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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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Resources for Talking about Charlottesville with Kids

We have to keep talking, providing resources, shining a light where it is needed, and helping kids, teens, and families cope with some of the tough things in our world.  The recent events in Charlottesville and the increasing rise of white supremacy and other hate groups is one.  There are some good resources, pulled together by Teen Librarian Toolbox.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Barron's Rearrangement Pays Off!

If you get two creative people together who are interested in thinking outside the box about ways to meet community needs, you just never know where you'll end up.  Patti Becker and Sue Queiser at Barron have been looking at the way the community uses the space, programs, and collections of the children's area for the past few years.  Attendance at regular storytime programs was down, as was attendance at programs for the summer library program.  Throughout this time, Patti and Sue have been thinking about ways to accommodate the needs of the community better.

This included offering more passive programming (a new one each day the library was open during the summer of 2016!), one-on-one storytime, and more.  They noticed that kids and families really enjoyed hanging around together and working on projects.  As a result, they undertook a large transformation--weeding heavily, rearranging their collections, purchasing new furniture that encouraged lingering, and creating much more open space for creation and imagination.
kids do line art at a table
Line art at the table that fits nicely!

Last week, Patti sent me some photos, labeled, THIS IS WHY WE DID IT!  I thought you might like to see, too!
kids make things out of cardboard tubes
Kids make things out of cardboard tubes--look at all that floor space!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Easy Interactive Teen Displays in Menomonie

I heard from a reliable source (my own teen) that the interactive teen displays in Menomonie are the bomb.  Abby Seymour, the teen librarian, shared some of her recent displays:

display that says First Impressions Matter
The first display takes the intriguing first line of a YA book was on the front, with a tab to lift to see what the book it came from is.  I recognized some, and found the others absolutely tantalizing!

first lines of books display

The next display allows people to vote on whether the book or movie cover is better:

book and movie covers display, with voting options

Paired with a display of book jackets that will soon be movies, this made for a simple and fun display:

book jackets of books being made into movies, "Because Hollywood is running out of ideas."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Many thanks to Julia Reid of LEPMPL for this guest post!

Inspiration, it is said, can come from the unlikeliest places. For the YS staff at LE Phillips Memorial Public Library, inspiration this summer came from the toilet. According to Weird but True! Gross: 200 slimy, sticky, and smelly facts, “95 percent of people don’t wash their hands long enough to kill infectious germs after using the toilet—and 10 percent don’t wash their hands at all” (145). Who wouldn’t want to drum up some programming from a fact like that?

So this summer, stirred by the National Geographic World of Weird but True books, we transformed the Youth Services area into a STEAM fest, with eight activities, experiments, or craft projects, each paired with fun facts from the series. For example, the “Build a Bridge” station was motivated by these three facts:
  • It is said that Vikings collapsed a bridge in medieval London and inspired the song “London Bridge is Falling Down” (Weird but True! 300 Outrageous Facts from History, page 87).
  • A rooster was one of the very first car passengers to cross New York’s Brooklyn Bridge (Weird but True! 300 Outrageous Facts from History, page 128).
  • The London Bridge that kept falling down is now in Arizona, in the United States (Weird but True! 2: 300 Outrageous Facts, page 18).

Participants were challenged to create a bridge that could 1) span two tables spaced one foot apart and 2) hold the weight of books. Each participant was given 100 popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, and binder clips for clamps, and tested how many books their bridges could hold before breaking.

For stations like the bridge station, we prepped our (super, amazing) high school volunteer team with questions that they could ask participants to deepen the experiment:
a.        What shapes are you using? What other shapes can you try? What shapes do you see most often on bridges that you cross over?
b.      Where is your bridge the strongest? Where is your bridge the weakest? Can one part hold a greater load than the other? If so, why?
c.       Are you using patterns in your bridge? Are the sides symmetrical? Why or why not?
d.      Do you have left-over sticks? Where will they help the most?

After coming up with a few activities, we assessed whether we were satisfactorily reaching all age ranges, interests, and abilities.

Some activities were easy (and budget-friendly) to put together, like the measuring station, which tested whether there was truth behind the claim that “the length of your arms stretched out is about equal to your height” (2, p32). This station just called for butcher paper, tape measures and yardsticks, and pencils.

Others were more complicated, like the germ station, where young scientists tested how many drops of plain and soapy water a penny could hold to learn about surface tension and the benefit of adding soap to wash away germs.

One of my favorite was inspired by chameleon and camouflage facts. Crafty participants chose a habit background and a white die-cut chameleon. Using markers, participants colored the chameleons so they blended into the scene.  Younger participants could instead learn about the benefits of camouflage with our bean table game. We filled a bean table with brown pinto beans and plastic toy animals; participants were challenged to see whether it was easier to find a camouflaged (brown) animal or non-camouflaged (colorful) animal. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Downloadable Posters and More from 15 Minutes a Day

Read Aloud banner and logo

Read Aloud 15 Minutes is devoted to encouraging parents and caregivers to read at least 15 minutes a day with children.  They have some fun infographics, posters, and other resources that are free to download, and in addition, they are sponsoring a challenge in October--encouraging people to read aloud for 15 minutes each day for 21 days in a row, making it part of the daily routine.

Thanks to Jenna from Chippewa Falls for passing this on to me!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Does Coding Seem Like the Scary Monster Under Your Bed?

monster illustration

Many thanks to Kathy Larson from Bloomer for this terrific guest post!

I’ve gone to many workshops over the past few years where I’ve heard librarians say, “Setting up a coding club is so easy” but they can’t really explain how they started it. I thought there was some trick to it, or some deep knowledge I was missing that would make me look like a complete idiot in front of the kids and their parents. I just wanted someone to tell me how to do it.

Now that I have a coding club at our library, I finally understand why it is so hard to explain. It’s so simple! Lucky for me there is an AMAZING resource for coding club! I have no idea where I heard about this website, but Prenda will walk you through all the steps. All you have to do is get some computers and some kids and promote your program. It is really that easy. Okay, there is a bit more, but not a whole lot.

Through their website, I was furnished with a packet that is essentially the curriculum for running your coding club. It outlines what to do week by week with websites and challenges for kids to complete. The first week we watched a video recommended by Prenda on some of the perks of being able to code. Then we went to code.org and had them play around on Hour of Code. The next week you set up coding accounts on code.org and have them pick a track for their coding adventure and they are off. That is it.

Even when they need help, you can guide them with questions so they can come up with the answers themselves, so you really don’t need to have any prior coding skills.
In hindsight, I would have set up accounts for the kids before they started because it tracks all of their progress and it has been amazing watching the speed at which some of these kids catch on. In five weeks the kids at our program, ranging from 6-11 years old, have written more than 2,000 lines of code! How do you do that? Prior to the first session, visit Code.org and set up a teacher account so that you can add students as they walk through the door. You definitely do not have to have ANY knowledge about coding, you just have to be able to log onto a computer, access websites and create some accounts.

So that monster that is coding is really just a simple teddy bear.
teddy bear

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Strong Girls School at ALA

group of girls facing away from the camera, holding hands and jumping
One of the programs I attended at ALA this year was called Strong Girls School.  Nancy Evans, from the public library in Levittown, New York discussed a program that she developed after teen girls in a library writing group clamored for it.  As a writing sample for the kids, she brought in a blog post by Maureen Johnson about photo-shopping.  Turns out the girls were more interested in talking about the content of the blog post than in the writing style.  Turns out the girls had a LOT to talk about related to body image, gender expectations, sexism, rape culture, and more.

Combining this interest and desire for information and conversation about important topics with sobering statistics about gender inequality, prevalence of sexual assault, and other depressing topics, Nancy decided that there was a need for a program.  She describes it, and some of the resources, in this Programming Librarian blog post.  She talked, both in the program and in the blog post, about her nervousness about having a gender-specific program, but also discussed her reasons for finding it to be worthwhile, despite being exclusive.  It would be ideal, she agreed, to also have a series of sessions about what it is like to grow up male, with all the challenges and societal expectations that this includes.

The girls who attend the 6-8 week sessions are very engaged and want to continue the series as a discussion group indefinitely.  She offers it once a year, but has enough interest that she could run it more often.  Wonderful collaborations for additional free programming have grown from this program.  Hmmm...it seems pretty interesting--I'm wondering if anyone around here is interested in doing it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reading without Walls Challenge

I know I have posted about National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Gene Luen Yang's Reading Without Walls Challenge before.  But I just heard Gene Yang at ALA, and he inspired me to remind you.  He told a great story about his next book, which is about basketball, even though until fairly recently he was not even remotely interested in basketball (partly due to their tendency to hit him in the head).  He discussed how reading a book outside his walls led to breaking down all sorts of other walls for him, and it was thrilling to hear about the challenge put to work.

In fact, I'm thinking of putting together a challenge for librarians to do this fall--wouldn't that be fun?  Folks could commit to reading a book outside their regular comfort zone and then share a review or a conversation about it...Still thinking about the details, here, so if you have any ideas of how you'd like this to play out, let me know.

In the meantime, as you select your books to help you relax and unwind from a frenetic-paced summer, consider the challenge, and choose one book that fits these criteria:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Art's Power

hands in the dirt CD coverThe Lines we Cross book cover
A couple weekends ago, I discovered a new favorite band (The Resonant Rogues--check them out!).  As I sat in the concert, I was missing a beloved, departed family member and wishing I could share the music with her, so I wasn't surprised to spring a leak when I heard the song Can't Come In.  But in the past week and a half, I have listened to the CD approximately 10 times, like you do.  And almost every time, I tear up when I hear the song.  Aside from the very real possibility that there is such a thing as tear duct muscle memory, I think that the song, which is a plea to be humane and welcoming to refugees, is just plain moving.

At the same time I've been listening to the Resonant Rogues, I have also been reading The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah.  The book, set in Australia but completely relevant for the U.S.,  is told from two perspectives.  Michael is a teen who has a close and loving family, attends private school, and is trying to figure out how to tell his parents he doesn't want to follow his father's footsteps and become and architect.  His parents are the founders of an anti-immigrant political party called Aussie Values.  He has grown up not questioning their beliefs.  Mina is a new scholarship student whose family has moved across Sydney so she can attend a posh private school.  She's a refugee from Afghanistan, where she and her mother lost her father and uncle to the Taliban, and her little brother to hunger and sickness.  Her stepfather is opening a new Afghani restaurant in their new neighborhood, and they are all working to make the adjustment.  When Mina and Michael meet, Michael is challenged to begin looking at his assumptions and beliefs, and is in the uncomfortable position of questioning everything he has grown up thinking he understood.  The alternating perspectives--a tactic that I sometimes feel is overused in teen lit--work brilliantly here.  I love the mixture of a light touch with serious subjects that Abdel-Fattah manages.  This is an important book, and fun to read.  Both Michael and Mina have believable growth, and secondary characters are interesting and well-rounded--even the jerk bully has some redeeming qualities.

The juxtaposition of the book, the song, and the regular news reports I've been hearing about the plight of refugees stuck in camps in Greece and people trapped in war-torn areas--it's been a powerful combination.  I recommend taking a listen and a look!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WLA Awards--Make a Nomination!

Do you have a terrific and innovative program at your library you are proud of?  Is your whole darn library incredible and amazing?  Do you work with someone who you think is inspiring, smart, and effective?  Maybe it is time to consider nominating yourself or someone else for a WLA Award.

These awards mean a lot to the recipients, from what I can tell.  They are a way of recognizing and honoring remarkable people in our profession.  And apparently the nomination process has been streamlined!  Nominations are due September 1.

Please consider it--when people issue invitations like this, they really do mean YOU!

drawing of an invitation being delivered by an animal, and received by another animal
Public domain illustration by Sir John Tenniel

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

SLJ Teen Live Virtual Conference is FREE

Authors will speak on topics including immigration, gender, and reluctant readers.
Click here to register for the 6th annual SLJTeen Live!

SLJTeen Live
Join us on August 9, 2017, from 10 AM - 5 PM ET, for the 6th annual SLJTeen Live! This free, entirely virtual conference will feature more than 20 YA author panelists and keynote speakers, plus two hours of panels on innovative and creative approaches to teen services and programming.

Authors will speak on topics including immigration, gender, and reluctant readers, while your fellow librarians share how they work with special populations, small budgets, and other challenges to create outstanding teen programs.
This year's keynote speakers:
  • Benjamin Alire Sáenz, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  • Barry Lyga, Bang
  • Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World

"Who isn't down with a conference that packs great authors, real-live librarians, free stuff, and high-interest topics for the low-low price of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL?!"
Elizabeth N.
Commerce Township Community Library (MI)

2016 SLJTeen Live! Attendee

During your breaks, network with others or visit digital publisher booths to learn more about upcoming titles you’ll want to purchase for your collections. Special treats, swag, and materials will be available at the booths.

Want to go to two panels at the same time? All sessions will be recorded so that you can re-watch or catch what you missed at a later time.
Register today! No teen librarian will want to miss this.


Don't be greedy : )
Forward this invite to a friend or colleague.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Cumberland Scavenger Hunt

illustration of a treasure map
Building off a successful program from years' past, the library in Cumberland is sponsoring a scavenger hunt for Pete the Cat, who is hiding in the windows of different downtown businesses each week this summer.  When kids find Pete, they let the library know where they found him, and then they are entered into a drawing for a special prize of the week.  This gets kids walking, families visiting the downtown, and plus, Pete the Cat and the library both get some well-deserved publicity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Last Day of School Celebration in Phillips

When my daughter was a toddler, she discovered the wonders of Popsicles, and entertained her older cousins to no end by declaring regularly, "I want a need a pop-the-weasel!"

Lucky for the kids in Phillips, the librarians there understand the experience of wanting and needing a pop-the-weasel...err...popsicle.  They encouraged kids to celebrate the last day of school with a visit to the LIBRARY, and gave everyone a celebratory ice pop.
kids of all ages enjoy ice pops in front of the library
It must be summer in Phillips!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Making and Doing in Ogema

Over the past year, a group of tween girls have been spending Wednesday afternoons at the library in Ogema.  To engage these kids in some projects, the library put together a series for them this spring.  Activities included:

  • Making May Baskets to give to folks spending time in the adjoining Senior Center
  • Learning to crochet and knit from local volunteers
  • Planting kale, lettuce and cabbage in library planters (also writing a spring poem together, and playing games with the seeds)
Low tech and super fun for the participants, including the library staff overseeing (so much fun they didn't have a chance to take photos!)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

River Falls Hosts Little Golden Book Show

raccoon drawing from Baby Animals book
From Baby Animals, illustrated by Garth Williams, used by permission, copyright 1952 Penguin Random House
This summer, the River Falls Public Library Gallery will feature an extensive collection of original illustration art from one of American publishing’s best-loved and most consequential picture book lines, Little Golden Books. Not-so-coincidentally, the exhibition also falls on the 75th anniversary of the essential series, which was published in Racine, WI, until 2001.
From June 10 – August 12, 2017, the River Falls Public Library Gallery will display sixty masterpieces of original illustration art by familiar artists and children’s book illustrators. Each featured work was chosen from a vast Random House archive; this exhibit will include pieces from such picture-book classics as The Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, Home for a Bunny, The Color Kittens, I Can Fly, and more. The exhibit was curated by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas.
Illustration of baby holding a doll and looking at a cardinal singing
From Baby Listens, illustration by Esther Wilkins, used by permission, copyright 1960 Penguin Random House

            Launched in 1942—the first full year of America’s involvement in the Second World War—Little Golden Books made high quality illustrated books available at affordable prices for the first time to millions of young children and their parents. Among the artists who contributed to the ambitious series were greats of the European émigré community (including Garth Williams, Feodor Rojankovsky, and Tibor Gergely) who had gathered in New York as the European situation worsened; alumni of the Walt Disney Studios (including Gustaf Tenggren, Martin Provensen, J. P. Miller, and Mary Blair); and such American originals as Leonard Weisgard, Eloise Wilkin, Elizabeth Orton Jones, Richard Scarry, and Hilary Knight.
            Golden Books and Random House Children’s Books are also celebrating the anniversary with the re-release of the complete retrospective history of the beloved line:  GOLDEN LEGACY: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus.  Golden Legacy is the untold history of the company, its line of books, and the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them. 
Illustration of a young girl holding a doll and a young boy getting ready to put a bandage on it
From Doctor Dan the Bandage Man, illustration by Corinne Malvern, used by permission, copyright 1950 Penguin Random House

            The Golden Books exhibit at the River Falls Public Library Gallery is open to the public and always free-of-charge beginning June 10. The gallery, located in the lower level of the River Falls Public Library at 140 Union Street in River Falls, Wisconsin, is open Monday through Thursday from 10AM to 8PM, Fridays from 10AM to 6PM, and Saturdays from 10AM to 4PM.  
            Through this exhibition, the River Falls Public Library Gallery strives to educate children and families about illustrated literature and celebrate the best original art published in children’s books. Join gallery staff and community partners for a series of related events for young children to seniors throughout the summer. For more information on the River Falls Public Library Gallery and free summer events, stop in to the River Falls Public Library, visit http://www.riverfallspubliclibrary.org/in-the-gallery or call 715-426-3496. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Pyramid Model Goes to the Library

Thanks to Jessi from the Chippewa Falls Public Library for this blog post!

Pyramid model graphic

Have you heard about the Pyramid Model?  The Pyramid Model provides a visual way to think about intentionally supporting the mental health needs of young children as a matter of public health. Children who grow up in supportive, nurturing environments are more likely to be on track developmentally in other areas, be socially aware and competent, and do well in school.

In the same way that many libraries have been focusing on building awareness of early literacy, public health and early childhood agencies in Wisconsin have been focusing on building awareness of and providing training on the importance of supporting mental health from birth onwards, both to parents and caregivers and to other agencies that work with young children. Like …libraries!  
Not surprisingly, supporting early literacy and social-emotional wellness can go hand in hand.  Reading together already supports parent/child bonding, but parents can take things a step further by highlighting emotions in what they are reading.  Stories are a great tool for helping children recognize, understand and manage their own emotions.

 With support from the Children’s Legacy Luncheon Fund of the Eau Claire Community Foundation, MORE system libraries now have available to their patrons kits to help facilitate that social-emotional learning.  The kits are called Power Packs and live at the Chippewa Falls Public Library.  They come in a clear children’s backpack which contains 2-3 books, a toy/game/hands-on activity, a parent resource guide and feelings magnet sets that patrons may keep! 

Available themes include: Everybody Needs a Friend, I’ve Got the Power (problem solving and making good choices), I Was So Mad! , I Can Do It! , I’m Not Scared!, My Many Moods , I Feel Good!, Growing Up is Hard Work and Sometimes I’m Sad.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Paw Patrol Party in Chippewa Falls

dog peeking out from behind a fence
Image from Pixabay

Thanks to Jenna from Chippewa Falls for this guest post!

Chippewa Falls Public Library hosted a Paw Patrol Party, where over 150 children and adults participated in activities inspired by the hit TV show. It was a barktacular time and proved that CFPL staff really know how to put their best paw forward. Evening programs are often attended less than day programs, but the popularity of the TV show brought families out of their doghouses and to the library. The program began with a short storytime followed by different stations. Stations included:
-Make your own Paw Patrol badge
-Adopt-a-dog (color in a picture of a dog and name it)
-Make and fly Skye's helicopter (helicopter made out of paper and an egg carton - helicopters could then be launched from the stairs down to a helipad)
-Feed the dogs (toss printed dog bones into food dishes)
-a photo booth complete with masks of the Paw Patrol characters and dog stuffed animals and puppets
-Help Marshall put out a fire (toss blue bean bags through the "windows")

Staff had to be quick on their feet and not let it be a fur-raising experience. Families kept showing up and showing up, largely surpassing the expected attendance. It sure pays off to plan ahead and to keep extra supplies on hand just in case the unexpected happens. New-to-the-library families came, got library cards, and plan to attend future programs. Jenna even witnessed old friends reconnecting and introducing their children to one another, proving once again the power of the library space.

"Whenever you're in trouble, yelp for help"...or go to the library!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Let the Wild Rumpus Start: Play Webinar

child and parent playing with toy store
Child-led play in Hawkins
As a huge proponent of play and the MANY benefits of it, I'm really excited to watch this webinar with Carissa Christner (who many of you will remember as a popular workshop presenter a few years ago).  The webinar is sponsored by the UW-Madison iSchool, and is FREE.    Yay, Play!
June 6 at 12:00 p.m. CST 
Let the Wild Rumpus Start! Child-lead play in public library programming
Carissa Christner (’12), Youth Services Librarian, Madison Public Library – Alicia Ashman Neighborhood Library
Have you ever wondered if there’s a better way to spend your summer programming hours than hiring magicians and jugglers?  Do you struggle with ways to incorporate truly authentic play (the kind YOU engaged in as a kid, not the kind directed by adults) into your library offerings?  Not sure how much guidance to provide in open-exploration sessions for toddlers? Are you looking for more ways to encourage literacy skills and parent education?  This webinar will introduce you to a radical new library program idea being pioneered in Madison, Wisconsin, based on a groundbreaking new educational philosophy called Anji Play. Learn how Carissa has adapted this approach, originally developed for schools, into a library-friendly format that both kids and parents love.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Inclusive Services Statement

hands reaching for each other, with words like unite, connect, attune,include
Photo from Pixabay
The Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Technology just released a new statement on Inclusive Services:  What Does It Mean to Be Inclusive?

It's a great explanation of what we mean when we talk about making library services more inclusive.   You can check out the WI Libraries for Everyone blog post Tessa Michaelson Schmitt wrote about it, or you can just read the statement, it is short and sweet and inspiring!

Some of my favorite sentences:

The practice of providing inclusive services requires continuous reflection and ongoing dialog with and betweenlibrary administration, staff, and members of the community, with particular emphasis on including the voices of those who are underserved, underrepresented, and underrecognized within the community.

On a concrete level, inclusive services should be visibly incorporated into all library services. The concept that libraries are for everyone should be evident through every point of access or interaction with the library.

When libraries honor the full diversity of their communities, communities thrive.

I'm looking forward to using this statement as a guidepost as I try to help libraries with these efforts.  Please let me know if you'd like to talk more about it or any of the ideas this statement gives you!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Resilience, Harry Potter Style

Griffindor tie, sweater, and time turner
photo from Pixabay
I just listened to a webinar with Dr. Sara Langworthy through Early Childhood Investigations, about Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how to act as a factor to help with resilience for kids who are experiencing toxic stress and trauma.

In the webinar, she referenced her youtube channel, where she takes on various developmental psychology topics.  I had to check it out when she brought up the video where she talks about resiliency factors in terms of Harry Potter.  Turns out she has created several videos that seem to have been inspired (in style) by John and Hank Green's vlogbrothers episodes.  The one about Harry Potter and resilience is worth a glance!  So is the one about ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences), if you need an introduction, or if you want to give someone else a quick introduction to the topic.

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!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Teens' Top Ten Nominees Announced

Teen groups from across the country read galleys and discuss books all year to select the books they think should be nominated for YALSA's Teens' Top Ten list.  Then, teens from across the country have a chance to vote for their favorites, and the top ten vote-getters are announced during Teen Read Week in October.  How cool is that?  A list created for teens by teens, and everyone can get involved!

Here's this year's list of nominees.
Here are some suggestions for promoting reading and voting.
Look on the Teens' Top Ten site for previous year's lists, tool kits, and more.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Out-of-the-Box Outreach

Many thanks to Valerie Spooner from Ladysmith for this inspiring guest post!

We have a women’s shelter in our town that does a wonderful job, but  residents don’t always feel comfortable coming to the library. Many of the women who use their services also have children, so I have been trying to build a relationship with the shelter, and with the families who live there, so that they feel comfortable bringing their children to storytimes and events at the library. Here are two of the outreach activities I have tried that have been really successful.

Foster kitten visit. I foster kittens for our local animal shelter. I want to raise heathy kittens with lots of social skills, so bringing them to visit the women’s shelter is great. The kittens get a chance to socialize with new people, and the shelter residents get a chance to play with some adorable kittens. It’s a win- win! This outreach activity requires only time and access to kittens. After this event some of the children came to visit me at the library, which was really exciting for me! I plan on repeating this event with my new batches of foster kittens. 

Child and kittens socializing...or napping, as kittens tend to do.
10-day-old tiny nuggets.  They'll be ready for their play date when they are 5-6 weeks old.

Nail decals. My director recently purchased a book about making your own nail decals and suggested that it would be a fun event to host at the library. I thought that I might like to practice on a smaller sized group first, so I asked if anyone at the women’s shelter would be interested. They were, so we set up a visit. 
Materials needed: waterslide paper, small scissors, white nail polish, clear nail polish, tweezers, nail file, cotton balls, nail polish remover, small containers to hold water. And, of course, the book! Make Your Own Nail Decals by Janelle Estep

This outreach event required a bit more prep time, but cost less than $20 total (and I have enough supplies left to repeat this with about 300 more people). I bought waterslide paper ($10), white nail polish ($2), and clear nail polish ($5 for the giant bottle that will last a really long time). Everything else we had on hand. The ladies chose designs from the book, which I printed onto the waterslide paper and sealed with clear nail polish. Then we painted their fingernails white (you don’t have to, but it does help the decals show up) and applied the decals. We topped their nails with more clear polish to keep everything in place. It does take about 30 minutes for the waterslide paper to seal, and then there is the drying time between coats of nail polish, but that gave me a chance to talk about storytimes and the Summer Library Program.