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 | Leave a 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; 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 .


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

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

Mindfulness in the Library


Photo by Stacy Dillon. Cossayuna Lake NY

In our lives as busy and distracted librarians, it’s easy to get sucked into always keeping that running list in our minds.  You know the one.  It has all of those “to-do” tasks on it that have to get done in the next 2 hours, shift, day, week and month.  I know that I always have several balls in the air and am trying to stay ahead of the game.  It often leads to worrying about what’s next rather than being present in the task at hand.

I was speaking with a teacher about this not so long ago, and she told me about a mindfulness workshop she had attended.  She told me that it had not only helped her practice as an educator, but she was using the techniques with her students and it was making a difference in their lives at school as well.

I started looking around the web for some articles not only just on mindfulness, but on mindfulness in the practice of librarianship as well.  Here are some links have proven helpful to me as I begin to slow down, take a breath and be present in my practice.

Mindfulness for Librarians, by Devin Zimmerman

Insights and Practical Tips on Practicing Mindful Librarianship to Manage Stress, by Kristen Mastel and Genvieve  Innes

Mindfulness 101, posted by The Nocturanal Librarian

The Resource Page from The Mindfulness in Education Network

Of course this takes time. And our connected lives give us some hard habits to break.  I am typing this up while at the breakfast table, with several tabs open at once! I hope that you will consider adding some mindful practice to your days.

Posted in Blogger Stacy Dillon, School Library Media Specialist, Slice of Life, What I Wasn't Taught in Library School... | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The 2015 Día National Program Registry #dia15alsc

Build STEAM with Día Mini-Grants

Register your program today! (image courtesy ALSC)

The 2015 Día National Program Registry is now open, and ALSC is inviting libraries to begin registering their upcoming programs. By using the national registry, libraries help build a searchable database that showcases all types and sizes of library programs that highlight Diversity In Action.

Each registered event is given its own unique webpage allowing for libraries to share information about their Día program on their own website and through their social media outlets. Families are able to use the searchable Día map to find programs to attend in their communities.

The national registry is also a great way for libraries to share diversity programming ideas and best practices with collogues across the country. To learn more about Día and to download free resources including booklists, coloring sheets, toolkits, book club curriculums and more; please visit

Last year alone, there were over 6,000 program searches completed within the national registry, make sure you register your programs today to share with your community how you celebrate diversity!

Posted in Dia, Diversity | Leave a comment

REFORMA and the Children in Crisis Task Force

Thousands of unaccompanied refugee children fleeing violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have crossed the United States border and turned themselves in where they are being held in detention centers and placed in removal proceedings. In June 2014, at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, REFORMA (National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos & the Spanish Speaking) decided to form the Children in Crisis Task Force to get books into the hands of these children while their future is determined. The Children in Crisis Task Force Co-Chairs are looking for ways  to partner with immigrant youth centers. Co-Chair Patrick Sullivan states, “Vendors are waiting in the wings ready to donate books.” Through monetary donations REFORMA is ready to purchase books, backpacks and school supplies.

In September 2014, National REFORMA President Silvia Cisneros personally delivered the first shipment of donated books to McAllen, Texas. In October 2014, Theresa Garza Ybarra, President of REFORMA’s Estrella de Tejas Chapter coordinated a second shipment of donated books to Karnes City, Texas. REFORMA is currently working on a third shipment to Artesia, New Mexico with REFORMA de Nuevo Mexico Chapter President Flo Trujillo. Task Force Co-Chair Oralia Garza de Cortes says it is a slow challenging process that is important. She states, “(REFORMA) is the first group to put books into the detention facilities. No one has done that before.”

Sullivan says that the next phase of this project is to determine what REFORMA can do to help local chapters help newly arrived children in their region who have been re-united with their families but are still under order of removal. Some REFORMA chapters are already doing this such as Los Angeles and San Diego Libros. For example, Ady Huertas, Teen Center Manager for San Diego Public Library’s Central Library, is working closely with local community organization Southwest Key. They have a couple of centers that provide temporary housing and education for youth in transition. They arranged one class visit consisting of 2 centers and 3 classes with 20 youth aged 8-17 years old. Huertas gave them a tour, library cards, and introduced them to library resources. She also gave the youth free Spanish books and some incentives. She is now coordinating a second visit and hopes to schedule regular monthly visits. To her surprise, Huertas even received thank you notes in English! Huertas explains that libraries have a role in servicing this segment of the community. Huertas states, “We’re trying to introduce the library as a safe place and in cities anywhere where they end up, they should look for the local library and get resources and technology for free.”

Photo by Ady Huertas

Photo by Ady Huertas

Libraries have traditionally reached out to immigrant populations to help them navigate their way in a new country. Garza de Cortes notes that this population is different in that they have refugee protected status. When asked about the next steps, Garza de Cortes responded, “(We need to) create more awareness of our role and responsibility as librarians to provide accurate information for the families and work with agencies to be able to help them better understand the power of libraries and power of books to help children change their lives.”

To find out more information about this project or make a book or monetary donation, please visit the Children in Crisis site here.

Additional Resources:
* Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. A.A. Levine, 2006.
Tan, Shaun. Emigrantes. Barbara Fiore, 2007.
Graphic novel of the immigrant experience. Available in English and Spanish but completely wordless.

Art from "The Arrival". Image from

Art from “The Arrival”. Image from

* Department of State. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Office of Admissions Refugee Processing Center Affiliate Directory : From Boise, Idaho to Wheaton, Illinois, this official directory lists the many service agencies working directly with refugee children.

* Southwest Key Programs: Immigrant Youth Shelters : Information and map locator for shelters run by Southwest Key that temporarily house unaccompanied minors.


Ana-Elba Pavon is the Branch Manager of Oakland Public Library’s Elmhurst Branch in Oakland, CA and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at

Posted in Blogger Public Awareness Committee, Child Advocacy, Committees, Diversity, News of Interest, Outreach | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Apps to Explore the Natural World

I love nature and the outdoors, and like to build on children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder in library programming. Technology is part of our world today, and even more so, part of our children’s world. I’m excited about some of  the ways that technology can encourage and enhance exploration of the natural world. Here are six apps that you can share with children and families. All require users to do something in the world, beyond the device itself. Most can be used by preschool children, with parent/caregiver assistance, and by elementary age and older children more independently.

Merlin Bird ID

(free, iPad, iPhone, Android)
I’m a big fan of citizen science11708506813_1a7185bc68_m projects and have participated in Project Feederwatch with my own children for close to ten years. A few years ago I starting sharing information about The Great Backyard Bird Count in a storytime on birds and birdwatching. I was delighted when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed the Merlin Bird ID app. The question and answer format is easy enough for preschoolers to use (with an adults help, at least initially, as it involves reading).  It asks where the bird was seen (on the ground, in a tree, flying, etc.), what three main colors it was, and what size using a comparison chart that preschoolers can relate to. Then it comes up with possibilities for that bird. We identified one bird as a group from a picture of a Northern Cardinal, the state bird of Ohio, that I had seen at my feeder that day. Then children explored on their own using the three ipads we have for use in programming. The Merlin app also has a bird guide for browsing and playing different bird calls, an aspect that the children were particularly drawn to. Just listen to the Wild Turkey and you’ll see what I mean!

Other apps that build on children’s interest in the natural world include:


(free, iPhone, iPad)


Developed by the Fred Rogers Center, this app for preschoolers encourages movement, physical activity, and early literacy. It requires interactivity, as you take a photo of your child doing different activities like pretending to climb a tree, to jump, to squat like a frog.  Then the app creates a storybook from the images, that can be read multiple times, saved, and shared.

Nature’s Notebook

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

From the USA National Phenology Network, Nature’s Notebook is a citizen science project focused on recording seasonal changes in plants and animals. You register with the website, and then use the app to record observations. Lesson plans are provided for students from elementary to high school.  I already do programs on hibernation (getting ready for winter), the frog and butterfly life cycle, and trees, so I’m looking forward to suggesting this app to parents and teachers.

Trees Pro HD

(free, iPhone, iPad; two additional tree packs for $2.99; Android: $12.99)

This app can help identify trees by leaf type, bark, and fruit, flower or nut. Take a quiz to test your tree knowledge.

Project Noah

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

Another citizen science opportunity that is very kid-friendly and encourages closer observation of the natural world. A child, or family together, can choose missions, local or global, to participate in. Earn patches as you record nature spottings along the way, from the initial Tadpole patch to Bug Lover (50 arthropods) or Reptile Specialist (20 reptile spotting). The field guide includes photos from other Project Noah participants with a map of where the plant or animal was spotted.

Night Sky Lite

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

Just hold your de9684969716_411c2d9bb4_mvice up to the sky and this app identifies stars, constellations, and planets overhead. Great for budding stargazers. For those who want to learn more, upgrades provide additional information about the wonders overhead (and eliminate the ads at the bottom.)

What are some of your favorite apps for nature or outdoor exploration?

-Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.

Posted in Blogger Children and Technology Committee, Children & Technology, STEM/STEAM, Storytime, Technology | Leave a comment