Light the Way for the Underserved

Do you have an innovative new program or service that requires funding? Are you looking to serve an underserved part of your community more fully?  The ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved” Grant is a great opportunity for your library!

The Light the Way Grant was formed in honor of Newbery Medalist and Geisel Honoree author Kate DiCamillo. The spirit of the award honors the themes represented in her books.  The award itself consists of a $3,000 grant to assist a library in conducting exemplary outreach to underserved populations through a new program or an expansion of work already being done. So, whether yours is a new idea or one that has already been put into place, your library would be eligible.

The  ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee has the honor of selecting the winner. Special population children may include those who have learning or physical differences, those who speak English as a second language, those who are in a non-traditional school environment, those who live in foster care settings, those who are in the juvenile justice system, those who live in gay and lesbian families, those who have teen parents, and those who need accommodation service to meet their needs.

Be inspired by the impact and the work of the 2014 ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” current grant winner. Don’t forget to check back on the ALSC website for the most current grant application to be available soon!

Posted in Blogger Renee Grassi, Diversity, Grants and Fundraising, Outreach, Special Needs Awareness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Creating Life-Long Library Advocates

I was on Facebook the other day and many of my library friends were posting an article from the Atlantic Monthly called, “Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations.” Interested, I read the article and was excited to see that the millennial generation loves reading. The article shares the results of a Pew research report that studied the role of the influence of libraries on young readers, ages 16-29. “Eighty-eight percent of Americans under age 30, read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older” and they also used the library slightly more than older adults. For a split second, I was ecstatic. I now, finally had proof that all my hard work as well as the hard work and tireless efforts of all my friends and fellow librarians who put in long days planning programs, recommending books, and advocating to parents and politicians, actually worked.

Then I read the following sentence: “At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing – with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.” Only 19% of Millennials say that their local library’s closing would impact them, even though they are using the library as much as older patrons.

Before we throw our hands in the air and call in sick tomorrow, let’s take another look at the facts. We have created a generation of readers who use the library and are reading and utilizing the library more than the generation before them. Unfortunately, they just don’t understand the importance of the library to themselves and to their community.

As everyday advocates, we can fix that. Children do not have political power. They have limited say in decisions affecting their lives, but as we can see with this study, they are the future politicians, community partners, and parents with whom we will be advocating to justify our budget and staff. Instead of trying to convince adults to become library advocates, let’s focus on the youth to create life-long library advocates! As Children’s librarians, we have the unique ability to advocate from birth. The next time you are talking to caregivers about the importance of storytime, be certain to include the children in the discussion. When you find that perfect book for a child, remind them how the library is important to them. Sometimes, we focus so much on the political parts of advocacy, that we forget that it as simple as talking to a child. Who is with me?

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Gloria Repolesk is a Children’s Librarian at the Emmet O’Neal Public Library. She is writing this blog post on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee | Leave a comment

Setting Program Attendance Limits?: She Said/ She Said

Does your library limit attendance to children’s programs, requiring some sort of advance registration? Or are all programs planned with an eye toward accommodating any size group?

In a nod to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, children’s librarians Lori Faust and Kendra Jones debate the pros and cons:

LF: Well, Kendra, I will begin with a very obvious “pro” in favor of pre-registration to a set limit: if staff knows how many people to expect at a program, it is much easier to plan, prepare and purchase supplies without over-buying and wasting those limited budgets.

KJ: True, but limiting attendance can create more work for staff as they will have to take registration, follow up, pass out tickets, etc., plus there is the unpleasant task of informing interested patrons that a program is full.

If we allow walk-ins, we are more apt to have kids attend whose parents do not want to/cannot commit ahead of time and those who do not know the great things the library has to offer until they drop in one day. To then be unable to attend a program is not great customer service.

LF: That’s a good point, Kendra, and we always want to make sure we have some programs that are open to all. I’ve worked at libraries that run things both ways. One did not like us to limit attendance; we had fabulous turn-outs, but because we always had to expect 100+ kids (on a very small budget), we could only offer inexpensive programs that accommodated huge groups. And I found that kind of limiting creatively.

In response to your point that turning people away isn’t good customer service, I’d argue that for some libraries, with limited space perhaps, keeping the crowd to a manageable size can make the experience better for those in attendance. I’ve had complaints from patrons when programs have been very crowded, too!

KJ: I understand how that can be challenging, however, there are other options for programming for large crowds of people. Identical programs can be held back to back, for example. Only one program has to be planned and is then repeated. Not only does this offer patrons more choice in time but allows more patrons to partake in a library program.

LF: That would be a great option, IF…Well, there are several “ifs” depending on an individual library’s situation – can the youth services staff book the space for double the time? Is there enough staff to cover the department and run multiple programs? Is there enough money to cover twice the program? I want to mention, too, that requiring registration for programs doesn’t necessarily mean that patrons get turned away. Often, a program doesn’t “fill up,” but having a good idea of how many kids will attend helps the staff prepare for (and sometimes tweak) the program.

KJ: So true, Lori, that some libraries do not have the resources to do a double header. However, if a program is not getting filled up, perhaps registration is acting as a barrier to one of our most prized resources.

When I worked in a system where registration was required, even with reminder phone calls, patrons did not come for the program. And since they were under the impression that registration was required, there were no drop-in patrons to attend the program, meaning supplies went unused and the program was smaller than intended. Which may not bode well with statistics loving stakeholders who often provide funding for youth programs.

Now we have had our say, but we know there is so much more to this issue! It is your turn to make some arguments for, or against, program attendance limits. Add your thoughts in the comments.

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Our guest bloggers today are Lori Faust and Kendra Jones, who wrote this piece as members of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas | 3 Comments

Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter?

Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language.

Poet Janet Wong said that it’s easy–and vital–to create science literacy moments in the classroom and at the library. The key is to be bold. “Science and technology are accessible to people if they’re not afraid.” As gatekeepers of information, teachers and librarians should embrace the responsibility to expose kids to all subjects. Linking language and science may be a key way to make science more approachable. It doesn’t even have to be an elaborate lesson: just a few science literacy moments a week will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Check out these great resources:

Jill’s post about Thursday’s edition of “The Science of Poetry”

Presenter Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children blog

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s blog and book, The Poetry Friday Anthology.

Posted in Books, Children & Technology, Children's Literature (all forms), Institute 2014, Live Blogging, Programming Ideas, School Library Media Specialist, STEM/STEAM, Students, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Every Day You Do It! #alsc14

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s closing session talk was a great end to the ALSC Institute experience.  In addition to giving us a wonderful peek into her creative process, she clearly identified herself as a lover of libraries and librarians.  She called us “Fairy god-librarians!”  (Time to make new business cards?)

And, you know what?  We are.  That’s one thing that I will take home from the ALSC Institute: the pleasure of meeting colleagues from around the nation who are incredibly generous, dedicated and brilliant.  I hope this is something that you already know and that you hear on a regular basis, but regardless, please take a moment to recognize how amazing you are.  You work so hard and your work has a huge impact on the children and families in your community.  As Pickney said “Every day you do it!”

Posted in Institute 2014, Live Blogging | Leave a comment

Beyond Sensory Storytime at #ALSC14

Renee Grassi led this informative session on serving children (and adults) with special needs. She started off by sharing the rationale behind expanding services to this population: To provide a supportive and inclusive environment for a traditionally underserved group in your community.
She also shared some startling statistics:
Nearly 20% of the US population lives with a disability- about 13% with a severe disability. Only 56% of students w/ autism finish high school, even though there are more than 1 million people w/ autism in the USA.

For those wondering where to begin w/ developing services for people w/ special needs, Renee suggests starting with conversations- get to know people and talk to them about what they need and want. One way to do this is by offering family tour services at the library. This can be available for any family- special-needs or just new to the community or library. They simply make an appointment and have a customized personal library tour with a librarian, just for that family, adapted to their needs and interests. Other ways to find out about community needs include surveys and focus groups.

Renee talked about where to find partners to help your library reach and serve families with special needs: parks, museums, disability organizations, therapists, health centers & hospitals, support groups, special educators & schools, and other librarians who are already working in this area.

Renee described her major partnership w/ her area special-education district- the spedial-ed teachers & specialists provided training and expertise to the library staff, and used their connections to get a community needs survey distributed to the families they serve.

Top 3 library materials requested in that community needs survey were:

  • high interest/low reading level books & booklists
  • chapter books paired w/ audio books
  • more parenting books on special-needs topics

Top 4 services requested:

  • storytime designed for children w/ special needs
  • book discussion for teens & adults w/ special needs
  • eReader & downloading demos
  • social stories about the library- these are first-person stories used to introduce a person with special needs (especially autism) to a new concept or experience.

Next Renee discussed the concept of person-first language: Say “The child with autism” vs. “The autistic child” – or better yet, learn and use their name! It’s important to watch your language even when talking to fellow staff- you never know who hears you, and how disability has affected them.

We talked about ways to adapt existing programs to include children with special needs, and specially-designed programs just for this population. Libraries can offer integrated programs that are open to a mix of ‘”typically-developing” children and those with special needs, or programs that are just for those with special needs- there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and what’s best to do depends on the needs and priorities of the families being served.
One great idea that Renee shared, that I hope to try at my own library, is for when you have a great big noisy program for a large crowd, like a magician or puppet show: ask the performer if they can offer a second, much smaller session that’s adapted to be sensory-friendly. This would mean keeping the lights on, turning the volume on the sound system down, reducing sudden loud noises, and allowing the audience to move around, talk, and fidget with toys. Publicise this extra session as “autism and sensory-friendly” and require registration or tickets to keep the crowd small.

There are many ways to make sure that your library services are accessible and welcoming to everyone, and Renee’s great ideas make an excellent starting point for doing just that.

Handouts from this program:

PowerPoint Slides (available online only)
Presentation Resources
Handout: People First Chart
Handout: Universal Design Checklist

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Using Volunteers to Expand the Walls of the Library

Laurie Willhalm started off this session by telling the history of Books for Wider Horizons, an outreach program of the Oakland Public Library that sends well-trained storytime readers into childcare centers and preschools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. They started with about 3 volunteers and have grown over the past 20 years into a corps to 60 volunteers making 71 weekly storytime visits to 1300 kids at 31sites!

Celia Jackson explained the logistics of how the program works:
They are continually recruiting, in order to replace volunteers who drop out or retire. The m ajority of their volunteers are reached by word of mouth, and they also list themselves on a website called Volunteer Match. Careful screening is key to ensuring that the volunteers area good match for this program and understand the training and time commitments. There is a wirten application with references (which they carefully check), and a phone interview with 4 key questions:
-how did you hear about our program?
-what interests you about this opportunity?
-do you understand the training requirements and volunteer commitments?
-Do your have any questions?
Once recruited, volunteers recieve a binder stuffed with all the info, resources, and paperwork they’ll need, and go through an intensive training institute of 7 session over 3 weeks. All the sessions are required; not only is every element of the training important, but this also weeds out those who may want to vounteer but can’t really committ- if they can’t make all the training sessions, they probably can’t make all of their weekly storytime visits over the long term.

Gay Ducey described the training program- it indeed sounds excellent and intensive! She starts every training session by saying: “Thank your for conisidering your time and your energy spent in the service of the children of Oakland, who deserve the very best that we have.” They teach that the role of a story reader is not to teach- there are plenty of adults in their lives to do that. Their role is to bring joy in reading- to create a special, protected, magical time with books and stories that will make the children associate reading with joy and fun, so that they never stop reading.
Training sessions consist of a brief lesson, a demonstration by a librarian or active story reader, then the volunteers practice what they’ve seen in triads. They get homework to go home and practice. They progress from familiar concepts like reaading alout & singing to more unfamiliar skills like fingerplays. and feltboards. There is a survey of classic and contemporary children’s literature, and lessons on child development. The hardest thing to learn is how to hold the book- the volunteers need lots of practice! Gay says: “Our training is long, and it’s hard sometimes, but it’s fun and entertaining and it moves along at a good clip. Otherwise we might all come down a case of terminal earnestness.”

Randi Voorhies is a longtime Books for Wider Horizons volunteer, who shared her experience in the program. She echoed what Gay had already said: if any of us decide to start a similar program, don’t water down the training! Its length and depth are essential in the volunteers’ success and long-term commitment. talked about her experience.

Laurie Willhalm, in her conclusion, responded to a comment from an earlier session from a librarian who despaired of being able to build a materials collection and volunteer corps on the scale of BWH- “You are sufficient as you are.” Start with what you have and build from there as you’re able.

Laurie Willhalm’s contact info for more information: lwillhalm@oaklandlibrary.org, 510-238-2848

http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/Building%20Walls.pdf

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Aiming for Inclusion Breakout Session at #alsc14

At tonight’s Breakout Sessions I participated in Aiming for Inclusion in Public Library Early Literacy Programs.  Tess Prendergast and Kelly Clark, of Vancouver Public Library, discussed strategies that they initially used in special programs for children with disabilities, but then found to be very useful and appealing to a group of children with a wide range of abilities.  For example, children with special needs often benefit from getting to re-tell a story in several different ways.   Guess what? So do typically developing children!  They brought up some barriers that families with children who have disabilities may encounter with library programs, such as group size and program pacing, and discussed ways they’d tried to minimize these issues.

We got to meet Moe the Mouse and to sing the Pete the Cat song together.  It was really nice to be in a smaller group where everyone was able to participate in the conversation and the lovely Fairyland back-drop didn’t hurt either.  If you want to delve deeper into how to make your early literacy programs more inclusive take a look at Tess’s blog.

Posted in Early Literacy, Institute 2014, Live Blogging, Programming Ideas | 1 Comment