Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Low-Tech Makerspace Programming at the Denver Public Library

Today’s post focuses on two types of low-tech makerspace programming currently being developed and implemented at the Denver Public Library’s Children’s Library. While facilitated by all of the children’s librarians at the Children’s Library (myself included), these programs have been developed by my two innovative colleagues – Carrie Wolfson and Liesel Schmidt. For this post, I chatted with Liesel and asked her to provide insight into the creation of these super fun and very successful programs. The two types of programs are Open Studios and Tinkering Programs inspired by the friendly, accessible nature of the makerspace movement. Both these programs encourage participation and sharing of ideas. Liesel described them this way: Open Studios allow participants to explore different art media like watercolor paint, oil pastels or clay. We make real art materials available to visitors, along with suggestions of techniques to try. It works to demonstrate examples of new techniques…


What makes rural services to school-age children different?

I live and work in Nevada County, which is actually in California, to the great confusion of search engines and non-Californians (and many Californians). Our county has just under 100,000 people and 68% of people live in unincorporated areas, and 93.6% of the population is white (according to 2016 numbers from the US census). This county also skews older, with just 21% of the population under 18. Every rural county is incredibly different, so I cannot pretend to represent what working in a rural county is like everywhere, but here is my experience. I was born in San Francisco and lived there until I moved across the bridge to suburban Marin, worked in Oakland, and then in suburban Connecticut before landing here. Living in rural California has me understanding my own lens as urban. I expect excellent services that are easy to access. Patrons up here know that services exist,…

Programming Ideas

Painting Under the Table: Innovative K-5 Art Programs

Linda Potter, an Early Literacy Specialist at the Kenosha Public Library, has turned the tables on ordinary art programs at the library. On one particular Friday, children lie on their backs, painting paper that’s been taped beneath the meeting room tables. Why? They’re learning what it’s like to be Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. (Turns out, it’s a tad difficult to paint like Michelangelo. Who would’ve guessed?) This is just one program in a popular series called “Art Sparks.” Art Sparks is a drop-in program for children in grades K-5 that runs for 2.5 hours once per month. Each month, Linda turns the spotlight on a different artist and offers an age-appropriate project in that artist’s style. For example, while exploring the work of Wayne Thiebaud, children painted giant cardboard doughnuts and sprinkled them with paper confetti. A program on Jackson Pollock found the meeting room kitchenette covered with plastic…

Awards & Scholarships

Hosting a Mock Award Discussion with Kids

The end of the year is approaching. For me, that means skyrocketing speculation about the Youth Media Awards (YMAs), which include the Newbery, Caldecott. I love pouring over year-end best of lists and reading as many 2017 books as I can. Another reason I look forward to this time of year: I love a good mock award discussion. For this blog, I’ll focus on different ways to host a mock award with school-age kids (for more on the benefits of hosting a blog for your colleagues, check out Amanda Foulk’s stellar post on Guessing Geisel).

Library Design and Accessibility

What I Learned in a Library Renovation

A concerted effort by librarians in my school district, Williamsville Central Schools, to upgrade our library facilities finally bore fruit when I was given the given the opportunity to renovate the library at Heim Middle School, where I have been the librarian for more than twenty years. I was fortunate enough to be able to select both new furniture and carpeting. The furniture in the library was original to the opening of the school in 1965 (first named North Forest Junior High), and the carpeting was from the late 1990s. In thinking about the future of the library, planning for flexible use of the space as well as creating a variety of zones for various activities (e.g.: class space, quiet reading, collaborative small group work space) was paramount. The process has taken close to an entire calendar year, and the results have been amazing! Feedback from our students and staff have been…


RWD: Book Groups with a Twist

I love movies. Since I was a kid I was fascinated with the silver screen. I loved the actors, the glamour, the costumes but more importantly I loved the story. I would watch science fiction, action, Merchant Ivory films anything with a great story. I also loved reading great stories in different genres as well. While in my capacity as a programming librarian I was always trying to figure out how to engage kids with book groups. Then it dawned on me one day: Why not try to combine my favorite things, movies and reading? That is when RWD was created. I got the idea from looking at my old VHS player’s controls. RWD in the case of the book group stands for Read. Watch. Discuss. I choose a different book based on the season, new movies that are coming out and old favorites. For example this time of year…


Including the Shy Ones: Passive Programming & Interactive Displays

One of the biggest challenges that youth library staff faces is providing programming that reaches the widest array of children possible. We cast huge programming nets in hopes of filling our programs with happy smiling faces that are raring and ready for some fun… but what about the shy kids? What about the children that aren’t super excited about being “trapped” in a room with thirty other kids? How can we engage these children without forcing them into our programs? The answer lies in passive programming. This generally underutilized programming option can be the bridge that connects your more shy patrons with library resources and materials. The trick is to portray the passive program as something else entirely, such as a game or fun activity. From my experience, the best method is to create a program that requires no staff supervision, can be completed with very little instructions, and most…


Cheap and Easy STEM Programs

It’s no secret that I love doing STEM programs. They’re educational, a bit chaotic, and fun. If you fear facilitating STEM programs, consider this: remember when science was awesome? Before it got all difficult and filled with math that still gives you (read: me) panic attacks? When you’re a kid, everything is new and super cool because you’re learning how the world works. Frankly, sometimes science seems like magic–only better because it’s real. So, you can take that natural curiosity of theirs and use it to explore science alongside them. You don’t need to be an expert; just admit you don’t know something and learn with them as you go. Ahem. Pardon my science-y soap boxing. This month, I’m sharing my Top 5 Inexpensive STEM Programs: Catapults. In my program, 4th-6th graders learned a bit about physics, watched educational videos about how medieval “siege engines” worked, and built two types…