The Book Award Season has launched

The National Book Foundation announced their 2013 Young People’s Literature Longlist for the National Book Awards on Monday, September 16, giving us a lovely list of ten titles rather than the usual five (that shortlist will be announced on October 16).  Apparently the Foundation wanted to create a bit more buzz, a la the Man Booker Prize.  Having read five of the ten so far, I’d say the judges have done a great job. And no wonder.  The panel consists not only of four stellar children’s and YA authors (Peter Glassman, E Lockhart, Cecil Castellucci and Deb Caletti) but also a real live children’s librarian and literature expert – Lisa Von Drasek.  You go, girl! If you prefer a more interactive approach to children’s and YA book awards, you’re in luck – the Cybils are right around the corner.  Nominations open October 1, giving you a bit more than two…

Blogger Eva Mitnick

Strive for Perfection – but accept Pretty Darn Good

We librarians tend to be passionate about our jobs; we believe deeply in the importance of library service to children and their grown-ups and so we are always striving for excellence. But because perfection is impossible to achieve, it is sometimes so easy to focus on all the ways that we are falling short of our goals. Take Summer Reading (please!).  My office – the Children’s Services Dept. in a large library system – coordinates all aspects of our program.  Our Summer Reading committee is closely involved in the planning, but once summer starts, it’s Children’s Services that is filling orders from branches for game boards, incentives and other supplies, handling invoices from performers, and much more. We’re not seeing kids beaming as they tell us how much they read or have fun at a library program.  Instead, we hear about the things that aren’t working right – the incentives…

ALA Annual 2013

A fine balance

So far this conference #ala2013 has been a fine balance of work and celebration, and it’s all been excellent fun (not to mention pretty good weather.  Remember that you need rain to make a rainbow). Friday – Helped present a preconference workshop on outcomes-based summer reading programs (see the CA Library Association website for more information on the concept).  Great stuff – but couldn’t help envying those folks attending the Caldecott preconference! Friday night – Dinner with Steve Sheinkin, the MacMillan folks and my dynamic Newbery committee.  It was da Bomb!  (heh) And then there was the ALA Think Tank party.  Free margaritas.  Much dancing and mixing with local Blackhawks fans.  No photos thereof, thank goodness. Saturday morning – Missed not one but two sessions due to a blissful lie-in.  Then off to be a panelist at the What’s Hot in STEAM Programming session.  If you’re interested in preschoolers, Every…

Blogger Eva Mitnick

Summer Lunch at the Library

On Monday, we began serving free lunch at the library!  At two Los Angeles Public Libraries, actually – Central Library plus the Pacoima Branch.  Kids and teens ages 18 and under can eat from June 10 to August 2 – all summer long. Food at the library, you ask?  Is this really a library function? Think about summer learning loss.  Libraries have known for over 100 years that we have a strong role to play in keeping kids’ brains and imaginations active over the long summer vacation. In poor communities, summer brings another problem.  During the year, many students rely on free or reduced-price lunches provided at school by the federal government.  When school is closed for the summer (and in our school district, summer school is almost non-existent), kids lose that source of nutrition. Libraries are free and open to the public in every community, and they offer fun…

Blogger Eva Mitnick

Family Science Programs – part 2

In my post on Family Science Programs last month, I reported on the Los Angeles Public Library‘s partnership with the California Science Center to offer hands-on preschool science programs to families at the library.  It was their grant – and we came on board as an active participant in helping the CA Science Center achieve its outcomes for community-based preschool science education. This month, the focus is on interactive science programs for older kids and their families.  Our wonderful partner Iridescent Learning included us in a grant to offer 5-week Family Science Courses.  Iridescent Learning developed the curriculum and then trained University of Southern CA engineering students to present the workshops at two of our branches in the South Central part of Los Angeles. Every Monday afternoon in April at the Exposition Park and Junipero Serra Branches, families feasted on pizza, juice and fruit provided by the library, learned about…

Blogger Eva Mitnick

Family Science Programs

Library grants  – love ’em and need ’em!  But let’s face it, the process can be time-consuming and exhausting, from applying to reporting. How refreshing, then, to partner occasionally with other organizations that have received their own grants.  They do all the sweaty work of budgeting, planning and evaluating, while the library and our community reap the benefits. The Los Angeles Public Library is getting a name around town as an eager and flexible partner and as a result, we’ve been having a blast working with museums and after-school organizations. Here is one of the two STEM programs we’re currently offering, thanks to our partners: The CA Science Center – Preschool Science Kits Seven bursting-at-the-seams science kits, each on a different topic!  Seven library branches!  Seven all-day staff training workshops offered at the renowned CA Science Center (home of the Endeavour)!  And none of it is costing us a dime….


The Newbery Marathon

The Space Needle?  The Experience Music Project?  Pioneer Square?  I didn’t see any of that stuff while I was in Seattle this ALA Midwinter, though the five Starbucks between my hotel and the Convention Center became very familiar indeed. Nope, much of my ALA was spent in a conference room with my 14 fellow 2013 Newbery Award Committee members, discussing the best in children’s literature published in 2012.  Fueled by chocolate, popcorn, nuts, crackers, cookies, smoked salmon and a LOT of coffee, the conversation was funny, intense, detailed, informed and enlightening.  Take it from me, the 2013 Newbery Committee members are some of smartest, wittiest and most dedicated people with whome I’ve ever had the pleasure to be stuck in a room for hours on end. Sometimes, the process reminded me of jury duty.  We had our criteria, rules and guidelines to adhere to – much like jury instructions from…

Blogger Eva Mitnick


Those of us who are both eternally imperfect and wildly optimistic tend to make New Year’s Resolutions.  When I started listing my resolutions, most of them fell into one basic category: Learn More! What do I want to learn?  Fun, useful things!  Library service to children is exploding with super-cool STEAM stuff; what better excuse to boost one’s brain power and have fun at the same time than to explore it?  Here are some things I want to play with (um, learn about): Lego robotics!  I bet we’ve got some teen robotics groups that would love to share their expertise with kids (and me). Squishy circuits!  If teeny kids can learn how to complete an electrical circuit with play dough, then so can I. Stop-motion animation! From SAM animation to Monkeyjam to simple flip books, there are so many ways to do this easily and cheaply. Common Core!  The perfect…