Early Reader Backpacks

As a way to expand on our previously created Early Literacy Boxes and provide something for the next level of readers, our emerging readers, we created  Early Reader Backpacks. The backpacks are designed for children from kindergarten through the second grade. They contain early reader and nonfiction books that have been paired with a toy or game that reinforces the book’s theme. Many of the Early Reader Backpacks have a science, logic or math component, complementing the Common Core and STEM curriculum in our schools.  More than that, they’re fun! One back pack, for example, is about castles. Children can read a nonfiction book about castles, enjoy a story about a knight and then challenge their logic and special reasoning skills with a game of Camelot Jr. These kits may be checked out for up to three weeks, and are funded by our library Foundation.  We created an initial 20 kits and are in the process of adding an additional 20 because they have been such a hit.

backpack1   DSC00041 DSC00044

Kara Fennell Walker works as the Head of Youth Services with the Geauga County Public Library in Middlefield, Ohio. She is writing for the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. If you would like to learn more about her early reader backpacks, you can email her at kara.walker@geaugalibrary.info.

Posted in Blogger - Early Childhood Programs and Services committee | 2 Comments

Back to School Connections

Recently I attended a meet-and-greet at one of our local public libraries. This library is located near one of our elementary schools. Along with my fellow district librarians, I’d been invited to the event as a kickoff to the new school year.

Although it was – and still is – a busy time for school librarians (book displays, helping teachers, moving shelves, getting virtual and physical spaces ready), I thought it was important to attend. Indeed, I was so very glad (and honored) that I did!

Along with the pastries (my favorite was the blueberry coffee cake) and coffee, there were enthusiastic introductions and reconnections. We met staff members, heard about recent summer programming, and upcoming kidlit author visits. (I’ve already put them on my calendar.) I was given an “I Love My Library” button. I think I’ll wear it every day!


(Image courtesy of the author)

A tour of the library’s children’s and teen areas came next.  I was pleased to hear so many great conversations coming from the shelves. There were talks about seasonal displays, Caldecott books, and genres. Also, I heard lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over tech gadgets, media spaces, and reading areas. Eager questions were followed by friendly answers, and ideas began brewing.  Also, there was laughter!

In the middle of the visit, while we were all discussing our love of reading, and books that were important to us as children, I realized some things I’d always known, but just never articulated. (1) When librarians connect, all patrons benefit. I know we walked away with many ideas, and I hope it was reciprocal! (2) We each serve our patrons (students) in many of the same ways, and each way matters.

Heading back to my own library to continue in beginning-of-the-year prep, I know I enjoyed this time very much because it connected me to librarianship again in a very lovely way.

I’m grateful to the Irving Public Library for the hospitality, and I hope we can one day return the favor. I also hope that we can connect more often. Blueberry coffee cake really isn’t required (although it would be nice).

Cynthia Alaniz is a school librarian at Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell, Texas. She is a member of the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations Committee and a 2014 Morris Seminar participant.

Posted in Blogger Liaison with National Organizations | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Apps, Online Tools, and More!

Being a children’s librarian has to be one of the most fun and rewarding jobs a person could have, but that doesn’t mean it is easy! Balancing multiple responsibilities, tight scheduling, and having to constantly be “on” are just a few of the everyday challenges. Luckily, for us, there are tools out there to help us along the way. I posed the question to the ALSC Listserv “What are your favorite apps or online tools that help you stay organized, focused and energized?”

Here are some of the ways youth service staff are using technology to their benefit.


Google Keep is a post-it style system for checklists and notes. Share across your devices or with others. See real time progress on collaborative checklists or setup location reminder notifications.

30/30 is a task management system with a built in timer that tells you when to move on to your next task. The task list is controlled completely by gestures, and is the recipient of many awards and positive reviews.


Professional Development:

Many people use Evernote for note taking, but it can also be used for much more. Save program resources and collection development resources, tweets, bookmarks and more!

Pocket  allows you to store articles, videos or anything else to read at a later date. Save directly from your browser or from apps and access anytime, even without internet.



Headspace is a meditation app that provides personal training for your mind. Learn the basics of meditation and participate in guided or unguided exercises ranging from 2 minutes to one hour.

Pocket Yoga  lets you take your yoga instructor with you anywhere you go! Choose between different practices, different durations and different difficulty levels.



Canva  allows anyone to create visually appealing graphics. Flyers, social media posts, ads, and even presentations can be created by dragging and dropping images and fonts. Canva for Work is coming soon.

Finally, this one isn’t available yet but I know it will be worth the wait!

The Mother Goose on the Loose Online Construction Kit (OCK) is a free cloud- based tool developed by Mother Goose on the Loose, LLC that is designed to make planning storytimes easy by utilizing three big databases. One database aggregates nursery rhymes information such as:  lyrics, instructions, pictures, relevant illustrations, etc. The second database stores titles and bibliographic information of quality children’s books. The third database consists of developmental tips that can be used to explain the value and purpose of certain activities being done with children. There is also a wizard friend who will help users combine information from all of the databases mentioned above to generate either a barebones outline or a fully-fledged script with lyrics and instructions to help make planning high-quality programs for young children a breeze. OCK is still in beta testing, and anyone  who is interested can contact info@mgol.org

We hope these tips will help you further the amazing work you are already doing!

Posted in Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee, Children & Technology, Managing Children's Services Committee | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Romance and Writer’s Block

So there I was, on my honeymoon in St. Croix, weeks after the debut of my first syndicated cartoon strip, Hartland. And while I had romance on my mind, I was also thinking about the fact that as I was sitting on that beach, one of the strips I had already written and inked was being printed in the papers-and if I didn’t keep thinking of more ideas I’d fall behind! My brain locked on the fact that (at the time) Charles Schulz had been doing his Peanuts comic strip for 35 years. 35 years? Let’s see….35 X 365…THAT’S A LOT OF IDEAS! I proceeded to try to write 35 years worth of comic strips right there on the beach. The result was the first and worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t come up with a single idea, let alone 35 years worth (which is 12,775).

HartlandI arrived back from my honeymoon convinced my comic strip career was already over. But it soon dawned on me that what was causing my writer’s block was my unrealistic expectation. I didn’t have to write 35 years of strip ideas-I only had to write one. And with that, the vice that had been tightening around my cranium loosened, once more allowing the free flow of ideas.

Over the next decade, I gained tremendous insight into how to control my life and environment so as to get optimal creative output. As John Cleese talks about in his wonderful lecture on creativity, I learned the importance of following a regiment.

I found my quiet place to create and carved out a specific block of time that was set aside every day for that purpose (early morning through noon). In my chamber of solitude, with the necessary time to get into my creative mode, I would wait for the ideas to come, and they did. Not only could I write one idea…most days I could write ten-sometimes twenty. The other half of my day was spent sketching and inking the comic strips. I followed the words of Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your daily life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

When I began working for Frank Deford’s sports daily, The National, my workday followed a similar pattern-albeit a more hectic one.

The National editorial cartoon copyEvery day I was called upon to submit sketch ideas with an editorial slant based on what was going on in world of sports. Those ideas were then faxed (this was before computers) to The National prior to their morning editorial meeting for consideration. Once given the green light on a particular idea, I had to complete the final art by one o’clock so it could be sent, via courier, into New York City in time to be scanned and placed it in the layout for the following morning’s edition.

The next morning, the process started all over again.

Today, nearly twenty years removed, I make my living as an author/illustrator of children’s books, ranging from stories about sports, to my latest, a story about a girl who thinks she’s a dinosaur. Yet, by and large, I still follow the same regiment I learned in my syndication days, with the same objective of slipping into that creative mode. The difference is I now have the luxury of holding on to ideas for weeks or months to tinker and tweak instead of having to send out finished, publishable work on a daily basis.

This September my wife and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Perhaps we’ll go to St. Croix. And while I will, of course, have romance on my mind, I will also be thinking about the fact that while I’m sitting on that beach, the 14 books I’ve created have either already been published, or soon will be. That means I better start thinking of more ideas! Because Eric Carle has written over 70 books. 70 books! THAT’S A LOT OF BOOKS!…

(All images courtesy of Guest Blogger)


Promo photoRichard Torrey’s latest books include Ally-saurus and the First Day of School (Sterling), which received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and My Dog, Bob (Holiday House). Learn more about Richard and his books at: richardtorrey.com and follow him on Twitter at: @richtorrey

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 Author Spotlight, Guest Blogger | 1 Comment

2016 Penguin Young Readers Group Award Applications Are Now Open!

Have you been a children’s librarian for less than 10 years? Have you been yearning to attend ALA Annual Conference, to get energized and inspired and learn from others in the profession?

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2016 Penguin Young Readers Group Awards. This award, made possible by an annual gift from Penguin Young Readers Group, provides a $600 stipend for up to four children’s librarians to attend their first ALA Annual Conference in Orlando.

Each applicant will be judged on the following:

  • Involvement in ALSC, as well as any other professional or educational association of which the applicant was a member, officer, chairman, etc.
  • New programs or innovations started by the applicants at the library in which he/she works
  • Library experience.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Penguin Young Readers Group Award webpage.


Today’s guest post was written by Sondra Eklund, this year’s Grants Administration Committee Chair.

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 Awards & Scholarships, Guest Blogger, Professional Development | 1 Comment

Appreciating the Value of the Library

As an outreach librarian, my role within the community is to spread the word about library resources, engage with kids and their families, and urge them to visit our libraries. Once a month I spend a day at a branch to keep up my skills and help out when staffing is low. This weekend, I had the pleasure of working a shift and interacting with a variety of people…

  • A five-year who got his first library card and took pride in printing his name on the back.
  • A family, recently moved from Mexico, who were delighted to hear about all of the (free) services for both adults and kids.
  • A long-time patron who enthusiastically educated another about the interlibrary loan process while in line at the accounts desk.
  • New parents who didn’t realize that our storytime audiences included babies.
  • Visitors to the area who stopped in to ask directions, and ended up lingering and getting library cards.
  • A teen, picking up his summer reading book (with three days to spare before the report was due), admitting his procrastination (“It is going to be a LONG weekend…!”).
  • Waiving a fine for an elderly man who had broken his hip, spent weeks in the hospital, yet was concerned about not returning his books on time.

With so much of my work life outside of library walls, it was humbling to experience the energy and diversity of the public library on a busy Saturday. It made me appreciate the users we have already cultivated and reignited my passion for communicating the value of the library to many more.


Today’s blogger is Robyn Lupa, writing on behalf of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation committee.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee | Leave a comment

Send ALSC to SXSWedu!


Delicious! (image courtesy the author)

A sure sign of the approaching end-of-warm-weather in my office is the farewell party for our summer interns. (While that’s bitter in several ways, it’s especially sweet when my colleague Michelle makes her amazing cookies for the occasion.) This year about half a dozen high school students joined us and, of course, we have asked them what they learned while working here the last couple of months and how their perceptions of libraries have changed. And it’s been interesting/fascinating/frightening to see how even among this group of engaged young people with library cards most had arrived without full awareness of everything libraries have to offer.

This is another reminder of how important it is for us to advocate and tell our story to all ages, and so, looking to reach out to new audiences, ALSC has submitted a program proposal, Library Media Mentors Transform, for SXSWedu, an educational innovation conference from the South by Southwest folks, which will be held in Austin, Texas, this coming March.

SXSWedu “fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education” and is an ideal place for ALSC to bring our message about Media Mentorship and fighting the 30 million word gap. The objectives of our program proposal include:

• How to identify and support the roles librarians serve as media mentors to families in your community
• Evidence-based guidelines for media usage with young children
• How to partner with libraries to enrich your family engagement effort and support the goals of your educational program.

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper (image courtesy ALSC)

And for ALSC to get there, we need you! SXSWedu sessions are selected by an advisory board and staff, but 30% of the decision comes from votes from the public, so please help us spread the word about youth services librarians as media mentors by casting your vote here for the Library Media Mentors Transform program proposal. Public voting is open now through September 4, and while it does involve creating a log-in to vote, it’s worth those extra couple seconds to bring ALSC advocacy to this new and emerging arena.

Thanks for your help!

Posted in Blogger Andrew Medlar, Children & Technology, Digital World, Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Considering Access and Library Spaces

A person’s right to use a library should not be denied to or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. — Article V of the Library Bill of Rights

Photo courtesy of the author

Photo courtesy of the author

First, let me introduce myself demographically. I’m chronologically gifted. In other words, I’m older than rock and roll, and I began working as a public librarian in the 1970s. At that time, the cutting wave of censorship for the protection of innocent children from the degrading influence of the contents of the public library was to paint underpants on Mickey In the Night Kitchen with Wite-out®.

But that was then, and this is now. Now we have the Internet. Now kids can play games on the computer. And, as many in my demographic cohort express themselves, “THIS IS A LIBRARY, not a fun house for kids! Others are here to do important things on a computer!” (Remember if anyone is having fun it means they cannot be learning. If it’s educational it must be tedious and boring.)

To avoid this generational turmoil many libraries have installed a game room, complete with videogames. It’s as big a draw as afterschool snacks. Which brings me to the main topic of this post. Do age-segregated areas in the library violate Article V of the Library Bill of Rights?

Some libraries set aside computers for children, complete with child-size furniture to ensure that children have access to computers and don’t just get shunted aside by larger people. To me, this not a case of access being restricted that conflicts with Access to Library Resources and Services to Minors, because it’s designed to ensure that access. For its Children’s area, The Seattle Public Library has a laudable statement of this practice on its website:

Children’s areas within Library facilities are special parts of the Library housing special collections, programs and services designed especially for children. The purpose of the Children’s areas in Seattle Public Libraries is therefore to provide children and their caregivers with access to these special children’s materials, programs and services.

Children’s departments are available for use by those patrons who are accessing the special materials contained in the children’s collection and for use by children and their caregivers, to attend children’s programs, and to utilize other services provided by children’s departments. Patrons not included in these categories may be required to leave the children’s department and instead use other areas of the Library.

However, over the years at various libraries, I’ve encountered adult customers who don’t agree. Often, as mentioned above, they have important things to do on the computers and they aren’t any free in the adult area, or the ones in the children’s area are more convenient for them for other reasons.

  • What do you think about this line of reasoning, and how do you handle this in your library?

The next questions may be even stickier, or more problematic. The following was designed to remediate the problem of overcrowding in the game room with only a limited number of screens and game controllers.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

  • How does it fit with the Access to Library Resources and Services to Minors? Especially the part that reads, “Children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information through the library in print, sound, images, data, games, software, and other formats.”
  •  Would you adopt a policy like this? If not, what do you, or would you, have as a policy?

And for extra credit consider these questions:

  •  What do you say to the eleven-year-old that wants to play Grand Theft Auto V?
  •  Would you, or have you, selected Grand Theft Auto V for your collection?

Your comments are invited.

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom, Library Design and Accessibility, Technology | 3 Comments