My library is currently undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation, and it’s gotten me thinking: if money were no object, what would your dream library look like? Do you have one specific creative project you’d love to do? Or have you been yearning for a completely new youth space? Here are my top four library design dreams.
Gratitude feels a little hard to come by this year. Maybe it’s just me. Normally at this time, I’d be prepping for programs to put on during Thanksgiving break. But programs around the holiday can be tricky. COVID restrictions might have changed how your library is able to program (it has for my system), and you might be short-staffed (from vacations, illness, or disaster service work). And that’s not even to mention the racism and colonialism involved in the holiday’s history. For these reasons, here are some programs (passive, with low staff involvement, and the ability to socially-distance) that you can do to celebrate thankfulness and gratitude.
When I was a kid, way back in the late nineteen hundreds, I loved horror as a genre. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was my jam (I loved the pictures. Today they are nightmare fuel). I read Peg Kehret’s Horror at the Haunted House over and over. Christopher Pike? Check. Goosebumps? Absolutely. Kids have always loved scary stories, but in recent years, middle grade horror has really taken off as a genre. Why does this genre appeal to kids, and what are some ways for the library to support young scare-lovers?
True confession time: when I was ten, I got kicked out of my local public library and never went back. In fact, unless I was specifically required to for a school assignment, I didn’t go to another library for a full fifteen years. On more than one occasion I told people how much I disliked libraries, and yet eventually I became a librarian myself.
I love to put on creative writing programs at the library. Kids are natural storytellers, but as they grow up and move through the school system, many of them come to believe that writing is all about having correct spelling and grammar. But a library program can focus on the fun side of writing, throw away the so-called “rules” of writing, and help young writers bring back their creative spark. Read on for three examples of creative writing games you can play at your library.
A girl of about eleven or twelve walked up to my desk and asked if I could recommend some books to her. “I really like Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,” she said. “Great!” I said. “Do you want more books by Judy Blume, or just other books like that one?” “Other books like that one,” she confirmed. We started walking up and down the stacks. I pulled a book off the shelf with a Judy Blume vibe, gave her a brief description, and then watched her face as she tried to keep up a polite smile.
In honor of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, here are two stories about mental health in the library. Children Can Have Mental Health Needs A young patron of about eleven or twelve sidled up to me quietly at the children’s desk and asked me in a soft voice for books about, “um, you know…depression.” Immediately my mind went to worrying for this young person. I’ve had depression from a very young age – younger than the girl in front of me. My heart leapt in a kind of panic, a panic of wanting to rescue this young person from all the hardship I’ve experienced with my own depression. I had to take a moment to make myself be calm. I started asking her normal reference interview questions. Did she want fact books or stories? Was there anything she had read recently that she’d liked? We went walking up and…
Back when we could still host in-person programs, my book club for fourth to sixth graders met to discuss Jerry Craft’s New Kid. I was confident they were going to like it – it was about to win the Newbery (among other awards), and I had been on a hot streak of choosing books my book club adored (not to brag!). I opened our book club discussion the same way I always do: by asking who liked the book and who didn’t, and by reminding them that it’s okay not to enjoy a book we read – they won’t hurt my feelings by expressing their opinions. This opening question lets me discretely check on their reading comprehension without feeling too much like a quiz. I was surprised when almost all my kids said they didn’t like the book – but I was downright shocked when I asked them to talk…