‘Children’s Services Librarians’ or ‘Community Facilitators’?

I was lucky enough to land my dream job four months after completing my library science degree. I had dreamed of being a children’s librarian since I was five years old and received my very own library card. I was thrilled to announce to the world that I was going to be the new “Children’s Services Coordinator” at my local library! I got a lot of questions from loved ones: “Wait – but didn’t you go to school to be the librarian?”

In my early tenure, I assumed this title was chosen to encompass all that I was expected to do in the library, in addition to providing the standard library services to children (Ex: managing staff schedules, attending county meetings as a library representative, collection management, etc.) I soon realized, though, that the title of “Coordinator” best represented what all of these tasks quickly enabled me to do: make connections between patrons and needed community resources.

Some examples of resources that I regularly refer both patrons and other agencies to include: various contacts in the school system, homeschooling groups, public health offices, local specialty businesses, crisis pregnancy center, food banks, and environmental agencies.

While I will admit that all of our communities and libraries are unique in the best manners to become effective community facilitators, here are some of my own tips for children’s services librarians for creating or strengthening community relationships that will ultimately better serve patrons.

1. Become an Engaged Community Member

This is probably something that you are already doing as part of your duties as a librarian. If not, it’s easy to plug in to your community quickly! Volunteer at community events as a library representative, join local committees, and make a point to follow local newspaper, radio, community events, and relevant Facebook groups.

2. Vocalize Struggles

After a few months on the job, I had become extremely frustrated at many failed attempts to make a connection in our school system’s central office. I finally mentioned this in my department recap in a board meeting, not laying blame on any one party, and one of our board members knew so-and-so who worked there and could stop in and put in a good word for the library. This simple act has opened so many doors for partnerships between our library system and the school system. Sharing what I thought of as my “failure” has led to years of invaluable collaborations. Be sure, though, when vocalizing struggles to always use a positive approach. Bashing another community member or group is never going to get you a good end result!

3. Make Yourself Available to Patrons

I believe that my most important facilitating work has come about during regular programs in our Children’s Department. We host a twice monthly early literacy play program, in which I do about 10 minutes of hands-on, focused program, and the rest of the hour is spent playing and socializing with our patrons. The other program in which I more often than not get to wear my facilitator hat is our twice monthly Lego Club. In this program, I set the kids up with all of their gear, give a challenge, then again, have the rest of the hour to socialize with patrons. In each of these situations, I receive many community type “reference” questions. I believe that I get these questions more often in these programs because the patrons are more comfortable approaching me while I’m in the program rather than in my office. I’ve also learned much about our community gatherings and opportunities in these programs while sharing information with patrons, which I very much believe is making me a better librarian.

4. Put Your Connections into Action

By becoming a more informed librarian/citizen, you will be able to quickly connect families in your library to other needed/wanted services. Obviously, setting up services for families is outside the scope of our role as librarians, but connecting patrons into the community is a valuable service that we can easily provide.

Why Work to Become a Community Facilitator?

Serving as a community facilitator will only strengthen your relationship and foster trust with patrons. It will also potentially open doors to future collaborations and prove commitment of the library to the community as a whole.

What are your thoughts on serving your community as a ‘facilitator’? What practices do you employ to help you better engage with your community?


Today’s blog post was written by Amanda Yother, the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Putnam County Library in Cookeville, TN on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

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


Lately, there have been many questions regarding censorship floating around social media. A majority are phrased as collection development questions. e.g. “Is it okay to put this book in the Children’s Department?” Librarians are becoming increasingly concerned with themes such as a character’s sexuality or gender identity, and wonder if these topics belong in children’s collections. Some librarians are also hesitant for fear of community backlash, or maybe they just aren’t comfortable with the themes themselves. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that as librarians, it is our job to protect everyone’s access to information, from babies to great-grandparents!

If you’re unsure if you’re self-censoring I encourage you to check out the New York Library Association’s Self-Censorship Test. The test hasn’t been updated in a while, and I encourage you to add the question “Have I not shelved a book in the children’s section because of it’s themes or content?” There is also a great article about self-censorship on the CCBC website, written by Megan Schielsman about the controversy that swirled around The Higher Power of Lucky.

Finally, reach out to the Intellectual Freedom Committee -we’re not just here for help with challenges! Feel free to email us with any questions you might have.

Aly Feldman-Piltch, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Collection Development, Intellectual Freedom | Leave a comment

Partnering with your local 4-H group

My branch of the Geauga County Public Library has been lucky to have a long standing partnership with a local 4-H club. Our branch is the home to a vibrant genealogy reference department. Over the years library staff and 4-H clubbers have worked on family trees, family history projects, photography and scrapbooking.  The library staff shares expertise with the members and in turn the members help create local history displays in the library and plan library volunteer parties.

Don’t have a genealogy department? Here are some ways that other library youth services departments are partnering with local 4-H clubs:

  • Small Pet Information day – club members brought in gerbils, rabbits, etc. in cages and spoke about how to care for pets (also a Chicken Day and a Rabbit Day!)
  • Agricultural Literacy Day – club members read farm stories to young patrons, passed out gardening informational materials and introduced 4-H to young children
  • A Pet Club judged one library’s pet show on the library lawn.

Live in a city? Don’t think 4-H works in your area? Many suburban communities also have 4-H clubs and here are some projects that work anywhere:

  • A drama club performed short skits at Saturday Morning storyhour
  • A rocket club demonstrated rocket design and showed how to make small “rockets” to shoot indoors.
  • A food club set up a grill at the library summer concert series and sold hot dogs, pop, chips and homemade goodies. The proceeds were shared with the library.
  • The 4-H organization offers hundreds of project choices. When you think of 4-H you may think of sheep and chickens, but these are also current 4-H projects: gardening, sewing, recycling, fishing, bicycling, robotics, and astronomy. The possibilities for partnership topics are huge.

Where do I start?

  • Ask around your staff and patrons if anyone has a connection to 4-H.
  • Call the local Cooperative Extension office in your county. In every state 4-H groups are organized by county and overseen by the Cooperative Extension Service headquartered at that state’s  land-grant university.  Here in Ohio it is Ohio State University, in Montana it is Montana State University, etc.

Have other 4-H partnerships that have worked at your library? Please add them in the comments!

–Judy Lasco, Geauga County Public Library, Ohio

Member of ALSC Liaison with National Organizations committee

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Dreaming of Spring

The weather outside is frightful.  In southern North Carolina, we have dealt this week with an ice storm and power outages. While this winter weather in no way compares to the months and months of freezing temperatures and blizzards in the Northeast and Midwest, it is safe to say that many of us all over the country are sick and tired of winter by this time of year. We long for warmer temperatures and blooming flowers.  We long for spring.  At work we are also anticipating the change in seasons as we prepare for all of the special programs we offer during the next few months. What special events or services are rolled out during the springtime at your libraries?

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

Spring in many ways allows us the time to finish our last minute plans for our busy summer reading program. We promote our summer reading schedule to the schools in May and are fine-tuning our programming plans during these last few months.  Is spring your busiest time of year as you prep for summer reading or do you complete most of your program planning right before the programs begin in the summer? How will these next few months get you best prepared for summer reading?

Spring is also a special time of year for us as we participate in system-wide festivals.  We anticipate the spring season with a Storytelling Festival at all eight library branches at the end of February. At the conclusion of the Storytelling Festival, we turn our attention from storytelling to science. During two weeks in April, library staff present interactive science programs as part of the North Carolina Science Festival.  Spring is associated with science in our state. What special festivals, programs, or services are associated with spring within your library system?

School partnerships are also an important focus for public library staff during the spring.  The highly popular Battle of the Books Competition is gearing up with county contests. Library branch staff have connected with public school teams to practice questions with students to help them prepare for their upcoming competitions.  Other public library staff serve as judges or volunteer in various roles during these all-day events.  Are there any special collaborations you enjoy with your school systems during these spring months?

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

In our library, spring is associated with summer reading planning, festivals, and special school partnerships.  The cold, dreary weather may still be upon us, but starting this discussion may help us leave the ice and cold behind as we imagine warmer days ahead. What services or programs will be the focus at your library when the season changes? Please share your plans for spring in the comments below!

Posted in Blogger Meg Smith, Partnerships, Programming Ideas, Summer Reading | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fairytale to Film: Cinderella

Prince Christopher serenades his Cinderella, 1997

This afternoon, as part of our Black History Month film festival, we showed 1997’s Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The color-blind casting process led to a diverse finished product that our patrons really responded to. Librarian Krishna Grady introduced the film, and talked about the casting director and how producers set out to find the best person for each role, no matter their skin color. This led to a pleasingly diverse royal family with Queen Whoopi Goldberg and King Victor Garber acting as parents to Paolo Montalban as Prince Christopher. Add in the phenomenal vocal talent of Bernadette Peters, Whitney Huston, and Brandy, and its no wonder our patrons responded so well to the film! Their extremely positive reactions made me think about the many, many Cinderella films available to children’s librarians today for programming purposes. There are too many to list entirely, but we can talk about a few!

A very young Julie Andrews arrives at the ball, 1957

Of the Rogers and Hammerstein adaptations, I remember loving the above version as a child. I also loved the decidedly less diverse 1965 version, starring Lesley Ann Warren, Ginger Rogers (!), and Stuart Damon, which my  mother grew up watching. You can even see the original version, which starred a young Julie Andrews in one of the cheesiest made-for-tv movie sets of all time, from 1957. They hold a sparkler in front of the camera while her transformation is occuring! It’s magical.

If musicals with real people are not your cup of tea, there’s always the classic Disney animated film or the upcoming live adaptation of that film starring the incomparable Cate Blanchette and Helena Bonham Carter (though the 2015 version, as far as I know, will be without songs).

Those looking for a Cinderella with agency and a mind of her own would do well to check out 1998’s Ever After, in which a feminist Cinderella (here named Danielle) schools her Prince on the plight of his people and the power of the written word. That movie also features a delightful turn by Anjelica Huston as the evil Stepmother and Leonardo DaVinci’s character plays the part of the fairy godmother.

1955’s Caldecott Medal winner

Of course, all of these movies are based on the same fairytale, which most of us are familiar with through the work of Charles Perrault. There’s a Caldecott-award winner based on a translation of his work, and too many picture books to list. The “Cinderella story” has been found all over the world, making for a wonderfully diverse list of books to pair with any of the films above. For older readers, there’s Newbery Honor-winning Ella Enchanted (skip the dreadful film adaptation, no matter how winsome Anne Hathway is), Chinese CinderellaCinderella: As If You Didn’t Already Know The Story, and many more!

What did I miss? What is your favorite Cinderella book? How about your favorite Cinderella movie?

Posted in Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media | 1 Comment

Five Things I Wasn’t Prepared For…

Here is a story, told in pictures, of five things I wasn’t prepared for before I became a storytime librarian:

[Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

[Making finger puppets after a day at ALA Midwinter. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

1. That I would chose to spend so much of my free time doing things I love that happen to relate to work.

First of all, this is 100% my choice to spend my time researching beginning readers and making flannelboards. And I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make me happy.

Working with felt and sewing finger puppets have become my favorite way to relax. Seriously, I sewed a set of five little ballerinas during last year’s Stanley Cup play-offs and it was the only way I could avoid a panic attack while cheering on my team.

[Me, dressed as Princess Anna from Frozen. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

[Me, dressed as Princess Anna from Frozen. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

2. That I would suddenly develop the talent to make anything that I needed out of craft supplies.

Do you need a musical instrument? Give me two pieces of paper, two rubber bands, and two popsicle sticks and I will give you a harmonica. Do you need a traffic light prop for storytime? Easy — one piece of foam board, three small paper plates, three recycled paperclip boxes, three sheets of felt and hot glue.

How about a Frozen costume? I made my Princess Anna costume in about an hour and a half using discounted black fabric, a few felt sheets, a spool of ribbon, a $5 tshirt, and a recycled formal dress.

[Storytime scarves in the washer! Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

[Storytime scarves in the washer! Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

3. That I would become very conscientious about germ exposure!

My weekly routine involves taking our scarves home to wash after every use. (My library is lucky enough to have about 120 scarves — more than enough for multiple classes and a single weekly wash.)

My daily routine involves washing shaker eggs and wiping down board book pages. Lately, I’ve upped the game to include spraying the room with disinfectant and wiping down all surfaces (doors, cabinets, handles, counters, etc.). It may seem like a lot of work, but I want my little ones to stay healthy!

[Ukulele & accessories. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

[Ukulele & accessories. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

4. That I would never stop learning or wanting to learn new skills.

The great thing about storytime is that there are always new books and songs and rhymes to explore. I love finding a new favorite read-aloud and sharing it with my storytime families.

As you might guess with the picture, my big goal this year is to learn how to play the ukulele and to feel confident enough to perform in storytime! I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m slowly improving. I feel like I’ve finally got strumming down after a weekly practice session.

[A thank-you note from a patron. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

[A thank-you note from a patron. Image courtesy of the author; originally posted on Instagram.]

5. That I would feel such fulfillment and joy each day of work.

I have the best job in the world. I spend my days connecting preschoolers with books, dancing with toddlers, and watching babies grow up.

There is absolutely nothing better than seeing a child’s face light up when they see you and have them demand a hug. Or hearing about how a child insists on playing “Miss Katie” when they get home.

Obviously these are all pretty sweet things that I wasn’t prepared for (well, except for the germs!), but how about you? What were you unprepared for with storytime?

Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


Posted in Blogger Katie Salo, Slice of Life, Storytime | Tagged | 7 Comments

Making the Bulletin Board Your Patrons’ First Stop

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.53.55 AM

Urban Dictionary’s definition of Shelfie.

In our library we have a bulletin board just to the right as folks walk through the door.  We’ve always kept it looking “nice”.  Some timely book displays…occasionally some student work (our second graders’ tall tale characters are a favorite) graced the construction paper background.  But honestly?  I was getting bored looking at it all the time.

So I did what any good librarian would do and I headed to Pinterest for some ideas.  Sure there were lovely book ad type of displays, but this is exactly what I wanted to get away from.  And I realized, what I wanted was for our students to have an interactive experience.

We started with gratitude.  Modeled off the Gratitude Graffiti Project we seeded our bulletin board with post-its featuring things we are grateful for. Every time anyone (teacher, parent, student) walked through our doors they were invited to add something.  In no time our board filled up with positivity.

Next, I found this fabulous first lines interactive board on Pinterest. Intriguing first lines have always been of interest to me, and I knew some titles that would have to be included.  It’s super easy to switch out the titles after a little while to freshen the board up, and I have to say, circulation of the titles featured has gone up as well!  Bonus!

Our next venture helps our students see that not just our fabulous team of librarians are readers, but all the folks in our school.  We put out a call for staff and faculty to send us a selfie AND a shelfie.  We will ask our students to see if they can pair up the person with their shelf!  The next month we will put out a call to the students, and feature their selfie/shelfie combos.

Our bulletin board is quickly becoming a talked about, interacted with and exciting part of our space.

Posted in Blogger Stacy Dillon, Displays, School Library Media Specialist, Slice of Life | Leave a comment


The books! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

The books! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Shovels in hand, 15 brave souls entered a room in a hotel in Chicago. We knew there was treasure to be found, we knew that we would have to dig deep into our year of looking at over 500 picture books in order to find the gems. We tried to find the right words (vocabulary, phrases, terms) to express how our favorite books met the criteria. We bravely donned our capes of red wool; we dreamed of art, and lost things, and finding friends. We picked up pebbles of wisdom, like stones at the beach that one summer. Our minds were filled with noisy colors. And together, we did the unimaginable.

It has been just two weeks since the 2015 Caldecott Awards were announced, and I still feel the warm glow of that experience. The seven books that our committee chose to receive those shiny stickers have me still reeling. I look at them and smile. Each one of them means something to me, and I have realized that our set of books is all about discovery. Just like Beekle on his heroic journey to friendship, our committee set out to find the most distinguished book published in 2014. There were many amazing books, and I know that each and every member of our committee has a few books that did not make our final list that they will always treasure. You just don’t spend that much time re-reading and looking closely without developing a relationship with the books. Together we found the books that we agreed met the criteria and rose to the top of the pile.

Caldesnacks! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Caldesnacks! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Being on the Caldecott Committee has been a longtime career goal. Now it is a career highlight, and I have found 14 new friends that shared an experience (and a lot of great snacks) that no-one can know about (actually, I can tell you all about the snacks if you want to know). The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat, was announced on Monday, February 2. Sitting in the convention center hall, my hands were shaking. Never had the announcement of the awards been so personal, so exciting, so nerve-wracking. I had to remind myself to breathe. Since we knew who the winner was on Saturday night, one of our committee members thought it would be fun for us to wear crowns like Beekle’s after the book was announced. She made them on Sunday and kept them secret until the book was named on Monday morning. Donning that yellow paper crown marked one of my happiest moments as a librarian. Our committee was so proud of those books.

The Caldecott Buzz was enormous. In years past, I have chatted with others about the awards. I engaged in the “why didn’t my favorite book win” banter with friends and colleagues. I read the blogs with fervor, and sometimes even joined in on the second-guessing that naturally goes on each year. “What were they thinking?” is often bandied about when the awards are announced, and I fully understand why. These book awards mean a lot to us. They recognize, very publicly, that children’s books matter. They celebrate art and literature and story and make us look closely at books, and at ourselves. This year the comments, both in person and online, were somehow louder. I love hearing people’s reactions, and I enjoy reading the critical analysis that has resulted. For those who are disgruntled, upset, or still wondering why our committee chose the books we chose, I say, read the Caldecott Manual, linked here. Read the criteria. And read them again. Read them a third time. Our committee heeded (observed, abided by, adhered to) that manual; we read it many times. My copy has margin notes, tabs, highlighter, tea stains. The manual was our guide, our touchstone, our handbook. And because the committee deliberations are confidential, you’ll never know exactly what happened in that room, other than the fact that we did what we were tasked to do, and we chose a winner and six honor books. Celebrate that with us. Find the joy in those books, like we did. Find the readers who will love those books, because they are out there. And like the Newbery committee’s t-shirts said, “Trust the Process”.

Posted in ALA Midwinter 2015, Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Angela Reynolds | Tagged | 8 Comments