The Washington Office

Before speaking with Marijke Visser, Associate Director of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), I honestly had very little knowledge of what exactly was involved with the duties of the Washington Office staff other than advocating on behalf of ALA and libraries in general. In my usual over-imaginative fashion, I envisioned their days spent in conference rooms filled with charts (as seen in The American President), having power lunches (image courtesy of West Wing), and standing up for libraries using some incredibly uplifting call-to-action speeches (think Braveheart). While I’m sure these moments exist (or at least some version of them), talking with Marijke about the structure of the Washington Office and some of the exciting projects staff are currently exploring broadened my view of their work and inspired me to advocate for our profession with a renewed Scottish-like vigor.

As Marijke explained, the Washington Office is separated into two distinct offices: The Office of Government Relations and the Office for Information Technology Policy. When I thought of the Washington Office, I associated it with direct lobbying on the hill; The Office of Government Relations is the group that works to follow and influence legislation, policy, and regulatory issues on the hill. The Office for Information Technology Policy works with a variety of groups, such as the Department of Education and the SEC, on outward facing issues, such as issues supporting a free and open information society.

One way that the Washington Office, particularly the Office of Government Relations, helps to inform and influence legislation and policy is by identifying and building champions on key issues. This is one way that Marijke highlighted for ALSC members to help and become involved. Creating and nurturing strong relationships between legislative members and local librarians can provide opportunities for librarians to bring attention to key issues impacting library services to children while legislative members build connections on a local level and gain a more direct understanding and/or experience of how issues like literacy, media mentorship, or the digital divide are directly impacting youth. One example Marijke provided of this concept is an interest in how the digital divide is impacting disadvantaged teenagers. The Washington Office was able to connect interested legislative members with local librarians in their service area to discuss how the digital divide impacts teenagers and how libraries are able to help bridge the economic gap for this population.

Towards the end of our call, Marijke explained the Office for Information Technology Policy’s Policy Revolution! Initiative. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this initiative is in its second of three years. Described by Marijke as “shaking up how we do policy”, this initiative is designed to examine how libraries are branded to other organizations, look for more ways for their office to become proactive rather than reactive, and to build connections between agencies many people do not usually associate with libraries, such as HUD and Veterans Affairs. Ultimately the goal is to increase the perception of libraries as essential to policy and community conversations in a way that influences organizations to view library professionals as essential participants at the discussion table.

How does this apply to us? How can a little (seriously… I’m only 5’2”!) children’s librarian in Akron, Ohio stay current on legislative and policy issues? How can I best use this information to make a difference? Marijke suggested following the Washington Office’s blog, the District Dispatch. ( You can sign up for news and alerts and locate a lot of other advocacy pages at ALSC’s Everyday Advocacy website is essential for staying informed and inspired on all facets of advocacy. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out (what are you waiting for?!) you should stop what you are doing right now and visit it at Also, reach out to your local, state, and national representation to share successes and challenges. While you may not need to directly advocate for an important issue today, building those relationships now may someday prove to be invaluable.

Libraries offer such a valuable service to the public, and librarians are consistently doing important work that directly improves the lives of children. I urge each of us (myself included) to remember the importance of our work on the toughest days and to channel our inner William Wallace (blue face paint is optional).


Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest contributor is JoAnna Schofield, member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. JoAnna is a children’s librarian at the Highland Square Branch Library where she enjoys singing Laurie Berkner’s “I Know a Chicken” more than most people. She finds her greatest inspiration from her three rambunctious children, Jackson (5), Parker (4), and Amelia Jane (2). JoAnna can be reached at More than anything, she wants you to know if any information in this blog is not accurate, it is completely her misunderstanding and no fault of Marijke Visser. Marijke is truly lovely.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee, Legislative & Legal Issues | Leave a comment

Send Us Rainbow Book Suggestions!

Red: A Crayon's StoryThe Rainbow Book List Committee, a committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association, is seeking suggestions from the field for the 2016 Rainbow Book List. Suggestions from the field will be accepted through September 30, 2015.

So what is the committee looking for? Excellent books for children birth through age 18 that reflect the LGBTQ experience for young people.

The Rainbow Book List Committee members are currently reading over 100 titles (and any that you suggest) and nominating the best of the best for inclusion on the list. The committee will meet at Midwinter to discuss all nominated titles and select those that will make the final list.

You can follow along with committee activities at the blog and see what titles have already been nominated. We would love to know about any great LGBTQ books for kids and teens that you’ve read that have been published since July 1, 2014! For more information about the Rainbow Book List Committee click here.

Posted in Blogger Heather Acerro, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Collection Development, Diversity, Evaluation of Media | Leave a comment

An Appeal to Librarians: Provide Leadership on Kids’ Tech

In her keynote address at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June, Microsoft’s Danah Boyd advocated for open access to information, a positive message that is consistent with longstanding librarian values. However, Boyd is best known as an observer of kids’ technology. In this role, she vehemently instructs adults responsible for educating children to back away from guiding kids’ tech use. This advice, if heeded, profoundly undermines librarians’ vital leadership on children’s use of technology.

Boyd is critical of parents who set limits on kids’ tech use, labeling them as “fearful” in her Time magazine article, “Let Kids Run Wild Online,” and says, “The key to helping youth navigate contemporary digital life isn’t more restrictions. It’s freedom–plus communication.” In her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, and in her editorials, Boyd tells adults that kids need little, if any, direction on tech matters. She says, “Some days, I think that my only purpose in life is to serve as [a] broken record, trying desperately to remind people that ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright.’”

A Dangerous Myth

Boyd’s advice, that kids can navigate the tech environment with little help from adults, is the basic premise of the digital native-digital immigrant belief, originally put forward by video game developer Marc Prensky. He suggests that kids (“digital natives”) gain expertise with tech simply by growing up surrounded by the latest gadgets, and that adults’ (“digital immigrants’”) proper role is to load kids up with devices and essentially stand back and watch.

While commonly accepted in our popular culture, the native-immigrant belief is a tremendously harmful myth, as it confuses the ease with which kids use their gadgets with something that is far more important: understanding how kids’ use, or more typically the overuse, of entertainment technologies affects their emotional health, academic performance, and chances of success. Librarians, teachers, and parents are much better able to understand these concerns because they have adult brain development and greater life experience.

Nonetheless, the native-immigrant belief—which is heavily promoted by those invested in kids having no limits on their gadget use—has helped convince American parents to “let kids run wild online,” as the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the “majority of 8- to 18-year-olds say they don’t have any rules about the type of media content they can use or the amount of time they can spend with the medium.” The result is that teens now spend an incredible 8 hours a day between various entertainment screen technologies (e.g., video games and social networks) and talking and texting on the phone, while spending a scant 16 minutes a day using the computer at home for school.

Our kids’ wired-for-amusement lives clearly interfere with librarians’ goals of advancing kids’ reading and academic success. The more kids play video games the less time they spend reading and doing homework, and the less well they do academically. Similarly, the more time kids spend social networking the less well they do in school. This overuse of entertainment tech is one reason American students are increasingly struggling against their global peers. The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are disturbing to say the least: the U.S. now ranks 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 20th in reading compared to the 64 other countries that took the exam.

Which kids are hurt most by advice that they should be given “freedom” with digital devices? Those of color whose parents have less access than more economically-advantaged families to guidance from college counselors and high-performing schools that kids are better served by focusing on schoolwork and productive uses of technology than playing with devices. A recent Pew Research Center report outlined troubling figures: 34% of African-American and 32% of Hispanic teens are online “almost constantly,” while 19% of White teens report using the Internet this often. Because teens’ top online activities are gaming and social networking, the extremely high levels of smartphone/online use by kids of color are likely to expand the racial achievement gap.

How Can Librarians Provide Leadership on Kids’ Technology

Consider these actions to advance children’s and teens’ success and help them use technology productively:

  • Help parents, teachers, and schools understand that the digital native-digital immigrant belief is a myth, and that children, and even teens, are not developmentally capable of navigating the tech environment alone.
  • Encourage caregivers to limit kids’ use of entertainment technologies, and instead foster their learning of educational fundamentals (e.g., reading and math) and productive uses of technology.
  • Advocate that families “parent like a tech exec.” In stark contrast to Boyd’s advice, Bill Gates (the co-founder of Boyd’s own company, Microsoft) set strong limits on his own kids’ tech use, as did Apple’s Steve Jobs and other leading tech execs, as described in the New York Times’ article, “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent.” Typical limits set by tech execs include no gadget use on weekdays, computers only being used for homework on school nights, and no screens in the bedroom.
  • Make special efforts to reach out to children and families of color, as well as less advantaged families, to promote kids’ focus on reading, academics, and the productive use of technology.


©Larry Odell

©Larry Odell

Today’s guest post was written by Richard Freed, Ph.D., the author of Wired Child: Debunking Popular Technology Myths, a practical guide for raising kids in the digital age. A child and adolescent psychologist with more than twenty years of clinical experience, Dr. Freed completed his professional training at Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the California School of Professional Psychology. He lives in Walnut Creek, California with his wife and two daughters. To learn more, visit

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

Posted in Author Spotlight, Children & Technology, Guest Blogger | 4 Comments

Easy Access: Making eBooks a Breeze

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mikael Wiman

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mikael Wiman

Have you noticed a spike in eBook circulation this summer? At our library we have hopes and dreams of seeing an increase in our eCirculation, not solely during an intense reading period, but throughout the school year. There is no question that an increase wouldn’t just be dependent on patrons having knowledge of the library’s eCollection, but also their access and ease of use, both for parents and kids.

In the spring the teen department and children’s library decided to debut an e-Reading Room through Overdrive. The purpose of the offering is to provide youth with a safe and kid-friendly environment in which to browse the library’s eCollection. Bringing increased exposure to our digital collection is one of our continued goals in the department, both for kids and teens, but making it a lot easier to search and download may be a lot more difficult than simply creating a virtual kids’ space.

Has this ever occurred at your library? All 5 copies of a certain book are checked out and you happen to find the one copy available and it’s an eBook. The patron is ecstatic and you proceed to shown them the process for searching, downloading, and reading the eBook. At some point in the transaction you notice the glazed look in their eyes and hope that when they go home they actually succeed in getting the title. I’m speaking mostly about parents and caregivers, but this can be amplified even more if we are speaking of a child.

Thankfully a few libraries around the country are on mission to make this process a bit easier for everyone!

Library Simplified is a collection of organizations with the goal of making the eBorrowing process less complex, especially as the importance of digital materials continues to increase within libraries. Another plan is to give libraries the ability to offer collections from all their eBook vendors through one application. The promise is 3 Clicks or Less, which would be a dream come true.

American Libraries, in their eContent Digital Supplement put out an article about the Library Simplified project entitled, Click, Click, Read: Building a library-owned delivery channel for eBooks. Personally, I’m looking forward to the progress that Library Simplified has made and continues to make in the eBook world. Hopefully that progress is a bit quicker than the time it’ll take you to download your next eBook from the library’s collection!

What steps has your library taken recently to make accessing eBooks a bit more seamless for your young patrons?


Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is the Head of Teen and Children’s Services at Darien Library in Darien, CT.  For further questions, please contact at For more information check out the Digital Media Resources page on the ALSC website.

Posted in Blogger Digital Content Task Force | Leave a comment

Applications open for 2016 Bechtel Fellowship

ALSC Professional Award

Applications for the ALSC Professional Awards are opening this fall (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC and the Special Collections 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.

Each applicant will be judge on the following:

  • the description of the topic of study for the fellowship period;
  • the applicants’ demonstration of ongoing commitment to motivating children to read;
  • the applicants’ willingness to spend a total of four weeks in Gainesville. The time spent does not have to be successive weeks.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is November 1, 2015. For more information about the requirements of the fellowship and submitting the online application please visit the Bechtel Fellowship page.

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Dan Bostrom, Professional Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Last month’s ALA Annual conference saw the arrival of a mostly school-age sibling to Guerrilla Storytime and YA Smackdown.  On Sunday and Monday morning, Amy Forrester, Kahla Gubanich and Mary Pearl of the Denver Public Library and Multnomah County Library’s Danielle Jones gathered youth services librarians in the Networking Uncommons for a speedy discussion of easy, inexpensive programming for children from birth to age 12.

Program-a-looza circleAt Monday’s session, each participant offered an outline of a successful program, including crucial details such as accompanying snacks and the best ways to reuse old supplies.  (This is how I learned some Minecraft enthusiasts enjoy perler beads.  Thanks for the tip, Aaron!)  The Denver Public Library contingent plans lots of passive programs–including animal science activities and a spy training event–which may require a bit more set-up but can appeal to kids of all ages, last for hours, and be reused.  Danielle shared her preschool success with an Elephant and Piggie party featuring readers’ (or listeners’) theater complete with pig ears and elephant trunks.  Elementary-aged kids at my library have flocked to our annual Field Day: relay races, water balloon tosses and other outdoor games topped off with a watermelon snack.  Others mentioned older kids loving weeks-long shelfie competitions and Minecraft parties with origami, LEGOs, and the aforementioned perlers.

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

After a round of pre-proven ideas, we started a speed cycle of sticky-note brainstorming, scrawling suggestions and details to build on initial concepts.   In two-minute bursts, we raced through emergent reader programs, superhero suggestions, preschool computer classes, imaginative play programs, and more.  Check out convener Amy Forrester’s comprehensive list of the (legible) sticky notes for each theme on her blog.  And don’t worry if you missed last month’s program-a-looza; just come join the programming party at Midwinter 2016.

Robbin Ellis Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY, and a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Feel free to write her at

Posted in ALA Annual 2015, Blogger - School-Age Programs and Service Committee, Programming Ideas | 1 Comment

Fantastic Family Film Festival

Last year I needed a last minute program to fill in our last week of Summer Reading. We have weekly performers at my branch every Thursday afternoon and we didn’t get one for the final week of July. So my staff and I threw together a Frozen-Sing-Along and had over 150 kids show up!

This program was so easy to put together and had such a huge draw that I wanted to repeat our success again this year. We cut back on the number of performers, so I had three open Thursday afternoons to fill with staff led programming. So our Fantastic Family Film Festival was born.

Our first one happened yesterday afternoon with a Big Hero 6 Robot Build-Along.


Movies tend to be hit or miss at our branch and we have more success with recent popular films with kids and families. The hero theme of Big Hero 6 went perfectly with the Summer Reading theme of Superheroes and the kids are still talking about the movie, so I knew it would draw a crowd. But I didn’t want to just have the kids sit and watch a movie-I wanted something else to happen to make it worth the trip. So we made robots!

I received a huge donation of shoe boxes from a local community theater who had used them in a recent performance. This was a fantastic gift because all of the shoe boxes were wrapped in nice white paper-a perfect surface for creating a robot. I set the room up with several tables and chairs for a work surface but left the front open for floor seating. I put out the boxes on one table and various art supplies on another (crayons, scissors, ribbons, glue, stickers) and told the kids they could gather supplies anytime throughout the movie. In order to help cut down on the mess I kept googly eyes, feathers, and pom-poms back at the table staffed by librarians and the kids had to come and get these from the librarians so we could ration these out and have a more controlled mess. This ended up working out great and we had very little clean up!

The kids loved making a robot while watching the movie and we had multiple parents comment on how they thought it was a wonderful idea. We even had an adult wander by the room and poke her head to tell us we needed to do programs like this for adults!

We ended up with just over 50 kids building robots on a rainy afternoon and the robots turned out great. Of course now I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of all their wonderful creations! My staff and I loved seeing the kids creativity shine through their projects and they had a blast creating while watching a movie.

Next week we’re repeating our Frozen Sing-A-Long and the week after that we’re hosting an Incredibles costume contest and mask making. This programming has been a big draw for families and is a nice break from very staff intensive programming as we finish up our Summer Reading Program.

Posted in Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson, Summer Reading, Tweens | 1 Comment

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): The Scene from San Francisco



JENNA and a group of seven school and public librarians are gathered around a flip chart in the corner of a crowded co-working space at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference. JENNA steps forward to start an informal, high-energy information exchange between library professionals.

(smiling and beyond excited)

SPLC Committee WordleHi, everyone! My name is Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us this morning to talk about ways we can work together to improve outcomes for the youth and families we collectively serve!

We’ll be starting from a very basic but very important premise: We all want to work together. School librarians want to collaborate with public librarians, and vice-versa. But even though our spirits are willing, we know there can be barriers to the effective collaborations we want to create and maintain.

So what can we do? Build bridges to understanding between school and public librarians. Learn what our counterparts’ typical days are like and the unique successes and challenges we encounter in our respective settings. From this understanding, we can start building relationships that foster effective collaboration and deliver the maximum benefit to youth and families.

Today we’ll be using the guerilla-style format made awesome by Storytime Underground. I’ve placed 20 prompts into this cup for us to use as starting points for our discussion. Let’s get started!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

How much involvement do school librarians have in creating assignments that require library use? For example, “Read a biography about Abraham Lincoln that’s at least 100 pages.”

(several hands raise at once)

The short answer? It depends! School-public library collaboration depends largely on the collaboration happening within the school building. Classroom teachers often bypass us when planning for assignments, so often we find out about them at the same time you do.

Public librarians should know we have very little planning time, and things can change very quickly in schools. Your positive tone and approach mean everything when trying to work with us. Relationships are definitely key!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What aspects or outcomes of your school or public library job do you consider most essential?


Even though we work in different settings, we’re all working toward the same goals: To facilitate positive relationships that benefit youth; to inspire kids to read and learn; to successfully integrate technology into kids’ lives; to improve outcomes for youth and families; and to prepare kids and teens for success both in school and in life.

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work as a school or public librarian?


(1) Advocating for my program and additional resources, which are very limited; (2) Administrators, parents, and teachers don’t know what we do; (3) Staff shortages; (4) Communicating and marketing services; (5) Not enough time to focus on the big picture/more meaningful work because of day-to-day responsibilities; and (6) Unpredictability!


What I’m hearing from our conversation is that we’ve got a lot of common ground. We’re facing similar challenges in our day-to-day work, but we remain steadfast in our belief that what we do makes a difference for kids.

(heads nodding in agreement)

Two complementary questions as we start wrapping up our time together: How can public librarians best support their local school librarians? And how can school librarians support their local public librarians?


Spend time just getting to know one another. There may be growing pains the first few times you meet, but definitely take the time to meet regularly. Plan events together. Make things happen for the community. Most of all, learn how to be better advocates for one another’s roles and one another’s programs!


One final question: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to ask/tell school or public librarians?


We’re so impressed with what public librarians do! Keep trying to work with us. And let schools know what’s new at your library, from collections and services to programs and special events!


How can public librarians best support their school library counterparts without stepping on their toes?


Thank you so much for this rich exchange today! As the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation moves into its next year of work, we’ll definitely capitalize on everything we’ve gathered from this session. Stay tuned for next steps in building our momentum and keeping the conversation going!

As participants begin to disperse, there’s another flurry of brainstorming about possible next steps: collections of best practices, Twitter chats, Google hangouts, asynchronous online working groups, and additional in-person meet-ups. JENNA can’t wait.




Today’s guest contributor is Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC Division Councilor, Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website, and Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Jenna writes the Everyday Advocacy column for Children and Libraries and blogs at Miss Jack & Mister Jill.

Posted in AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee, Collaboration | Tagged | 3 Comments