Blogger Kiera Parrott, Slice of Life

Making the Leap from Library to Non-Library Positions

I am a librarian. I am a librarian the way that I am brunette or a vegetarian or a chocolate-lover or a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Being a librarian is part of my essential self-concept. When I am introduced to someone new I say, “Hi. I’m Kiera. I’m a librarian. A children’s librarian!” I feel enormous pride when I say it. Despite the fact that insensitive relatives will still occasionally ask “Really? Hasn’t the internet replaced libraries?” (SIGH) or well-meaning but woefully-uninformed patrons will ask if they can “volunteer to be a children’s librarian” (double SIGH) I still say it loud and proud: I am a children’s librarian! ROAR! And yet, on October 28, I will no longer be a children’s librarian by title. I’ve had a few close library friends ask me if I’ll miss being in the public library. Yes. Oh, yes. Will I miss my…

Blogger Kiera Parrott, Children's Literature (all forms)

Middle grade or YA?

Putting aside instances of violence, sex, and spicy language, I’ve often found myself debating the placement of particular books and where they fall on the middle grade-young adult spectrum. Back in my children’s lit course in library school, we learned that the real dividing line was hope (or the lack thereof.) Children’s literature, no matter how dark or dangerous the journey, must eventually end with a healthy dose of hope, whereas YA works could feature ambiguity, uncertainty, and, well, disappointment. To qualify as a bone-fide children’s book, wrongs must be set right, evil must be punished, good must be rewarded. Children need to be reassured, goes the conventional wisdom, that at the end of the day the world is a fair, safe place and that their dinner will still be hot. If you think about middle grade literature, there are very few examples of books that end without even a…

Blogger Kiera Parrott, Professional Development

Hosting an Unconference in a Few Easy Steps

Since 2009, my library has organized and hosted a one-day unconference for youth services librarians called KidLibCamp. Our very first unconference was organized by Linda Braun (YALSA Past President) in collaboration with then-Head of Children’s Services, Gretchen Caserotti. The event was an immediate success and we’ve been hosting the one-day professional development camp every year since. Next month will mark the 5th annual KidLibCamp and while it is mostly attended by librarians in the CT-NY region, we’ve received inquires from librarians from around the country wanting to know more about unconferences and how to set up one of their own. The Basics: Have you ever been at ALA or another big conference and you find yourself in deep discussion with another librarian while waiting for an event to begin, or while walking around the exhibits, or (most likely in my case) in line for the ladies room? Sometimes these impromptu…

ALA Annual 2013, Blogger Kiera Parrott, Caldecott 75th Anniversary, Live Blogging

A Wild Ride at the ALSC Preconference #ala2013

If you’re feeling a bit numb this morning, it may be because I used up ALL THE FEELINGS at yesterday’s ALSC Preconference, A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal. There was so much picture book love, author and illustrator appreciations, insights into the production and editorial process, and simply great conversations with fellow picture book nerds. I could spend pages gushing, but I’ll share just a few of the highlights for me: Brian Selznick killed it in his opening keynote. He started off by donning the dashing and be-dazzled shirt that he wore for his Caldecott acceptance speech. He joked about being often mistaken for Paul O. Zelinsky (a running joke that Paul later carried into his own hilarious closing speech,) and gave a well-researched and thoughtful overview on the history of both Randolph Caldecott and the medal named in his honor. Finally, Brian moved the entire audience…

ALA Annual 2013, Blogger Kiera Parrott, Live Blogging

A Visit to ChiPubLib #ala2013

Today I stopped by the majestic Harold Washington Library Center of the Chicago Public Library. Opened to the public in 1991, this neo-classical gem is the landmark library in the city. With nine floors, including the grand Winter Garden and ample exhibition space, it’s well worth popping by.     The Thomas Hughes Children’s Library located on the second floor is lovely. One of my favorite parts was the Storybook Dollhouse. It is a permanent exhibit featuring over 70 children’s book clues. There is James’ giant peach, Mary Poppins’ bag, and all manner of tiny characters and itty-bitty set pieces. I was never a dollhouse kid, but it made me want to immediately get one for my library. Hmmm… Although it wasn’t open when we stopped by this morning, we had a quick peak into YOUmedia. I will definitely be heading back to take a closer look at this amazing…

Blogger Kiera Parrott, Children's Literature (all forms), Collection Development

Reorganizing Non-fiction: A Dewey Hybrid Model

Almost five years after reorganizing our picture book collection we recently decided to commit to a plan and dig in to a full-on rethinking of the children’s non-fiction collection.  The project, called Operation Awesome NonFic Reorg (at least that’s what I call it in my own mind) began about two months ago and is on target for completion this August. Brainstorming with coworker and fellow ALSC blogger Elisabeth Gattullo, we began sketching out ideas for the non-fiction section about a year ago. Our goal was to address a problem our patrons had been complaining about forever: how to easily find non-fiction books  for elementary-aged children. We have recognized for quite some time that the traditional Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) was not child-friendly. And frankly, not too parent-friendly, either. We researched how other libraries had reorganized their non-fiction for children, visited a few wonderful libraries and spoke to some truly passionate,…

Blogger Kiera Parrott, Early Literacy

Play Boxes: Mini Playspaces in Your Library

About a year ago I became fascinated with playspaces popping up in public libraries around the country. Miniature kitchens, corner art stations, neat science-themed installations. Yes! I decided to investigate and see if we could develop a playspace out of my library’s existing Toddler Room. The problem was twofold: 1) Our existing space already saw a lot of use. With a large carpet and small interactive panels on the walls, parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers loved using the room as it was. I didn’t want to invade their space by introducing giant play sets. And 2) I was wary of those play sets. Many of them are not designed to take the daily abuse that is inevitable in a busy public space. I didn’t want to quickly wind up with a collection of junky looking objects and furniture. Thus was born the idea of Play Boxes! A Play…

Blogger Kiera Parrott, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media

Caldecott Secrets

Looking for some juicy inside gossip on the secret discussions that took place at this year’s Caldecott Committee meetings? Sorry to say you won’t find them here- or anywhere for that matter. Members who serve on ALSC award committees sign an agreement promising not to reveal details of the discussions, the titles of books that were considered (other than the winners, of course) or any specific information on the balloting. This vow of silence lasts a lifetime. I could be 101 years old with great-grandkids on my knee and *still* I could not reveal the content of my committee’s Caldecott discussions. And that’s part of the magic and power of these awards. The ALSC awards for children’s literature have a major impact not only on the lives of the winning authors and illustrators, but on the publishing world and the curriculums of teachers around the country- not to mention the…