Recently, my coworker and I presented our “Best Books for Kids 2012.” This is an annual program we started 3 years ago. Basically, we create a list of what we think are some of the best books published during the year. We then put together a booklist and slideshow and do an evening of booktalks for parents, teachers, and caregivers. This program requires lots of reading and preparation, but it is so much fun to enthusiastically share great books with a room full of eager listeners.
I’m sure you have a lot of questions. Things like, “Why do you do this?” “How do you select the books?” and “What books did you choose?” Well, that last one is quite easy to answer. Here’s our list. The other two questions are a bit more complicated… We do the program for many reasons. Selfishly we do it because we love talking about children’s books, and we love “Best of” lists ourselves. Who doesn’t get excited when the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list comes out, or when the buzz around the Cybils and Newberys andCaldecotts gets going? (not that our list in any way compares with these… but just the idea of a “best” list gives a little thrill, doesn’t it?) Also, we want members of our community to see the Children’s Room staff as the local experts on children’s literature, and this program goes a long way toward establishing that.
Of course we can’t just do programs because we want to, we need to be offering something to our community. We have found that many parents and grandparents are looking for gift ideas at this time of year, and are happy to get advice from their local librarians. We specially market the program as a way to get ideas for holiday giving, and have a lot of luck attracting grandparents to the program with this angle. Teachers love the Best Books list, too, because they (like us) are buried in new titles and appreciate insight into which ones are quality books they should share with their students. Which brings me to the question of how we select the books.
Our Best Books list is unique because our goal is to highlight the best books in a way that is most practical and useful for our patrons. This means we always have picture books that span preschool to early elementary audiences, graphic novels, chapter books that appeal to all types of readers from grades 1 to 6, and nonfiction and poetry titles that would be good for classroom or home use. The first year we tried to talk about too much, and our event ran way over. We have learned over the years that we need to keep our list to under 30 titles, which given the number of categories we’re trying to cover, can be pretty hard. Because we want to include something for everyone, there are invariably wonderful titles that get left off, so this year we displayed the “runner-ups” on a table at the back of the room. We marked the books with the name of the staff member who selected it, so that participants could know who to ask if they wanted to inquire about a particular title. Every year we work very hard on this program, and really enjoy presenting it. And every year, those who attend get so many ideas and give us wonderful feedback. We always wish we could get more attendees, but this time of year is very busy for people, and it is hard for many parents to get out of the house at night.
Which leads to my questions for you: Do you offer a “Best of” program? What kind and how do you select your winners? When do you have your program, and how do you effectively reach your target audience?
Our guest blogger today is Ashley Waring. Ashley is Children’s Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA.; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter with the handle @ashcwaring
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.