Can Tech Lovers Still Celebrate Screen-Free Week?

Screen-Free Week begins May 4!

Screen-Free Week begins May 4!

In early May people nationwide will be celebrating Screen-Free Week for a chance to unplug and smell the roses. For the past two years our tech-savvy children’s librarians have participated and it has actually sparked valuable dialogue with parents and caregivers about actively participating in their child’s screen-time activities. Last year we removed the iPads in the library and asked the community to pledge what they would do with the additional time as a result of the screen fast. Comments ranged from riding a bike, to playing more basketball, and of course our favorite response from a mystery patron – find a job asap. The librarians offered resources and articles to parents on monitoring screentime, while also sharing some of our favorite apps which include award-winners and professional recommendations.

The question is can we still advocate for the appropriate use of tech with kids, while also valuing a little unplugging of media from time to time?

Of course!

Last year's SFW pledges

Last year’s SFW pledges

I’ve always believed that something designed for good has the potential to be misused. Just as children’s librarians explain to parents and caregivers in storytime the importance of modeling certain behaviors to encourage literacy development, the same goes for media usage.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recently published Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with your Kids, which provides suggestions on how using apps together can support a child’s learning and development. When we featured the new Sight Word Adventure app on one of the mounted iPad stations in the Children’s Library, one parent immediately commented on the quality and effectiveness of the learning tool. She wanted additional information and suggestions for her child who was learning to read. This type of interaction can easily lead to a lengthy conversation on monitoring media use and making screen-time a family activity.

Thinking about the weighty topic of screen-time, I was deeply encouraged last week when I went to hear one of my role models as a child, Dr. Jane Goodall speak in Brooklyn. Her talk was entitled, Sowing the Seeds of Hope, and when asked what gave her hope in today’s world I was surprised that she brought technology into the equation. Dr. Goodall mentioned the ability of the young Roots & Shoots members to make global connections because of technology, as well as the rapid awareness brought to environmental causes via social media outlets.

So this year during Screen-Free Week, we plan to ask kids to think about how they can use the technology we have to help make the world a better place.

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at

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

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Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture!

ALSC and the 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Committee are proud to announce the opening of the application to host the 2016 event featuring award-winning children’s book author and pioneering literacy advocate Pat Mora. Host site application forms can be … Continue reading

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Opening the Eyes of Children to a World of Innovation – Where Anything Is Possible

How do we motivate today’s children to become tomorrow’s movers and shakers in the world of innovation? The answer might be simpler than it sounds. Children have a huge advantage over adults in the creativity department. Children are not predisposed to conclusions that something is impossible, or that there is only one way of doing it. To a child, superheroes are real, and so are their powers. And this is the time to open their minds to the world of new innovations through invention.

I have three young children of my own, and they are always coming up with new ideas. Some of those ideas might not be feasible – at least not today (“Dad, I want to invent a car that flies over this traffic”). But imagine if yesterday’s inventors had been told that “it can’t be done.”

When most of us were growing up, our parents would have laughed at the idea that someday nearly everyone would be carrying around a pocket-size device, not only for making phone calls, but capable of performing complex computer operations that even some desktop computers could not perform at the time. Never mind that this “futuristic device” would be giving us step-by-step directions to the nearest coffee shop, taking high-definition photographs, recording video on-the-go, and the list goes on. Today’s reality would have seemed like nothing more than a child’s fantasy.

Innovation is often born of a curious mind. And children have some of the most curious minds around.

So what can you do as a librarian or someone involved with your local children’s library to help spread the word? Let me introduce USPTO KIDS!

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently revamped their entire kid’s section to bring it into the 21st century. The new website features a section for kids, complete with coloring pages and even pamphlets that explain how to make and launch a model paper rocket, along with directions for making other inventions. The section for kids introduces elementary school age children to the world of inventions through characters such as Ms. Pat Pending and her robot cat Gears, and to the world of trademarks through characters such as Mark Trademan and his friend T.Markey.

The new website also features a section for teens, including biographies of teenagers who have recently received their very own patents. Teens can watch videos and play interactive games to “spot the invention.”

For librarians, the new website includes a variety of educational resources to help guide parents and teachers. Hands-on materials help link the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education curriculum to real-life innovations. These resources are categorized for elementary school, middle school, and high school age students.
Of course, if you are searching for more ideas, the USPTO KIDS site also includes links to other sites, including many free government resources that are geared toward introducing children to the exciting world of invention.

It is important to encourage children of all ages to explore new ideas. Today’s children are the inventors of tomorrow. Visit USPTO KIDS for ideas on how to bring the world of innovation to a library near you. And if you need another reason, remember that May is National Inventor’s Month!


Our guest blogger today Mark Trenner. Mark lives in Colorado with his wife and their three children, who regularly visit the local libraries to read about new things. He is an intellectual property (IP) law attorney, and works with leading edge inventors at his Denver-area patent law firm. For more information, view educational videos about patents and invention on his YouTube channel.

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

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But What If…?

It might seem a bit like cheating, but I want to tag on to this terrific post by Chelsea Couillard-Smith regarding intellectual freedom training for all library staff. She makes excellent points regarding the sensitivity with regard to children, and staff’s own response to certain materials with which they may not be comfortable.

It is important for all staff to understand the intellectual freedom basis upon which libraries operate, to have the opportunity to receive training and to be able to ask all of those, “But what if…”questions that they may have. It is important even if that person never has to deal with a member of the public on the issue because it is an integral part of library culture and values.

Many years ago, my library director at the time, decided that everyone in that library system would be required to receive such training. She charged the management group with developing a training session, and then teamed us up and scheduled us to do multiple presentations over the course of several weeks. All staff, including custodial, were required to attend one of the sessions. Each session included an introduction to the ALA Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement as core values with regard to all library users, including children and teens, and how those impacted library policies. It introduced some of those “What if…” scenarios, for staff to work through and provided an opportunity to respond to additional questions and concerns raised by those in attendance.

Am I going to claim that everyone was happy once they understood how our commitment to intellectual freedom impacted what people, especially young people, could access?   No. It was actually fascinating to see how many ways some people could try to re-frame one of those “What if…” situations to try for a different answer. However, no one could claim that they did not understand that this was a core value of service and I believe that this created a system-wide base for communication with staff and therefore the public.

Toni Bernardi
Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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WOW Moments for Children – The Importance of Author Visits to Schools and Libraries

If you want to inspire children to write, to read, to create and to enjoy the amazing world of books, invite authors to your schools and libraries.

As a retired teacher and a children’s book author, I am lucky to share many WOW moments when I read to children. Here are a couple of “typical” thank you notes from a recent visit to a school in Oregon.

Dear Ellen,
You are so inspirational! I hope I become a story writer like you. Where do you get your ideas from? When I read your books, my mind explores because your books are so good. You are such a great story teller. Thank you.
XX (age 8)

Dear Ellen Fischer,
It was an amazing experience for us to have you teach us about the publishing process. You inspired me to write more, but more importantly to stick with my stories. I am amazed at how hard you have to work to get books published. We all took a lot of meaning out of your visit. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to make our day special.
Warm wishes,
XX(6th grader)

With over 20 years teaching experience, it’s natural for me to make school and library visits. I love doing readings/presentations with the students. Here are some personal tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • When a visit is scheduled, the school sends a flyer out to the parents. It informs them that an author will be visiting and offers the opportunity to purchase a book for their child, to be personalized and signed by me. For library visits, usually the librarian has purchased the book and I’ll sign it while I’m there.
  • My readings/presentations always involve student participation. I take hand puppets with me for each book. I do a book related activity either before or after the reading.
  • I want the schools/libraries to make the most of my visit, so I offer myself to all age groups. The books I write are geared toward younger children, but I can adapt my presentation to all ages:
    • Pre-K- Kindergarten: read my book & do a brief activity (15-20 min)
    • Grades 1-3, same as above but a Q&A added in. (20-30 min)
    • Grades 4-6, presentation about the publishing industry, the importance of editing followed by a lengthy Q&A. Often I explain to the older kids my goals for a particular book. Then I read the book, and have them listen to see if those goals were met.
    • As to group size, I prefer multiple readings to smaller groups, but have adjusted many readings for large groups, displaying my books on power point or even projected on an overhead projector.

Many schools/ libraries have budgets for author visits, which is wonderful. Some schools find “angels” to cover the author’s fees. For the schools/libraries with no budget for this, and there are many, there is a wonderful option. I have been participating in a program called SKYPE in the Classroom. Teachers can sign up for free and “invite” an author to their class/library. I have had the pleasure of visiting with students all across America. The visit can be anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the request. I might read one of my books or talk about writing and just answer questions. It’s a great opportunity for schools/libraries when funds are limited.

And did I mention how thrilled children are with an “author signed” book? It’s a treasure to keep forever.

Have I convinced you on the importance of author visits? I hope so, but just in case, read this:

Dear Ellen,
You are an amazing author. I love your book, If An Armadillo Went to a Restaurant. I think writing kids books is a fabulous job. Writing is so awesome!
XX (age 9)



Our guest blogger today is Ellen Fischer. Ellen’s publications include:

  • Where are All the Fireflies?, Fun For Kidz, May/June 2012


    Courtesy photo from Guest Blogger

  • The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown, Kar-Ben/Shalom Sesame, July, 2012
  • Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration, Kar-Ben/Shalom Sesame, 2012It’s a Mitzvah, Grover!, Kar-Ben/Shalom Sesame, 2012
  • I’m Sorry, Grover, Kar-Ben/Shalom Sesame, July, 2013
  • If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, Scarletta Press, July 1, 2014
  • Latke, the Lucky Dog, Kar-Ben, August, 2014
  • If An Elephant Went to School, Mighty Media Press, July, 2015
  • Grover Goes to Israel, Kar-Ben/Shalom Sesame, spring 2016

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

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Don’t Forget those Old Favorites!

Doing storytime multiple times every week can be exhausting. I for one am always looking for ways to include repetition while also adding in new books, songs and props that will make storytime more interesting for me. Many librarians are incorporating technology into their storytimes as well, which is a fascinating development. However, with all of these exciting new tools, don’t forget about one of those old favorite props, PUPPETS!!

I had the best children’s librarian when I was a kid. I absolutely adored Miss Barbara. When I would return home from the library each week, I would pretend to be her, putting on storytimes for all of my stuffed animals. One of the things I loved the best about storytime was the fun puppets she included every week. She had different voices and personalities for each puppet, and she made them all come alive during that magical half-hour.

I had forgotten about the pure joy puppets can bring to children. A few months ago, my coworker and I decided to start building up our branch’s puppet collection. I now use them every week in my toddler storytime.

Slippery Fish Puppets
Photo taken by the author of this blog post. 

With the addition of puppets, the Slippery Fish song has become a Brisbane Library favorite. The kids walk up to me throughout the song, hoping to get their hands “bitten” by the shark or the whale. After storytime, I let everyone play with the puppets and enjoy watching the little ones try to figure out how the puppets work.

In the midst of all the wonderful books and interesting new technology emerging, I’m happy to have rediscovered one of my old favorite storytime tools!


Stephanie Conrad is the Senior Librarian at the Brisbane Library in California and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

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Resources from Local, State and National Organizations to Make Your National Poetry Month Programs a Success

All across the country in classrooms and libraries National Poetry Month is celebrated during the month of April each year. We’re all familiar with highlighting poems in our storytimes and school aged programs and even hosting poetry slams in the library. But how many of us know about the countless organizations- local, state and national- who work to bring poetry alive for young people? These groups offer a wealth of information and resources to strengthen and invigorate our National Poetry Month offerings.

As librarians we are always looking ahead to our next innovative program, so as we wrap up National Poetry Month this year here are some organizations to consider partnering with in 2016 to bring poetry into your library.

Youth Speaks

Youth Speaks is a national spoken word and poetry organization headquartered in the Bay Area. Through arts education and youth development practices, civic engagement strategies, and high quality artistic presentation, the group seeks to create safe spaces that challenge young people to find, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices. Youth Speaks offer arts-in-education programs, year-long school residencies, Poetry Slam Clubs, writing workshops and other community events. For more information, visit

Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. The project is a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and State arts agencies. To find out how to organize a competition in your school, or for additional resources to support poetry in the library, visit:

Teachers & Writers Collaborative

TWC provides writing and poetry programs led by professional writers in schools, libraries and community sites in the New York City area; however, they offer many resources for engaging children in poetry. Librarians can view their magazine website as well as the Digital Resource Center- a searchable archive of content from their five decades of print publications- on the website.

California Poets in the Schools (CPITS)

California Poets in the Schools is one of the largest literary artists-in-residence programs in the nation. CPITS serves 25,000 students annually in hundreds of public and private schools, libraries, juvenile halls, after-school programs, hospitals, and other community settings. CPITS encourages students throughout California to recognize and celebrate their creativity, intuition, and intellectual curiosity through the creative poetry writing process. CPITS offers professional development and trainings for teachers and librarians and coordinates their group of poets to visit classroom and libraries to teach poetry and writing to students. Their website is

Have you offered poetry programming at your library? Did you work with local organizations or groups such as your state’s poetry organization or a writers-in-residence program? Share your experiences and let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!


Diana Garcia is a Children’s Librarian at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library in California where she has the privilege of serving a fantastic community through storytimes, creative library programming and tutoring. Her afterschool literacy program for English Language Learners won the PLA Innovations in Literacy award in 2013. Diana is currently serving on the ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee, 2014 – 2016. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California and serves on their Awards Committee.

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Communication: the Spine of Supervision

If you are like most people in middle management, the word “supervisor” makes you break into a cold sweat. Your former lunch buddies are now your employees, and you are “the boss.” In fact, things might be feeling down right awkward as you transition into a supervisory role! But fear not – there are a few things that you can do to gain the respect of your colleagues and supervise with a smile (most of the time!) on your face:

1. Take a Personality Test

No really. See if you can find a Meyers-Briggs Personality Test training in your area, either in person or online. Knowing where you – and your staff – fall on the 16 personality type scale (are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you use your senses or intuition for decision making? Are you a thinker or a feeler?) -can help immensely when it comes to supervising and decision making.

2. Let Your Staff Evaluate You

This one sounds scary, but I find it to be very useful –it helps show staff that you are serious about not just changing their behaviors, for instance, but your own as well. Ask staff to list three things they consider a strength of yours, and one area that they think could use some more attention or focus. For example, maybe you think you are great at having meetings – until someone points out that the last time you held a department meeting was six months ago! Scheduling regular times to meet and talk with staff helps keep communication flowing, and it clears any mis-communication up before it turns into a game of “telephone” throughout the department

3. Go Through Job Descriptions and Duties

Often, people inherit job duties and routines based upon the holes or needs of a department, or from a previous supervisor. But it can make the department stronger in the long run if you ask your staff to write down the following for you:

  • What projects, programs, services are they currently working on or responsible for?
  • Are they responsible for any areas of collection development?
  • What are three things that they like about the department?
  • What are three things that they would change about the department?
  • Is there an area of their job that, if possible, they would like to change or not be responsible for? What would they like to work on or try that they aren’t currently doing?

Once you gather these statements from your staff , take the time to read and reflect on them. Are there changes that can be made? Perhaps someone has been in charge of pre-school story time for years, and is looking for a change. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the staff you have. As managers and supervisors, we can’t make everyone happy, but your staff can tell when you are truly listening and responding to their ideas and requests. Even if you can’t make a change directly or immediately, taking the time to meet one on one with staff members to discuss their ideas and visions for the department can help build a community of trust with a strong foundation of communication.

Finally, remember this: No matter how much communication and assessment you do as a supervisor, there will be days when being fair isn’t the same as being popular. But being fair will gain you the respect of your staff, which is a far greater benefit to have.


Lisa Gangemi Kropp is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, and the First Steps early learning columnist for School Library Journal

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