Thoughts from a Library School Student

This week marks the end of my first semester of graduate school; the end felt unreal until I received my grades today. They’re my roller-coaster-photo-finish proof the last five blurry months actually happened, complete with wild hair and shocked expression. If you’re just starting this adventure, fasten your seatbelt and prepare yourself for a wild ride with a few suggestions from a recent first-timer in mind.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING:

Most students I’ve met are also juggling several roles, and online programs allow flexibility for those with a lot of things up in the air. However, the ability to attend class in pajamas can lend a false sense of security; it’s easy to lose track of deadlines and projects when classwork is squeezed in whenever you find a spare moment. I carved out mornings for classwork, and after the kids came home from school, we did homework together. During my lunch breaks at work, homework; after I came home from work, homework. Basically, the semester was homework with real life “squeezed in whenever”. But those hours I’d specifically carved out for school work were sacrosanct (in theory – I’m a parent). Which brings me to my next point…

MOVE IT OR LOSE IT:

When I had pneumonia shortly before the semester began, I asked my doctor how long it would take to recover. She replied it would be a few weeks and joked, “Why, do you have a marathon planned?” I explained I’d soon have a full load in graduate school, plus my part-time job and three kids, so yes, I had a marathon planned. She advised me, as she survived medical school and residency with kids, to make time for exercise. When I asked hopefully if “exercise” included the movement of Dr Pepper or chocolate in hand to mouth, she laughed and said it could at times, but actual exercise would keep me sane. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as I got up and moved for at least 30 minutes a day. Remember the wise words of Elle Woods? “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”

REMEMBER YOUR PASSION:

It’s a safe bet if you’re in graduate school for library science, you want to be there. If you’re exploring the ALSC site and found this post, you’re probably interested in library services for children. Nevertheless, at one time or another during library school, you’ll find yourself wondering why you traded Netflix binges after work for writing research papers until dawn. But then you’ll find that one class or idea that sets your world aflame with possibilities and everything’s touched by the burning to know more. That’s the hope, at least. If your studies haven’t uncovered something yet, then recall what inspired you to be a librarian. Was it a librarian who touched your life? Quirky picture books? Your love of cardigans, cats, or library-cake memes? Suggested pick-me-ups: Neil Gaiman’s “libraries are the future” lecture or Library Journal’s inspiration board on Pinterest.

One last tip:

There might be a learning curve on your ride, but don’t worry. Just lean into it. Embrace the opportunity to grow and stretch your skills, maybe even throw your hands up in the air and scream. It will eventually come to an end and you’ll roll to a stop, amazed you’ve come so far despite how quickly it went.

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Today’s Guest Blogger is Stephanie Milberger. Stephanie is a youth librarianship student in the College of Information at the University of North Texas and children’s assistant at the Highland Park Library in Dallas. You can contact her online at Twitter (@milbergers) or email milbergers@gmail.com.

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

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

Posted in Guest Blogger, Students | Leave a comment

Knitting Club for Tweens – a step-by-step how-to guide

Hand knitting has been around for arguably thousands of years, though in modern times its popularity has waxed and waned.  Waldorf schools around the world have long recognized that teaching young children handicrafts helps develop their fine motor and analytical skills. The great thing is, libraries can promote knitting, too! Currently, knitting is very popular and many libraries have started their own knitting circles. Here are several reasons to start a knitting circle for tweens at your library and a step-by-step list on how to get started:

Step 1

Start a knitting club for adults. My adult knitting group meets in the evenings right near the children’s area, so we’ve garnered a lot of interest from the kids by simply existing. They want to know all about knitting, how we started, what clothes we’ve made, etc. Most kids ultimately ask if I can teach them how to knit. We have a diverse group of men and women in our adult group, and in turn I’ve had both boys and girls show interest in learning. Having a multifaceted group is a great way to highlight that knitting is not just for women.

Step 2

Find someone who wants to teach kids how to knit. If you are a knitter, it could be you. If not, contact your local knitting guild or meet up group to see if one of their members has an interest in teaching kids how to knit.

Step 3

Gather your materials! You’ll need yarn, needles, scissors, tapestry needles, and knitting books from your collection to get the kids started once they’ve masted the basics of knit and purl. Ask your adult patrons if they can donate materials or reach out to your library friends group for the funds needed to purchase some knitting paraphernalia.

Step 4

Pick a date. I find that knitting clubs for adults tend to be the most successful if they occur at the same time and place weekly, so pick a date and time when your tweens will usually be able to attend. We have our summer knitting club on craft day, the same time every week!

Step 5

Publicize! Spread the word about your knitting club at school visits and outreach, and on library social media and websites. It also helps to reach out to your local knitting guild so they can publicize for you!

Kate Eckert is an artist, knitter, and mother of one. She is also a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at eckertk AT freelibrary.org.

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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.

anodetobooktalking-sm

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).

Posted in Blogger Lisa Nowlain, Outreach, Summer Reading | Leave a comment

Painting with Primaries

Our local school is building a Natural Playground, and they are holding several fundraisers. I was recently asked to be part of a Really Good Idea for a fundraiser, which I think would make a fun library program! The idea, which was hatched and hosted by the owner of our local craft shop, was this: local artists would each lead a classroom in painting a large 2-foot square painting which would then be auctioned off.
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I was happy to find out that I was chosen to work with the Grade Primary class (here in Nova Scotia that translates to Kindergarten). I went with a big flower for them to paint. I had them in groups of 3 — the painting had seven areas to be painted, and I had each group work on a section. I might be biased, but I love our painting the most. I love the colours and the freedom of expression that 4 & 5 year olds are unafraid to exhibit. I really didn’t paint much at all— I gave them tips, and once had to quickly grab a paintbrush from an over-exuberant artist who was about to turn the whole thing into a big smear.

I started in the classroom with a stack of books and talked to them about art in picture books.  I read Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales to them and we talked about the art in that book. Their teacher had been part of some workshops I did earlier in the school year, and she had them looking closely at the art in picture books, so this group of 4-5 year olds were pretty savvy about examining the pictures. We had a lively discussion about the art and how everyone can do art. I was impressed that they were able to determine the medium, and talk a little about shape and colour.

I love to combine literacy with art lessons, and this project – and a Caldecott honour book – allowed me to do that. We also did a really great painting which will help raise money for a playground that will further their learning in the great outdoors. IMG_1401

So— to turn this into a library program, you could buy several large canvases (you can get them for a pretty decent price at dollar stores these days). Draw the outlines on the canvases, and have your program participants paint them in, using acrylic paint (again, a fairly inexpensive investment at dollar stores). These could hang in the children’s area, could be donated for charity fundraisers, or you could auction them as library fundraisers. Add a few books on art and a few art picture books, and you’ve got yourself a fairly simple, low-cost program that kids will remember each time they see those paintings. Host an art show in your library and you’ve got another program that will draw in the families of the kids who did the paintings. Art and literacy. They make good companions.

Posted in Blogger Angela Reynolds, Collaboration, Early Literacy, Programming Ideas, Slice of Life | Tagged | 1 Comment

Preparing for the 2016 ALSC President’s Program

Environments are imbued with ideals and beliefs about the core values of their institutions.  As public libraries move to a more patron-centered approach, library settings become less formal and more available for collaborative and creative practices.  This year, ALSC President Andrew Medlar will share his vision for active and child-centered learning spaces throughout American Libraries at his Charlemae Rollins President’s Program:  Libraries: The Space to Be. 

Chicago Public Library is the home of Charlemae Rollins, and here at CPL, we see it as our role to enliven the spaces in our children’s rooms in order to encourage and promote what Fred Rogers called “the work of childhood” play-based learning. By creating meaningful and child-friendly spaces, we serve children and their families more deeply.  It is our goal to create active learning spaces that are a meaningful educator for our children and our communities.  Our libraries are considered pioneers in incorporating STEAM opportunities for child and parent engagement, and we are designing space across our system to meet the needs of 21st Century children and families.  This means age designated ‘neighborhoods’ areas for creativity, collaboration and lots of ways to encourage moments of sharing.  We believe sharing is learning and we want to encourage that in both formal and informal settings.  As our new flagship main children’s library opens later this year, we will roll out even more ways upon which STEAM, early learning and school-aged families can read, discover and create.

In San Francisco, our libraries are family destinations for discovery and community engagement. As part of the library’s early literacy initiative, we partner with the Burgeon Group to design and embed Play to Learn areas in each location.  These site-specific transformations are beacons of play incorporating colorful interactive panels, multilingual features, developmentally appropriate experiences, fine gross activities, texture and tracing elements all to spark spontaneous conversations and build key literacy skills.  (Stoltz, Conner, & Bradbury, 2014) From nook to cubes and the flagship installation at the Main Library, parents, caregivers and most importantly children know play is welcome at the library.

Successful play spaces are those that engage children’s interest; inspire creativity; allow physical movement; and encourage interaction with both materials in the space and with other children.  Many early childhood spaces are modeled on the Reggio Emilia approach, starting with a welcoming space that is arranged to provide opportunities for children to make choices and discover on their own.  Once children have explored, adults facilitate play around subjects or objects in which the child shows interest. This child-driven model is a natural fit for an active learning setting in a library, where children have free access to a variety of resources from books to toys to art materials.  Research shows that having quality books placed at children’s eye level supports literacy-related activities like those that occur when children play in library spaces. (Neuman, 1999)

The Reggio Emilia approach has also been shown to be equally effective for young children who do not speak English, a situation common in Chicago and San Francisco (Zhang, Fallon & Kim, 2009).  Leslie William and Yvonne DeGaetano note the importance of creating culturally relevant spaces based on children’s own communities in Alerta:  A MultiCultural, Bilingual Approach to Teaching Young Children.

Play is a necessary building block for children’s brain development, along with culture and the creative mindset. (Gauntlett & Thomsen, 2013) It is so essential for life that the United Nations recognizes play as a human right for every child.  Play allows children to explore and experiment with their environments, building synaptic connections in the brain and helping children establish problem solving skills as early as 6 months of age.  The American Library Association-Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) recommends that play be incorporated into library programming, recognizing the direct correlation between play and early literacy.

There are five general types of play that children engage in.  These can all be supported in our libraries, and each type of play supports both children’s general development and literacy in a variety of ways.  These include:

  • sensory play
  • constructive play with objects
  •  symbolic play
  • pretend play
  • rule-based play such as games.

Some of the elements that are shared by both Chicago Public Library and San Francisco Public Library include:

  • Creation of connections and sense of belonging
  • Flexible and open-ended materials
  • Materials that support the ECRR2 practices ( TALK, SING, READ, WRITE, PLAY)
  • Stimulation of wonder, curiosity and intellectual engagement for children and their caregivers
  • Symbolic representations, literacy and visual arts
  • Flexible furniture and arrangements
  • Different levels and heights of displays or tools
  • Nooks to read and/or work
  • Open-ended activities and tools that can be transformed by the child’s interest
  • Places for individuals as well as groups
  • Creation Station and maker areas for encouraging design, exploration and creation
  • Parent and caregiver incubator space
  • Areas and resources for constructive, dramatic and creative play
  • Appealing signage and parent tips to support family learning

As co-chairs, we are eager to have you join us at President Medlar’s Charlemae Rollins President’s Program to learn more about successful elements of library design for 21st Century Kids and hope to see you there!

— Liz McChesney, Director of Children’s Services, Chicago Public Library
— Christy Estrovitz, Manager of Youth Services, San Francisco Public Library

References

  • Stoltz, Dorthy, Marisa Conner, James Bradbury. (2014). The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces. ALA Editions.
  • Gauntlett, David & Thomsen, Bo Stjerne. (2013). Cultures of Creativity: Nurturing Creative Minds Across Cultures. The LEGO Foundation.
  • Nespeca, Sue McCleaf. (2012) The Importance of Play, Particularly Constructive Play, in Public Library Programming.
  • Zhang, Jie, Fallon, Moira & Kim, Eun-Joo. The Reggio Emilia Curricular Approach for Enhancing Play Development of Young Children.
Posted in ALA Annual 2016, Guest Blogger, Library Design and Accessibility | Tagged | Leave a comment

Summer Is Nearly Upon Us: Part 5 of the Attack on Summer Reading

The summer season at our library is just about upon us.  The reading portion will begin June 1st and the heavy-programming begins June 13th.  Though we are busy getting the last pieces of our program’s structure into place for the launch next week, I’m not too busy to take a minute to rant (it comes quite naturally to me!)  You can consider this post, Part 5 of my Attack on Summer Reading series.   If you haven’t been following along with baited breath, the other posts are here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

In April, I talked a bit about the information we gather through registration and reading tracking and what we do with it and don’t do with it.  Turns out, there are some helpful info-bits in there (shocker!)  My library director, who is totally supportive of our switch-up, really wanted us to find a way to track who’s participating all summer-long.  Fair enough.  That is helpful information to have.  But, as you know, I am hesitant (to say the least) to employ any type of registration, so how to do it?  I have been known to have moments of flexibility and we were able to come up with a compromise: kids/teens who get a LEGO to add to our sculpture when they tell us how much they’ve read, will also get a LEGO sticker (on which to write their name) and add to a silhouette/poster that will change each week.  Then, teen volunteers we can tally up who’s been coming all summer. Don’t worry, I see the potential for chaos, but I’m a risk-taker, so bring it on!  I understand that this whole approach may throw our staff into chaos, but I am lucky enough to work with a stellar staff who’s willing to try new things!

Here are some of my big fears questions about how this new approach is going to go:

  • will parents rebel against our no-prize approach and take their kids to the numerous other libraries in our county?
  • will fewer kids spend time reading and will that be a super bad thing?
  • will our ‘tantalize them with in-depth programming’ approach really pique their curiosity enough to cause them to pick up a book?
  • will our weekly camps be too much causing the staff to be totally depleted at the end of the summer?
  • will there be long waiting lists for our camps resulting in disgruntled parents?  (We are capping our camps at fairly small numbers for 2 reasons: we want to offer programs that got deep into a subject; and we want to provide substantial and meaningful exposure experiences which require a small librarian-to-child ratio).

So if I’m not hiding under my desk, you can rest assured I’ll keep the ALSC community posted the answers to the aforementioned questions and on how this whole thing goes, however, I’ll be at ALA next month (woohoo!) and will be blogging on how that whole thing goes!

Posted in Blogger Kelley Beeson, Summer Reading | Leave a comment

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.

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How Tech Focused is Your Summer Reading Program?

The summer months are almost upon us and with graduations, orchestra concerts, and field day happenings the end of the school year is at hand. The ALSC Summer Reading Lists have also just been released and children’s librarians across the country are making final preparations before June.

The start of our Summer Reading this year coincides with the launch of our library’s new website. Since so much focus is being placed on content for the website, last fall the children’s department decided to go old school and keep all the reading logs in the library. We are borrowing from Pop Sugar’s Reading Challenge and asking kids to read a total of 20 thematic books.

This decision has led us to think about other ways of incorporating technology into Summer Reading, after years of having patrons log books, minutes, and reviews online. Many libraries use services like Evanced Solutions (this year it’s the Wandoo Reader) and newer products like Beanstack. Beyond tracking and prize distribution online, what can we do to engage young audiences using technology this summer?

  • Michael Santangelo wrote a compelling piece on downloadable audio. Kids and teens are on the go all summer long and for some travel increases. Are we pushing our digital collections and encouraging this format in our communities?
  • For years we have incorporated Learning Quests into Summer Reading as one method of participating. Each week kids submit answers to trivia questions, email images of themselves in costume, and upload videos of their take on our creative challenges. Perhaps there are additional challenges that can be encouraged in a virtual space, while hosting a more traditional Summer Reading model.
  • It’s hard to avoid video clips from Tasty and Buzzfeed DIY on your newsfeed. Why not use this medium to share library program activities or invite kids to make their own DIY videos in a similar style?

Share some of the methods you are using to incorporate technology into your Summer Reading activities!

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children and Teen Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.

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