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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 263
1. An A-Maze-ing Library Experience

Sometimes you get a big idea. And sometimes you get to make that idea a reality. This year my department was given funds to create big family programming, and I got the chance to build my idea: a giant cardboard maze that would encourage caregiver-child interaction and create a memorable library experience for customers of all ages.

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

The Event

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

A families-only Harry Potter-themed after-hours party kicked off the maze, which measured 75’ long, 15’ wide, and 6’ tall, and sat smack-dab in the middle of the main hall of Denver Public Library’s Central Library. Customers lined up out the door to wait for their turn to explore the maze. A staff member at the maze entrance spaced out families in two minute intervals to avoid traffic jams. We also hid the four Hogwarts house crests inside the maze. Kids were given maze passports, and when they found a crest there was a staff member dressed as a Harry Potter character waiting to stamp their passport. This allowed us to have staff in the maze in case of emergency.

Other party activities included pin the sock on Dobby, magic wand decorating, and, of course, tasty themed snacks. Having a theme for the maze wasn’t necessary, but it did make the event easier to promote. Plus, it meant lots of kids came dressed as their favorite Harry Potter character.

After the party we left the maze up in our main hall for a week so customers of all ages could explore the maze. In addition to walking through the maze, customers could look down from the 2nd and 3rd floors to plan their route or watch others go through the maze.

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich



Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

I’d seen pictures of cardboard mazes online (thanks, Pinterest!), but I couldn’t find anything tall enough for adults. My goal was to create something that children and their caregivers could explore together. I wasn’t able to find any instructions online, so I decided to figure it out on my own. This process included lots of brainstorming and several mini-maze mock-ups. Here’s a list of things to consider, based on my experience.

  • Safety and Space. Measure your space and learn about your library’s safety rules and regulations. I met with the security, custodial, and facilities departments to get their input. From this meeting it was decided that we would have a minimum of 5’ of space on all sides of the maze. We also decided to include a third side entrance/exit to the maze in case of emergency.
  • Design the Maze. I had never designed a maze before so I was grateful to find some wonderful online resources. Jo Edkins has great info about maze layout and design and the tips on avoiding bottlenecks on Amazeing Art were useful. I found it helpful to first determine the entrances/exits and then divide the space into three “mini mazes.”
  • Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Planning and Paperwork. Make sure your plans are written down so others can understand them. This is the kind of project that requires teamwork and delegation, so it’s important that your paperwork is detailed and clear. Here’s a copy of the maze layout.

  • Purchase Materials. I purchased my materials from the following companies:
  • Purchasing Considerations.
    • Some companies require a minimum number of a particular item per order.
    • Freight shipping can add a significant amount to the cost of materials.
    • Height of your loading dock. Ours is very low, so this impacted delivery.
    • Talk to a representative. I was able to get more accurate quotes and ultimately a
      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      lower price by emailing and talking on the phone with a representative.

  • Prep as much of your maze ahead of time as possible. Call in your volunteers, friends, and family! Cutting and labeling our boxes required approximately 20 hours of prep time.
  • Putting It Together. It took us approximately 10 hours with 5 people working steadily to put the maze together with the prepped materials. This includes the 5 hours we used to construct 45 maze units the day before the event and stored them in our storytime room. The day of the event we had another 5 hours to assemble the other units and zip-tie them all together. Check out the step-by-step Maze Construction Instructions.
Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester


Yes, this maze took a ton of planning and staff labor, but it was worth it. From a numbers point of view, it was gratifying to have 300+ people come to the after-hours party. But it was even more satisfying to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and watch our customers find joy in exploring the maze. The maze was also an entry point for staff-customer interaction and encouraged customers to visit our 2nd and 3rd floors to look down on the maze. In short, it was an unforgettable library experience!

Photo credit: Will Forrester

Photo credit: Will Forrester


Amy Uke

Photo Credit: Sherry Spitsnagle, Denver Public Library

Our guest blogger today is Amy Seto Forrester. Amy  is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library and has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.com/

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.

The post An A-Maze-ing Library Experience appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success

SPLC Committee WordleAs a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and sharing ideas with other dedicated librarians on how we can all work together to benefit the kids and teens with whom we work.

We’ve created the following list for both school and public librarians to use in sparking their own creative ideas for helping all youth become information literate.

Why not give some of these a try?

  1. Look for grant-funding opportunities specifically for school library-public library partnerships.
  2. Set aside time to visit with your public librarian to discuss your school’s curriculum and any big projects your teachers have planned.
  3. Schedule a few hours to shadow the public librarian and invite him or her to do the same. This will help you build mutual understanding about what the other’s job entails.
  4. Have a library card sign-up event at the school during Library Card Sign-Up Month (September). Make a special day of it or have an evening of gaming. Be sure to include the public librarian in the planning, promotion, and supervising the event. If an event isn’t possible, see if the public librarian can come to the school to hand out library card forms at lunchtime. This would work especially well in middle or high school.
  5. Create book lists and resource guides in cooperation with your public librarians. You might focus on materials that support reading in the content areas, science and social studies topics in particular. Include materials from both the public and school library collections.
  6. Co-host nonfiction book clubs for students and for teachers.
  7. Invite the public librarian to make a presentation to the teachers at your school during the school’s teacher in-service day about public library resources that support Common Core State Standards.
  8. Host a joint meeting with the public librarians and your fellow school district librarians to discuss Common Core, 21st Century Standards and state/local curriculum expectations and the public library’s role in student learning.
  9. Talk about early literacy programming in the public library and how it connects to the school librarian’s work with K-2 students.
  10. Use the public library as a facility for after-school tutoring for students, especially in reading. The public librarian and school librarian can collaborate to recruit volunteers.
  11. Coordinate joint activities that integrate the public library’s summer reading program with the school’s summer programming.

As you can see, there are many ways school and public librarians can work in cooperation. You may already be using some of these suggestions, but if not, what’s stopping you?

When we all work together, it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Linda Weatherspoon serves on the AASL Board of Directors and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Sensory Storytime On the Road

Over the past few months, my library has partnered with a local resource center that provides early intervention and lifelong support to individuals with a variety of developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.  The resource center originally reached out to us looking for a librarian to read a few stories to their clients. I knew a sensory storytime would be a great fit, but in their experience, visits to offsite locations were rarely successful.  Any activity we planned would have to take place at their location.  So I took my sensory storytime on the road, and got a chance to really put my skills to the test.

I’m fairly new to sensory storytimes.  Before this, I had incorporated concepts into my regular programming, and made real efforts to make those programs universally designed, but I certainly wasn’t actively promoting this. Partnering with the resource center gave me the opportunity to refine my skills and try new activities.  My first visit wasn’t without hiccups. For example, sign-up sheets and library card applications became problematic due to HIPAA and patient privacy concerns.  We also ended up with a lot more kids in attendance than we were expecting. But in the end, like Pete the Cat taught us in our story that day, “it’s all good.”

In taking these special programs out into the community, we’ve found that children and their caregivers can have a library experience in an environment that is comfortable for them, surrounded by people they trust. Plus, our partner organization has developed a better understanding of what we can offer.  It has inspired other collaborations, with new programs and training for children’s librarians in the works.

There is a lot of information on the ALSC Blog to help you prepare sensory and special needs storytimes. I found Ashley’s Waring’s Sensory Storytime Tips and Jill Hutchison’s overview of Renee Grassi’s Beyond Sensory Storytime presentation to be particularly useful posts for providing information and talking points for communicating with the center’s directors and staff.  In addition, an ALSC course I took this spring taught by Kate Todd, Children with Disabilities in the Library, was an amazing resource, and I recommend it for anyone interested in creating more inclusive library programs, or reaching out to children with disabilities in clinical settings.

Brooke Sheets is a Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

The post Sensory Storytime On the Road appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Taking the Lead in Helping Kids Become Good Digital Citizens

Digital citizenship. It’s a complex subject that I’ve thought a lot about in recent years- and one that I’ve been figuring out how best to address in my role as a public librarian. For our kids to be contributing participants in the Digital Age, they need to be informed about a whole host of issues such as internet safety, privacy and security, cyber bullying, digital footprints, information literacy, copyright and creative credit, and more!

So when Mariah Cheng, one of my regular patrons who also happens to be an elementary school teacher, approached me about teaching a series of digital citizenship workshops at the library for children and parents I jumped at the opportunity to partner with her. Mariah had recently become a Certified Educator through Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Initiative which offers training and curriculum for free to K-12 educators so that they can teach their students and families how to be smart, safe and responsible online. 

During our planning stages I reached out to the Vice Principal of one of my local schools to see what topics she thought were most important for her students to learn and what ages would be best to target the classes towards. She and I had previously discussed how difficult it was for her teachers to find the time to address digital literacy with their students and how the library might be able to partner with the school to teach these topics. Unfortunately, whether she was overwhelmed with the start of a new school year or otherwise, I never heard back from her and moved forward with planning the classes along with Mariah and my Children’s Department staff.

Mariah and I decided to hold a series of three classes: one for parents, one for kindergarteners through 2nd graders, and one for 3rd through 5th graders. We capped registration at 16 attendees for each class, the capacity of the library’s computer lab. Ultimately we ended up cancelling K-2 session due to low interest, and we expanded the 3rd-5th Grades session to include older students after many inquiries by parents. For the Parents session Mariah addressed how to help their children use social media responsibly, how to address cyber bullying, and how to talk to their kids about their online activities. I especially loved that Mariah’s lessons were pragmatic. It’s a fact of life that adolescents are online and using social media already. Instead of being alarmist or didactic Mariah gave parents the tools they need to set reasonable limits on their children’s screen time and to help their kids be safe and healthy while doing so. She introduced parents to a variety of tools they could use to limit or monitor computer time and gave them some great resources for evaluating websites, apps and other media. For the Student session, Mariah talked with kids about their online activities and what to do if you see or are the target of cyber bullying. She also talked about “digital footprints” and reminded participants that and nothing is truly “private” or “erasable” online. The kids wrapped up the session by playing Common Sense Media’s Digital Passport, a collection of free computer games that teach kids about respect, safety and community online.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

These programs were a great way to start the conversation about digital citizenship with kids and parents and we definitely plan to hold more to address subjects like information literacy, copyright and creative credit. I would encourage anyone who is interested in holding digital citizenship programs to take a look at the wealth of resources available from Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum. There are ready made lesson plans, toolkits, online games and assessments, activities, videos and downloadable materials all free for librarians and teachers to use with students. There is even a list of Certified Educators on the website. You may have one working in your school or district already!

Have you offered digital literacy classes at your library? Did you work with local teachers or have you used Common Sense Media’s resources? Share your experiences and let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!

Diana Garcia is the Children’s Librarian at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library in California where she has the privilege of serving a diverse community through storytimes, creative programming and tutoring. Her afterschool literacy program for English Language Learners won the PLA Innovations in Literacy award in 2013. Diana is currently serving on the ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California and serves on their Awards Committee. 

The post Taking the Lead in Helping Kids Become Good Digital Citizens appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Building STEAM with Día in 2016!

Día: Diversity in ActionALSC is accepting proposals for the 2016 Building STEAM with Día mini-grants. To launch the yearlong celebration of Día turning 20, ALSC will award up to ten (10) libraries $2,000 each to implement a Building STEAM with Día program in their community. The project year for this grant is January 2016 through May 2016. This mini-grant opportunity is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation through the Everyone Reads @ your library grant awarded to ALSC. For more information and to apply for the mini-grant, please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/diaturns20.

ALSC President Andrew Medlar can attest to the importance of a culturally inclusive approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming, so he is “excited that ALSC is able to provide a second round of funding that will help libraries incorporate diversity into their STEAM efforts.”

Celebrating Día

The Building STEAM with Día program is part of the El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) initiative, commonly known as Día. This nationally recognized initiative emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds, and 2016 marks the 20th year of its observance. Día is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. This is the first of two funding opportunities that ALSC will offer this year to help libraries celebrate Día all year. ALSC also manages the National Día Program Registry to help libraries and community partners share information about their Día programs throughout the year.

The common goals of all Día programming are to: celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries; recognize and respect culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities; nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture; and to introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies. For more information, visit http://dia.ala.org/.

Image courtesy of ALSC

The post Building STEAM with Día in 2016! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. Best Practices for a Streaming Author Visit

This article will focus on using Google Hangouts on Air.

We’d all love to have our favorite author fly out and visit us in person, but the cost and logistics can be daunting. Streaming visits allow authors to connect with more readers and are easier on your budget- sometimes your author will even speak for free! Here are a few tips that will help ensure your event is a success.

Why Google Hangouts on Air?
Setting up a YouTube channel to associate your Hangout with will automatically archive your event to YouTube.  No problem that you weren’t able to get all the kids in one room at a time, they can watch later. See the King County Library System’s Hangout page for examples of past events.  Creating a new YouTube channel will automatically create your Google+ page for you. Alternatively, if you have a channel you can associate it with a Google+ page. You will need to verify your channel through SMS.

Technical Run Through
Set up a practice session with you author at least a week prior. Send them the link to Google Hangouts so they have the most current version installed. This also gives you a chance to chat with the author and figure out the flow of your event.

Equipment Set Up
You’ll need a webcam so the author can see who they are talking to, possibly a tripod to set it up on, a microphone for questions, and speakers so everyone can hear. For streaming events this is where you may incur some costs, but you only need to purchase these items once!

Hangout Settings
Hover at the top of the page to access your settings. Check that your microphone and speakers are selected and test your sound. You may need to change your main preferences through your Control Panel.

Inviting Participants
We’ve found the least stressful method is to click the person + icon at the top of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.50 PM

Copy the permanent link and email the link to your author. Please note that if you send the invite through email your author will need to login to Gmail or Hangouts to see the invitation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.58 PM

Starting the Hangout
After you invite your participants you aren’t broadcasting yet. To get your archived video you need to click the Start Broadcast button. When you are finished (yay!) click End Broadcast. YouTube will need to finish processing your event, but it should be finished in a few hours.

Final Tips
Don’t panic if people look reversed during the Hangout. During the processing everything will be flipped and anyone watching remotely will see everything correctly.

Concerned about recording student faces? Make your videos Unlisted and only share the URL with staff and parents.

Help Resources
How to Dominate Google+ Hangouts on Air
Hangouts On Air common questions

The post Best Practices for a Streaming Author Visit appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. What Is Your Hot Topic for #ALAAC16?

Submit Your Hot Topic Program Proposal for the 2016 ALA Annual ConferenceDo you see a trend in youth services that needs to be addressed? Have an idea for a great program proposal?

The ALSC Program Coordinating Committee has opened a call for two Hot Topic Programs to be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, June 23-26, 2016.

Participants attending ALSC programs are seeking valuable educational experiences and are critical of presenters or sessions that are self-promotional. Presentations should advance the educational process and provide a valuable learning experience. The Program Coordinating Committee will not select a program session that suggests commercial sales or self-promotion.

Further information and the online application are available on the link above. All proposals must be submitted by Sunday, December 13, 2015.

Image courtesy of ALA

The post What Is Your Hot Topic for #ALAAC16? appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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8. And a Sock Hop Got Me Thinking…

Each department at my library has been asked to take on the responsibility of raising money. This was a new assignment for me and one that I’m oddly excited about. For some reason, it allowed (forced?) me to take a different approach than I normally do when planning programs. I started thinking of opportunities our area families don’t normally get. And to do that, I started looking around at various community organizations and their services and fundraisers. I would hate to repeat another non-profit’s big idea. And while I’m still learning about this slightly rural-area of my county (I’m all city, baby!) I decided on a Sock Hop! Of course, I turned instantly to Pinterest where I was not disappointed in the myriad ideas: from music selection to DIY costumes and decorations. I happen to love 50s music (despite its inherent ridiculousness and rampant sexism) so this is right up my alley. Let the planning begin!


Photo Credit: Flickr User  Creative Commons License

The whole process got me thinking about how I plan other special programs. This might be old news to some of you, but investigating this sock hop idea was a good reminder for me to think about filling the gaps as I plan activities. As well, it was a reminder to see how my library can partner with these organizations in their own efforts to provide services to the community. Some places to consider when planning programs and fundraisers:

  • Parks and Recreation
  • Schools
  • Girl and Boy Scouts
  • Churches
  • Community Centers
  • Homeschool Groups
  • Animal shelters
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Goodwill
  • Junior League
  • Kiwannis
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Planned Parenthood
  • YMCA
  • YWCA
  • United Way

In looking around at these organizations, I found several fundraising events with which I would have hated to compete and a number of services our library could either promote or ride their coattails.  I also am considering contacting a few of these places to see about partnering in a fundraising event.  Anyone out there work with other non-profits in a fundraising capacity?


Our guest blogger today is Kelley Beeson. Kelley is the Youth Services Department Head at the Western Allegheny Community Library. She’s been working in libraries since high school and her favorite book is Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

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.

The post And a Sock Hop Got Me Thinking… appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Visit the Science Playground

Last month during our students’ Fall Break, I offered a STEM program that was easy to prep, easy to staff, and cost us nothing! We held a drop-in Science Playground where I put out all kinds of science materials and allowed families to explore at their own pace.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

** This is the caveat where I tell you that the reason that this program was absolutely free to us is that we have been collecting science tools and kits for several years for our summer Science Explorer table. Worry not, I have some ideas in case you do NOT have science tools at the ready!**

I scheduled the program for an afternoon during Fall Break. It was drop-in and open to all ages, although the materials we had were mostly geared towards the early elementary crowd (and that’s the audience we ended up attracting). I set up tables in our meeting room and placed our science kits and activities out, as well as a large display of science books that families could check out. I put on some background music and opened the doors. As families came in, I let them know that they were welcome to explore all our stations and check out any books they liked. I kept a tally for attendance and the program pretty much ran itself.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

I set out the following stations:

  • Student microscopes with slides
  • Science Discovery Kits on magnets, motion, and magnification
  • Magnet wands with pipe cleaner “hair”
  • Color paddles and materials to draw
  • Bug sorting set
  • Science viewers
  • Wooden blocks
  • Plastic jungle animal toys
  • Soft vinyl shape toys
Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

We’ve purchased most of these materials from Lakeshore Learning.

Families explored most of the stations I set out. The microscopes were a little difficult because they really needed more one-on-one instruction on how to use them. If we do this program again, I would probably forgo the microscopes and put out more different materials to look at under magnifying glasses.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Although most of our crowd was in that early elementary age, older kids were eager to show the tricks they knew to younger kids or to the adults in  the room. They knew how to make the magnets do cool things or how to mix the colors with the color paddles and showed that to the other kids. Grownups browsed the display books (especially if I mentioned the display to them directly), but not many kids did browsing on their own.

The station materials did NOT stay neatly where I placed them, but that was no big deal. If a station had a quiet moment, I would go over and quietly group things back into their proper kits. I could have probably utilized a teen volunteer or two to help keep things organized and for set-up and clean-up, but it wasn’t a big deal for me to do these things myself.

We were in a fairly small room, so it did get pretty loud in there occasionally with all the great conversations going on, kids making animal sounds, etc. I knew this would probably happen, so I avoided stations that had to do with sound since I knew it would be difficult to hear.

Now, if you don’t happen to have all this great science stuff laying around, you could still totally do this program (and you could keep it pretty cheap, as well). Here are some ideas (which I might use next time!):

  • Building with cardboard boxes instead of blocks (ask your coworkers to save boxes of all types: cake mixes, cereal boxes, egg cartons all make great, free building material).
  • Challenge kids to construct a boat that will float or a tower that reaches so many inches using whatever materials you have handy (aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, yarn, spaghetti, etc.).
  • Sensory bins using dry beans and containers made of different materials to pour them with.
  • Put out realia to explore. You could put out leaves and/or rocks and accompanying field guides to try to identify them or just collect sticks, seeds, grasses, flowers, etc. and let kids explore them.
  • Sink and float station. Put out a tub of water and various materials. Encourage kids to guess beforehand and then test their hypothesis to see if they were right.
  • Any of these shadow activities that Amy Koester posted about on the ALSC Blog.

What other fun science activities would make good stations for a self-directed program like this?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

The post Visit the Science Playground appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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10. Trying something new

playing with sensory balls

Playing with sensory balls

A few months back I saw a photo from Hennepin County Library on Instagram. It showed how much fun they had at their Sensitive Family Time — a time for families living with autism to explore the library. As I was looking for a way to partner with our local Autism Centre, I jumped on this fantastic idea. After a few phone calls and emails, we had a date. We opened one of our branches for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, just for these families. The families had signed up in advance with the Autism Centre, so we knew who to expect. Staff from their centre attended, and welcomed the families. Our staff were on had to show them around the library, read some stories, and get them signed up for library cards.

We had some toys out (I had these already from storytime), and just let the kids roam around. They played, I read a few books, they enjoyed themselves. Many of the families had never taken their child to the library before– they feared disruptive behavior and did not want to cause a scene. The kids were great — once they found out that the library was a safe, welcoming place, they had a grand time. And so did I. I tried something outside my comfort zone, something I really knew nothing about other than I knew there were families that wanted to use the library but maybe felt uncomfortable doing so.

Program room is set up

Program room is set up

We’ve got another one in the works, and I look forward to it. It was such a simple idea, such an easy way to reach out. I have to thank Hennepin County Library for their great program, and for graciously allowing me to borrow their idea and run with it. Try something new. It just might be worth it.

The post Trying something new appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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11. Fall programming for kindergarteners to tweens!

Building a Mystery (not the Sarah McLachlan song)

Have you ever attended one of those murder mystery programs for adults? Now you can make one for your tweens and teens at the library.

To run a good murder mystery program at your library you need to put your creative librarian hat on and let your imagination run wild. It is easy to spend money on a pre made mystery kit, but if you have the time, make your own. Create the mystery setting in your library, have a librarian go missing and set the crime scene. Caution tape and a duct tape outline of the body make for great props. Perhaps the librarian was found under a crack in the floor, or downstairs under a stack of books. Make sure evidence is planted and there is an estimate time of death. Identify what staff member will be the victim and the culprit and then the fun starts. Come up with a motive for each staff member involved. Write a short paragraph for each staff member including where they were the night of the crime and an alibi. Here is an example:

I left work around 2:30pm that day, I had a doctor’s appointment right in town and then I went home to make dinner and go to my kid’s school pageant. I would never do anything like that to Mary; she was one of my favorite people to work with. I really hope you figure out who did this”

 Write alibi’s for as many staff members as you can get to participate. Use these alibis to identify their time and location when the crime happened. These alibis will be recorded on video (use a video camera or your cell phone). Have each staff member read their alibi on camera, have some staff members look right into the camera, others not looking at all, tapping their feet and so on. When you show kids these videos have them look for different behavior that might make them look guilty or innocent.

Matching up with the times noted in each staff members alibi, make a fake schedule for all staff members, this will be used as a piece of evidence. Next write an email that has some back and forth between the victim and a potential suspect. Create fingerprints, using photos from online or dip your fingertips in pencil led and rub it on a piece of paper. Create writing samples of a note that was found with the victim. This is always the last clue, as the older kids will easily identify the matching handwriting.

It is always best to start with examining the crime scene, if you have the money in your budget go to the dollar store and purchase the mini composition notebooks that come in a pack of three. Kids will write their thoughts in here and feel like a real detective. After examining the crime scene, hand out the schedules to each kid, once the kids have those, show the videos and explain what an alibi is and what interrogation tactics are. Pass out the remaining clues one at a time and discuss. It always helps to have a large piece of paper with notes for each suspect hung up on the wall. Take a screenshot of the alibi movies and use that as the mugshot for each suspect. After kids have pieced all the evidence together and agree on a culprit, go ahead and make the arrest!

This program not only raises critical thinking skills, but also increases vocabulary and introduces children to careers.

Have fun!

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 3.39.08 PMMeredith Levine is Head of Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee. She is a member of the School Age Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at mlevine@lib.chattanooga.gov and follow on Twitter @schmoopie517


Grossed-out and fractured Halloween

Several years ago, I attended an excellent children’s librarian skill share on using how to add props to story time. One of my colleagues introduced me to Bone Soup by Cambria Evans, a Halloween fractured fairy tale based on the “clever man” fable, Stone Soup.bone soup My colleague poignantly noted that most kids love to be grossed out and recommended Bone Soup as the perfect grossed-out fairy tale.

Finnigin, a wandering ghoul, is shunned by the local townspeople due to his infamous appetite.  Through his wits and a little kindness from a tiny werewolf, he manages to trick the others into contributing their ingredients to soup made from a “magic” bone, as well as gooey eyeballs, leathery bat wings and all. Bone Soup is guaranteed to delight a wide range of children but if you want to gild the lily a tad, the story is even more outrageous and fun when accompanied by a theatrical production of making the bone soup along with the story. I went to my local witches’ supply store, also known as the dollar store, to purchase the ingredients: mouse droppings
(brown rice), spider eggs (cotton balls painted with black dots), fake centipedes, plastic eyeballs, glow-in-the-dark bat wings, fingernails (fake nails), a large cauldron, and of course, a magic (plastic) bone.

I usually make the soup as I tell the story, stirring the mixture along with Finnigin and his reluctant friends; though, if I have a very patient group willing to share duties, I let the children concoct the magic soup themselves. Of course, I pretend to slurp the soup at the very end and the kids always demand to see the final product. Many of the young patrons at my old library branch did not celebrate Halloween officially, but they always demanded Bone Soup when All Hallows Eve rolled around.

witchat“Interactive” Bone Soup is a great and an easy, if not foul, way to add props to your Halloween storytelling! Pairing this version of the story with another version of Stone Soup (I recommend Jon Muth’s retelling) should invoke an interesting comparative folklore discussion!
Kate Eckert is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at eckertk@freelibrary.org.

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12. Partnering with Homeless Serving Organizations

Located in an urban area, my library has a large population of people experiencing homelessness. All of the schools in the area are Title 1 funded schools, which also indicates a high level of need for transitional housing and other services for families.   Although we regularly see homeless populations in the library, I wondered why we don’t see more and what we could do to make these potential patrons feel welcome and aware of not only our warm building in winter months but also our wealth of resources and programming for families.

I developed a loose plan to visit the shelters and homes that serve families, provide a storytime, talk about resources and distribute library cards. I honestly thought it would be a cinch to get the shelters on board. But I was setting myself up for difficulties. I had an elevator pitch that largely skipped why this might be a useful service. When it comes to populations that need food and shelter, the library may be pretty low on the priority list. Honing our elevator pitch to include the ‘why’ is especially important when developing new partnerships.

It was very difficult getting a hold of anyone at any of the handful of organizations I contacted.

I didn’t take it to heart and continued to call and leave messages.  What I neglected to do in those messages was to also offer myself up for whatever they might need.  Maybe they did not have the time or space for a storytime. Maybe parents really wanted information about our drop-in job hunting courses. Maybe they needed something else.   Instead of asking them what they need from the library, I unloaded my assumption of what I thought they needed.

After a few months of calls and email exchanges, one temporary housing organization said they did not have enough staff for my program and they were concerned about their populations’ privacy. That was eye opening because I had approached the partnership entirely from my perspective rather than theirs.   

Another transitional housing organization said yes and we were able to schedule visits.  Although it was wonderful to provide a storytime, I felt I had much more impact after the storytime when I talked casually with parents and children about the different things the library offers while distributing library cards.  In the end the partnership has been successful and we will continue to offer this service once a month at multiple homes.

What have you learned from difficult to cement partnerships?

Arwen Ungar is the Early Learning Librarian at the Vancouver Community Library in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  She is passionate about puppies and early literacy, not necessarily in that order.  You can reach her at aungar@fvrl.org.

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13. Planning Children’s Concerts: A Guide

In early 2015, the Denver Central Children’s Library received an unexpected chunk of money, with only one parameter: spend it on big, destination programs. We chose to host 2 summer concerts. Both events went off relatively smoothly, and I want to share some tips I picked up along the way!

Get Organized

The first step is obvious: choose a musician. Our first event, a family concert by Jim Gill, was a hit with our preschoolers.

(Photo from http://www.jimgill.com/about.html)

(Photo from http://www.jimgill.com/about.html)

To bring in school-aged kids, we booked Grammy-winning Denver natives, The Okee Dokee Brothers. Next, decide when and where they will perform.

  • Date & Time:
    • Don’t forget about naptime! Morning concerts are better-attended than afternoon shows.
    • Check for any concurrent events. Even after doing our research, we still faced unanticipated street closures from a bicycle race!
  • Venue:
    • Find out how many your space accommodates, and plan how you’ll deal with a crowd that exceeds capacity. If you book an outside show, have an indoor backup plan. We planned indoor shows to minimize distractions and project footage from The Okee Dokee Brothers’ videos.
(Photo from http://www.okeedokee.org/press/#mediakit)

(Photo from http://www.okeedokee.org/press/#mediakit)

Plan Ahead

There will be unexpected obstacles, but these are a few issues to anticipate.

  • Budget:
    • Will you require registration, or will the show be first-come/first-served?
    • What sound equipment does the performer require?
    • If your library doesn’t own the necessary equipment, will you borrow or rent it? Will you hire someone to set up and run it? Reach out to colleagues for rental recommendations.
  • Promotion:
    • What social media will you use, and when? (Leave enough time for folks to rework their schedules, but not so much time that they forget!)
    • Play the musician’s albums before and after storyime. If you play an instrument, try learning one of their songs. (You can even post it on Facebook!)
    • Do you need posters, flyers, or directional signage? Plan ahead so your signage arrives on time.
  • Day-of:
    • Plan where you’ll need extra staff or volunteers: directing traffic, crowd control, merchandise table.
    • Have activities for families while they wait for doors to open. We had cardboard photo props and word searches from the band’s website.

Photo courtesy Guest Blogger


There can’t be enough communication with your Library colleagues, the musicians and their agents, and sound engineers.

  • Speak with the musicians directly early on.
  • For every meeting, make sure you send an email recap immediately after. This creates a written record of all agreements and minimizes miscommunication.

Have Fun!

This is the most important part! Even if nothing goes as planned, remember the goal is for kids and families to have fun together at the library.


In the aftermath, take a deep breath and celebrate your success!

  • Send a thank you note to the musicians.
  • Share stats and anecdotes with library stakeholders.
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues–try writing a blog post!


Kahla Close Up

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Our guest blogger today is Kahla Gubanich. Kahla is a children’s librarian at Denver Public Library. She received her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and her Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College, and has a background in fine arts. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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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14. Turning Your Library into a Haunted House

For the last few weeks, the crickets in Philadelphia have begun playing at night. This is the signal for the end of Summer Reading, the time to begin planning back-to-school visits, and the time to start planning a haunted house.

Haunted houses can be easily created, relatively inexpensive, and a fantastic draw that remind community members that the library is vibrant and exciting. They can also be nightmares for staff and patrons if they’re not planned and executed properly. A “well-planned” haunted house does not have to be an “expensive” haunted house.

Floorplans are your friends

The first time I created a haunted house for my branch, I was at a location that had a very large meeting room. This was a blessing and a curse because we had room to do things… and we also had room to fill. Because the neighborhood was excited for the event, I had to plan it out properly. Thankfully, I had a fantastic security guard, Dan Ross, who loved the idea as much as I did.

Dan and I created a simple floor plan of our meeting room space to guide us while we brainstormed. The floorplan gave us a bird’s eye view of the room, which allowed us to see where volunteers would be located, how evenly the scares were spaced apart and where problematic areas might exist. Because we knew that the room would be dark, we needed to eliminate as many “blind spots” as possible. Here is the floor plan from our second year:
Haunted House BlueprintSitting down for 30 minutes and planning saved countless hours of moving and adjusting plans. It also allowed us to know how many volunteers and staff members we would need to operate the gags and keep an eye on the tweens and teens entering the haunted house.

Don’t reinvent the jack-o-lantern

As Dan and I planned, we knew we needed outside advice. Thankfully, Philadelphia has a very active and highly dedicated staff of Children’s Librarians who are always willing to offer advice and support. Librarians who had been running haunted houses for years offered advice. We reduced the group size patrons in the haunted house from five to three. We also had staff members guide the groups. Usually the after school leader or I would walk with the groups to create a “safe” person if things became too scary.

We also went online to various websites to ask advice from professionals and amateurs who ran their own haunted houses. Here are a few places I visited and sought advice:

Haunted World Fright Forum

Haunt Forum

Halloween Forum

In later years, I also started following Halloween-enthusiasts on Pinterest. This was also a great resource for easy DIY projects.
DSCN0758An early suggestion from a haunted house forum became one of our favorite scares. A ghoul on a broom handle “flew out” from behind a fake wall, while the volunteer lowering her screamed. We named the ghoul Cindy, and she’s been in every haunted house since.

Choose your volunteers wisely.

I began canvasing for volunteers at the beginning of the school year and insisted on speaking with parents or guardians before event set-up began. Because the holiday is not celebrated by everyone, I wanted to ensure that parents knew exactly what the eager teens were volunteering to do.

All volunteers were told that secrecy was paramount to the success of the haunted house. They could tell as many lies about what was going to happen as they liked, but they couldn’t reveal any of the actual scares.

Scares require all six senses

Sure, there are only five senses normally – Aliki’s My Five Senses didn’t lie to you. But when it comes to haunted houses, there are really six. The thing that separates an okay haunted house from an excellent haunted house is the sense of anticipation. The feeling of “something is about to happen” needs to always be present to make your haunted house memorable. No matter what your budget, this can be obtained. A dark room and a few strobe lights will do it.

Click to view slideshow.

An effective scare can be created with dollar store bats spray-painted with neon colors and hung near a black light. We “upped” the scare value in later years by hiding volunteers behind fake walls. Each volunteer had a can of condensed air that they would use to move the bats. As people walk past, the back of their head would also be sprayed with air. One bat attached to a black pole provided additional movement.
IMG_2838Another easy scare involved dollar store water guns. Volunteers dressed in all black hid behind a table full of rubber snakes. As groups of patrons walked through with a guide, they were told that they snakes did not bite, but they occasionally spit. This phrase was the cue for the volunteers to squirt patrons in the face with water.

Speed is the key to success

The first year we ran our haunted house, over 300 people from our neighborhood came. We allotted an hour and a half for the program, but thankfully volunteers stayed until everyone was able to go through once. We quickly realized that future haunted houses would require speedy walk-throughs. Some of our great scares like the Witch’s Sarcophagus had to be dropped because they took too long.


The Witch’s Sarcophagus was a staff favorite and we were sorry to see it go. Starting on the right, patrons reached inside each opening of the sarcophagus. Her hair was oily angel hair pasta, the eyes were peeled grapes, and the brains were gelatin and cottage cheese. A volunteer hid inside and grabbed patrons when they reached into the “Hands.” As sorry as we were to see this go, we knew this was better themed for a program and not a haunted house.

Our goal was to get a person through the haunted house in less than 3 minutes. We also limited the number of times a person could enter the haunted house. By a third trip, many ‘tweens knew where the scares were coming from – and tried to scare the volunteers back. Obviously, this is problematic, so everyone could enter two times only. After the first visit, everyone’s right hand was stamped. After the second visit, the left hand was stamped. Once someone had two stamps, they knew they could not enter the house again.

Inexpensive is not the same as cheap

When Dan and I first started the haunted house program, we had a budget of $100 from our friends group. Because the budget was small, we had to improvise. We created fake walls by hanging black garbage bags connected with shipping tape from the ceiling. We’ve used the wall design every year since. They are easily assembled by volunteers, can be reused, and they ripple slightly when people walked. They created the perfect ambiance for the house.
2013-10-31 10.30.01The room looked chaotic during set-up, but there was a system in place. Our other big purchases the first year were strobe lights and a scary music soundtrack. If you use strobe lights or fog machines, always advertise it on all fliers and announcements so people with health concerns are aware of the effects.

2013-10-29 18.21.19Items from around the branch were frequently repurposed for the haunted house. A desk fan hidden behind a tombstone powered Tiffani, our graveyard ghost. She was made from PVC tubing, garbage bags, plastic wrap and green plastic table cloths. A neighborhood wig shop donated the Styrofoam head, and a patron donated the wig (from an old Halloween costume.)

Advertising is your friend

Fliers advertising the Haunted House were distributed to the local schools in early October. Local businesses in our neighborhood were also asked to display fliers in their windows. When Dan and I began, we had an age limit. We dropped it in later years because many parents wanted to bring younger children through the haunted house.
Haunted House FlierWe also used our Facebook page to advertise the ghouls moving into the library. Absurd pictures advertised the ghouls slowly moving into the library in the weeks before the haunted house was set up. Each picture featured the caption “There’s something for everyone at the Library.”
Cindy 1As wonderful as our advertisements are, a tween with a big mouth is worth 1,000 fliers. Let your ‘tweens know that you’re planning to scare the pants off of them, and they’ll let the entire neighborhood know.

Never stop planning.

Over the years, we collected items for the haunted house. After a roof leak, roofers left a large roll of clear plastic at our branch. We used it to create a corridor of shredded hanging sheets for people to walk through inside the haunted house.

Items from dollar stores, yard sales, and staff members’ house cleanings were used to enhance the atmosphere of the Haunted House.

IMG_2836Taking a vacation day on November 1st and hitting local stores is a great way to find discounted Halloween Supplies.

I hope this inspires you to plan your own Haunted House. It takes some planning to run smoothly, but it was always my favorite program throughout the year.

(All photos courtesy of Guest Blogger)


ChristopherChristopher Brown is a the Curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.  Chris is a  former Children’s Librarian, who served many communities in Philadelphia.  He received his MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and his MA from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2013.  For more information about the Children’s Literature Research Collection, please visit us at http://libwww.freelibrary.org/collections/collectionDetail.cfm?id=3

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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15. School Poems

Goodbye Summer Reading!  Hello School Time!

My cape is tucked away and our library super hero readers are almost off to school!

Laura Purdie Salas’s poem captures the summer reading theme of “Every Hero Has a Story” with imagination and books just as our super readers return to class.

Her cape is sewn from favorite pages
He battles bullies, beasts, and crooks
Their weapon is another world–
the world they choose–
inside of books

Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

I picture students just like Salas’s poem with flying capes made out of book pages, backpacks filled with school supplies and lunches ready to eat.

School supplies ready! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

School supplies ready! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Let’s start off the school year with some poetry noise. From Messing Around on the Monkey Bars: and Other School Poems for Two Voices by Betsty Franco to Shout!: Little Poems that Roar by Brod Bagert.  Sharing school poems is the perfect way to start the school year out.

Favorite school poetry books created on Riffle.

School Poetry Activities:

  • Listen to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem, “New School New Year.”  After record your own.  Start out with the same word, “School.” Have everyone say it together, “SCHOOL!” Then go around the classroom and have the whole classroom share one word.  Maybe it’s their favorite subject in school, maybe it’s what school smells like or maybe it’s a favorite time like recess.  Go around the classroom having each student share one word then again faster and louder.  End the poem with everyone saying the word “school” together.
  • Create a School Poetry Display with your favorite school poems and school supplies. (If you have a school poetry display already created please share in the comments below.)
  • Attach a long piece of butcher paper in the shape of pencil on the back of a classroom or library door.  Invite students throughout the day to write what the pencil might say if it could talk.  Then read the poem, “Things To Do If You are a Pencil” by Elaine Magilano.
  • Write a school bus concrete poem or shape poem-Draw a HUGE school bus, add school bus noises and things students might say on the way to school.
  • Write a separate poem on “How are you getting to school?” Read “The Very First Day of School” by Deborah Ruddell.  Have the students use their imagination and create their own vehicle or way to get to school.  Examples: Flying chair, jumping shoes, rainbow wings…
  • Find an unusual object in the classroom and write a concrete poem.  Stuffed hedgehog, cuckoo clock on the wall, pink velvet chair—what unusual object do you see in the classroom? Describe it! Use butcher paper, crayons, pencils, markers and make it BIG or use colorful sticky notes and make a tiny concrete poem.  Display them around the room.
  • Write a list poem about what the desk, chair or chalk board (smart board) are saying when children are in the room.  One word after the other-Ouch! Thud!  Write another poem about the same object but when the classroom is empty. What do they when everyone has gone home?
  • Read “On Menu for School Today” by Rebecca Kai Doltish then write a quiet and LOUD poem about a pencil sharper and create new sounds! Thud! Clank!  The first word is in lower case and is quiet and then the second word is in all caps and is LOUD. Continue with one quiet word and then one loud word.
  • Act out “Kids Rule” by Brod Bagert.  Everyone up!  Tell everyone, we are going to do three things (hold up three fingers) and we are going to do those three things three times.  The three things are Run, Chew and Read! (act out)  Practice the three things. Run three times while saying run, run, run.  Pretend to eat your lunch while saying chew, chew, chew.  Hold up your hands like a book and read, read, read. At the end of the poem, have everyone shout out together, “Kids Learn!” “Kids Rule!”  Ready?

Explore more school poems and poetry ideas with Laura Purdie Salas, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Betsy Franco.

photo by istockphoto and poem by Deborah Ruddell

photo by istockphoto and poem by Deborah Ruddell

Enjoy and share, “The Very First Day of School” by Deborah Ruddell.   Check out her new book, The Popcorn Astronauts. 








Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.




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16. Program in a Post: Squart!

Squart1With this post and $5 to $40, you can encourage your community to create a glorious piece of collaborative art as part of a self-directed or outreach program.


  • Chalk (we like this brand)
  • White and/or black construction paper cut into 4″ x 4″ squares
  • A sign (optional)

Set up: This is a fun and easy art project for an outreach event or self-directed tabletop activity. Just put up the sign, put out the paper and chalk and let kids and their grown ups create. If you wanted to make it a program, just set up some tables and chairs.

We used this asSquart2 our outreach art activity for the summer. Staff at the booth would invite community members to decorate a square to add to the collage at the library. Our collage grew as the summer progressed.

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17. ISO Mock Geisel Award Help

Three years ago two 5th grade boys fist pumped after they watched the live stream of the Newbery award being announced Midwinter.  “Our book won! Our book won!” they screamed on that day and many days to follow.

Since then I can say confidently that I run a successful 10-week Newbery Committee project alongside my fifth grade team.  I had kids wishing so hard for The Crossover to win the Newbery, they had every joint in their body crossed.  Then when the weather forecasters announced we had a snow day on February 2, 2015, tears poured down their cheeks since it meant not being together to find out the real winner. They did manage to find the link to the live stream on their own!

This year I’m still doing Newbery but also ready to branch out.  Last Spring when I asked a first grade teacher if she would collaborate with me on a Caldecott project her face lit up.  Then I went to Annual (I had to see Kwame accept his award) and some very insightful librarian suggested that I should do a Mock Geisel.  Wouldn’t that be perfect for first graders?  YES!  But wait! Who was this masked person? Where are you when I need help?  I don’t even know where to begin.  I tried Twitter twice and luckily that’s how I landed here.  I am ISO of YOU to help me out!  Do you have a book list?  Would you like to work together?  Are you a Geisel junkie?

There are no Mock lists on Goodreads.  Google “Geisel Award” and you get taken to the ALSC Awards page.  So please, let’s connect!  Want to get our students reviewing books together?  I’m here.  Are you an author or illustrator who wants to Skype?  Let’s do it!  Did you just read a perfect contender for the Geisel award?  Please share.  I can’t wait to make this happen.

This January 11, not only do I want to be on the edge of my seat with my fifth graders waiting for the Newbery announcement, I want to be fist pumping my collaborating first grade teacher and our star studded 6 year olds after hearing that “our book won!”


Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Stacey Rattner. Stacey — the “crazy leaping librarian” — loves to jump with her elementary school students at Castleton Elementary School in upstate New York.  You can find her thoughts about school, books, food, theatre and more @staceybethr or librarianleaps.blogspot.com or her doings and leaping in the library @C_ESLibrary. 

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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18. Are You Ready for Banned Books Week?

Alarm Clock and BooksBanned Books Week, a celebration of our freedom to read, takes place September 27- October 3.  Many libraries and book sellers will be offering activities, displays and events to remind us of the importance of everyone’s right to access materials and information.  As many books are challenged on the basis of protecting children, it is particularly important that those of us who serve young people be involved in whatever is being planned for Banned Books Week in our libraries.

What is happening in your library?

  • A read-aloud of banned/challenged books – Make sure that titles for young people are included, from In the Night Kitchen to Captain Underpants and a certain young wizard who created an international reading craze.
  • Displays – Create one in the children’s and teen areas (teen books are especially fertile ground for challenges), or include copies of books for young people if your library is creating one, all-purpose display.
  • An article in your library newsletter – If your library offers a newsletter for the public and is including an article on Banned Books Week with a list of frequently challenged books, include some younger titles.  Our library article included some challenged titles that might surprise readers; Charlotte’s Web and The Wizard of Oz among others.  
  • Radio and television – What about contacting a station about participating in a talk show?  Two of our children’s librarians are joining a local radio show to talk about the obvious and frequently challenged items as well as some of the more surprising titles.  
  • Speakers – If your library is hosting a speaker to talk about intellectual freedom and Banned Books Week, go ahead and ask if she/he is including information regarding challenges related to books for young readers.  Have a list ready to share!
  • A match-up game – On a bulletin board, sheet of paper or bookmark, list titles, plus reasons for challenges and see if people can put the right ones together.  Some will be obvious, others not so obvious.  

These are only a few ideas and I know that there are many more out there.  Please share yours!  

I want to close this post with a question and a recommendation.    Have you gone to the ALA web site and viewed the Banned Books Week site and the site for the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)?  These sites are rich resources for anyone who works with young people as well as those who work with adults.  They track frequently challenged books, update us on relevant legislation and provide supportive information.  If you haven’t visited them yet, I encourage you to do so.  Finally, don’t forget that ALA has just released the new Intellectual Freedom Manual, Ninth Edition.  It is available in print and e-book formats.  

Let’s celebrate our freedom to read!


Toni Bernardi, San Francisco Public Library

Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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19. Encouraging Families to Play Outside

During the summer, libraries are a destination for families to play, learn, and escape the heat, but what about those beautiful sunny days when no one wants to be inside? This summer at the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) we offered a new early childhood program simply titled: Play Outside. Families with young children were invited to join us in our library’s green space for free play fun. Our library does not have its own playground; there are no jungle gyms or climbing equipment, just an open, grassy field lined with trees and bushes. With a few new toys and some repurposing of old ones, we were able to turn this empty space into a rich outdoor play environment for a few hours each month.

play outsideOur play outside program featured a sand table and a water table that we made by borrowing two large plastic storage bins. We grabbed some plastic ocean animal figurines that adorn our children’s non-fiction shelves and brought those outside with us to play with in our “ocean.” We also incorporated many large manipulative toys including beach balls, bucket stilts, hop-along balls, jumping sacks, hula hoops, and a parachute. We also created a large seating area with picnic blankets, board books, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. While our supplies were simple, their uses were varied and complex. One young child gave the toy fish “baths” with a bucket, while another built a sand castle, pretending to be at the beach. Two children enlisted parents and peers to play parachute games, and the group worked together to keep the beach balls in the air. On the picnic blanket, a mother read to her baby, while her preschooler drew pictures with chalk, next to them. As families moved organically from one activity to another, they connected with other families. Parents chatted and shared information about upcoming community events and new friendships were forged among the children. As the facilitator of the program, I also had the chance to have on-on-one conversations with parents and kids alike, and received valuable feedback on library programs and services.

play outside 2One of the great things about a program like this is that it’s easily customizable as there are no requirements except an outdoor space. Our program centered on a multipurpose open space and manipulatives, but other ideas include: wheeled toys, music and movement props, play houses, balance beams or stepping stones, flower or vegetable gardens, and much more. If your library doesn’t have an outdoor space, consider meeting at a local park or playground. But wait; can’t families just go to the park instead? We agree that families can and should still visit parks, but librarians who offer outdoor programs have a unique opportunity to bring their communities together to encourage a love of learning, nature, and a healthy active lifestyle. In fact, the Institute of Museums and Libraries (IMLS) has identified “improving family health and nutrition” as a national priority, because we know that children’s learning is inextricably linked to their health. Outdoor play encourages children to run, lift and carry things, to use their imaginations, and cooperate with other children. In fact a recent article by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) states that, “Children who regularly play outdoors tend to be fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems, play more creatively, have more active imaginations, report lower stress levels, and demonstrate greater respect for themselves and others (Fjørtoft 2004; Burdette & Whitaker 2005)” (Spencer & Wright 28). With all these benefits, I encourage you to give outdoor programs a try.

Do you already offer something like this at your library? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)


Courtesy photo

Stephanie C. Prato is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY. If you have any questions, email her at sprato@fflib.org.

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20. To holiday or not to holiday + Caption Contest



Original comic by Lisa Nowlain

So! This debate seems to be a great button-pusher in the Children’s Librarian world. Here’s my two cents – and I do want to locate my comic in my identity as an agnostic/white lady librarian. The comments and points were pulled from the following blogs, and were summaries and paraphrases:



This month’s Caption Contest (I promise it will be monthly! The summer break is over, officially – I’m even wearing a sweater today!) Write your caption ideas in the comments.


The winner of last post’s Caption Contest was Carrie Hummel! See the final comic below!


Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT. She is also an artist-type (see more at www.lisanowlain.com).

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21. Create a Kids Art Program with Inspiration from Museum Websites

Are you planning a family painting day, an art scandal mystery event or turning your children’s room into an ancient Egyptian maze? Finding new ways for creative kid programs are just clicks away at your favorite museum.

You might be surprised by a new update, an added blog, or an interactive art activity.

I recently followed an alien through the MoMA, popped yellow and red balloons through the Met and discovered William the blue hippo from Egypt is not very friendly.  (All of this online.)  Be part of art history through interactive museum websites.  The Smithsonian, J. Paul Getty Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery of Art are just a few amazing art websites filled with kids, family and teacher resources.

My new favorite art museum website to explore is #metkids at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  MET Kids is a new feature launched in September with multi-media content aimed at 7 to 12 year olds.  The Met says kids from New York City and around the world “helped to shape the content, design, and user experience of the website. It is truly “Made for, with, and by kids.”

#metkids detailed map

#metkids map photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Walk around the museum online with the Map, get in a Time Machine and travel to different centuries or watch a new art video made by kids today.

  • Map: touch a yellow or red balloon to learn about different art pieces.  (The directions say yellow or red pin but every time I see them I think of the balloons from You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman.) Learn about a sculpture, a new artist or a room by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Have you seen the “Celestial Globe with Clock Work” from 1579?
  • Time Machine: Push the red “push” button to explore different time periods all around the world.  “Program your destination to explore worlds of art.”  From 8000-2000 BC to 1900-present, get in the time machine and discover, learn and create.  Listen to an art curator talk about the selected piece or discover a “fun fact.”   The time machine is filled with ideas and questions for children to think about.
  • Video: The videos are separated into four different sections-Create, Made by Kids, Q&A and Celebrate.  Watch an original animation film about Degas’ dancer in “Made by Kids” and go behind the scenes in the animation lab.  “Jumping into the Met” is filled with great ideas-connecting famous paintings with stories and film.  Click on the “Create” section and follow step by step instructions to learn how to make scratch art, symmetrical prints, collage and more.

What amazing art resources! For more art websites, check out the ALSC Great Websites for Kids-The Arts

Please share your favorite museum website in the comments below.

For a selection of fun art books to use in your next museum program, explore my art shelf on shelfari.

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.  




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22. Ruminating on Leaf Rubbing

If you live in a place where you have deciduous trees, you are probably experiencing (or starting to experience) that brilliant foliage color change that happens this time of year. Which means that it is a GREAT time for making leaf rubbings with your kids at the library. (Also: even if you do not live in a place where the leaves change in the fall, as long as you have leaves you can do leaf rubbings!)

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

This may seem like a very basic and boring activity. I thought so, too. But our kids go crazy for it every year (even though we do it with our Afterschool outreach storytimes every single year). And it is extremely cheap and easy to do. Which makes it a perfect craft, in my opinion.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Gather leaves. I do not have deciduous trees in my yard, so I take a nice walk at our local park and I’m careful to only gather a few leaves from each tree so it doesn’t make a noticeable difference.

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

Step 1B:  I have found that if you gather leaves from the ground, it’s hard to find leaves that are not dried out and those aren’t going to last you very long. I pick leaves from the trees (preferably leaves that have already changed color since they are so beautiful), and I am always careful to knock any bugs off and to choose leaves that don’t have spiderwebs and things on them.

** Make sure that you know what you are picking are non-harmful leaves! If you’re not sure, skip that tree or bush.

Step 2: Put the leaves in a plastic ziplock bag. This will keep them fresh if you want to use them for a few days. When we take this activity to our Afterschool groups, we use the same leaves for three or four visits. They will last nicely for 4-5 days, after which we compost them and I pick fresh leaves for the next week.

Step 3: To make the leaf rubbings, put a leaf or leaves on the table with the veiny side (the “bumpy side”) facing up. Place a blank piece of paper over the leaves (thinner paper is better – regular printer paper is what we use). Then use a crayon to GENTLY color the paper over where the leaves are placed. You should see the outline of the leaf appearing on the paper.

Photo by Abby Johnson.

Photo by Abby Johnson.

Step 3B: When kids have problems with this activity, it is usually because they are coloring too hard on the paper. To make it easier, you can peel the wrapping off the crayons and have them color with the side of the crayon.

And that’s it!

Every year, I expect kids to be bored with this activity, but it hasn’t happened yet. We encourage the older kids who have done it before to help the younger kids. And kids always ask “Are these REAL leaves?!” Yes, yes they are. We’re bringing a little bit of nature to the kids. One nice thing about this activity is that kids can repeat it pretty much anywhere. If they have trees on their school grounds or in their neighborhoods, they can gather leaves and repeat this on their own very easily.

What if you DON’T have access to leaves (or have concerns about allergies – this has never been a problem for us, but I could see it happening?)? You can try this activity with anything that has a texture. Tree bark, concrete, the bottom of your shoe.

Have you done leaf rubbings with your kids?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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23. Exploring Autumn with Apps and Websites

Autumn has arrived here in Northeastern Ohio, bringing with it crisp weather, all things pumpkin, and beautiful fall foliage. The trees are only starting to reveal their brilliant hues of orange, yellow, gold and red here, but soon I’ll awaken to a glowing landscape that seemingly exploded overnight. As this season traditionally brings many requests for fall themed library materials, as well as special fall programming, I was inspired to think of ways that technology may add further enjoyment and educational opportunities to this time.

The best way to experience the beauty of fall is to strap on your hiking shoes and venture to the nearest wooded park (or your backyard!). Bringing along your smartphone or tablet, loaded with fall foliage apps, can enhance your exploration of autumn’s beauty. Children of a variety of ages will enjoy learning more about our natural environment with these  apps and websites highlighted below, although most young users not yet in elementary school may need some parent or caregiver help.

  • Yankee Leaf PeeprThis free app by Yankee Publishing Inc., available for Apple and Android devices, provides you with a very handy color-coded map that indicates where the leaves are changing anywhere in the United States. Users contribute to the map by posting photos and ratings of the foliage, making this app not only useful, but
    Image from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ypi.leafpeepr&hl=en.

    Image from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ypi.leafpeepr&hl=en.

    interactive. The current foliage color is determined by averaging user ratings in a geographic area.
  • Chimani apps- These apps, offered as free downloads on all major mobile platforms,  are a really fun way to explore various National Parks. They help you with planning your trip, letting you know when Ranger-led trips occur, and more. These apps work with or without WiFi or a data signal, which is especially helpful when you are out on the trail.
  • LeafSnapOnce you’ve found some beautiful leaves, you may be left wondering what kind of tree they’re a part of. Make this a great learning opportunity with LeafSnap! Developed by researchers at Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institute, LeafSnap helps users identify trees by allowing users to take a picture of a leaf from the tree and then providing them with the species. The app is free for iPhone and iPad, and also has a website displaying tree species. The only negative is that this is only usable for species found in the Northeastern United States and Canada.
  • U.S. Forest Service website and Yonder app–  The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with Yonder, a free app, to help nature lovers share their adventures. The website also provides a map of fall color based on eyewitness accounts and allows users to choose their state or local forest to see specific fall foliage information. You can find weekly color updates in your state using this tool!
  • Foliage Network – The fall foliage prediction map on this website helps users visual the changing leaves around the United States and plan when to see the most beautiful colors in your neighborhood.

You can pair these fun apps and websites with traditional activities for a great autumn library program. How about leaf rubbing (which was recently discussed here on the blog), sharing a classic fall read-aloud such as Ehlert’s “Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” and then using LeafSnap to identify the tree outside the storytime window? There are many possibilities to incorporate technology and nature into library programs and family time. What are some of your favorite hi- or low-tech autumn extension activities? ___________________________________________________________

Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Rocky River Public Library in Rocky River, OH and is writing this post for the Children and Technology Committee. You can reach her at n.martin@rrpl.org.

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24. Branding the Library

My staff and I love doing programming around geeky fandoms and pop culture. Whatever our kids and teens are talking about, we love to program around it. We have so much fun with our fandom programs and they are always well attended. But it makes me wonder what we can do to make sure all library programs have the same draw.

When we put a character name or popular brand to something, people come. Pete the Cat costume character event? 600 people. Star Wars Reads Day? 200 people. Harry Potter Trivia Event? 75 people. Doc McStuffins Stuffie Clinic? 120 people. Halloween Storytime and Trick-or-Treat Parade in the Library-366 people. My average program attendance this summer? 31.

Yes, 31 is still a great number and attendance. Yes these big name programs are fun and bring people into the library. But looking at what we plan for these programs compared to what we plan for programs that aren’t based on a specific character or brand, (art programs, science programs, dance parties, building programs) our set up, program plan and implementation is very similar. The only thing that’s really different is that the activities and crafts have a specific character instead of something general. Just having a superhero program isn’t enough, yet an Big Hero 6 program was huge. Storytime is well attended, but make it about Pete the Cat or Elephant and Piggie and I have huge crowds.

I know that these programs are all very creative and fun. And my regular library patrons always say how much they love library programs and how creative our staff is-no matter the theme. But how do we market library programs in general to the public without having to attach a popular character, theme or brand on top of it? How can we get people excitied about library programs without needing to attach a name to it? How can we get people to come to a Community Helpers program instead of a Paw Patrol program? Or a space program instead of a Star Wars Day? Why isn’t the library name enough?

I believe there is absolutely a place in the library for fandoms and pop culture and I love programming for it. But I would love to figure out how to advertise the all library programs to everyone in our community. I want to let people know that we have these fun pop culture based programs for the entire family. And while they are at the library, I want to promote all the other amazing resources the library has to offer. I want them to think about library programs and think they are all awesome and fun, not just the ones that are about a character or theme they know.

I don’t have all the answers and I’m still trying to figure out how best to program for our patrons. I’ve found a few things I’ve that help though:

-Don’t just have the program isolated to one room. Scavenger hunts are our best friend! They are easy to put together, kids love them, and they sneakily teach people about the library. Hide scavenger hunt items in all departments of the library and get people to explore all that you have to offer.

-Announce events at other programs. Advertise to everyone and spread the word. Having a storytime? Promote an upcoming program. I’ve found the best attendance I get at a Saturday program is when I announce in every storytime the week leading up to it. Also word of mouth is the best marketing tool you will ever have.

-Promote all the library offers. We noticed that at our annual Halloween Storytime and Trick-Or-Treat Parade we had lots of families attending that we didn’t see regularly attending storytimes. So we take advantage of this an along with stickers, candy, and finger puppets, kids also get our Storytime Brochure with all of our storytimes listed and fliers advertising upcoming library programs in their goodie bags.

I’d love to know other ideas on how to get people excited about all library programs.  How do we get people talking about all library programs and not just ones based on a brand or name? How do we make the library an exciting brand all of it’s own?

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25. Name that Person!

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

A Pilot! A Voice! An Artist! An Explorer! 
Turn your library school visits into a game show or host a “Name that Person” event at your school library during lunch time.  Meet a room full of amazing people through books.

Set-up:  Display children’s biography books on one table.  Arrange strange, silly and fun items that match up with the book on another table.  Two chairs/stools facing each other with a buzzer in the middle (or have your two volunteers stand up with a buzzer on a stool between them.)  Use a variety of new and favorite children’s biographies about people from all over the world or focus on biographies on a specific subject.  For example: poets, presidents, authors, musicians, explorers.

Name that Person!
Use two volunteers with a buzzer between them or have your whole group ready to guess.  Place an object in front of them or share a few important facts about that person.  The first person to ring the buzzer guesses.  If no one knows the answer, let your whole group guess by raising their hands and when you’re done sharing the information, everyone yells out the name of the person.  (Use your television game show voice.)

Fun objects-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Fun objects-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Strange and Fun Objects: 
Airplane puppet
Monkey puppet or Barrel of Monkeys
Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Paint brush
Map of the world or globe
Top hat
Guitar or toy stuffed guitar
Sunday’s comics
Bunny ears
Ocean creatures (water toys)
Cooking items (spatula, measuring cups, etc.)

Do you know the person that matches up to each object above?

A list of new and favorite children’s biographies! https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/185569

Are you ready?  Name that Person! 
Who made the first flight in Australia on March 16, 1910? (Airplane puppet)

Houdini-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Houdini-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Answer: Houdini!    Did you say Amelia Earhart or the Wright Brothers.  This is a great way to introduce Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.  (Or picture book biographies about Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers and Houdini)

Name that author! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Name that author! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

A few other options:

  • Display a collection of fiction books that match up with biographies about that author.  Make sure to cover up the author’s name on the cover.  Ready? Name that author!
  • Pull out different puppets or objects from a big cloth bag and have your audience name the person that matches up with each puppet or object.  Then share the biography-fun illustrations or a unique fact about that person.
  • Speed round-Name that President! (by number-#3,#16, #35, and #44)

Through children’s biographies discover someone new!

One of my favorite ways to share biographies with children is “Name that Person!” What are some of your favorite ways to share children’s biographies?  Please share in the comments below.

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.  



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