Friday, June 22, 2012

Dreamy Ideas For Summer

The best part of summer are the days when children who are bored at home are driven to the local library and told to find something to amuse themselves. This must have been the reason for developing the summer reading program years ago. Of course it has been proven in educational studies that children who read over the summer retain their reading skills. Thus making it easier for them to transition into the next grade level. To adults, this is wonderful news. To kids, all they hear is more of the blah blah blah from well meaning adults who don't understand that summer is suppose to be fun. While reading can be fun, it's not he reason why children will flock into the library for crafts, story times and magic shows. Nope. It's something simpler than that. They want to hang out with their friends. Who can blame them Which is why sneaky librarians (aka the genius behind the book stacks) find ways to educate their young patrons in the guise of fun and mayhem. Okay, not all out mayhem but still fun. This year's theme Dream Big ... Read, is a great theme. If anyone knows how to dream big it's children. Goodness, they never stop and think of limitations. No they just plow ahead in search of the magic that makes their dream come true. With the theme of having children search for their dreams there is one scavenger hunt game that everyone can participate in on a daily basis. Hide the word "Dream" all around the children's room. The word should be displayed differently, for example, stenciled on a rock, magnetic alphabet letters on a file cabinet, or the word scrolling across the computer's screen saver. Each day or week that the young patrons come to visit, challenge them to find the word around the library. How many times did they spot the word? If the number is correct, they win a small prize. However, if they are wrong, they must go back and see where they missed the word. What other possibilities are there? Encourage teens to make a PSA video promoting their local libraries. Would it be wonderful to hear from the teens' point of view, all the things they dream about for their libraries? Perhaps it's more hours. It could even be dreaming of more books, computers and programs. Whatever is their "dream" for the library, have them record it and link it on the library's webpage. Better yet, if the kids do a stellar job, use the video at the next city council or township board meeting. What better way to prove to local officials the important role that libraries play in young people's lives. One of the most inspirational books that have sat on a library's shelf is titled, God's Photo Album authored by Shelly Mecum. In this book, the author who as a teacher at a private school was looking for creative ways to help save their school. She decided to ask Fuji for free film and cameras to distribute to her students. She explained that she wanted the children to capture all the places they see God. When they had accomplished that she would put it together into a book, publish it and sell the students' work to raise money for the school. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. Copying that idea, librarians can solicit children to bring in photographs of the things they dream about. On a bulletin board all photos would be posted. It would make for a great discussions as patrons walk by the board. These are just a few ideas to dream about this summer. What ever programs, ideas or books that are used there is only one thing to remember, no one is ever too old to dream. So dream big! Patrons of the library deserve nothing less!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Getting Lost In A Library

Scavenger hunts are delightfully fun. Especially when it involves children They squeal with laughter, complain they can't find things, compare notes with friends to see who has found items, and by the end of the hunt they cry for more. Youth Services librarians can turn to this easy programming ideas year round. Its inexpensive, fun and brings patrons into the library. Which leads to another train of thought: why not tell public officials to literally get lost? Preferably in a library. How can this leap be made from a fun program for children to reaching out to public officials? Easy. It's called becoming creative in getting noticed by public officials. Public officials, whether on the local level, state or national, rarely understand the plight of libraries. In their eyes it is nice to have a library in the community but not a necessity. Library advocates know that this is a "myth" that has to be broken. This current economic downturn is a blessing in disguise for libraries. It's not a surprise to librarians that services are in demand. People in every community are suffering and looking for resources to find aid, jobs and entertainment on a dime. Libraries fill those needs and more. Which brings back to the topic of inviting public officials to get lost. When politicians campaign the promise the moon and then some. Not to get too political but do the hollow promises of hope and change come to mind. When it comes to libraries, every politician will claim they love their libraries. In their words they sing high praises for libraries and what they do for the community. In their actions, many times they vote against the very same institutions they claim to love. This is where librarians and library advocates must become vocal to educate local officials. In classic scavenger hunt fashion invite local officials to look for clues and materials that help patrons everyday at the library. Remind the participants not to worry if they get lost in the library. A helpful librarian will gladly help them find the path they need. The goal ultimately is to demonstrate to officials and library naysayers that the library has much more to offer beyond books. In many respects the local officials who choose to come will be amazed by the wealth of resources libraries provide on limited budgets. Getting lost in a library is easy. There are patrons who walk into the library everyday to enjoy getting lost between the stacks, surfing on the computer or with their noses in the newspapers. It's time that politicians and decision makers find that same joy. Then they will understand that the joy of getting lost in the library is as necessary as the air we breath. Don't be shy in telling a few local leaders to get lost ..... in the library. It may be the best invitation they receive all year.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Are What You Read?

Old cliches can provide an interesting ice breakers for starting a conversation or speech. The old adage that a person is what he eats is very true. Staying with the line of "consuming" and becoming that which is consumed, can this cliche be applied to reading? Can a person become what they read? This question was brought up during a "self-help" seminar with the speaker insisting that if people who are motivated enough read books that can shape attitudes, build self=confidence, and share winning strategies for success then a reader will become successful. This causes a thoughtful and deep thinking librarian to wonder if this could be tested. For example, Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich is a well known title and has been reprinted several times. Wouldn't it be interesting to find out if after reading this book how many readers actually have become rich? Another well known self-help book, and quite possibly the book that set the standard for motivational books to follow, is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People . Again, it would be curious to know how many readers actually have found themselves with more friends and influence after reading the book. The publishers claim that the literary work has helped millions. Yet the skeptics wonder if this could be true. If readers, don't become rich or influential, the authors could point out that perhaps the reader didn't apply what they read to their own lives. Which may be true. One thing is for certain, publishers are still in the business of self-help titles because they sell. Self-help books are not misleading and in many cases can be quite inspirational. The books are very easy to read, and in most cases can be "consumed" quickly. For the business minded person this works well for them. For the serious reader, who enjoys a good book regardless of if its fiction, nonfiction, or biographical, most tomes can teach a lesson, be inspiring or provide pure entertainment. Anyone who has read To Kill A Mockingbird will invariably say that they inspired by Atticus Finch and thought of becoming a lawyer or at the very least, would want a lawyer like him to be on their side. The written word has a way of changing lives and mind. In every book, even if it is badly written, there something to be gained from what the author has to say. A list of classic titles that have changed a person's life could be an arm's length or as short as one. This is what is inspiring about reading and libraries in general. The possibilities are endless. To answer the question can a reader become what they read? Yes of course they can! Doctors read medical books and journals to become better at their profession. Business professionals read books that can inspire them to reach the next level. AS for librarians, all genres are on the table, because any book could become an ice breaker to starting a conversation with a patron. Choosing what the next "ice breaker". title is going to be is tough. Perhaps going through a list of inspiring titles might help. Any suggestions?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Dream Big Read Is a Great Theme!

This year's theme for the Collaborative Summer Library Program Dream Big Read is a fantastic theme for children. Every sumer program has one goal which is to encourage youngsters to read. This year's theme fulfills that goal in several different ways. It can be viewed as universal, personal, magical, musical, inspirational, attainable, and remarkable. For each of these descriptive adjective there are ways to help children discover a passion for reading and their dreams. Dream Big is a universal message. It appeals to every child, young, old, rich or poor. Children are natural dreamers. They see the possibilities of fantastic tales and accepts them without question. Not only that, they see the value in dreaming. Every child around the world has dreams and it is something that makes us unique and yet similar as humans. To introduce this year's theme, provide bookmarks that remind patrons that dreaming is a pastime in every country. At the same time that dreams are universal, they are also very personal. For each child dreaming is easy but each dream is different. One way that libraries can tap into this natural gift of dreaming is to encourage children to share their dreams at the library. Bulletin boards are a natural place to display these dreams. In bold letters in the middle of the blue board place the words, "I dream of ...." On 3x5 cards, invite children with help from parents to write down what dreams they have. Remind children that no dream is too big or too small. Dreams come in all sizes. Dreams can be magical. They invite every child to look upon a star and make a wish for a dream to come true. That is exactly what Disney taps into every time they produce a movie. Cars that talk. Toys that come to life. Fairies that flutter around Never Never Land. These are all examples of magical worlds that take the child to places where dreams become reality. For a family story time hour librarians can choose books and crafts that embrace this magic. Begin and end the story time with the catchy little verse, "Starlight, Star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may I wish I might have this dream I dream tonight." There are many songs, perhaps too many to count, that speak about dreams. One activity that is quick, easy and cost effective is a quiz that families can take to challenge their memories. This can be one on the website or as handouts at the reference desk. Find ten to fifteen popular songs about dreams. For each of these songs write down one line which contains the word "dream". Challenge your patrons to write down the name of the song in which this line is song. For example, a librarian could use this line, "Merrily, merrily, life is but a dream." Everyone should know that this line is from the classic children's rhyme, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." For every quiz that is filled out a child could win a sticker, bookmark, or candy. Lives of famous people often inspire readers to dream big. For older children, challenge them to read one biography of someone who had big dreams and made them come through hard work, never giving up and believing in their dreams. It is without a doubt that every librarians knows of at least one child that comes into the library wanting to know more about their favorite sports figure. They dream of one day becoming like their heroes and playing professional sports. In other words, inspire young patrons to find out how to make their dreams a reality. Reading how others have achieved their goals is not only inspirational but makes the dream attainable. Speaking of attainable, one craft that is easy to do with children as young as six to teens is making a dream catcher. Native Americans have long had the traditions of ensnaring bad dreams in the net so that they disappear at the light of day. While good dreams pass through the net allowing for a peaceful night for the dreamer. Dreams can be memorable and might even fall into the category of remarkable. Where else but in fiction can elephants fly, robots take over the world or flights beyond the galaxy are made possible. In works of fiction there is the ability of making the impossible become a reality. For example, readers have loved Jules Verne's and H.G. Wells' tales of science fiction that in their day seemed impossible. Time machines, submarines and other mechanical devices conjured up in the mind take readers to a place and time where everything is possible. It is remarkable what the mind can dream and achieve. Granted the time machine has not become a reality yet, but as long as there are dreamers the possibility of creating one that works still exists. This year's theme is full of possibilities. It's tempting to sit back and dream of all the wonderful activities that are possible. However, time is of the essence. Mow it's time for librarians to stop dreaming about their programs and get to work on showcasing the library as a place where dreams come to life!