Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Books To Inspire Readers in 2012

The new year is just around the corner. Despite what some may say about 2012, there is a distinct possibility that the world will not end on December 21, 2012. Actually, it seems pretty likely that the last minute gift items that will need to be purchased next Christmas will still be available on December 22, 2012. With that in mind, 2012 can be a historic year for other more plausible reasons. Will we have a new President? Which companies will thrive and which will parrish? Are William and Kate going to produce a new heir to the English Monarchy? A little more closer to home, what changes will the average readers make to improve their life? To be honest, 2011 has been a challenging year, and looking at the projection for the economy in 2012, there are more chanllenges in store for everyone. What is needed just before the ball drops in Times Square, is a little inspiration.

Self-help books have always been a hit in libraries. It's a great way to find answers to everyday problems without paying the high cost of consultants, job coaches or therapists. As a rule, these books are easy to read and for the most part enjoyable. Can these books really solve all the dilemas that the cover claims? No, not by itself. However, if a reader gets at least one good idea from these books and applies it to their life, then the time has not been wasted reading the ink on the pages. (Librarian's Golden rule number one of reading: If a reader has learned one new thing than the book was not a total waste.)

Librarians assisting readers looking for the right combination of inspiration and action to motiviate those around them should consider suggesting Simon Sinek's Start With Why: How Great Leaders Insprie Everyone To Take Action. The book is well written and gives sage advice for leaders who want to make a difference knowing that thinking outside the box is not enough. Answering the simple question "why" gives not only a reason but a focus for what needs to be accomplished.

Miracles are in abundance if we choose to see them according to Regina Brett author of Be the Miracle. Using short essays to illustrate how ordinary people find ways to overcome obstacles proves is not only eye opening, but also touches the heart. The patrons in your library are not inspired or touched by these tales, the community should be listed as needing life support. To put it simply, this book will take away reader's excuse and encourage them to find a way to be a miracle for others.

Barbara Sher explores the seven diffent types of scanners in Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams . Who or what are scanners? Ms. Sher's definition of people who have many interests but do not know which direction to channel their energy. This book is a must in every library's career/job resources section. Patrons who feel at a lost at what to do with their careers will find practical advice here on how to pool togehter all their interests and reel in a career that fulfills their needs.

This short list should be enough to launch readers into a brighter 2012. Actually, they can inspire the library community to zealously go after their goals. Why wait for January 1? Grab a book and get a head start on the new year. Better yet, start a book discussion group for Job/Career Seekers and suggest one or all of these titles. (Hint: This would be a good time to show the library director that you have interesting ideas for adult programming.) To be sure, there will be other titles to inspire readers in 2012. This is a good start to get the gears moving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On The First Day of Christmas My True Library Love ...

Christmas carols are playing constantly, 24/7 in most areas, and everyone hustling and bustling around to get chores completed before the magic date of December 24. It seemed appropriate to think about what would make for wonderful gifts for librarians. The past couple of years have not been kind, financially, to librarians all over the world. The need to advocate, preserve and protect libraries is more important now then ever. To name a few of the issues causing anxiety among librarians are budget cuts, staff layoffs, and less programming. Adding insult to injury is the increase demand for computer access, digital downloads and instructive workshops from resumes to cooking. These are a small piece of a very large picture that have made librarians echo Scrooge with "Bah Humbugs!" Wouldn't the season be brighter if people who are passionate about libraries would adorn our trees with the following gifts? For a brief moment, bask in the dream of these "miracle" gifts for libraries.

On the First Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me...

A blue bird in a huge money tree.

What library doesn't dream of a money tree that would magically appear when budgets are tight and demand is high. If a money tree is out of the question, the blue bird of happiness would be just as welcomed. Libraries are in need of happier times.

On the Second Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Two computer learning labs.
A salute to all librarians in schools, universities and public libraries too, who educate patrons to navigate the Internet so that they may be savvy information collectors. Computer labs equipped with the best that technology has to offer is just the beginning to better library users.

On the Third Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Three Fantastic Grants for library programs.
On a practical level, not many libraries have the ability to give time to writing grants these days. With staff layoffs and uncertainty of libraries remaining open, librarians are spending more time on the reference desk and less time with finding grants. If the world were a perfect place, grants would be awarded by the snap of a finger.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Four Elected Officials Calling
If elected officials were to come into the library on a regular bases, they would quickly learn how much the community needs the library. Libraries are the foundation of every neighborhood, yet traditionally it is the first department to be cut. Consider this question for a moment: Would my elected official be less willing to cut the library's budget if they witnessed how the library was used daily? If the answer is "yes", it's time to start calling those officials.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Five Full-time Librarians on duty, day or night.
There really is no need for explanations for this gift, is there? Part-time librarians are not only damaging the image of the "professionalism" of librarians but it is also a bad management trend.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Six Generous Donations
Donations can come in all shapes and sizes. From donated books, computers to checks, all donations are welcomed at the library.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Seven bookcases filled with the latest bestsellers fiction.
Why only seven book stacks filled? Honestly it could be more, but why portray librarians as greedy?

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Eight Marvelous budgets saving electronic databases
There are so many electronic databases that are out of reach for most librarians. Wouldn't it be nice to have access to eight databases that would cover the needs of all patrons? Yes, it may be true that this is a tall order but we are going for the miracle angle.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Nine Successful Fundraising projects.
Add to that fundraising projects that do not take up staff time and energy. Practically speaking for all libraries, this is not an outlandish request.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Ten Awesome Book discussions for every reader.
If librarians want circulation to go up, getting patrons fired up about a book is the best way to achieve that goal.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Eleven library geeks spreading the library news!
If libraries had geeks that would spread the good news about the library daily, much of the Public relations hurdle that libraries face would be removed. Look around the library, there may be eleven library geeks waiting to be discovered!

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my True Library Love gave to me..

Twelve authors at the library.
An author to visit the library every month of the year would be a wonderful gift to receive. It would be the best illustration of how the written word and libraries have been and always will be a great partnership. A marriage made in heaven so to speak.

Here's a wish that every library receives at least one of the items from the library's Twelve Days of Christmas. If your library's twelve days would be filled with different items, don't be shy about sending in suggestions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Favorites Old and New!

The season would not be complete without making a list of wonderful stories that warm the heart of every person who has made Christmas wishes. There are a ton of books that try to capture the spirit of Christmas but not all pass the test of conveying the message of the season. Adult readers may remember Christmas favorites such as The Christmas Jar. Even Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck have tried their hands at sharing sentimental Christmas stories. There is something different about children's books that make the holiday that much more special. (Perhaps that is why Beck's and Huckabee's book were published in picture book form.) it may be that the illustrators create such memorable works of arts that pull the reader right into the story. The authors play a huge role to with the gift of storytelling that can entertain readers of all ages. It's that combination that must be present for the book to continue to be read year after year. In honor of he 25 days of Christmas, here are 25 titles that will "wow" any library crowd or bedtime readers.

1. Snowed Under and other Christmas Confusions Serge Bloch
By far one of the most original Christmas books to come along in a long time. It's a hilarious look at figures of speech that can make a youngster believe that someone who is snowed under is frankly quite cold and trying to get out from under a snowy mound. Pictures are simple and fun.

2. Gift of the Magi O'Henry
Timeless tale that should be read to every child. There are many versions of this book with beautiful illustrations that capture the story's message of love and sacrifice.

3. Christmas Lighthouse Toni Bozzeo
Inspired by the Fly Santa Program, which is a New England Tradition since 1929, this tale reminds readers that Christmas are always brighter when shared with loved ones.

4. Jingle the Christmas Clown Tomie de Paola
No one can weave a wonderful story quite like Tomie de Paola. The rich Italian culture shines through this folk tale that will inspire even the littlest of hearts.

5. The Christmas Magic Lauren Thompson
Perfect book for Christmas Eve at bedtime. Santa's preparation for his midnight ride is told in details. From feeding his reindeers, to waxing the sleigh and finally the magic ride across the sky.

6. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve Pamela Munoz Ryan
Beautifully written and illustrated retelling of the Nativity story which reminds children that for the new born babe did not shiver in the cold snow. Rather, he laid in an open manger and felt the desert air brush against his cheeks.

7. The Littlest Angel Charles Tazewell
A classic tale of a cherub who in size was the tiniest of all the angels, but his gift to the newborn King was greater than anyone could have ever given. Timeless.

8. Who is Coming to Our House? Joseph Slate
All the animals in the stable are getting ready for a very special visitor.

9. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story Sally Lloyd - Jones
Heaven and Nature sang on the night the Babe named Jesus was born. Their hymn "Its Time! Its Time!" Not every ear heard the chorus but every eye was able to see the night sky dazzle with the brightest of stars.

10. Bear Stays Up For Christmas Karma Wilson
Its hard to be a bear at Christmas. This is the time of year when all bears hibernate for the Winter. Bear makes a decision that this will be the Christmas he will not miss.

11. A Pirate's Night Before Christmas Phillip Yates
This book is definitely for the buccaneer who dreams of adventure, the high seas and of course, a treasure map.

12. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Dr. Suess
If this book is not read at Christmas then it might as well cancel the tree trimming parties, the holiday dinners and other celebrations. Grinch has become a huge part of Christmas traditions that without him, everything loses its magical touch.

13. Cobweb Christmas Shirley Climo
One Christmas Eve, Tante comes to realize that everyone, even the tiniest spider, wants to be a part of Christmas.

14. The Polar Express Chris Van Allsberg
Michigan author, Chris Van Allsberg takes children on a magical train ride to be with Santa at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. A very wonderful and powerful reminder that Santa is real for all those who believe.

15. A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree Colleen Monroe
A lonely fir's only wish seems like it will never come true. The woodland animals come together to help Fir become the most beautiful Christmas Tree in the forest.

16. Mistletoe David McPhail
A young girl's request from Santa seems to have been misunderstood. Instead of a real pony, she receives a rocking horse. Disappointed at first, the little girl goes back to sleep. In her imagination she sees herself riding the "pretend" pony, whom she names Mistletoe, and going on wonderful adventures. Turns out that Santa knew what she wanted all along.

17. The Christmas Box Eve Merriam
A whimsical story of a large family who awake on Christmas morning to find only one large present under the tree. Who is it for? Everyone! Inside the box is a gift that is perfect for each family member.

18. This is the Star Joyce Dunbar
Done to the rhyme of "This is the House that Jack Built". A unique retelling of the nativity story.

19.Home For Christmas Jan Brett
Just as de Paolo brings Italy to young readers, Brett brings the beautiful Scandinavian landscape for young eyes to feast upon. Little Rollo is not happy at home because of the chores he must complete. Off he goes to runaway and never come back. He soon finds out that there really is no place like home. In the nick of time, he makes it home for Christmas.

20. On Christmas Eve Liz Rosenberg
A modern day tale of a family's plans for Christmas take a turn for the worse when weather prevents them from reaching their holiday destination. How will Santa find them? Not to worry, Santa has a way of finding every good little boy or girl, where ever they roam.

21. Bearer of Gifts Kenneth C. Steven
A tale of a simple carpenter followed a star in the sky that led him to the babe in the Manger. From the moment he meets Jesus, the carpenter's life is changed. In a miraculous minute his clothes are transformed to a red suit that everyone recognizes today.

22. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey Susan Woiciechowski
A lonely woodcarver who lives on the edge of town and has lost his wife and child, finds no joy in life One day he receives a request from a widow and her son. Reluctantly he agrees to help them. In the process, he finds the miracle of life and Christmas is that joy can return after a tragic loss.

23. The Little Fir Tree Margaret Wise Brown
A beautiful story of Christmas traditions that can be broken because of small miracles in a family's life. A sweet story about love, family and the Christmas spirit.

24. The Christmas Tree Ship Carole Crane
Inspired by true events of the little schooner carrying up to 5,000 trees. The trees are on their way to Chicago from Northern Michigan. The Captain of the Rouse Simmons, aka the Christmas Tree Ship, would sell the Christmas trees or give them away to needy families.

25. Snowmen at Christmas Caralyn Buehner
This light hearted tale reveals the mystery of what Snowmen do on Christmas night.

These books are sure to delight many readers. Yet, there may be some that may not have made the list of twenty-five. Any suggestions of new or old titles would be welcomed. After all, favorite books were meant to be shared.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Librarians To The Rescue

The Librarians as heroes who gallantly come in the nick of time to save the day is hardly an overused theme in movies, literature or other art forms. Maybe its time to change that. After all, there is a librarian action figure doll that has caused some librarians to groan. Why? Perhaps, it's becasue she looked too much like the "sterotypical" librarian. Bun in her hair. Practical low-heeled shoes with plain blue business suit. Of course, there is the reading glasses to make the look complete. (The model for this doll is Nancy Pearl, who is a librarian in "real" life.) Her weapon of choice: The Dewey Decimal System combined with a push button Shusher action that is out of this world. What's not to love? For the librarians who embraced this doll, which has been out now for years, it is a fun reminder that what we do everyday can change lives. Maybe one day we will all be able to don on a red cape and go out to save the world.

Librarians can have some comfort in knowing that there are books, and films which place librarians in a hero's light. (No, the Music Man is not one of the films in mind, but having said that, the movie is wonderful.) For example, Kellogg's The Mysterious Tadpole is a wonderful tale of a young boy who needs to find a good place for his ever growing tadpole. To whome does he turn to for help? The librarian at his public library. After dutifully researching the tadpole's origin and background, she found that the tadpole was related to the Loch Ness Monster. Nothing can be done but have a fundraiser to help build a pool for the tadpole.

For a real "super" strength hero-librarian, look no further than Library Lil by Suzanne Williams. This wonderful book published in 1997 tells of a little girl who has always wanted to be a librarian. She smart, strong and knows how to balance a stack of encyclopedias in one hand while reading a volume in her hand, using her teeth to turn the pages. How tough is she really? Tougher than the moter cycle crowd who think reading is for "lily-livered cowards." She's a true librarian at heart when she teaches the leader of the biker group to be a library assistant. Now that's quite an accomplishment that not many librarians may be able to achieve. (However, there is at least one librarian who pens a blog who is trying on a new cape as this posting is being typed.)

Noah Wyle (of ER fame) starred in the film The Librarian. His character Flynn Carsen applies for the position because he likes to learn and belives that a librarian's job is well suited to fill that need. However, what he comes to find out, once employed by the Metropolitan Public Library, is that the job entails protecting famous historical and magical items. It's kind of like an Indian Jones of the library world. This could be used as a tool to entice new blood into the field, but it may be a tad misleading. On any given day, in public libraries around the world, librarians do protect the most important historical and magical items of all time: the written word. How noble!

However, as we get our sites back down to earth, two titles to consider that show how librarians really have an impact on the lives of children is Mora's Tomas and the Library Lady and Winter's Biblioburro: A true Story From Columbia. In Mora's book, Tomas' family are migrant workers who never stay in one place for very long. Fortunately for Tomas, he discovers the local public library and the helpful librarian that enables him to discover a whole new world. Luis Soriano's true story is in Winter's book. What Soriano did for a Columibian communityis equivalent to Bookmobies going to urban areas that do not have access to libraries. Both tales inspire to reach out to help those who do not know the magic of books.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Have Summer Reading Programs?

Why are summer reading programs in libraries important? The answers are many but the real reason to participate can be summed up with one word. Reading. Simple, yes? Of course it is. Yet librarians want to go into details of how reading over the summer helps children retain what they have learned in school. Reading during the summer engages a child in an activity that will be enjoyable to them their entire life. Summer Reading Programs provide children with a safe place to spend their days during the long summer months. All true statements about the programs and the list could continue. However, librarians must remember simplicity gets the message across better. Why do children's librarians advocated summer programs for years? Reading is important at every age and in every season. The program with simple reading progress cards, bookmarks and other small incentives. Reading after all is a craft that needs to be developed and honed. Of course that is not how to sell it to children. To children this has become a chore because it has been linked to school work. Unfortunately, there is no getting around that. However, the good news is that getting around the idea that reading is boring and dull is not that difficult of a task.

Summer Reading Programs have become the hallmark of every youth services program in public libraries. Ask any children's librarian what is their busiest time of year, the answer will always be summer. When should every savvy children's librarian begin to plan for the summer? In the winter. The master binder of ideas from Collaborative Summer Reading Program, which many state Libraries including Michigan participate in, usually arrives in the Fall. By the winter, libraries have already at least glanced through to gather some idea of where they will begin when the "planning" starts. As a rule, all summer programs should be simple. It is amazing how many librarians try to make the program more complicated than necessary. The key point to remember is that even if a child reads one book over the summer than the goal of a summer reading program has been achieved. Of course if they read 100 books that would be awesome. Having said that, isn't it important to stress the quality versus quantity of reading. For example, if a child blazed through twenty books, and gained nothing out of the experience except a "prize", was the time spent reading enriching? Wouldn't it be better for a child to read two books, love the stories so much that they could talk to anyone about it for hours and hours. Not only that but it leads them to discover more books about the topic or from the author. This is where the heart of Summer Reading programs lie. Its when children are able to discover on their own what they like to read, which authors stir their imagination and the reason for reading becomes apparent to the child.

Any veteran children's librarian will agree that the programs have grown over the years into a major production. This includes prizes, performers and other promotions to encourage patrons to come into the library with children in tow. It would seem that libraries have become a type of reading "mafia" that lure children with an offer they can't refuse. A little exaggerative to be sure but stay with the thought for a moment. Can a Summer Reading Program be successful without performers? Additionally, are other activities besides reading progress cards necessary to entice the public? On the one hand, if everything was eliminated from the program leaving small prizes for children who achieved their reading goals, the planning for the program would be almost nonexistent. Then again as educators and advocates of reading there are many more enticing activities that compete for children's attention that a little "pizzaz" is needed when promoting reading.

From now until May, this blog will highlight once a week a summer reading program idea that will help librarians stay within a reasonable budget and successfully promote reading to their community. Keep in mind that this year's theme is "Night", and the possibilities are endless. Summer Reading is normally targeted for children, however this has changed over the years. Adults should have summer reading fun too. Keeping that in mind, there will be tons of ideas discussed that can be applied for all ages. Stay tuned, there is much more to come!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Friends: Thoughts On Politics and Elections

The Presidential election for 2012 is right around the corner Everyone has their own opinion on who is best to occupy the White House and fill the Mayoral seat in our cities. Librarians have traditionally been told that objectivity is the key to the profession. Never judge anyone for the reference questions they ask, don't take sides on which political party serves us the country better and collection development should, in theory, be based on a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions. Today is the perfect day to look at these standards as opportunities to reach out to newly elected officials in your city or county. It is important that all librarians and library advocates know who their representative are and how to build a relationship with them, thereby cultivating a new crop of library supporters.

When a new mayor or county commissioner wins an election in your city or town, what is the first action a good librarian or library director should do? If the first thought is to seek them out at the first city council meeting and congratulate them on their win, then the action is not bold enough. Actually it is rather timid. The first action to take is to call them at the first opportunity. If the library director is unfamiliar with the new mayor (or city council member), a self-introduction is a good start along with an invitation to come visit the library. If the new leader jumps at the chance to see the library, a good working relationship may be ready to bloom. If they don't come right away, there are ways of hooking them into your building.

Whenever new local officials are elected, libraries should have on hand a packet to give to each newly elected person which will explain the library's mission and purpose for their community. inside the packet could be a "welcome to the library", bookmarks with library hours, list of staff members, their position and contact information. This packet will serve as a great reminder that the services of the library is not limited to citizens of the city. it also includes aiding city hall, courts and other departments in the community who may need library services and research. This is critical to demonstrating to public officials that libraries provides services for everyone in the community with assistance in research to reading for pleasure.

One positive and productive way to get better acquainted with public officials is to host an Open House at the library. This gives everyone in the community to come together in a social and fun atmosphere where the library can shine as the community's "jewel". It's public relations at its best and it can be done very cost effective.

When meeting with newly elected public officials there are three questions that libraries should stay away from because the questions cause more harm then good. The first question never to ask ; 'Councilman Smith, how do you see the library fitting into the community?" Most politicians have no clue what libraries provide and do on a daily basis. Instead of asking how they view the library, tell them what the role of the library is in the community. Demonstrate in clear examples how the library is at the center of the community, Remind them that the library can be the bridge between citizens and city's communication by storing important city documents at the library.

Second question to ask is "Do you Have a Library card?" This is a weak question that many city officials will view as babyish. Might as well say, "You are not allowed in my club house unless you have a card." It's juvenile and non essential. A better question to ask would be,"Now that you know what the library can provide, How can we serve you?" Again, this is putting it into perspective that as a library director, you are making it a top priority to work along side officials regardless of whether the person is has a library card or is of a particular party. Both library director and city officials are there for the same purpose: giving the citizens the best possible service for their tax paying dollars.

Third but not least, "What was the last book you read?" This is a question that openly tells the person that one, if they are not avid readers they should be and two if they do read often, a judgement is being made based on the titles they choose to read. As all librarians know, there are several forms of reading, such as ebooks, CD on books and the traditional printed books. The genre, format or frequency is not important factors when cultivating library supporters in city hall. However, it is important when providing a services to them. Let new public officials know that they have many options to choose from when visiting the library from books on CD to classics literature in hard copy and everything in between. If they haven't been in the library lately, they will be curious to see what is now available to them and their family.

Librarians today must be politically smarter toady than perhaps decades ago. Of course it is good to build up good relations with the citizens of the community. However, that is not enough these days. It is crucial to the library's survival to network and form relationships with politicians. City Hall holds the purse strings in many instances, and librarians may fell helpless at being unable to "control" their destiny. Forming these networks, librarians will have a better chance to explain and advocate for library funding. Politics is part of a librarian's job, whether we like it or not. However, it is always a bonus to admit that we don't judge a politician by the party they represent. Instead, we judge politicians by the support they give to their local libraries. Wanting and needing that support to grow is as simple as shaking hands and starting a conversation. All public officials like that!

Monday, November 7, 2011

What If ....

Steve Jobs had an ability to tap into what his customers wanted when it came to producing computer products. Some would actually say that he was a genius at not only tapping into this "Knowledge" but also being able to tell his customer what they "needed" even before the customer could dream it up themselves. That is a gift that very few people possess, yet it is a trait that leads to survival in a competivtive field. Looking at the latest Apple "got to have" products, the iPad, there are many what ifs that come to mind when thinking about future applications of this little but mighty tool.

Going back a decade or so, there was chatter that the printed book would be on the way out the door. It would come as no surprise that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both envisioned a world where computers would do everything, including replacing books. In this case, Jobs was more of a visionary than Gates. Industry leaders cointed the term "ebook" but it doesn't seem to fit the description of the product since it is not truly a book. It should be named for what it is: digital text. Which makes Jobs seem even more of genius for recoginzing that his product was not a book but a digital pad. Anyone who is familiar with the device knows that it not only downloads digital text of boos, it's also a tool for email, composing text, and surfing the web. Allaccessible by the touch of a fingertip. Using the iPad is also a Apps paradise. Everything one could ever want is available via an App. How wonderfully simple. So now what?

The iPad as a reader has several advantages that the traditional book does not. Easier to read with brighter text, vivid picture color, no "pages" torn out and the list can go on. Keeping this in mind, the question begs to be asked: what next? If reading the classic Pride and Prejudice, will music begin to play when Mr. Darcy first asks Elizabeth to dance? Will youngsters be able to smell strawberries during Story time when The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear is read to them ? For book discussion groups, will the iPad be able to facilitate a virtual book discussion where text is highlighted and comments from other readers about the book be heard, shared and responded to in a mere moments, as if everyone were on a telephone conference? Will books written in Italian, for example, be translated to English via an App that translates almost in an instant? If any of these ideas are in the works, it wouldn't be surprising. Apple, and Steve Jobs specifically, have been known to tweak technology to add a little more oomph and wow to everyday routines. It stands to reason that reading will also be "tweaked" in ways yet to be imagined.

All the possibilities that technology offers are wonderful and exciting. As a curious society driven on innovations, it would be silly not to think about what can happen next. However, it is a bit of a scary proposition that technology may take away a person's ability to enhance their imagination. The power of the written word may be at stake here and what will be left is the power of imagery, with vivid color and 3D capability which takes one to another reality. With technology trying to do one more next "best" thing, it would seem that Deep Space Nine's Holodeck might not be a thing of fiction. Perhaps, reading experiences could be replaced with this type of technology. Frankly, it will be much better if Holodeck remain fiction. If books will eventually become digital text, let's hope that this is not beginning of the end of the power and beauty of the written word.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Family Literacy Does Not Stop at Kindergarden

Very few families know what the definition of "Family Literacy", and it is probably a safe bet that very few actually know that they are practicing random acts of "Family literacy" everyday. November 1st marks the awareness of Family Literacy. As a profession, librarians should be educating families coming into the library on the importance of family Literacy and that is is a life long journey with their child. Ways to share this information is through handouts, programs, and readers' advisory. Using one or all of these methods will encourage parents to become active participants in their children's reading habits.

Family literacy is a springboard for babies and tots to be ready for their school years. Early introduction to sounds, print recognition and books are critical to aiding a child's learning experience. At this time, the statistics of how children who are read to do better in schools than their counterparts who are not read to will not be repeated. The numbers have been used time and again, with the conclusion being a "no brainer" Of course, a child who is read to succeeds in school What the numbers don't reveal is "why" some children are read to and other are not. Is it based on social/economic issues? Is it the education level of the parents? Is it that parents don't feel there are enough hours in the day to add one more activity? While we can not change any of these factors, librarians can provide positive examples of how to fit in little moments "literacy" everyday. Some quick examples are reading a recipe together, while driving reading street signs or simply talking with children about their day. All of these activities help children to read, express themselves and explore their world.

One very important factor to remember is that family literacy does not end at kindergarden. The nights of cuddling up with your youngster with a favorite book may change a bit over the years, but it is important for parents to be active in their child's reading habits. In most cases, when children get too "old" to be read to, parents assume that its time for children to read on their own. Yes, it's true that children relish the independence of reading a "big kid" book alone but it's a shame to not carry literacy further. For example, children and parents can discuss the book's plot, characters and message. This adds to the literacy and comprehension by allowing children to relate to the story in their own words. As librarians, challenge the parents who bring their children in to read the books their children are reading. If they take the challenge they will be "clued" into what their children are thinking, what they are curious about and who the "top" literary character is in modern Children/YA literature. Hey, it may be even become a "badge" of coolness for parents to wear proudly.

There are literally hundreds of way to share the love of reading with children. It can either be with playing a game as a family or reading the comics on Sunday morning. By practicing random acts of "Literacy" parents are preparing their children for school, work and life. Communication is everything, and knowing how to gather information and communicate with others is vitally important. The key to "success" for all children has been and always will be Literacy. Remember, the family that reads together, learns together.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Classic Halloween Tune Just For Libraries

This Halloween night, there is much to be celebrating. Many libraries across the country were spared from having their doors shut for good. Times are tough but one thing is for certain, a world without libraries is scary indeed. In celebration of the spookiest night of the year and promoting libraries, here is a little parody that was written to the tune of "Monster Mash". Enjoy!

The Monster Book

I was in my library, late one night
when my eyes beheld an eerie sight.
In the Library a monster did appear
And he made it perfetly clear

He wants the book!
He wants the monster book
the monster book!
A tale with a scary hook,
He wants the book!
All the bookshelves shook,
He wants the Book !
He wants the monster book!

This surprised me not in least
for the trendy ghouls from the east
Came to the library just last week
Lookng for the book of which we speak.

They Read the book!
They read the monster book
The monster book!
A tale with a scary hook,
They read the book!
All the bookshelves shook,
They read the Book !
They read the monster book!

Now the zombies come in one by one
Reading spooky stories and having fun
Wolfman has his favorites, too.
Dracula reads to his son!

The library’s rockin to Frankie's page turning' beat.
Igor’s book club has a place to meet
Teen werewolves thinks thats just fine
Cause they reserve their books online.

They Read the book!
They read the monster book
The monster book!
A tale with a scary hook,
They read the book!
All the bookshelves shook,
They read the Book !
They read the monster book

A librarian’s note reached Drac’s coffin
Seems an overdue book brought him in.
He opened his lid, and did insist
"I did return the book “Transylvania Mist!”

They Read the book!
They read the monster book
The monster book!
A tale with a scary hook,
They read the book!
All the bookshelves shook,
They read the Book !
They read the monster book

Everything is cool, Drac’s on the Library board
The monster book has struck a cord.
For the living, this book was meant too
Come to the library, we'll check it out to you.

copyright 2011 Lisa Valerio-Nowc

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Blog Brought To You By the Letter "L"

Sesame Street has been a treasured icon of children educational programming. For over forty years children have enjoyed wonderful characters such as Cookie Monster, Kermit and of course,the loveable Big Bird. Over the years the radical concept of this program aimed to help children learn the basics, such as the alphabet, by watching television. A novel concept back in the 1960's. It was and still is a wonderful idea, and it has lived up to its goal of preparing children to get a "jump" into preschool. There are several reasons for the success of this iconic program. After all to appeal to audiences year after year for over forty years is a big deal and accomplishment. What can children's library program learn from the Seasame Street success? How can Sesame Street longevity be incorporated into the library setting? The answer to these questions are simple and attainable.

Everyone knows who lives on Sesame Street. It is the ideal neighborhood where everyone gets along, watches out for each other and most importantly helps each other when there's a "problem" It must be comforting to children to see the puppets interact with each other and adults when trying to "figure" out the problem. The children's room should become that comfortable place where children can play, read and interact with each other freely. For discovering the solutions to homework or questions, the children would know that without a doubt asking the "adult" in the room for help, who just happens to be the knowledgeable, friendly and helpful librarian. There should always be sunny days in the children room, just as it is on Sesame Street. Are the children who come to your library know the names of the librarian? Is there an outreach to the neighborhood families to visit the library often?

Sesame Street is also not static. New puppets come along. Every week there are new visitors who stop by and say hi. Along with the traditional core lessons such as the ABC, new ideas and lessons are introduced to keep the program fresh. Take a hard look at your children's programming. Think about how long a "favorite" program has been running in the library. Should the storytime program be revamped? Should a new program be introduced? Should an invitation be sent to "celebrity" visitors to add some excitement to the Youth Services Area.

Never overlook the power of caregiver's in a child's life. Sesame Street began by proving to parents, grandparents, educators and babysitters that their program had a lot to offer children in the formative years. Once the adults were "hooked" it took little time for the tots to become lifelong fans of the show. How many parents do you know that still can sing "I love Trash"? At a best guess, there are very few parents today who did not grow up with Sesame Street. Even if they lived in another country, they are still able to recognize Bert and Ernie, along with all the other regulars. Children's librarian are in the unique position to capture the attention of caregivers and entertain the youngsters. If the caregivers love what they see in their library, then chances are the children are being entertained. If the children grow to love the library, the programs and reading, chances are very good that they will become lifelong library supporters. Sesame Street found their residual audience. Libraries should be doing the same.

Last but not least, it has never occurred to Sesame Street that they would become obsolete or irrelevant in their viewers' eyes. Instead they have carried on the tradition of the program, all the while, looking for other outlets to spread their message of early learning and literacy. Libraries are constantly listening to the "experts" who say that the industry is doomed and the need for libraries is fading. As professionals in the field, we know that this is not even close to the truth. However, looking at trade magazine, a young librarian might get the idea that the library is a dead end job. Wrong! When was the last time your library investigated new ways of funding a program? When was the last time you thought creatively about getting the library's message out? It's time that libraries stop allowing experts opinions define who librarians are and what libraries can do for the community.

Sesame Street the friendliest place on earth where children are encouraged to learn, read and grow. Funny, those very same words should be applied to libraries. Don't you think so?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Witches That Have Cast A Spell On Readers

Witches. Around this time of year, they are everywhere. Chances are you may even find a flattened out witch against your neighbor's tree. In this day and age, no one is afraid of a little ol' witch. There have been many stories that have given readers a glimpse of what witches look like, laugh like and even how to make one disappear ... for good. Classic stories of witches are read throughout the year, not just in October. However, the Fall, with it's festive Halloween celebration, provides a wonderful excuse to list favorite literary witches. Every avid reader either remember these witches well or at least have heard about them from others.

The stereotypical witch is ugly, mean and vengeful. However, there are some witches that have broken the mold and taught readers that there is good and bad in every walk of life. Including witches. Some are just poor, loveable and misunderstood. Of course, all witches have the ability to do "magic" or some may call it wicked "witchcraft". Like it or not, the authors who have introduced us to these characters have brilliantly forged the way for the witches to cast their spells on an unsuspecting audience. Yet, no one truly complains about the spells. Quite frankly, they are rather enjoyable and worth every minute that readers are cast under their spells.

Without further fuss and musing, here is a quick list of ten fictional witches that everyone should know or at least has heard about in their literary "trails" of life.

Greek mythology has many unusual characters. Medea is no exception. In Euripides play she is the mother who does the unthinkable. She murders her own sons. There has often been debates on whether she qualifies as a "witch". To settle this debate consider two important fact. One she is often called a sorceress. Secondly, she worships the witch God Hecate. Lastly, she murdered her brother with no regrets. If that doesn't make her a witch, then the rest of this list should be pretty tame.

The Queen in Snow and the Seven Dwarves is the classic example of a witch in disguise. Every child is familiar with the story of how poor Snow White had a stepmother who was truly a witch. No need for the magic mirror to tell the truth about this evil Queen/witch. All one has to remember is the fact that a poor guardsman, on the Queen's orders, had to take Snow White out to the forest, kill her and bring back her heart in a jewlery box as proof that she was gone. When the Queen found out that she was not the Fairest of them all because Snow White still lives, all is not well in the Kingdom. (Care to guess at what might have happened to the guardsman? It's probably not a good ending for him) In an old lady disguise, complete with poisoned apple, the Queen/Witch tricks Snow White into falling into her evil trap. All ends well for Snow White when a handsome prince comes along to plant a kiss of true love on her lips. However, the evil Queen/Witch will forever go down in history as the model for every creep witch to follow. Be vain. Be vengeful. Be vicious.

In Hansel and Gretel, the old witch lives alone in the forest in a gingerbread edible home. Children wandering around alone in the forest should pack a lunch instead of chewing off part of a home. Every reader knows that this can only lead to trouble. This awful witch not only lures innocent children into her home "sweet" home, she also likes to fatten them us so she can eat them. Perhaps this is where the legend of withes hating children began.

Shakespere also used witches to tell a story. Who can forget the Three witches in Macbeth. They were also known as the Three Weird Sisters, and to be honest, they fit the description. They were the prophetesses who correctly predicted the rise and fall of Lord Macbeth. Of course, some have often commented that Lady Macbeth had all the qualities of a Queen Witch without the title. Others say she was just being a loyal wife and standing by her man. Nonetheless, the Three Witches were considered evil and in Shakepeare's time, they were considered a harbinger of bad news.

The Wizard of Oz introduced readers to witches from all corners of the world. On the one hand, The witch from the North uses her magic for good. She is beautiful, helpful and is similar to a Fairy Godmother. Everyone in Oz loves and trusts the Witch of the North. However, the Wicked Witch of the West, is the exact opposite of her peer from the North and behaves like the witches of legend. She flew around on a broom but never once did a black cat appear at her side. Then again, who needs black cats when flying monkeys are so much more entertaining.

In C.S. Lewis' the Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, the witch is definitly the antagonist of the story. To say she is cold, is an understatement To place Narnia in a one hundred year winter to gain and keep power is just one of her many calculating moves. Lewis' use of the witch demonstrates the capacity of evil to wield its power in any form possible. The White Witch claims to be human and uses the creatures as her minions. She has all of Narnia under her control and knows that human entering into her world will disrupt her her control. Thus any human who appear in Narnia are to be brought to her. Lucy and her siblings get caught up in her trap but eventually find a way, with Asian's help, to free Narnia of her control.

Not all witches are bad, some are helpful and lovable. Their magic is used for good and only called upon when it is necessary. One such witch is Strega Nona, Tomie DePaola's Italian grandmother who is also a witch. Strega Nona dos not wear a pointed hat, black dress and fly around on a broom. Instead she wears traditional Italian peasant dress, a babushka and has a magic pot that produces enough spaghetti to feed an entire neighborhood and hen some. This witch makes every reader wish their Nona was as "homey" as Strega Nona.

Broom-Hilda is not from traditional literature. As a librarian, it is important to remember that reading cartoons is a positive activity. With that being said, she is worth a mention because she plays a part in popular culture. She looks like a typical witch, for being 1500 years old but in a very humorous way she is depicted as a man-crazy, cigar smoking and beer guzzling, who has many friends to accompany her in her adventures. She could be invited into any home and not one person would be afraid of this crazy old witch. She might even be fun to have around for a Super Bowl Sunday party.

Last but not least. Harry Potter has a whole gaggle of witches that appear in and out of his life. Harry's own mother is a witch who was killed when he was very young. However, the one who gets mentioned here is Hermonine Granger. The smartest student at Hogworths and loyal friend to Harry. She always wants to obey the rule, like most good students, but finds that sometimes fighting "fire" with fire is the only option. Rowlings has taken the good witch, bad witch storyline to another level.

Of course, there are many other witches in literature. Is there one that has been left out here? More than likely, but in defense of this posting, these were the first witches that come to mind.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Celebrating Teen Read Week In The Un-dead Library

A teen librarian's job is one part inspiration, one part communication and a whole lot of motivation to lure teens into the library. It all adds up to having a great time while at work. What could be better? The icing on the cake has to be that working with teens gives veteran librarians a new perspective on the issues of the day. As Teen Read Week kicks off next week, October 16th, most YA librarians are thinking of programs that will "excite and wow" their young patrons. Ideas that revolve around Halloween, to the latest teen novels theme, such as Steampunk, Zombies or Vampires, are sure to surface to the top of the list. These ideas might entice some teens to come in but it's going along the lines of the same old same old. Perhaps a little twist is needed to spruce the celebration. A little technology, mixed with exploring the library, inside and out can guarantee an event the teens won't soon forget. It's time to invite your teens to the Un-dead Library.

To begin this wonderfully different program, choose a theme. Based on the genre that is most popular in novels these days and it fits well with the season, Vampires, Zombies and Witches works well for planning this program. If your library has the ability to allow teens to register themselves on-line through the library's website, then this is the perfect set up for starting the fun. After the registration on-line, it is mandatory for teens to complete a short on-line survey on what they know about Vampires, Zombies and Witches. These questions are based on books, myths or legends. When they have completed the survey, an invitation is printed out for each participant to come to the library BEFORE the day of the program to receive a special pass to the program that is reserved for VIPs. This is a clever yet harmless trick to get teens to come into the library during the week at the same time create a buzz of excitement that will lead up to the big event. Once they come into the library to confirm their "invitation" a helpful YA librarian will provide them with a list of items to bring to the program. These items should be easy to find and tie into the theme of the party in some way. One item on the list could be a strand of garlic.

On the day of the program, at the check in desk, where teens will receive name tags, the YA librarian will ask to see if the guest had brought in all the items on the list. If they have, as VIP status players they will receive two clues during the program that will allow them to solve questions or tasks during the games. If a guest did not bring in all the items, they may borrow from another guest or the librarian but they will not be able to receive any clues. They are virtually clueless on their quest for the night. This is where, librarians are going to have to suspend he rules of quietness for the evening and the use of cell phones. Once everyone has been checked in the game can begin.

Explain to all participants that the online survey and items that they were required to bring will aid them in passing through the un-dead library. Armed with their previous knowledge, and tools they will go through ten stations that will require them to look something up, make something, or perform an activity, such as reading a poem out loud. One of the outcomes of this program is to encourage teens to use all various types of resources from electronic to paper, to complete the tasks. The guest or team (this program works well with either individuals or teams competing) who completes all tasks first wins. Once everyone has completed the stations, everyone can regroup to find out the answers to each stations. As with any teen program, provide snacks and beverage as a way to "celebrate" the winners' achievements and thank all the teens for their participation.

This game is so much fun for the teens because it allows for the use different tools to complete a given tasks. Teens love to show their techie expertise and as YA librarians it essential that the opportunities to do this is provided. Its time to face reality, teens today will be facing a more digitized world then our generation. In order to prepare these young patrons for the "way" of the future, thinking outside the traditional library rules for a week is a good thing.

For a complete outline of how this program can be done, including the questions and stations activity, don't hesitate to email for further information.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Positive Library Story Time Experiences For Autistic Children

The library should be an open and inviting place for patrons of all shapes and sizes. On a given day, in libraries across America, people can walk, roll, or bring a canine helper to guide them through the library. All are welcome, even those who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This disorder covers a wide range of symptoms from flapping hands (self stimulation) to loud outbursts that are seen as unsocial behaviors. Perhaps the hardest hurdle of serving patrons with Autism is identifying them and knowing how to help them during their library visits.

One of the more popular programs that library offers are story times for toddlers and preschoolers. These programs offer wonderful ways to share the love of reading to a budding young group of readers. It also is a positive reinforcement for family literacy. For parents of autistic children the joy of story times may turn into tears of frustrations. This shouldn't be case because all children deserve the opportunity to find joy in reading and sharing a story. There is a simple solution for autistic children and that is to simply provide a special story time geared for their needs.

First to consider when planning a story time for autistic children is the setting. The room should be dimmed since some Autistic children experience sensory sensitivities. Bright lights may be disturbing to them as well as loud noises. Secondly, do not take their behaviors personally. For example, some children with this disorder may not be able to make eye contact with the person they are speaking to, others may not want to do something as simple as a high-five because they do not like human contact. These children may also rock themselves during a program and seem totally unaware of what is going on around them. In reality, they are drinking in every single word that is said. Librarians must also remember that short simple instructions along with the child's name is an effective method of getting an autistic child to follow the rules of the program. Keeping the group small if possible and invite parents/caregivers to stay for the program should also be considered when implementing the program.

When beginning a story time let children know what to expect for the duration of the program. Simple pictures that will can demonstrate the order of the activities will give these special students a sense of security. When each activity is finished the picture that demonstrates this will be taken down. For example, after the first story has ended, the librarian will go to the "schedule" and take down the picture that represents the librarian and children reading together. This is repeated throughout the program until the very end when all pictures have been taken down. simple songs can also help with the transition of the program. For example, singing to the tune of London Bridges, "First story is over now, over now, over now. First story is over now. Now we will dance." It's simple, it's a tune that everyone recognizes and the children respond positively to the instructions.

Choosing books and crafts for this program is no different then planning one for children without disabilities. One universal rule of reading to all children is if the reader is engaged in the book, the audience will be too. During quite sit down activities, such as listening to a story, allow a child who can not keep their hands still to hold a fidget toy. This can be anything from a small rubber ball to a small stuffed animal. By allowing the toys during he story, it may help some autistic children focus better on the story being told. '

Finally allow the children time for movement that engage the senses to some degree. One activity may include singing or playing a song while the children are encouraged to walk around the room with colorful ribbons. Of course, with adult supervision to keep them from bumping into each other.

This program can be rewarding for everyone involved. Especially for the youth services librarian who has discovered another group of youngsters to share with the joy of a good story. Could the job get any better?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011: Part Two Intellectual Snobs vs. Parental Rights

It’s the middle of Banned Books Week, the world has not crumbled, at least for the moment. The Freedom to Read is still alive and well in this great country of ours. From the looks of it will be for a long time to come. Why should another blog be written on censorship and freedom? Simply put, the debate will not end because of two ideological forces are colliding like two ships that have missed the lighthouse signal.

First let’s examine intellectual snobbery for a moment. Let’s face it everyone who holds a degree in any field of study has a touch of the “snob” syndrome. When it comes to earning a higher degree than the traditional four-year Bachelors, the “snob” syndrome become almost incurable. A college degree does not guarantee common sense, but it can cause someone to look down at others as unable to understand the complexity of literature and thus can not form any valid debate against a piece of work. This type of thought should be changed and quickly for the sake of saving literature of all genres.

On the other hand, there is a knee jerk reaction from the other side that believes all books that have bad language, sex and drugs are bad. There has always been a school of thought that has insisted that books for children can only be valuable if its clear, clean and comfortable. In other words, it doesn’t rock the boat that will lead teens to ask uncomfortable questions. Those who hold onto this school of thought are often thought of as living in the past, not civilized or just don’t get it when it comes to the world, especially as it relates to teens. Like it or not, there is validity to this point of view. Just as there is validity to the point of view that teens should be exposed to different types of genre and writers. Both sides lay claim to wanting what is best for children, and neither side is willing to concede that the other might have a good idea. Why is that?

Recent titles that have been published in the Young Adult section have caused alarm and scrutiny by many groups. Authors who want to push the envelope are doing so with topics such as drugs, suicide, sex and gay life styles. It seems these topics are becoming more prevalent in the plots, causing some to wonder if every book has to have a gay person, a suicide, drugs or all of the above to make a good story? For every intellectual freedom snob who stands up for these books, the question has to be if the plots make the books more enticing to them personally? If the answer is yes, perhaps their bias is guiding them to censor anyone who is against these titles. If the answer is no, and all books with great plots enthrall them perhaps there is room to communicate that to the other side. The opposite question can be asked of parents who want to ban “bad” books in schools. Censorship from the government is never a good thing. Having said that, parents' rights are just as important if not more so than their minor chidlren. Every teen should have a good home, great education and the basic needs of life. Those needs do not include reading everything under the sun. There are just some topics that families should discuss together in their own time, in their own way,

Celebrating Banned Book Week should be the celebration of living in a free society that allows for all types of books to be published and read without fear of punishment. It shouldn’t turn into a political hijacking. In the whole scheme of things, teens are looking to adults to help them along the way in life. Once becoming a teen does not mean that they are free to explore the world without adult aid. It simply means they still need a hand once in awhile to guide them through the maze of information. Teens deserve nothing less than great books, good role model and a little advice to help them sort it all out. That should be what everyone should strive to achieve.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books: An Opporutnity for Famly Reading

Are teens really able to decide for themselves what books to read? Can they make the decision on their own that they are ready to handle heavy topics such as suicide, sex and drugs? The main purpose of Banned Book Week is to give a shout out about censorship and the rights of teens to read whatever they desire. Bold statement from YALSA, but is it really a prudent one? One factor that has always been left out of the debate is the parents of the reader. This is where a little ingenuity and flexibility has to come into play as Young Adult Librarians promote Banned Book Week.

The whole notion of banned book sounds exciting to teens. Reading something that is "forbidden" is akin to sneaking out to the garage to smoke. It's the thrill of finding out what "secrets" they shouldn't know or not getting caught. To be a teen, again. When the books were hidden under the beds, or tucked in lockers so no one would know. Wait! That never happened. As a matter of fact, in the 1970's although there were books that everyone talked about like Judy Blume's novels but not one book seemed off limits for young hands to reach out and grab. Come to think of it, from the way Banned Book Weeks is promoted, one would get the idea that American libraries are under siege and strict government regime is forbidding certain books to be read, thus they must be burned. Okay, so that's a little extreme, but since this is not the case, one has to wonder why it's so important for teens to have "rights" to read about topics that are in some sense controversial? It's all in the name of giving teens independence from their parents and finding out "who" they are. Well, this can lead to dangerous territory, and it's up to librarians to be flexible enough to find the middle ground.

Back in the 1980's when Madonna came out with her controversial coffee table book titled "Sex", libraries grappled with the dillema of how to circulate the book. Should they keep it in "closed" stacks and have patrons ask for the title. If a minor asked for the title, would there be a "permission slip" from a parent required? Does this not pose a threat to the First Amendments? Nope. Sorry, in the case of a child, and teens are still legally children up until the age of eighteen, the parents will and should have the right to determine what is good or bad for their family. This includes books.

What should a librarian do to help the teen who so desperately wants to read 13 Reasons Why? It is a s simple as inviting parents and teen to read the book together. When parents begin to worry that a topic might, such as suicide, might effect their child in a negative way, shouldn't they have the right to have the book held off until a time when the child can handle the subject matter? The only time to challenge an authority figure in a child's life is a school board, but never undermine the parents. Some of the best book discussions that have been held have been with parent and child participating. It is a excellent tool to help foster communications. That is the "Key" to unlocking the banned book debate. Let the conversations flow and include everyone in the conversation.

Banned Book Weeks allow for many good things to happen. One, it entices teens to read. Two, discussions on why the book was "banned" can bring up other ideas that can lead teen to continue their interest in the topic. Three, it provides a valuable opportunity for families to read together. That in itself is the best outcome of Banned Book Week. However your library chooses to celebrate, here's hoping that everyone enjoys the "Banned" week!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

LIbrary Porgrams for Smart Mulit-Tasking Librarians

Every library is looking for a spark of "magic" that sends patrons stampeding over with enthusiasm and anticipation. This is not an easy task. With budgets draining and demand for libraries rising, what is a multi-tasking librarian to do? Take a deep breath and unleash programs that are not only economically sensible but do not take a lot of effort or time, which will make patrons believe that the librarian is a miracle worker.

In areas that are serving patrons who are leanring English as a second language the library is an ideal place to meet with their literacy partners. These new "neighbors" have come from many different places in search of a better life in the States. A social time to help these new immigrants practice speaking English is a great way to keep these students coming to the library. Little by little, these new citizens will discover the benefits of a library card, storytime and homework help for their family. Imagine, that this can happen just by offering someone a cup of coffee (or two) and friendly conversations. Programing can't get any easier!

Reluctant readers have a special spot in the hearts of all librarians. Its in our nature to want to reach out to them and guide them into reading adventures that they will be sure to enjoy. However, over the years, people have become snobby over what is acceptable reading and what does not pass the smell test. With this attitude is it no wonder that non-readers from thrity, twenty readers refuse to go into a library today? Thankfully, graphic novels have helped with the changes in attitude towards acceptable reading. A program to help entice these readers into the library is a "comic book swap" day. Where comic book enthusiasts can share and swap their favorite comic books. Invite the participants back with another program such as a movie night theme where comic book heroes are featured.

With the economy as shakey as it is, many people are working at trying to save money on esential things such as clothing. Knitting has become an excellent way to save money, be creative and meet new friends if the local library hosts a "Knitters" club. What makes this program a breeze is that it fits age groups from teen to adults. It is gender friendly, men can learn to knit a mean cap too, just ask Russel Crowe. On top of that, once the group gets started there are knitters from every stage, from advanced to beginners, who love to share what they know and help their fellow knitters.

The love of reading is what libraries are best known for promoting. What better way to engage readers and challenge them at the same time than to host a read-a-thon. Pick a day or night where readers come in with their favorite book to read for as long as they possibly can keep their eyes open. This program can help the library in ways of fundraising, inviting businesses to become involved by sponsoring the event or partnering with literacy groups to promote reading as a healthy, everyday activity for families. It's also a great photo ops for the local newspapers.

Finally, if all the ideas above don't inspire the multi-tasking librarian, try a low key idea that gets big bang for the library's buck. never forgetting that patrons can now "visit" their library in the virtual world. Host a "Tweet" fest where avid readers can tweet about their favorite new read at the libray. Its as easy as deciding on a time and day where tweeters and librarians will tweet. Nothing more is needed! If you have patrons who have never tweeted but wanted to know what the buzz was all about. Invite them to come to the library when the "tweet" fest is happening and offer to show them how to get into the fun! It's kind of like knocking off two birds with one stone. (Yes the pun was intended!)

It doesn't have to take a million dollar program to get patrons running to the library. As a matter of fact, with a little quiet time, a pad of paper and a look through the local paper, inspirations can strike at any moment for a cool idea. If that doesn't work, check back at this blog. Together there may be a few good ideas that can be conjured up for library magic for your community.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oh H#ck No! We Won't Go!

It's a mad, crazy web of information out in this crazy world. Going through the maze on one's own means either two things: one, the information seeker is braver than the average bear or two, the information seeker is a trained professional, otherwise known as a librarian. If it's a slow day, librarians all over the world will hear a hundred times that the internet will replace the need for a library. On Saturdays, that number triples. Since the 1990's the proverbial "they", also known as the unknown professional/gurus have been dispensing this knowledge. Truth be told, that line is getting quite old and "they" should realize by now that libraries aren't going anywhere.

A good illustration as to why the libraries won't become instinct is the American Revolution. Sounds crazy, but it's true. The ideals that gave birth to our nation is equality and accountability. Libraries provide that for every citizen in every American town. This spirit of Independence has not faded from our society. As a matter of fact, whenever Americans are feeling that their First Amendment rights are being violated, they shout even louder. Which gives great comfort in knowing that Americans will always put a good fight to protect their rights. For a moment let's take the scenario that the Internet is the end all and be all of information sources. If the internet is allowed to become the only source of information, how long would it take for just one company (Google perhaps?) to control what information to be consumed for the good of the country? For that matter, who's to say that a government couldn't control Internet searches. One country comes to mind that has done just that: CHINA. That is why libraries will continue to be at the forefront of providing equal access to all information.

It is with this Independent spirit that Benjamin Franklin might have come up with the idea of the public library. Libraries are equal opportunity institutions in that anyone is free to step inside to browse the collection, share stories and learn. Family literacy begins in the library and continues to make the community that it serves better and stronger. An educated society is a society that will flurish. Isn't that what everyone hopes for the next generation? Sure the internet may provide some access to information. However, casual observers of how television programming has developed over the years, will point out that it would not be surprising to see pay per view for websites. This has already begun, and it has a the possibility of exploding to the point where only a few websites will be free and the rest of the net will be accessible to subscribing costumers only. Another reason why libraries won't go!

In the spirit of the Founding Fathers, who basically told the British monarchy where they can stick their tea, libraries should gather all the "articles" and "scholarly" journals that put the internet on a pedestal and throw them "out to sea". Libraries support the patron's right to have access to a variety of sources in which to browse. It should be added that information that enriches everyone lives should be available,accessible and in a manner of speaking "free" for the asking. While the rest of the world believes that the internet is a one size fits all solution for information. Librarians have always known that all information is not equal. In a round about way, the internet has given libraries a new life line. Ironic since "they" say the Internet will bury the library.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Librarian's Heart Is Always In Between The Stacks

In recent years, libraries have had their share of bad times. Pink slips, budget cuts, and library closings are just a few of the battles that libraries have had to face. Misery takes comfort in company, which is to say, American libraries are not the only ones to have suffered the ax of budget cuts. A quick look at international library news points to England who are facing the same dire scenarios as in the states. This is not the time or place to wallow in pity and weep, "Woe is us." Actually, it's time for a pep talk of sort and get our "game face" on so that we can fight the next battles. As Vince Lombardi once said, "The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have." In the past years, libraries have managed to do much with what smaller budgets, which should make librarians measure up pretty well in the eyes of our patrons. Some might even say that there's a "superhero" quality to being a librarian. Might as well let the secret out of the bag: Yes, librarians are superheros.

The Librarian of Basra is a true tale of a librarian who loved her library and collection so much that she found a way to save the books from being destroied in war-torn Iraq. It's an inspiring tale of what can be done if someone has a vision and passion to accomplish a difficult task. Who would know more about a difficult task than a librarian who had to deal with difficult government leaders, saving a priceless collection and doing all this in secret hoping that one day the books will find a home in a new library? Alia Muhammad Baker is an amazing woman but to be honest all librarians have the ability to rise up as Librarian Baker has done. As a matter of fact, ask any librarian what goes through their minds when they walk past a library that has been closed or are visiting a school that has a library but for the moment it's just an open space for students to gather. If that librarian has been laid off, and is now working in a non-library field, ask what they feel when they walk through a library. The answer will always be the same: they miss the smell of the books, the patron's question and the love of a good story. In other workds, their hearts will always remain in the library, in between the shelves.

This is a clarion call to all librarians, whether in a school, public or academic library, it's time to put on our capes and save libraries. Not just because it provides for us employment. What libraries have to offer to our society is so much more than just books. It's the bedrock of a democracy. It's in a library where self-education begins and the keys to unlocking the answers to quests are found. Anyone can walk into a library to find the right book, ask as many questions as needed or locate the answer to a trivia question that has always plagued them. It is the ideal place for bi-partisan politics, all sides of the issues can be explored and debated. Sometimes, kernels of truth are found and ends the debates. For these reasons alone it is worth it for all librarians to stand up for all types of libraries. The simple truth is that everyone benefits from a library and everyone loses when a library closes. Placing the proverbial "heart" on the sleeves we must speak out when a library is threatened with closure. Our voices should be louder when children are denied access to a school or public library. Frankly, when a country like Haiti loses its libraries due to disaster, raising awareness to help rebuild should be on the agenda list of library associations in every country. Passion speaks volumes when it comes to preserving something that is cherished. How do you think Superman got his gig? He loved justice and the American Way. Well, librarians love the freedom to read and the quest for knowledge. That is a mission worthy of any superhero's time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspiration or How Do You Get Your Grove Back?

In any profession, there comes a time when a person wonders if they still have what it takes to be good at their jobs. Countless of times, "Its just not creative and fun anymore" is uttered in classrooms by teachers, in offices by business managers and in libraries by librarians. The proverbial "they" are often to blame for drain on the creative spirit in the organization. Sometimes this criticism is valid but the "blame" sometimes rests with the complainer. It may be true that working under a boss who is behaves like a tyrant, demands too much and is unforgiving of mistakes can make one miserable and even cause health issues to arise. In today's job market, there are not that many options available. The economy is not helping workers feel "secure" in their personal or professional life. Living paycheck to paycheck is If forced to stay in this position either make the best of it by getting your grove back or complain about being miserable in a dead end job. Assuming that making the best of the situation is the option of choice, here is how to become inspired and get into the creative grove of work life!

First step, is easy to say but hard to practice. Stop complaining about the situation. Complaining without taking actions to solve a problem is unproductive and frankly, perpetuating a lazy attitude. According to Psychology Toady (blog, May 18, 2010) Only 46% of workers are satisfied at work. In other words, many workers are in the same boat, they are all miserable. This is a drop in satisfaction is huge from years ago, and today the number may even be lower. This may cause one to wonder what are the other 54% at work doing about their dissatisfaction at work? If even one of the workers of the 54% stopped complaining, it could make a difference in productivity, a better work environment and at least one more person happy at work. That could be a huge plus right there. Why not be the one person who makes the positive change? Stop complaining.

Next, nothing cures boredom and inactivity like reading. Of course, easy for a librarian to suggest this but it works well for all professions. Professional journals, motivational books and the daily newspapers can provide the inspirational jolt needed to get the grove on again. Sounds corny and trite? Maybe, but it is often the case that learning something new gets the brain to look at situations in a whole new light. Of course if those reading materials are not your "genre", a biography of an inspirational figure may be the "muse" to light the way to a better work day.

Do something! Many professionals state that they don't begin a new project for many reasons. They begin the list with, their boss won't let them, followed by they don't have time and ends with who would listen to them anyways. Here is why these reasons are just excuses for going along with the same old, same old. If the boss does not approve of a project, if it is a worthwhile endeavor, do it anyways in your spare time. Invite a friend who shares the same passion and vision to join in the adventure. Make the time, in the end it will be an investment that provides a very healthy return. True having an audience is important and finding one takes time. With that in mind think of Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. Here's a valuable hint to remember, never assume who the audience is or could be, it's can be surprising to find out whose smiling face is in the audience.

Those who complain that they are not "learning" something new at thier jobs are either not engaged at work or need to recharge their batteries. On any given workday, there is always something new to learn. Maybe it's a feature on a computer system that has not be tried before. It could be something as non-essential as "Eto okno" , which is a phrase in Russian that sounds pretty cool. Hey, you've learned how to say "There's the window" in a different language. The point of this rambling is that there comes a time when taking the initiative to recharge is not only necessary but crucial to getting a career back on life support. Get out there, learn from others and put the new gained knowledge to use in your career or your home life.

If getting started on a new project seems daunting, or the prospect of not complaining anymore is too hard then it's time for a really simple fix. Call an old friend for no reason other than to catch up and reminence. A familiar voice can be the perfect "pick me" that can reinvigerate the soul. Never underestimate the power of shooting the breeze with a pal.

The bottom line is that finding the grove is up to you, not your co-workers and not even your boss. All of the above activities can make work creative and fun again. maybe not. Maybe it just may lead you to a new career that is a better fit at this point in life. Whatever the case may be find that something that "groves" you and put spark back into life. As a wise person once told me, Misery may like company but company sure doesn't like misery! So smile!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Power of Play & How It Fits Into the Library World

When children are little their lives are filled with fun things to do, like watching favorite cartoon characters, singing with music or without (and not caring either way), and playing. To watch a child at play is an enjoyable activity because it seems so innocent and devoid of any seriousness. Next time you are watching children play, whether in group story time or spontaneous get together in the children's room, look carefully. There is much more going on besides having fun. Children are busy learning. This is precisely why children are so "tired" after playing. They have used every ounce of energy in them from cerebral, to physical to emotional. It's exhausting to just think about it,let alone watching the young ones! This is not stating anything new, children psychologists have known this for years. However, the approach that the library should have when it comes to games children play, is one that invites children to explore all the ways in which to learn and grow. Games definitely belong in the library.

For directors and youth services heads who believe that the only reason to have games in the library is to educate the young patrons, they will be happy to know that ALL games are educational for children. They may not openly come out and state "play this game for hours of educational fun" but without a doubt many of the "entertainment" games are sneaky at teaching something when the kids aren't noticing. For example, the card game UNO reinforces colors or the board game Clue encourages deductive reasoning. The list can go on to include other games such as RISK, Monopoly, Operations and so forth.

Games also teach winning and losing. It is important for children of all ages to distinguish this fact and accept it gracefully. Sure there are books that can teach the "moral" value of winning and losing with grace but games bring it to a "reality" that children experience for themselves. It seems that parents are so afraid of their little Johnny feeling bad when he loses that not keeping "track" of points seem to be the best option. What is so fun about losing a game is that the participant can start to think of the next time they play and what strategy they would use. Librarians should remind parents that there is a huge book industry out there that gives advice on strategies to win for just about any game. when a child loses, encourage them to find new strategies from others or maybe even come up with their own. Losing is not a bad thing, if dealt with in the proper way.

Reading skills are also developed in playing games. On a ordinary family game night for the family at the library, it is not surprising to see parent and child reading the directions of a game they have never tried before. This is one of the more fun ways to strengthen reading comprehension in children. Together, parent and child are learning the rules and agreeing to abide by them in order to ensure a fair game. Another games that help enhance reading skills are trivia games such as Trivial Pursuit. Reading questions out loud can sometimes be intimidating, but when surrounded by friends who are there not to judge but to have fun, the stress of saying everything perfectly is lifted. Often times, this helps a child become confident in their reading abilities. What better place to improve reading skills then in the library?

In the past decade or so, gaming in the library has meant video games. When this concept came about there were numerous naysayers who denounced games in the library on the basis that it was not educational, no one would want to play games in the library and it was a waste of taxpayers money. Years latter, ALA has initiated a Game Day at the library and website ( to help libraries incorporate all types of games for all ages. If it makes library directors feel better, remind them that play time is serious business and libraries should not pass up getting involved in such a worthwhile enterprise. On the other hand, maybe they would like to get into the game too. Invite them to play a round or two of Trivial Pursuits!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fearless, Flexible and Focused : Qualities of a Children's Librarian

Ah, the wonderful, crazy and often unpredictable world of a children's librarian is never dull. The only workplace where anything can happen from spontaneous giggling fits over a computer screen to clean up down the picture book isle and everything in between. Seriously, there is never a dull moment. However, if searching for the ultimate dull job, try a night security guard at the graveyard. it's lonely and quite and no one every wants excitement there. Think becoming a children's libraries is a good idea? The best librarians in Youth Services department have these three special "qualities": Fearless, Flexible and Focused. Without these qualities, it's better to apply for the "safe" jobs then to interact with young children at the library.
Why does it help to be Fearless? For so many reasons that it is hard to count. For the sake of time, the best scenario to illustrate this point is hosting a program where a naturalist nutritionist prepares snakes with bugs as it the main ingredients. Dare the patron to eat just one, and see how many will take up the challenge. Be prepared to be tested by the youngsters and try a bug or two. Yum! (Not!)
On a more practical side to being fearless is the willingness to go out on a limb with an idea and a hope that it will inspire youngsters to keep reading and returning to the library. Will the program or idea work? As the old saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Flexible is a term to describe the ability to bend or move in any direction without too much effort or pain. children's library programs can be fun to plan but nerve racking if a librarian expects everything to run perfectly and according to a planned script. A cancelled performer due to sickness, Three Stoodges marathon delayed due to technical difficulty, or tye-dye shirt design gone amuck. (Actually gone on the floor - YIKES!) All in the name of a providing a safe haven for children to be entertained.
On the practical side of being flexible is that a librarian is humbly reminded that sometimes life does not go according to plans. Not only that, children can be a lot more forgiving and blind to mistakes than adults. As long as they are having fun, the program was perfect enough for them.
Focused sounds boring, stuffy and rigid. It's not. It simply implies that children's librarians must be keenly aware of their patrons, needs, wants and likes. What's hot, what's not and what's cool or what's lame. That's just talking about the preschoolers, the tweens and the teens. Included with this group of demanding patrons are the parents who are looking for guidance in early literacy and grandparents who have their grandchildren visiting for the weekend.
The practical side to being focused is never losing site of who the customer is and always looking for opportunities to learn and grow with the "kids". It is one of the few profession that pulls together, learning, fun and never growing old. A wise person once wrote, "As long as the brain is able to continue to discover new ideas and learn new tricks, one will never grow old." Who said this? A children's librarian in Michigan who loves her chosen field.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's In Your Wallet? National Library Card Month

Capital One at one point had a wonderful slogan, which simply asked "What's In your wallet?" The suggestion here was that if a person didn't have a personalized credit card from Capital One, their wallet would be missing something pertinent. Borrowing that idea for National Library Card Sign Up Month, libraries should be asking their patrons the same question: What's in your wallet? If a library card is not among the cards that they hold, now is a good time as any to get one. The recognition of the importance of holding a library card is not only a wonderful marketing tool but also advocacy. Looking for easy ways to promote library cards to your community? Read on, there's a few here to borrow or that might spark the imagination to try something totally new and creative at your library.

* The Suburban Library Cooperative in Michigan has gone to neighboring businesses asking them to support the local libraries by offering customers coupons, discounts or special offers just for showing their library card. In return, libraries will promote these businesses in their libraries as participants and encourage patrons to support these businesses. It's a win win situation which promotes building relationships within the community. This can only lead to good things.

* Orange County Library in North Carolina is celebrating NLCM by accepting one non-perishable food item, in return they will waive $1.00 in overdue charges. Patrons of the library will have the opportunity to receive free replacement Library Cards between September 16th through 30th. Another great idea to inspire communities to help others in need and support the library at the same time.

* Richmond County Libraries are offering children in grades 6-8 an opportunity to win an iPod Shuffle if they register for a library card during the month of September. New registrations will be entered into a drawing to win an iPod Shuffle. How's that for motiving young library users?

* Carlsbad City Library is celebrating with a Library Card Sign-up Festival on September 21. Children and teens come to sign up for their first card and receive a small prize. Children who already have their own card can show it off and receive a prize as well. Who doesn't love free gifts?

* Invite young patrons to create bookmarks that uses catchy slogans to encourage patrons to get a library card. For example: Don't leave home without it: Your Library Card. The most creative bookmark can be published and passed out to patrons and local schools.

Reminding schools, parents and public officials that the library is an important asset to the community is as simple as reminding them what they get from their library cards. Internet services, books, ebooks, cds, movies and much more. It is a better value than a Capital One credit card in many ways. A patron will not get a bill at the end of the month (provided they return the items), the "education" and "entertainment" gained belongs to the patrons, and it can be used again and again without penalty. In other words it's "priceless" Sorry MasterCard, it's better than your plastic!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are Teens Really That Difficult To Please?

Teens just might be the most demanding patrons a librarian may encounter during there day to day activities on a reference desk. Ranking slightly higher than the little old ladies who are in book discussion clubs that have decided on the latest James Patterson novel is the title of choice this month. Of course, the hold list for the title is a mile long. Satisfying this patron is no mean feat. Come to think of it, serving teens really isn't that difficult and it can be rewarding. Very rewarding.

When planning programs, selecting books or developing services to teens there are certain golden rules to remember. These rules can go a long way in maintaining a vibrant and engaging teen department at any library, big or small. First and foremost, remember teens are at a time in their life where t hey are testing boundaries and still figuring out where or how they "fit" in their world. They want to be accepted, and invited to groups because that is where they feel most comfortable. In groups, they will "hunt" for the right place to hang out. The library can offer that place if they have a space that teens can call their own. Remember, if there are obvious obstacles that discourage teens meeting together, or programs that seem structured like school, the teens response will likely be that the librarian is ignoring them just like every other "adult" institution. This is definitely not the message any library wants to send out, to any patron of any age.

Secondly, teens can be demanding in wanting quick and easy results. This is true when it comes to completing homework assignments or locating the right book, music or movie that is purely for enjoyment Librarians often make the mistake of assuming that when teens "surf" the internet they are not necessarily looking for credible information. Teens often make the mistake of thinking that finding the right information is easy because EVERYONE knows how to use the Internet. Here's how to bring these two false assumption together to make a perfect match between librarians providing a service and teens receiving help from a helpful adult. Librarians can invite the teens to work on the reference search together. By asking direct questions, allowing teens time to articulate what they really need, and demonstrating that you are working as a team to solve their problems. In essence the librarian is letting the teen patron know that their question is worthy of attention.

Lastly, never ever shut a teen down. There have been too many horror stories of librarians who admonishes a teen patron for wasting their time and to come back when they have a real question. In all honesty, teens are not looking for trouble or to pull pranks. If they are bored, and every adult can tell the glaring signs of "Bored Syndrome", find a way to connect with them quickly and in a fashion that invites them to keep coming to the library. For example, if a teen just wants to chat because they are waiting for friends to show up or for a ride home, let them know that you would love to chat with them but can not do so at this time. Take the opportunity to share with them a website that has games, or trivia that might help pass the time. Better yet, ask what genre they like to read. If a new book has arrived at the library that fits their taste, ask them to look it over. They may end up checking it out. (If they do, let them know you're interested in their opinion of the book. Teens love that)

Pleasing teens really isn't difficult when it comes to providing library service. It may take time and patience to gain trust of the teens, but it in the long run it will reap benefits for the library. Remember they are our future lawmakers, taxpayers and parents who will one day be a library advocate if their experiences in the library were positive. On a more personal note, a teen librarian's job may not be glamorous or be paid like Donald Trump (or Donald Duck for that matter) it is one of the most rewarding occupations in the library world.