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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: outreach, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. A Comic Ode to Booktalking

We’re in the throes of booktalking here at Darien Library, and I thought this time-honored tradition deserved a comic.


All illustrations copyright Lisa Nowlain, 2016.

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 lisanowlain.com).

The post A Comic Ode to Booktalking appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Gimme a C (For Collaboration): Strengthening Outreach Connections

In recent SPLC posts on this blog, we’ve talked building relationship with schools, starting points and more. So let’s say you have a school contact and would now like to leverage that SPLC-Committee-Wordle-300x240-300x240relationship to reach even more teachers, kids, and parents. What are some events that a public librarian could participate in that would be a valuable investment? Here are some ideas:

Pre-service and Staff Development Days: Most school districts schedule several pre-service or staff development days that occur right before school starts. The students are not be at school, so this is a great time to talk with just teachers. The public library could be a great resource-sharing presenter during a lunch break, or even during a regular session. Because pre-service days happen before school begins, try to schedule this before the end of the school year.

Back-to-School Nights and Kindergarten Round-Ups: Your public library could set up a table outside the school office and share important information for parents and kids. Having a fun activity like an I-Spy Board can be an engaging activity to keep students busy at your table while you share information about the library with parents.

PTO/Parent Club Meetings: Some school programs, like Head Start, require parent meetings to feature a presentation by a community partner. Why not the public library? You can share tips for using the library successfully (to calm the anxiety around accruing fines), and special resources that parents may not know about (I share our Cultural Passes to Adventure). You could even offer to host the meeting at the library!

Pre-Assessment Party: About a week before standardized assessment time begins, many schools (particularly Title I Schools) hold special family nights to gear up for testing. Public librarians can be on-hand to share how recreational reading can help a student do well in school.

Familiarize yourself with the school district’s calendar and look for other unique outreach opportunities. Participating in these events shows your community’s families that you are on the same page, and you care about what is important to them.

School librarians: what special events does your school district have?

Public librarians: what unique school events have you attended as a library representative?

S. Bryce Kozla is the Youth Services Librarian for Washington County Cooperative Library Services in Oregon.  Bryce blogs at brycedontplay.blogspot.com and tweets at @plsanders. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (For Collaboration): Strengthening Outreach Connections appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Food in the Library? An interview with Amanda Courie about Summer Food Programs

Over the past few years, there has been a growing awareness in public libraries that children within their service areas may not be getting enough to eat during the summer months when school breakfasts and lunches are unavailable. Many libraries have partnered with state and local organizations to address this “food insecurity” by offering summer food programs, but this may seem like a daunting enterprise for small, rural, and/or understaffed libraries.

Caroline County Public Library, one of eight rural Maryland libraries that my organization serves, began offering a summer food program last year. I decided to interview Amanda Courie, Youth Services Manager, to find out how this kind of program can work on a smaller scale.

Amanda, I understand that Caroline County Public Library is a small system. How many full time staff members are there? How many of them work in youth services?

“We are a small system!  We serve a county of about 33,000 people on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore.  We operate a Central Library and two small branches.  There are 15 FT employees and 8 PT.  I am the only one who works full time in Youth Services.  I have one FT employee who is our Early Childhood Unit Manager; about 50% of her time is in Youth Services, and 50% is spent staffing the branches and the Information Desk.  Then there are three PT employees who contribute to Youth Services along with staffing our public service points.”

How does your summer food program work, and what made you decide to launch it?

“Our decision to launch the summer food program grew from a growing awareness nationwide and in our county of the number of families facing food insecurity. According to the MD Food System Map, produced by Johns Hopkins University, 40.2% of children in our county qualify for free lunch, and 11.1% of the total population is considered food insecure

We know that children rely on school meals throughout the school year, and that summertime is a big challenge for families who are food insecure.  Our local Parks and Recreation Department runs summer camps throughout the county for five weeks out of the summer, and these sites double as Summer Meals Sites.  Our concept was to help fill in the gaps not covered by this program, both for the other five weeks of summer vacation, and for the children who weren’t enrolled in the summer camps and couldn’t make it to those sites.

Looking at our resources, especially as far as having a small staff, we decided to serve an afternoon snack at our Central Library, Monday-Friday at 2PM, for 10 weeks in the summer.” 

Which organization(s) do you partner with to make this program possible? Has this program led to any new partnerships?

“We partner with our local school system, Caroline County Public Schools.  They make all of the registration and reimbursement arrangements with MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education), who in turn participates in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program We received training from our school system’s food service program to ensure that we were following USDA guidelines.  They also prepared the menus for us, making sure that we were meeting the federal nutrition guidelines.  Once a week I picked up food and drinks from the food service workers at an elementary school about a mile from the library.  The school system handled all financial aspects of the program; there was no cost to the library and very little paperwork. 

We have partnered with our school system on many projects before, and we even share an ILS with them, so I can’t say that this program led to new partnerships.  But it certainly enriched the partnership we do have with them, and they were happy to assist us in our efforts to serve nutritious snacks to children over the summer.”

What have been the benefits and drawbacks of the program? Have there been any surprises?

“When we went into the program, we assumed that the biggest benefit would be that kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a healthy snack over the summer would be able to come to the library and get it.  That certainly has proven to be true.  However, the biggest surprise, and another big benefit, has been the enhanced connections that we have formed with the kids who eat snack daily.  In most cases, these are library “regulars” who spend a large part of their summer at the library.  In past years, inevitably they grow restless by early afternoon are were often asked to leave for the day due to behavior issues—being too loud; running; fighting with each other.  However, when we started serving snack every day, we noticed a drop in behavior issues.  Early on, we made a practice of sitting with the kids while they ate, chatting and getting to know them.  These connections proved to be invaluable in providing a positive library experience for them over the summer.  Now, whenever I’ve seen these kids in the library during the school year—even last fall—they ask if we are serving snack again this summer.

I will be honest about the drawbacks of the program.  Since we do partner with the USDA Summer Meals program, we must follow their very stringent guidelines on both what to serve and how to serve it.  There is no flexibility to offer kids a variety of choices, or to give hungrier kids “seconds”.  All participating children must receive one of each item offered to make a nutritionally complete snack.  If they don’t eat it, it can go on the “share table”, but after that if no one takes it by the end of snack time, it must be discarded.  While we understand these guidelines, it was still difficult to get used to this procedure.  However, we decided that partnering with this program was the only sensible way for us to serve safe, approved, subsidized snacks to children.”

Do you have any advice for libraries who are interested in starting summer food programs (especially other small and rural libraries)?

“I would encourage libraries, particularly small, rural libraries, to look into partnering with an agency who is familiar with USDA guidelines and enthusiastic about extending Summer Meals services to more sites.  I would also recommend planning to offer a summer food program that is realistic with the staffing levels available.  Summer is already an extremely busy time of year for library staff, so offer a program on scale with your resources.  Having said that, we have found that our summer meal program is extremely rewarding and helps fill the summertime gap for children in our community facing food insecurity.”

To find out more about offering a summer food program in your library, contact your local school system, or reach out to your statewide USDA School Meals liaison.

Rachael Stein is the Information Services Manager at Eastern Shore Regional Library in Salisbury, MD.

The post Food in the Library? An interview with Amanda Courie about Summer Food Programs appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Poetry Timeline: Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa, Hooray!

Poetry School Visit photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Poetry School Visit photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Do you have poems swirling in your head?  Do you have one poem memorized that you share every day with someone new in the library?   Do you dress up during poetry month?  Have you created a poetree display? There are so many amazing fun things to do during poetry month!  This year, I switched up my school visits a bit and added a poetry timeline. The poetry timeline works great with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.

Below are two options for adding poems to your timeline-Movement: Day 1 and Historical Events.

Historical Events Poetry Timeline: Before your school visit, create your poetry timeline on a huge piece of colorful paper using makers or paint. Select a series of interactive poems that match up with a specific date. For example, Velcro by Maria Fleming invented in 1955. Start with a really really early date and end with 2016.  Add between 7-12 poems with a variety of dates. (This will change depending on your school group size and how much time you have.)

Sample Historical Poetry Timeline:
1753 Liberty Bell by Linda Sue Park in Amazing Places Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
1912 Fenway Park by Charles Waters in Amazing Places Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
1958 Art Kane’s famous photography Harlem, 1958 in Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photography by Roxane Orgill

Recommended Poetry Books for Historical Events:
28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr.Shane W. Evans (Illustrations)
Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Editor), Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator), Christy Hale (Illustrator)
Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World by Jan Greenberg
Pritelli (Illustrations)Rutherford B.,
Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents by Marilyn SingerJohn Hendrix (Illustrations)
World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of  by J. Patrick LewisAnna Raff  (Illustrations)
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by Ekua Holmes.
Voices : Poetry and Art from Around the World by Barbara Brenner
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick LewisMichael Slack (Illustrator)

Day 1 Poetry Timeline:

Day 15 - walk, crack, dance, pop, and fly. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Day 15 – walk, crack, dance, pop, and fly. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Hold your school visit either in the classroom or wing/meeting space, use a white board or bring in big pieces of butcher paper.  Have the classroom or group select a day-Day 1, Day 22, Day 245, or Day 6,780. Have fun selecting the number.  Let’s start with Day 1.  Have the teacher assist with writing the poems on the timeline after you read them.  Students will select (yell out) where the poem will go and what time of day the poem should happen. For example, after reading the poem “A Smoothie Supreme,” students might select the poem to start at 6pm.  Write the poem and time on your timeline-6pm A Smoothie Supreme by Deborah Ruddell.  After-this is the best part! – read together and act out each motion-Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa (roller coaster noises while pretending to ride a roller coaster up, down and around.) Hooray, yells the group together.

Tell your group the name of the poem again and remind them what the action is that matches up with each poem and book.  This is a great way to introduce new poets like Deborah Ruddell, Julie Paschkis, Bob Raczka and more!  The poetry timeline creates interaction and movement.  You will be loud, be silly and be smiling.

 Day 1 Poetry Timeline
8:30 a.m. – Snake by Julie Paschkis (Slither-ssssss)
9:00 a.m. –The New Running Shoes by Fran Haraway (Run!)
11:00 a.m. –21 Things to Do with an Apple by Deborah Ruddell, (Crunch)
12:00 p.m. –A Bird in the Bird Feeder by Judith Viorst-Spring Haikus (Flap!)
6:00 p.m. –A Smoothie Supreme by Deborah Ruddell (Slurp!)
7:00 p.m. –Roller Coaster by Joan Bransfield Graham (Aaaaa!)
8:00 p.m.-Arrival of the Popcorn Astronauts by Deborah Ruddell (Hooray!)

Poetry Timeline Popcorn photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Poetry Timeline Popcorn photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Have fun with each timeline by adding illustrations-markers, pencil drawings or cut-out magazine collages.
You can also create a seasonal poetry timeline-fall, winter, spring and summer or theme poetry timelines-Sports, Animals, Food-so many options.
For more poetry ideas, explore past Poetry Paige ALSC blog posts.
Please share your school visit ideas and photos below (especially, if you dress up during poetry month.)





The post Poetry Timeline: Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa, Hooray! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Summer Reading Program

SPLC-Committee-Wordle-300x240It’s almost the end of March, and it’s time to start thinking about Summer Reading Program outreach! Contacting local school administrators now is crucial, otherwise your messages to them may get lost amidst the end-of-the-school-year chaos. It also helps to be flexible; preparing options can help you accommodate various schools, as well as their varying schedules. If you’re new to this, or looking to spruce up or expand your outreach, here are some suggestions:

Skits can engage your audience and explain some of the basic program logistics to a crowd. However, skits require more time for planning and performing. If a school isn’t able to accommodate this, consider videotaping your skit and asking them to show it to individual classes.

School Assemblies
If a skit isn’t feasible, ask the principal for 5-10 minutes to briefly (but enthusiastically!) promote the program.  Some schools may have end-of-the-year assemblies already planned and may be willing to squeeze you in.

Find out if any local schools regularly send out newsletters to parents. If so, asking to include a brief blurb is just one more way to promote the program.

Create a flyer to be sent home with each student, perhaps with their final report card (ensuring every student receives one). Making and delivering the copies directly to the school is especially helpful for them.

Faculty Meetings
Promoting the program directly to teachers is another great way to get the word out. It’s also a great opportunity to remind teachers of the various library resources available for them year-round.

Regardless of how you promote the program, remember to be creative, informative, and on theme! And while you don’t want to bog your audience down with details, giving them certain highlights or teasers can help pique their interest and curiosity.

The reason for outreach is to promote the quality programming and reading initiatives provided by public libraries each summer. In your planning, don’t forget that many schools create required reading lists for the break. Public libraries can help local schools by making the lists available at their branches, as well as stocking copies of the actual books. After all, collaboration is a two-way street!

Anna Brannin is the school librarian at Saint Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and coordinates the summer reading program for her local library system. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Summer Reading Program appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Let’s Talk

We know school collaboration and outreach
to schools are both important.  SPLC-Committee-Wordle-300x240But how often do we take the time to stop and talk about the specifics? Why is it a priority and how are we building these important relationships?

Here at the Sacramento Public Library, we spent our February Youth Services staff meeting discussing school outreach, and outreach priorities.  When asked what topics they would like to see more training and discussion on, the most requested topic was building relationships with schools. It was also identified as one of the most challenging aspects of outreach for staff. Why not take a moment in the lead-up to summer to talk with your colleagues about your strategy for building relationships with schools?

Some conversation starters to consider:

  • How do I get in the door?
       This deceptively simple question can be one of the biggest challenges. With frequent staff changes, how do we begin to build those meaningful relationships? We respect that our teachers and administrators are incredibly busy, which can make connecting a challenge, especially where our school libraries are no longer staffed. It’s worth taking the time to go over the basics, especially with any new staff, and to look at any specific or even unexpected successes you’ve had in the past.
  • What are the expectations for outreach?
       It can be overwhelming for someone new to their position to determine priorities. Knowing what the expectations are, whether it’s a number of visits, a number of schools, or identifying an under-served group can help staff at every level feel confident in their relationship building.
  • What exactly do we do?
       Best practices for school outreach are an easier topic to address compared to the more strategic considerations. From book talks to assembly skits, a wealth of information is available. But for a new staff member, or someone attempting to approach a new audience, taking the time to speak specifically and directly about what a successful visit might look like will provide a valuable example.
  • How do I schedule time for outreach? How do I prioritize outreach?
       We serve fourteen different school districts in our county, which leads to a range of demands on staff time. When every open house in the district is held on the same night, how do we choose which to attend?
  • What are the expectations for support from branch staff?
       This question is key for expanding our capacity to build relationships outside our branches. From staff creating library cards for card drives, or identifying teachers who come in as patrons, supporting outreach efforts to schools is everyone’s responsibility.
  •  What outcomes do we want from our school outreach?
       The ALSC Core Competencies, the YALSA futures report, and your library’s strategic plan can all help shape your intended outcomes for school outreach. Determining your targeted outcomes supports prioritizing for staff at all levels of experience. Fine-tuning your message ahead of time allows you to be direct and efficient, which busy educators will appreciate.

Just one meeting was not enough time for all the conversations we need to have about school outreach, but being intentional about taking the time to address these topics was a valuable start. How does your library make time for these conversations?

Amanda Foulk is the K-12 Specialist for Sacramento Public Library and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Let’s Talk appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. The Importance of Outreach for Libraries

At the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) we push beyond our library’s walls to reach our community through outreach. Outreach is simply defined as “the extending of services or assistance beyond current or usual limits,” and can take all different forms (Merriam Webster). From visits to senior living communities to staffing a library booth at local events, we try hard to be visible and active in our community, meeting people where they are. In fact, many of these activities are regularly scheduled on an annual calendar. One particularly strong example is the relationship we have developed with area preschools.

A few years ago our community underwent a dramatic change as our library’s school district shifted from half-day to full day kindergarten. This had wide and far reaching consequences for our early literacy program. Suddenly, our preschool storytimes were empty; programs that used to draw crowds of preschoolers were suddenly down to just a few attendees. We realized that the school district’s shift had propelled more parents to enroll their 4 and 5 year olds in half day preschools, in order to prepare them for the full days of kindergarten ahead. As a result, many of our patrons were no longer available to attend morning storytime programs.

When things change, you have to re-assess what you are doing and adapt. We tried a number of options including rebranding and promoting the programs, changing the times to afternoon, and offering them on weekends. Some of these options worked well and others just didn’t pan out. Our plain old preschool storytime, for example, never recovered. So we stopped doing it. That’s right, we no longer offer a traditional preschool storytime program, because people stopped coming to it. This was a difficult decision to make, as I felt that preschool storytime was an essential service, but continuous assessment of the program demonstrated that it was no longer meeting a community need. Instead we got creative, offering unique twists on traditional storytimes like offer signing storytime and yoga storytime for preschoolers, both of which draw crowds.

We also decided to dedicate a good chunk of our time to going out and meeting the rest of the preschoolers were they are: in school. Every other month I visit approximately 9 preschools and read to over 300 children. You may be thinking “wow, that’s a lot of time outside the library”, and it is, but our efforts are worth it. In every outreach visit I am building a stronger relationship with the children, the teachers, and administrators. These bi-monthly outreach visits also afford us the opportunity to send letters and flyers home to families, reaching audience who might not be utilizing the library and reminding them of what we have to offer. One day, I was sitting at my desk and a woman approached me asking, “Are you Miss Stephanie?” When I confirmed, she told me that her daughter had come home from preschool, talking all about my visit and how she wanted to come to the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) to see the books and toys and spaced I had described. I have seen them in the library almost every week since then. This is just one example, of how powerful these visits can be.

I wanted to share the outreach we do at our library, because we feel it is an integral part of the programs and services we provide to families, regardless of the fact that it takes place outside the library’s walls. Are you doing outreach to the community? I’d love to hear your success stories in the comments.


Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Stephanie C. Prato. Stephanie is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL), NY. With experience in youth services, community outreach, leadership, instruction, and technology, she has developed innovative programs for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. She is an active member of the American Library Association and serves as a member of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her [email protected].

Please note 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 [email protected].

The post The Importance of Outreach for Libraries appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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8. Caldecott Library Programs with Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Did you offer a Caldecott art program at your library?  As soon as the winner was announced, I started thinking about outreach art programs.  Yellow paper! Bears!  Zoo maps! Diamond shapes! So many possibilities.

Whether you have five minutes or 45 minutes, below are a few ideas and resources to get you started.

A pop-up school outreach Caldecott program with Finding Winnie. Place the book on display, create a huge bear picture on yellow poster paper or keep the yellow paper blank and have each child draw their own bear.  If you have 15-20 minutes, read Finding Winnie by Sophie Blackall and ask questions about the drawings.  For example: What kinds of materials did Sophie Blackall use in her illustrations?

Imagination time!  What if you had a pet bear?  What would you name your bear?  Favorite food? What would you teach your bear?  Favorite game to play with your bear?  Draw out each answer on yellow poster paper for display.  For a longer visit, 30-45 minutes, use the resources below to add history, black and white photographs, science, art and more!

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Supplies: photographs of bears, yellow, white and black paper, pencils, black markers, crayons (watercolor paints if available), bear puppet, tablet to share youtube and audio, one big piece of yellow poster paper.


  • Lindsay Mattick
    “Learn more about Lindsay’s new book, Finding Winnie, and view images of Harry & Winnie from the Colebourn family archive.” Remember the real Winnie through photos, videos, and exhibits.
  • Sophie Blackall
    Discover the research Blackall did and how she made the illustrations for Finding Winnie from her blog “The Making of Finding Winnie-Part 1-4.”

“Some of the best stories are true stories.” Lindsay Mattick.

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

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9. 13 Ways to Champion Literacy: Babies Need Words Every Day – The Blog Tour!

Well, friends, we here at the Public Awareness Committee hope that you’ve been learning A LOT by reading the daily entries in the Babies Need Words Every Day Blog Tour this week. As a refresher, you can find a link to all of the posts here from Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee chair Brooke Newberry.

BNWEDBlogTourOur committee is tasked with wrapping up the blog tour by sharing some simple, high-impact ways in which you–yes, YOU!–can get these amazing resources created by the Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee out into your library and your community at large. Many of these are field-tested, so you know they’re legit. So challenge yourself to be an early literacy advocate in the next few weeks by doing one (or more!) of the following.

13 Ways to Champion Early Literacy using Babies Need Words Every Day Resources

1. Send the posters home with your storytime parents with the specific invitation to share it with a friend who can’t make it to storytime.

2. Next time you head to a preschool or daycare for an outreach visit, bring some of the posters with you for the center to hang in their halls or lobby. Bonus: Share the link to the posters so the center can print their own and send them home with families!

3. Give your local child-serving establishments a call and ask if you can bring some posters to them to display on their community boards and/or above changing tables. Bonus: Create a small banner to hand below the posters to advertise your library!

4. Think of existing service bundles that you offer to young families and add a poster and the book list to the mix. For example, the Lake Oswego Public Library has “new parent” gift bags that they give to patrons who have babies under 6 months old. Each bag contains 4 board books, a brochure about the library, and Babies Need Words Every Day literature and a poster.

5. Share the posters and other resources on your library’s social media platforms.

6. Share the link to the Babies Need Words Every Day page on your local library and early childhood listservs. Work those networking connections!

7. Share this very blog post, and the others from the tour, with your supervisor and ask that Babies Need Words Every Day be one of your initiatives for 2016.

8. Send a personal note, along with a poster, to your community contacts who may have influence and connections that can give the posters wider use.

9. Make it a goal to include each of the four poster practices in your next four baby storytimes.

10. Reach out to your local newspaper and other news sources to see if they’d cover the library’s early literacy initiatives, making sure to include Babies Need Words Every Day resources.

11. Hang the posters over changing tables. Use the Changing Table Locator website to find changing tables at establishments in your community frequented by families, then head to those locations with poster and tape in hand. Add any changing tables you visit to the locator if they aren’t already included.

12. Think of existing programs you do, both in-house and outside, and think of a way to work in the posters and the practices they tout. For example, if your library offers parent-baby classes at a hospital, bring some posters with to share with families and hang up in the waiting room.

13. Think creatively about where families in your community spend time, then bring posters to those locations. Think community centers, transit stations, laundromats, doctors’ offices, the post office, the DMV, banks, parks, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping centers… truly, families are everywhere, and early literacy support can be, too!

How have you been inspired to promote early literacy throughout this week’s Babies Need Words Every Day blog tour?


This post was written by the Public Awareness Committee.

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10. On the Road Again, Reaching Out

One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow . . . [and] no one could wait for the holidays to start.

–J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The writing's on the wall at the Central Children's Library in Denver!

The writing’s on the wall at the Central Children’s Library in Denver!

As the days get shorter and colder in the northern hemisphere and the holidays arrive, it’s been a busy season!

A couple of weeks ago I was in Denver (where it’s already snowed about as much as at Hogwarts) reaching out to those gathered for the LENA Research Foundation conference (#lena2015), the theme of which was “Parents Have the Power: Solving the ‘early catastrophe’ through science and parental investment.” It was an ideal opportunity to share the work ALSC is doing with Babies Need Words Every Day and in our partnership with PLA on Every Child Ready to Read, and I joined a panel with a pediatrician, health policy professor, and early learning innovator to discuss what each of us can bring to the work of making sure children are ready to read. Dr. Dana Suskind, author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, gave the conference keynote, and we also heard from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading; Kara Dukakis, Director of Too Small to Fail; and Carine Risley, Library Services Manager at San Mateo County Library in California. I was delighted to be joined by children’s librarians from across Colorado, and of course it’s always fun to visit the Denver Public Library, where I saw many piles of cardboard (have you read Amy Seto Forrester’s recent post yet?) and many, many instances of kids talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing—thanks Ann Schwab, Rachel Hartman, and Lauren Dennis! (You can see all of the conference presentations here.)

The sign says it all!

The greeting at the Bangor airport


I’m most grateful to ALSC member Louise Capizzo (@Lcapizzo) for inviting me to be a part of this year’s Maine Library Association Annual Conference in Bangor where I was lucky enough to present a keynote about ALSC’s work, entitled “The Future: Moving Forward, Reaching Out, Giving Back.” I had an absolutely fantastic time and was thrilled to be joined at the conference by my ALSC Board colleague Vicky Smith, as well as ALA president Sari Feldman, right off the plane from the Sharjah Library Conference, who inspired us all with her Libraries Transform message.


Paul Bunyan greets MLA conference attendees on a beautiful Maine morning.

Paul Bunyan welcomes MLA conference attendees on a beautiful Maine morning.

On this trip my #ALSCtour took me to the Brewer Public Library and I arrived just as storytime was wrapping up and the whole building, parking lot, and playground (the library has their own) was filled with happiness! Many thanks to director Katie Conner, children’s librarian Shelley Arnold, and all of their wonderful colleagues for all they do for the kids of Brewer, Maine every day!

Miss Shelley hangs a Babies Need Words Every Day poster in the children's room.

Miss Shelley hangs a Babies Need Words Every Day poster in the Brewer Public Library’s children’s room.

And December may be icy at Hogwarts, but it’s warm and sunny in Puerto Rico, which made this the perfect time for me to visit and–even better!–get to work with 2010 Belpré Honor winner Georgina Lázaro León to film a promo for next year’s 20th anniversary of the Pura Belpré Award. Working together with our Belpré partner, REFORMA, we shot it on the grounds of Escuela Central de Artes Visuales, the building where Pura Belpré attended high school in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood, which is where she lived until moving to New York in the 1920s and going on to be the first Puerto Rican librarian at New York Public Library. Stay tuned for the final cut of our video and in the meantime save the date for the Belpré celebración at ALA Annual in Orlando on Sunday, June 26, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Yours truly & Georgina Lázaro León, ready for our close-up

Yours truly & Georgina Lázaro León, ready for our close-up

This is one among many, many wonderful things coming in 2016 as we all continue to work together to build a better future for children though libraries!

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11. Rochester Reading Champions: Literacy Tutoring for Every Community

RRC logoIn 2013, Rochester Public Library (MN) met with local organizations and community groups to figure out a way to work together to increase literacy rates. From these meetings a unique and sustainable program, called Rochester Reading Champions (RRC), was created.

This tutoring program reduces financial, transportation, and other barriers by training volunteers to offer free and targeted one-on-one Orton Gillingham tutoring to underserved individuals who are struggling to read. Orton Gillingham is a proven tutoring method requiring intensive training.

Through a partnership with The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota, we currently  have 13 volunteers actively working with students. Through September 2015, these highly trained volunteers provided 450 free tutoring sessions. To date, 18 youth and adult students have participated in RRC.  Interim assessment results from 2015 show that students in RRC, who attended between 10-50 sessions made average gains of 20% in vowel sounds, 17% in consonant comprehension, and 32% in phonogram comprehension. This early RRC progress is very exciting!

Four innovative elements contribute to the success of RRC. First, Rochester Public Library worked with key partners to identify gaps, barriers, and local resources. Partnerships were created with local organizations committing staff time and other in-kind support. Second,  RRC relies on volunteers willing to commit to the intensive training and two years of tutoring. By investing in training for 8-10 new volunteers each year, RRC increases the number of tutors to meet the needs of our expanding community. Third, to reduce financial, transportation, and other access barriers for the students, RRC provides unduplicated and free tutoring to underserved struggling readers at the sites they already visit. Fourth, RRC students receive individualized lesson plans, twice per week for 45 minute sessions. With a standard intervention plan of 80-100 tutoring sessions, this intensive strategy produces at least a 20% improvement of skills.

Partners developed RRC to be sustainable within five years. Any community with strong civic involvement can provide a similar system by adapting RRC’s methodology (i.e. volunteer recruitment form, student in-take criteria, parent questionnaire, partnership agreement, assessment process, and evaluation plan). RRC is designed to be scalable and replicable for any community!

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12. 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.

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13. RPL BookBike: A Wheelie Good Season

Sarah on sidewalkIn May, I wrote a blog post about Rochester Public Library’s new BookBike program. Now that we are waiting for the snow to fall here in Minnesota, it seems like time to update you on our wonderful BookBike season.

The BookBike program took a lot of planning, details, money and scheduling magic. It took us 9 months from the moment we had this bike-tastic idea until we started our outreach schedule; we worked through a single spaced to-do list that was five pages long and involved people from every division of the library. It has been worth every bit of effort that we put into it. So many great things happened out there on the road, where we met people who had never been in our building, where we made connections with kids about reading and biking, and where we shared information and provided access to resources and services. It was a wheelie good time. I’ll stop with the the bicycle puns here. I promise.

We had the BookBike IMG_0009on the road from late April through September. We carried books for check-out, incentives (bike lights, water bottles, sidewalk chalk, bubbles), technology (iPad running Sirsi Mobile Circ, scanner and wifi hotspot), library information (program schedules and brochures), community resource information, and bicycling and safety equipment (spare tubes, first aid kit, sunscreen, etc.). While out at a BookBike stop we signed customers up for library cards, checked out books, talked up library programs and spaces, provided e-book and digital support, and handed out incentives.

We purchased a collection of materials just for the BookBike and shadowed it in the library catalog. We wanted customers to have access to some of the newest and most-popular Spine labelitems when they visited the BookBike. We created our own spine stickers in house to make sure they didn’t get confused with other items in the collection and could make their way back quickly to the BookBike collection storage.

Our outreach schedule was pretty hectic, we had the BookBike out (weather permitting) from five to seven days a week over the summer months. We kept the BookBike within a one-mile radius of the library, which is located in our downtown area. We set up at Honkers baseball games, Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, Rochester Pride Fest, RochesterFest, Art on the Ave and many, many, many local parks.

Seventeen staff volunteered to ride the BookBike and were provided with training on bicycle safety, the Mobile Circ application and general outreach. We also relied on many partnerships to provide us with specialized training, support and opportunities to set-up and meet customers.

Eric & Laura on 2nd StreetWe emailed surveys to everyone who checked out materials during our grant period which ran through June 2015. Of the 59 people who completed the survey:

  • 54% indicated that they learned something new about the library at the BookBike
  • 98% rated their experience at the BookBike as good to outstandiBack displayng.

For April through September we attended 113 events, had 5,696 visitors, answered 1,172 questions, checked out 697 items and created 60 new library cards.

We are already  making plans for next year for  marketing, outreach, collection development and staffing. We learned a lot and will put all that we know to good use as soon as warm spring weather arrives.

The BookBike project was funded in part with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, through a Community Collaboration grant from Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO).

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14. Anime Club 2.0: How Teens Can Do More Than Watch Anime

Last month, I started an anime club at my branch library because anime is still, and always be, popular. In fact, we had six teens show up to the very first meeting and, needless to say, they are super excited to be a part of this program. During our first meeting, I asked the teens what they want to see in anime club and the first thing they asked me was: “Can we do more than just watch anime? I literally screamed “YES!” because I have every intention of diversifying this program and I will definitely need the teens’ help in making this club thrive.

During our discussion about the club, the teens asked for a variety of programs that would include a cosplay event, a history of manga presentation, a Japanese food program, an anime inspired craft workshop, and other programs that celebrate the Japanese culture. Not only are these ingenious ideas, these will transform an already popular program into something else even more awesome. By taking a different approach to anime club, and asking teens what they want from a program, we, as teen services librarians, are demonstrating what it is to be innovative. According to the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession, innovation “approaches projects and challenges with a creative, innovative mindset. 1” By changing the concept of anime club (aka. sitting around and watching anime), we are adding elements that have the potential to not only bring in more teens, but help us re-evaluate our approach to programming in general. For example, when starting a new service or program, it is absolutely essential to consult our teens; by going straight to the source, we establish the outcomes we want to reach, which will shape how we plan and implement a successful program. Once we get a consensus of what teens want from programs and services, we need to figure out the best ways to get teens into the library, which is why we need to get innovative with our outreach.

Although many of us use social media and other marketing methods, the one method that we can always rely on is reaching out to our community. Whether it’s a concert venue, a teen center, a school event, or even a college fair, we need to meet teens face-to-face and tell them what services are available. If we don’t have the means, or the opportunities to go out into the community, we can easily apply that idea to every teen that walks into our library. In other words, we need to be vigilant in making sure that every teen is welcome and that we are available to serve them to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we need to do everything in our power to establish some sort of contact with them, which can easily start with “Hi! I am the Teen Services Librarian. What’s your name?” By initiating, and creating an ongoing dialogue with teens, they will realize that there are actual adults who are dedicated to serving them, which is not only great for us, but incredibly beneficial for those who need a safe environment to be who they are and for those who feel the need to be a part of something. With this new anime club, my hope is to not only involve the teens in the planning process, but give them the chance to be involved in the implementation. Whether it’s passing out flyers, using their massive social network to promote the program, or setting up the program, teens will experience all the necessary steps to finish what they started. Anything is possible with teens so let’s give them the chance to show the community their passion and dedication to providing something unique and fun!

Along with consulting teens, their involvement is essential. By working with our teens, we are not just encouraging youth participation, which is defined in The Future of Library Services For and with Teens: A Call to Action report, we are getting the feedback we need to get in touch with our teen community to ensure that we are supporting their interests and needs 2. By hosting a variety of events that celebrate anime, manga, and Japanese culture, teens will not only be able to interact with their fellow anime and manga enthusiasts, their excitement will lead to other programs and services. In other words, the teens who built the anime club will want the library to provide other programs that relate to their interests, so why not create an art program? What about a Sushi making class? How about an animation workshop? Another great aspect about transforming the traditional anime club is that teens will learn how to communicate, and work, with teen services staff and one another.

With every program we plan, it is imperative we implement a component that prepares teens for adulthood. In this case, teens will learn the importance of working as a group, the need to respect each other’s ideas, the need for positive relationships, and the benefits of being organized and thorough. Moreover, teens will have the opportunity to interact with us, which is not only rewarding, but necessary for teens as they develop. According to The Future of Library Services For and with Teens: A Call to Action report, teen services librarians are being asked to build relationships with teens to support academic, career, and civic engagement and growth2. By developing programs with teens, it is imperative that we help our teens develop the skills they will need as adults, which is why programming can be a great teaching moment. More importantly, we need to help our teens build the confidence to follow through with their goals, which is why it’s important that we work alongside them instead of telling them what to do. By giving teens the opportunity, and the tools, to change our services, we are not only telling them that they matter, but their interests and well-being matter as well.

With all of the ideas that the anime club members came up with, I am very excited to see how our anime club will develop. More importantly, I am more excited about getting to know these teens, which will help me help them become civic minded adults who are confident and willing to take on the challenges of this world and are ready to do what they have to do to become successful.


  1. http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/YALSA_CoreProfessionalValues.pdf
  2. http://www.ala.org/yaforum/sites/ala.org.yaforum/files/content/YALSA_nationalforum_Final_web_0.pdf

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15. Check Out Your New YALS!

cover_fall_15As a new member of the YALS Editorial Advisory Board I’m excited about the direction of the journal and how it supports the future of teens and libraries.  I’ve just finished reading the fall issue and I can tell you that there are great, inspiring pieces you won’t want to miss. You’ll see the hashtag #act4teens throughout, and that is the focus of this issue.  How can libraries and library staff work with community organizations in new ways to support and promote youth? What I appreciated about each #act4teens feature is that while each is about a fairly large-scale program, they can all be adapted to libraries and communities of different sizes.

As a public radio fan I was really interested in the piece about Radio Active, an amazing program out of Seattle’s NPR radio station which teaches teens how to create radio stories.  The article clearly outlines how you can implement similar workshops and programs in your own library.  It’s a modern take on connecting people to stories and each other.

The article about Sociedad Latina is a great example of reaching out to cultural communities. It is co-written by a teen involved in the organization, yet another example of how the group promotes teen voices. The third community organization highlighted is LA Commons, a public art project, which also reaches out to cultural communities. Youth are engaged in seeking out stories from the community and conducting interviews. And speaking of cultural connections, be sure to read the update from the Cultural Competence Task Force. This new YALSA taskforce has been hard at work for the past year and the results are outlined here, including links to resources.

Have you ever wanted to be a published author? Or had a great library experience you wanted to share with others? 50 Tips for Writing and Publishing with YALSA has everything you need to know to make that happen.

And, finally,  don’t skip YALSA President Candice Mack’s message about shaking up the status quo in libraries.  Her message is both motivational and practical.  There are new ways to reach out to our communities and connect with youth.  You can make that happen and the fall issue of YALS is there to get you started. 

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16. 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.

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17. Expanded-Learning, Collaborations, and How the Library Can Help

A recent report from America’s Promise Alliance looks at four communities who strove to expand opportunities for their underserved students. With support from the Ford Foundation, these communities leveraged local resources to expand opportunities in a variety of ways.

America’s Promise Alliance is an organization, founded in 1997 with the support from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and previous presidents: Nancy Reagan (standing in for her husband Ronald Reagan), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The organization strives to create places and situations for students to succeed.

Their report, Expanded Learning, Expanded Opportunities, highlighted the community efforts and the six critical lessons gained from the project as a whole. The four communities that were the focus included:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan – they created a new network of community collaborations that worked in their school districts to tutor and mentor students.
  • Louisville, Kentucky – where they sought to expand capacity and participation in their community. Through this expansion, they hoped to raise awareness about programs and resources available.
  • Memphis, Tennessee – where they used innovation from the outside to help their schools on the inside. They called it the “Memphis Model” and had programs such as Peer Power.
  • Rochester, New York – schools redesigned the learning day, incorporating community organizations into the normal school day for expanded opportunities for their students.

From these case studies, I think the biggest lesson they learned was about community collaboration and support. Their first critical lesson is that collaboration is key, but it’s a lot of hard work. However, when you leverage the resources you have and work towards a greater goal, there is a better chance of making a sustaining impact.

That’s where libraries can come in. I’ve written a bit on studies about after-school programs during my year blogging for YALSA. I kept asking questions to libraries in the field about how their libraries could play a role in after-school programming. However, after reading this report, I want to flip that question: how does the library become a key collaborator and partner? How do we engage actively with our community, especially our schools, and find ways to work within a district? How can we help raise and expand capacity within our libraries which will hopefully spread throughout the community? That might mean we need to “turn outward” (the buzzword right now) and do engagement outside the walls of our physical library space.

And YALSA has lots to say on community collaboration. From our Wiki section devoted to partnerships, to simply searching the YALSA blog with the tag of “collaboration” brings up great articles and examples from the past. The idea of collaboration even ties into the national campaign ALA is devoting time and energy to, Libraries Transform. (And even more specifically with ALA’s collaboration with the Harwood Institute, Libraries Transforming Communities).

My experience so-far in graduate school and my work experiences show that engagement works best when you are actively present and willing to listen. It seems in these case studies that community involvement was constant and this will hopefully lead to a sustained effort. What is important is that once connections are made, they still require work to keep those relationships vibrant. Every day we can have the choice to strengthen relationships and that takes time and effort. But as we can see from these case studies, it’s worth it.

America’s Promise Alliance also released a study this October looking at mentorships with high school students. There’s an interesting article from Huffington Post about one of the students who took part in the mentorship and I think this study is a nice compliment to their expanded learning report.

What do others think of these studies and how do you see your library engaging with the community as a whole?

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18. 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 [email protected].

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19. ALSC on the Road in Idaho

Skye: Greetings from the land of famous potatoes! This two weeks ago, energetic and passionate librarians from all across Idaho descend upon Boise for the annual Idaho Library Association Conference. The theme this year was “Libraries Leading the Way,” and what better way to kick it all off than with an early morning keynote address that challenged listeners to adapt and grow in the areas of character development, contextual awareness and competence, since no organization can rise above the capabilities of its leaders.

From lively sessions focused on innovative STEAM programs, to an entertaining and informative guerrilla storytime, to a legislative panel that affirmed the vitality of the library in early childhood learning – there was much at this year’s ILA Conference to excite, challenge, and inspire.

Storytime Parachute

Energetic Youth Services Librarians sharing their parachute knowledge!

What made the conference extra-special, though, was the presence of the ALSC Roadshow booth. Since it is true that an organization is only as strong as its leaders, I am grateful to have had ALSC leaders with the foresight and wisdom to bring the ALSC booth to this year’s ILA Conference. Being a first-time volunteer at the booth was a great way to meet fellow ALSC members, a great way to share the benefits of ALSC membership with those who were not yet members, and a great way to work together to create a better future for children through libraries. Since Gretchen was the one responsible for bringing the ALSC booth to ILA, I’ll turn it over to her to describe the process!

Gretchen: I was already familiar with the ALSC Roadshow and when Dan (Bostrom) told me that Idaho only had 16 members in the state it seemed obvious that having a booth at the conference was a place to start! It was SO EASY to do. I filled out the form, connected with the few members in Idaho over email, Dan sent some handouts to have at the table, and then all that was left to do was to show up and set up! I even cut off my address on older Children & Libraries issues so people could see the excellent journal ALSC members receive.

We set up a schedule in advance to try to get volunteers arranged in time blocks, but once we got there I realized that wasn’t going to work. We just came over during breaks so we could still attend the conference sessions. In times dedicated to networking on the schedule, we’d head over to the booth. By crowdsourcing “staffing” the booth with fellow members, we had much better coverage throughout the whole conference. Unlike some of the other vendors, many conference attendees knew us so they would stop to chat and we had the chance to make sure they know about the Día resources and Babies Need Words posters as well as other other fabulous ALSC programs and initiatives. We encouraged Trustees and Directors who stopped by to make sure someone from their library is a member to get the maximum value of the professional development and support that ALSC offers.

ILA 2015 Roadshow

Enthusiastic ALSC members: Gretchen Caserotti, Skye Corey, Laura Abbott, Stephanie Bailey-White, and Megan Egbert.

Having a booth at our state association conference was an easy and fun way to meet the other members in the state and to help raise awareness of ALSC programs and initiatives. We definitely would like to do it again next year and hope it results in adding a few new members to our roster!

Photos courtesy of guest blogger.


Skye Corey

Photo courtesy of the author

Today’s guest blogger is Skye Corey. Skye is a Youth Services Librarian at the Meridian Library District in Meridian, ID. You can reach her at [email protected]

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 [email protected].

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20. Teen Programming: Building Teen Futures with Community Partnerships

In our last Teen Programming post, we outlined the importance of outreach and how to integrate it into your programming arsenal. Since “outreach” can translate to a wide range of ideas and actions, narrowing it down will help you take your next step towards effective methods of community engagement. This is where partnerships come in! This, however, opens a whole new can of worms. How does one establish positive community partnerships? How do you ensure that your goals aren’t lost in translation? How do I secure beneficial opportunities for teens through partnerships?

When I first began working in my position, I was immediately overwhelmed by the need my community has for the library and its community organizations. During my first few months, I had grand plans to “do it all” and open up so many more opportunity and learning experiences for my community’s teens. What actually happened was that I got burned out and became discouraged. I realized very quickly that I was not going to be able to accomplish many of my goals alone. I needed support from others who were positioned in the community to help me achieve what needed to be done.

So let’s break it down. YALSA’s Future of Library Services report states that today’s teens need libraries to connect them to other community agencies, but how do you establish these connections? Network, network, network! This may sound simple, but community leaders need to know who you are. Start by attending committee and board meetings to get a sense of the issues and climate of your community. PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meetings are another community body that is important to engage with as they are directly connected to the teens that your services will affect. Are there task forces or coalitions that are specifically directed at alleviating a specific need? Don’t be hesitant to insert yourself into the community conversation because you have your library’s resources to back you up. As a library representative in the community, you are an integral voice in the larger network of organizations that are committed to improving the lives of teens. Pinpoint individuals whose resources are in line with your goals and begin a dialogue with them.

When starting this dialogue, how do you make sure that your goals don’t get lost in translation? Communication is so important when you are making efforts to partner with an outside agency. Before any communication begins, make sure that you have your goals and plans clearly defined. What is it that you want to accomplish? What role do you see this partnering organization offering? Additionally, offer your resources and begin a dialogue about how this partnership would benefit both organizations mutually.

How do you make sure that your partnerships bring beneficial opportunities to teens? Last month we discussed ways to discover your community through outreach. During this discovery process, locate areas that your community needs more from your library. Is there a group that’s being under-served? Who can help you bridge that gap? A few months ago, I recognized a gap in the services that we were offering. At the time, we had reached out to just about every group of teens to make sure that our programs and services were reaching our diverse teens’ needs. However, we hadn’t reached out to teen survivors of domestic violence. I made a connection with the director of a local organization that acts as a transitional agency for teens and families who are leaving abusive situations. They offer temporary housing, counseling, and resources to help them take control of their futures and I wanted the library to be a part of this transition. My goal in partnering with this organization was to bring enriching programs to the teens at this facility, as they might not have access to these opportunities during this transitional period of their lives. Upon meeting with the director, my goals were clearly defined and I listened as she described how our organization could benefit these teens. We agreed upon a plan and programs were implemented at their location. We also offered books from our collection that we had discarded. We wanted to give the teens that she serves the opportunity to continue reading since many of them were temporarily not in school. This partnership was a simple way of offering integral library services to a new demographic while still connecting to the larger community.

Ultimately, libraries must work with partners to alleviate their community’s needs. Start small, make connections, and be diligent about following through. YALSA’s Futures Report pinpoints the shift that libraries are experiencing in the 21st century. We have gone from quiet, solitary locations that provided relatively uniform services to spaces, both physical and virtual, that offer a broad range of resources that empower teens and grow their skills, interests, and goals. Partnerships are integral to meeting this standard because they allow us to continue to broaden the services we offer, bridge gaps in your community, and build a better future for teens.

What are your partnership success stories? How do you bridge the gap in your community with partnerships?

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21. Schoolwork

I recently had a meeting with the Elementary Literacy Consultant at our local school board. Our library region covers the same area as the school board, so that is convenient for us (unlike some large library systems that may have more than one school district). I requested a meeting for a couple of reasons– to listen, and to find out how we can get more teachers using our collections. School libraries have small budgets (and library staff in schools is slim). Students still need access to a wide variety of quality books, and we have them! So how do I get them into the classrooms?alsc sign

After my meeting, I had a few takeaways and some work to do. I am preparing an invitation to all teachers at all schools to get a library card. I am trying to make it easy– sending them a registration form and outlining the services we have. Our library offers an “institutional” card to teachers — they can check out as many items as they need for their classroom, and keep them for 6 weeks (our normal check-out period is 3 weeks) — and they do not pay overdue fines. It is a good deal – but only if they know about it!

I also plan to create more online booklists with teachers in mind. I asked for (and received!) a curriculum outline–a simple guide to the subjects that are being studied, for each grade. As new books come in, I can now target them for lists or for adding to my blog, which I started with our own library staff in mind. The new books cross my path before they hit the shelves, and as I am addicted to picture books, I can’t help taking piles of them home and making notes. Now I have new ways to look at these books, and I’ve added a section “Of Interest to Teachers” in upcoming blog posts.

With a new focus on teaching from children’s books rather than textbooks, I see this as a win-win opportunity. I’m always looking for ways to make our collection more accessible to our community, and now I have a few ideas for reaching out to teachers. What do you do? How do you partner with schools? How do you get the books into the hands of teachers and students? Let’s hear your ideas!

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22. Getting Ahead with Head Start

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes.  In fact, did you know that Head Start just realized a milestone 50 year anniversary? This five minute video gives you a quick history of this important community organization.

You can find a Head Start agency in your community by looking at their site locator. Many libraries partner with Head Start sites by sending library staff to the center to conduct early learning story time sessions. Sometimes, a center might have a grant to provide transportation services, so that they can bus students directly to the library for story time or other play based sessions.

One way I like to partner with Head Start is to work with their county based administration office, where I can provide trainings and workshops to staff and teachers, often utilizing resources from ALSC and ALA. Every Child Ready to Read and Babies Need Words are two great examples of program offerings through ALSC that have direct benefit to early education staff members in Head Start centers.

I was recently asked to provide resources to teachers and other staff members at a three day staff training conference for our local Head Start sites. I shared some of my favorite early learning websites: along with examples of activities and books they could use in their classroom settings. Of course, with limited funding, Head Start classrooms love to receive book donations – so I made sure I brought two suitcases worth of new and gently used, like new books for every person attending the workshop to take two books back to use in their classrooms.

Diversity is also an important topic for sites, as many Head Start families come from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. I shared a booklist that School Library Journal published in July 2015, on Diverse Books for 0-5 year olds, with them, as well as making sure that my give-away items included diverse books.

Overall, for a day outside of my building, I got to connect with over 60 staff members from twenty-three of our counties’ Head Start sites, and tell them about early learning programs and services that their community libraries offer, hopefully strengthening and building a solid connection between the public libraries and another early learning organization. Which organizations do you like to partner with in YOUR community?

Lisa G. Kropp works for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System as the youth services coordinator. She has written this post as a member of the ALSC National Organizations Serving Children and Youth Committee.

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23. 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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24. Teen Programming: Turn Community Outreach into Teen Programs

Outreach seems to be the library word-of-the-year as library programs, articles and even job duties add terms like outreach, marketing and community engagement. This past year fellow YALSA bloggers even developed two blog series breaking down outreach in teen services and highlighting how our colleagues are providing outreach services, but how do we connect outreach to teen programming?

While reading YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines I noticed “outreach” wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the first two points about creating programming that reflects teens in your community and aligning these programs with the community’s and library’s priorities; but how do you do this? Through outreach!

Back up. What is outreach? Straight from The Future of Library Services Report, the "envisioned future" of outreach is the:

"Year-round use of a variety of tools, both digital and physical. Includes connecting with stakeholders throughout the community in order to develop shared goals and an implement a comprehensive plan of service that reaches all teens throughout the community.

Librarians leave the physical school library or public library space regularly and provide services to targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other in-school locations) where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space."

So, in order to learn about the identities and interests of community teens and to figure out the community’s priorities, you must “leave the physical library space regularly.” That is step one, which can also be the scariest step. Between desk shifts, collection development, volunteer management and meetings it can seem impossible to find time to travel off site for a couple hours. My only advice here is to do it! Make outreach your priority, let your emails pile up a bit and delegate some duties to your wonderful colleagues and volunteers. Places to start: local schools, community/youth center, youth commission, parks and recreation, community fairs, etc. Invite yourself to back to school nights, anniversary celebrations, the farmers’ market and make connections with people already working with teens.

Step two, while out in the community remember your mission: to learn about your teens’ needs and wants in order to create library programs that reflect those interests. There may be awesome program ideas on Pinterest or on some other library’s event page, but always ask: will that work for MY teens? Gather all those program ideas, keep them nice and safe in your idea folder, then repeat that question: will that work for my teens? If you don’t know the answer, ask them! Ask the teens what they like to do for fun, what they are missing in the classroom, what would make the library more fun. Teens aren’t present? Ask those who are already working with and supporting teens. The high school may need more cultural programs to reflect their diverse students or the LGBTQ center may need updated resources or a safe place to meet. Find these organizations, tease out what the common goals are and align programs based on both organizations’ priorities.

Step three, do it. Are the teens stressed out about college applications and finals? Hold a college workshop or quiet study space. Do they have no place to go after school before parents/guardians get off work? Provide after school clubs to do homework or relax by watching a movie or playing board games. Need more support for personal and/or family reasons? Invite community leaders to speak on these topics and have community resource handouts readily available near teen spaces. Have volunteer hour requirements or need leadership experience? Ask the teens to help brainstorm, create and lead library programs! These programs are not new, but the process of going out into the community before planning them may be.

On a personal note, outreach is my best friend as a new librarian in a new community. I have learned more from visiting the local high school than any survey I have ever sent out. During the first visit I added even more outreach events to my schedule including: a back to school night, the high school’s 50th year anniversary fair and a monthly family storytime -- all held at the high school. In return, I am now connected with the community involvement specialist, school librarian and multiple leadership clubs willing to create new programs and provide volunteers to run them. I am lucky enough to have a very active high school, but if your schools aren’t as responsive find other organizations as excited as you are to work with teens and to provide programs that best fit their unique interests.


How do you connect with your teens and community organizations? What common priorities does your library share with other local organizations? What programs have you created (or could you create) for and with teens based on these priorities?

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25. These Posters Would Look Great in Your Bathroom!

Babies Need WordsALSC has launched Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play. These shareable resources were designed to bridge the 30 Million Word Gap by providing parents with proven ways to build their children’s literacy skills. Babies Need Words Every Day resources include eight visually appealing posters that deliver simple, effective rhymes, games and other suggestions for immediate, enriching ways to communicate with babies.

These free posters are available in English and Spanish, and are ideal for posting above changing tables in child care centers, in doctors’ waiting rooms and anywhere else where children and their caregivers have a moment to talk, read, sing and play. ALSC also provides a book list that suggests some books for parents to request at their local library. Librarians should encourage their community partners to download and display these free printable resources.

Image courtesy of ALSC.

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