A Sweet Story: Girls Scouts and Libraries

Girl Scouts. Cookies. The two have become synonymous, but there is much more to being a Girl Scout than selling cookies. As it turns out, libraries and librarians are often right there helping the troops during their non-cookie-selling time. Juliette Gordon Low organized the first troop in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912, and since then this organization has grown to include over 59 million American women and 10 million international members spread over 145 countries (source). Chances are that many of you reading this blog post are counted among that number.

That was definitely the case when I inquired across the listservs to see how libraries across our nation are working with their local Girl Scouts. Many of the responses were from librarians that were once Girl Scouts themselves and were more than happy to help the next generation of young females earn their badges. The responses ranged from as simple (but important) as offering space for troops to meet and public places to display their projects, to more hands-on collaborative planning and implementing programs for girls to earn badges and Gold/Silver/Bronze Awards. Here are a just a few of the wonderful ways that libraries across the country have worked with local troops:

Library and GS Program Ideas

For the sake of space, I’m unfortunately not able to share all the great responses I received, but I do want to highlight a few library/Girl Scout collaborations that have made big impacts on their communities. The first is an official partnership between the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road, the Kenton County Public Library and a few other community partners to host a day-long program titled Transition Quest to help prepare incoming 6th graders for middle school.  The second is the official partnership that the Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri and the Johnson County Public Library (Kansas) formed to assist the girls in completing their Journey entitled It’s Your Story: Tell It!

JCL library

Photo provided by Barbara Brand, Youth Services Manager, Johnson County Library (Kansas)

Just last month, JCL librarians, Megan Bennen and Kelly Sime presented this program at the Kansas Library Association Conference and their sessions handouts provide a lot of information on how other libraries could implement a similar collaboration with local Girl Scouts.

kansas library

With 2.3 million active girl members and 890,000 adult members serving mostly as volunteers (source), chances are there is an active Girl Scout troop in your community and they would love to work with their public libraries (search for a local council here).  The most important piece of information that I gathered from those librarians that have worked with their local girl scouts is to make sure that there are no communication glitches along the way.  The librarians that did experience a few obstacles along the way mentioned that they were usually because of travel accommodations (getting the girls to the library), timing (try to avoid school holidays, such as Fall and Spring breaks), publicity (whose responsibility is it to publicize the event), and budgets (who is going to purchase the supplies, including the badges).  Youth Serices Librarians, Karen Lucas from Madison Public Library-Sequoya Branch in Madison, WI, and Deidre Winterhalter, from Hinsdale Public Library in Hindsale, IL, both encountered the transportation problem when working with their local Girl Scouts.  Ms. Lucas helped her local troop earn their Reading Badge by asking them to write a brief paragraph about their favorite books and then she used this information to compile a bibliography for 1st and 2nd graders.  Ms. Winterhalter also worked with a local troop that could not travel to to the library by having them create a banner to promote the library’s summer reading program.  This banner, with their names and troop number proudly displayed, satisfied not only their badge requirements, but also fulfilled a service the library needed.

Here’s a fun idea from Abbe Klebeanoff, Head of Public Services for Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, that might help brighten your library this winter!

(video owned by Abbe Klebeanoff, Head of Public Services for Lansdowne Public Library and shared with her permission)

QOTD: Have you worked with your local Girl Scout Council?  What did your library do and what did you think was most successful about the program?


Lori Coffey Hancock is a school librarian for The Lexington School, an independent private school in Lexington, Kentucky.  Her involvement with Girl Scouts began when her daughter joined the Girl Scouts as a Daisy in 2009.  She is currently the Awards chair for the Kentucky Association of School Librarians and serving as co-chair for ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee. You can reach Lori on Twitter (@onceuponarun_lh).

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No one came to your Sensory Storytime. Now what?

This is not an uncommon situation.  I’ve had many conversations with librarians who share similar stories.  “I did all this research and developed this awesome new Sensory Storytime program…but no one came.  I want to draw new families to the library, but I don’t know how to reach them.  What should I do?”  My response if often much longer than the inquiring librarians ever intended, but that’s because it’s a multifaceted issue.  There are many different things to consider when hosting a program for children with special needs.  So, if no one is coming to your Sensory Storytime at your library, here are a few things you can do:

  • Cultivate Partnerships: Partner with local organizations to help spread the word.  There are many places in your community that serve families with children with special needs, including hospitals, health centers, therapy centers, doctor’s offices, park districts, and museums.  Contact your local chapter of state-wide and national disability related organizational groups.  Consider hosting a special needs resource fair at your library, like Evanston Public Library did just this month, and invite these organizations to present at your library.  Otherwise, ask if you can attend one at a local school or community event.  Many organizations are looking for free recreational opportunities to share with families, and Sensory Storytime would be just the kind of program they might be willing to help promote.
  • Rebrand: To keep a program fresh and appealing to our communities, sometimes we need to repackage and rebrand it. Maybe the name “Sensory Storytime” is not a draw to families.   Consider changing the name to “Special Needs Storytime,” or use more inclusive language like “Storytime for Children of All Abilities.”  Maybe your program is being offered on a day of the week or a time of day that doesn’t work for families in your community.  Switch it up and change the day and time, but don’t forgot to ask families first what works best for them.  Here are also 10 Quick Tips for Marketing to this audience.
  • Focus on Inclusion: The reason your library is receiving low attendance–or none at all–could be because a storytime program specifically for children with special needs doesn’t work for your families.  It can be hard to attend a program for one child, when there are two or three other younger or older children that don’t fit in the correct age bracket for that program.  Consider a more inclusive approach and develop programming that is open to the entire family, including siblings.  There are many benefits to having the family attend as a unit, including the fact that it is a lot easier for families to attend together.
  • Try a Different Program: You could switch gears and focus on developing a completely different program all together.  Perhaps you might want to target a different age group, offering Sensory School-age Programming for older children or Sensory-Friendly Films for the whole family.  You might even want to host a Board Game and Pizza Night for Tweens of All Abilities, like Deerfield Public Library did.  For whatever reason, a storytime program may not be a draw in your community, but there are many other things you at your library can do to offer programming for this audience.

If you have already tried these tips and still aren’t reaching families, perhaps library programming is not what your community wants.  And that’s okay.  Many families with children with special needs are over-scheduled with doctor visits, therapies, parent/teacher conferences about IEPs, and play dates.  Instead, here are some other things your library might want to consider to expand services to families with children with special needs:

  • Focus on Outreach: Instead of trying to invite kids to the library, make trips to the local schools and make visit their classrooms.  Bring Sensory Storytime on the road, or even consider asking if their class would be able to do a community outing to visit the library.  There is a lot you can do to make these visits meaningful.  Here are just a few ideas, including curriculum on life skills teaching manners, as well as some general tips about visiting classrooms.
  • Develop Your Collections: Don’t forget about your library materials!  You can serve the needs of families with children with special needs by developing your existing collections, or creating new ones.  You may want to consider Early Literacy or Sensory Kits, connecting with your local Braille and Talking Book Libraries or ordering more books in braille, offering more hi-lo reading material, or developing your parent/teacher collection to include more books on special needs related topics.  Don’t forget about the Schneider Family Book Award, which recognizes books that highlight the disability experience.  Just as we work to make our programs and services more inclusive and diverse, we shouldn’t forget that our collections should represent and reflect the diversity in our communities as well. 
  • Train Staff:  Even if your library has the best new program or service, it won’t matter if other library staff members in other departments are not committed to serving families inclusively.  This could be a huge deterrent for some families.  Disability Awareness Training is necessary for us in libraries to make our libraries more accessible and friendly for everyone. No matter what your library does to welcome children with special needs–whether it is programming, outreach, services, or collections–it’s important that your entire organization is on board with inclusive customer service.


What are your ideas for welcoming families to your Sensory Storytime programs?  Feel free to share below!

Posted in Blogger Renee Grassi, Library Design and Accessibility, Special Needs Awareness, Storytime, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Wearing our Library Hats

I am privileged to coordinate a team of outreach staff who give over 120 storytimes each month in preschool and Head Start classrooms. We also visit babies and toddlers at private and in-home daycares to provide early literacy-based sessions for the kids and model new techniques for their caregivers.

While recently observing a storytime conducted by one of my team members, I was struck by the wrapt attention demonstrated by adults in the room. While my staff is ostensibly providing a single service for a primary audience – preschoolers and their caregivers – they also, though these interactions, stand as advocates for the resources available within our system. In my role, I encourage staff to interact with adults as much as possible and be well versed in their ability to communicate all of the offerings at our libraries – especially those that can empower parents. This advocacy has proven to be effective, as it encourages our citizens to be empathetic to the importance of the library in the lives of kids. This then garners greater possibility for their financial support or support via a vote.

Not only do my team members do this on a professional level, but it carries over to their interactions with people at the grocery store, at church, playing with their own kids at parks, and while socializing at parties. We are ambassadors of the library by spreading the joy of the opportunities available, for free, to all. Everyone in the library family is an advocate, even in their daily activities. That’s the kind of grassroots support that is effective. No matter where we go, we are wearing our library hats!


Robyn Lupa, Coordinator, Kids & Families at the Jefferson County Public Library (Colorado) wrote this post for the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee | Leave a comment

Awards for Inspiration


Photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Inspiration doesn’t come along everyday. Finding someone or something that inspires you is rare and should probably be rewarded. For example:

  • Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized for outstanding service?
  • Do you know someone who has gone the extra mile to provide outreach services to underserved communities?

ALSC is reminding members to apply for professional awards this fall. Applications are open and several deadlines are approaching. Below is list of ALSC professional awards which are available for submission or nomination. For more information, please visit: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/profawards

ALSC Distinguished Service Award
Deadline: Monday, December 1, 2014

This award honors an individual member who has made significant contributions to and an impact on, library services to children and ALSC.

Light the Way: Library Outreach to the Underserved Grant
Deadline: Monday, December 1, 2014

This $3,000 grant is sponsored by Candlewick Press in honor of author Kate DiCamillo and the themes represented in her books. The grant will be awarded to a library with exceptional outreach to underserved populations in efforts to help them continue their service.

Deadline: Sunday, February 1, 2015; applications open soon!

Three libraries are awarded a full collection of newly published books, videos, audiobooks, and recording from children’s trade publishers to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families.

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

Are You Prepared?

Photo courtesy of Rochester Public Library (MN)

Photo courtesy of Rochester Public Library (MN)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we prepare library staff to handle intellectual freedom issues that arise. While most libraries have a reconsideration policy in place, public service staff is not always prepared to actually respond to concerns about library materials. Even managers may not have any specific training in issues of intellectual freedom. How do you talk to an angry parent about the graphic novel that’s “too explicit?” What do you say when a local school board member questions why the library won’t label “controversial” material? And what is your responsibility, as a library employee, towards those titles with which you disagree?

Supporting the freedom to read isn’t easy, and it can be especially sensitive where children are concerned. Most of us in youth services will probably deal with many more questions about our collections than your average adult reference librarian. Parents have widely different opinions on what is “appropriate” for children at different ages, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we can all probably name at least a few titles in our library collections that we would like to see disappear. It’s one thing to talk abstractly about how important it is to have materials that represent diverse perspectives, but what does it feel like to confront a title that you find personally offensive? I think that’s a question that every library employee could benefit from considering and perhaps talking through with co-workers in a supportive environment. And I think a better understanding of that question is integral to each employee’s ability to communicate effectively with library patrons about issues of intellectual freedom.

What if we incorporated intellectual freedom training into every new employee’s orientation? What if everyone from the shelvers to the branch manager knew about the Library Bill of Rights and The Freedom to Read statement that we display so proudly on our website? And better yet, what if they actually had some training in the hows and whys behind those documents? I believe we need to empower all of our staff to be able to articulate, to themselves and to our community as well, the reasoning behind our commitment to freedom of choice and open access to information.

So what do you think? Does your library incorporate intellectual freedom into staff training? Would you consider requiring staff to understand your library’s policies on intellectual freedom? I’d love to hear how other libraries approach this issue. Please share your experiences in the comments!

Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Youth Materials Selector, Sacramento Public Library
Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom, Professional Development | 1 Comment

ALSC Member of the Month — Jane Breen

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions (plus one) with ALSC member, Jane Breen.

1.  What do you do and how long have you been doing it?


Photo courtesy of Dorothy Breen

I am a Family Literacy Advocate and Educator, Teen Volunteer Coordinator, award winning program innovator and Community Outreach Librarian.* swish cape *  As  the Children’s Specialist in the Faxon Branch Library, part of the West Hartford Public Libraries, I am responsible for Children’s and Teens programs, services, collection development and all things creative within my department.  I have worked in Youth Services in the small but mighty state of CT for 27 remarkable years – both schools and public libraries. I am a believer in the statement: “childrens librarians are the Jacks and Jills of all trades.”

2.  Why did you join ALSC?  Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I joined ALSC to grow, learn and be informed. The professional development along with the many resources and national networking opportunities are outstanding. I’ve come to believe that good librarianship is collaborative so with that in mind…I am sending a virtual hi-five to all members for the many things you have shared so willingly.  You rock my little branch.  Up high!

Oh,  I’m a  member of the incredibly creative, supportive and inspiring group known as Flannel Friday which makes me a flannelizer – and no, that’s not a cult!

3.  What do you think children’s librarians will be doing ten years from now?

Love this question because for the life of me…I do believe we will be doing nearly the exact same things we do now. We will be modeling and talking early literacy skills. We will provide reader’s advisory and assist our educators, families and community with all things “family literacy.”   We are the champions of bringing the village together to build readers and lifelong learners.  Through the joy of reading and taking ownership of their library, we help children build the foundation to become happy, healthy and successful adults.  Dual language families may move more into the spotlight as diversity plays a bigger role everyday in life and literature.  I hope libraries respond with practice Spanish classes, practice Vietnamese, etc;.. with native speakers as we do with our current practice English classes. I see this as a necessary step for U.S. kids.

4.  What is your favorite food harvested in the fall?

Ha!  May I just say Carrot Cake?  Thanks!

5.  Would you rather offer storytime to a large group of preschoolers or read one-on-one with a child?

There are positives to both and now that I am a grandmother I once again adore reading all snuggled up one-on-one.  In the library, the large group program is a parent and child confidence builder that I can not resist.  Long before I came to work at my branch – a colleague had established pajama story time on Monday nights and it is a do-not-mess-with-tradition!  Parents and preschoolers pack the house –  it’s my favorite program of the week.  This story time is rooted in ECRR, with literacy tips for the parents and excitement and energy from our story time mascot, Piper.  She is a black lab puppy…a very real puppet – the only one of her kind!  And she rules Monday night. Oh, and then there’s magic fairy dust.

6.  What’s one “rule” you wished every librarian followed?  

I truly only have one rule for library and librarianship.  I learned this rule from the amazing Mrs Clancy, Media Specialist in the Groton Public Schools, BE KIND.  That’s it.  It works everywhere, every way…try it!  It’s honestly all you’ll ever need.  Thank you Mrs Clancy.

7.  Have you ever skydived?

O.M.Gosh..I went to a full day training with a friend a very long time ago.  Learned to pack our chutes, did a zip line thing in full gear  Practiced counting, planning with partners, higher zip line trial, pull chutes, pack them again and get on the plane. Well long story short I came down with the pilot, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat.  Loved It!  My friend jumped.

8.  Would you rather go bungee jumping or deep sea fishing?

Fishing, of course!  I adore the ocean and I am obviously not so good at jumping into open air!  (see above)

9.  E-books or print

My preference is print all the way.  Honestly a large part of my work – is picture books and I feel that we have to be able to hold them and love them.  We have to experience the joy of the page turn and you know, the smelll!  To stay on top of the teen collection I often listen to the audio and for my own grown-up pleasure reading – it’s print or audio.  Maybe this is an age thing!

10.  Do you volunteer?

Yes…Light One Little Candle is a national non-profit foundation I’ve worked with since it’s inception.  We bring books to cancer centers across the country.  The approach is a bit different than you’d think – the patient is the adult.  The concept began with a friend of mine who unfortunately lost her cancer battle.  She knew the value of reading and found that it was all she could do with her daughter as cancer came to own her. That is, she could no longer run, swing, swim but she could cuddle and read.   So we make sure adult cancer patients have books to read with the children in their lives.  They get to keep the books forever. Pretty cool.


Thanks, Jane! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to alscblog@gmail.com; we’ll see what we can do.

Posted in ALSC Member Profile, Blogger Mary R. Voors | Leave a comment


Dinosaurs have invaded my library. We’ve turned this November into Dinovember. Dinovember is the month when the dinosaurs come out to play. It was started by two parents who decided to have some fun with their children’s dinosaur toys and a month of dinosaur antics was born. You can follow the dino adventures on the Dinovember Tumblr. The creators also recently released a book, What The Dinosaurs Did Last Night.

Inspired by these silly dinosaurs, my staff and I decided to have some fun. We transformed one of our giant workroom windows in a calendar. Each day we post a new picture of what the dinosaurs have been up to at the library. The kids (and the parents) are having lots of fun checking out the photos and have even been looking around the department to see if they can catch the dinosaurs in action. All the staff have pulled together to make Dinovember happen with taking pictures, sharing dinosaur toys, helping us come up with ideas, and letting us invade their departments with dinosaurs. It’s a very simple thing to put together and the response has been great. I love inspiring imagination in the kids and they are getting a kick out of all the silly things the dinosaurs come up with to do each day.

Here’s a peek of what our dinosaurs have been up to:

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

We’ve been having so much fun, I think we should make Dinovember a yearly treat. And I hope other libraries join us in the fun!


Posted in Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Course Explores Services to Children with Disabilities

Changes have occurred since I wrote the blog post, Learning about Disabilities in December 2011.  At that time I said, “Many librarians say that no one with a disability has visited their library.”  This is no longer true.  Most librarians have interacted with patrons who have physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities.  It is satisfying that people with disabilities and their families now turn to the library for resources and programming.

However, in many cases librarians feel ill-equipped to provide appropriate services to this recently identified group of patrons.  Research supports this view.  An IMLS funded research study found “…librarians rated their knowledge and skills for working with students with disabilities lowest and no librarian reported providing differentiated instruction to students with individualized education programs (IEPs)”  (Small, R. V., Justus, K. A., & Regitano, J. L. (2014). ENABLE-ing school librarians to empower students with disabilities. Teacher Librarian, 42(1), 18).

In the courses that I teach, there are often recent library school graduates who tell me that their degree program contained no mention or assignment about serving people with disabilities.  That is why I am happy to again teach the ALSC online course, Children with Disabilities in the Library.  This is one of four ALSC sponsored online courses that will be offered beginning January 5, 2015.

Children with Disabilities in the Library will be a six week course that combines reading juvenile books, examining library services to children with disabilities and creating plans for services in your community.  The asynchronous course will use Moodle, which allows learners to log in and complete course work at a time that is convenient for them.

Four novels for children will be the centerpiece of the course.  We will read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos, Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Maitlin, Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and Rules by Cynthia Lord.  After discussing the books, there will be assignments designed to understand public and school library services to children with disabilities.  Since appropriate library services are best when planned with an individual in mind, a final project will allow library staff to create a program, resource, training or presentation that can enhance their community.

Course participants who complete the six week (January 5 — February 13, 2015) course, Children with Disabilities in the Library, can earn 3 CEUs (Continuing Education Units).  Registration for this and other ALSC online courses is now available by phone (800-545-2433, ext. 5) or at ALA Online Learning.

Anyone with further questions about the course, Children with Disabilities in the Library, should feel free to contact me at EduKateTodd@gmail.com .


Photo by Kate Todd

Photo by Kate Todd

Our guest blogger today is Kate Todd. Kate has retired from her work as a librarian at The New York Public Library and Manhattanville College.  She now provides online courses and webinars for ALSC and ASCLA.  She has published several journal articles and made presentations at professional conferences and seminars.  In addition to services to people with disabilities, her professional interests include leveling of children’s books, library services to incarcerated youth and gaming in libraries.  Her Twitter handle is @katetodd42 .  

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 Guest Blogger, Professional Development, Special Needs Awareness | 1 Comment