Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Librarians As Freelancers

Titles like "What's the Alternative: Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros" by Rachel Singer Gordon signals a very important trend for librarians and library science students. The security of full-time employment for a talented, energetic librarian is hard to come by, no matter where you live in the U.S. It seems more libraries are either closing, cutting staff down to paraprofessionals and part-time librarians or worse volunteer only. All of this bad news piling up may make a friendly, cheerful librarian into a grumpy depressed librarian. Usually, it's the stockbrokers who are considered over stressed, depressed and suicidal. Librarianship as a profession, is known to be secure, safe and provide good pay. However, this is not the case at the moment for librarians or recent grads. In stead of stability there is chaos. There must be a solution to keep talented librarians in the profession and lure new talent in.

Freelancing seems to be the word of the day for gaining employment in almost every field. In books similar to Ms. Gordon, writers have described various ways of creating an income as a information professional. This is a great idea but knowing down the doors of opportunities in this area is difficult at best. It takes a lot of selling and educating your clients that the best person to gather information on key projects are professionals who know where to look. The biggest competition information pros face is the Internet. The myth stills is out there that everything can be found with a simple search on Google. This will remain the biggest hurdle for all librarians making a go on their own. This is not to say it can't be done. It just may take a little more effort.

Along the lines of freelancing, other options to explore is story telling. Many libraries have had to cut professional staffs, especially in the children's area. Children's services is unique in that they not only provide reference assistance, but programs such as lap sit and preschool story time, or after-school activities with crafts. When these programs are no longer available due to budget problems, children are the first to feel the effects. Children librarians who are energetic and willing to travel can provide affordable story hours or after school programs to libraries who can't afford a permanent librarian on staff but still want to provide something for their youngest residents. A librarian does not need to limit themselves to just libraries but branch out into daycare, preschool or elementary schools.

Not to overlook the elephant in the room, but librarians who want to continue to work as a "traditional" librarian have got to face an important fact. Privatization of libraries, in some form or another, will become the reality. The current economic crisis in America has proven that libraries are needed now more than ever but local, state and national funds are dwindling. The profession is about to be blown away with the current conditions. The main argument against privatization is that control of the library's policy-making and operations would be turned over to an outside firm. This is assuming that the outside firm has no idea on how to manage a library or the community in which it serves. What's the alternative? Outsourcing? Perhaps because this makes way for freelancing to become a reality. However, the problem of who controls how much the library receives in their budget and access to it still remains a problem. Any library director will verify that libraries' budgets have been cut in order to provide other "services" to the community. Libraries need to be financially independent from government, local, state and national. If librarians are seeking stability, this may be where to find the solution.

Librarians as a profession have faced hard times such as these before. As history has shown, libraries come out stronger then before. Having said that, it is important to watch the trends on how the profession is evolving in order to maintain and find a new niche. Librarians play an important role in the culture, education and information sharing. It would be a shame if that role were dismissed due to the lack of ingenuity of librarians today to find other ways to serve share their talents. if there were ever a time, to let the buns down, kick off the sensible shoes, and throw away the glasses it would be now. The world needs librarians. They just don't know how much.... yet!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Identifying the Teen Reader

In library school they never taught future librarians what to expect when working with teens. How could they? They are a diverse population that to identify what teen readers are looking for would be to identify what adult readers are looking for in their books. The fact of the matter is, there isn't an easy way to identify the teen reader. Sometimes it's a matter of observing them while they visit your library. Having said that, there are a few tips that can be passed on to the new YA librarian.

Expect the unexpected. At one point, I had a supervisor who had been in libraries for years tell me that boys do not read books. As a matter of fact, there was no sense in purchasing fiction books for an academic library that served an all male school population. My first reaction was to remind my supervisor that reading fiction, as they do in English Literature class, increases vocabulary, awakens the curious nature in the reader and stirs the imagination to be open to the possibilities of "what ifs" My argument may have been well thought out and academically correct but what took me by surprise was when a young student spoke up at an Open House event to "brag" to a prospective student that the computers were cool but the fiction section was cooler. The Lesson to be learned here: Teens say and do the unexpected at the opportune time! They are paying attention to the collection and will give kudos when they see what they like. Just like adults!

Never Judge A Teen By The BDon't ooks they Read Another stereotype that I have often heard librarians and teachers profess as gospel truth is that the Graphic Novel reader tends to be into goth and will not read traditional books. They are in a class by themselves. Hogwash! This thought is suggesting that teens who express themselves differently in the way they dress or wear their hair are not avid readers. It may surprise many of these professionals in educations that straight A students who love are avid readers love the Manga series and graphic novels. It is clearly a different way for them to escape or another type of entertainment. Consider this question: Would your friends be surprised by some of the "guilty pleasures" you have in your television viewing habits? As for the Goth Teens, just because at this point in their lives they love one particular genre does not mean they will stay with it foe rest of their reading lives. Eventually, they will move into other books, as educators and librarians we should be prepared to help them find the books that will inspire them.

Don't Tell Them What They Like, Ask Them Too many times as educators, the assumption is made that students must be dictated to in their studies and reading materials. Not true. The best "role" for the educator/librarian is to be the guide. Ask teens these questions to get a sense of where they are in terms of reading for pleasure. What was the title of the last book you read? Name an author that you absolutely loved? Name an author that you absolutely loathed. These are just a few questions that can help teens to find the right book for them. It's no different than asking them what kind of music they like or what was the last movie they viewed? Actually these questions could help in find the right book too. In a nut shell it is all about getting to know them better.

Don't Assume Social Media Dominates Their Lives Having said this I know that there will be hoards if not hundreds of parents, teachers and the like who will swear that they can not tear the teens away from Facebook or MySpace. To some that is very true. Which is why I recommend that librarians are familiar and use Social media. Having said that, it is equally important to understand that for some teens the lure is just not there because they feel they have nothing to share, or parents have forbidden the use of such sites. Another important factor is that in tough economic times, not everyone has access to the Internet at home. The ease of use is not applicable. When getting the word out about programming to teens, the old fashioned way channels such as snail mail, flyers on bulletin boards are as effective as modern tools. In the case of teens, using traditional methods mixed with the new is always the best route.

The one rule of thumb that YA librarians can always count on is that teens just want a place to be accepted and be comfortable for who they are. Isn't that the same with all of us? The best way to identify a teen readers is anyone who walks into the YA area looking for a book, magazine graphic novel and of course the Internet computers. Now the "secret" has been revealed to you, go out and guide those young adults who are waiting to find the right book.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cell Phones Are Not the Libraries' Enemy!

Sh! No cell phones in the library! That's what we say now, but for how much longer? In these digital and quick response times we live in, cell phones do a lot more than make the traditional phone call. The capabilities are endless, from texting to surfing the web to responding to emails. How cool is that to do from the palm of one's hand? Could we have envisioned this future on our own? If library patrons are on the move with their devices then libraries will have to find a way to keep pace.

This is he era of communication and technology. Nothing stays the same it seems for even a month, let alone a year. New versions of Blackberry and iPhones seem to come out just when everyone has just gotten over the excitement of the latest version. Mobile devices have changed the information highway into the information speedway. DSL is no longer fast enough, people want their information, whether it's for business or pleasure, faster. Don't look now, but there are mobile devices that have the capabilities of an iPad, iPhone and laptop all rolled into one. What will libraries say to these devices? No you can not use them in OUR library. Instead of saying that, place a sign outside the library stating: "While the rest of the world enjoys living in the 21st Century, we prefer living in the dark ages." If libraries want to be relevant, essential and in the game it's time toss out cell phone rules. Librarians rev up your engines, the race is about to start.

Once libraries have embraced mobile devices of all types, the next step will be to discover ways of offering new services to patrons on the move. A starting point could be as simple as an App to allow access to the library's catalog. This is a huge time saver for someone who is constantly on the go and does not have the time to stop at a library to see if a certain book is available. Not only that, if the library has services such as Overdrive, the desired piece of information could be downloaded straight to their device. Is this a bad thing that the person has not even stepped into the library to retrieve information? Not at all. Giving patrons what they want and in a timely manner, is enough
of an incentive to draw them in on a lazy Saturday or Sunday.

Another step in providing mobile service is using SMS, Short messaging Services, which allows the libraries to communicate to patrons where ever they may wander. These messages could alert patrons that a book is ready for pickup, program registration confirmation or change in the library's hours. Taking it a step further, these messages may also allow reference librarians to answer questions quickly. Recently, a patron left a message on the library's voice mail asking what was the magnitude of the earthquake in Japan. Knowing that he would not be home when the library might be returning his call, he instructed for the information to be emailed to him. This began the process of What ifs in this librarian's mind? What if libraries could provide a link on their website for FAQ about current events? What if libraries used SMS or RSS to inform patrons of latest news development that affect everyone locally and nationally. What if there were an SMS Reference desk dedicated to providing quick answers for the mobile patron? The possibilities are endless!

Finally, librarians are in the people and information business. Perhaps the reason why many librarians try to buck the technology trends is because of the fear of losing the connection with the patrons. There is only one way to squash those fears: Embrace technology. Offering mobile services will not mean the end of the librarian/patron relationship. It's actually the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The once "evil" cell phones who dared to distract the silence of hallowed libraries are now offering a unique opportunity to gain, if not keep, patron loyalty. Let's face it, loyal and devoted patrons are not only desired but needed for the survival of libraries.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Facebook, Facetime and Friends!

Facebook has changed the way our society communicates and share ideas. At first glance social media, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and FourSquare, allows their members to communicate effectively and quickly through a few key strokes. It's not limited to just saying hello or letting the world know what's on your mind. It can also allow event planning, forming fan pages and buidling virtual communities. It's hard to imagine life before these tools of mass communication? How did we ever get anything accomplished with plain old email? Thank goodness those archaic times are behind us! Libraries, if they have not aleady done so, should grab hold of the opportunity to build public support for their libraries.

My Facebook account was activated in 1997 because I had enrolled in an online course through YALSA, that required that I sign up on various social media sites in order to become familiar with them and experiment on how to use these tools to fit my needs. It was an interesting class, but afterwards, the lure was not there. Primarily becasue it felt weird to send "friend requests" and "follow" someone. Secondly, the idea of knowing what was on the minds of my fellow classmates and colleagues 24/7 seemed like TMI. (For those who don't know the abreviation, TMI means Too Much Informaiton.) Laslty, was there anything worth saying to the world and would anyone be interested.

After watching how Facebook and other other social media forums have exploded, the pieces have come together. Especially in terms of marketing and building patron loyalty for libraries. It is amazing what a fan page can do for a library's image. Fan pages help libraries promote who they are, where they are and what they are doing. Think of it as virtual "facetime" with patrons whenever they login onto Facebook. The best part of it is that it is FREE advertising.

Social media is all about making the connection and starting the conversatioin. That is what libraries have done since they first opened their doors. People have always come into the libraries for books, information, music and the local news. What do they normally do with the information they find? Talk about it with others in order to make sense of it all and perhaps even shape the events in their community. Social media can breath life into the library world in so many ways, andyet the surface has just been scratched.

If I Love Libraries can count the number of fans they have, wouldn't it be cool if a library could tell a patron how many times they have used the library this year, how many items they have checked out or programs they have attended just by swipping their card at check out? Going beyond that, think how FourSquare would boost the library's image if a prominent politican "checked in" that they were at they library? These are the numbers and images libraries need to make the case that the library is not only needed but is used on a daily basis. Why not reward them for being the 100th fan of your page with a library tshirt or other promotion? Buidling a "friends" list would not be difficult once word got out about the "hip" library where inforamtion is easy to access and communitcating with a librarian is almsot instantaneous with live "chat". These will be the "friends" that the library will need for longevity and viabilty in the future.

Nothing stays the same and technology is ever changing. Libraries not only need to be the place for information but also visionaries. The future is so bright, it's time to put on the shades and dream of all the things we would love to do and find ways to make it happen for our future and our facebook friends.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cool Chic Picture Books -- Celebrating Girl Power

Girls are awesome. Ask any girl from ages one to ninety-nine, and they will tell you that this is true. Granted, it's a biased opinion, but there are a few gentlemen out there that just may agree with this statement. At least to a certain degree. In 1987, Congress recognized the achievements of women with dedicating an entire month to the topic. Previously, it had been limited to the one week in March. As the old saying goes, We've come a long way, baby. Women's rights and achievements have certainly deserved recognition and applause. The same can be said for picture books with strong women role models. This is not in reference to Olivia, Madeline or Ramona, although each of these characters are endearing. Rather, this is in reference to picture books about real women who have inspired theirs and future generations.

Fortunately for today's young readers, boys and girls alike, there are authors who excel at telling a historical story in an fun yet educational way. This is not your grandmother's history book! It is a lot more fun and inspiring. Which is exactly what a good picture book should do when capturing the hearts and minds of every reader. In a previous blog, the topic of introducing teens to read biographies as a gateway to nonfiction was discussed. For younger readers, its no difference. The books may be shorter in length but they are not short on information or inspiration.

In Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride, Pam Munoz Ryan wraps a fictionalized account around two historic women who were known for their courage in action and voice. At the end of the book, the author explains why she choose to fictionalize her story. However, the illustrations along with the text inspires every reader to take the ride with Amelia and Eleanor in hopes of becoming just as bold and daring as they were. Barbara Kerley's What to Do About Alice? is a charming book based on the life of Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice. Life in the White House must have been a "riot" as President Roosevelt described it when Alice was greeting guests with a pet snake. However, Alice's love of life and adventure could not be squashed and in the end she slithered her way into American's hearts. If children ever begin to wonder why big hoops skirts are out of style, then share this next book with them. You Forgot Your Skirt, Amerilia Bloomer: A Very Improper Story, a wonderful story about another famous Amelia who changed the way women dressed. Shana Carey introduces her readers to a bold, yet practical writer who not only fought for women to be treated equally, but also for women to be comfortable. Instead of going along with society's demand to where silly hoop dresses that were so heavy and cumbersome, Amelia is inspired by other women visionaries to shed the skirt and wear bloomers instead. Many disapproved of this new fashion trend of women wearing flowing pants, however, many other women were happy to shed the skirt and follow Amelia's example. Who would ever think that wearing pants would label a lady as being "improper"?

Two wonderful titles about women athletes who broke records in the Olympics will inspire all readers to focus on their goals and not their obstacles. Kathleen Krull's Wilma Unlimited based on the life of Track & Field legend Wllma Rudolph and Shana Corey's Mermaid Queen, a biography about legendary swimmer, Annette Kellerman are both rich in text and illustrations. What is of particular interest in both of stories, is how these women over came not only prejudices from society regarding women's participation in sports, but also their own physical challenges. Gold medals are wonderful to earn, but the true testimony of their lives is that they never gave up, even when it looked hopeless.

There's only a few weeks left in March to continue celebrating and learning about women's contribution to society. However, let's say we buck the conventional wisdom and celebrate Girl Power all year round.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Librarian is...

This entry of the blog began many months ago but was never published. For some reason every time it was just about ready to post, something seemed out of place. As if the definition of a librarian was not fully developed or explained. It really isn't difficult to describe what the profession provides to a community. What can be a road block often tends to be ripping apart the stereo-type of librarians. Perhaps the best way to describe who a librarian is and what the job entails is to address the myths.

Myth number one: Not all librarians are quiet, nerdy and spinster. Added to that being uptight. Each librarian, as in any profession, has their own personality, quirks and passion. Librarians happen to be a pretty interesting group of people. Recently, librarians have had to become a little bit vocal due to the budget cuts that are effecting libraries nationwide. That is a good thing. It's time to break the myth that librarians are the quiet, respectful and let the chips fall where they may types. Give it some thought, librarians have the ability to be rebels of society with a simple mouse click. Information is a dangerous thing at times, and librarians are just the rebels who can help the masses get a hold of information that will make some in Washington quake in their boots and listen to their constituents.

Myth number two: A librarians job is great because they get to read great novels all day long. Any smart librarian will agree that their job is wonderful, but what it's not because they get to read all day. (That is only the case with retired librarians, underemployed and unemployed librarians.) The days of a librarian are filled with book reviews, ordering, programming, answering question and cataloging. In some small libraries, it may even consist of one librarian doing all of the above us circulation duties, inter-library loan and the list goes on. Don't assume that a librarians knowledge of literature is a by product of the job. Much of it is because it they read on their own time. Just like everyone else who loves to read but can't do it on work time.

Myth number three: The profession can be done by someone with a high school diploma. To this day, most people don't realize the training that a librarian goes through in order to obtain a librarian's job. First of all, the time and financial constraints that are placed on a person to obtain a Master's degree is well worth the work. Before obtaining the degree, librarians must understand the process of research, information organization, and identifying resources tools that fit the needs of a particular library. For example, a small town library may not invest in the same databases that a medical library would and vice versa.

Myth number four: In regards to Children librarians, their job must be the easiest of all in the library because they don't deal with "adult" topics. That is so false it's not even funny. Children Librarians deal with every child from birth to ninety-nine. Grandparents seek the Children librarian's advice when looking for titles that will appeal to their young grandchildren. Parents consult librarians on how to foster and encourage their children to read. Children from elementary school through high school need homework help from the local library. All of this is mixed in with storytime, programming and collection development. Whew! Talk about your Super Hero who does it all in one day and still finds time to save the world.

Myth number five: Librarians are not with the techie times. Really, more often than not librarians are keeping up with digital trends such as e-book and social media, not only to keep themselves up to date but also to help their patrons to stay on top of all the changes in gathering information. Cascada's music video "Everytime We Touch" is both humorous and infuriating. While giving the artist credit for choosing a male librarian as the object of her "serenade", one has to ask what library still has a card catalog? Libraries and librarians have long let go of the ancient tools for a novel invention called computers, digital catalogs and databases. Why if Cascada is really interested, she may even find out that library patrons have access to their library's catalog in their homes by using the internet novel idea. As a side note, if a librarian is planning a Wii party, they may choose to use Dance Dance Revolution which by all accounts would get the teens in a dancing frenzy, but hey, it's all in the day's work of a librarian.

Myth number six: Librarian know it all. Well, partly this true because of all the weird trivia facts that have made their way into reference questions. Some facts are just hard to shake out of your head. Why else would a librarian know what the ethnic generational background of a person who is Quadroon is? In truth, librarians don't know it all but they do know the proper place to look for the information.

Librarians don't make a ton of money, but for all that they do there is no proper way to compensate their talents. In the words of the famous MasterCard commercial, "Book Budget $50,000, Library programming for adults and children: $10,000, Cost of a librarian with a Master's Degree: PRICELESS. Soon it will be National Library Week consider a thank you note to your favorite librarian. Their value to your community is Priceless.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Teens: Luring Them to the NonFiction Shelves

Typical teens come to the library in search good books to read, and occasionally browse the shelves for nonfiction books for school reports. Which is a good thing. That is primarily what the nonfiction section is for, right? Yes, partially but there are so many good books waiting to be read for the pure enjoyment of learning something new. As librarians we know that, but teens and often some adults, don't quite buy the sale pitch at first. Some tricks of the trade that have been discovered while working in high school and public libraries came from common sense and learning what gets teen's attention.

Biographies offer a wonderful gateway to into nonfiction for teens. It seems that every celebrity has a tome to offer in the way of informing and entertaining readers. For example, one of my new favorite celebrity biography title is Alison Amgrim’s “Confession of a Prairie Bitch : How I survived being Nellie Olsen and Learned to Love to Be Hated.” Amgrim touches on some heavy topics such as sexual abuse and drugs, but what makes this biography outstanding is her candid and sometimes hilarious outlook on her life. At a book talk, teens asked what made me want to read this book. A little reluctantly, because it showed my age, I revealed that this show was popular when I was younger and frankly, I loved the character Nellie Olsen. Why not tap into teen’s love of popular celebrity magazines and turn them on to reading a biography about their favorite star. Once you have them hooked, the sky’s the limit. Getting them to read about any famous person, even historical figures, will be quite easy.

Sticking with the “Hollywood” theme there are tons of movies about real events that tie in perfectly with nonfiction. One of the school librarians in my area worked with the teachers in her school to put together a curriculum on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. For extra credit, the students were given the assignment to watch "Mississippi Burning", a film depicting the FBI investigations of the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964. Some of the students who watched the film came into the school library looking for more information about the civil rights era and this particular FBI investigation. At my library, one movie that moved teens to find out more about a particular event in history was "Titanic". Of course, the girls loved the romance of the movie but it was the boys wanted to know how a ship that big could sink, how long it really took to go down, and how long one can survive in cold water. (Gotta love the boys, they are so practical at times!)

Finally, the news gets teens into the library for nonfiction materials to read. Don't be surprised by the fact that teens do know what's going on in the world and are concerned. The recent events in Japan have given some of the teens in my area an interest in tsunami's and earthquakes. Some teens are just looking for basic information that help them get a better grasp on the topic, while others are digging deeper into the history of natural disasters. It's quite an eye opener to see how teens are responding to the news. It's also a little comforting to know that the "future" generations will want to make a difference in the world.

There are so many ways to "excite" teens to browse the nonfiction shelves. With so many talented librarians, I'm sure there are plenty more inventive ways to get these books off the shelves into our teen readers hands. I hope my brief offerings helps some librarians find the inspirations they need to promote nonfiction reading in their libraries.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random House E-Book Policy: Not A Friend Of The Library Anymore!

Random House Publishing has decided to pull a number out of a hat to set the limit of how many times a library can loan out a "copy" of one of their digital titles to patrons. That magic number happens to be twenty-six. Which is baffling to a veteran librarian such as myself. It seems that Random House no longer wants to do business with libraries when it it comes to e-books. If that is the case one has to wonder why? Do the publishing executives believe that once every book goes digital, libraries will cease to exist? Do they believe that profit are more important than customer loyalty? Or is this a case of being short sighted about the topic? Whatever the reason, Random House has definitely gone where no publisher has gone before. It seems as if the executives have become short sighted in their attempts to protect their "services." If Random House and other publishing companies want to "punish" the libraries for purchasing their product, they should remember elementary psychology. Punishment can lead to unwanted behavior patterns. In this case, instead of the desired increase in e-book sales, it may lead to the opposite.

The concept of forcing a library to purchase a "new" digital copy of a book after twenty-six checkout is foolhardy. The logic just is not there. Why would a library want to spend more than they have to on a product that never gets torn, yellowed or damaged? The benefit of a digital copy of a book is that it is like a new book each time it's loaned out. If a librarian has to make the decision to spend $25.00 on a hard copy book with the knowledge that a book may have a longer circulating life than twenty-six times versus the digital copy that will require to spend more budget dollars, than why go digital? Most publishers are betting that the libraries will answer that question by acknowledging that the patrons want this service and it is a necessary evil. However, they just might find that libraries may be forced to follow the route of getting more bang for their bucks.

Publishers have long had a love-hate relationship with libraries. While they love the fact that libraries purchase their titles, they hate the fact that libraries loan out their products with no costs to the borrower. In a CEO's world this is a kin to robbing them blind because in their eyes they are losing money every time a single title is loaned out. If this were true, then explain why Harry Potter series has sold millions of copies worldwide? Libraries do not hinder sales of books. It can be argued that they spur sales. Many avid readers often purchase favorite titles after they have borrowed the books from the library. Why? They have made an emotional connection with the book and now want to own their very own copy.

At a time when the economy is not at it's best, to see a big corporation take this action in order to make more money is foolish. Consumers will view this as a "greedy" act. Publishing executives need to remember that the money to purchase books at public libraries come from the Taxpayers otherwise known as the Average Joe who occasionally go to bookstores to buy books. In essence they are overcharging their own costumers in ever city that has a library. Keep in mind also that most people do not have as much discretionary funds as they use to have in previous years. This is shutting out consumers who would have bought your titles, but since times are tough they turn to the library for the title they want and need. Shouldn't Random House want to continue to be seen as a partner with libraries in providing books in all its formats to those who can't afford it at the present time? One would think so, but it appears that the publishers are determined to shoot themselves in the foot.

At the moment, libraries are Random House's target to increase revenue. Who is next on their hit list? Judging on the road that digital music took, it appears that the next direct target will be the consumer. If publishers follow Random House's lead, the consumers will have to be careful about how they share, load and protect their purchased books. Nook currently allows their e-readers to share books with friends. How long will it be before publishers begin to belly ache that profits are being lost due to this practice? In the world of corporate greed, I suspect they are already planning this out and will explain that they are doing this in the name of protecting the artist's intellectual property. I hope I'm wrong, but something tells me differently.

In the long run, Random House will be clipping the wings of the e-book natural rise in popularity with their current policy. Every opportunity to get a product into the consumers hands is a positive in any industry. E-book lending will allow patrons to discover a new way of accessing information. The more consumers use it, the odds increase that they will want,need, and buy it. It's that simple.

With Random House's current policy of twenty-six check outs, there are many losers that come out of the ill thought of plan. The first obvious one, are libraries whose budgets are shrinking each year. The patrons who want the e-books and would like a economical way to obtain them. Finally, the publishers themselves, who are now perceived as greedy, short sighted and impossible to work along side. Librarians are reasonable people. It is understood that it takes time and resources to create a product. With this in mind, Publishers should stop treating libraries as "robbers" who want the publisher's product for nothing. There needs to be a win-win situation for all involved.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Michigan Libraries Are The Future

Back on the soap box again to explain why Michigan need libraries. Frankly, i don't think the is topic could be talked about too little or too much. Facts are facts. Growing, thriving communities need libraries to continue to prosper. Our current Governor Sndyer has proposed a budget that will cut 40 percent of library aid. it is a staggering and devastating number not only for every Michigan library but also the communities that seek, need and want the services provided by libraries. All along the campaign trail Rick Snyder proclaimed he wanted to "Reinvent Michigan". While I agree that Michigan needs to make changes there are a couple of facts to ponder upon when considering the path to "reinvent" Michigan.

Fact 1: Michigan libraries provide formal or informal training in computer skills, software training and online job-seeking. For a state that has experienced one of the highest unemployment rates in the past eight years, libraries have been the life jackets for many of our citizens.

Fact 2: Sticking to the employment needs of the state it is hard to ignore the fact that businesses and government agencies require job applicants to complete forms online. Michigan's public libraries provide access to online job applications; job databases and other online resources. As well as, civil service exam materials and offer software or other resources to help patrons create résumés and other employment materials. Wouldn't it be a good idea to help the citizens reinvent themselves for Michigan's new economy? Libraries provide that opportunity!

Fact 3: Michigan libraries offer Internet services such as subscription databases, to online homework resources, and ebooks. These services aid the entire population from small businesses, to the informed consumer to the children in our public schools. These resources are not a frivolous waste of time or money. They open pave the way for information to flow freely to a our communities.

Fact 4: As a former executive of Gateway computers, Governor Snyder should appreciate the findings from the Gates Foundation (as in Bill Gates, Microsoft) which points out that children from low income families need their local public library. “A study by the Gates Foundation found that 50 percent of children surveyed use library computers to do their schoolwork, and that youth from low-income families are disproportionately likely to use library computer resources.”

Fact 5: Children who participate in library programs, such as early literacy programs, family book discussions and summer reading programs, just to name a few, perform better at their schools. Libraries are places where children are encouraged on a daily basis to explore their world. Why would any elected official want to take that away from Michigan's future leaders?

The key to reinventing Michigan, is to keep the opportunities for learning and exploring open. By cutting library funding, the State of Michigan will effectively slow the pace of small business growth, education improvement for our children and communities to prosper and thrive. Consider this an open invitation from myself, Governor. Pick a public library of your choice, and I will gladly take you on a tour to show you what libraries do on a day to day basis for our citizens. It's an important and meaningful job. Libraries and librarians across the state of Michigan take this job to seriously and meet the needs of our patrons to the best of our abilities. As John Barns, executive VP of Gale Cengage, once stated. "Libraries don’t get enough recognition for the role they play in the economic vitality and development of a community." It's time that libraries do receive this recognition before it's too late.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Best Stories to Read Aloud

I love reading stories! Especially to eager little ones who sit before me wondering what magic will happen before their eyes once the cover is opened. When a captivated audience is hanging on every word and every turn of the page, it seems as if the half hour story time is only five minutes long. Literally the time flies by! Children along with this Librarian are having one heck of a blast. Comments I usually receive after story time is that I make it look so easy. Well, hate to admit it, but it actually is easy when it's fun for everyone involved. In March, when the schools in our area ask parents to be a guest reader in their child's class, there is an influx of parents in the children's room looking for picture books for themselves. Some parents are hesitate to take on the opportunity while others readily volunteer to read. However all parents have the same problem: they are overwhelmed with the decision of what book to read. Which leads them to ask advice about what books would be best to read aloud. On this "World Read Aloud Day" of 2011, i offer the novice storyteller a few tips on reading to a group of children. These tips will serve well for children of any age or grade.

1. The story should be interesting to you. When reading to children, whether you have an audience of five or seventy-five, choose a book that you like. Your enthusiasm and enjoyment of the book will show in your tone of voice, facial expressions and eye contact with the audience. It is actually no different than speaking in public. However, children tend to be an easier audience than some adults.

Don't Be Afraid To Engage Your Audience Some books are meant to be discussed while the book is opened and others can be discussed when the reader has said "The End." Either way, encourage children to discuss what they have heard and seen during the story. A new favorite book which uses the shapes of hearts to creatively tell a story is Michael Hall's My Heart Is Like A Zoo. Before turning the page, I always stop and ask the children if they can spot the hearts in the pictures and how many can they find. Once the hearts have been counted, the entire group will watch for my signal (usually me pointing to the audience) and say, " Next page, please". Another favorite book to read aloud is Brian Lies' Bats at the Library!. This is a great title that allows children to engage in discussions at the end of the story. This tale is fun to read because of the rhymes but mostly because each of the bats are display different characteristics. Some have glasses so they can read and others find fun games to play like shadows on the wall using an overhead projector. After reading this book, I invite the children to tell me which picture they liked best. The answers of course vary but the outcome is always the same. They each would want to take at least one of the bats home with them to keep as a pet.

Lastly, Trust Your Own Instincts. If you think a book may be too long for children to sit through, you are probably right. There are many picture books that I have used where I wouldn't read the entire book. In some cases, I've left out parts of the story that added background to the plot but not essential, as in The Velveteen Rabbit.. When this happens, I've confessed to my audience that I didn't read the entire book due to lack of time and invite them to read the entire story when they have the opportunity.

In all my years of reading to children, there is one undeniable truth that can not be ignored. Children love to make new friends. Books provide a bridge to begin a friendship and ignite conversations. What other tool can encourage total strangers to share their opinions and emotions? Remember that the stories we share reveals a little bit of ourselves to the audience and what we may have in common with each other.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Children Need A Great Beginning, Part 2: Reading to Baby

This topic has become very important to me in the last several years. Working with babies and their parents and grandparents has given me a clearer perspective on how books enrich a babies' world. One might say there is a hidden agenda in my promoting reading to children, and they would be right. Although it can't be called hidden when it is as obvious as the sky is blue. Children need every opportunity to grow and learn. In encouraging parents to read to their babies, it is my goal to provide an avenue for every child I meet to have a chance to succeed in life. Period. No other agenda is attached. One may wonder how reading to a child can help them succeed in life. There are so many good answers that picking just one is difficult. In a nutshell, reading stimulates learning on many different levels. As an infant, your child is absorbing tons of information about their world and themselves. The human brain is amazing at what it can accomplish in a small amount of time. Once a parent or grandparent begins reading to their babies, they will notice subtle changes in the behavior and reactions of their child.

As stated earlier, Babies learn about their world in a variety of ways. Mainly it is the five senses help them to identify familiar voices, faces, foods and toys. Using the five senses babies discover what they like, what they don't like as well as giving the opportunity to explore and learn new things. Is it any wonder that Pat The Bunny is still a favorite among parents of toddlers as the go to book to encourage baby to use their different senses to explore their world. it is very important to remember that the best children's books often encourage their audience to use all five senses to learn more about their world. A book is a fantastic tool to begin exploring by sight, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. (Yes tasting! A sign of a well loved board book are tiny teeth marks on the corner.)

Reading books to babies teaches them about communication. By listening to a story, babies come to understand how words become sentences and sentences become an expression of ideas. The little nuances of languages, such as the difference between when to use "a" and when to use "an", do not need to be explained. The baby recognizes that it sounds right to hear "an animal" instead of "a animal" in a sentence. Think of it this way, by reading to your baby you are in essence teaching them English grammar before they learn how to write.

Reading also introduces the idea that learning can be fun. Such concepts such as stories, numbers, letters, colors, and shapes are presented in children's books in colorful, creative and engaging illustrations. It is entertaining to read a book that teaches the basics of the alphabet, numbers and shapes with a unique perspective. A favorite alphabet book to track down to discover the creativity I'm speaking of is Chris Van Allsburg's The Z was Zapped. Babies eat these books up (literally and figuratively), which leads to many positive outcomes. Just to name but a few: memories of their favorite books, bonding time with a parent or grandparent and a love of a good story. As a children's librarian, more often than not, there will be one or two teens or adults who will ask me to help them find the books that were read to them when they were children. These stories really do last a lifetime!

Reading to babies helps to build important skills such as listening, memory, and vocabulary that will be invaluable to them in their school years. Babies love the sound of voices speaking to them. It soothes them. When beginning the habit of reading with baby, they learn that this is a special time to be quiet and listen. After a few times of reading the same book, adults are amazed at times that their one year old knows when the page will turn, or what the next word will be in the story. Why should this be amazing? This proves that the child has been listening to you, enjoying your reading voice and loving a story that will stay with them for a long time. It shouldn't amaze adults if the child who has been read to will begin to recognize words in the story. The bonus of reading aloud is that children who are read to become readers sooner than those who have not had this experience. Talk about a jump start on the way to kindergarden.

In my story times, parents and grandparents laugh when I tell the children to demand to be read to as often as possible. The children don't laugh. They know I'm serious. Why? For a child reading and learning is not only fun but it is very important to them. They want to learn and in their own little ways they are begging to adults around them to teach them. Now, if I could get little babies to crawl into formation and demand their rights to be read, it would be the beginning of a perfect world. Since this is not likely to happen, I will turn to caring adults who should champion this cause by reading to a child. Can you join the cause?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Children Need Great Beginnings

It seems to me that great beginnings often have one thing in common, great stories. For example, the founding of our country is wrapped up in a great story. It has all the ingredients of an action packed thriller. Rebellion against a tyrant. Men and women who never gave up the fight even when it seemed that they were losing the battle. Leaders who inspired their men and became legends for generations to come. Who couldn't love a story that has a powerful beginning? Which got me to thinking that every child should have a great beginning which centers around their own great story.

March is the month of the young child and in the county where I live and work there is an annual community breakfast where professionals and community leaders are invited to learn how different agencies are helping young children, from birth to five years, to get a "Great Start" in education. It is in these crucial first five years that a child's mind absorbs the world around them and influences how they will develop. According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, "Early Experiences determine whether a child's developing brain architecture provides a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health." This speaks volumes on the need for parents to rely on libraries to help them give their child a rich opportunity to learn and grow.

Family Literacy programs should be an important part of every public library's services. These programs provide new parents with tools to introduce reading as a healthy habit for growing minds. As a librarian, I can not count the number of times I have been asked by new parents "How old should my baby be when I start to read to them?" My response is always the same, "From day one." A baby is never too young to hear a great story. Libraries are the perfect solutions to providing a wealth of books, movies and music without the additional strain on the family's budget. Besides that, libraries provide the space where children can explore, experiment and examine the world around them. The books children read today will shape them into the citizens of tomorrow. The stories that touch their hearts will create passionate leaders of our community who go out to make a difference. This is not an exaggeration. it has been proven in studies that children from low income families tend to do poorly in school. Is this because poor families have children with low IQ? Not at all. It simply means that the resources in urban areas are not readily available to children as they are in wealthier suburbs. (This is why it boils my blood to see that urban public libraries are closing their doors due to lack of funding. That is a story for another day.) Reaching out to young families early on not only establishes a relationship between the library and the community but it also provides the foundation for a strong, prosperous community.

Which brings me back to my original point. Children need to have a great beginning in order to be able to share their own great story. They are so eager to learn and to grow that to deprive them of the opportunity to have a great beginning is criminal. it does not take much to help a child discover their world. Especially these days where there are so many different avenue to pursue to stimulate learning in a child. It can be as simple as a wooden spoon which allows or as complex as a computer game which teaches shapes and colors. My personal favorite are board books. They are perfect for reading and chewing! During this month of the Young Child, make a commitment to do something to help a young child with their great beginning. How? It's as easy as picking up a book and sharing it with your favorite little one. If you need help in deciding what book to read, go to your library and ask the children's librarian for suggestions. As a matter of fact, you may even want to bring your favorite youngster with you to enjoy a story time together. You never know this could be the start of something big!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If Only I Could Run the Zoo

Today's headline should give a clue to the topic today. It would almost be a sin not to mention Dr. Seuss on his birthday. After all, this author lit the fire for the love of reading in so many children's hearts. His books are timeless and are still tucked on the bookshelves for little boys and girls to enjoy today. Dr. Seuss' world is imaginative, playful and whimsical just like a child's heart. Perhaps that is why he has become so endearing to many. As a birthday toot to the beloved author, today will be dedicated to Seuss' works that may not have been as popular as Cat in the Hat, but are just as good if not better.

As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago I ran across The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Having never heard of the book, curiosity got the better of me. The story is quite simple, King Derwin of Kingdom of Didd passes by Bartholomew Cubbins, who wore a red hat with a feather. Everyone knows that when the King passes by, hats must be removed. So why didn't Bartholomew remove his hat? He did! Honestly he did but unfortunately his head seems to grow hats! Whenever he takes one off, another one takes its place. All in all there were 500 hats. Poor Bartholomew, what will he do? Lucky for him the 500th hat was very much to the King's liking. King Derwin bought all the hats from Bartholomew for 500 gold coins. Seuss leaves his reader with a happy ending and no explanation for why Bartholomew's head grew 500 hats. His simple explanation, " "happened to happen." Good enough for me. This is a lost treasure that must be shared with little story time friends. It would be easy enough to make red caps with feathers.

Seuss could always bring to light many interesting questions, such as Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Great question for little ones who sometimes don't appreciate that life is wonderful in Suess' world as well as in their own world. In true and unique Seuss fashion, an old wide man perched on a cactus (and why not a cactus, after all they look so comfortable) offers readers a lesson on the value of life, liberty, and opportunity. Throughout the book, the readers are shown a bad situations from a worse angle and asked to consider the difference. After the book has been closed, the wise man's question stays with the readers. Yes, indeed he has told us how lucky we are and it is very difficult to argue with his logic.

As a children's librarian, interesting angles to get children and parents to read together are constantly popping up in my mind. One of the more successful ideas came to me when looking for a unique title for family book discussion night. If I Ran the Zoo was a perfect fit because it contained all the ingredients of a good story time book: imagination, humor and broad appeal. During this book discussion, children were encouraged to describe their "zoo". As you can imagine, there were no two zoos alike. As a matter of fact, one child stated he would put the visitors in the cage and let the animals throw peanuts to the humans! (I'm not sure I would go to that zoo!) By the end of the book discussion, each parent and child created a unique creature to add to the library's one of a kind zoo. Using a styrofoam tray, all participants glued their animals on the tray, threaded yarn through the top and bottom, creating the bars of the cage. It was the most unique zoo I had ever seen and it was perfect. Which made me wish again, just as I did when I was younger, to run a zoo. However, I think I might settle for "If I Ran The Library", now that would be fun and perhaps even a best seller!

in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, pick up one of his books and read to your child. It could be the start of a wonderful habit!