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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Friday, December 16, 2016


The final big trend to discuss from the SLP workshop responses to making the Summer Library Program easier:  Simplification.

Several people talked about looking at programs and simplifying them.  Many talked about looking at record-keeping and simplifying it.  Eliminating or reducing prizes definitely figured into the equation for quite a few folks.

Now, I'm someone who tends to complicate things.  It is a lesson I have had to keep re-learning, that I don't have to do EVERYTHING with every, single project.  Planning, prioritizing, and then focusing my attention does not come naturally to me.  I want to do everything, because I can see how everything is related and everything is important.  But when my efforts are spread so thin, they end up being a little random.

So anyway, maybe we could step back and really think about how to simplify programs and reduce prep time (Do you really need to individually decorate the cookies so they match the theme? If a craft project requires many individual parts to be prepared ahead of time, maybe it is time to think about a different craft project?).  We already talked about simplifying record-keeping.  Prizes kind of fit in with that--if you want to continue to give out prizes, how can you simplify them?  Can they occupy less of your budget?  Or can you spend the money on books, which are more expensive, but only give one or two out during the summer?  Think about the role prizes play in your program, and think about ways you can maximize their effectiveness if you want to keep using them.

Good luck!  And remember, even though it is ALL cool and important, you can pace yourself!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Opportunity to Share Information!

We need to spread the word that the earliest weeks matter!
Many thanks to Saroj Ghoting, Early Literacy Consultant (and popular workshop presenter) for pointing out the interesting results of a Zero to Three parent survey.  Major points are summarized here, and the full report is here.

The information reported here shows that there is definitely a need for us to share information with parents and caregivers about critical development periods for infants and toddlers!  Below, I'm basically quoting a post Saroj made on an ALSC listserv:

The time of most rapid brain development occurs during the first 3 years. While 63% of parents identified this correctly, more than 34% said that the time of most rapid brain growth is 3 to 5 years, a significant underestimation of the importance of the earliest years.  Parents overall consistently underestimate just how early children can be affected by some critical experiences:

  • When asked at what age the quality of a parent’s care has a long-term impact on a child’s development, 50% of parents said this begins at 6 months or older, 57% of parents say it begins at 3 months or older.  It starts at birth.
  • When asked to identify the age at which children can begin to feel sad or fearful, 42% of parents say one year or older, and 59% of parents believe it begins at 6 months or older. In fact, this happens as early as 3-5 months. 
  • Nearly half of parents think that reading to children starts to benefit long-term language development about a year and a half later than it actually does: 45% say the benefits start at 2 years or older. In reality, benefits begin at about 6 months.
  • 34% of parents believe that talking to children starts to benefit their language skills at a year old or later, and 63% of parents say the benefits of talking begin at 3 months or older.   In fact, it begins at birth.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

SLP Musings Part 4: On Getting Help

Asking for help should be easier and more pleasant than a giant dose of castor oil!
Moving on from the things that people HATE about the Summer Library Program, and moving on to the things that people thought they might be able to do to make their SLP easier.  A very popular choice?  Asking for help, delegating more projects to other staff members, reaching out to community members and staff members to ask them to help with programs about their interests.

I have to ask people for help quite often.  In order to make our continuing education offerings robust and practical (and affordable), in order to find mentors for new librarians, and in order to help me think about and act on challenging issues, I need to ask people who are busy and working hard to do extra things.  Guess what?  It turns out that for the most part, people are really generous and happy to be asked to share about something they care about.  Sometimes they say no--and I always applaud people for knowing their limitations!  But often, they say yes.

Over the course of several years of doing this and messing up, I have learned to be clear about the expectations that are important to me, and provide as much guidance as people want about the other parts.  Sometimes people really relish having the autonomy to choose their topic or their delivery method.  Other times, people really are looking for some parameters.  As long as I'm clear on the things that are most important to me, I find that it works well to be flexible--and be as bossy as people want me to be.  One constant--I try hard to not lose track of thanking people for the extra time and effort it took to help me.

What works well for you when you are asking for help?

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.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Messy but Easy and Popular Program

teens paint pumpkins
Abby, the new teen librarian in Menomonie, was having a busy week a few weeks ago--acting in a community theater production of the Crucible and also squeezing in time for a popular Halloween program for teens.
a creepy painted pumpkin

Who knew painting pumpkins and watching a Halloween movie would be so fun?  The twenty-seven teens who came did!
teens paint pumpkins

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homelessness Affects the Youngest Children

I learned some startling and distressing statistics about young children and homelessness today in an infographic put together by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.  In their Interagency Policy Statement on Childhood Homelessness they issue a call to action to make a difference in the lives of young children and families.  

I just read Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, and it was a moving, disturbing, upsetting look at the way people living in poverty, often spending more than 70 percent of their income on housing, are trapped in difficult circumstances due to a lack of stable housing.  These new statistics (see infographic below) make the whole situation even more dire.  

Where do libraries stand in all of this?  Many libraries are providing a safe and warm place for families to spend time during the day, others have created deposit collections at shelters, still others, like the library in Eau Claire, have selected books like Evicted as their newest One Community, One Book title--bringing the discussion to a wider audience.

1 Gubits, D., Shinn M., Bell S., Wood M., Dstrup S., Solari, C…Abt Associates, Inc.. (2015, July). Family options study: Short-term impacts of housing and services interventions for homeless families. Washington, D.C.: Prepared for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research by Abt. Associates and Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/FamilyOptionsStudy_final.pdf

2 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development. (2016, October). The 2015 annual homeless assessment report (AHAR) to Congress: Part 2: Estimates of homelessness in the United States. Washington, DC: Solari, C., Morris, S., Shivji, A., & de Souza, T. Retrieved from https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/5162/2015-ahar-part-2-estimates-of-homelessness/
3 Center for Housing Policy and Children’s Health Watch. (2015, June). Compounding stress: The timing and duration effects of homelessness on children’s health. Sandel, M., Sheward, R., & Sturtevant, L. Retrieved from http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/Compounding-Stress_2015.pdf
4 Richards, R., Merrill, R. M., Baksh, L., & McGarry, J. (2011). Maternal health behaviors and infant health outcomes among homeless mothers: US Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 2000–2007. Preventive Medicine52(1), 87-94.
5 Stein, J. A., Lu, M. C., & Gelberg, L. (2000). Severity of homelessness and adverse birth outcomes. Health Psychology19(6), 524.   Richards, R., Merrill, R. M., Baksh, L., & McGarry, J. (2011). Maternal health behaviors and infant health outcomes among homeless mothers: US Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 2000–2007. Preventive Medicine52(1), 87-94.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Media Advice

Technology has its place, but all the experts agree that face-to-face interaction and playing are the very best for young children!
I've seen several mentions of the new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics about screen time for children under the age of two.  They are still recommending no screen time (except supported video chatting with faraway loved ones) for children under the age of 18 months.  For parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media,  they advise that they "choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided."  All in all, the suggestions are measured and thoughtful, and emphasize the importance of co-viewing, and creating a family media plan.

Also out this week is a briefing from the US Department of Education and the US Health and Human Services Department.  It leads with the importance of unplugged and unstructured play for child development, but also says there is a place for high quality programming and interactive apps in the lives of even the youngest children.  Their guiding principles make sense:  Ÿ
Guiding Principle #1: Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning. Ÿ

Guiding Principle #2: Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children. Ÿ

Guiding Principle #3: Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children. Ÿ

Guiding Principle #4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.

For those who were involved in the Media Mentor trainings of last year, you have probably heard about most of this before, and thought about it, too.  The new guidelines from AAP and from the DOE/HHS are good reminders, and it is great to see the information and ideas being talked about thoughtfully and carefully.

How are things going for you in this regard?  Any new thoughts or training?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Voting Practice at LEPMPL

Thanks to Jill Patchin from LEPMPL for this guest post.

Pete for President voting area

This presidential election year, we decided to do an interactive display where kids could vote for their favorite Pete the Cat book. This will go for the month of October, with the winning book being announced in early November.
close-up of ballot box

We had this old voting booth laying around, leftover from a similar display 8 years ago during the 2008 election season, so we put it back together and made a new display to go around it. We settled on Pete not only because “Pete for President” has a nice ring to it, but also because we own the Pete costume, and we may do a few “campaign stops” where Pete comes and meets kids after preschool or family storytimes in October. I made some simple ballots for kids and parents to fill out and put out a ballot box. I made a couple of posters and some letters for the wall. We will keep a few Pete books near the ballot box to encourage kids to “know the candidates” before making their choice.
voting booth in use

You would not have to have a voting booth to replicate this interactive display, just a stack of scrap paper to write your favorite book on and a ballot box (that’s the fun part after all, “casting” your ballot). Have fun encouraging reading this fall!
ballot box in use

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rave Review of a Program Presenter!

Image from Pixabay
Here's a program rave--these program ideas would attract teens and adults alike!  Thanks to Madeline Page (Hudson Public Library) for this guest post!

We were lucky to meet a fantastic new programmer this year: Avia Lukacs.  Avia’s a published author (search for her in MORE), a massage therapist, and a certified aromatherapist.  Our summer theme – health and wellness – brought her into the Library twice; she participated in our first Health Fair and she led a program called D.I.Y. Natural Beauty Products.

At the Health Fair she brought her massage chair and gave complimentary 15 minute massages, along with tips for how to get more out of your massage with aromatherapy.   At the D.I.Y. Beauty class, Avia taught 13 participants how to make their own products (scrubs, sunburn soothers), customized with essential oils to suit their needs.  She came to this program totally prepared with informative handouts, recipe cards, and every supply needed for the participants to make & take the products home.

We see endless opportunities to work with Avia!  She’s coming back this December to help patrons create peppermint foot care kits to keep or gift to their loved ones.  We are planning a February session on massage oils & techniques.  She’s offered workshops at nursing homes on how to clean equipment/household items with non-toxic, natural products.  There are opportunities to teach how essential oils are great for health – physical and mental.  She’s also interested in doing book-talks/author visits.

I can’t recommend Avia strongly enough – she’s a pleasure to work with, organized, prepared, and people respond really well to her.  The interest in natural products & essential oils (and their many uses) is growing, and she’s an experienced guide.  For any libraries looking for some programming ideas, reach out to Avia: alukacs @ hotmail.com

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stellar Services to School Age Kids Pre-Conference

The Youth Services Section of WLA and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction invite you to join library staff serving youth for an invigorating preconference. This small and large group event will offer scalable ideas related to programming, drop-in activities, technology, and outreach for children in grades 2-5. TED-style talks by Wisconsin library staff will address tried-and-true and shiny-and-new efforts for this age group. A passive programming gallery of ideas awaits you during the robust snack break. Best of all, network with library peers who are equally interested in reaching kids who are beyond early literacy but not yet a tween. Past participants in YSS + DPI preconferences have said that it’s the best part of WLA! Sign up soon—the preconference is filling up quickly.

Stellar Services to School-Age Kids Preconference
1:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M. Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino – Clarity Room  (Milwaukee, WI)
Registration Fee: $25 WLA members/$50 non-members
Limited to 50 people 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Teen Top Ten Display in Menomonie

top ten nominees display with book covers
Check out this cool display that Abby made for the teens in Menomonie to promote voting in YALSA's Teens' Top Ten!  How cool is that?  Remember you can also encourage kids to participate in online discussion and rate the nominees on the ratearead.org site, too!
Tenn Top Ten nominees with books and comments

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Play and Learn Fun

alphabet letters with road lines

The Play and Learn area of the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library is big, beautiful, and super fun.  It might seem implausible that a small library could do any of the cool things they are doing in such a lovely big space, but many of their offerings would work really well in a small space with limited resources.
alphabet letters with road lines and tiny truck

Case in point?  Alisha sent me some great photos of their Alphabet Road Trip--letters that look like roads, complete with matchbox cars for driving on them.  She even said that if you want to contact her (alishagreen @ eauclaire.lib.wi.us) she is happy to share the PDF of the letters with you.  Cool beans!

suggestions for using the Roadtrip Alphabet

The same day, I got a message from Jill about a newscast the youth services staff did to promote their new play and learn activities.  Fun?  Definitely fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Author and Illustrator Inspiration

light bulb
Image from Pixabay
Sometimes I get downright inspired by hearing authors and illustrators speak about their craft--especially authors and illustrators working on books for children and teens.  What a passionate bunch!  In case you are looking for a few inspirations, with varying levels of time on your part:

Christian Robbins, the illustrator of Newbery winner Last Stop on Market Street, gave a Brief but Spectacular talk for PBS about making illustrations for children's materials.   Really, it is about 2 minutes long and it will make your day better.

Raina Telegmeier, the author/illustrator of graphic novels Smile, Drama, Sisters, and the brand new Ghosts, is going to be in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota's Cowles Auditorium at 6:30 pm on September 19, giving a talk and a book signing.  More investment of time, but pretty exciting!  Free, but registration is requested.

The Chippewa Valley Book Festival is coming up, too. Lots of inspiring authors for adults and children!

Finally, don't miss your chance to see Bill Konigsburg, author of Openly Straight and The Porcupine of Truth.  He'll be at the YSS Luncheon at the WLA Conference on October 26.  And then we'll have a chance to discuss his books and his talk at an informal setting in the evening.  Our own Ashley Bieber (LEPMPL) was the brilliant person who coordinated this visit.  How cool is that?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Happy Diaper Bag

little girl holding stinky baby
From Brandon on Flickr (creative commons)
I was up in Rice Lake the other day.  When I went into the bathroom, I was pleased to see a friendly sign saying that there is a Happy Diaper Bag at the children's desk.  For caregivers who find that their child has blown through a diaper and they forgot to reload the bag.  For people who were just going to be in the library for a MINUTE so they left their diaper bag in the car and then...well...then...  For kids who are potty trained except when they get really, really engrossed in stories or play.

Even though my kids are teenagers (and beyond!) and I am not even close to needing the happy diaper bag anymore, this sign made me feel calmer.  It was so friendly, and made me remember how anxious it can make you to be the caregiver of a young child.  Taking away this element of stress is such a terrific idea!  And makes it seem like a normal, not-so-shameful occurrence, if the library is prepared to help everyone with it.

When I talked to Janine at the children's desk about it, she says they pretty much stock the Happy Diaper Bag with donations--parents bring in the left-over diapers at the end of the pack when their kid graduates to the next size, or bring in a few outgrown pairs of pants.  An easy way to make the library more welcoming (and better smelling!).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gene Luen Yang

cave window
I'm a big fan of our current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Gene Luen Yang.  I like his work, I like his speaking style (I got to hear him once when he was in Eau Claire), and I love his platform.  The Reading Without Walls Challenge encourages people to read books about a book or character that doesn't look or live like you; a book about something you don't know a lot about; and/or a book in a format you don't usually read in.

He recently published a short comic in the New York Times Book Review about his own childhood, and wondering what would have happened if he and his classmate had had more access to books that provided a window into other people's experiences.  In it, he refers to the classic essay by Rudine Simms Bishop called Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.  For a quick and lovely introduction to the issue, or a nice reminder or tool for showing other people what you are talking about, take a look at this comic!

Friday, August 19, 2016

PLA and Harvard Family Research Center Team Up to Promote Family Engagement

The Public Library Association has teamed up with the Harvard Family Research Project to provide libraries with resources and tools to help improve family engagement in library programs.  The Harvard Family Research Project has a lot of terrific resources for people looking for information on brain and child development, and it is really great that they are working with libraries!

The report is available here.  It has lots of great information and ideas, including 5 succinct ways for libraries to improve the involvement of families in their children's learning, with examples from the field.  I have included the 5 Rs below, but look to the report for more information and inspiration!

  • Reach Out: Libraries reach out to families to promote the programs, collections, and services that are vital in a knowledge economy. 
  • Raise Up: Libraries elevate family views and voices in how library programs and services are developed and carried out. 
  • Reinforce: Libraries provide guidance on and modeling of the specific actions that family members can take to support learning, reaffirming families’ important roles and strengthening feelings of efficacy. 
  • Relate: Libraries offer opportunities for families to build peer-to-peer relationships, social networks, and parent-child relationships. 
  • Reimagine: Libraries are expanding their community partnerships; combining resources and extending their range; improving children and families’ well-being; and linking new learning opportunities.
I know many of you are doing a lot of great work in this area--send in your stories and we'll celebrate them on the blog!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 Teens' Top Ten Voting Now Open

Every year, the Young Adult Library Services Association creates a list, with the help of teen readers across the country, of nominees for the Teens' Top Ten.  Then from August 15 through October 15, teens can vote for their top ten.  The winners are announced during Teen Read Week.

Voting is now open for teens!  What an easy program to promote!  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take a look at and promote the Rate a Read site, a list of all the books with a forum for commenting and rating them created by IFLS and IFLS libraries.  Bonus:  this year, there is a prize for one lucky participant!
  • Make a book display of all the nominated books.
  • If you already have a book discussion group, include one or more of these books, or ask kids to read one of them and them come together to swap notes on their favorites.
  • Promote voting (and Rate a Read) on your website and social media!

These are books that were chosen by teen groups from around the United States.  They should have some great teen appeal!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Squeaky Shoes

Last month, there was a discussion on an ALSC listserv I follow about a preschooler who comes into the library wearing squeaky shoes--there are apparently shoes that are squeaky on purpose, they squeak with each step.  A youth services librarian was looking for support, since she was getting some pressure to ask the parent to stop letting the kid wear squeaky shoes to the library.

One person felt that only people who are expressly trying to annoy others would ever dress their child in shoes like this.  It was really great to read everyone else's responses.  Some laughed at the very thought of a library being quiet enough that squeaky shoes would be bothersome.  But my favorites were the ones that really asked us to think with empathy.  Many had experience with their own children to relate, or friends.  Others agreed that they hated the sound of the shoes, but would never dream of taking a caregiver to task over something like this.

The reasons?  Well, maybe the child only has one pair of shoes.  Maybe the child is wearing the shoes on the advice of a physical therapist or pediatrician, to encourage heel-to-toe walking.  Maybe the child fights getting dressed and into shoes every day (I know kids who HATE the way shoes feel on their feet, even if they fit), and this makes that daily battle easier.  Maybe the child is quick at disappearing, and the parent uses the shoes to keep track of where they are.

It was lovely to hear people, either from their own experience, or from their imaginations, trying to think of this situation with empathy.  It is a good exercise--to really think about what might be making people behave the way they are behaving, even if it seems inexplicable at first glance.  And good to practice with something as low-stakes as squeaky shoes!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Two webinars about diversity and literature

laptop computer
Image from Pixabay
There has been a lot of discussion on listservs and blogs lately about evaluating books with diversity in mind (most especially Lane Smith's recent book There Is a Tribe of Kids--below is a round-up of recent blog posts and discussions).  I found the following two webinars helpful in thinking about reviewing and examining books, so even though I know it is SUMMER and you all hardly even have time to go to the bathroom, I'm sharing them.

One is a free webinar from ALSC, presented by Debbie Reese, a children's literature researcher and blogger from American Indians in Children's Literature called Collection Development: Children's and Young AdultBooks about Native Americans.

The other is a recording of a webinar from School Library Journal's Diversity Course, the final keynote presentation by Wisconsin's own KT Horning (from the CCBC).  The recording is available here.

*Debbie Reese compiled this list of blog posts (with accompanying comments) about There Is a Tribe of Kids for American Indians in Children's Literature:

Sam Bloom's Reviewing While White: There Is a Tribe of Kids posted on July 8, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Debbie Reese's Reading While White reviews Lane Smith's THERE IS A TRIBE OF KIDS posted on July 9, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Debbie Reese's Lane Smith's new picture book: THERE IS A TRIBE OF KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) posted on July 14, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Roxanne Feldman's A Tribe of Kindred Souls: A Closer Look at a Double Spread in Lane Smith's THERE IS A TRIBE OF KIDS posted on July 17, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Roger Sutton's Tribal Trials posted on July 18, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Elizabeth Bird's There Is a Tribe of Kids: The Current Debate posted on July 19, 2016 (added to this list on July 21, 2016).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Talking About Hard Things

Image from Pixabay
I am sure I don't have to enumerate all the the difficult things going on in our country right now, and no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there are plenty of things that can make your stomach hurt.  I think it is safe to say that all of us are passionately wishing for a more peaceful, prosperous and healthy world for our kids and our communities, though we may disagree about how to get there.

I found a couple of helpful blog posts by Rich Harwood, the founder of the Harwood Institute (which has done work on community engagement with libraries with the Libraries Transforming Communities project).  In the first one, he encourages truly listening, trying hard to understand other perspectives, and reflect the realities of others in our common discourse.  In the second, he recommends starting with paying attention to what our common aspirations for our communities are, allowing room for different issues to rise up (rather than setting out the parameters ahead of time), and doing some concrete things to address them--even if they are small.

I hope we can all keep talking.  And more importantly, listening and caring and doing our best to understand where each other is coming from and opening ourselves to finding common aspirations.  Librarians are a natural place to model civil and caring discourse for kids, teens, and adults!

ALSO:  If you are looking for some techniques for managing challenging conversations, check out the upcoming workshop, scheduled for September 9 in Bloomer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sesame Street Resource for Veterans and Families

cookie monster greets fans
Image from Pixabay

Sesame Street has developed free resources for veteran families with young kids (ages 2-5 years old), who have recently transitioned out of the military. When a parent transitions out of the military, the whole family transitions. These resources were created to help families navigate changes during this next chapter. There are also free print copies of the My Story, My Big Adventure activity book, which Sesame Street can ship these to you by the box (75 books/box) if you are interested.  Please email veterans@sesame.org to order books, specifying how many boxes you would like.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pep talks for SLP

Pausing during the SLP Sprint for some pep talks (Image from Pixabay)

Bryce Don't Play asked blogging friends from across the country (and Canada!) to send her pep-talk videos for SLP-exhausted staff members, and I just came across it today.  I highly recommend checking out the list--most of them are funny, and some actually have some truly useful tips!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Listening with open hearts

As news of police shootings of African American men proliferate, and at the shootings in Dallas of police officers, my heart is heavy.  I've been trying unsuccessfully to write a blog post about it for several days.  I have some things to say about it related to libraries, but it is hard to put the words together.  Here goes my best try for now.

It turns out that living in mostly white communities doesn't give us a bye to really examine issues of race, think about them, and then act.  As youth services librarians, we are helping to raise the police officers, teachers, policy-makers, and citizens of the future.  If we don't spend some time thinking ourselves about race, privilege, systemic racism, and bias, we are missing an opportunity to make the world a better place.  It might seem like a small thing, or inconsequential, but actually thinking and talking about these issues are an important first step for all of us, especially if we're white.  So is collecting, promoting, and using books that show a wide range of human experience. Kids are hearing news and trying to make sense of it.  They might come to you looking for someone to help them process it.  They might come to your library looking for materials to help them learn more.  Or they might not.  Either way, we need to be thinking and collecting and promoting and using.  And perhaps most importantly, listening to the voices of people who are oppressed with as open a heart and mind as we can, even when we are uncomfortable.

Here are some resources for you to use:

Interview with Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander, reflecting on recent news of shootings.

Black Lives Matter Booklist for teens, created by Hennepin County Librarian Chelsea Couillard-Smith

We Need Diverse Books End-of-Year Booklists

An article about why it can be difficult for white people to talk about race and racism

These books by Vernā Myers are very accessible, quick reads (available on MORE):

This interview with Matt Lewis, a conservative blogger who has been re-thinking the way race is a factor in police interactions.

There's more, but that's all I can pull together this time around or I will go on forever!  I'd be happy to talk to any of you more about this.

As Adrienne Maree Brown posted on Instagram (and I saw on Facebook):

Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must continue to hold each other tight and pull back the veil.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Readers Advisory Is Everywhere!

My husband made my day this morning.  I was rushing out the door after brushing my teeth while listening to a report on the radio about a recently released study by UW-Madison faculty about the link between poverty, brain development, and outcomes later in life.  Dean stopped me in my tracks when he told me he had done a good deed the day before, and I had a hunch it was related to the information about Reach Out and Read we'd just heard on the radio.  I figured it was worth being a few minutes later than I meant to be (less interesting things have certainly caused me to be tardy on other days!).

He was browsing the books at Savers (like you do) the other day and came across a mint-condition copy of Rosemary Wells and Iona Opie's My Very First Mother Goose for the bargain price of $2.  This is often our go-to book for baby showers partly because we loved it so much when our kids were small--we all still quote from it to this day.  He was about to snatch it up when he saw a woman perusing the (less enduring) children's books.  He handed the book to her and told her it was the one to get if she wanted one that she would enjoy reading over and over and over.  She is raising her two year old granddaughter while her parents sort some things out, and was super-pleased to get the recommendation and the book.  Readers Advisory for the WIN!  Now this family has a terrific book at their house that they get to keep and read and enjoy for years.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

FREE Teen Online Conference from SLJ

Are you reading the posts about people's inspiring trips to ALA, hearing incredible authors speak and getting inspired for the work they do?  Are you feeling a little jealous?  Well, SLJ has put together an online teen conference for FREE, where you'll have access to some of that cool stuff.  The cost is reasonable, for sure!  And you'll get to hear authors like Maggie Stiefvater and Meg Medina, along with getting ideas about college and career readiness, using snapchat, mental health in YA literature, and serving the underserved.  I signed up!  I hope you can find time to attend, too:  August 10.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Poster Love

kids playing with homemade marble runs
Playing in Prescott
Jenna Gilles-Turner from the Chippewa Falls Public Library created some beautiful posters with engaging photographs and quotes and tidbits of child development information (including several about the importance of PLAY).  That's pretty great in and of itself.  The even cooler thing is that she shared the whole batch of them with us, so we could in turn share them with all of you.  These are lovely!  They are available on the IFLS website at https://iflsweb.org/youthposters.

Thank you, Jenna!  I hope to see some of these posters in other libraries in the coming months and years.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bracing Infographic for SLP-Weary Librarians

clover flower
from Pixabay
Oh my goodness, summer is here, your library is full, your calendar is even more full, and you may be a little tired already, especially when you look at what is coming.  Sometimes it is good to remember WHY you are doing something.  The State Library of Virginia used some funds from the Institute for Museums and Libraries and did a study of SLP participants in that state to look at the effects of the program.  They created an infographic with the results of the study, and I think it might make you feel ENERGIZED about the work you are doing!  Take a peek!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Early Childhood Webinars from Tech Soup

The Early Learning LabFrontiers of Innovation, and New Profit, along with partners Joan Ganz Cooney Center and TechSoup, are working together to build the technology capacity of the early childhood education field.
In partnership with these organizations, TechSoup will be hosting a series of webinars about technology and innovation for early childhood literacy organizations and researchers. If you work with young children at a nonprofit or library, this free webinar series is for you.  The next webinar, Media Mentors, Building Literacy Skills for the Digital Age with Lisa Guernsey, Michael Levine, and Chip Donohue, will be on June 16, 12:30-2:00.  For more information about the series, check out the Tech Soup blog post.

And in case you've lost track or are new to the block, check out the IFLS resources on Media Mentorship!

Walking Boldly Toward Biases

Several people I know attended the Public Library Association Conference this past spring in Denver (and hearing their tales of amazing sessions made me wish I had managed to attend, and filled with resolve to at least attempt it in 2018).   One session that several people spoke very highly of was a Big Ideas talk with Vernā Myers, talking about dealing with our biases, not by pretending we don't have them, but by recognizing them and then doing things to challenge them.  Disappointed not to hear the speech myself, I was excited to learn there is a TED talk (viewed by over 1 million people).  I highly recommend taking a look at it--it is relevant and important!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Inclusive Summer Programs

graphic about inclusiveness
I really appreciated this ALSC Blog post about making library programs inclusive for everyone.  Leslie Mason (the author) has some simple and practical tips for making sure that kids with disabilities can feel welcome and participate in your programs.  I highly encourage you to take a peek--many of the tips are not complicated, nor do they require a huge outlay of money or time.  Just a little shift to make sure that your space is accessible and your programs easier to participate in for a wide variety of kids.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

STEM Activities, Kits, and Tip Sheets

drop of water

The Wisconsin Water Library at UW Madison  has STEM and Literacy Together Kits to use for story time. The kits include traditional storytime elements (reading, songs, art activity), along with a water-related STEM aspect.

Available for request:

Once Upon a Pond (all about ponds in Wisconsin) - Call no. 071246

Jump Around with Frogs (Wisconsin Native Frogs and Toad) - Call no. 281686)

Does it Sink or Float? (Buoyancy) - Call no. 232434

They are available to request here, though some sleuthing indicates they are not on the regular catalog.

If you are looking for some more great STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) resources for younger kids, you might want to check out the US Department of Education's Tip Sheets:  Talk, Read and Sing about STEM.  Or check out the IFLS Early Childhood Exploration Kits and School-age STEM kits (which you can reserve by sending an email to Leah at langby @ ifls.lib.wi.us)