. The next adventure for 5th graders will be a building project.  They have researched the architecture of ancient civilizations in social studies and will build Minecraft models of these structures. This is more than a fancy diorama. Tweens will assume the identity of an ancient citizen and provide tours to classmates. Could your public library offer this opportunity in collaboration with local schools?

When we greet new classes in the fall this will become a team building space. Games like capture the flag can make a digital migration. Book clubs could construct a story scape based on a book they have read.  Fan fiction can be acted out in 3D and recorded for sharing.  Tweens are using digital media of all kinds. Their creative potential is at the ready. Librarians can be valuable mentors if we take the leap.

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18. Using Apps in Programs for Older Kids

Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with using apps in programs for kids in grades K-5, with great success! Sometimes I plan a program entirely around an app (like using LongExpo to do light painting and Stop Motion Studio to make stop motion animation movies). Other times I come across an app that I think would enhance a program I have already planned. Below are three examples of how I’ve incorporated an app into an otherwise tech-free program.

Screen shot of the Little Things Forever app, taken by the author.

Screen shot of the Little Things Forever app, taken by the author.

Little Things Forever by KlickTock (App Store: $2.99, Google Play: free)
In this app, you try to find hidden objects in a large collage-style image. On some levels, you race to find everything before time runs out.

Over spring break, a coworker and I did an I Spy program for kids in grades 3-5. The kids assembled their own I Spy-style collages using paper and small objects. They wrote a list of the objects to find and we photographed the results. The kids finished their collages at different times so it was the perfect opportunity to use this app, because kids could easily join in as they finished. I projected it onto a large screen and manipulated the image on the iPad while the kids gathered around the screen and pointed out the objects as they found them. I had been uncertain about how this would play out in a group setting, but the kids worked cooperatively and were quite enthusiastic about it.

My First Tangrams Lite by Alexandre Minard (App Store: free/full version is $1.99)
Tangrams are ancient Chinese puzzles that use seven specific shapes (five triangles of different sizes, a square and a parallelogram) to create images, such as a cat or boat. This app has kids assemble the images by dragging pieces into the right spot on the screen and includes pieces with different shapes (rectangle, semi-circle) than a traditional tangram.

As part of a series of STEM programs for kids in grades K-2, I did a program on tangrams. I read a story aloud, the kids put together various tangrams, and they did a craft. At the end, I passed out four iPads and the kids worked on the app in pairs. Even the kids who had a hard time with the actual tangram pieces understood the app and had fun with it. I think it builds different skills than actually holding puzzle pieces in your hand, but it was a nice complement to the rest of the program.

Underground Kingdom by Visual Baker (App Store: $2.99)
This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book turned into an app, about a person who falls into a seemingly bottomless crevasse in Greenland and finds a secret underground world. This style of story lends itself quite well to the app format.

Ok, I admit that I haven’t actually used this one in a program. I planned to use it last summer in a read-aloud program for kids in grades 2-4. It was an informal program in which we read funny picture books and chapters of longer books, and I was looking for activities to break up the reading. I ended up scrapping the app at the last minute for time reasons. But I think it would be great to do with a group; every time you run into a decision that has to be made you could have the kids vote and go with the majority. If you try this, let me know how it goes!

Liz Fraser is Children’s Librarian/Technology Coordinator at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, IL and serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee. She writes about library programs for kids at Getting Giggles and can be found on Twitter as @lizfraserlib.

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19. Reminder: #alsc14 Scholarship Applications Due May 30

Friends of ALSC

The Friends of ALSC are offering two scholarships to the 2014 ALSC National Institute (image courtesy of the Friends of ALSC)

In an effort to support ALSC’s goal of continuing education for children’s librarians, the Friends of ALSC are offering two scholarships to the ALSC National Institute Sept. 18 – 20, 2014 in Oakland, Calif. Scholarship recipients must be ALSC members who work directly with children in a library setting. The scholarships will include Institute registration (at the early bird rate) and a $1,000 travel stipend to cover airfare and hotel lodging.

The ALSC National Institute, devoted solely to children’s and youth library services, offers a small, intimate setting for participating in programming and getting to know colleagues. Programs will delve into some of the most important topics in library service to children such as using technology in programming, what’s hot in children’s spaces, working with underserved populations and using local partnerships to improve programming. Participants are sure to go home feeling reinvigorated about the profession and more connected to others in the field.

The online application must be submitted before midnight on Friday, May 30, 2014. Prior to submitting the application, seek permission from current supervisor for time off to attend the Institute. Winners will be notified by Friday, June 13, 2014. For more information on the Institute scholarship including requirements and a link to the application form, please see the ALSC National Institute site.

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20. Library as Art Gallery

It’s a sad but well-known fact that when school budgets are tight, art is one of the subjects that’s first to go. Fortunately, there’s nonprofit organizations like Art in Action, who bring high-quality, curriculum-based art education into schools that need it most. Students in the program learn about great works by masters and then produce their own artwork inspired by their studies. How can libraries get involved in this wonderful program? By turning the library into an art gallery!


In our town, Half Moon Bay, the library is one of the communitysites that display works by Art in Action participants. Each month, parent volunteers come to the library armed with bundles of nicely mounted and labeled artwork. They eye the walls in our children’s area then climb tall ladders and expertly mount the work.

The effect is immediate and visceral: the young artists’ creativity is boundless, surprising, and sometimes literally jumps off the canvas (in some cases, art is a full-on multimedia experience). In the Half Moon Bay Library, the majority of art is displayed above our picture books, which contributes to the building’s lovely, vibrant atmosphere. While I’m all for READ posters,  decorating our space with works by  young artists in our very own community is immensely satisfying. Needless to say, visitors both familiar with the young artists or simple art lovers marvel at the ever changing displays.

The library has connected Art in Action with our homeschooling community by offering a daytime class suited to their schedule, age range, and focus of study. The program is offered nationwide and may be a suitable resource for homeschooling groups interested in art education curriculums.

At the end of each school year, we partner with Art in Action to celebrate the end of a creative year. A public reception is hosted at the library, where artists are presented with certificates and are free to enjoy light refreshments and mingle with guests–fellow students, friends, and family. The audience is made up of both library users and infrequent users, making it a perfect time to highlight art books and do sign ups for the summer reading program, which always features arts and crafts activities. Families are delighted with the knowledge that they can continue their art exploration during summer months, while looking forward to the next round of Art in Action in the fall. It’s a win-win partnership, and an easy way to inject a bit more STEAM into your library programming.

Karen Choy is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Half Moon Bay Library in California. She blogs for kidsteens, and adults at the San Mateo County Library Web site.

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21. Serving Military Families in the Public Library

Have you ever presented a program and learned something unexpected about your library users? At Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia we ran a storytime focusing on military families and two nonagenarians saw the event listed in the local paper and attended, complete with walkers! They decided not to stay for picture books and songs, but first they regaled us with tales of traveling with their soldier husbands to ravaged, post-World War II Germany.

What did we learn? Firstly that “All Ages” in the local paper may be interpreted literally. Secondly, that there is plenty of community interest in military family lifestyles.

You may think services to military families are not relevant to your library, but consider that over two million American children have had a parent deployed since 9/11, and current military families total over five million people. If you include veterans, military retirees, Department of Defense civilians, grown military children, and parents of military members, interested people can live anywhere and be served by any library, including yours.

Military families lead varied lives, but are likely to experience the stressors of constant relocations and school or job changes, prolonged military member absence, knowledge of family member’s danger, distance from extended family, and living on a military base or overseas. Other children may experience these stressors, for example, the child of a long distance truck driver will experience prolonged parental absence, but the combined stressors add up to a definite military lifestyle.

Over two thirds of children with an Active Duty military parent are under 11 so the first program we offered was our all-ages storytime that focused on 3-7 year olds. Book selection is challenging because the books often touch on war which may be controversial. On the other hand songs involving marching are always fun! Our Saturday morning program was well attended and several parents said that they were pleased and touched to see military families featured at the library. They were also enthusiastic about displays, especially of picture books. You can see from the photos that real camouflage is effective, and if you don’t know someone in the military for old clothes, then try a thrift store.

StorytimePoster TeenDisplay2 TeenDisplay1 TeenPosterDisplay ChildrensDisplay ChildrensDisplay2

For people who can’t come into our library I used a military family theme for several posts in our two widely-read review blogs, Blogging for a Good Book and Pied Pipers Pics The posts didn’t get a huge number of ‘likes” but received many comments and we heard from two of the authors.

These successful programs confirmed that military family life is a topic that doesn’t affect everyone, but the people who are affected are appreciative, so we are planning more storytimes, displays, reviews and I will keep adding to my long-term project of an annotated list of books featuring children with parents in the U.S. military Books for Military Children. If you have never considered featuring programs for military families in your library I urge you to reach out to this often overlooked group.


Our guest blogger today is Jan Marry. In her twenty-one years as an Active Duty military spouse, she raised four children while living in six countries and four states. She works at the Williamsburg Regional Library where you can contact her at jmarry@wrl.org.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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22. ALSC @ Annual Conference #alaac14

2014 ALA Annual Conference

Learn more about ALSC events at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference (image courtesy ALA)

In three weeks, librarians from across the country will be landing in sunny Las Vegas for the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. ALSC has a great lineup of events.

And just a reminder, if you’re headed to Las Vegas, the ALSC Local Arrangements Committee has put together some great travel tips. We also encourage you to check out the ALA Conference Scheduler. Here’s just a free ALSC events that you won’t want to miss:

Leadership & ALSC

On Saturday, June 28, 8:30-11:30am as the Caesars Palace Roman I & III, join ALSC members for Leadership & ALSC. This year’s presentation, entitled Biting Into the Core: How Public Librarians Support Student Success, will provide a great forum for members to network and learn new skills.

ALSC 101

If you’re new to ALSC or if this is your first conference as a children’s librarian, then ALSC 101 for you! We’ll provide you with information about the perks of ALSC membership, tips on how to get involved in the organization, and tricks of the trade for navigating Annual Conference. This event takes place on Saturday, June 28 at 4:30-5:30pm in the Flamingo Hotel – Laughlin II.

ALSC Awards Presentation

Celebrate the best in children’s literature and media at the annual presentation of the Batchelder, Carnegie, Geisel and Sibert Awards! The 2014 ALSC Awards Presentation takes place on Monday, June 30 at 8:00am in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N255/257. There will be a continental breakfast and a chance to mingle with your favorite authors and illustrators. The awards presentation will promptly start at 8:30am and is open to all registered attendees.

ALSC Membership Meeting

Make plans to attend the ALSC Membership Meeting on Monday 6/30, 10:30-11:30am. in Room N252 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is the perfect opportunity to meet up with friends and become acquainted with new colleagues. Even if you can’t participate, we invite you to submit your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #alscmm14.

Charlemae Rollins President’s Program

At the 2014 ALSC President’s Program, entitled The Ripple Effect: Library Partnerships that Positively Impact Children, Families, Communities, and Beyond, get inspired to create meaningful partnerships in your libraries! Learn how library and community collaborations can be the nexus of support for children and families. Hear from authors Amy Dickinson, Anna McQuinn, and a panel of librarians from across the country. This event takes place on Monday, June 30 at 1pm in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N254.

…And So Much More!

The Annual Conference is jam-packed with things to do. For a full list of ALSC events at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, please visit the ALSC website or keep an eye out for future communication from the ALSC office.

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23. Magnets and Magnetism: A Preschool Science Program

Our latest adventures in preschool science have proved rather attractive. (Get it? That’s magnet humor!)

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

I’ve seen a number of my colleagues (Katie and Abby, for example) offer some great preschool science programs on the topic of magnets, and I figured it was high time I offered something on the topic, too. Here’s what I did:

First, we shared a story that provided an introduction to the concept of magnets. I opted for Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, a whimsical story about a young boy whose kite becomes stuck in a tree. He tries throwing increasingly more ridiculous items up in the tree to try to dislodge the kite, but everything seems to get stuck. Quite an amusing story.


Photo by Amy Koester.

Next, we retold the story of Stuck using magnet props, and we talked about how magnets stick together. Kids helped me stick the various objects onto our tree on the magnet board, and they experimented with things that the magnet props would and would not stick to.

We did hands-on activities to further explore how magnets work. I always set up stations with some brief instructions, which allows children and their caregivers to move from activity to activity at their own pace. I then wander the room providing support and modeling scientific questions to attendees. I had four activity stations set up for this program:

  • What’s Magnetic? – I cut egg cartons in half, resulting in cartons with six sections each. I put small objects in each of these six sections: plastic beads, washers, paper clips, pipe cleaners, pom pons, etc. The goal of this activity was to use a magnet on each of the six objects to determine which were magnetic. Then, after sorting into magnetic and non-magnetic piles, they could try to determine what make an object magnetic.
  • Photo by Amy Koester.

    Photo by Amy Koester.

    Can You Make a Magnet Chain? – This activity illustrates that a magnet’s force can be conducted through magnetic objects, thereby creating a chain of objects connected by magnetism. I had a variety of different strength magnets, as well as paper clips and screws (no sharp edges, of course!) for children to try to make the longest chains they could.

  • Magnet Hair Salon – I cut chenille sticks in various colors into pieces about an inch long, and I drew faces on magnetic wands. The activity was to use magnetism to style the magnet wand creatures’ hair out of chenille sticks.
  • Writing with Magnets – I set out several of the library’s magnetic writing boards to invite children to practice their shapes and letters. I also supplied some questions for caregivers to ask their kids while writing, such as how the magnet pen worked to draw on the screen and how the screen eraser worked.

Everyone got to take something home to continue learning about magnets. My take-home activity sheet provided simple instructions for families to create their own magnetic treasure hunts. I also set out a variety of the library’s materials about magnetism, from fiction and nonfiction books to DVDs. Everyone went home happy and a little more knowledgeable about magnets.

Don’t forget to check out the other Preschool Science programs I’ve shared here on the ALSC Blog: Shadow ScienceObservation ScienceGravity ScienceWater ScienceBody ScienceColor ScienceWeather Science, and Strength and Materials Science.

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24. Program in a Post: Art Links

With this post and $0, you can inspire community members to create a gorgeous piece of collaborative art.

Assuming you have some paper, staplers, a printer, and markers on hand, you won’t need to buy a thing.Art Links Sign


  • White paper cut into 2″ x 11″ strips
  • Markers or crayons
  • Stapler
  • A sign (optional)

Room set up: This is a perfect outreach event activity, minimal prep, minimal mess and a fun visual statement. We took this to a booth at a community art fair last month. It would also work well as a tabletop activity in your youth services area. If you wanted to make it a program, you just need to set up tables and chairs.

Art Links2Quite simply, staff invited community members passing by the booth to stop and decorate a paper strip with markers. The strips were then added to the paper chain hanging from our booth. After the event, we put the Art Links up on display in the library for everyone to enjoy.

Art Links

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25. Passive DIY Programming for Tweens

I’m always on the lookout for hands-on passive programming that will keep my tween audience engaged during the summer. Simple paper crafts, scavenger hunts, and guessing jars are great for the younger folk, but this age group is savvier and has a penchant for a more “sophisticated” activities.

To satisfy their need to design and create, our library has developed DIY projects that are low cost and easy to put together. Our program is set up to be self-serving, meaning we leave out the supplies and directions for the project and let the tweens help themselves. The supplies themselves are close to the staff desk, so if a tween does need a little help getting started, they can easily find someone to assist them. Each project is available for roughly a month and we try to stick to a budget of $50 for supplies.

Here are two of my favorite DIY projects we are offering this summer:

Hula-Hoop Weaving Hula Hoop Weaving

Weaving can be such a calming yet fulfilling activity for anyone. The repetitive action of moving the weft back and forth can be very relaxing. The supplies for this project are easy to gather. All one needs is hula hoops and old donated t-shirts that will be cut into strips.

Normally the tweens are able to take home the projects they have created, but with this project we decided to do something a little different. The finished weavings are staying in the hula-hoops for summer and being hung in the children’s department as part of our SRP’s decorations. After the summer these weavings will be turned into rugs and used by our youngest customers as storytime mats.

Miniature Terrariums Terrarium

Summer is a great time to introduce gardening to tweens, but with their overbooked schedules, we recognize they most likely do not have the time to actually tend a garden. Our solution, offer them an opportunity to make miniature terrariums.

These cute tiny gardens are fun to create and accessorize. To cut costs, try to work with a local gardening center to negotiate prices on succulents and air plants. Ask staff to bring in small sealable glass jars to also help defray the cost. Consider providing small plastic figures for the tweens to include in their gardens, so they can create environments for these figures to live in.

Offering these types of self-directed DIY activities has been very popular with the tweens at my library. As I noted at the beginning of this post, I am always looking for new ideas for these projects, to keep the tweens coming back. If you have a project that work in this type of format, please share in the comments. Ideas are wonderful things!


Amber Creger is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL.

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