Monday, May 20, 2013

Digging in For Reluctant Readers This Summer

The Summer Reading Program (SRP) 2013 is a wonderful theme this year. There are countless ways to get the librarian's mind thinking creatively on attracting all types of readers. The readers that is of most often spoken about but hardest to reach are the reluctant readers. They are the children that will say that reading is boring. Reading isn't interactive or exciting. These words might as well be a stake that drives through the librarian's heart. It really is a difficult task but one that is well worth striving to achieve. Not every child is the same, nor are every reader the same. With that in mind, here are some ideas that might help with finding the right touch to get reluctant readers to get excited this summer. First, let's get the idea packed away that all readers must read a certain number of books or pages for the summer. There are too many librarians and teachers who think this is a productive measure of reading and some even make it into a contest. Who can read the most. Let's face it, to some young readers you might as well tell them they are climbing Mount Everest for the very first time. By themselves. With no help from anyone. Game over, who care. They's rather be doing something else, like counting what level they've reached in Mario Cart or racking up points in another video game. Instead of counting the number of books or pages. Let's try for reading for fifteen minutes everyday. Let the young readers decide what they will read. It can be a book, magazine or even a website. Just as long as they are reading sometime during the summer. There are titles that are perfect for the reading is boring crowd. For example, The 39 Clues series has it all for reluctant readers who say that reading is boring. It is not only an action thriller that features two siblings on a chance for the family's treasure, it is also linked to a website that provides other outlets to finding out more about the characters, search for more clues and hopefully find the family treasure. It is a rip roaring romp around the world. Not to mention that fact that the Cahill family puts the fun in dysfunctional. Amy and Dan Cahill are determined to win their Grandmother's fortune but along the way of the fortune hunt they learn many things about their past and their parents. The masterful list of YA authors that write for the series keep the plots twisting and exciting. When the series first debuted the concept of bringing novels and a website seemed impractical. yet, it was just innovated enough to capture reluctant readers attention. What could be better than reading a book that is actually a game of searching for a treasure and solving riddles. This is definitely a must have on a list for summer reading program reader's advisory. When reaching out to the hardcore gammer, the one who will not put down the game controller or joy stick to take a few minutes to read, look for the opportunity to bring the games to the library. How? Consider a gaming day where young adults could compete for small prizes. Additionally, it would be a good idea to invest in "how to" books that provide information on the secret ways to move on to the next level and ultimately win a favorite video game like Halo. Be aware that these are often stolen from library collections. It is better to keep them at the reference/information desk. If the director or collection development librarian has a problem with adding these books to the collection, try "selling" the collection as another way to entice reader to come to the library. These types of books are excellent introductions to non-fiction reading as "pleasure reading". These books can be used as incentives/prizes during SRP which will be a good draw for the gamer to not only join SRP but to get a library card. On a side note, if a librarian has the time and talent, playing the games that the young patrons like can provide the icebreaker to getting to know the patron. If the library/librarian shows an interest in the young reader, chances are they will come back. However, not knowing how to play okay, so long as the librarian knows the games and the characters. Which can lead to reading gaming magazines as professional development. (Try that one with your library director!) Finally, if all else fails in getting the reluctant reader interested in digging further into reading, try graphic novels. Leonardo DiCaprio's recent work in The Great Gatsby is a wonderful way to introduce classic literature and graphic novels. Sure this sounds a little bit like school work, however, sell the idea to the patrons as a way to impress their English teacher next fall. Not only have they read the Great Gatsby, but other great novels such as Dracula and Hamlet. This is reading beyond what they would normally try. The format of the graphic novel works well because it is visual, quick and accessible. For too long, reluctant readers have felt they were not smart enough to understand such classic titles. With graphic novels, the complex has been made simple. As an added bonus, understanding the classics might help them on their ACT scores too. This summer should be loaded with fun for children of every age at the library. Don't worry, the digging for SRP ideas has just begun. There will be lots more ideas and fun coming in the next couple of entries. Hope you'll stay tuned.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Marketing the Library: A Few Things To Bear In Mind

If you are not marketing, you are not communicating. If you are not communicating, the community knows nothing about your library. Interesting thought to ponder for library administrators today. Library directors are not thought of as marketing scholars but then again I don't believe any director, or assistant director ever thought they would have to be the Human Resources chief either. It's all in the vain of going with the what you have versus complaining about what you don't have. Which leads to marketing. Without ever having to take a course in business most librarians can do what comes natural Think about the costumer. Pin point what they like or want. Then always and it is imperative to remember this point. Post it on the office door or on the desk. It is simply this: always communicate the positive. Whether your library is big, as in a major city's library or small as in rural libraries, all marketing concerns and hurdles are the same. Finding cost effective means to get the message out. Thanks to the digital era, marketing programs and news about the library can be as simple as tweeting about new bestsellers that have arrived to the registration date of Summer reading programs. However, printed library newsletters that are mailed to every resident can still add value when considering that there are still those without an electronic footprint. Or as one patron once said in a library surgery, "getting something in the mail has a personal touch. Its a sign that someone took the extra effort to reach out to the recipient." Communicating to someone is very personal. One can argue that the old fashioned mail to every address is expensive. This is not that case anymore. The United States Postal Service has made it very affordable to mail business promotions to every address for a rate that is almost too good to be true. (check out Every Door Direct Mail at As with any business, a library strives or dives by the image it has in the community If the image is negative, then the flow of patrons dwindles down. Which cab lead to losses in state aid. To keep the revenue flowing, all libraries become positive brand promoters. When enticing the taxpayers to visit the library often and offering positive value to the community, the library director has made the community a partner in the library's future. This is not an easy task to do because it is a very delicate balance to achieve. For example, situations can arise where libraries will remains "loyal" to a small portions of the community because this is the group that has always supported the library. This is costly to the library in the sense that they have risked the future of the library. It's good to reward the loyal diehards who always walk into the library. However, if the diehards are demanding that nothing changes, then communicating to entire community is a worthless task and the image of the library as being able to serve only a select few is ingrained in the community. The image of the public library should be that it is there to serve the community. All can agree that the best image of the library is that it is equipped to take on the challenges of the future and use public monies well. The difficulty of small libraries is that with limited funds sometimes it is hard to keep up with the changes. Larger libraries can project that image better. Even if that is the case, a positive image can make the challenges seem invisible. If a library director can create marketing and communications plans that focuses personal and positive messages. It is also important to remember to be persistent. This is another way of saying be polite when nagging. Consider the local dentists who sends out reminders every six months that it's time for a teeth cleaning. The persistence in getting the patient in doesn't stop there. It is often followed up with a friendly phone call to remind the patient of the need to get their teeth cleaned and how convenient is it that the receptionist can schedule that appointment right now? Libraries don't need to schedule appointments but they do need to get their patrons in the door. An email blast may not be enough to get patrons' attention. It may have to be a combination of methods to motivate them to come to the library. Whatever combination works, it is the libraries' best interest to do use it again and again. Marketing and communications is not a one size fits all deal. Every library will find a way to reach out in their own way. The key to being successful at this is to always being communicating with your community. Any opportunity to communicate to the public about what the library does and what it can do should not be wasted or overlook. Finally, don't be afraid to fail. Sometimes, failure is the best teacher.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Who Needs A MSLS anyway? Professional Librarians, That's Who

Michael Kelley, editor of Library Journal posed a very interesting question in his editorial (published May 1, 2013) about the education of a librarian. In particular, is a Master's Degree really necessary for the profession. Should we do away with the requirements? Is it time we had the discussion about why the degree is no longer needed. Gee, Mr. Kelley from your own arguments in the editorial it would seem apparent why the degree is needed The fact that your own experience in acquiring the degree was less then stellar or helpful does not negate the need for the Master's Degree. Quite the opposite, it may be that some MSLS programs are not quite as good as others. Perhaps what is needed is a review over which schools should get a more rigorous review in their accreditation process. For the sake of being open minded, let's review the reason's why Mr. Kelley feels the degree has out lived it's purpose. The profession would be better served if there were an apprenticeship process instead of going to a university to receive the degree. Well, sure on the job training is always a good thing but would people be comfortable going to a doctor whose background in surgery was only based on an apprenticeship? Would they wonder if the doctor he apprenticed with was one of the best or a quack? Before arguing that librarians are not doctors and this isn't a fair example. Consider this: as a society we are constantly looking for checks and balances to validate a person's expertise. If there is a job that does not require an specific degree, the assumption is that anyone can fill that job. The example of a doctor not obtaining a medical degree is a valid one. Not everyone can be a doctor. Which is why the medical profession requires that one not only complete a medical courses to earn a degree but also complete an internship, which is similar to an apprenticeship. Has Mr. kelley considered that maybe a library program should require an internship program to complete the requirements of librarianship education? For the record, there are accredited Library Science programs that make it a requirement for their students. The editorial blatantly looked past that consideration. Secondly, the excuse that currently, the profession's wages do not match the level of education, is poor. Across the board, many professions are feeling the effects of a lagging economy. Salaries and benefits were not what they once were ten years ago or twenty years for that matter. If that is the case, then perhaps a four year college education is not worth the time or money to invest. Perhaps, technical schools or community colleges would serve the purpose just as well, if not better. As a matter of fact, In a recent survey conducted by Gerogetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly 30% of Americans with associate's degrees now earn more than those with bachelor's degrees. Should the conversation about the value of any advance degree be up for discussion? Mr. Kelley is quite right that many libraries are now hiring non-degreed librarians to run the library as in the rural areas and in bigger cities they are hiring non-degreed personal to cut costs in the budgets. Stating that the profession should not require a MSLS is conceding that it is not necessary to hire a professional librarian. Thus delivering a close to knock out blow of the value of the profession. If the degree were no longer a requirement what would be the consequences on librarians' salaries as a whole? An honest and educated guess would be that salaries would continue to decline. Finally, we are in the most exciting times of our profession. Librarians have opportunities that can extend outside of the boundaries of the traditional library. The digital era has brought about new ways of communicating, sharing and finding information. This isn't your grandmother's library. Far from it. If anything, the MSLS can help new librarians explore all the options of this brave new digital world. Yet, the editor of the trusted journal of the profession muses about how the value of MSLS. Pardon being so blunt, but this is not only damaging to the image of the librarian but also disheartening. If there are many others who believe as Mr. Kelley does, then there is little hope for the profession to survive. It will be a slow slide into mediocrity. Which eventually leads to the demise of the profession. That would be a very sad thing to have happen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

That Moment When A Children's Librarian Knows...

The past couple of weeks have been filled with nostalgia. That happens when a librarian looks around and witness incredible changes in our library and technology. It is absolutely stunning at times to remember where we have been and where we are going. The technology that we have today will seem like child's play in fire years or so. Among all the changes some things will never change. The power of a story. The absolute pure joy and thrill to share that story with young ones. Story time programs are the first library doors that are opened to children. It's an amazing task for a good librarian to introduce children to the library world and help them grow to love everything about the library. There are moments in a story time when the children's librarians know that the half hour will be a good one or a bad one. The veterans in the field know the tell tale signs of a child who does not want anything to do with story time, the other children or the library. They cling to mom or dad. They cry. They will do anything possible to not participate. Those times can be difficult. Sometimes, the only option it seems is to have the child leave. That's the very last resort. The best thing to do is to cut the story time short a bit and allow the children time to explore the library with their parents. They may end up finding a favorite corner to hare books together. However, when the magical moment happens, and all eyes are glued to the book that is being shared, there is no amount of technology that can take the place of the one on one experience. From the moment the story begins to the very last page, its as if everything has stopped. the world outside the children's room keeps bustling about. The children and the librarian on the other hand have "virtually" left the building. Entering another world where words sweep them in and pictures absorbs the group into their world. It seems as if nothing can penetrate this shard world. Not even a video game, which seems almost impossible these days. Every children's librarian seeks and craves for this moment. It is an absolute joy. It's one the one joy that should never be taken out of the library. Not even for budget cuts. Why share this idea of the perfect moment in story time? Perhaps because this world is so filled with noise, distractions and static that it is good to reflect on what the library does best for the young ones. A quiet place to escape and visit another world with friends. The imagination is so much better than video games. Perhaps we should as library professionals continue to reinforce that in our every day encounters with patrons of all ages.