Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reading Program On the Cheap

Last week our library began the I <3 Books reading program. While the main goal of the program is promoting literacy, we were also hoping to encourage patrons to use our resources and borrow library material. Our circulation has been somewhat low since the holiday season and starting a reading program seemed like an obvious choice to boost circulation. Of course, with a limited budget, we had to find resourceful and creative ways to implement this program. With the help of our teens and financial support from our Friends group, we not only started our reading program but we were also able to have a successful kickoff event where many patrons registered to participate in the reading contest.

Here are 5 tips that worked for us in implementing a low cost reading program:

1) Use your leftovers. We used our of leftover material such as books, pencils and bags from previous programs to offer as part of our incentives.

2) Find an inexpensive incentive that is appropriate for most ages. Silly Bandz did the trick for us! Both children and teens in our community can't get enough silly bandz and the price was just right. Of course we did not forget about the little ones and adults, but the cost for these incentives was minimal, given that we had several leftover items from our summer reading program that were appropriate for both of these age groups.

3) Solicit financial support or donations for grand prizes. This was our big cost item. We were fortunate to obtain our financial support from our Friends of the Library group. If you don't have a Friends group though, try local businesses, community partners or generous patrons who are often willing to help.

4) Go green and keep the printing of reading logs and promotional material to a minimum. Our reading logs were printed as half sheets in black and white. We told patrons if they loose their reading log to write it on any piece of scratch paper. Our printed fliers were limited and our promotional information was distributed electronically to the schools and local partners. Teen Council created a couple of large visible posters with the program information and placed them in the areas of the library that receive the most traffic.

5) Recruit volunteers and FREE local talent to host a kickoff event. Our teens did it all! Teen council volunteered to run the event and register patrons for the program. Our teen music group joined forces with local teen dancing crews to provide the entertainment and promote the event.

Check out more pictures of the I Heart Books Kickoff Event.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lego Club, Part Deux

We have all heard that presentation is everything, and this saying holds true when setting up library programs. The kids can tell how much effort we put into our programming and, if the presentation is a mess, you may lose them before they even get in the door. I read about a number of different ways that librarians set up their Lego Clubs but none appealed to me. They all just mentioned that they either dumped the pieces into a pile or had bins full of pieces set out on tables. There was no talk of sorting the pieces. Maybe I’ve just been around Legos too long, but Lego pieces come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. I decided that I would invent a way to sort the pieces to make them more accessible to the builders.

When Lego pieces are all jumbled together, it’s difficult to find that one piece you really need. And forget about trying to find any small pieces, they inevitably make their way to the bottom of the pile to be lost forever. Here’s a basic strategy for sorting Legos that will definitely make it easier for the kids to find what they need. I use only three categories: bricks, plates, and small/specialty pieces.

Bricks look exactly the way they sound, like bricks. These are the tall, regular Lego pieces. They may not all be perfect rectangles like bricks, but any of the big, thicker pieces would fall into this category.

Plates got their name because these are the flat pieces. They are not always smooth (most will have studs on top) but you can recognize these pieces because they are 1/3 of the height of a brick.

The small/specialty pieces would include all of those little, single stud pieces. Special pieces that swivel or bend and chairs and steering wheels should be grouped together.

I set up tables with one small bin of each of the 3 types of pieces.

I found that this system really works for the kids. If they need a certain type of piece, they know exactly where to look. I also let them know that each table might have different pieces so they can move from table to table to find what they need. I think that the kids appreciate the effort of sorting the pieces rather than just having them dig through large bins or piles. I was initially worried about keeping the pieces sorted but after each building session we do some sorting and when we break down the models after 2 weeks we make sure to sort those pieces. After 4 months, we still have a well sorted collection and very happy Lego builders.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Summer Reading Themes Needed!

I serve on the California Library Association's Summer Reading Advisory Council, and am often asked for input on themes, graphics, and content for the Collaborative Summer Library Program. But we'd like to hear from you as well!

1. The theme for 2013 is Underground. What would you like to see as the slogan for the different age groups (ex. this year's children's slogan for the theme Travel and World Cultures is "One World, Many Stories").

  • 2013 Underground Children's slogan
  • 2013 Underground Teen slogan
  • 2013 Underground Adult slogan

2. What would you like to see as the general theme for 2014?

So far librarians have suggested robots, archaeology, dinosaurs, rain forest, space, fairies, and ice age.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Open Letter to New Librarians in Library Journal

Posted today on is a letter from Roy Tennant to new (and new-ish) librarians, in response to a blog post by my friend Patrick (pcsweeney). It's a must-read for all librarians who are fired up but frustrated: Open-letter-to-new-librarians

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All IMLS, LSTA Funding in Jeopardy | American Libraries Magazine

Anna and I are 2010 Eureka! Leadership Institute fellows. We are both working on projects that will help parenting teens provide an educational foundation for their children by bringing early literacy enriched storytimes to the mothers at their respective high schools. The bottom line goal for both of our projects is simple: teach teen moms how to read and select materials for their children, so they can give their children the tools for success.

 Although we did not write the proposals together (and did not know what the other one was working on until we arrived at the Institute) we are collaborating as much as possible to help stretch our money. We are currently waiting for the grant funds to arrive, and today we learned that funding might not ever come. Check out this article: All IMLS, LSTA Funding in Jeopardy American Libraries Magazine and then please write/email/call your rep today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lego Builder Club

I have been a fan of the Lego building system since I was a kid. So you can imagine my surprise when I read the July 2009 School Library Journal article about Lego Clubs in the library. This is my area of expertise, I thought, I should put together a Lego Builder Club. But I was already running multiple programs and could never fit it in. About a year later, a colleague mentioned her success with a Lego Club and I was inspired to finally put my idea into practice.

The biggest challenge to starting a Lego club is getting your hands on some Legos. Legos are notoriously expensive (they’re all shipped in from factories in Europe) so don’t plan on buying them at retail outlets unless you are well funded. The best way to acquire Legos is by soliciting for donations. This doesn’t always work because many people have a hard time giving them away, but sometimes parents don’t mind because they’re tired of stepping on them. I didn’t have much success with donations at first, and my start date was approaching, so I went with my second option. My Friends of the Library group purchased some bulk collections that I found listed on Craigslist. You can usually find people selling Legos by the pound and can get a good deal on large quantities. I learned that if you go this route you really have to move quickly because I called a couple people and they’re collections had already been sold. If you absolutely have to purchase Legos through a retail outlet, always buy the basic brick sets. These sets have no theme and usually only include different size bricks in varying colors.

When I started soliciting for donations, I also put up a sign giving the start date of the club. I built some of my old Lego sets and put them in a display case to help promote the club. The display turned into more than I originally intended as I had kids approach me about displaying their own Lego collections. So now I rotate the kids’ sets and have great promotion for my Lego Builder Club every month. The kids love to see their stuff on display and to watch the other patrons admiring their collection.

I started my Lego Builder Club in November with a limit of 25 participants, and was full at every session. After Christmas, I received some very generous donations of Legos so I expanded the club to 40 participants and I am still maintaining full capacity. The kids (and parents) truly love the program. They love to build together and share their creations with each other. And the great part is that the program practically runs itself: put the Legos out and turn the kids loose. But be prepared for the noise. The sound of Legos clattering around can drive some people crazy, but, after 30 years, it’s still music to my ears.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This is Why I Do What I Do: How ALA reaffirmed my love for librarianship

I had the privilege of bringing a group of my In BeT(w)een Book Club teens to the American Library Association Midwinter conference a few weeks ago, and the experience reaffirmed by love of this job. We were invited to participate in the Best Fiction for Young Adults session in which teens were asked to submit feedback on books from the list of 191 nominated titles. Over the last five months, the teens read and took notes on at least 12 of the titles - a huge undertaking considering many of them are already overcommitted with their school workload, extracurricular activities, and everything else on their plates. The payoff was totally worth it though!

My teens, along with about 40 other teens from Southern California, represented their libraries and high schools well with their insightful feedback and witty commentary. I was like a proud stage mama snapping photos and nodding encouragement every time one of my teens would step up to the mike.

At lunch, sponsored by Penguin Publishing, the teens had the opportunity to dine with Penguin editors and staff, so it was an excellent opportunity for me to sneak some career exploration in without them even knowing it! As voracious readers, these teens know that being a librarian is a great career option from their interactions with me, but it was nice for them to see what else they can do with their English/writing/communication skills and a love of reading.

As a reward for their time and commitment, the teens were then let loose on the exhibit floor to speak with publishing reps, meet authors and get signed copies of their books, and best of all...get free Advanced Reader Copies! We had the opportunity to meet Lauren Myracle (author of TTFN; TTYL; L8r, G8r), Melissa de la Cruz (author of the Blue Bloods series), and Ann Finnin (author of The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice). We were like pack llamas on an Andean trek with all the bags of goodies we were hauling, and I literally had to drag them out of the exhibit hall when they shut the lights off on us. It was so fulfilling to see the teens that excited about reading. The whole drive home they thanked me profusely for being "so cool" and getting them involved in the conference. In return, I thanked them for being so committed and for participating in my programs. They're currently hatching a plan to raise money so they can come to ALA Annual in New Orleans with me in June...we'll see what my admin has to say about that. :)

While we were in the exhibit hall waiting in line to meet Lauren Myracle, I had a very surreal experience. A wonderful young librarian tapped me on the shoulder and apologized for "bothering" me but said she had wanted to introduce herself to me for a while but never had the chance because I was always so busy and surrounded by people (this entourage is news to me!). She said that she's seen me present at California Library Association conferences and at Serra Library Cooperative workshops over the years and that I have inspired her with my creative tween and teen programming ideas. She made me feel like such a rock star despite my insistence that I'm "just a YA librarian from Escondido, CA". The best part, though, was after the effusive praise of my prowess as a librarian she said "and I also love your personal style!". We exchanged cards and have since collaborated on various professional issues. She truly made my day, and I now consider her both a colleague and friend.

I encourage those of you out there reading this to get your teens involved at a professional level whenever the opportunity arises and share your praise for one another. We are our strongest supporters and need all the encouragement we can get from each other and our patrons. These are the reasons I do what I educate, to influence, and to inspire, and it's moments like these that remind me why I love what I do.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fun Facts of Literacy Workshop, Part One

Anna and I have worked for months planning an early literacy workshop and yesterday it finally happened! Although we both had a sleepless Wednesday night, the workshop was a success. We decided to do a two-part series about the workshop and Part One is :

10 Things to Remember when Planning & Organizing a Workshop
  1.  Pack your camera the night before. Despite writing myself a post it note on my planner (which I left at work the night before) and getting an reminder email from Anna, I forgot my camera. We tried to make-do with the branch camera but it was circa 1998 and all the pictures came out gray. Thankfully, a husband was able to bring a camera at lunch so the second half of the day should have good photos.
  2. Bring extra utensils/paper goods. The two restaurants who catered for us clearly thought 50 meant 25. A mad scramble ensued, and I will be sending the branch paper plates and forks to replenish their stock.
  3. Remind people to bring layers. The air condition was set to Antarctica, and a technician didn't make it out for three hours. Folks were shivering, and complaining. Ouch
  4. Cut food items in half. People are less inclined to take an entire muffin or brownie when it is clearly cut in half. Hey, we were on a budget!
  5. Expect people to show up really early. And don't be fussed by it. People showed up 45 minutes early (while we were still setting up!) and Anna had to verbally slap me so I would stop being irritated.
  6. Bring a notebook for yourself. In my haste to prep and stuff 55 folders full of goodies and printouts from the presenter for the participants, I forgot to pack a notebook for myself. The handouts were ok to write on, but it will make photocopying them in the future kind of tricky. 
  7. Communicate clearly and often with the staff at the workshop location. We held the workshop at one of my system's branches and I had to talk to branch staff in advance and at least 25 times on the day of. The staff doesn't have to be helpful (they were), but they are critical to the success of your workshop. 
  8.  Not everyone will have a good time. One person left early because she wasn't getting anything out of it...don't worry, that is not your fault. As long as the description for the workshop is clear, you have done your job. 
  9. Charge the most you reasonably can, you will go over budget. I revamped the budget at least 15 times because of unexpected costs. We belatedly realized people would have paid $5 more and that would have saved us from serious stress. 
  10. Thank everyone! We are going to send out Thank You notes, but even an email would be fine. Just a little something to acknowledge their participation in your successful workshop. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Long Live Harry Potter!

I recently took a trip to Orlando, FL to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I've never been shy about touting my bookwormish tendencies, but I'm not going to lie that it was heartening to see that I'm not alone! As I raced teenagers dressed in Hogwarts gowns to be the first in line for the dueling dragons coaster, it dawned on me that despite the fact that the last book was published more than three years ago, Harry Potter is still alive and well in the hearts of muggle teenagers everywhere. And, more importantly, we YA librarians can capitalize on that and the renewed interest that the final movie, set to release July 15, 2011, will surely generate. So bust out those "If You Love Harry Potter..." book lists, set up displays of read-a-likes, or plan a Harry Potter movie release party. And remember...everything old is new again!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Use everything you have in your closet

Right now I'm reading The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter and in the chapter I just finished the unnamed narrator explained the origins of the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle." Apparently, it is based on something that happened in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. For some reason the rhyme stuck in my head and I decided to incorporate it into my toddler storytime for tomorrow. This weekly storytime is part of my Eureka! project of bringing early literacy enriched storytimes to parenting teens, and I've noticed anytime the activity or story requires the moms to help their child participate that the teens relax a bit.

So I rummaged through a few binders from Librarians past and found illustrated drawings for the rhyme. I laminated the pages to make them more like cards, and decided they could be "stick puppets" with the kids acting out the rhyme. I was stumped with what I could use for a stick, when one of the clerks in the Youth Services Department held up the fans from the Census (we have millions still hanging around). Like a magician he removed the Census image with a staple remover and now I have the perfect stick. I'm excited to see how it goes tomorrow, with the moms helping their children know just when to jump into the action! They don't always know the tune or tale, but they try to help as best they can. I truly believe these young ladies want the best for their children, they just don't always know what "the best" is--and that is where we librarians/educators/advocates can help!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Attention Spans

When my wife and I welcomed our son Kazuo in 2007, we were given a lot of kids' books by friends and family. Included in this tidal wave of children's literature was a collection of picture books from a "Book of the Month Club" program my wife's aunt was a part of in the early 1980s. She had joined the club when her two sons were young, and the books have been kept in immaculate condition. We were delighted to inherit the set!

Kaz is quickly approaching 4 years of age, and I've noticed his attention span for books has increased significantly in the past year. Age certainly plays a factor, though Kaz also understands that the longer we read, the longer he gets to stay up. It's hard to deny a cute kid more book time, but sleep is important, too!

It's been really fun to read through all those "Book of the Month" titles, most of which have withstood the test of time and are still wonderful today, even if some titles like James Marshall's delightful Mary Alice, Operator Number 9 are a little out of date technology-wise. But what's most intriuging to me is how long many of the books are.

In fact, even with my son's increased attention span, I've noticed him start to fidget as we get further into some of the longer books, despite my best efforts to be interactive and include him in the storytelling process. It dawned on me that times were simply different back when most of these books were written. Today we live in a world of instant access and constant stimulation, which was not necessarily the case back when the likes of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Curious George Takes a Job were written.

I really like the idea of being in the moment, cutting out all other distractions, and focusing on what's before me. Easier said than done, true, but it's something I want to strive to become better at. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was originally published in 1939, a time when kids weren't constantly bombarded with the types of sights and sounds they are today. By contrast, our world today is filled with continual stimulation and multitasking is the order of the day. Watching kids and teens at my library use the computers and seeing how many things they're able to do at once is mindboggling... and perhaps even a little scary! Realizing this, I'm going to do my best to try to teach my kids how to relax and focus on one thing, even if just for a short period of time.

When I conduct my library storytimes (and it's a small victory even getting kids to come, given all the other distractions like computers and video viewing stations in our library!), I realize that the attention spans of attending kids vary, and I'm continually mixing things up in order to keep them engaged. However, now I'm considering ways to try to increase their focus and hold their attention on one story longer. Finding ways to remove other distractions, including those bouncing around in their heads, is difficult, but maybe quick meditative moments and other similar activities hold the key.

Experimenting with a storytime formula may not always yield optimal results, but learning from mistakes and building upon what works in order to build a better program is worth straying off the established tracks. I think I'll have some type of relaxation exercise at my next storytime and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe before long the storytime attendees will be asking me to read longer books!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Library Teen Music Group News

Our library has a music group program where teens jam out in the library's community room every Wednesday. Music instruction was their #1 request in a teen council survey. Thanks to community support and funding from the Friends of the Library, the group now has access to instruments and two musical instructors. The program has been ongoing for 9 months with 15 to 20 teens participating in both teen council and teen music group weekly. The group is called Project Unknown and performs at library and community venues. Project Unknown also participates in fundraising programs, volunteers at library events, and plans programs that are of interest to their peers. The music program gives teens a voice at the library, motivating them to get involved in activities and give back to their community. Currently the teens are working on a video for the "Why I Need My Library!" video contest. Their goal is to win one of the cash prizes and use the money to create and furnish their teen space. I'm so proud of our teens and their dedication to their programs--programs that serve the community. Check out the SLJTeen article published today highlighting the Logan Heights Library Teen Music Group"Project Unknown".

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Name Calling Storytime

Last week (January 24-28) was No Name Calling Week, Bullying and cyber bullying has been in the news a lot in the past year, especially with so many high profile suicides of young people who have been bullied because of their gender, race, sexual preference, size, and any other nonsensical reason. As a librarian in a public library, I don’t get a chance to talk about these topics with kids, but I feel libraries offer a great resource to kids who are being bullied and/or their parents. We have a lot of BOOKS that can be used for bibliotherapy. I decided that I would see what I could do to help curb the problem, one little step at a time. So, after a simple search of bullying as a keyword, I found that there were enough books to put together a storytime for preschoolers about bullying. There is also a book list, linked here from the No Name Calling Week website that would give some suggestions. However, for my storytime here is what I used (this does not include the regular songs and rhymes that we do, just the thematic ones):

Books I Read:
Stolen Smiles by Thierry Robberecht
Emily’s Sharing and Caring Book by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post
The Peace Book by Todd Parr

Others that I like:
Henry and the Bully by Nancy Carlson
Kersplatypus by Susan K. Mitchell
y Pie by Derek Munson
Yo-yo man by Daniel Pinkwater

Found at under friendship

Two Little Friends
Two little friends are better than one,
(hold up fingers on right hand, one on left)
And three are better than two
(three on left, and two on right)
And four are much better still.
(four on right hand)
Just think!
What four little friends can do!

I almost always do a matching game with preschoolers. In this one I took different hearts and cut them in half. On one side I wrote out numbers 1-6. On the other side I put dots on each half from 1-6. (but this could be done with colors or lower and upper case letters) During the storytime the kids helped me match the correct number and to the correct number of dots. Of course, it is not as simple as putting 1 and 1 together. I have to match the items incorrectly and this always gets the kids screaming, “no that is not right”, after a few wrong match ups, I at last get it right. This continues until all hearts are matched correctly.

The ever popular Friendship Bracelet/necklace made out of fruit loops or equivalent generic cereal. Most bracelets never left the library, let alone given to a friend, but it is the thought that counts.

Tournament of Champions

This past weekend our library hosted our second Super Smash Bros. Brawl Tournament. The first tournament was held on American Library Association's National Gaming Day and the response was so great, we decided to have another. Though many of the tournament participants already own the game and have been playing it steadily since it was released a couple years ago, they love coming together to test their skills and see who can emerge victorious.

We were able to provide some small prizes for the first tournament, but we didn't have the ability to purchase incentives for our second event. However, that didn't deter any of the players from participating. When I announced we didn't have prizes, the most negative response I got was an "Awww, man!" That said, I did bring a plate of my famous chocolate chip cookies for the players to enjoy, which was more than enough to entice people to join the tournament. It never helps to have a little extra incentive!

One of the coolest things about video game programs (and heck, many other types of library programs, for that matter) is that they bring together individuals who may have nothing else in common other than their love for games. Despite the fact that a lot of the kids and teens who took part in the tournament weren't necessarily "friends," it didn't take long before they were all cheering for one another and there was positive energy flowing through the room.

Many libraries already hold gaming events, but more should do so! Tournaments are pretty darn easy to run, and with a decent amount of promotion, you'll likely get a healthy number of attendees. As with any program or event, good planning and preparation are critical, but it's also very easy to find "assistants" to volunteer to run the event with you. For example, I had one attendee who didn't want to enter the tournament but was happy to sit by me and provide play-by-play as the battles played out. Setting the ground rules up front (such as "No booing, only cheering") will help to keep things friendly and fun.

One final bit of advice: Don't do the old "bait and switch" routine. I'll wait until a later time to discuss whether or not video games qualify as a "legitimate" library resource (hint: they are), but there is a popular idea amongst librarians that video games should be used to lure kids and teens into the library so they'll start using "real" resources like books.

Don't do that.

Kids and teens aren't stupid, and they'll smell your scheme a mile away. You'll scare them off! If you are going to offer a gaming program, do just that--no strings attached. And, chances are, some of the attendees at your gaming events will eventually expand their horizons into making use of other areas of library service. But that won't happen if you're a phony!

Kirby is running for ALA Council

Kirby talks about running for the office of American Library Association Councilor-at-Large at ALA Midwinter 2011: