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, November 28, 2016

SLP Musings, Part 3: On Being Overwhelmed and Exhausted

Take a tip from the koala:  REST!

Several people listed being overwhelmed and exhausted during the summer in the exercise about the thing people hate the most about the Summer Library Program.  I think we can all relate to the feeling of being inundated with things to do, events, staff shortages, lots of extra kids (some unsupervised and at the library for hours at a time), and the huge input of energy it all takes.  Let's think about some things related to that:

  • Vacations:  Some people feel like they cannot take any vacation time in the summer.  This is a problem!  Summer is prime time for spending time with family that is occupied with school during the rest of the year, and for many outdoor activities! Plus, summer is the time you are busiest and most in need of a break.  Think about how you can make this work--and if you have staff helping you, think about their need of a break, too.  Consider summer vacations when planning your programs--remember your resolution to start doing more passive/provocative/stealth programming, and plan ahead for some of those programs during times when staff will be shorter.  Consider all the elements of your program, and think about ways you can make room for times when it isn't critical to have all hands on deck!
  • Simplify:  If prizes, registration and paperwork are all things that make your program unwieldy, take a good hard look at how you do them.  Are there ways you can simplify or even eliminate some of these elements?  The rest of the library staff will appreciate any simplification you can do.
  • Pace yourself:  Remember that your whole career as a librarian is more of a marathon than a sprint (at least we hope so!).  You don't have to do every single cool or important thing at once, though it can feel like that is the case.  Step back for a minute and look at what you are trying to do and then prioritize the most important things.  
  • Think about the rest of your life: No matter how much we simplify and plan, summer is going to be busy and overwhelming sometimes.  How can you build some things that give you energy into your daily life?  Think about whether diving into another project that is unrelated to work will help you feel more energized and excited about life, or if it will make you feel exhausted and weary--either is possible!  Make sure that you feed your need for solitude and for friends and family.  Ask for help from your loved ones to help make sure you carve out time to rest, whatever that means for you.
  • Notice good stuff:  Both at work and at home!
  • Forgive yourself:  You will have some flops.  Some things won't go as well as you hoped.  You will feel tired and cranky sometimes.  You won't be able to do as much as you wanted to, both at work and at home. Forgive yourself for all of it, let go, and move on to the next thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On Being Thankful

I've had a bit of a rocky fall, and have missed a lot of work to help care for a loved one who is at the end of her life.  I thought it might be appropriate during this Thanksgiving season to give some thanks for things that are helping me get through it all.  Here is a partial list of what has kept me going:

  • Amazing, generous co-workers and a supportive director who are ready to step in and help me fulfill my duties if needed--even with busy schedules and challenges of their own.
  • Gentle messages of kindness, support, wisdom, and assistance from colleagues in our system and across the state.  
  • A Youth Services Section board who has handled my increasing flakiness with forbearance and a willingness to jump in and take over for me when necessary.
  • A job I care about, with librarians who are doing incredible work in their communities.  Flexibility and ample vacation and sick time help, too.
I've been letting go of responsibilities and projects, reminding myself that I will go back and collect them up again as soon as I am able to do so.  In the meantime, I'm deeply appreciating my library community.  The support we give each other makes a difference!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

SLP Musings, Part 2: On Themes

Luckily, your programs and services don't HAVE to fit into boxes, colorful and fun as those boxes might be.
At the SLP workshop on November 11, our wonderful presenter Holly Storck Post asked people to write down one thing they hate about SLP.  I noticed some interesting trends on this list, and I'm trying to address them in blog posts.

One trend I noticed that people hated about the SLP:  THEMES, and trying to come up with program ideas, etc. that fit the theme.  It wasn't an overwhelming number, but the fact that for 3-4 people, the first thing they thought of was themes is telling enough that I wanted to address it with a blog post!

Themes can be fun.  They can let your mind go in directions it might not have gone before.  Sometimes they help narrow the choices down so you aren't quite so overwhelmed by options.  They can be a unifying element for staff and patrons alike.  They can help with marketing.  But if they are causing you to wrack your brains, cramp your style, or make do with programs you aren't excited for just because they fit the theme, they aren't working.  If themes are your least favorite part of the SLP, I have some ideas for ways you could make that better!

1.  If you don't like the CSLP theme, there is no rule that you have to use it.  You can pick your own theme.

2.  In fact, there is no rule anywhere that says you have to use a theme at all!  A catchy slogan is fun and useful, but you don't have to make it an over-arching theme that relates to all of your programs and services.

3.  If you choose to use a theme, use it for YOUR benefit.  Don't feel like you have to cram every program, event, or special thing into the box of the theme. Just like in storytime, it is better to have an excellent song, book, activity or program than it is to have a boring, un-excellent one that fits your theme.

Friday, November 18, 2016

SLP, Part One: Record-Keeping

At the SLP/Youth Services workshop we had last week, our presenter Holly Storck Post had participants list things they hate about the summer library program.  I noticed some interesting themes in this mix.  I'm going to address them in a series of blog posts.  Along with the usual frustration about inadequate staff, space, and money, guess what people report is the most frustrating element of the summer library program?  Record-keeping.

I'm guessing that means coming up with, producing, and monitoring the amount of reading kids are doing.  Maybe it is time to look at all that record-keeping and think about ways to simplify or even eliminate it.  Is that possible?  Does it fly in the face of everything you've ever thought about summer library programs?  Can you still encourage reading if you don't do record-keeping?  Will some kids miss it?  Will you still be able to count kids for statistics and reports?  How will you measure if your program had some sort of effect if you don't have kids fill out records?

It is time to think about these things.  If you hate the paperwork and it makes you dread summer, chances are that there are families and kids who also hate it.  Are there ways to encourage and track reading that put less pressure on everyone?  Here are some resources that might  help you think about alternatives:

Here's a blog post about one library's process.  A couple of years ago, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Tessa Michaelson Schmidt put together a research-based resource of 10 Tips for Librarians related to the library reading programs.  Prescriptions about specific kinds of record-keeping are not included--but there are several things to think about that may help guide you as you make decisions about what to do.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Summer Library Program and Youth Services Workshop Follow-up

Last week more than 50 librarians from around the IFLS region gathered for a workshop to prepare for the Summer Library Program, but also so much more.  We had an inspiring keynote talk from Holly Storck Post about planning and evaluating programs, reaching hard-to-reach populations, making changes, and advocating for youth services.  She did some great exercises that have provided me with blog and professional development fodder for several weeks, so watch for more about that!

The second part of the day included breakout sessions from IFLS librarians about topics ranging from teen programming to developmentally appropriate practice to music in storytime to sharing/promoting SLP internally and outside to self-care and managing change to a big old idea swap.  Wow, do we ever work with some fabulous folks!

If you didn't have a chance to come to the workshop, check here for resources from the workshop.  If you have questions, let me know!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Animal Mug Mugs Program for Teens

Thanks to Samantha at LEPMPL for this guest post!

I did a teen program called Animal Mug Mugs a couple weeks ago. It was the first time in the two years I have worked at LEPMPL that my registration for a teen craft was full, and it was a lot of fun! I bought 12 white ceramic mugs and a box of Uni oil paint markers and had the kids draw animal noses on the bottom of their mugs so that when they drink from them . . . well, just take a look at the cute pictures! 

I put examples of animal noses on the table and sent them home with curing instructions—the mugs need to be baked to set the paint. Because the markers/colors needed to be shared, kids had to talk to each other, and we had some fun conversation and a good time getting to know new people. Several of the teens—and parents who picked them up—said they thought the mugs would make nice Christmas gifts. I agree!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Creating a Family Culture that Includes Books

Alice swimming in a sea of tears
When I was a kid, I read a LOT.  And there were two pairs of books (Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland) that everyone in my family had read, and read often.  We even had LP recordings of Maurice Evans and Cyril Richard reading them.  I loved having that frame of reference with my family about beloved characters, quotes, and stories.  By the time I was 10, my dad was highly recommending his favorite adult titles (To Kill a Mockingbird--win.  Hard Times by Dickens--not so much).  In order to expand our mutual frame of reference, I had to enter the world of adult books, sometimes before I was quite ready to tackle them.  My sisters and I now bond over struggling through stories like "The Penal Colony" by Kafka before we had the skills to manage that content...

I'm incredibly grateful that my parents were interested in engaging with me about their favorite books--for children and adults.  I was thinking the other day about how rich my current family culture is with shared family reading, and how glad I am that not only me (a children's literature nut) but also my husband have been willing to immerse ourselves in the world of books for kids.  As a result, all of us catch references to characters ranging from Dr. Desoto and his wife to Nobody Owens to Bud Caldwell to Tip and J-Lo to Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men.  Turns out there is rich material there, too, and some of it a better fit for kids and young teens. We've moved on to swapping recommendations of books for adults, and have even read and listened to some collectively, but truly are grounded in our culture of books shared in my daughters' childhood.

Last night was a difficult one for my family, all of us feeling sick at heart and stomach.  No matter your political persuasions, I'm sure you have had the feeling of fending off despair and terror as you look at the world.  After some processing, we all agreed that the best solution that might possibly lead to getting some sleep was some Winnie the Pooh.  So my husband and 18-year-old and I snuggled on the couch, my 20-year-old called and we put her on speaker phone, and we read "In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday, " with my heartbroken daughter voicing Eeyore. There is nothing quite like the balm of a funny, lovable, familiar set of characters, shared with people you adore.  I highly recommend it!  And just think, when we recommend amazing books and audiobooks for car trips, we are helping families build their own culture of shared references that might even help them through rough times.