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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 20, 2017

Default to Kindness

chalk drawing with the words Be Kind
I was talking with a youth services librarian I admire last week.  She said something that really struck me, and I asked her if I could share it in my blog.  She said yes, but demurred when I asked if I could give her credit, so you'll just have to let this tip be anonymous.

My friend was talking passionately about the people who use the library and the important role librarians play in the lives of many folks--including people who are desperately craving a human connection.  We don't know the whole story of what people are up against, and we don't always need to.  Sometimes they are challenging to serve for various reasons.  But she recommends that in applying our policies and providing service, if we start out by defaulting to kindness, that's a good place to start.

One of the many, many reasons I'm so honored and thankful to work with librarians.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thanksgiving Books and More

With Thanksgiving coming up, it's a great time to think about our collections and programs and how they may (or may not!) portray inaccurate stereotypes of First Nation people, or appropriate cultural practices inappropriately (for lack of a better word). 

Sarah Cournoyer over at the YSS Blog recently posted some great resources for thinking about your library's Thanksgiving collections.  While you  may not choose to remove items from your collection, you will certainly want to think twice before giving certain items the prominence of a Thanksgiving display.

If you are looking for some great resources that are related to Wisconsin's First Nations, take a look at a resource newly created by DPI and other partners to help schools fulfill their mandate of teaching about the history, culture, and sovereignty of the state's American Indian Nations. This site will be helpful for informing ourselves and for sharing with students, homeschooling families, and teachers.



Wisconsin First Nations: American Indian Studies in Wisconsin



Monday, October 30, 2017

Reading Beyond: Book Lists for Advanced Readers

Reading Beyond Logo, with a hot air balloon and the words Reading Beyond
Here's a frequent question that librarians receive:  "What can I give my first grader to read if she is reading at a fourth grade level?"

Sometimes kids still enjoy books even if they can read well beyond them (Harry Potter and Mr. Putter and Tabby can live companionably on one child's reading pile, I know from experience).  Still, it is really great to be able to provide kids with a reading experience that is at their level, but not more than they are prepared to deal with in terms of their social/emotional development. 

Lucky for us, the American Library Association and the Children's Book Council teamed up to provide Reading Beyond booklists.  There are three lists, each with a mix of genres and diverse titles:  for kindergarten through first graders reading at a third-grade level; second and third graders reading at a fifth-grad level; and fourth and fifth graders reading at a seventh grade level.  Each list contains 25 titles, chosen from more than 600 submitted by publishers and librarians.

The lists are fully annotated, and an amazing tool for librarians, teachers, parents, and kids themselves!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Race for Results Shows Results that Are Not So Great

toddler peeking out from playground equipment
Well, data is in that shows Wisconsin is still not doing so great in terms of making sure the children in our state have a fair shake at life--particularly children who are not white.  The 2017 Race for Results report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation has some sobering information about how we are doing as a state.  They looked at several factors related to child welfare, and found that African American kids in Wisconsin do not fare very well.  Neither do Hmong and Latinx kids.  Or children of immigrants.
Wisconsin Public Radio did some analysis of the report, and here's what they found:
Here’s what we know about where Wisconsin’s kids stand when it comes to this kind of financial stability, according to the 2017 Race For Results Report: 
72 percent of white children in Wisconsin live in economically secure families.
24 percent of African-American children live in economically secure families.
30 percent of Latino children live in economically secure families.
31 percent of Hmong children live in economically secure families.
36 percent of American-Indian children live in economically secure families.
What can we do as libraries?  As humans?  The report has some meaningful suggestions--one that seems like a clear fit for libraries is advocating for, supporting, and providing high quality early childhood programs and better support for working parents.  Take a look at  Public Libraries:  a Vital Space for Family Engagement  by the Harvard Family Research Project for some ideas of ways libraries can help with these issues!  Another is educating ourselves and our communities about issues related to race. One place to start for an online resource designed to help educators do just that is Teaching Tolerance.  In addition, check out the We Too Sing America Race Talk Toolkit, created by author and activist Deepa Iyer.

This is a way bigger discussion than one blog post can cover, but it is also something that we need to discuss often and with intention.  I'd love to hear more about what you are thinking about this!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Talking Is Teaching

child whispering in an older person's ear
There's a group of early childhood professionals (librarians, teachers, family literacy providers, childcare consultants, and more) in the Chippewa Valley working on an initiative to address the 30 million word gap identified by researchers Hart and Risely in 2003.  What's the 30 million word gap?  It is the difference in the number of words spoken to children, depending on their family/childcare situation, by the time they reach age three.  Some hear 30 million fewer words by age three than their counterparts.  The research suggests that kids from lower income families are more likely to hear fewer words.

Being talked with a lot makes a big difference in child development, brain development, language acquisition, social-emotional development.  So kids who are engaged in conversation more from the time of birth have a head start.  The cool thing is, when parents and primary caregivers understand the importance of talking with their kids, they realize the truth of the adage that they are their children's first and most important teachers. In order to make a big difference in their child's development, they don't have to be a fluent reader.  They don't have to speak English.  They have knowledge, language, traditions, ideas, and experiences to share and explore with their kids, and all of that helps their children develop.

Look for more updates about the group I'm working with here, but in the meantime, check out the resource that we are using to help us get started:  Talking Is Teaching.  It is free to sign up, and there is copyright-free clip art and flyers and other information to use.  It fits right into the Every Child Ready to Read information (except it leaves off explicitly mentioning PLAYING and WRITING), though many of the videos, etc. use talking while playing as an example of a way to talk.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Teens' Top Ten List Announced!


Many thanks to Eau Claire Memorial High School librarian Pam Gardow, who sent over the annotated list of this year's Teens' Top Ten list, courtesy of YALSA!  Annotations written by Teens' Top Ten Book Groups.

2017 Teens’ Top Ten

1. Dinan, Kurt. Don’t Get Caught. Sourcebooks Fire. 9781492630142.
Think of all the pranks you have ever wanted to pull. The pranks in this story will top your wildest dreams. Don't Get Caught is story of a competition between two teams of pranksters. The new kids on the block vs. the anonymous Chaos Club. In this war, cunningness and lots of luck will be the way to victory. Let the pranks begin!

2. Shusterman, Neal. Scythe. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781442472426.
Humanity has overcome hunger, disease, war, and even death. Now only Scythes can take life. What will happen to Citra and Rowan when they are chosen to be Scythe apprentices? Follow them as they struggle with their task and morality.

3. Yoon, Nicola. The Sun is Also a Star. Delacorte Press. 9780553496680.
Natasha and Daniel are polar opposites - Tasha believes in reason, science, and things that can be proven. Daniel is a poet at heart and believes in Fate, the "meant to be," and true love. When circumstances beyond their control force them together, they have exactly one day - one day to stop Tasha's family from being deported, one day for Daniel to realize that doing what's expected of you doesn't mean you should do it. And above all else, one day to fall in love.

4. Clare, Cassandra. Lady Midnight. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781442468351
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman who just wants to prove that her parents weren't killed by Sebastian in the Dark War. Now she has the chance to do just that, and get Mark back from the wild hunt.

5. Nijkamp, Marieke. This is Where It Ends. Sourcebooks Fire. 9781492622468.
Four students, all connected in one way or another, speak from their perspective over a terrifying 54 minutes when, after a school-wide assembly, the auditorium doors won’t open and someone begins shooting.

6. Meyer, Marissa. Heartless. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781250044655.
The infamous line "Off with his head!" made her a terror in Wonderland. But before that she was just a girl with a dream, who fell in love. In this curious prequel inspired by Lewis Carroll's famous Alice in Wonderland, Meyer’s tale of eccentricity, phenomenon, and, ultimately, ruination will keep you on the edge of your seat as you realize how Cath led her life to become the Queen of Hearts.

7. West, Kasie. P.S. I Like You. Scholastic. 9780545850971.
Music has the power to bring people together. When Lily writes a lyric of her favorite indie band on her desk, someone else responds. Lily and her mysterious friend seem to get closer and closer through their anonymous notes. What happens when she finds the true author of the notes?

8. Welch, Jenna Evans. Love & Gelato. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781481432542.
After the death of her mother, Lina goes to visit Italy at her mother’s wish, as she’d lived in Italy for part of her life and loved it immensely. While in Italy, Lina discovers some well-kept secrets about her mother's life there and Lina's mysteriously absent father.

9. Gout, Leopoldo. Genius: The Game. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781250115270.
Dive into a new type of teen-genius novel as Gout pulls you into a rollercoaster of a plot. Hilarious and smart, Cai, Tunde, and Rex show readers what the next generation of innovation looks like.

10. Russo, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. Flatiron Books YA. 9781250078407.
When Amanda moves to Lambertville, Kentucky after a string of bullying incidents led her to attempt suicide all she wants is to lead a normal life, make friends, and generally be happy for once. All of this seems possible until she meets Grant, who causes her to let down the walls around her heart. But the problem is that Amanda's past is haunting her. And in her past, she wasn't Amanda, she was Andrew.

Monday, October 23, 2017

On Being Honored

Leah Langby at podium, gesturing
Photo credit:  Kris Adams Wendt (she says the magical hands were not intentional, but appropriate!)
Last week, I had the experience of a lifetime, as I was honored as the WLA/Demco Wisconsin Librarian of the Year.  The honor itself, plus the kind words of colleagues from around the state, are incredible and amazing.  And working with librarians in Wisconsin is a reward in itself. 

Here's the text of the speech I gave upon receiving it:

My superpower is noticing and appreciating people.  I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to be noticed and appreciated myself, especially on this grand scale!  Thank you so much to the committee who nominated me for this award—Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Jessi Peterson, Jenna Gilles-Turner, and Shawn Brommer!  Thanks also to the award committee for this honor, and for all the behind-the scenes work you’ve done!

As long as I’m thanking people, I have a few more thanks to get off my chest, to some people who have supported my professional and personal development:

  • ·        To my lovely husband Dean, my closest confidante, calmer-downer-in-chief, and the person who is best at reminding me to be kind and gentle with myself.
  • ·        To my daughters, Alice and Olivia, who inspire me, cheer me on, and challenge me to think differently about things.
  • ·        To my co-workers at IFLS.  It’s a lot easier to do cool or difficult things when you have the tactical support of your colleagues.  And in particular I’d like to give a shout-out to John Thompson.  I recognize how lucky I am to be able to go to my boss with an idea and have him invariably be receptive, supportive, and willing to help me figure out how to make it happen.
  • ·        To the remarkable librarians I work with in IFLS-land.  These folks are often understaffed, usually undercompensated, serving the public with compassion and conviction, creating innovative and effective programs, services and partnerships, and are almost always willing to serve on a task force, present at a workshop, or mentor a new librarian.
  • ·        To my amazing counterparts at systems across the state, at DPI, my sister Youth Services Section board members, and all the other folks who have served on statewide committees with me.  You inspire me to work with intention, and you do so much to collaborate and improve support and service across the state.  I love learning from you and working with you.
  • ·        To my partners outside the library world, who help me to think about things with a different lens.
  • ·        And to everyone else who I know has helped me be who I am along the way, from the public and school librarians who served me as a kid, to my library school professors, to professors like Paul Wellstone who lit the fire of social justice in my belly, to all the colleagues and teachers who have helped me learn about libraries and life, to a family of origin that valued learning and humanity—we would be here all night if I tried to name everyone, or even every category of person, who has made a big difference in my professional development!

We are in a fraught and heartbreaking time right now.  Natural and human-made disasters abound, and it can be hard to maintain any sort of equilibrium.  People in our state, nation, and world are dealing with oppression, violence, and personal catastrophes of epic proportions.  I don’t say all of this to kill the buzz here, but rather because I want to point out that I wholeheartedly believe that there is terrific potential for libraries to make a difference.  Librarians all over the state and country are looking at our policies, our collections, our spaces, our workforce—and making them more inclusive, welcoming, and equitable.  We’re considering ways to help people make sense of the news, and discern what is fake news.  We are thinking about how best to support children and families.  We are innovating services for seniors and students, and everyone in between.  We are working with partners, and learning to take a step back and work with intention toward our mission, and toward the goals of our communities.  I am excited about the direction we are headed.


This award means so much to me because it comes from my colleagues—people I deeply admire and respect.  I am fully aware that just about everyone in this room deserves this kind of recognition—so many of you contribute so much to your own community and to the library community. And even though I’ve been having anxiety dreams about losing my knack for providing storytime, and thereby being undeserving of this award,  it’s thrilling to realize that, as Sally Fields said so eloquently, “I can’t deny you like me, right now, you like me!”  And guess what?  I like you!  I really, really like you!  And I am honored to work with such an amazing group of public servants.