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#alsc12 2012 ALSC Institute: The Bricks I’m Building Upon

While simultaneously playing with LEGOs and listening to author Gary Paulsen speak I realized the 2012 ALSC Institute is a lot like LEGOs. At the Institute I could listen to authors, network with other librarians, and discover new ideas while attending the programs. Each of these experiences then built upon each other as if they were LEGO bricks building upon each other to create a structure of ideas to take back to my library. Here are some of the “bricks” that I picked up while attending the 2012 ALSC Institute:

From the Indianapolis Children's MuseumOne of my favorite “bricks” from the Institute was to think about the “why” in what you do. How can I do this? By thinking about the big picture–the reasons for why I do what I do as a librarian. I should work with my administration and supervisors to create a mission or a vision as to what the Youth Services can be at my library. Then I should work to craft each program or display to strengthen our department’s intent on creating a space and a department that children will want to return to again and again. There may not be a “universal formula” for how to develop a youth services plan, but my coworkers and I are the “experts” on understanding our library, our community, and our patrons. We should assess where we are, set a goal for where we want to be, and develop a plan as to how to get there (through trainings, creating mission statements or department priorities). Brilliant youth services in libraries don’t happen by chance; they are results of careful planning and work!

Discovering that listening to an author enriches your experience with a book was a second building block. I had read many books by many of these authors. And I had even book talked many of these books. However, now that I have listened to them speak about the bones in a whale’s flipper or the price of a wood grain photograph, I will look at their work in a whole new light–and then in turn I will share these books with an increased amount of enthusiasm! Just think, I can now say, “When I was talking (okay gushing) to Denise Fleming about her books, this is what she said about them…” as I share my favorites written by her at story time. Or “Gary Paulsen had a hard life too. Maybe you will enjoy reading this book that he thought of while he was racing in the Iditarod.” In a world where authors and illustrators can be as close as a Twitter or Facebook account, it was nice to interact with them in person–to hear their voice, see the party hats, and enjoy their love of literature.

Another “brick” that kept percolating in my mind is to share the joy of what I do with others, and to increase the amount of fun in what I do. While I often have songs and finger plays in story time, I am now intrigued by the idea of holding a Dance Party–or at the very least to look at how I can increase the amount of musical fun at story time. Even though I have an iPad myself, I haven’t thought about the enjoyment (and the helpfulness) of having app advisory in addition to readers advisory. Children are growing up in a world of technology, and right now they associate having fun with technology. (How many times do I see a kid crying because s/he has to stop playing the library computer in order to go home.) Technology doesn’t have to be an afterthought geared toward teens or adults. I can look for ways to incorporate technology fun at the library. And last but not least, I was amazed at the amount of fun the infoZone has as a library inside the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. They could well be called the FUNzone instead of the infoZone. And really, when a child’s job is to play, learn, and grow, I can help to make sure that they do it in a fun way.

My colleagues asked, “Was it worth it?” as soon as I got home. My resounding answer is, “YES!” Every moment of the Institute was filled with learning, thinking, and building ideas and intentions of children’s librarianship. (I even talked about story time tips and tricks with an ALSC colleague while on the shuttle from the airport to our hotel before the conference even started–literally no moment was wasted!) The Institute gave me new building blocks to help create a youth services department that will, in turn help to build a child’s future. I can’t ask for more than that. Thank you, ALSC!

Today’s post was submitted by Joella Peterson, one of the two winners of the 2012 ALSC National Institute Scholarship. This scholarship was made possible by donations to the Friends of ALSC. For more information on the Friends of ALSC, please visit:

One comment

  1. Robin

    Thanks for this wonderful summary Joella — I think we attended many of the same sessions and you did a great job of capturing the essence of them. I enjoyed meeting you at infoZone and hopefully our paths will cross again soon!

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