Friday, December 17, 2010

Middle school book talk

I haven't forgotten about this -- it's just been busy. A handful of good stories times mixed with a couple of real bummers. I'll tell you about those soon.

But today I'm spending the entire day in 7th grade again, talking books. Lots of books. I've talked a few of these titles before at my prior job, and they're all natural sells. I try hard for this age to mix fiction and non-fiction, though this talk seems heavier on fiction.

Besides these books, I'm bringing a bag of new titles I won't be talking but that either haven't moved much on the shelf or look appealing. I have the honor to give a number of these students their first library cards today, so I'm offering them the chance to browse a small sampling of what all our library has to offer them.

Have you talked any of these titles? Have you had success? Check back to see what these kids loved most!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Changing the bulletin board

I've had an idea cooking in my head to change up the bulletin board in the teen area, and this week I was finally able to pull everything together.

After a couple of high school teachers mentioned how hard it was to get the kids to read, both citing not being exposed to much or knowing how to pick something good (one mentioning that discussing book covers is something she thinks is effective), I decided to put MY passion on display: The Cybils.

Long view

It's a long and narrow board, and I decided to line the sides and the bottom with some of this year's nominees, both in YA Fiction and in YA Science Fiction / Fantasy.

who what where when

The middle of the board has the title in a huge font (it's 700 point) and the sign in the middle: "Awards Books that Don't Suck." I have to thank the panel organizer, Jackie, for that little gem. I went back and forth on using it -- the word suck, that is -- but ultimately decided that that is EXACTLY how kids would want a book sold to them.

I printed out "Who," "What," "When," and "Where" labels, and beneath each, I put a small bit about the awards. I took the logo from the site. On my "Where" sign, I've made small pull tabs that the teens can take with them and it will get them on the website.

On either side of the middle and the frame of nominees, I've put up the finalists and winners of years past:

2007 books

2008 nominees

better photo of 2009

I've saved all of the book covers and the signage into a publisher file, and if anyone is interested in getting a copy, let me know! I'm happy to share since it means getting the word out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Books Talk: Say Something

If you are a teen librarian, and you aren't book talking, you are missing out on the single most impressionable thing you can do for your patrons: showing them people read.

I've been making the rounds in our local 9th grade classrooms and talking books. The kids have loved these titles, begging to take them from me. Because of tricky card issues, it hasn't happened as much as I'd like yet, but you better believe I'm planning a way for all the kids interested -- even those without cards -- to take what they want to home.

Here's my powerpoint and my titles. Each has had a wide appeal, but top picks have been Love Drugged, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, and Half Brother. We start each presentation talking covers, too, so I can guide the kids through making selections.

Most appealing cover for the teens? Not That Kind of Girl. The girls say audible that it looks like an awesome book.

Don't be afraid to not talk, too. As you'll see, a title here has nothing but the cover. I pull up the best trailer on youtube -- usually the publisher's own -- and play it. I emphasize using this sparingly and only with exceptionally enticing trailers.

I won't talk too much more about my methods of book talking because (drum roll) you can read it in the December 2010 issue of VOYA.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My teen space

I've got a very unique teen space to share. I haven't photographed our huge bulletin board, since that'll be for another post shortly, but I thought I'd give you a glimpse into creative space.

This is the "entrance" to the teen space. It's shaped like an L, which this part being the bottom part of the L. The shelving you're looking at is our new books. They're only things published 2009 or sooner and acquired in the last three months. I go up there every day to face out new titles and spruce it up a bit. The shelf on wheels next to it houses our magazine collection.

Rounding the corner:

Our top shelves on the left have our popular teen non-fiction, as well as a suggestion box and a huge box of bookmarks. I don't believe it keeping bookmarks in my office; I like putting them out for any time. I've had a couple fabulous authors send me bookmarks, too, which get to live there, too (and I always pop one in the book, too). I have a love/hate relationship with that water poster, too. It might not last too much longer there. And the closet you see is a storage closet for our cleaning crew, so nothing exciting.

A little more face-on:

We have a chair and rug to brighten the space up. Above this photo, which you can't see, is the Jacob READ poster, hanging from the ceiling (you can see it in the very first photo). Above the chair is an awesome poster with the actors in Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry book trailer. We serve a huge hispanic population, so having a poster with very attractive Latino guys was a must have, in my book.

As far as shelving, I like to keep it mixed up a bit. Some are shelved left and some right, and some are actually just stacked. It gives the shelving a little more personality. On the very bottom is the embarrassingly small audiobook collection for teens. I've recently purchased about 50 new audiobooks and 20 playaways for teens, so you can bet this will change!

Then, there's this entire back wall of shelving, too, which makes up the long part of the L shape:

We have the entire back wall for teen books, too. The shelving is built into the walls, so there's not too much flexibility in terms of shelving. You can see in the middle my heating unit and the small shelf above it where I put up my displays. I face out books on each shelf in different places for the teen appeal factor.

And the big black corkboard I plan on taking advantage of. Right now, my coworker's daughter made a display which impresses the heck out of me: she drew characters out of a number of popular teen fiction and has a "Guess who I am?" going on with it. Characters included Katniss, Katsa, Bella, Harry Potter, and a bunch of others. I think my next display up there will be all about the Cybils. It's just finding the time.

I don't have too much more room to grow, but grow I will. I'm just going to have to get creative.

Do you have photos of your teen spaces? I'd love to see realistic spaces -- not the kind that get featured in books or journals. I want the kind that happen when you don't have money to spend on new furniture, shelves, or other gadgets.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The best (and most stressful) program ever

When I began my new job, I inherited some tried-and-true programs. This is one of them, and it's one I will continue over and over. Despite how much work and stress it is, it was completely worth it for a final attendance of 121. That isn't counting the 30 or 40 people the next day that I sent home with pumpkins, either.

What is this program, you ask? Pumpkin carving.

What you need: pumpkins, buckets of water and rags for cleaning, carving tools, table cloths, apple cider, napkins, hand wipes, plastic bags for seeds, heavy duty black garbage bags, and crafting supplies. For crafting supplies, I purchased a mega box of sharpies, paper for kids who wanted to practice their drawing, pom poms, pipe cleaners (the biggest hit!), stickers, sequins, and tacky glue.

Nuts and Bolts: The biggest stress of this program is finding pumpkins, since every attendee who wants one gets a pumpkin. I called around to a number of local farms, and I had 2 farms that donated a total of about 160 pumpkins. If you aren't so lucky to get such a donation, ask your local retailers for discounts on a large lot. Some stores sell them at $2.99 each, and if you can get 100 for half price, it's still not that expensive.

All of the pumpkins needed to be transported, and between a coworker and myself, we did it in 3 trips. It took a few hours and a lot of manual labor, since our programming room is downstairs in our building. We borrowed a cart from the store next to the library, piled them in, then lined the perimeter of our programming room with pumpkins. Naturally, we had a few other programs prior to the pumpkin carving one, so we needed to keep some space clear.

Prior to the program: We clean and gut the pumpkins before the program in order to make it run smoothly. Our room capacity is 35 without tables and chairs; with tables for carving, it's probably more like 25-30. To get 120 people in and out within 4 hours we have to do some work beforehand. If the idea of cleaning and gutting 160 pumpkins overwhelms you, think about the community resource you already have: teens needing service hours.

I'm lucky to have some regular volunteers and their families who eagerly volunteered. One mom wanted to so she could take all of the innards home for cooking (which I was game with). In addition, I put a call out to the sponsor of our high school's National Honors Society; from that alone, I got an additional 10 volunteers. I also put an announcement into the school's daily announcements and begged a good friend of mine to help. All together, I had 20 volunteers who came. Oh, I forgot: I advertised free food. I got a deal with the pizza shop next door to give us 7 pizzas for $50 (I am a HUGE proponent of not asking for free things from local vendors -- I ask for discounts because I believe all businesses deserve the actual business. Too many hand outs isn't good partnering). I also picked up a bag of candy and a few bottles of pop.

We made it an assembly line: a few people cleaned pumpkins with the bucket of water and rags; my friend and I cut the tops off the pumpkins (since I'd rather we get hurt than the teens); and then we passed the pumpkins off to the teens who gutted them on the table clothes I had laid on the floor. I told the teens they were welcome to take home seeds if they wanted to separate them from guts and had plastic bags for them to do so. As soon as they finished cleaning out the pumpkins, they relined them up along the wall and waited for their next one. With that many volunteers, we were done with cleaning in an hour and a half. The kids got service hours, free food, and time to hang out with their friends.

I also contacted our local newspaper about the program a week prior to the event. We had a member of the press show up and take a ton of photos. This ended up being prime opportunity to tell him who donated the pumpkins, and I'll be thrilled to see the photo spread in next Sunday's newspaper! Perfect pr opportunity for the library and our generous donors.

The Program: The next morning after story time, I pulled out 7 tables and covered them with new table clothes. One table had cider and cups, one had craft supplies, and all of the others just had an assortment of cutting utensils. The table with cider also had a sign thanking our pumpkin donors and thanking the volunteers from the night before.

I sat by the door and let people come in in groups, limiting capacity to the best of my ability without cutting families apart. They were told they could pick out their pumpkins and have fun. After they finished, I took a photo of each group with their creations, which apparently was the thing some of the kids MOST looked forward to (one ran upstairs to our adult services area and told the librarians there they got their photo taken - too cute!).

We did have a backup with people at the beginning, so my boss pulled out tickets and numbered them. I then called ticket numbers to let people in. No one seemed to mind waiting since it wasn't a lengthy wait to get in, and I had pulled out a ton of new coloring sheets and had them available in our youth services room for families to use.

Aftermath: When the program ended at 4 p.m., the floor was a mess. Thanks to the table cloths, tables were mostly clean, but the floor was another story. Craft goodies were everywhere. But fortunately, after sweeping the floor of the big pieces and then vacuuming carefully, clean up was finished in 30 minutes with two people. That was worth it for the crowd, the work, and the endless thank yous we got for this program.

We had tons of pumpkins remaining after this program, and the next day, I offered them to anyone who came in the library. So many people were thrilled to take one home -- and we had even hidden some small ones that stayed ungutted for those who really wanted to have seeds or pumpkin pie.

Lessons Learned: I followed notes from my predecessor about cider quantity, and I wish I had purchased a little more. No one complained at all, but I think more people would have taken advantage of it had I had more. I would also invest in an additional electronic cutter or two and I would probably bring out more craft supplies. My other big lesson was that I should have pulled out the photo printer: I think families would have LOVED taking home a photo of their creations.

Other information: I get asked a lot about the size of my library with the turnouts we get, and I will say my community is about 8,000 people. We do not take sign ups for this, nor do we expect people to even have a library card. So, turn out can be tough to gauge but since this program has gone on for a few years and gets nice press, we know it grows. In fact, this year's turn out was the highest yet (and the turn out for the night before for clean out was a huge leap from the year before). This is the kind of program that would work best in smaller libraries or in branches. You could make this a sign up only program to get an idea of numbers, but always be prepared for those who just show up. I hate turning anyone away and I'm fortunate I did not have to do it for this one.

Bonus program: My coworker runs our on-site storytime and was able to use the small pumpkins we chose not to gut for her storytime craft. Again, the kids and parents love it and thank us for letting the mess be made at the library and not their home.

Total cost: After the pizza, pop, candy, and new supplies we needed to purchase, I spent probably around $110-120. For a turnout that huge and the press we'll be getting, it was worth every penny.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two teen displays

I've done two new displays recently upstairs in our teen area. The space is one small shelf above our heater for now until I figure out how to rearrange everything. Apologies in advance for the less-than-spectacular photo quality.

First up, the Teen Read Week "Books with Beat" display:

This is the display in its full glory. Let's look to the left side first.

And now the right side.

I got one of my teen volunteers to decorate both of the vinyl albums. I told her I'd be using them in a display which got her excited. I picked a pile of them up for $.25 each at our Goodwill. My teen volunteers will be decorating a few more to help liven up the walls in the teen area.

I also pulled a few music-related titles and tried to stick to ones that really show cased the music aspect on the cover.

My display signage was, I think, one of the better ones I've done. When you don't have access to a good photo editing source, you make do. I got the vector image for free here. You do need to make an account, but it is totally free. I then added my own music clip art and added my words.

The second display was one I popped up this week and will likely leave up for another week while I figure out what I want to display through the end of the year. Given the time of year, you can guess what the theme is, right? Let's get scared:

It's a little mix of traditional horror with some spooky, eerie, or just creeptastic stories or books with covers fitting that bill.

Murky water, a carriage with sharp objects, and laser cut tree limbs qualify as scary in my book!

These probably qualify as a little more on the creepy side.

You get a glare when you take photos of signs in acrylic cases under light, so, there you have it. I dug out a witch hat and those two tissue ghosts from my storage closet in the basement and thought to use them for some props in this display. I found the border for this sign in Publisher, and I got the image from the fantastic image site stock exchange. That's another one you need to register for but it's free and worth the two minutes of your time.

That's what I've been displaying these last couple weeks. What about you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Storytime

This week was my short story time week -- only 3 classes (Preschool, Kindergarten, and the Day Care for a total of about 60 kids). The theme was Halloween.

We started by singing the always fun "If You're Happy and You Know it." Since this was a Lutheran school, I was informed in the first class that we don't shout "hooray" but "amen." I went with it.

Then, I shared three stories:

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin is a fun one to read. The kids got a kick out of making "ick" and "yum" noises with the suggestions of what Peter the Tiger would make with his pumpkin. They even offered their own (including pumpkin fish and pumpkin chicken).

Boo, Bunny is a really sweet story that starts out like it'll be a scary one. The kids loved that the bunnies were dressed like a superhero and a bumble bee, and they were eager to help me with some of the words in the story (we all shouted "Trick or Treat" and "Boo" together). This one's got very few words and is really about the images. I was able to get the kids to predict what they thought would happen, which they LOVE doing.

After that story, we shared the finger play of "Five Little Jack-o-Lanterns":
Five little jack-o-lanterns sitting on the gate (5 fingers up and point to each one)
The first one said "oh my, it's getting late"
The second one said "let's have some fun"
The third one said "let's run run run"
The forth one said "let's dance! let's prance!"
The fifth one said "now's our chance"
When whoooooo went the wind (blow the whooo)
And out went the light (make one loud clap)
Then the five little jack-o-lanterns rolled out of sight (roll arms).

Then I shared one more book:

This story is hilarious. The little witch and her cat capture all of the ghosts then do very silly things with them. The kids and the teachers were laughing so hard as we saw what she did with the ghosts, and there was again good opportunity to ask the kids what they thought would happen next. Every single one of them figured out the purpose of the last two ghosts, too.

With all of my groups, I played a version of "Little Mouse" more thematic to Halloween -- "Little Bat." I printed a little bat and 7 different colored hats, so we asked if the little bat was under the little hat. It astounds me how much the kids love this game. When I came into the classrooms, they were asking me if we were playing Little Mouse again and they were even MORE excited I'd brought something a little different.

For my Preschool and Kindergarten class, we played a few rounds of Little Bat so that everyone could have a turn guessing, but for the Day Care, we just played a couple quick rounds because they made a craft. Again, I stole from my favorite story time blog and had the kids make their own paper jack-o-lanterns. My wonderful crew of volunteers cut out circles, squares, hearts, triangles and some other shapes for them to make faces like these (photo lifted from above mentioned blog):

My pumpkin pattern was a wee bit different, but the kids made some awesome pumpkins and they were all excited to have Miss Kelly (yes, I'm Miss there) see their creations.

I promise next week I will bring my own camera to capture some of their wonderful pieces of art!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Storytime!

I am officially done with my first ever rounds of story times. On site, one of my coworkers does the story times, but I am in charge of the story times off site. I visit the 2 elementary schools' 4K classrooms twice a month; there are a total of 40 kids at one school and 20 at the other. . . for the first groups. There are the same number for second ground. Did you get that? 120 different kids, but I only need to do one story time plan.

I also do bimonthly visits to the local parochial school, where I visit preschool, kindergarten, and day care -- about 80 kids total.

So for my very first story time ever, I knew I faced 40 kids at once. I wanted to pick a theme that would be pretty easy, so I chose Fall (which ended up being a lot more "fall animals" than actual fall). Here were my reads of choice:

Kitten's Autumn was a hit because the kitten hides in each of the pictures. We were able to look and find him on each page together. Nuts to You is just plain fun, as the kids were very excited to talk about animals they see outside and don't want to see inside (and I'm shocked how many kids said they have seen bears lately -- I guess it IS Wisconsin). I'm Not Cute got the kids nice and riled up for their craft, since they can participate with the book and they get the chance to shout "I'm NOT cute" over and over.

Before diving into reading, I had the kids stand up and do "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" with me. We did it normally, then we did it fast, slow, loud and quiet. They loved it.

We then read all three stories, and I brought out the flannel board. For the first group, we did "Five Little Squirrels." The kids were SO EXCITED to help me count 5 squirrels. I made 5 squirrels, 1 door, 1 tree, 3 coats (and asked the kids if they'd ever seen squirrels wearing coats), and 1 sun. The story goes:

5 little squirrels sitting by the door
1 ran away and then there were 4 (as a group, count them out and swap out the door for a tree)
4 little squirrels playing by the tree
1 ran away and then there were 3 (as a group, count them out and swap door for coats)
3 little squirrels with coats so new
1 ran away and then there were 2 (as a group, count them out and swap coats for sun)
2 little squirrels playing in the sun
1 ran away and then there was 1 (as a group count them out and take down sun)
1 little squirrel wasn't having any fun
he ran away and then there were none.

I love this simple flannel board because the kids LOVE to help count. They will tell the story for you by the end, and that's exactly how it should be.

For the 4K and the day care groups, I was asked to bring a craft to share. They made owl masks, which you can see a photo of right here. The craft required paper plates, cotton balls (which I ripped in half to double the number), orange construction paper, popsickle sticks, and glue. I pre-cut the plates, the eyes, and the nose to bring with me, and after the first session of story times where the kids wanted to play with their masks before the glue dried onto the sticks, I decided to tape them on before handing them out (for immediate gratification). They kids loved the craft, and they were all eager to hoot around the room.

A couple of classes elected to go without a craft, so we played "Little Mouse." This is a story time favorite everywhere, and I plan on bringing some sort of variation of it with me regularly.

I'm jazzed to do story times now. I loved getting hugs from the kids at the end, and I know that even if I am not perfect, as long as I have fun and let the kids have fun, it all works out just fine.

(Also: this is the longest post on story times you will ever see here. From here on out, it'll be much shorter - books, activities, lessons learned).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

One of the first tasks I accomplished at my new job was to clean out one of my storage closets to see what goodies lived in it. Lucky for me, I found a little caution tape and knew immediately I needed to use it for my annual banned books display in the teen area.

But before that, I needed to make a catchy sign for the display. I loved this year's graphics from ALA, so I used it and modified it just a tad to give it a little personal flavor:


After printing it on heavier card stock and slipping it into the acrylic holder, it was time to go to work. I pulled out about 12 titles that had been banned or challenged in the last year (the list being readily available here). I picked titles with hard covers so they'd stand on their own and placed them on my makeshift display space with only the spine showing. Then it was time to use the caution tape:

Teen Display

As you can see, my display area right now is tiny. Before I did some shifting in the uniquely designed teen area, there wasn't a display space, so I carved one out on a single shelf above the register. But it's smack in the middle of the teen area, and it definitely stands out.

I didn't include any hand outs or book marks this year, but perhaps next year, it's something I'd be able to put together. I originally wanted to add something about the Speak Loudly campaign, but there weren't any good readily-available things I could grab for a book mark. It's something I certainly plan on posting to our teen Facebook this week, though.


Because I've been so lucky to run across many a fantastic blog and website to come up with some of the programs I've offered for teens and children, I wanted to give back and offer my ideas and plans with others. I'll share my successes and misses, my ideas and planning, my costs and resources, and my inspirations where applicable.

About me: I'm in my second job out of graduate school with my masters in information science. I'm currently the head of youth services in a very small public library, with a real passion for serving teens. I just began this job encompassing all of youth services and it is a challenge for which I'm excited.