Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MakerSpace in the Library

In Chicago there is a library that is experimenting with the idea of a "makerspace".  What exactly is this?  It is a space within the library that is specifically for library patrons to come in and "make" or create something.  Now this idea is intriguing because it's almost as if they took  the concept of story time crafts for children  and put it on steroids.   This space is multigenerational and is breaking the rules of what libraries are suppose to do.  Which is exactly what is needed right now.  New ideas that promote libraries in a positive new light.

A library such as the one is Chicago, is just the beginning of what the future can hold for libraries.  For the past decade, librarians have been the leaders in helping their community thrive in the midst of change.   In the days of Andrew Carnegie, the purpose of the public library was to be the center of learning and growth. That ideal has survived the test of time.  This is evident in how the libbers become the place to go to when the world became increasingly digital.   If this decade has taught our society anything it is this:  learning is a life long process of discover and each library user learns in their own unique way.  This creates the need for new, bolder ideas such as the library in Chicago demonstrates.

The possibilities are endless to what libraries and their communities can do together.  At the risk of being accused of hanging on to the good "vibes" of National Library Week,  it can not be denied that communities are starting to rediscover their libraries.  The digital age may have changed the landscape of the library but it has not changed the heart.   Libraries can serve their communities in traditional or unique ways.   It's all possible when libraries and their communities work together.   It is truly another reason to love your library.

Monday, April 13, 2015

National Library Week 2015: Libraries Unlimited Possibility!

"To Infinity ... and Beyond!" What's not to love about Buzz Lightyear's catch phrase?  It is full of promise of adventure, discovery and excitement.   This week's celebration of  National Library Week,   draws upon that same enthusiasm with the theme Unlimited Possibilities.   It has been said before, the library of today is not your grandmother's library.  On second thought, maybe that should be adjusted just a bit.  The library of today is your grandmother's library but with a few more tools that  add  a lot more umph to experience of adventure, discovery and excitement.  Add to that, today's librarian is trained to help patrons explore the unlimited possibilities.

Is it silly to say that there is adventure, discovery and excitement in the library?  A bit corny?  Not at all!  As a matter of fact,   the internet has done more to help libraries and librarians in the past twenty years then most people realize.  Before the internet,  patrons came to the library feeling a bit overwhelmed in their search.  The rows of indexes, card catalogs and more indexes seemed a bit daunting.  The best course of action:  get the librarian.  Then the Internet came along to change the library landscape drastically.   Contrary to popular belief, the library didn't fold and disappear.  It thrived.     One of the good things that the Internet has done for searching information is that it gives the searcher the encouragement to seek information on their own. In the minds of library patrons', there's nothing difficult about research.  As long as there is a keyboard, screen and wifi, everything works out fine.  Well, most of the times.    There are still times when the independent searcher is in need of a little assistance.  For the record, librarians love the independent learner,  but even Christopher Columbus, one of the best explorers, never left  home without a map or a guide.  There comes a time when human interaction is needed in the search.  That is where the unlimited possibilities lies.

Libraries have adapted to the changes in information gathering not only because it was important for survival of libraries  but it is important for the survival of the community in which they serve.  Without libraries the possibilities of growth,  are seriously compromised.   Where do children go to do homework?   Where do the unemployed go to find resources to help them find new jobs?   Where does anyone go for leisure reading ?  The library offers this and so much more that to list all the possibilities it would take  more time and space then this blog can provide.  A library is only a building.   A librarian is the "keeper" of the  information.

In the age of countless technology changes and adaptations it is no wonder that patrons expect unlimited possibilities.   Everything seems to be at our fingertips.  Twenty years ago in the library,  it would have been inconceivable that  a cell phone would become an information tool.  Twenty years from now, it's anyone's guess as to how technology will change the way information is retrieved.  However,  it is safe to say that when the technology kicks it up a notch, librarians will be there to help the community use the technology to it's fullest potential.  Quite honestly,  what has been accomplished through the internet in the past twenty years is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much more and librarians are prepared now more than ever to help patrons realize the unlimited possibilities at the library.   In the spirit of Buzz Lightyear... "The the Library .... and beyond!"  (Okay, that was corny but it's the excitement of National Library Week that sparked it!")

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Helping Autistic Children Fit In During Story Time

Every child wants to fit in.  That was a statement that was recently posted on a Facebook page for children who were bullied.  The message was clear, simple and too the point.  It also speaks to the purpose of this post for today.    Story time in libraries are a perfect way to begin socializing young children   Every Tuesday morning,  a child goes to see his or her friends at the library to hear wonderful stories, sing cute songs, maybe a finger play or two and a craft to complete to complete the hour.  This is routine and believe it or not all children love routine.  It's a sense of security and safety.  This is what Autistic children crave too.  They are no different.   Including the Autistic child to a Story time program may mean  adding a few things to help the program go smoother for everyone but it doesn't mean that it's impossible. 

There are three things that a good children's librarian should never go without when planning a story time to include Autistic children.  One, a checklist of what will happen during the program.  This can either be printed or on a board where children can see it.  What can this checklist do?  It helps the child know that things are moving as planned and it helps keep track of time.   This not only helps the child but the librarian as well.  It's a great reminder that activities should not last longer than three minutes.  (Unless of course, the children are having so much fun that another round of "If you're happy and you know it" is needed before the children are ready to move on.)  

The second thing to never go without is a sensory bowl.  Set up this bowl in a place that is away from the librarian but in easy view of the children.  In the bowl place things like  a toy,  stress reliever balls,  or toy cars.  During the program if a child feels that he or she needs to move during the story, allow them to go up to a bowl  to pick out an object such as a stress ball that they can take back to their seats.  This allows them to fidget a little but still be able to pay attention to the story.  It also calms them so that they are able to still be part of the program.  

Third and most important of all.  A  safe place to go to when things get a little too much to handle for them.  It doesn't happen often but when a child has a meltdown there needs to be a place with the child and caregiver can go to ease the tensions and "refocus" the child's attention on the program.  This simply means setting up an area  a little away from the rest of the children that gives privacy, protection and play for the autistic child.  One of the best ways of doing this is by draping a blanket over two chairs, as if to make a quick fort, and place small toy or crayons and coloring books that can help the child calm down.  When the child is ready to rejoin the group,  he or she can without disturbing the rest of the children's attention. 

Every child really does fit into story time at the library.  The children librarian just has to do a little extra planning to make it happen.  This by the way, can be done at schools or home too.  Librarians aren't the only ones who can read to a child.  Everyone should take advantage of this opportunity.  Life is too short not to share a book.  That sounds like another  Facebook message to share! In the meantime to find out more about Autism, go to