Avoiding the Pitfalls of Holiday Displays

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

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Which holidays to observe and/or celebrate at your library is a local decision, sometimes to the chagrin and confusion of staff and patrons alike. Libraries are, at their core, inclusive: accepting and sensitive to all community members and their respective races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. But it’s hard to please everyone.

When to be open and when to be closed?

Federal holidays are generally a safe bet in that closing the library is acceptable—but that doesn’t mean that you or your patrons have to like it or understand it. Controversy surrounds what is/isn’t or should/shouldn’t be a “holiday,” and observance can differ across the country. No matter what you do, you will probably always hear someone say “I’m surprised you’re open” or “I couldn’t believe you were closed.”

shutterstock_543130312Keep in mind that your library holiday schedule is negotiable. State library standards may limit how many days you are closed per year, but do not specify which ones. Perhaps your board would consider letting you close for a different purpose or trade one holiday closure for another.

Scheduling professional and personal development opportunities can also be a struggle for libraries. Rather than honoring Presidents Day and Columbus Day as holidays, perhaps you could close for staff training or community service? In other words, if you’re going to close for Columbus Day, devote it to staff development and make that known. It’s not because you care more about Cristoforo Colombo than indigenous peoples (as some might infer).

Some argue that purely religious holidays shouldn’t be observed at all by public institutions. This article from The New York Times provides historical insight into what constitutes federal holidays and also helps those who struggle with explaining why libraries observe some, but not others.

Opening the day after Thanksgiving was the bane of my existence as a library manager, as many staff like to travel then. And because we were always open the weekend after Thanksgiving, I argued that staff deserved two days off for Thanksgiving.

Conversely, while many municipalities close for Good Friday, I considered it superfluous for my library to be closed that day. Our community had a significant Jewish population; therefore the library was closed both Saturday and Sunday for Easter and Passover. Being closed on Good Friday would have meant a three-day shut down—something many libraries are loath to do. After surveying my staff, I proposed to our library board that we trade Good Friday off for Black Friday off.

I stressed that this wasn’t sanctioning one holiday over another, rather providing the opportunity for staff to spend extra time with their families. Patrons and boards who love their libraries generally love their library staff and are happy to see them rewarded in this way. And it worked! The board approved this change when they voted on the upcoming year’s calendar.

What about holiday programming?shutterstock_339813524

Think about whether your decorations, displays, story times, and other programming should be holiday-focused. I’ve found that a lack of holiday-themed programming goes largely unnoticed, whereas you will definitely hear about it when patrons feel something is exclusionary or inappropriate. One person’s time-honored tradition is another person’s pagan ritual. Should libraries have Halloween parties and put up Christmas trees? Given that there are so many alternatives to choose from, is it worth the risk? “Reframing” seasonal themes is often all it takes to make your programs and décor more inclusive. See these opinion pieces from School Library Journal and American Libraries for more.

Ditch Holiday Programming – SLJ

Thinking critically about holiday programing – American Libraries

Holiday Theme Alternatives

What I’m suggesting is libraries need to “spin” things appropriately in order to be respectful of everyone.

shutterstock_396139090For children’s programs and story times, replace holidays with secular, seasonal themes. Instead of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, think autumn (falling leaves and harvest), winter (cold, snow, and hibernation), and spring (growth and renewal.) If you can, create a holiday book section and leave it up to children and their caregivers to choose what they want to read and learn about, whenever they want.

We can, and want to, cover many cultural and historic topics for both children and adults, but reframing is crucial. Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is not Mexican Halloween. Present it as a cultural program, part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

By adhering to heritage and history months, you have greater freedom to present informational and recreational programming that is of a religious/cultural nature. Just make sure you call in an expert to cover the material. See the Library of Congress guide to Commemorative Observances. For program planning in general, it’s also important to consult a comprehensive calendar to choose dates/times for events so that you don’t exclude members of your community based on their culture, religion, or ethnicity.

Ultimately, you need to do what’s in the best interest of your community.

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries in roles ranging from children’s and older adult services, outreach, administration, and technical services. Click here for more.

September is Literacy Month

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By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

As librarians, literacy is something close to our hearts. We are readers, searchers, and devourers of facts. As information becomes easier to access but more complicated to manage, there are now many different kinds of literacy we can help our patrons navigate.

Early Literacy is a topic we know a lot about. Library storytimes, summer reading programs, and board book collections for babies all support early literacy. As a nation, Early Literacy with Wordswe have recognized the importance of getting children ready to read and love books by 3rd grade. Some libraries deliver books to new mothers in hospital. Most libraries develop programming to model early literacy support skills to parents, using the Every Child Ready to Read practices of Read, Write, Talk, Sing, and Play. Many librarians travel to rural areas on bookmobiles, read to children in community centers and laundromats, and even bring library card sign-ups to the entire school district. (Remember: September is Library Card Sign-Up Month too, hooray!)

This month, encourage parents to check out extra books and take extra time to read with their children. Modeling reading and having conversations about what we’ve read together is the very best way to build a foundation for lifelong literacy.

shutterstock_1470820073While librarians spend a lot time and resources developing programs for children, literacy is also about struggling adult readers whom we help at the reference desk with reading maps and forms, and filling out resumes and government applications. One in five adult Americans have low literacy skills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This includes adults who are unable to compare and contrast information, paraphrase, or make low-level inferences from reading, in addition to those who are completely or functionally illiterate. Low literacy affects the ability to read medical instructions and prescriptions, help children with homework, evaluate news sources, and especially navigate the internet. Does your library have a collection for low-level adult readers?

Did you know that since 1967, UNESCO has honored September 8 as International Literacy Day? The goal is to remind world leaders and influencers that literacy is an integral element in eradicating injustice and poverty.

While learning the basics of reading is the foundation of literacy, librarians and the community have increasingly been talking about other kinds of literacy, as well.

shutterstock_730277116Food Literacy is all about understanding the impact of your food choices on your health, your environment, and the economy. With wider conversations about organics, GMOs, and sustainable farming practices, people are becoming more engaged with learning about where their food comes from. It was all over the news last month that United Nations scientists recommend switching to a plant-based diet to fight climate change, but how can we do that? Fad diets and news about the “microbiome” spur research to compare and contrast different ways of eating. Families getting by on small budgets and government assistance need help finding the best ways to eat healthfully on a budget. All of these issues, plus the bare basics of how to cook, are parts of food literacy that our library collections and programs can address. (September is Food Literacy Month, too!)

The Free Library of Philadelphia supports an amazing Culinary Literacy Center, offering collections and classes to share food literacy with its patrons, young and old. Many public libraries are offering programs on square-foot gardening, cooking with the Instapot, international foods, and even cookbook reading groups. Cooking and eating crosses divides and has been a way to bring diverse communities together, even in the library. For more information about food literacy, and to access a Food Literacy Month toolkit, check out the Food Literacy Center, supported by UC Davis, California.

shutterstock_783381802Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Health literacy is much more difficult to attain, including complex words and concepts, in addition to numerical data and manipulation. Only 12% of American adults have proficient health literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While it is mainly up to health professionals and organizations to utilize plain language in their materials and translations, libraries can help in some ways. In addition to promoting books and pamphlets about health topics, librarians can keep web bookmarks handy and create links on the library website. Many public libraries offer health programs and speakers. (October is Health Literacy Month.)

The Public Library Association has launched an initiative with the website “Healthy Community Tools for Public Libraries,” with a lot of helpful information for libraries to implement. There is also free, archived access to the recent excellent webinar, “Health Literacy Begins at Your Library,” from Web Junction, which showcases experiences from Oklahoma libraries.

What other literacy competencies are you talking about and implementing in your library collections and programs? Digital literacy? Media literacy? Tell us about it!

 

Sources:

When a Laundromat Becomes a Library, PBS News Hour, April 2, 2019.

Every Child Ready to Read, a joint project by the Public Library Association and the Association of Library Service to Children

National Assessment of Adult Literacy

UNESCO International Literacy Day

Plant-Based Diet Can Fight Climate Change – UN,” BBC News, August 8, 2019.

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

Podcasts About Books for Kids and Teens

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

kidlitwomen Credit should be Illustration by Grace Lin Books Between hey-ya-podcast


Pod·cast (ˈpädˌkast)

Noun: A digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Verb: To make (a digital audio file) available as a podcast.


I am an avid podcast listener, yet until last year, when I explored the topic of library podcasts for this blog, I had not thought to seek out podcasts about literature or the business of librarianship. That previous post has been popular with our readers, so maybe you had not taken much time to seek out librarian shows, either. Tell me, have these podcasts inspired you? Have you found new library podcasts you love?

shutterstock_1360986551Since I spend my time reading and working with books for kids and teens, this year I have been listening to podcasts that feature topics, trends, and authors in young people’s literature. I don’t think I’m alone. There are some great ones out there for librarians, families, authors, and readers who appreciate the art and craft of writing for young people. At the ALA Annual Conference this past June, in Washington, D.C., the Pop-Top Stage in the exhibit hall featured live recordings of two different podcasts, both featuring BIG NAME authors for kids.

Dewey Decibel PodcastThe first live podcast recording I attended was for a Dewey Decibel podcast from the ALA’s American Libraries magazine. The host, Phil Morehart, Senior Editor at American Libraries, led a panel discussion about the history, influence, and resonance of the Coretta Scott King book awards, as this award celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The panel featured past King winners and prominent African American authors and illustrators Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Christopher Myers, and Ekua Holmes.

While the Dewey Decibel podcast normally features topics from across the world of libraries, it was relevant to me to sit in on a discussion on the influence of children’s literature in the lives of young people, the importance for children to see themselves in books and pictures, and to experience the warmth and sense of family a community of book makers have when they sit down together. It was a wonderful experience that I think translates across the airwaves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Children's Book PodcastThe second podcast recorded at ALA Annual was The Children’s Book Podcast, hosted by Matthew C. Winner, a school librarian in Maryland. He was joined by a panel of popular children’s book authors: Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, and Cece Bell. These authors discussed humor in their books, relating to a child audience, and how their books provide a sense of “home” to young readers. The Children’s Book Podcast regularly hosts children’s book authors reading from and talking about their work. Host Winner is a fan of graphic novels and regularly includes graphic novel creators discussing their work, along with authors and illustrators of traditional formats.

Kidlit These Days PodcastMatthew Winner, host of The Children’s Book Podcast, is also the co-host of a new podcast, along with author Karina Yan Glaser (“The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street,” also a contributing editor to Book Riot), called Kidlit These Days, from Book Riot. Their podcast focuses on current topics in publishing, the news, and how authors and librarians can help children respond to them through literature. Each podcast pairs books with the show’s respective topic. The first episode featured the response from Latinx authors to teachers in Idaho who dressed up as the Border Wall for Halloween. Other episodes have included a children’s author who talks with kids about her hijab, problems around soft censorship, and how to use historic artifacts with kids. One thing I like about this podcast is that it highlights older books that work well in discussion with children and families, as well as new books. This aspect would also help librarians with lists and displays. The co-host format with one of my favorite authors is especially engaging.

Other terrific podcasts I have been listening to include:

kidlit women* podcast — hosted by acclaimed author/illustrator Grace Lin, who pulls together interviews with female children’s book authors talking about their careers and experiences

Read-Aloud Revival Podcast — celebrates the connections reading together can build in families; features topical book lists and is popular with homeschooling families

Dream Gardens — features authors talking about the books they love and loved as kids

Picturebooking — showcases the authors and illustrators of current picture books

The Yarn — delves deep into the process of book creation with bloggers Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp

Books Between — features book reviews and author interviews with a focus on the 8-12 age group, or “middle grade” readers

Hey, YA — Young Adult podcast from Book Riot featuring banter and insider buzz, as well as book reviews and lists of forthcoming Young Adult books

If you would like to sample any of the podcasts I have featured, they should be available to stream or download through the search feature in your favorite podcasting app (Stitcher, Downcast, Overcast, etc.), or iTunes. You can also click through the links here and listen online.

What youth literature podcasts or library podcasts do you enjoy? Are there others I should check out?

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

How to Get Rid of Unwanted Books (Quietly, So as Not to Incite a Riot)

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Stacks of Old Books_437994868When talking about their chosen profession to a general audience, librarians inevitably hear “You must really love books!” And while this is probably true of many of us, I have found that it’s the non-librarians who seem more attached to books, often maniacally so, especially when doing their own weeding projects or witnessing ours. Book sale donations, while wonderful for fundraising, can be the bane of our existence when they contain such gems as midcentury “Encyclopedia Britannica” sets, not to mention whatever wildlife took up occupancy in the boxes while they were in the attic or garage. And if you try to deny such materials with your donation policy, you are met with indignation about how expensive the set was when new and that “there’s still a lot of good information in there!”

Similarly, it can be hard for librarians to make decisions about old, expensive, previously revered materials. The biggest thing standing in your way of having a great collection is that your shelves are clogged with obsolete items. They haven’t circulated or been used in eons and you know they should go, but what to do with the materials that have been weeded?

Whether the books are donations or discards, make sure you exhaust organizations such as the American Rescue Workers, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Military Order of the Purple Heart, etc. Contact your local churches to see if they have any missionary projects in impoverished areas around the world. Private primary and secondary schools are also an option for unwanted but viable titles. Perhaps you can try selling items through Better World Books, Amazon, eBay, etc.?

Do be aware that charitable and for-profit organizations can be selective about what they will accept. Add to that the guilt you may feel about donating/selling items that are horribly dated or otherwise blatantly undesirable.

If you dumpster them, dumpster divers and/or tattletales will invariably report about the perfectly good books the library is throwing away, which may have been funded by taxpayer dollars. Boxing up books and putting them at the curb can also prove too scintillating. In my experience, boxes were inevitably torn open after library hours and rummaged through. I tried duct-taping the boxes shut and then putting the boxes in garbage bags to disguise them as trash, but not even those measures could deter the rabid bibliophiles (perhaps bibliohoarders or bibliopolice would be a more apt term).

This kind of activity can spur the librarian stealth ops. Place the boxes out at the curb under cover of darkness, or arrive at work pre-dawn and put them out just before trash pickup. It’s amazing we have to go to such lengths. Believe it or not, I once had a colleague who took the library discards home and burned them in her outdoor furnace in an attempt to avoid opprobrium. And librarians are the ones who usually oppose book burning!

Large sets are especially onerous. I once gave away a vintage “Oxford English Dictionary” set to a local shabby chic home designer and she turned it into a side table for a client (I’m still kicking myself for not getting a photo of that!). Municipalities will often only accept paperback books for recycling. So I also enlisted the help of the library maintenance man to make a complete Contemporary Authors set “go away” by cutting the hardcovers off with his table saw and recycling the pages.

But enough is enough! We never agreed to warehouse items that no one wants. And it’s exhausting trying to hide the dirty little secret that libraries regularly deaccession and often throw away books. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I absolutely love weeding. However, I absolutely hate clogging landfills with stuff that is otherwise reusable or recyclable.

Family Donating_1332264656All laughter aside, we must strike a delicate balance. We want to welcome well-meaning individuals who wish to donate their personal collections for our fundraising efforts. And we also value the members of our community who pay the most attention to us (and what goes into our dumpsters). Our biggest champions can also be our harshest critics. In terms of selling library discards in book sales, you can also face push-back, especially when expensive items are selling for as little as 25 cents.

We take our role of information steward seriously. Transparency is key. Be forthcoming about what you are doing and why. Keeping up with your weeding projects will also prevent the massive deaccessioning jobs that arouse suspicion. I found it best to not “nickel and dime” the process and simply make discarded books free for the taking. And if anyone questioned it, I simply said, “Your tax dollars paid for these, now we’re giving them back to you.” In one of my last jobs, we would take cart after cart of materials that had been weeded, roll them into our book sale area with a “FREE” sign, and most of them would disappear within a few days.

We’d love to hear any funny (or not so funny) stories you’d like to share about navigating the world of unwanted books!

 

Further reading:

ALA’s LibGuide on Discards

“Weeding without Worry” from American Libraries

Check out Awful Library Books (Tagline: “Hoarding is not collection development”) for lots of laughs, plus a section on their website about how to “Discard Responsibly.”

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Attending to the Forgotten: Welcoming Homeless Children into the Fold

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Homeless boy_383085028Public libraries are very familiar with our country’s homeless population. From small libraries with a handful of regulars, to large libraries with a crowd assembling outside at opening time, most of us service at least some homeless patrons. The current economy and nationwide housing crisis have simply made it harder for families to find places they can afford to live. As a result, the difficult reality facing homeless adult patrons has become a regular part of public library discourse. The movie “The Public,” by Emilio Estevez, which was released last month (after being screened for librarians at last year’s ALA Annual Conference and this year’s Midwinter), has helped to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness in connection with libraries.

But homelessness often hits kids even harder than adults. Over the last decade, the number of homeless children and teens has grown exponentially. One-third of the homeless population is now comprised of children, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This population is less visible in the library, since kids are often in school during the day. But they are an important group of people, nonetheless, that are using and benefiting from public library services.

Removing barriers for families that deter them from using the public library is important as we librarians become some of the best partners to help the children of homelessness succeed. Can your library waive the physical address requirement for homeless patrons seeking to acquire a library card? Does your library offer fine forgiveness? Many public libraries are moving to remove fines altogether, whether from children’s materials and cards, or from all materials and cards. When children are unable to control their own transportation to and from the library, fines on materials create a huge barrier to checking out homework materials or books for escapist pleasure reading.

While public schools provide meals and a safe place for children during the day, the stresses of being homeless and the inherent lack of stability impact their academic achievement. Homeless children have higher rates of absenteeism and tend to change schools more frequently. Their literacy and graduation rates are lower than those of their peers. The growing digital divide is yet another problem plaguing these children and other low-income students. While internet access is more available via cheaper phones, it’s hard to do homework research on a phone. Libraries provide materials for homework, computer access, and a safe, warm place after school and on weekends. Some libraries partner with their local school district to provide free lunches during the summer.

Reading to kids_201736358For many years, librarians have partnered with day shelters to provide outreach services and materials for homeless families. Librarians from Queens, New York, to Cleveland and Seattle, share storytimes with kids in shelters. When I was a children’s librarian in Denver, Colorado, I was one of them. I held a weekly storytime for the kids at a nearby women’s and children’s shelter during computer training for mothers. The preschoolers in this group were eager to hear stories, sing songs, and particularly loved to interact with puppets and pop-up books. It was not just a time for the children to learn those storytime skills of active listening and learning vocabulary, but also a time when a grown-up would talk with them and listen to them. As we librarians became more nimble with Every Child Ready to Read practices, we also began to include the mothers, hoping to pass on some of those skills to help parents be a child’s first teacher. Parents under the stress of homelessness are likely not thinking about speaking 30,000 words to their child each day. Anything librarians can do to model the behaviors of reading signs, singing together, and telling stories about what you’re doing will help demonstrate that the foundations of reading readiness are easy to incorporate.

Does your library offer unique services and programs open to, or particularly for, homeless youth and their families? A recent article from School Library Journal, “Almost Home: How Public Libraries Serve Homeless Teenagers,” outlined many efforts aimed to get homeless teens into the library, engage them with programs, and pair them with services. If your area offers services particularly tailored for teens, consider forming a partnership with them. Offering donuts and board games during a time that a social worker can come and help teens is a great way to open the door.

We spend a great deal of energy encouraging people to come in when their children are tots. We are always wondering how to keep the kids coming in to the library until they become adult library advocates. Why not apply that same principle to children who happen not to have a home? Homeless patrons simply represent another subset of our community, albeit one with a particular set of needs and challenges. Providing whatever aid we can and a welcoming place during hard times is a wonderful way to grow lifelong library lovers. Isn’t this one of our primary goals as librarians?

Other resources:

Library Service to Homeless Youth and Families,” Vikki C. Terrile, IFLA

Homelessness: A State of Emergency,” The Seattle Public Library

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

You Can Run a Successful Will Eisner Week

By Kat Kan, MLS

Will EisnerMost people who work with comics in school, public, or academic libraries should have at least heard the name Will Eisner. He wrote and drew comics from the 1930s until his death in early January of 2005. He created the character called The Spirit, wrote military how-to manuals in comic book format during WWII, and continued that work in PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly until 1971. He also wrote and illustrated graphic novels, starting with “A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories” in 1978.

In testament to his standing in the industry, Eisner is commemorated in a number of ways. The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, among the major comics industry awards in the U.S., have been given out since 1988 as part of San Diego Comic-Con International. After his death, Eisner’s niece and nephew, Nancy and Carl Gropper, started the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation. The Foundation has funded library grants in cooperation with the American Library Association, and in 2009 began to commemorate Eisner’s birthday with Will Eisner Week — an annual celebration promoting comics, graphic novel literacy, free speech, and the legacy of Will Eisner. The celebration runs from March 1–7 every year (Eisner’s birthday is March 6). By 2017, which would have been Eisner’s 100th birthday, various agencies produced more than 100 events around the U.S. and in other countries.

For several years now, I have run a small program for Will Eisner Week at my local public library, Bay County Public Library (In fact, my 2016 program has been mentioned in the Will Eisner Week Playbook since 2017). In the past, the library had me do a program for kids and teens on a weekday afternoon, where I featured lots of age-appropriate comics for attendees to look at and gave away some free comics. Will Eisner Week Program 2019 booksThis year, we scheduled an early evening program for all ages, and I brought a sampling of recently published graphic novels and comics for all ages, from TOON Books for very early readers up to graphic novels for adult readers, including Eisner’s last book, “The Plot,” a nonfiction account of the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” I put together a one-page handout with a short biography of Eisner, and I downloaded a great comic about Eisner from Pop Culture Classroom, written by Jill Gerber, illustrated by Matt Strackbein, and edited by Dr. Katie Monnin (it’s a free download). The library made several copies of each handout available for those who attended. I gave a short talk about Eisner and his accomplishments, the Eisner Awards, and how librarians became closely connected to them by serving as judges on the Eisner juries.

We had a small audience of several families and one retired college professor who taught comics at his former institution up north (he’s what we call a snowbird: a winter resident in Florida). I brought a selection of free comics for people to take with them and encouraged everyone to come back for Free Comic Book Day in May. Considering that Panama City had suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Michael just five months before our program, I think it was a great success.

Programs around the country range from comics celebrity-studded panel discussions, film festivals, and comics conventions to small-town library programs, which cover just about anything related to Eisner himself or any aspect of comics and comics fandom. The Foundation provides access to a Playbook with all kinds of ideas for programming, a short biography of Eisner, and a list of past programs in many different libraries domestically and internationally. They also produce a poster and flyer each year featuring art from Eisner that any organization can customize with their program information. All of this is available at www.willeisner.com. This is a great resource for libraries to draw upon when developing their own programs and celebrations.

"Celebrate Will EIsner Week" image

Anyone can sign up to hold a program. Check the official web site of Will Eisner Studios, Inc. later on this year (signups usually open around November) to sign up for 2020. If you do, you can email details about your program to be included in their list for 2020, and you can request posters to put up in your library. You can do anything from holding a mini-comic convention, to a comics how-to program, to something like my program, which was more of what I call a “comics petting zoo” with books people for people to look at. Other libraries have done displays of Eisner’s works.  If you have a local comics retailer who is willing to support libraries, you could partner with the retailer for a program. If you know any comics creators local to your area, you might want to ask them to do a comics workshop; that’s what I’d like to do next year.

Just take it from me — conducting a Will Eisner Week program is both fun and easy!

Kat_Kan_Better_Pic

Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

Large Print Books Are Crucial for Striving Readers

By Ann Wilson, MLS, MA

As educators and librarians struggle to combat the dire reality of illiteracy and its impact on low graduation rates, meager job prospects, low income, and even crime, many remedies have been tried, with little success. Thankfully, one rather old-fashioned tool is gaining traction and showing promising results: using large print books with young, striving readers.

Large print is defined as text formatted in roughly 16 point type, compared to the usual 11-13 point type found in most hardcover books and on computer screens. A clear, clean font is used, and there is increased space (leading) between the lines. The dark, high-density ink stands out clearly from the high-opacity paper, creating a higher contrast, which is easier to read (see this article about helping reluctant readers for more). These characteristics have long been understood to benefit older folks with visual impairments, and for years, most books published in large print have been geared toward this audience. Unfortunately, children and teens with visual impairments have been largely ignored by the publishing industry.

Boy tired from reading _1100944319

Not only does a large print format assist those with visual impairments, but large print helps reduce eye strain for everyone, a factor which has become even more important as our population — especially teens — is spending more time on small-screen digital media.

In their quest to make reading an enjoyable experience for students, educators have noticed that too much text, information density, and visual clutter on a page can make reading a daunting task for many students. Large print books have fewer words and more white space, presenting a more inviting visual cue that increases reading performance and builds confidence. Students young and old, who are learning English as a second language, also seem to respond well to large print.

While research is important and can help us understand what’s going on, it’s also important to hear from teachers and librarians on the front lines. In a recent Booklist webinar titled “Large Print, Big Advantages: Strategies for Increasing Youth Literacy,” Camille Freund, ENL teacher at Urban Assembly Media Studies HS in New York, explained how incorporating large print books into her classroom collection has improved student literacy. Freund says that these books have motivated striving readers to keep trying, and that these students quickly make progress with reading and feel successful. In fact, Freund says, students often seek large print titles, refusing to read anything else.

Also during the webinar, Don Giacomini and Shelly Schwerzler from Gwinnett County Public Library System (GA) addressed the “why” and “how” of their large print title program, geared to middle grade students and teens. They explained that the large print titles are interfiled throughout their collections, allowing patrons to browse these books alongside books with normal-sized print. The library staff has worked closely with reading specialists and other education professionals in schools near each branch library to help promote the large print collection. Circulation statistics show that this collection is very heavily used.

Girls reading_470554472According to the presenters, adults’ concerns that the stigma of reading large print books will deter striving readers are almost entirely unfounded, especially for younger teens. If allowed to choose any book they wanted, many students automatically gravitate toward “books with big words.” When teachers and librarians extolled the virtues of “good books” while passing around large print versions, many kids responded favorably. Some students were quite receptive to large print titles, stating that their eyes were tired.

With a wide range of titles to choose from, supported by research and endorsed by the kids who read them, large print books are finding new uses and enthusiastic acceptance in today’s libraries. They’re not just for the visually impaired anymore. Why not consider expanding your selection of large print titles to help reluctant readers?

 

AnnWilson

Ann

Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.

Growing Gardens, Growing Minds

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS 

Building on the rise of STEAM education and farm to table initiatives, library gardens and gardening programs provide a wealth of learning (and partnership) opportunities. Our interior spaces are often stretched to the limit. Utilizing outdoor spaces for programming is a great way to illustrate how the library’s mission transcends its physical walls.

In my time as a branch manager, a library garden was the solution to an outdated, unattractive area of the library landscape. Through volunteer help, we cleared the overgrown shrubs and built raised beds. My children’s librarian and I had great success in creating a series of formal and informal programs specifically geared toward children and their caregivers.

For new construction and renovations, some libraries forgo formal landscaping to include a library garden. Is there an outdoor spot you can convert to this use — a courtyard, patch of lawn, even a parking stall?

Kick it off with seed planting for hardy vegetables in the early spring: carrots, radishes, onions, chard, and kale. Pushing seeds into the soil is a great sensory exercise for toddlers and preschoolers, as is seeing colorful plants and smelling aromatic herbs. Follow up with summer plantings for such things as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or whatever your space and climate dictate.

Kids and Garden_607542530Involve children in as many steps as possible, preparing the soil, planting seeds and seedlings, watering, harvesting, and even clearing out and winterizing after the growing season. There can be teachable moments all along the way about plant diseases, insects, and animals.

Just make sure you and your attendees aren’t afraid to get dirty! And put all thoughts of tidiness out of your mind. Your garden will not have even rows or correct plant spacing. I actually recommend overcrowding since there will invariably be plant casualties as the children work on their fine motor skills in gently planting and plucking.

At a minimum, your young attendees are learning how to listen, follow instructions, and take turns. But they are also learning where food comes from and that vegetables don’t need to look perfect in order to be perfectly edible. Whether or not you actually encourage eating, allowing your participants to take home the harvest is something you would need to think about in advance.

In addition to formal, planned garden activities such as planting day and harvest day, my children’s librarian incorporated the garden into other programs, making it a key component of school and daycare visits and an ending activity following storytimes.

Container gardens are also a space-saving and user-friendly option, and there are all kinds of fun things to grow. Just Google “trash can potatoes.”

Not into vegetables? How about a butterfly garden? Don’t have your own space? See if there are any opportunities to piggyback on a school or community garden.

The USDA’s Cooperative Extension System can be a great resource to help get you started, with connections to master gardeners and even free supplies, such as composters.

Jovial two volunteers arranging garden

High schoolers and college students often need community service projects, and this could provide you with extra hands. In my case, building on the success of our initial two raised beds, we added two more, plus a hand-built compost bin via an Eagle Scout project. Through one of our local watershed organizations, we installed a rain barrel to use for watering.

Garden centers will often give away expired seeds. Germination rates may be slightly reduced, but the extra seeds are always helpful. Just mix some current-year seeds in with the expired ones as little hands tend to dump rather than scatter. Ask for a discount on plants and garden supplies in exchange for a naming opportunity or sponsorship publicity.

In my experience, a library garden was a fantastic addition, providing learning and exploration for all ages across many disciplines. Adults found inspiration for photography, art, and nature journaling. After our first year, we got many offers of free plants from local garden enthusiasts. Plus most people just can’t resist watching how your garden grows!

Tell us your stories of inventive outdoor programming!

 

Additional resources:

Web Junction: Library Garden Programs

USDA Cooperative Extension Services

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Turn Your Book Club into a Blockbuster

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

book club_482961064There can be a lot of pressure on libraries to host book clubs. But many don’t want the hassle of putting one together or the attendant problems that can arise: drama over what books to read; who will facilitate; what to discuss; plus the stress attendees may feel over not liking the book or knowing how to contribute to the conversation.

Here’s my formula for keeping the anxiety-producing aspects of book clubs to a minimum.

In my book club days, I led a group of about 10-15 people through 11 selections per year. Considering how busy many people are over the holidays, I found it more realistic to have a combined November/December meeting. Book Club was held the same day every month — the third Tuesday, for example — so that the meeting could be easily remembered. Attendees were encouraged to drop in (or out) as their schedule and tastes dictated.

I found it best to choose all of the books a year in advance to help everyone be prepared, including myself. This allowed plenty of time to acquire a copy of the book and read it. Members were encouraged to email me their reading suggestions for the coming year. I distilled those into a list of the most accessible titles within my consortium. I only considered titles with 10 copies or more, as I never wanted anyone to feel they needed to buy the books, though many chose to.

At the last meeting of the year, the group chose the January book and voted on the books for the rest of that year. We aspired to include a nice mix of fiction, nonfiction, new, and classic titles, while covering as many genres as possible: historical fiction, dystopian novels, etc. Reviews, awards, and synopses guided our choices. But it certainly wasn’t easy, as we often had upwards of 40 suggestions.

Once we settled on the books, I arranged the sequence with many things in mind: overall demand for a particular title (to make sure we weren’t reading any hard-to-obtain titles at the height of their popularity), length of the book, and more. I found it best to keep things relatively light and frothy in the summer months, with meatier tomes slated for spring and fall.

We met for approximately two hours. Reading Group Guides and the author/publisher websites were favorite sources for questions, but I was blessed with a fantastic group who found plenty to talk about without being prompted. Our icebreaker involved introducing ourselves and stating whether or not we liked the month’s selection. I rarely liked what we read, so that was always a source of levity.

I found the running of a book club to be very rewarding, as it forced me to read outside of my comfort zone. I always got something out of the discussion that I never would have had I merely read the book on my own. And sometimes I even changed my mind about my initial thumbs-down!

Here are some other tips/alternate book club ideas.

Books into Movies

Members read the book, gather to watch the movie adaptation, and compare/contrast the two.

Cookbooks

Pick a cookbook, try recipes, and bring samples to share. If you’re super concerned about food safety, you may want to stick to baked goods.

Genres

Limiting the choices to only mysteries or science fiction can take the stress out of choosing what to read — and the odds of your attendees having a good time are better, since they are reading the types of books they already like. Another idea is to focus on travelogues or biographies, with each attendee choosing whatever title they want and telling the group about what they learned.

Reading Marathons

Not necessarily book clubs, but gatherings for book enthusiasts who love listening to spoken word. Individuals take turns reading from the same book.

Short Reading

Rather than a full-length book, focus on an article, essay, short story, or poem that can be read in less than an hour. Similarly, you could stretch a single book out over several sessions, covering just a chapter at a time. This works well with nonfiction self-help-type topics such as mindfulness.

reading coffee shop_1131016739Silent Book Club

Silent Book Club, also dubbed Introvert Happy Hour, is generally held in bars or restaurants. Individuals briefly share what they are reading, read independently, then perhaps socialize a bit more within a two-hour timeframe. There are opportunities to form new chapters.

This is akin to a book conversation group where attendees all read different books, but gather to talk about them. Many libraries do this either in-house or gather offsite.

Teen (or Children’s) Reads for Adults

An outlet for those who gravitate toward books geared toward younger audiences. This could easily double as an intergenerational program.

Walking Book Clubs

Perfect for people who love to walk and also love to read! Attendees find their own pace and the group naturally breaks into smaller chunks, thereby reducing any stress about group discourse.

Online Book Clubs

These are online groups, such as Goodreads, that follow a blog-like format.

What ideas have worked for you? We would love to hear them!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Natural Disasters—What’s Your Plan?

By Stephanie Campbell, MLISBe Prepared_323156054

Nobody likes thinking about it, but no matter what part of the country you live in, disasters can strike at any moment. While it’s impossible to avoid natural catastrophes completely—even manmade ones—we can be prepared for them with policies, procedures, and supplies.

Disasters take many forms. From fire (wildfires, volcanos, lightning strikes, HVAC and electrical system failures) to water (hurricanes, floods, sprinkler system glitches and roof leaks) to debris (earthquakes, mudslides, fallen trees, broken windows, building collapses), preparedness is the key to dealing with crises as they happen and in their aftermath. Here are some key strategies to help you face whatever fate throws at your library.

Do you have evacuation procedures in place? Do you practice them? Coordinate with your local fire department to schedule fire drills and fire extinguisher training. Schedule annual courses in certification for first responder, CPR, and AED. Check in with the central station of your security system to ensure they have up-to-date contacts and backups for both emergencies and disruptions such as outages.

Fallen Tree_710909917Make sure building systems are inspected and maintained: heating, cooling, and electrical equipment both inside and outside your building. Report overhanging and dead trees or power lines that threaten your building, check chimney flashing, gutters and downspouts. Identify roof areas prone to ice dams, particularly those adjacent to sidewalks and doorways.

Pennsylvania and much of the Mid-Atlantic had record rainfall this summer. Many public schools were forced to delay opening due to mold problems. Even though no flooding had occurred in some places, high humidity alone was enough to damage classroom furniture and materials and jeopardize the health of students and employees.

Staff should constantly monitor their work environment and report active and potential infrastructure problems. Be diligent in checking basements, stairwells, and little used corners and rooms. Make note of soot surrounding duct vents, cracks in walls, bubbling paint, and stained ceiling tiles.

Internet and/or short-term power outages can be overcome with backup circulation systems, emergency lights, and more, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to have policies that state under what conditions you will remain open, and for how long. Set minimum and maximum temperatures under which your building will remain open or close its doors. Rooms without natural light should be evacuated during power failures.

Traditionally, libraries aspire to be open at all costs. But I see this trend changing. I remember working in near darkness, with no heat, electricity, telephone, or running water. I also remember enduring major capital projects (lighting replacements and roofing installations) with deafening noise and dust showering down. These are at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, unsafe environments for staff and patrons alike.

Similarly, there is little reward in staying open too long during winter storms that make travel dangerous. Libraries in cities and walkable neighborhoods are sometimes tempted to remain open too long. While school district closings can be used as a guide, a better indicator of storm severity is retail and/or public transportation. It’s generally better to close completely than to work around blocked entrances, ladders and scaffolds, and snowy or icy conditions that make it difficult to keep up with salting sidewalks and plowing parking lots.

emergency kit_101441059For those times when the power goes out, or you find areas of your building damaged, make sure you have emergency kits set up in strategic places: flashlights, plastic sheeting to quickly protect shelving, disposable gloves, dust masks, goggles, garbage bags, and paper towels for preliminary cleanups. If possible, obtain fans and dehumidifiers, or know where to get them if needed. Familiarize yourself with local industrial cleanup services.

These may seem like onerous responsibilities, especially in light of all we’re asked to do as librarians. But we’re in a public service industry, and the safety of our patrons and staff is paramount!

Feel free to share your words to the wise regarding emergency preparedness. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!

 

Here are some additional resources to help your library prepare for a natural disaster:

Library Disaster Preparedness & Response

Library of Congress Emergency Management

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.