September is Literacy Month

shutterstock_598716251

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.

 

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.

Adulting 101 Programs at the Library

shutterstock_162108737By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Has anyone ever told you that you can make a grilled cheese sandwich in your dorm room with an iron? Or that you can clean everything with plain, cheap white vinegar? Were you ever taught to balance a checkbook? “Adulting” is a verb that high school graduates—and some adults—use to mean they are doing something that makes them feel like responsible adults. Between new technologies and the demise of home economics and shop classes in high school, more adults these days are headed out into the world missing some handy life skills. Many public libraries are stepping up to fill the knowledge gap, hoping to capture the elusive 20-to-40-year-old demographic in the process.

Libraries of every size throughout the country are trying out this newest trend in adult programming. The Programming Librarian Interest Group on Facebook contains a wealth of ideas and feedback. Some libraries target teens getting ready to leave home. This approach might include more dorm-style ideas, like cooking with small appliances or basic laundry and ironing skills. Most open their programs up to anyone.

Sample Topics

Six Adults Cooking_1038709282Cooking is a perennially popular topic among patrons. What can you make with only a hot plate, waffle iron, or blender? How about a program called “Spicing Up Your Ramen?” Eating on a budget and food safety (get a black light wand to make it really exciting) are basic and useful skills. Other basic cooking program ideas have included “Cookbook Terminology,” “10 Ways to Use a Sweet Potato,” and “Getting to Know Your Instapot.” One library offered a program showing a variety of meals that could be prepared in a coffee mug. A little creativity can go a long way with cooking programs since there is a hungry audience waiting to devour them (pardon the pun).

What about incorporating self-care, meditation, and time management into National Mental Health Month (May)?

Do you have a staffer willing to pull their car up to the library and demonstrate some basic car maintenance techniques under the hood?

You might offer a crash-course in good citizenship and invite in local groups and legislators to participate.

You could offer a program on dressing for success on a budget and include simple courses like “How to Tie a Necktie.”

As winter nears, offer a program on winterizing your home or basic plumbing repairs.

Here’s a fun one: Several libraries have offered teen programs based on the idea of Survival Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse. Isn’t that a great spin? What better excuse to teach car repair skills, self-defense, quick pickling, and recognizing edibles in nature? If your community can get tongue-in-cheek with you, run with it! The premise may be silly, but the skills are worthwhile.

Library-Specific Programs

Denver Public Library offered a basic sewing skills class for sewing a button, fixing a tear, and hemming a skirt. They invited participants to bring in a project that had them stumped, and it seemed to boost attendance. You might create a cute project that incorporates basic stitches and buttons, such as a felt monster or bookmark. Offering patrons a hands-on project to practice and take home is always optimal. Think about ending your quarter or year of programs with a potluck or clothes exchange, something festive and practical.

Boise Public Library, in Idaho, has a really terrific program going this year. The librarians set the calendar for the whole year in advance. They offer badges to participants who complete at least one session per month, making each accomplishment feel like being in scouts group or mastering a video game level. Collect 12 badges and earn an “Adult-in-Action” medal. Not only have they put together a comprehensive program, they have also uploaded supporting materials to their website. This allows those who are late to join (or the rest of us) to catch up with what they have been teaching.

BoiseCombined

Source: Boise Public Library

I spoke with Boise librarian Eliza Ruby about their ambitious program, which at the time of this writing is more than halfway through the year. She said, “Our goal for this year has been to host two to four programs each month. While we have been successful with this goal, it has been a big endeavor. My advice for anyone wanting to create a similar series is to plan ahead, stay organized, and work with fellow staff members to share the workload. Our focus has been on creating events for adults; however, I think that this could easily be adapted to a series for teens to help prepare them for adulthood.”

Ruby also talked about turnout and patron response. “We have taken the opportunity with this series to try new things and experiment. This includes the types of programs we have hosted, the way we brand and market this series, and how the workshops are hosted. While we don’t always have high turnout, we have been learning what topics interest our community the most, how best to market to ‘new adults’ with the resources we have on hand, and how to get the best response from the people attending the workshops. We have also been collecting success stories of new connections, people learning the skills they need, and gaining follow-up resources.” Ruby shared that their end-of-summer clothing exchange party had 185 participants, which is an impressive number for any library program!

Bellingham Public Library, in Washington, offers a similar series with a twist. They call it SkillShare. Community members come in and teach a skill—from ukulele, to tai chi, to using basic tools. The basic tools session was so popular it became a recurring event all summer long. This program has been a multi-generational success.

If your library has a limited budget or little staff time to devote to programming, there may be community members happy to pitch in with their expertise. Scout leaders, nutritionists, county extension employees, a local mechanic, vocational colleges, and that blue-ribbon canner in the Friends group may be willing to lend a hand or have ideas about what has worked with groups in the past.

While these programs may get your brain humming and offer myriad ways to cross-promote book titles, there are a few planning considerations. You know what works best in your community. What would you name this program? Some librarians consider “Adulting 101” insulting. Instead, you could try “Cash in Your Pocket” or “Adult University”— or soften it to “Beyond Ramen: Adulting 101.” The way you structure your schedule and descriptions can make a huge difference. Some libraries report 2-5 attendees, while others have had 20-plus.

Now it’s your turn. Has your library offered a program similar to Adulting 101? How did it go? Tell us about it!

For further examples and ideas of how to promote this type of program:

The Programming Librarian

Teen Services Depot

Emporia University Libraries

 

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.

 

The Library: The Ultimate Resource for At-Risk Teens

By Melissa Perkins, MLIS, M.Ed.shutterstock_790842256

Teenagers really haven’t changed that much over the decades. No, really! Even in these modern times, they’re still fighting acne, questioning established rules, craving acceptance, seeking entertainment, searching for purpose, and secretly yearning for sound guidance. Regardless of today’s youthful mastery over high-tech toys and tools, adolescents continue to need meaningful, positive relationships and learning experiences.

Over the years, many public organizations, private organizations, and agencies have assisted with the educational and social development of older kids. These groups have created special grants, projects, and organizations to help meet the developing needs of teenagers. So in the realm of young adult development, what role should the library play as a community resource? Is the library a place for teenagers? Is the library cool enough to attract today’s trap music-loving, selfie-snapping, Twitter-following teenager? Well, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

Libraries still have what it takes to attract and hold the interest of young adults. In fact, this technology explosion we’ve been experiencing has made young people even more reliant on libraries. As the world becomes increasingly driven by data, software applications, and the Internet, those without the means to attain the necessary technology and communication services turn to the library for the resources they need. In underserved communities, where many teenagers are considered “at-risk,” the availability of technology via the library has become crucial.

However, access to computer workstations isn’t the only service that at-risk teenagers find useful and attractive. Many libraries located in underserved regions offer programs aimed at providing local teenagers with fun, positive, and productive activities and projects. The following are just a few examples.

Helping Incarcerated Youthshutterstock_709809799

Many of our at-risk youth are serving time in juvenile detention centers. And although libraries are often heavily involved in prevention and in early intervention programs, the “cradle to prison pipeline” trend continues to exist. Nevertheless, after kids have been placed in the custody of the justice system and the department of corrections, libraries can still play a role in the rehabilitation efforts that help these youngsters find a healthy path in life.

For example, in 2016, the Glen Carbon Centennial Library District in Glen Carbon, Illinois, established a successful Therapy Dogs for At-Risk Youth program for the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center. The library system partnered with the Got Your Six Support Dogs organization to create a program that uses therapy dogs—in conjunction with the library’s Great Stories Club activities—as physical and emotional support for teens at the detention center.

Nurturing Future Leaders

In addition to creating outreach programs for incarcerated teens, libraries support and strengthen relationships with those ambitious youngsters in underserved areas who are developing leadership qualities and skills. For instance, Queens Library in New York has developed the Youth-to-Youth Teen Leadership Council, which combines civic and community service with youth development. The Youth-to-Youth Teen Leadership Council provides 14-to-21-year-olds “positive ways to discover their voice, explore social-cultural differences and create lasting change within their community.”

Providing Digital Learning

shutterstock_763448002The Chicago Public Library has 12 branches that house and operate YOUmedia programs. YOUmedia Chicago is a digital learning space program for teens. The program focuses on teaching digital media and STEM subject content, while making use of Makerspace activities and projects. The kids engage in projects that can involve graphic design, photography, video, music, 2D/3D design, and STEM subject areas. The program provides at-risk youth with the opportunity to acquire new skills using digital technology to enhance their math and science aptitudes.  The program also promotes critical thinking skills and creativity.

Teen library programming is a significant component in manifesting a vibrant and effective public library. The following website links list several helpful resources for libraries looking to establish fun, educational activities and programs for the youth of the community:

Melissa Perkins - 2.5 x 3

Melissa

Melissa has worked in an assortment of academic, corporate, and public libraries. One of her major passions is sharing the magical world of stories, information, and ideas with the masses. Click here for more.