Coloring page days of rage + Caption Contest


Original comic by Lisa Nowlain

OK, so clearly this is a rant. Sometimes rants aren’t productive, but sometimes they’re a funny and loud way to start a conversation (especially when they’re not being yelled into your face). As someone who is passionate about open-ended creativity and art, who has studied and practiced art in a variety of formats as well as been a children’s librarian, I do feel passionately about the subject.

Coloring pages are a great child-calmer, and we have some in the library. I’ve recently whipped up a couple that are a little more open-ended and they go like hotcakes, but I’ve also been experimenting with putting out blank sheets and they get filled up even faster!

All in all, there’s nothing wrong with having fond memories of doing coloring pages as a child, and they can be quite meditative. But if we’re going to be intentional with our storytimes – which is so important and I’m so grateful for the storytime warriors who are outlining this so clearly – I say we need to be equally intentional with our crafts and activities. Art has an incredible potential for plugging into early literacy practices and inspiring kids to be confident and self-actualizing, if we let it.

And if we let kids do it! Letting kids get messy, make mistakes, and learn that their work and process are valid are steps to building happy and healthy adults. A recent Opinion piece in the New York Times shows that over-structured classrooms don’t intervene in educational slides, and “Other research has found that early didactic instruction might actually worsen academic performance.” Instead, children need space to play and discover things on their own – and though the article doesn’t touch on them, I believe coloring pages are an example of overly-didactic art instruction. Another study, for instance, shows that creativity is decreasing in American schoolchildren, and points to the lack of freedom kids are given as the main reason. There is a lot of freedom in a blank page and an encouraging adult, and in the informal learning space a library can provide.


At the suggestion of the wonderful ALSC member and former president Mary Fellows, I’m hosting a caption contest (ala the New Yorker) for my next post! Give your best shot in the comments. Winner to be announced next post (sorry, no prizes, just glorious celebration of your wit).

Come up with a funny caption in the comments!

Come up with a funny caption in the comments!

More resources on process art and alternatives to coloring pages:

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

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas | 1 Comment

Managing the Youth Collection: Weed to Thrive

Like a garden, a collection needs to be weeded regularly in order to thrive. Many weeds are beautiful, but left to their own devices they will take over a garden and drown out the things you are actually trying to grow. A library is the same. We must weed out grubby and unwanted items to make room for popular titles, and attractive copies of classics, and other materials to round out our collections.

Just a few grubby items from juvenile fiction

Just a few grubby items from juvenile fiction

When I began in my current library, the collection needed to be weeded badly. Popular items were falling apart, and other items (including a vintage 1983 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles chapter book, which I failed to take a picture of!!) had been sitting so long that glue dust flew from the binding when opened. By the time I finished Juvenile Fiction (chapter books), more than 1500 items were discarded or replaced. Look how pretty the stacks look now!

juvenile shelves post weeding

Do not put off weeding until you are in this situation! Sit down right now and make a weeding plan. Decide the order in which collections will be addressed, and/or assign collections to staff members to focus on.  Determine the criteria you will use for weeding, and how you and staff will regularly fit time into your schedules for this important task. Look at your budget to determine how much money can be allocated to replacing shabby copies, or filling gaps in series and subjects.

Revamped Series Section

Revamped Series Section

If you have a large weeding project like mine, make a plan for how you plan to use the additional shelf space- displays? special pull out collections? a passive program in the stacks? -to get jazzed about the possibly daunting task before you. Motivate yourself and your staff by keeping track of circulation statistics and taking before and after pictures.


Go forth and weed!


Consider these sources for more on weeding:


“Why We Weed” from Awful Library Books.


-The CREW method (pages 69-70 are specific to youth collections) may be especially helpful if you are new to weeding. Keep in mind, however, that depending on your community and the use of your collections, the number of years you allow an item to sit on the shelf may vary. In my library, most juvenile fiction items sitting for more than one year need to be reviewed, as this is a high circulating collection. They may be put on display, or find themselves in the book sale.


Weeding Library Collections: A Selected Annotated Bibliography for Library Collection Evaluation from the American Library Association


Today’s blog post was written by Kendra Jones, a Children’s Librarian at the Tacoma Public Library in Tacoma, WA on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

Posted in Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee, Collection Development | Leave a comment

Film & Books: Pixar’s Inside Out

From l-r, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Joy, and Anger help run Riley's brain

From l-r, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Joy, and Anger help run Riley’s brain

American audiences won’t get to see Disney/Pixar’s latest film Inside Out until June 19th, but the film recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The resulting outpouring of affection for the film from critics and those lucky enough to view it hints to librarians that we may have another summer of children devoted to a specific movie on our hands!

For those who haven’t yet seen the trailer, Inside Out takes an anthropomorphic look at our emotions. The protagonist, a pre-teen girl named Riley, experiences a personality shift when Joy and Sadness (voiced by Amy Poehler and Phyllis from the Office!) get trapped outside of Riley’s brain’s Command Center, leaving Fear, Anger, and Disgust to take over her personality (perhaps this happens to all teenagers?)

Brave Horace by Holly Keller helps children accept their fears.

Brave Horace by Holly Keller helps children accept their fears.

At my library, we tend not to purchase books based on movies or tv shows. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, and we’ve broken it many times before, but though they’ve been in my carts, I haven’t yet purchased any titles related to this upcoming movie. Instead, knowing ahead of time how popular we expect Inside Out to be has allowed us to start to pull together a list of children’s picture books that deal with the same sort of emotions focused on in the film. Books like When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry and Stuck with the Blooz help children explore those conflicting emotions that it can be difficult to talk about, and as a great bonus, we already own them, so we don’t have to buy new books right at the end of our fiscal year!

What are your favorite emotion books for kids? Are you ask excited about Inside Out as I am?


Posted in Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Books, Children's Literature (all forms) | 4 Comments

United Way-Partnerships that create Partnerships

Have you ever wondered-“Where can I get help with a big initiative in my library? Who would be a partner that can stretch beyond our walls and bring more partners to the table?” We have found this partner with our local United Way. With a new focus at the national level, the United Way has changed. With dedication to providing good education, financial stability, and healthy and strong communities, local United Ways are reaching out to their communities more than ever. Our local United Way responded to a county wide assessment that pinpointed three areas that we as a community needed to focus on-Early Literacy, Mental Health, and Low-Income families. The library was a natural partner with early literacy. We now have a partnership with United Way of Medina County that is funding our R.O.C.K.S. Program (Reading Opportunities Create Kindergarten Success). Medina County R.O.C.K.S. is an interactive workshop for parents and their kindergarten-age children. Parents listen to informational speakers while the children enjoy interactive learning and then parents and children complete a reading readiness activity together. Families receive materials to take home to practice, books, and much more!
Our United Way also partnered with us on our One Book, One Community initiative. They came to the table with the idea to collect enough copies of the book Wonder to give to every sixth grader in our county. They did it and collected over 2500 copies of the book. This is where the United Way has been most effective as a partner for us, reaching businesses and making those connections that otherwise we could not. The executive director at the time told me that asking businesses to donate books to kids was their easiest project. It was easy to convince individuals and businesses to support reading, especially a book that has the message of being kind. Choosing this book was our library response to the health assessment that indicated that 17% of the youth in our county in 2012 had seriously considered suicide.
I encourage you to seek out your local United Way and sit down and talk about how you can partner together. It has been a beautiful relationship for both the United Way of Medina County and the Medina County District Library and because of the United Way, we have found new partnerships. Check out their website at

Holly Camino is manager of the Buckeye Branch at the Medina County District Library in Medina, OH. She is serving on the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture Committee, the ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee, 2014-2016, and a Member of the ALA Committee on Membership Meetings 2015-2017. Holly is also a 2013 recipient of the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times and American Library Association, “I Love My Librarian Award”.

Posted in Blogger Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers, Committees, Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

RPL BookBike: Shifting Gears, It’s How We Roll

Keri & Heather on trail

In April Rochester Public Library (MN) launched the BookBike outreach program. RPL’s BookBike, a little library on wheels, will visit locations within a one-mile radius of the downtown library this spring, summer and fall. Pulled by library staff on bicycles, RPL’s BookBike offers library books, library cards, program information, assistance with digital materials, bike trail maps and fun incentives for kids.

The BookBike is in its infant stages, but we are already making a difference in our community. We are connecting with residents who would not have thought to enter the library doors, promoting biking as a transportation option, and creating positive relationships with kids and their grown ups. We are looking forward to a summer full of fun, biking and pedaling good books. (Get it?)BookBike

In order to staff the BookBike we have made some hard choices about in-house programming, ultimately deciding to put the bulk of our summer efforts into outreach. We have a full schedule for May and June, with the rest of the summer expected to fill up soon. We don’t operate on a regular schedule, but work around special events and activities and fill in other days with visits to local grocery stores, parks and other locations.

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).

Posted in Blogger Heather Acerro, Grants and Fundraising, Outreach, Programming Ideas | 7 Comments

The ALSC Blog would love your help at #alaac15

AC15_LearnMore_250x124In just over a month, many librarians will be heading to San Francisco for ALA’s Annual Conference. There is a full lineup of ALSC programs at Annual including the President’s Program, the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Awards Banquet, hundreds of exhibits to explore, and much more.

If YOU are heading to the City by the Bay at the end of June, we’d love to have you live blog for the ALSC Blog about what you are experiencing and learning so everyone — especially those #leftbehind — can have a feel for what the conference is like.

Sound interesting? Just contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog Manager, at for all the information you need to volunteer as a live blogger from the conference.

Posted in ALA Annual 2015, Blogger Mary R. Voors, Live Blogging | Leave a comment

Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books

2015 ALA Annual Conference

2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco (image courtesy of ALA)

ALSC and the ALSC Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force want to remind Annual attendees that registration slots for the 2015 ALSC preconference program are still avaialable. This program takes place 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday, June 26, 2015, at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

The program, entitled Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books, will spotlight 2015 Honor Book recipients for the Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Pura Belpré, Sibert and Geisel awards. The keynote speaker for the program is K.T. Horning, and there will be a panel facilitated by Judy Freeman.

The event will feature authors, illustrators and editors such as:

  • Cece Bell
  • Jacqueline Woodson
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Mary GrandPré
  • Candace Fleming
  • Yuyi Morales
  • Jillian Tamaki
  • Katherine Roy
  • John Parra
  • Patricia Hruby Powell
  • Mark Siegel
  • Christian Robinson,
  • Jon Klassen
  • Melissa Sweet

This is the first year that such a preconference will be held. The charge of the Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force is “to develop content and the program for a half-day preconference that will feature 2015 ALSC-only award honorees.” Based on the success of this year’s preconference, ALSC may or may not choose to hold similar events in connection with upcoming Annual Conferences. ALSC members receive a special discount (use code: ALSC2015) on registration.

Posted in ALA Annual 2015, Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Dan Bostrom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Youth Who Take A Stand

Children ask two types of questions when they approach the reference desk: self-imposed  or those imposed by others such as teachers and parents. As a children’s librarian I have answered hundreds, if not thousands of children’s questions over the past 11 years. The excitement of a child with a self-imposed question is as apparent as the frustration of a child with an imposed question.

But what about when a child  wants to read a book, but her parents say no? I’ve seen it hundreds of times. For example, I just had a child today who wanted to read the next book in the I Survived series. The title wasn’t available and he wanted to place it on hold. Mom said, “No, you’re not putting anything on hold.”  I don’t think parents realize the devastating effect it has on their child when they are told, “No, you can’t read a book”.

I recently came across a news story that happened over a year ago. Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is a popular target for challenges, was banned from a middle school library in Idaho. A student took a stand against the parents who were blocking access to the book. She inspired fellow students to petition and when Alexie’s publisher caught wind of the situation  they sent out 350 free copies of the book for the students. Talk about a HUGE impact that those youth had on rallying for one book they believed in. Kudos to all of them for their tenacity and bravery.

If more kids were willing to stand up to the adults who tell them, “No, you can’t read such and such book”, perhaps we’d have fewer book challenges. I’m not saying that parents are wrong and I respect them for setting boundaries with their kids. As library professionals we need to find a way to help children come out of their shells and advocate for their own reading interests; with this skill they can be more successful readers and leaders in the future.

Janet Weber is a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee and is a Youth Services Librarian at the Tigard Public Library in Oregon. She was on the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee when The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was named to the 2008 Notable Children’s Recordings list and she thinks the audio is extremely hilarious.

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee | Leave a comment