Youth Services Basics: Cross-Training by Building Confidence

Are staffers outside of youth services ever responsible for staffing your children’s desk in a programming pinch?  Would employees outside of your department feel comfortable and confident in providing this service or would they feel stunned like a deer caught in the headlights?

At our community branch library, information services staff members also staff our children’s services desk, and we receive a great number of children’s reference questions at our adult information services desk.  Staff members outside of youth services must be familiar with the needs of children and those that work with them. Being cross-trained to provide customer service to customers of all ages is a necessity, but how do we ensure that staffers receive the training necessary to handle the unique needs of our young customers?

My colleague recently presented training for library staff outside of youth services. Not meant as a substitute for advanced youth services training in reference or readers’ advisory, this overview highlighted many of the traditional questions staffers receive when they work in the children’s services department. This training served as a perfect introduction for those employees who may occasionally need to staff this service desk.

Where are the BOB books?     

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

During this youth services basics training, my colleague used questions that have been previously asked by customers as training examples. Just as when working in the information services department, training participants realized that questions are often not as simple as they appear.  The question, “where are the BOB books?” is a perfect example.  The answer could mean numerous things in our library system, depending on the needs of the library user, and could include a request for a standard beginning reader series; it could also serve as a request for the TV inspired books based off the popular Bob the Builder character, or the extremely popular Battle of the Books (BOB) competitions sponsored by our public school system.  Understanding how this one type of question, “where are your BOB books?” could mean various things to different people, was rated by attendees as one of the most valuable pieces of information they learned during the training.

Let’s Take a Tour

As part of the training, participants toured our children’s department at our Headquarters Library.  This touring component provided staffers with a close and personal look at our collection and was helpful to staffers from each of our branches as our youth services departments are structured similarly in each of our eight library locations.  By including this hands-on training component, participants were able to view exactly where items were located, from the juvenile biographies placed at the end of the children’s nonfiction collection to the difference among board books, picture books, and beginning readers.  Knowing our collection is critical in providing excellent customer service, and this tour helped our trainees gain confidence in providing that service for our young patrons.

Priorities of Programs and Services

Questions about children’s programming, and the specialized services offered within the children’s services department, are often questions asked by patrons.  Adults may frequently register their children to attend special programming, request information on how to duplicate the story time experience at home, or request tutoring resources. Staffers must be able to quickly address these questions while also being aware of the unique services offered within the children’s department, such as our picture book bundle service, where customers may check out a group of books organized by a specific theme. Children’s unique interests and needs must be understood by all staff, not just those librarians specializing in children’s services.

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

This training helped staff members without a background in children’s services to gain a better understanding of the interests and needs of our young patrons. Our goal is to prepare our colleagues to feel as comfortable and confident as they can when working with children and their families, instead of feeling caught like a deer in the headlights! What topics do you believe are important to introduce to staff members outside of your department if they were to staff your children’s desk? How do you ensure staffers are most effectively able to reach out to your customers?  Please share in the comments below!

Posted in Blogger Meg Smith, Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Back to School Booklist – Humor

So, the kids are going back to school. Or are already back in school. Down here in Mississippi, this is the fourth week of school! Middle school is hard. The adjustments, the transitions. A lot of turmoil. So what I’m saying is that I think our kids deserve a laugh. If you need a quick display idea or just something to hand a kid who’s dreading going to school on Tuesday, here’s a list of really hilarious middle grade:

 

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

The Ginny Davis books by Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame!). These are old enough that your middle school readers might not be familiar with them, and they’re great. Filled with photographs, journal entries, and looking like a scrapbook, this colorful series will grab a tween’s attention–and make them giggle, too.

Source: Goodreads

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle – every single person I talk to about this book says “HILARIOUS” in all caps. Nate wants to be in a Broadway show so bad that he’s willing to risk pretty much everything to make it to an open casting call for ET: The Musical.  Hijinks and shenanigans ensue! Per my friend Jessamyn, a school librarian–if your kids like audiobooks, this is the one to hand them. Federle does his own narration and with his acting background, totally nails it.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

It says “funny” right in the title! But seriously, these books (including I Even Funnier and the upcoming I Even Funniest) are hugely popular in my library and I can often hear my tweens giggling at them in the stacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

A very nearly honorable league of pirates. A sailor’s daughter shipped off to finishing school who wants nothing more than to sail the seven seas. A talking stone gargoyle. Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

 

A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a quest, a lot of magical creatures, and tons of butt jokes. Because his name is Rump. This one is adored by everyone I give it to.

 

 

 

 

One of the reasons that we read is to escape. Let’s remember that when giving books to stressed out tweens and teens.

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Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

Posted in Tweens | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Ahhh, the fall. A sweet, sweet time for those in charge of booklists, displays, and story times. Back to school and fall books are perennial favorite subjects until it’s time to rediscover the fall and early winter holiday collection. However, if you’re not quite ready to break out your fall books collection, Hispanic Heritage Month is an ideal time to highlight or expand your collection of books that celebrate the diversity of Hispanic cultures. What started as a week-long celebration in 1968 is now a month long observance (September 15-October 15) of Hispanic history, arts, and culture.

 

marisol

(image taken from author website)

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match captures the reality of many biracial children in an upbeat and endearing spitfire of a character. Marisol doesn’t see anything weird with mismatches: green polka dots and purple stripes, peanut butter and jelly burritos, or brown skin and red hair are pretty cool in her eyes. When Marisol tries to match, she finds that things are confusing and boring. Thanks to an intuitive teacher, she regains confidence in her unique viewpoint and look. This bilingual story is charmingly illustrated and told through a very realistic child narrator.

papa

(image taken from HarperCollins website)

Arthur Dorros and Rudy Gutierrez’s Papa and Me is a loving, gentle, and authentic look at a father-son relationship. Papa is encouraging, wise, and just plain fun to be with. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the story. (See also Mama and Me by the same author.)

tooth fairy

(image taken from Random House website)

As a huge fan of cross-cultural children’s books, The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez is one of my favorite Latino-oriented picture books.  When Miguelito puts his tooth under his pillow and falls asleep, two magical creatures appear in his room to lay claim to his tooth. The Tooth Fairy asserts ownership because Miguelito is in the United States, but El Raton Perez, the tooth-collecting mouse who collects teeth in Latin America and Spain, defends ownership due to family tradition. Thankfully, they both work out a compromise.  This is a fun and unique way of presenting a rite of passage in many cultures.

 

rebozo

(image taken from Random House website)

What can you do with a rebozo (a long scarf)? You can accessorize a dress, play hide and seek, keep a grandmother or baby brother warm, use it as a blindford while attempting to burst a pinata…so many things! Not only is this is celebration of a close-knit family, but it’s also a tribute to creativity.  (See also What Can You Do With a Paleta? by the same author.)

What are your favorite picture books featuring Latino characters and culture? Tell us in the comments!

 

Posted in Blogger Jennifer Schultz, Children's Literature (all forms) | 1 Comment

Happy 20th Anniversary Early Head Start!

Did you know that Head Start was founded back in 1965, with Early Head Start joining the ranks in 1994? Both agencies promote the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in local communities, making Head Start a perfect partner for the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations committee, and libraries in general. Head Start also promotes and enourages the role of parents as their child’s first and most important teacher, just like libraries do.Smiling kids

For the last two summers, I have worked with my local Head Start agency, which has 21 centers in Suffolk County, NY, to help promote the summer reading programs in our local libraries. One easy thing to do? If your library is part of the CSLP, you can share some of the great information on family literacy that promotes parents and summer reading.

A father reading to his daughter

Photo rights maintain by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

On a state level, the NYS Library maintains a website, Summer Reading at New York Libraries that offers tip sheets for parents and caregivers on the importance of reading aloud in multiple languages, and an early literacy manual to download for childcare providers. I made 21 copies of the manual to share with each Head Start center in Suffolk County; encouraging the Head Start staff to share information on local summer reading programs with their families before the end of the school year.  I also gave out any early literacy give-away item that I had purchased with our Family Literacy Services grant to both the public libraries and the Head Start sites. And, I have presented twice now at their yearly staff conference on topics such as “how to choose books for babies and toddlers” and “best books for early childhood.” The teachers and classroom aides really appreciated having a librarian come and share books that they can use in their classrooms.

A more extensive, and long term partnership has evolved over the last two years with our Head Start agency. They administered an early literacy pre-survey to families last summer for my office (I am the youth services coordinator for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, with 54 member libraries). We provided the survey in both English and Spanish to over 1600 families, with over 900 being returned. Questions ranged from “I play with my baby or child every day” and “I know where my public library is in town” to “my baby or child participates in the summer reading program at our library.” It is our hope that we can administer a post-survey, asking the same questions, to returning families this September to see if we are creating change in early literacy knowledge and habits. Please feel free to contact me at lisa@suffolknet.org with any questions or comments about our local partnership with Head Start.

So help Head Start celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Early Head Start program this year by picking up the phone and making a call to your local site today. Because it’s never to early to start planning and building a partnership, one book and family at a time.

Lisa G. Kropp is the youth services coordinator of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System and a member of the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations committe and the Managing Children’s Services virtual committee. She also writes the First Steps column at School Library Journal.

 

Posted in Committees, Early Literacy, Partnerships | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the CCSS

How ironic that the more fluid the study of math and science becomes, the more rigid becomes the study of language and literature…

Solve for x

© L Taylor

…in which math becomes form and reading becomes function.

Posted in Blogger Lisa Taylor, Bloggers, Children's Literature (all forms), Slice of Life, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How to Conference Like a Champ

Thanks to the kind people at ALSC and Penguin Young Readers, I was able to travel to my first ALA Annual Conference this summer. Tennessee to Nevada travel would generally not be in my public library’s budget, so I was thrilled to have received a stipend help with the cost of attendance. (Thanks again, Penguin!) Here are my top Annual Conference tips from a newbie.

Stay at a conference hotel. I made the mistake of not booking my hotel the moment I knew that I was going to attend. (I was lost in the chaos that is summer reading planning). Transportation in Vegas was a challenge and those free shuttles would have been helpful. Fringe benefits of staying at a partnering hotel include: being surrounded by other attendees, sharing non-shuttle transportation costs, and being in closer proximity to social events.

It is okay to travel alone. I went non-stop the entire time I was in Vegas, sun-up to sun-down. (Isn’t the normal Vegas traveler’s schedule just the opposite?) I was able to hit the sessions and events of my choosing, not trying to divide and conquer with other staff members, and sometimes missing out on a session I am very interested in because another had already claimed it. I may be selfish, but with all sessions open for the taking, I felt like a kid in a candy shop.

Avoid temptation in the Exhibit Hall. As a children’s librarian, I am known to save various odds-and-ends in case I one day have a use for them. I never knew the extent of my hoarding tendencies until I was let loose in the Exhibit Hall. (Let’s be honest, there is no reason I would need enough paper-clip holders that I would have to add an extra baggage fee to my return flight home.) When faced with freebies, ask yourself: Do I need this? Can my library use this? If you can immediately answer ‘no’ to these questions, or if you hesitate coming up with a unique use for 890 temporary tattoos, practice politely saying ‘no, thank you’ to the swag.

Attend at least one session that is not directly applicable to your job. You may be surprised to find quite a bit of useful information that is helpful to you in your current position. As a children’s librarian, I am rarely asked my input on building projects, if it doesn’t directly impact the littles’ space. However, I attended “Environment by Design” session and left with some big ideas for future use of space.

Plan at least one day into your trip for sight-seeing.This is one of my biggest regrets of the trip. I learned so much valuable information, saw all kinds of great library related goodies, was entertained and educated by the speakers, but saw very little of Las Vegas. Luckily, I had an aisle seat on the flight in and caught a glimpse of both the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. I would love to visit again and take in the sights, but with my busy schedule, I will be hard pressed to find the time for this trip in my foreseeable future. One extra day built into my trip would have afforded me quite a bit of sightseeing.

Present right away! (Also, take good notes!).Present what you learned, or even a simple conference itinerary with highlights, to your director, board, and staff immediately upon return. I’ve been back in my library for two months now, and in the chaos that is Summer Reading, I still haven’t had a chance to present to the staff. While we are already implementing some program ideas brought back from the conference, with each passing day, I fear that I’m going to forget some great tidbit of information that I had hoped to pass on to our staff. Hopefully my notes will jog my memory!

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Photo courtesy of Joey Yother Photography

Photo courtesy of Joey Yother Photography

Our guest blogger today is Amanda Yother. Amanda is the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Putnam County Library in beautiful Cookeville, Tennessee. She loves learning through playing and revisiting her favorite novels from childhood with her book club kids. Amanda was a recipient of the 2014 Penguin Young Readers Award. She can be contacted at amandayother@pclibrary.org.

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 ALA Annual 2014, Conferences/Meetings/Institutes, Guest Blogger | Tagged | Leave a comment

Serving the Underserved: Lunch at the Library

hunger-in-america1-300x300There are many ways for us to serve the underserved in our library communities.  Whether we provide outreach in local preschools or daycares, visit incarcerated youth, or serve children with disabilities, outreach is a crucial part of inclusive library service.  This summer, we at the Glen Ellyn Public Library served–quite literally–children with a different type of need.

Food for Thought

Here’s a brief look at some statistics and information about hunger in our  communities.  The numbers might surprise you.

  • According to the USDA in a 2013 study, 49 million people in the US live in homes that are “food insecure” – meaning that they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.
  • 1 in 8 Americans rely on help from food banks each year.
  • 20% of households with children and 9% of elderly people living alone are food insecure.
  • In 2012, 16.1 million or approximately 22% of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
  • Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity.  In other words, healthy bodies mean healthy minds.

Summer Reading, Summer Eating

Last summer, our library launched their 2013 Summer Reading Program entitled Read to Feed.  Children of all ages were encouraged to keep track of the number of hours they read during the summer.  Not only did they read to accomplish an individual goal, but a community wide goal was set, challenging all of the kids to read 70,000 hours throughout the course of the summer. In response to the community’s commitment to reach their reading goal, the local Rotary Club committed to making a donation to the local food pantry, providing funding to feed 500 local individuals.  This year, when the idea came up of having the library participate in the Summer Meals program, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB), we felt that this would naturally coincide and continue with the mission of last year’s summer reading program.

After evaluating our school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics, we realized that we qualified to offer free summer meals in our library community.  The NIFB made a site visit in preparation for the summer meals program, providing the required training for staff that would supervise the program.  In addition, our School Liaison shared the news with various community contacts, making sure that the word got out to the families that needed the most.  And so, for several weeks throughout the summer on Mondays through Fridays from 12 – 1 pm, the library was an open site, serving free boxed lunches to children 18 and younger.

Hungry for Connection

The main focus of this program was to provide healthy, well-balanced lunches to children free of charge.  However, soon after we launched the program, we noticed something else significant happen.  Our library has a group of kids who use our building as a safe haven during the summer months.  They may have working parents that are not home, so often times, they stay for hours on end utilizing our collections and our services.  In some cases, these children might not have anywhere else to go.  And once the Summer Meals program began, we observed a change  in some of those kids.  Some of these kids began to open up to us even more than usual, interacting with staff and starting conversation.  In some cases, even our rapport with the children’s caregivers grew as well.  We were able to connect with new families that have never utilized the library before, promoting the library and all of its services.  We also served some of the families that already were regular library users.  It may have been the summer lunches that initially drew families to the library, but I do think that it was the personal connection with staff that kept them coming back.

In A Nutshell

Think about how this program fits in with your library’s mission.  What might be the added value of a program like this in your library community?  The first step would be to determine and evaluate your school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics.  If your community qualifies, reach out to a local food pantry or food bank to see if there is a comparable program in your area.

You may also want to consider the cost and the impact of a program like this.  The main cost to the library is not the cost of food; boxed lunches are delivered daily free from the food bank.  The primary cost is staff time.  Staff would be needed to be available to set up and clean up the room, monitor the room during the hour-long program, communicate with the food bank about delivery times and number of lunches delivered, and make sure that the proper documentation is in place.  Once that is taken care of, the program runs quite smoothly.  The impact, though, can be much greater.  While many of us promote reading programs during the summer, the fact is that food insecurity could be inhibiting some children from being able to primed for learning and reading.  A child that does not have access to quality and well-balanced meals may not be as mentally equipped or motivated to read.  And with a program like summer meals, the library can help serve that need.

 

If you are heading to Oakland next month for the 2014 ALSC Institute and want to learn more about how to implement a summer lunch program at your library, be sure to check out Summer Lunch at the Library  presented by the California Summer Meal Coalition, the California Library Association, and the amazing staff from the Sacramento, Fresno County, Oakland, and Los Angeles Public Libraries.  For more information about the upcoming 2014 ALSC Institute, click here!

Posted in Blogger Renee Grassi, Outreach, Partnerships, Programming Ideas | Leave a comment

Apply for the 2015 Bechtel Fellowship

ALSC and Bechtel Fellowship Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship.

The Bechtel Fellowship is designed to allow qualified children’s librarians to spend a total of four weeks or more reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, a part of the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The Baldwin Library contains a special collection of 130,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950. The fellowship is endowed in memory of Louise Seaman Bechtel and Ruth M. Baldwin and provides a stipend of $4,000.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

For more information about the requirements of the fellowship and submitting the online application please visit: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/profawards/bechtel

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Dan Rude, Professional Development, Projects & Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment