Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for . . .


This post is about what to do if your storytime is a ZOO!

Sometimes there are days when the kids attending storytime are wild. There are days when the kids are screaming and running around and it always seems that once one kid acts up, they all follow. Sometimes there are things that we can do to help, but other times it seems like it just be the weather!

Fellow So-Cal Library Connection blogger, Kirby recently asked Facebook friends what to do after a particularly wild storytime at a Homeless Shelter where several fights broke out between the kids. These were some of the responses:

Read "Hands are Not For Hitting".
Lots of movement activities
Carpet Spaces to define each child's space

Other things to consider are:

Set rules before the storytime.

This is what I say to remind my attendees of behavioral expectations before every storytime. "If you want to make noise or walk around, have your mom or dad or grandma or grandpa take you for a walk and when you are ready to listen come back. But if mom or dad or grandma or grandpa are being really noisy you can ask them to go for a walk." This of course gets a laugh from the parents, but it also gives the parents permission to leave the storytime if they need to.

My one big rule during storytime is not touching my flannel board. I also remind parents of this.

I ask parents during toddler storytime for kids who want to stand or wiggle during the stories to stand in the back. This allows the kids that are developmentally ready to sit still to do so in the front without the distraction of the wigglers, but allows the wiggly toddlers to participate in the storytime. Also, the wiggly kids will see the sitting behavior modeled by the other kids and will one day be able to sit themselves.

Reading shorter stories, especially with younger crowds. If the story is longer, ask questions about the pictures or story to draw the kids into the book.

Reading fewer stories. I read 3 books at preschool storytime and 2 books at toddler storytime. For my storytime these have been the perfect number. Find your perfect number!

More action activities between stories. Using songs, rhymes, and other activities engages the kids. Even if you are not reading stories, the kids are getting the literacy benefits of the rhymes, songs, and activities.

Stop reading the story. There have been times when the story I picked out just was not engaging the kids, even though I thought it would. Cut your losses and put the story down. I know it is hard, but sometimes that is the best thing to do.

Talk to the parents of the kids who are disrupting the storytime. Often they know that their child is being disruptive and are open to suggestions. Work with these parents so that everyone can have a good storytime experience.

Learn the names of the kids. It is much easier to get a child to sit down or listen if you call them by name. Of course you will not know the names of all the kids, but learn as many as you can.

I learned at a presentation that if you give kids who have attention problem or wiggly a squishy ball to squeeze, their are able to focus better on the storytime. I have tried this with some of my kids, whose parents I trust not to let the squishy ball be used as a toy with success.

If nothing works, finish storytime. Sing your closing song and call it a day. Know that next week's storytime will be better and have a cup of hot chocolate!

Hopefully these tips will help. Maybe some of our readers have other suggestions that they would like to share.

Posted by Anna

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for . . .


Congratulations go out to our very own Kirby McCurtis for becoming an ALA Councilor-At-Large. Her term will begin at the 2011 ALA Conference in New Orleans this summer. I am sure that she will have new experiences to post about as she goes on the 3 year journey of being an ALA Council Member. Way to go Kirby!

Posted by Anna

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for ...

eXtended Family!

I present an infant storytime to a crowd of over 80 people including children and adults. Most people imagine a room filled with mothers with babies on their laps, but this is not always the case. Although most parents are the primary caregivers, we have many extended family members that bring children to storytime. Grandparents and childcare providers sit and listen and sing. They point to the books and ask questions of the children. They move their hands during the fingerplays and raise their voices in song. Their encouragement and enthusiasm instills a lifelong love of reading at this crucial stage of early literacy development.

As I was writing this I was struck with the thought that as Youth Services Librarians we become extended members of the family. In my short tenure, I have seen kids move out of storytime and on to preschool. The families come back and I get to ask the kids how they are enjoying school. I was told the other day that I was a young girl’s favorite uncle. I have some afterschool middle school kids who are now dedicated Teen Volunteers. I have some kids who have moved from the Child/Parent Book Club to the Teen Book Club. We watch them grow. We watch them change. They enjoy telling us about their lives. We become part of the family. The family librarian.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for . . .


Water at the library you ask? Yes, water at the library. The theme of the Summer Reading Program last year was Make a Splash . . . Read and what better way to celebrate than have a Water Carnival. While, this was an event that was specific to that Summer Reading Program, everyone had so much fun I plan to do it again. It is a perfect event for hot summer days!

To set the scene, I held this event outside in a smallish space behind the library (between City Hall and the Library) on cement. This is where I have all of my big Summer Reading Program events. I put up canopies to protect everyone from the sun. I had 5 stations staffed by student volunteers and told parents to dress their children to get wet.

While it seems intimidating to have all of this going on, and I was nervous how it would work, it really worked well. Plus, as library budgets dwindle and there is still an expectation to have fun events at the library, this is a fairly inexpensive way to put on an event that everyone can participate in and enjoy.

Station 1
Water Balloons Toss
This is the typical water balloon toss, where you have partners stand together and toss the ball back and forth. After each successful catch, they step back a step. I was surprised that we didn't have a water balloon fight break out, but I think the kids were having fun trying to not get wet tossing the ball.

Starting several days before the event, I had students filling water balloons. I stored them in a plastic container, which was good because some did pop before they were used.

Station 2
Kool-Aide Popsicle Drawing
Drawing yummy smelling pictures using popsicles made out of kool-aide. They actually work better when they are a little melted so that the color and smell come out on the page.

Making lots and lots of popsicles. Several days before, I mixed kool-aide and froze it in ice cube trays with a popsicle stick. When the cubes are ready, store them in the freezer with like colors, since the colors do merge when they are stored all together.

Station 3
Sponge Toss
Kids toss water laden sponges at goals on the ground. I was fortunate that my library system had a bean bag game that I adapted for the sponges. If I had not had that, I would have put tape on the ground to mark the spots for the kids to throw the sponge.

Get sponges, lay out goals.

Station 4
Spoon Race
Kids race back and forth between a container of water and a cup moving water with a spoon. The goal is to fill water to the line before anyone else. While this was the goal, kids were just as happy running back and forth and eventually there was no race, just kids filling the water up in the cup.

Draw a line on the cup as the water fill line.

Station 5
Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles
Blowing bubbles sounds pretty easy, but part of the fun was making wands out of pipe cleaners. This was supposed to be an easy activity for younger kids, however all ages enjoyed it.

Make Bubble Mix. I mixed water and dish soap until it made a good bubble. Not scientific, I realize, but easy for the volunteer who was in charge of the station to make more in the middle of the event. There are many recipes online that are more exact.

Posted by Anna

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for . . .


National Volunteer Week was April 10 -16 and this post is in honor of all the volunteers that work in libraries. Without the hours that volunteers put in at libraries would have fewer books re-shelved, repaired, and stories read. Thank you to everyone!

Duties of Volunteers

At my library we have volunteers from 6th grade and up to adult. Many of the students who volunteer do it as class requirements and the library is able to provide this partnership with the schools. For those of you out there who are looking to start to include volunteers to do daily duties, here is a list of some of the tasks that volunteers at my library do:

  • re-shelve materials
  • repair materials
  • clean materials
  • read to children
  • participate in the read to your bread program (therapy dogs listening to kids read)
  • prep for crafts
  • help at programs for kids
  • set up for programs
  • crowd control at big programs
  • make summer reading program prize bags
  • give out summer reading program prizes
  • lead programs
These are just a few of the duties of volunteers at the library.

How to find volunteers?

Contacting local schools (don't forget colleges) and ask if you can be put on a list of places to volunteer.

We put out a small flyer asking interested teens to who want to volunteer and then we try to do a large orientation, especially at the start of Summer Reading.

You could put up a poster in your library asking for volunteers and you would be surprised by the number of regular patrons who come in and want to volunteer.

Other posts have also mentioned where to get volunteers and programs for volunteers young and old.

posted by Anna

Monday, April 25, 2011


Understanding Teen Environments!

Creating a teen friendly library atmosphere where teens feel welcome and safe is something that was very present in my mind when we were opening our new library. Now, maintaining and improving this type of environment is something that I'm constantly working on. As a Youth Services Librarian, working with teens has been one of the most rewarding and fun experiences of my career thus far. I'm a huge advocate of teen library services because I know how important it is to reach this underserved population. I feel lucky to have many teens visiting and using our library as well as participating in our programs. It can be challenging at times to maintain the interest of teens and get them involved in library activities. Anyone who has worked with teens knows that this requires a tremendous amount of patience and flexibility but it is worth every effort.

At our library we offer various teen programs such as music lessons, teen council activities, art classes, dance classes, short story programs, monthly dance and music showcases, video game challenge, tutoring, and reading programs. Our library has become one of the teen hang out spots in the community. When we first opened our branch we were having problems with some of the teens. I think they were testing the boundaries and wanted to see how much they could get away with. After a couple of months of dealing with some behavior issues, teens started establishing a level of trust with staff and vice-versa. I got to know many of our teens through our programs but what I believe has made our services for teens successful is that everyone on staff is on board with programs and services for teens. I believe that enthusiasm towards serving teens can be contagious and that has proven to be true at my library. Recently, when our teens were working on the video for the ALA "Why I need my library" contest, I witnessed just how involved we've all been with our teens. Most of them know us by our names, and depending on their interests, I almost feel like each of them has a favorite staff member. During the filming of our video I witnessed things like our security guard lending his laptop to the teen music group so they could use his software for the video, and our library clerk, who's hobby is video production, giving tips to our teens on storyboarding and on how to shoot the video. Our entire staff was so proud of the teen music group for creating the video and they all encouraged them and made it known to others how proud they were of the group.

Recently, the area around my desk has become the "unofficial" teen space area. At times it does get a little hectic and I have to let them know when I need some time to work on projects, but I do try to be as available as possible to them and appreciate the fact that many of them feel really comfortable coming to my desk and talking to me about almost anything. In the last 6 months I've had teens come to me with some heavy issues such as the death of a parent, suicide and loved ones in prison. I try to be there for them in the capacity that I can and let them know that their library family cares and supports them. I appreciate the trust they instill in me, to be able to talk to me about their problems or share their excitements and triumphs. I believe that teen council has also played a huge role in this and find that teens that participate in teen council have developed a bond with each other as well as library staff. They are like a family and look out for each other and of course I'm thrilled when they tell other teens how "cool" the library is.

Creating understanding and welcoming teen environments can go a long way with teens, give them a sense of pride and ownership as well as motivate them to advocate for themselves at the library. Hopefully teens sharing their enthusiasm for the library becomes contagious as well!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for . . .

Toddler Storytime

There are several library related subjects that start with T. Teens and Tweens being at the top of those subjects. Not that they are not important because services to Teens and Tweens are very important. However, I am going to discuss Toddlers today because we have not really mentioned them yet.

Toddler, which I define as 1-3 year olds, at least for my storytime is a unique storytime group. This age range is stretching the age group a little bit, but works well for my storytimes because parents who have kids who are too wiggly or independent for baby lapsit, which for me is 0-1 1/2 years old, can bring their child to the toddler storytime. Also, for parents who have a 3 year old that is just not ready for preschool storytime, which I have posted as 3-5 year olds, can still bring their child to the toddler storytime without being told that their child is too old. I like that this age group overlaps with my other two storytimes because there is no set age of development for kids and this gives a little flexibility to parents.

As I was saying, Toddlers are special and unique. They don't sit still, but can follow directions when they want to. They want to be grown up and independent, but still like to sit in mommy's (or daddy, grandpa, grandma, nanny, etc) lap. My storytimes are not quiet, in fact they are quite loud. (I do not have a community or storytime room, so the rest of the library enjoys my storytime right along with the toddlers and parents.) I try to encourage the kids who are able to sit, to sit in the front and those kids who want to stand (which is many) to stand in the back. This works pretty well and the parents try to help with crowd control. However, once one kid is crying, screaming, running around, all chaos usually ensues. That is when even if you have a storytime outline, you do whatever you can to bring your kids back to focus on storytime. Usually singing a song helps, it is amazing how a song will bring attention back to you. Try it next time you have a crazy, wild group!

For anyone out there who might be interested in starting a storytime for toddlers, here is the outline that I usually follow when planning for a toddler storytime. I do some variations, but we usually have the same general components. There are a few musts for each week: I read two books, we dance with bean bags, dance with George, shake our rattles, everything else rotates each week. I also try to include at least one early literacy skill pointer for the parents, sometimes I am able to get all 3 that I have planned. In all, my storytime will last between 20-25 minutes, depending on the attention of the kids who are attending that day.

Introduction to storytime
Reminding the kids and parents that if they need to move around or make excessive nosie during the storytime, they are welcome to leave and then come back when they are ready.

Opening Song
Open Shut Them with a verse that I inherited from a previous librarian.

Usually I do a theme just so I can narrow what book I will be reading, but sometimes I just read my favorites.

Bean Bag Dancing
Everyone gets a bean bag and follows the direction of the song. I have been using "Bean Bag Rock" from the CD Bean Bag Activities and Coordination Skills by Georgiana Liccione Stewart. This is a nice easy song for this age to follow.

Rhyme to get kids to sit down
I have a set of rhymes that I rotate each week.

Fingerplay or Flannel board Story
Depending on the theme of the week, I may have a flannel board story. If do not, I will throw in a fingerplay.

ABC and 123
Each child gets a laminated ABC and 123 sheet so that as we sing our ABCs they point to the letters, the same with counting and pointing to the numbers. It is amazing to watch the difference between the kids when they start storytime and point to random letters during the alphabet to when they are able to point to the correct letter. Usually this happens after they promote to the preschool storytime, but it is still fun to watch!

We usually dance to one of the many catchy songs by the Wiggles. They are recognizable and just fun to dance to. Each child gets a chance to dance with Curious George who is my storytime mascot. My picture with George is on the blog front page.

Again, I have many different songs that I rotate through each week. Some we sing more often than others because they are favorites!

Rhyme to get kids to sit down

Usually we do a game where they help match colors or shapes. This helps the kids learn their colors or shapes and learn to differentiate between similar objects.


Shaking Rattles
Everyone gets a rattle and we sing a song about shaking rattles. This song was passed on to me by another librarian.


All the storytimes end with BINGO. Taking away letters as we go and adding hands to help remind them when to clap and when to say the letter. I have colored each hand a different color and we count the hands each time a new one goes up, so they get to work on colors and counting all during BINGO!

Following storytime, I set out crayons and coloring sheets at the tables and toys in the middle of the children's area. This allows the parents to chat and the kids to interact. The toys and crayons are cleaned up after 20-30 minutes, which is after most families have left.

And that is a Toddler Storytime!

Posted by Anna

Thursday, April 21, 2011

S is for...

Summer Reading!

It's that time again...summer is quickly approaching that means it's time for summer reading program. My library participates in the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) and the theme this year is Travel and World Cultures. Here's what's on the agenda for our Teen Summer Reading Program.

Trip Around the World Kick-off Party - Teens will participate in a carnival-style event where they can visit different booths and experience food, crafts, books, and other activities from different countries and parts of the world. The highlight will be our henna tattoo artist!

In BeT(w)een Book Club Presents Books & Burritos - Chipotle is sponsoring this program where teens enjoy free burritos while I booktalk about hot new summer reads. I'm also hoping to have a ton of ARCs to pass out since this will be the day after I return from ALA Annual! I will also be distributing the books for our July book discussion.

Armchair Travelers with the Crafty C.A.T.S. - Armchair Travelers is a postcard pen pal exchange program coordinated by the California Library Association. My community service group will be enlightening their pen pals about all the Escondido has to offer!

Design a Luggage Tag Craft - Self explanatory! We're getting ours from Oriental Trading.

In BeT(w)een Book Club Discussion - I think we're going to read Four Things My Geeky Jock-of-a-Best-Friend Must Do in Europe by Jane Harrington. It's a little girly, but a cute, quick read. If you have other travel-related tween/teen books that might have more universal appeal, please comment!

Japanese Culture Club Finale Party - A celebration of everything Japanese including chopstick races, candy sushi, origami, anime, manga, and so much more!

What are you librarians out there doing to encourage your teens to celebrate summer and read FOR FUN?!?

R Is For...

Reluctant Reader Programs!

Finding ways to reach reluctant readers has been somewhat of a challenge for me and something that I would definitely like to get better at. Being a reluctant reader as a youth myself, I can certainly relate to the mentality of thinking that reading is boring or relating it to homework or a chore rather than something fun and entertaining. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would become a librarian who is constantly promoting the value of literacy! I'm convinced that, had I been a reader at an early age, school would have been much easier for me and I would feel much more confident about my writing skills. This is part of the reason why it's very important for me to connect youth with literature that speaks to them and find ways to make it fun and interesting.

I'm currently conducting a short stories program at an alternative high school for teens with psychological and behavioral problems. This program is funded by the People & Stories/ Gente y Cuentos grant, which aims to connect undeserved populations to literature. During this 8 week program I meet with the teens twice per week. We read out loud and discuss one short story per week. The discussions focus on the themes, poetics, shadows and contrasts of the reading and connects the readings to personal experiences or issues teens are currently facing. Being able to connect to the stories and relate to them is key in our discussions and has brought about some rich and sometimes intense dialogues amongst the teens. I have to say that every week I'm impressed to hear the level of discussions and interpretations of the stories. In the short period that I have been conducting these sessions I've witnessed some students come out of their shells and now the students are asking me what they will be reading next week. When I first started these sessions I couldn't get many teens to participate in the read out loud and now almost all of them want to have their turn to read. There is certainly a level of trust that the group has established with me and within each other that has facilitated the growth of these discussions. This program has shown me that reading short stories is definitely a way to get youth interested in reading and I'm hoping to be able to connect these teens to similar literature that meets their personal interests.

Another program that is in the works for tweens is an idea that I heard at a YALSA discussion regarding young adult programming. One of the librarians mentioned a "Cliff-Hanger" book club where the group reads the book together and picks up at the next meeting where they left off. When I first brought up the idea of a book club to my tween/teen council there weren't many takers. I recently brought up reading a book together (and of course added snacks to the mix) and more tweens expressed interest. The tweens are currently working on a list of books they want to read and we are planning on starting this program in the summer in conjunction with Summer Reading.

I know that I have a long way to go in my quest to reaching reluctant readers. But I'm hoping these programs are just the beginning of more programs and ideas to come that will motivate the non readers to read. As I'm writing this I have this massive reshelving project in my head and of course more reading lists!

I will definitely be attending this preconference workshop, that my fellow blogger mentioned in her previous post about ALA New Orleans, and hope to find new ideas to implement at my library:

Give Them What They Want: Reaching Reluctant YA Readers
Friday, June 24 12:30 PM - 4:30 PM $129

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for . . .

Quality vs Quantity

I have an internal debate (and often debated colleagues) about quality vs quantity with regards to Summer Reading. The debate goes as follows:

Our funding is based on proving the importance of our program by providing numbers. So is it more important to get more kids to sign up for the Summer Reading Program or have more kids complete the Summer Reading Program goal? As of yet, I have not come up with an answer and go back and forth with myself.

For those who are reading this post and are new to libraries or unfamiliar with Summer Reading Programs here is a quick description. Summer Reading Programs are held at almost all libraries during the summer break to encourage children (and now adults) to read. Research has found that if kids do not read over the summer they have what is called "Summer Reading Loss", which is a loss of reading skills and must spend time when they return to school regaining what they have lost over the summer. As libraries, we encourage children to read so that they do not have this "Summer Reading Loss" by providing incentives (usually little trinkets). Bookstores have also jumped on board offering books as reading incentives for kids.

So here are the arguments:

I am using the term quality, for the sake of this argument, as getting more kids to complete the Summer Reading and improve or maintain their reading level during the summer break. That would mean that the percentage of kids who complete the program is high (I don't have a definition of high exactly, but over 50% would be good). This is the goal of Summer Reading Programs, to be able to encourage kids to read with completion prizes or incentives and library events to draw families into the library, thus checking out books and reading!

This term I use to define having more kids participate in the Summer Reading Program without concern if they are reading or completing the goals. The goal of this approach is to increase the number of participants, many librarians sign kids up at schools and other community events or locations hoping they will come into the library. By signing up kids outside of the library and giving them reading logs, they are invested in reading and more likely to come to the library to get prizes.

So what is the best approach?
Some argue that the more kids who sign up = the more kids who are being encourage to read. While the percentage of kids who complete the goals or even read at all is low, but the number of kids who complete the goals is high, which is the goal of Summer Reading Program.

The opposite argument is that it might be better to encourage the kids who will read by giving them the information about the Summer Reading Program (at school or community events) and letting them come to the library to sign up for the program. This does not mean relying on only signing up regular library patrons, it still involves a lot of promotion. The hope then would be that the kids who are signing up are actually reading and thus the number of kids who complete the program is higher.

In the end, libraries who lean towards quality and those that lean towards quantity are encouraging kids to read. Getting more kids to sign up vs nurturing those who are signed up to finish the program will accomplish basically the same goal...getting more kids reading over the summer and avoiding "Summer Reading Loss". There is no right or wrong way of doing it, it just depends on the librarian.

I would love to hear how other libraries promote and encourage kids to read over the summer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for...


This post is more of a question and bit of wondering rather than any sort of definitive opinion/information on the subject. My standard operating procedure for conducting baby lapsit and toddler storytimes is to purchase age appropriate toys, put them in a storage box (tote!) and bring them out at the end of storytime for group play. At my last branch play time was a must. End of story. For both baby lapsit and toddler time. The kids would crawl or toddle to the bin where the toys were kept as soon as we sang our last song. They just knew what time it was. Even if I had a meeting scheduled for right after storytime, I quickly accepted the fact that I was going to be10 minutes late or else I would have some unhappy readers (I just heard this as a term to use instead of "patron" or "customer" and I LOVE it).

Now I'm all about the learning through play, believe me I have drank the kool aid on that one. I'm on board! And I recognize what a valuable social experience the after storytime can be for both children and their caregivers. However, I've noticed with my my teen moms the playtime is not working out so well. Especially with one group of mobile infants. As soon as I bring the toys out, and the babies are for one minute distracted by the goodies, the moms jet out of storytime. By the time I play the "Clean Up" song, at least 50% of my friends are having an abandonment melt down. So I'm wondering is this the best use of toys? What is a better way to learn through play with this age group? Should I avoid playtime, because after all they get tons of playtime at their infant center while mom is in class? Send me your thoughts!

P is also for PARTY! Because my sweet hunny bun just turned one and had a birthday party last weekend.

This little jem has been rocking ALA Born to Read gear since she was a day old, and of course got books as gifts from her "auntie." My favorites to give as gifts are any that can double as toys.
This is her "gramma" in action, and I think it kind of perfectly represents my current dilemma on playtime. See how much fun our babe is having with just a balloon?! (I think this might be a chocking hazard, but I would never tell my mom that.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for...


The importance of library outreach to children and teens in the community cannot be underestimated. In an era where budget issues threaten libraries, it’s important for library staff to consistently, and effectively market our services to the public. Outreach activities may include:

  • Visiting daycares/pre-schools and K-12 schools and providing onsite story times, library cards, information literacy instruction (possibly in partnership with the school library staff), booktalks, and more! When I was a teen services librarian, I collaborated with middle school teachers and high school librarians on information literacy sessions; teens learned how to search the OPAC, conduct Boolean searches in databases, and how to properly evaluate information sources.
  • Setting up information booths at community-sponsored events such as health fairs and school festivals. Our children’s library staff recently attended the local YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day event and shared information about our story times, summer reading program, and homework databases. Children also participated in a bookmark craft, and played games to win prizes. Over 300 people stopped by the booth!
  • Reach out to special and/or underserved populations, including those who have physical and learning disabilities , nontraditional families (foster children and teens, incarcerated youth, teen parents, homeless children and teens, and children in gay and lesbian families), or speak English as a second language.

Forming partnerships with local community organizations and businesses is critical to outreach efforts. City and county governments usually have a youth services committee or group (with representatives from each agency/department) that meets on a regular basis; these meetings give libraries a wider reach, in terms of spreading information about youth services and programs.

Here are some helpful resources to get you going with outreach at your library:

ALA Office for Literary and Outreach Services
ALSC Outreach Blogs
ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” Grant
YALSA Outreach to Young Adults With Special Needs Committee
Write to Read

N is for...


I'm so excited to attend ALA Annual in New Orleans June 23-28, 2011. Not only will this be my first visit to New Orleans, but it will also be the first ALA Annual conference I've ever attended! Here are some great Youth Services events if you're planning to attend as well:


Give Them What They Want: Reaching Reluctant YA Readers
Friday, June 24 12:30 PM - 4:30 PM $129
The Nuts & Bolts of Serving Teens: Practical Tips for the Library Generalist or New YA Librarian
Friday, June 24 12:30 PM - 4:30 PM $129
Disaster Preparedness for School Librarians
Friday, June 24 1:30 PM - 5:00 PM Free

Margaret A. Edwards Luncheon with Winner Sir Terry Pratchett
Saturday, June 25 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM $59
YA Authors' Coffee Klatch Sunday, June 26 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM $19 in advance $25 at the door
Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet Sunday, June 26 6:00 PM - 11:00 PM $94
Michael L. Printz Program and Reception
Monday, June 27 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM $29 in advance $35 at the door
For more details or to register, visit the ALA Annual Conference website. If you have any great recommendations for places to see (and eat!) in New Orleans please post a comment! Hope to see you there!

-written by Joanna

Friday, April 15, 2011

M Is For...

Music Programs!

Music is HUGE at my library! Currently we offer two ongoing music programs for children and teens. For children K-5th grade we have a Neighborhood Children's Choir that meets weekly and performs with the San Diego Children's Choir and other neighborhood choirs at venues like baseball games and other community events. This is a very structured program that provides high quality choral instruction and is very popular with our youth. Through a partnership with the SD Children's Choir we are able to provide FREE instruction and uniforms for children in the community that are interested in singing. It's great to watch the kids that participate in this grow vocally and form a bond with their peers and instructors.

For teens we have the teen music group "Project Unknown" that has become more than just a teen music group and has gotten involved in all things TEEN at the library. These teens volunteer, participate in teen council, conduct fundraisers, give presentations about library programs they participate in, perform at library and community events, make videos advocating for their library and are regular library users. For the past month I've been watching 6 "Project Unknown" members work on their video for the "Why I Need My Library" video contest and I could not be prouder of all of the effort and work they have put into this project. Their love and passion for music and their library has motivated them to write their own song for the library. This to me has shown tremendous growth as musicians and has motivated them to continue creating original works. Just last week I had a couple group members researching copyright law and asking me for books about how to copyright their music. I'm ecstatic that our library can provide a program for teens that meets their interests as well as inspires them to get involved at the library in different capacities.

I was hoping to post a link of the teen library music video here, but the group has decided to take an extra day to polish up the video and work on their credits. Their plan is to furnish a teen space if they win this contest. Funny thing is that I overheard them today tossing around ideas of how they can raise money to create and furnish a teen space if they don't win...there is a rumor of a youth music concert in the works.

Check out these behind the scenes pictures of "Project Unknown" making the video!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for...


Yesterday the Deputy Director and Supervising Librarian at Central brought down chocolate for everyone so I thought why not post about what we are doing in honor of the week. At San Diego Public Library we are having a series of contests and special programs system wide to celebrate

ALA has some cool materials to purchase with the theme, but what really caught my attention was ALA President Roberta Stevens' video contest. Deadline submission is April 18th, and it seems like a great way to let your teens show off their creative self!

L is also for Lalitha! We have a new bloger here at So-Cal Library Connection who is currently a Children's Librarian with Esconidido Public and I would also consider her a YA book expert. You might have seen her YA reviews in SLJ, look for them on this blog soon and other musings from Lalitha as well :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for . . .


There are several ways that libraries can get children ready for kindergarten. Many of these things we are already doing, so yay us!

The first way to get kids ready for kindergarten is being a place that offers books. We do this and do it well! When my son was a year away from kindergarten we asked the principal of his future school what we could do to get him ready for kindergarten. Her answer to him! Libraries are helping families get books into the hands of preschoolers.

Another way that libraries can help prepare kids is teaching parents about early literacy. We (the so-cal bloggers) have mentioned this often, but providing parents with early literacy information is a great way to help kids get ready to read. Teaching the parents how to play word games, that introducing their kids to new words helps them learn to read, etc.

Another way to get the kids ready for kindergarten and reading is singing the alphabet and point to the letters as they sing. Each storytime, starting with toddlers storytime, I pass out a laminated sheet that has the alphabet and as we sing we point to our letters. This way the kids learn what each letter looks like and are ready to start putting those letters together to make words when they enter kindergarten. I do other letter games with the kids during storytime, which I will post at another time.

When I first started as a Children's librarian, the youth coordinator for our system told us that encouraging preschool aged kids to use scissors was important. I thought that this was funny and not really relevant, until I had teen volunteers help with craft prep by cutting out some of the hard pieces. They couldn't cut, at least well! I was shocked. So, after that I started having pieces that the kids needed to cut during crafts following preschool storytime. Nothing fancy, straight lines, squares, circles. Usually only one or two pieces of the craft, but enough to give them practice. I also tell the parents that this is a time for the kids to practice cutting. That said, there are still many parents who cut the pieces for their children.

Aside for the academic preparations, by attending storytimes, kids learn that there are rules that need to be followed, they learn to sit and listen and follow directions, and they learn how to interact with other kids. Many parents value these skills learned at storytime more than any others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J Is For...


The Logan Heights Library is currently the only joint-use library of the San Diego Public Library system. We are literally surrounded by three schools and serve over 10 public, charter and private schools in our service area. Needless to say we have TONS! of students using our library regularly. As a joint-use library we offer special hours for classrooms visiting the library and priority on the usage of our computer lab and meeting rooms. We also house a curriculum collection of books the students are using in their classrooms. These books are reference copies that students can use at the library should they loose or forget their books.

We have library programs every month to meet the interest of the students and supplement their curriculum. With severe budget cuts in the schools, there is not much funding for field trips and additional programs for the classes to participate in. This is where the library has been able to step in and meet some of those needs. At our library we try to host two programs per month specifically geared towards the schools. Our programs range from music, storytelling, science, animal shows, magic shows, reading programs, class competitions, Día events, holiday themed programs, author visits and overnight library events. We are fortunate to have a large community space with a capacity of 300 people where we host many of our programs. Most of our programs reach the maximum capacity, which to me, is very telling of the need of these types of activities in the schools.

Working at a joint-use public library was something very new to me and I have to admit a bit intimidating in the beginning, but with the help of some veteran librarians and establishing connections early with some of the instructors and principals, I have been able to overcome my fear and embrace this unique working environment. I thoroughly enjoy working in a joint-use facility because it allows me to work closer with students and teachers and make more of a personal connection with them. I feel like a superstar when I walk around the community because it never fails that a student, teacher or parent will say hello or stop to chat and establishing that trust is key to serving our community.

These are some tips that helped me brave the joint-use library world:

  • Make connections early and introduce yourself to school teachers and administration.
  • Have a clear understanding of the joint-use contract and or policies.
  • Establish a teachers email list to e-blast library information and try to get as many educators on that list and at least a couple from every school.
  • Attend as many staff meetings and PTA meetings as possible to communicate or remind teachers and parents of the activities happening in the library.
  • Create special programs geared towards the schools (class competitions are always a big hit).
  • Find out what the curriculum is like in the classrooms so you can find ways to supplement it at the library.
  • Stay on top of school calendars and testing dates, this is especially useful when scheduling programs.
  • Attend school assemblies or classrooms to promote library programs to the students.
  • Advertise programs on school electronic boards or other forms of media they use for announcements.
  • Keep a detailed calendar of class visits and programs to make sure you don't overlap and can dedicate special time to each class.
  • Create an open school friendly environment that will make classes want to return to the library and make sure that library staff is aware of school activities and accessible to the students.

"Night at the Library" class competition winners!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for . . .

Ice Cream!!!

Or rather how to throw an ice cream party at the library.

Often at the La Mesa Library we have celebrations where we serve food. Usually this consists of cake cut up into very small pieces to feed the large number of people who come to events with food. However, we have braved ice cream parties a few times. I have learned a few things while doing them.

1. Get individual sized portions. They are more expensive, but save time in scooping the ice cream and are much cleaner. You may have to pre-order with your grocery store if you are expecting a huge crowd.

2. Have several stations set up that have exactly the same toppings. The crowd will want the ice cream right away and having multiple stations will get the lines moving faster.

3. Don't offer too many toppings. Chocolate sauce, M&Ms, and maybe one other thing. Too many choices cause the kids to create huge messes and takes longer to serve. The individualized portions do not have that much room for many toppings, anyway.

4. Have a nondairy option for participants who are vegan or allergic to dairy.

5. Have enough for the adults, too! Who can resist ice cream?

6. Lastly, hold this event OUTSIDE! Any messes can be cleaned away by a good rain or spray of water.

Here are a few books to get you inspired:

Curious George Goes To an Ice Cream Shop by Margret Rey and Alan J. Shalleck.

I am an Ice Cream Truck by Ace Landers

Isaac the Ice-Cream Truck by Scott Santoro

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for...


There are many libraries with homework help programs or tutoring programs for students. Oftentimes these programs are offered by volunteers on a weekly or biweekly basis and are very popular.

At the Logan Heights Library we offer a hybrid e-tutoring/mentoring program through a partnership with UC San Diego. Students from UCSD connect with Logan Heights Library students online and in person. The program is available Tuesday through Saturday at the library and can also be accessed on Mondays and additional hours from home. Our e-tutoring program connects students from the community with UCSD students for homework assistance as well as mentoring. Computers, web cameras, headsets and writing tablets are available at the library to make the online tutoring experience more personal and easy to use. In addition to access to tutors online, there is also one UCSD students on-site everyday during the hours of the program to help students connect online and provide homework assistance in person. The goal of this program and our partnership is to expand from a traditional homework help program by using technology to connect young students to college students that can serve as mentors, answer any questions they may have about college, and provide guidance of what they need to do now in the lower grades to be accepted to a four year university. Through this partnership we have also been able to offer open house events at the library with information about our tutoring program as well as informational booths from UCSD departments.

This program has only been in place for approximately 4 months but in that short period of time I have seen how it has helped students better their grades and make a personal connection with college students. We are now working with the schools to spread the word about the program by conducting tutorials for middle school classes in our computer lab where we provide a demonstration on how the program works and make sure that every student leaves with a login and password code to access the program at their convenience. We are also adding to the homework help experience by partnering with Volunteer San Diego to provide a group of volunteers in person for homework assistance once per week so that we can offer different tutoring options to community students.

In my recent and past experiences with homework help programs at different libraries, these are some helpful tips that have helped me establish and maintain a successful program:

  • Survey the needs of the community to figure out days and times that would work best for students needing tutoring assistance.

  • Have a clear structure of the program in mind before approaching individuals and organizations for their volunteer services.

  • Set clear guidelines and schedules for volunteers and make sure that all of the appropriate paperwork is on file before beginning the program.

  • Promote, promote promote! (in house, newsletters, schools, online, local businesses and organizations, after school programs and local media)

  • Establish partnerships with schools, volunteer groups, colleges and universities to implement a free homework assistance program.

  • Evaluate the program at different times to assess if changes or improvements need to be made to better serve the students.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for...

Graphic novels are a familiar sight at most public libraries. And I’m sure we’ve all heard the debates over their merit as great literary material (Neil Gaiman, anyone?). Regardless of our personal views, graphic novels are here to stay. I’ve found that most librarians have had little, if any, interaction with comic books. Those funny little books with words and pictures that are perfect for children and the semi-literate? Those monstrous series with the people with small noses and big eyes that the teens are always asking about? I wouldn’t ask anyone to read these books, but I would ask them to change their views of them. I would recommend reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. In the 1990s, comic book artist Scott McCloud (check out his Zot! graphic novel) set out to explain the comic book phenomenon and what makes the art form unique. He traces the combination of words and pictures through history, touching on the sequential art of the Egyptians and the Mayans. He discusses how universal images of a happy or sad face can be read across cultural and generational divides. Comic creators control the timing and pacing of a story through panel size and page structure. He acknowledges how the reading of a comic book is a symbiotic experience between the creator and the reader. The creator relies on the reader to “follow the rules” and read the page in the intended order and fill in the action that takes place in the “gutters” between the panels. I know this sounds like I’m trying to apply a greater importance to graphic novels than most people would give them, but there is no denying their importance to our core users. The least we could do is try to understand them. And if you really want to dive into the medium, here's a list of great writers whose work puts them at the top of the field.

Most librarians have heard of Neil Gaiman's comic book masterpiece Sandman, but take the time to check out some of his other work like The Books of Magic (an inspiration for Harry Potter?). As far as I'm concerned, Alan Moore is the best writer in comics. Pick up and read anything with his name on it and you will not be disappointed. This is the man that brought us Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but don't miss his run on Swamp Thing, Promethea, and Top 10. My last big name is Grant Morrison. He is currently writing the Batman comics and his past works include Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and the epic The Invisibles. If you take the time to read these layered, compelling stories you will find that not all comics are sock 'em up superhero yarns.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for...


I have been intimiated by felt since I became a Youth Services Librarian. Not the material itself (of course) but the creativity and skill set that goes into creating and executing a brilliant flannel board story. Last summer, I made a commitment to try to use the flannelboard more often and I have had an interesting time accomplishing this goal. My first step was to purchase some felt stories. After getting recommendations from a few librarians and purchasing a variety of sets, the place I like best is Her stories are awesome and the pieces double as finger puppets.

My next step was to try laminating some clip art and then sticking velcro on the back. While I don't mind this method, it is not as quick and easy as some people claim it is. I also get a little bored with the stock images at times...if only I could draw!

Recently, Joanna persuaded me to give my own felt story making skills a go, so I checked out Carlson & Carlson's Flannelboard Stories for Infants and Toddlers and genuinely gave it my best effort. The stories in the book aren't typical flannelboard stories. They are basic identifying "stories" with simple words and phrases, which makes them perfect for infants and toddlers. However, tracing was a challenge, cutting in a straight line even more challenging, and staying motivated the most challenging.

And then in walked a volunteer to save me from snipping more flesh from my hand. When I asked her if she was detail oriented, she embarrassedly muttered something about being slightly fanatic, so I assigned her my felt project. Behold:

(She literally sewed the wiskers on to that cat!)

 So this post is sort of my ode to Ella, who is abandoning me for a paying gig. The felt quest continues...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for...

I am one of the many SUPERHUGE fans of the "PacificNorthwestway". I might have just made up that catchphrase, so let me back up and explain. You regular readers know that I am wild about early literacy; it is one of my "things."  When I think about early literacy and all that I want to do to help ensure that the millions of kids in this nation become readers, I get excited and start talking really fast (well I already talk fast, and this is faster than normal, so crazyfast). I am just passionate about early literacy and what this profession can do to communicate its importantance to people everywhere. That being said, 8 out of 10 times I see something awesome happening with early literacy in libraryland it is happening at one of the libraries in the Pacific Northwest. Multnomah County Library & King County Library are top dogs, but there are many other great libraries and systems up there getting things done.

One of my weekly challenges is how to communicate the importance of early literacy to the 75 teen moms I work with. Three things I have found success with are--
1. Visuals:  The teens respond best when I not only say what the early literacy skill we are working on today is, but also show them the info in written form. Multnomah County has great Birth to Six products, and I ordered their posters and handouts. I also laminated the early literacy diagram from Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library®: Partnering with Caregivers for Success by Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz and we go over it at the beginning of each storytime
2. Music: Music and Movement is a must for all my storytimes, and can easily be incorporated to support the skill I am working on that week
3. Board Books for everyone:I think this is the standard way to do baby lapsit, but I have found that even with the toddlers and their mothers, reading and holding a book that is sturdy and small enough for the child gets everyone excited about story sharing

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for...


In these tough budget times it has become increasingly important to secure donations in order to make our summer reading programs a success for our patrons. My library has been lucky enough, through our library cooperative, to have secured county-wide donations from the following organizations:

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Air & Space Museum


These organizations provide free passes to patrons who register and/or complete the program.

I've also had success approaching large, franchised corporations at the local level such as...


Spaghetti Factory

Carl's Jr.

who donate free food coupons (always a huge hit with kids and teens).

Ralphs grocery store, Chipotle Fresh Mexican, and several mom and pop bakeries have donated food for various events over the years.

Remember these tips when making donation requests:

- Start early! Many national corporations have donation deadlines and caps and the early bird gets the worm.

- Even if a company can't afford to donate something for each of your participants they may still be able to donate something that you could use for a one-time event or as a special grand prize.

- Check the company's website first to see if they have a donation request form. This can save you a lot of time and phone tag.

- Form letters are timesavers, but a personal phone call is usually more effective.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for...

Crafty C.A.T.S. (Community Action Teen Service) is a creative arts-based community service program for tweens and teens ages 11+ that I run at the Escondido Public Library. Volunteerism is a requirement for almost all high schools, academic associations, community groups like the Scouts, and scholarships, so I wanted to provide students with a way to earn community service credit while strengthening their creative and artistic skills.

Over the last four years, I have developed partnerships with the following community groups:
  • Escondido Humane Society - knit Snuggle blankets for shelter animals
  • Palomar Hospital, Escondido Literacy Department, and First 5 San Diego - knit beanies for newborn babies as part of the Born to Read program
  • Sharp Memorial Hospital Cancer Center - knit hats for chemotherapy patients
  • Ships Project - knit hats and scarves for troops overseas
  • Knit squares and sent them to Africa to be made into quilts for AIDS orphans
We also make handmade bookmarks to sell in the library, and we even put our painting skills to use last summer when we removed graffiti from city property. Projects like these give students both a local and a global perspective on philanthropy while engaging them in a creative, artistic way.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for...


Don't miss this opportunity for an amazing road trip with your teens. If you live anywhere near Southern California and you love teen teen paranormal fiction, you must attend the Ontario City Library's Teen Book Fest.

On Saturday, April 16 from 1-4 PM we will have the opportunity to meet and greet some of the hottest authors in teen paranormal fiction - Alyson Noel, Marlene Perez, Cynthia Hand, Katie Alender, and Nancy Holder.

So gather up your teens and get ready to hit the road, but space is limited so RSVP to Courtney at (909) 395-2225 today!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for...


While the genre of teen literature has blown up over the last 10 years and gained widespread attention from authors, librarians, and teens alike, there are still teens who prefer to read books written for adults.

In recognition of this, YALSA created the Alex Awards back in 1998 which are given to 10 books written for adults with special appeal to young adults, ages 12 - 18. Here are the 2011 winners.

Some other great resources for finding adult books with teen appeal are:

Adult books can be great recommendations for teens with very high reading and maturity levels or those looking for more of a challenge than what they may perceive they will find from teen lit.