Welcome to this latest attempt to connect librarians from west-central Wisconsin with each other! Please send in content (booklists, ideas, photos, etc.), and comment on posts so we can help each other. If you were using feedmyinbox to get new posts sent to you before, you'll need to switch to another service (blogtrottr works like feedmyinbox, googlereader is a good blog-reader to try).

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Fidget Spinners

fidget spinner
Not sure if you are seeing Fidget Spinners in your libraries (I've yet to lay eyes on one in person but I live a sheltered life).  Thanks to a Facebook post by Jenna at Chippewa Falls, I read a thought-provoking blog post about them. Not about their popularity or how distracting they are.  This post was written by a woman with autism, who discussed how for many years the "self-stimming" of people on the spectrum was considered to be (and still is, in many circumstances), a behavior to get rid of, rather than as a useful coping mechanism for people who are overwhelmed by sensory input.  And then, a person who is not disabled pointed out that fidgeting helps him concentrate in meetings--and now fidget toys are all the rage.  As she said:

"Think about this: Decades of emotional punishment, physical violence, and other abuses. And then some guy (who just happens to be in a position with more social clout than most disabled people will ever attain) writes an article about how having a fidget toy helps him concentrate during meetings, and all of a sudden, every neurotypical person in America is falling all over themselves to get a fidget toy of their own. "

See what I mean?  Read the whole blog post to get more insight (the blog in general is worth looking at!)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Call to Action

cover for Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement
Public Libraries:  A Vital Space for Family Engagement , a report from the Public Library Association and the Harvard Family Research Project, is a call to action for libraries to learn about and reach for more effective family engagement.  Libraries, the report argues, are in an excellent position to work with families to enhance their well-being and the well-being of our youngest citizens.

Family engagement is a shared responsibility to support children's learning and development, from birth through young adulthood.   Families are the first and most important learning environment for children.  Libraries are already doing many things to "encourage and inspire families to be engaged in their children's learning," and there is more to be done!  Libraries have, as the Aspen Report states and this one reiterates, the People, the Place, and the Platform to support family engagement.  Library leadership needs to embrace the importance of these efforts, and we need to make them concerted and intentional, rather than simply a random assortment of programs.

The report asks libraries to continue to:

  • Reach out to families who might not be using the library
  • Raise up family voices and ideas in the development of services
  • Reinforce already existing relationships and practices of families
  • Relate, offering opportunities for families to develop relationships with each other
  • Reimagine what kinds of community partnerships are possible

I highly recommend taking a look at this short, readable,  and practical call to action, as well as the Ideabook that accompanies it.  The Ideabook contains suggestions and examples from around the country, including small libraries.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Scarcity--part 3

jar of coins
Lack of money can cause tunneling
This is the second in a series of posts about the book Scarcity:  Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan (an economics professor at Harvard) and Eldar Shafir (a psychology and public affairs professor at Princeton).  Look here for a cool info-graphic visual summary of the book, created by Todd Clarke.  Here's a podcast where they talk about some of their findings.

If we think about how scarcity might be affecting the families we serve, we might make some meaningful tweaks to help make our programs and services more helpful and accessible for the people we most want to reach.

Remember that people who are experiencing scarcity are focused on the day-to-day.  Programs that are rigid are not always a good fit for them.  Coming to the library, or bringing a child to the library, is not inside the tunnel for most people who are struggling day-to-day to make ends meet or to find enough time in their day to sleep and eat.  It's important to think about that when planning programs, or thinking about your summer library program reading encouragements.  Can families participate whenever they can make it?  Is it possible for kids to participate and have access to books and even programs, even if getting to the library at a given time or date is impossible?  It is worthwhile to consider these questions, especially if we want to change the trend of people who may be most in need of the free resources we offer, having the hardest time accessing them.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Scarcity--part 2

The proverbial ticking clock!
This is the second in a series of posts about the book Scarcity:  Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan (an economics professor at Harvard) and Eldar Shafir (a psychology and public affairs professor at Princeton).  Look here for a cool info-graphic visual summary of the book, created by Todd Clarke.  Here's a podcast where they talk about some of their findings.

This has implications for us in how we plan our work.  I'm guessing most of us, especially at this time of year, are a little beside ourselves with things to do.  We are planning and publicizing our summer programs, and trying to make the summer jam-packed with terrific offerings for kids, teens, and families in our communities.  It can make it hard to think big-picture. 

Consider building slack into your schedule.  It might seem silly to allow for any wiggle room when there is so much to be done, but if you leave a little space (don't schedule your meetings or programs back to back, leave a few hours free to catch up every week) you will be better able to accommodate unexpected changes  (a sick co-worker, a flooded bathroom, etc.) without getting hopelessly behind.  And if no unexpected changes happen (face it, have you ever had a week like that?) you will have a chance to use that time to get ahead on something, OR to think/reflect about bigger picture things.

In the book, they described situations where having slack in a schedule (having an assistant whose time is not always booked to the last minute) or a building (a busy hospital setting aside an operating room for emergency surgeries) actually made the system more efficient.  Think about that!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Scarcity book cover
If you've had a conversation with me in the past month or so, you've probably heard me talking about a book I finally just finished called Scarcity:  Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan (an economics professor at Harvard) and Eldar Shafir (a psychology and public affairs professor at Princeton).  Look here for a cool info-graphic visual summary of the book, created by Todd Clarke.  Here's a podcast where they talk about some of their findings.

The basic premise of the book is that when we are facing scarcity--of time or money, for instance--we use up significant cognitive resources just dealing with the most pressing issues.  We tunnel, which makes good sense and keeps us functioning in the present (it can even make us super-efficient and effective in the short-term).  Anything outside the tunnel, however, is necessarily disregarded.  In the long run, this can be problematic.  In fact, people's decision-making about long-term things is impaired, along with their general cognitive functioning--some studies even have shown that IQ is affected by managing scarcity, and it certainly makes some of the programs designed to serve people living in poverty less helpful.

I'm going to do a blog series about this--breaking this into a couple of bite-sized pieces.  Watch for more tomorrow and Friday!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

SYNC Program=Free Audiobooks All Summer!

The post The SYNC program returns to give you free audiobooks all summer long appeared first on OverDrive Blogs.  It is edited slightly here.

 Audiobooks are wonderful for reading while on the go and thanks to AudioFile’s SYNC program, you can get two free audiobooks each week for the next 16 weeks straight. The program started last week, and today switches titles--Feed and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
How it works
Visit http://audiobooksync.com each week to get your two free audiobooks. Titles change every Thursday at 7am ET so be sure to visit frequently so you don’t miss out on any books. All titles are in MP3 format and they play in the OverDrive app. While at the SYNC website you can sign up to receive weekly reminder alerts by text message or email newsletter. SYNC is dedicated to introducing the listening experience to the teen audience. The program demonstrates that required reading can be completed by listening but these titles can be enjoyed by literature lovers of any age.

You can learn more about the program, see all of this year’s selections and get promotional materials by visiting http://audiobooksync.com. We would like to thank AudioFile for once again partnering with OverDrive on this exciting program to help bring summer reading to headphones around the world.

Thirteen Reasons Why (or Why Not)

You are important!  Stay Strong!  (written)
Flickr Creative Commons, Eli Christman

I live in a bit of a popular culture bubble, and I'm often late to the game of hearing about what is hot.  Last week, one month after the Netflix series based on the teen book by Jay Asher Thirteen Reasons Why was released, I heard about the series three times in as many days.

Just in case any of you aren't aware, I thought I would share some resources and information.  Thirteen Reasons Why is about a teen who completes suicide, first creating cassette tapes to leave with thirteen people who she holds responsible for her desperate solution.  In the Netflix series, each episode covers a tape.

There are conflicting opinions about whether this series is problematic in its depiction of suicide and suicidal thoughts.  Some experts believe that it is getting people to talk about this crucial topic, and asking people to think about the way their interactions with each other might have a lasting and harmful affect.  Others bring up several problems--suggesting that it presents suicide as a means to revenge, possible glorification of suicide, promoting the idea that "if someone is going to kill themselves, nothing one of us could say would change their minds," (as one counselor tells a survivor), and possible triggers with graphic violent depictions of sexual assault and suicide.

Some schools are sending letters to parents, alerting them to the series and urging parents to watch it with their teens and open a dialogue, and recommending that students who are vulnerable to suicidal ideation not watch the series at all.  The JED Foundation has put together a guide about the show, as well as a set of 13 Talking Points about the series, pointing out some important issues in the series.

I'm pointing all of this out because I think we should know about it.  It would be interesting to work with the school to provide a forum for families to talk about these issues when they are at the top of everyone's mind.  Prevent Suicide Wisconsin has a list of QPR Trainers in the state.  Question, Persuade, Refer is like CPR for people you think may be having a mental health crisis--the main take-away is not to ignore it if you are worried someone may be considering suicide.  Ask them about it, persuade them not to do it right now, and help them find help.  I am guessing librarians are in the position to deal with this now and then, and I highly recommend getting yourselves some resources and tools so you don't feel quite so freaked out and ill-prepared when it happens.

Let us know if you are planning to do anything related to this!  We'd love to learn from your experience!