Strange shelf-fellows

Love him or hate him, Melvil Dewey was the architect of modern library cataloging.  His classification system added order to the world of books like the classification system of Kingdom, Phylum, Species, etc., made sense of the biological world.

In most instances, Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) makes for easy non-fiction browsing.  Once in a while, however, it makes for some strange “shelf-fellows.”  Here are two  that you might enjoy:

Browsing the DDC 610s: Nothing goes together quite like Chiggers and My First Trip to the Dentist

Browsing the DDC 610s: Nothing goes together quite like Chiggers and My First Trip to the Dentist
© L Taylor

Browsing the DDC 640s: My Christmas Cookie Book and Flush: The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages - strange shelf-fellows indeed! (c) L Taylor

The Christmas Cookie Book and Flush: The Scoop on Poop – strange shelf-fellows indeed!
© L Taylor

What strange shelf-fellows are nesting on your shelves?  If you’ve got a great photo, I’ll be happy to add it to the post.

(Be sure to tell me whom to credit for the photo.)

Posted in Blogger Lisa Taylor, Bloggers, Slice of Life | Leave a comment

The Science of Slimy Things

A few months ago, one of my frequent program-goers made a request: Would I please be able to offer a program that includes slugs, one of his favorite animals? I was inclined to agree to the challenge, even before said child had his mother email me a photo of him with his three pet slugs. How’s a librarian to say “no” to that?

I gave some thought to how I could meet the “slug” challenge while also closing out a season of many science-themed programs. I decided to return to a favorite concept with school-agers—slime—and explore it from two different perspectives: animal biology and physics. Thus “The Science of Slimy Things” was born.

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

The program was divided roughly into two parts, the first considerably less messy than the second. We opened with an exploration of slugs—pictures, how they move, their scientific names, how they differ from snails, and the purpose of their slime. Happily, the non-fiction stacks had plenty of resources to support this exploration.

Then we got hands-on with slug slime. No, not real slug slime, as I don’t have regular access to the potionmaster’s storecupboard. Instead, I had prepared some gelatinous, fibrous slime (recipe below) the morning of the program and brought it with me to the library. It sat in the staff fridge with a note saying “NOT Jello—Do NOT eat!” until program time. Once we had talked about slugs, I doled out scoops of the orange goo on paper plates for each of the attendees. I provided them with popsicle sticks and index cards to use to explore and manipulate the slime, but many of them opted just to use their hands. I’m sure none of us are surprised.

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

When everyone felt that, having tested its viscous properties, they had had a good play with the slug slime, we scooped it all back up into the plastic container. After a brief stop in the restroom to wash hands, we all trooped outside to the library’s patio for the really messy activity of the program.

Our second exploration of slime was oobleck, that substance owing its name to Dr. Seuss. I had some sample oobleck to accompany the intro to this type of slime. We discussed how oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid—that is, it has properties of both a solid and a liquid depending upon the force being exerted upon it. To demonstrate, I set a toy farm animal on top of a pool of water (it sank) and then on top of the pool of oobleck (it sank, albeit more slowly). With a minimal amount of pressure acting against the oobleck, it acts like a liquid. To demonstrate how it acts like a solid, I used a mallet as my tool. First, I slammed the mallet into the pool of water; it splashed magnificently. When I raised the mallet to slam it onto the pool of oobleck, many of the kids leaned backward in expectation of a colossal oobleck splatter. Instead, there was none; the sudden strong force of mallet against oobleck caused the oobleck to act like a solid. Cue the pronouncements of “How cool!”

After making sure the kids had retained the term “non-Newtonian fluid,” I split everyone into groups to make their own oobleck. It was a messy, experimental process, as kids had to fiddle with the balance of ingredients in their slime (recipe below). Once they all had slime, the patio was a mess of kids scooping up oobleck, rolling it into a ball in their hands, and then letting it drip through their fingers. (I am happy to report that it rained a LOT the day after the oobleck project, which had left the outdoor patio quite covered in dried slime.)

When kids had had enough of the messy oobleck, I handed out empty prescription containers so that kids could take a bit of slime home with them. Kids bottled it up, then went their merry way to wash hands.

My program-goer who requested the slug aspect of the program said he was very happy with how the program had turned out—he liked getting to play with slug slime, and the oobleck was a great surprise as well. Talk about enjoying the finer things in life.

The Recipe for Slug Slime:

  • 7 cups water
  • 10 tsp Metamucil powder

Pour the water into a stovetop-safe saucepan, then stir in the Metamucil until dissolved. When the mixture is dissolved, turn on the burner to medium-high heat. Heat the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until it reaches your desired consistency. The mixture will be gelatinous and gloopy. Let cool before handling.

The Recipe for Oobleck:

  • 1 to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water

Pour 1 cup of the cornstarch into a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the water, gently stirring with a spoon or with hands. Keep adding water until the oobleck starts to thicken; you’ll know it’s ready when you tap on it and it hardens. If the oobleck is too runny, add more cornstarch; if too thick, add more water.

Posted in Blogger Amy Koester, Programming Ideas, STEM/STEAM | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Light the Way for the Underserved

Do you have an innovative new program or service that requires funding? Are you looking to serve an underserved part of your community more fully?  The ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved” Grant is a great opportunity for your library!

The Light the Way Grant was formed in honor of Newbery Medalist and Geisel Honoree author Kate DiCamillo. The spirit of the award honors the themes represented in her books.  The award itself consists of a $3,000 grant to assist a library in conducting exemplary outreach to underserved populations through a new program or an expansion of work already being done. So, whether yours is a new idea or one that has already been put into place, your library would be eligible.

The  ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee has the honor of selecting the winner. Special population children may include those who have learning or physical differences, those who speak English as a second language, those who are in a non-traditional school environment, those who live in foster care settings, those who are in the juvenile justice system, those who live in gay and lesbian families, those who have teen parents, and those who need accommodation service to meet their needs.

Be inspired by the impact and the work of the 2014 ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” current grant winner. Don’t forget to check back on the ALSC website for the most current grant application to be available soon!

Posted in Blogger Renee Grassi, Diversity, Grants and Fundraising, Outreach, Special Needs Awareness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Creating Life-Long Library Advocates

I was on Facebook the other day and many of my library friends were posting an article from the Atlantic Monthly called, “Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations.” Interested, I read the article and was excited to see that the millennial generation loves reading. The article shares the results of a Pew research report that studied the role of the influence of libraries on young readers, ages 16-29. “Eighty-eight percent of Americans under age 30, read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older” and they also used the library slightly more than older adults. For a split second, I was ecstatic. I now, finally had proof that all my hard work as well as the hard work and tireless efforts of all my friends and fellow librarians who put in long days planning programs, recommending books, and advocating to parents and politicians, actually worked.

Then I read the following sentence: “At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing – with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.” Only 19% of Millennials say that their local library’s closing would impact them, even though they are using the library as much as older patrons.

Before we throw our hands in the air and call in sick tomorrow, let’s take another look at the facts. We have created a generation of readers who use the library and are reading and utilizing the library more than the generation before them. Unfortunately, they just don’t understand the importance of the library to themselves and to their community.

As everyday advocates, we can fix that. Children do not have political power. They have limited say in decisions affecting their lives, but as we can see with this study, they are the future politicians, community partners, and parents with whom we will be advocating to justify our budget and staff. Instead of trying to convince adults to become library advocates, let’s focus on the youth to create life-long library advocates! As Children’s librarians, we have the unique ability to advocate from birth. The next time you are talking to caregivers about the importance of storytime, be certain to include the children in the discussion. When you find that perfect book for a child, remind them how the library is important to them. Sometimes, we focus so much on the political parts of advocacy, that we forget that it as simple as talking to a child. Who is with me?

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Gloria Repolesk is a Children’s Librarian at the Emmet O’Neal Public Library. She is writing this blog post on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

Posted in Blogger Advocacy and Legislation Committee | Leave a comment

Setting Program Attendance Limits?: She Said/ She Said

Does your library limit attendance to children’s programs, requiring some sort of advance registration? Or are all programs planned with an eye toward accommodating any size group?

In a nod to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, children’s librarians Lori Faust and Kendra Jones debate the pros and cons:

LF: Well, Kendra, I will begin with a very obvious “pro” in favor of pre-registration to a set limit: if staff knows how many people to expect at a program, it is much easier to plan, prepare and purchase supplies without over-buying and wasting those limited budgets.

KJ: True, but limiting attendance can create more work for staff as they will have to take registration, follow up, pass out tickets, etc., plus there is the unpleasant task of informing interested patrons that a program is full.

If we allow walk-ins, we are more apt to have kids attend whose parents do not want to/cannot commit ahead of time and those who do not know the great things the library has to offer until they drop in one day. To then be unable to attend a program is not great customer service.

LF: That’s a good point, Kendra, and we always want to make sure we have some programs that are open to all. I’ve worked at libraries that run things both ways. One did not like us to limit attendance; we had fabulous turn-outs, but because we always had to expect 100+ kids (on a very small budget), we could only offer inexpensive programs that accommodated huge groups. And I found that kind of limiting creatively.

In response to your point that turning people away isn’t good customer service, I’d argue that for some libraries, with limited space perhaps, keeping the crowd to a manageable size can make the experience better for those in attendance. I’ve had complaints from patrons when programs have been very crowded, too!

KJ: I understand how that can be challenging, however, there are other options for programming for large crowds of people. Identical programs can be held back to back, for example. Only one program has to be planned and is then repeated. Not only does this offer patrons more choice in time but allows more patrons to partake in a library program.

LF: That would be a great option, IF…Well, there are several “ifs” depending on an individual library’s situation – can the youth services staff book the space for double the time? Is there enough staff to cover the department and run multiple programs? Is there enough money to cover twice the program? I want to mention, too, that requiring registration for programs doesn’t necessarily mean that patrons get turned away. Often, a program doesn’t “fill up,” but having a good idea of how many kids will attend helps the staff prepare for (and sometimes tweak) the program.

KJ: So true, Lori, that some libraries do not have the resources to do a double header. However, if a program is not getting filled up, perhaps registration is acting as a barrier to one of our most prized resources.

When I worked in a system where registration was required, even with reminder phone calls, patrons did not come for the program. And since they were under the impression that registration was required, there were no drop-in patrons to attend the program, meaning supplies went unused and the program was smaller than intended. Which may not bode well with statistics loving stakeholders who often provide funding for youth programs.

Now we have had our say, but we know there is so much more to this issue! It is your turn to make some arguments for, or against, program attendance limits. Add your thoughts in the comments.

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Our guest bloggers today are Lori Faust and Kendra Jones, who wrote this piece as members of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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, Programming Ideas | 5 Comments

Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter?

Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language.

Poet Janet Wong said that it’s easy–and vital–to create science literacy moments in the classroom and at the library. The key is to be bold. “Science and technology are accessible to people if they’re not afraid.” As gatekeepers of information, teachers and librarians should embrace the responsibility to expose kids to all subjects. Linking language and science may be a key way to make science more approachable. It doesn’t even have to be an elaborate lesson: just a few science literacy moments a week will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Check out these great resources:

Jill’s post about Thursday’s edition of “The Science of Poetry”

Presenter Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children blog

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s blog and book, The Poetry Friday Anthology.

Posted in Books, Children & Technology, Children's Literature (all forms), Institute 2014, Live Blogging, Programming Ideas, School Library Media Specialist, STEM/STEAM, Students, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Every Day You Do It! #alsc14

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s closing session talk was a great end to the ALSC Institute experience.  In addition to giving us a wonderful peek into her creative process, she clearly identified herself as a lover of libraries and librarians.  She called us “Fairy god-librarians!”  (Time to make new business cards?)

And, you know what?  We are.  That’s one thing that I will take home from the ALSC Institute: the pleasure of meeting colleagues from around the nation who are incredibly generous, dedicated and brilliant.  I hope this is something that you already know and that you hear on a regular basis, but regardless, please take a moment to recognize how amazing you are.  You work so hard and your work has a huge impact on the children and families in your community.  As Pickney said “Every day you do it!”

Posted in Institute 2014, Live Blogging | Leave a comment

Beyond Sensory Storytime at #ALSC14

Renee Grassi led this informative session on serving children (and adults) with special needs. She started off by sharing the rationale behind expanding services to this population: To provide a supportive and inclusive environment for a traditionally underserved group in your community.
She also shared some startling statistics:
Nearly 20% of the US population lives with a disability- about 13% with a severe disability. Only 56% of students w/ autism finish high school, even though there are more than 1 million people w/ autism in the USA.

For those wondering where to begin w/ developing services for people w/ special needs, Renee suggests starting with conversations- get to know people and talk to them about what they need and want. One way to do this is by offering family tour services at the library. This can be available for any family- special-needs or just new to the community or library. They simply make an appointment and have a customized personal library tour with a librarian, just for that family, adapted to their needs and interests. Other ways to find out about community needs include surveys and focus groups.

Renee talked about where to find partners to help your library reach and serve families with special needs: parks, museums, disability organizations, therapists, health centers & hospitals, support groups, special educators & schools, and other librarians who are already working in this area.

Renee described her major partnership w/ her area special-education district- the spedial-ed teachers & specialists provided training and expertise to the library staff, and used their connections to get a community needs survey distributed to the families they serve.

Top 3 library materials requested in that community needs survey were:

  • high interest/low reading level books & booklists
  • chapter books paired w/ audio books
  • more parenting books on special-needs topics

Top 4 services requested:

  • storytime designed for children w/ special needs
  • book discussion for teens & adults w/ special needs
  • eReader & downloading demos
  • social stories about the library- these are first-person stories used to introduce a person with special needs (especially autism) to a new concept or experience.

Next Renee discussed the concept of person-first language: Say “The child with autism” vs. “The autistic child” – or better yet, learn and use their name! It’s important to watch your language even when talking to fellow staff- you never know who hears you, and how disability has affected them.

We talked about ways to adapt existing programs to include children with special needs, and specially-designed programs just for this population. Libraries can offer integrated programs that are open to a mix of ‘”typically-developing” children and those with special needs, or programs that are just for those with special needs- there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and what’s best to do depends on the needs and priorities of the families being served.
One great idea that Renee shared, that I hope to try at my own library, is for when you have a great big noisy program for a large crowd, like a magician or puppet show: ask the performer if they can offer a second, much smaller session that’s adapted to be sensory-friendly. This would mean keeping the lights on, turning the volume on the sound system down, reducing sudden loud noises, and allowing the audience to move around, talk, and fidget with toys. Publicise this extra session as “autism and sensory-friendly” and require registration or tickets to keep the crowd small.

There are many ways to make sure that your library services are accessible and welcoming to everyone, and Renee’s great ideas make an excellent starting point for doing just that.

Handouts from this program:

PowerPoint Slides (available online only)
Presentation Resources
Handout: People First Chart
Handout: Universal Design Checklist

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