Friday, February 25, 2011

Baby Program: New Baby Bags

One of the programs we do for the littlest patrons -- and even the not-yet-here-but-will-be-soon patrons -- is making baby bags. These are library-provided bags requested by patrons who will be expecting or recently had a baby. It is an extremely simple and inexpensive way for patrons to know what's available at the library and make them feel welcome to use it for all of their newest family member's education and recreational needs (as well as their own!).

In our youth services area and in the adult non-fiction area, we have parenting sections. In both of those areas are the forms patrons can fill out that ask for their names, addresses/contact information, their due date, and whether they have other children (and their ages/gender). We do not ask for library card information because we see this as a way for new people to come into the library and because we serve such a huge population that changes depending on the season -- we have summer tourists who own summer homes here, and we serve a wide rural community that oftentimes have a library card with another library but can still patronize us.

The components of the bag are simple, and the items which come at an expense are paid for by our Friends group. Since we average around 2-3 baby bags per month, the cost really is minimal.

So what's inside?

  • The bag itself: this is our library's bag that usually gets sold for about $5. It's a blue tote with our library's image on one side, and as seen in the photo above, an applique of balloons. That job is done by our lovely Friends group. We have a stock pile of about 20 and since I've been there, we have only restocked once.
  • A congratulations card from me, with my business card inside.
  • Three tri-fold pamphlets that tell the recipient about our library services, give information about early literacy skills, and highlight the value of family time.
  • A MOPS flier and magnet (provided by our local Mothers of Preschoolers group)
  • A die-cut "B-A-B-Y" decorative sign.
  • A coupon for "baby's first library card."
  • Born to read stickers.
  • "Raise a reader" bookmarks.
  • Ten bookmark sized fliers from the public library early learning initiative of the Department of Public Instruction. You can download them all here. We put them on different colored pieces of paper, and we include appropriate fliers depending on whether baby has siblings or not. One of the huge things I love about these is they're already translated into Spanish, too.
  • Baby's first board book! We purchase Hello, Baby.
  • For those who will have brothers or sisters, we also include either I'm a New Big Brother or I'm a New Big Sister. I keep these for those who are younger, and I've been thinking about how I can better accommodate those who are older -- I've had a number of siblings who are 7, 8, or 9, and these books don't seem quite appropriate.
And that's all!

When I get a request, it usually takes me a couple days to pull everything together. It's such a simple, cost effective, and easy way to remind parents how much the library offers them as they begin a new chapter in their lives. And as someone who isn't particularly strong when it comes to working with babies, it makes me feel like I'm still offering them something important.

Book Club, Part Two

A longer post explaining my insanity will come soon, but I leave you with a series of photos to describe the second meeting of my high school book club.

We discussed this book:

By doing this:

And this:

You can't imagine the look of sheer delight on the face of a high schooler who enters a room for a book discussion and happens upon a table cloth covered with Legos. More soon!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pet Storytime

It's been a while since I've shared a story time plan. This one was for the last few weeks. I'm so tired of snow and cold and refuse to do a winter story time. So, I went with a more fun topic: pets.

There aren't any really good songs I know about pets, but I had two in mind and played it by ear which one to share. We did "Old McDonald" for a few of the classes and then mixed in "BINGO" for some of the others.

Then I shared these stories:

The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle: This is a cute story about a boy who asks his mother repeatedly to get a dog and she gives many reasons why a dog is not a good pet. Finally, he gives in and asks for a dragon. She says to him if he can find one, he can have one. Low and behold, he finds one. But the dragon isn't as fun as the boy thought, and his mom isn't pleased either. She finally relents and lets him have a dog since "Dragons are afraid of dogs."

It's a simplistic story but the kids love the dragon. He eats spaghetti in the tub, even. I have some issues with how this story reads; it's too many simple sentences, so when I shared it, I did a little of my own improvising to make it smoother. No one cared.

What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd: I LOVE Dodd's style so much. This is another story about a boy wanting a pet. He asks about a ton of exotic pets -- a T-Rex, a lion, a giraffe and many others -- and each of the images is hilarious. In the end, he chooses a normal pet, but the way it's illustrated makes it look huge and scary. The kids liked this story a lot and all of them get a kick out of the end.

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated by Steven Kellogg: I originally brought the oversized book to my first classes but soon realized how unwieldy it was to hold and read. My reading became too choppy for me to stand, and I decided in my later classes to ditch the novelty for the standard book.

This was one of my favorite stories growing up, but I found that it didn't go over quite as well as I wished. My kids are in preschool and kindergarten, and part of me wonders if this is a book better appreciated by older reads or if it is the kind of book I should have begun my story time with, rather than end with. Oh well. You can't know until you try.

After stories, I played a couple rounds of "Little Mouse" with the kids and then we made this craft together. My coworker asked me if I needed any help prepping a craft about a month ago, and I said I needed some kind of pet craft for February. I gave her my parameters -- something that has just a few steps, lets the kids make some choices so they feel ownership over it, and something that can be done in about ten minutes.

I think she did really well in giving me this:

Everyone got to make their own pet birds!

This craft was exceedingly simple: it required a few feathers, two googly eyes, a paper bag, and yellow paper. My coworker cut the triangles for me, and I rounded up a ton of different colored feathers. When we got the kids situated to make the bird, each had their eyes and beaks handed to them. While they glued, I came around and let the kids each pick out 4 or 5 feathers and let them glue them anywhere they wanted to.

Some of my kids made paper bag horses and dogs, but most made birds that were much more creative than mine. And this craft was a total hit: who DOESN'T like a project that can be played with and involves using feathers and googly eyes. There aren't enough things like this, I tell you.

I had one kid ask me to have a conversation with the bird while it was on my hand. Not being one to miss an opportunity to let the kids be creative, I told him mine was actually mute but I couldn't wait to hear his. I totally did, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Discussion Guide: XVI by Julia Karr

Since the goal of my book club is to read and discuss newer YA books, not many resources exist for discussion. I hope by sharing some my discussion questions, teen reactions, and activities that other folks interested in getting a teen book group (or even adult book group reading YA books) can benefit. Enjoy this discussion guide for Julia Karr's XVI.

Author website: Julia Karr

-affiliated website (includes the contests we used for activities): Class2k11

Read alike/See alike: Feed by M. T. Anderson, Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, The Matrix

Fortunately for readers, the edition of Karr's book we had included a discussion guide in the back. However, I didn't care for most of the questions and instead reworked some and invented my own. Of course, I emphasize that any time the teens go on a tangent -- as long as it's marginally linked to the book -- go there with them. Without further ado:

  • What were your overall impressions and thoughts? Give me your gut reactions.
  • What worked and didn't work in the world Karr developed?
  • Do you think anything that happens in this society is already happening in our own? (This one was one they dug -- a lot of discussion of advertising and media)
  • Is this like the US now? Can it be our future?
  • Is this a feminist book?
  • What did you think of the characters? Did you have any favorites? Did you care about any of them more or less than the others?
  • What did you think about the discussions of the media's influence on society? How did it relate to the overall story?
  • What did you think about the language and new words used in this story? Did they work? Did anything not work?
  • Did the book remind you of anything else you have read or seen?

I found this to be the right amount of discussion, actually. Some generated a lot of discussion, and some didn't bring very much out. Here are some of the teen reactions I had to these specific questions:

  • Teens thought the main idea of the story was really good, though they thought the story was going to focus on the issue of turning 16 when it went elsewhere – but that ended up being a good thing to them.
  • They liked falling right into this world. It wasn’t too generic or too realistic and they thought it reminded them a bit of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies in world building and execution.
  • We talked about how the role of books and knowledge played into the story and the teens were blown away by the idea that a government could want to hide books from people. A lengthy and valuable discussion of the roles of books and knowledge in society followed.
  • They liked how the role of religion in the story felt like mythology – the characters talked about beliefs like we talk about mythology, that it’s kind of silly and pointless, despite the fact it really matters to people and is a basis for understanding existence.
  • Teens felt the ads and media role in the story really could happen and are even happening now.
  • Saw the idea of social tiers interesting and relatable in today’s world. They wanted to know a bit more about how this worked, though, since in this world people could move up and down through a lot of different circumstances. During our chat with the author, we found out there will be a second book, and the teens are hoping some of these questions are answered there.

Overall, this was a good book, but the teens said it won’t be a favorite. But it left them with a ton of questions and really gave them a lot to discuss. In other words, this was a perfect one to begin with. Not all of the teens finished the book, and that in itself was worth talking about.

After our discussion, we hopped onto Facebook and held a chat with the author. I let the kids draft their questions, which we did during and after discussion. Something in discussion would come up and the kids were eager to find out more -- and let me tell you how satisfying it was to be able to let them do it. But if you're stuck or need ideas, here's what we asked:

  • What inspired the story?
  • Do you think that this is our potential future?
  • What was your road to publication? (teens were shocked to find out how long this took!)
  • Is there a sequel in the works?
  • Who do you think your target audience is with this book?
  • Are your characters based on anyone in real life?
  • What message are you trying to get across with the story?
I did not edit their questions at all, and I didn't give them boundaries. These generated an excellent conversation, wherein Julia even asked the teens questions!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Clubbin'

One of my dreams as a librarian was to start up a teen book club. One that was just high schoolers who could handle heavy issue books and where we could get into some meaty (but fun) discussions of the topics presented.

Color me thrilled when I not only got to start it but got the group of kids I got.

It all started with book talking -- I presented the idea to the kids and got a few bites that way. I talked to my regular teen volunteer who, at first, thought it would be a boring thing. Then as I told her more and more my goals and vision and the fact that I wanted to leave most of it up to them, the teens, she was hooked. I set up a planning meeting and invited all interested parties on one of the local high school's early release dates.

I had five kids show up. Five is huge! It was an excellent mix of guys and girls, and it ranged the entire school grade wise. We enjoyed cookies (which they would have been totally happy without, honestly), creating a name for our club, and coming up with some of the things we'd like to try. I'm a completely open and flexible person, and I'm extremely lucky in my job because my boss lets me try anything I want to. So when my kids say they want to do something, I'm going to make it happen if I can. At this meeting, I also got the kids to give me boat loads of contact information, including their phone number, email, English teacher, favorite books/authors, and preferred means of being reached. This last part is key to keeping in contact with them; mine want Facebook notices and texts, which I'm working on. At the end of our planning meeting, we'd picked our first book club book, a date to meet (and let me note -- I suggested meeting once a month but they insisted on meeting every other week!), a place to meet, and then my favorite part: I pulled out about 50 advanced reader copies of books I had at home and let them at it.

Those were some happy kids.

To facilitate picking a common book, I pulled about 10 different books sitting in our teen area that caught my eye or that I'd read about and gave some impromptu talks about. My kids picked to meet for the first time at Starbucks and their book of choice was Julia Karr's XVI, which came out in January. I had a slight panic about this since we had a copy but I didn't think I could grab up 6 copies of it by the time we'd meet. I ended up deciding to spend programming money on a copy for each member (they were paperbacks around $5 each copy) and numbered each one. I told the kids that I'd need the books back since they were library copies and I'm thrilled to share all came back in excellent condition. Those'll be used for a floating collection I've got in the works and for summer reading prizes. I took the books to the high school when they came in a few days later and got them to their English teachers to distribute.

When I dropped off the books, I included a note saying I'd cover the cost of one drink (~$3.50) and my biggest caveat: if you're not feeling the book, stop at page 50 and read something else. Give it a shot but move on if it's not your thing. I realize what a statement this is, but remember, my goal here is to encourage the love of reading and if you're not loving what you're reading, why keep going if it's meant to be for fun?

In the week and a half mean time between getting the books to the teens and the meeting, I did a few things. First, I got in touch with the author and set up a short chat for the end of book club meeting. Then I did a little thinking about activities we could do at the meeting and scoured the class2k11 website to find TWO fun activities. I passed off the cover redesign activity ahead of time via facebook and email to the kids so they could get a jump on it early if they wanted. Then I did my reading and wrote out some questions to discuss. I did not plan a single question for the kids to ask the author, though, and honestly, I left my discussion questions pretty minimal because, ahem, I did not finish the book myself. The other thing I did was pull together a list of possible next reads and grab a pile of galleys to distribute.

I showed up to Starbucks early and took one of our library netbooks with me to get the chat all set up. Then the kids came and we got to talking! Of our 6 members, only one person finished the book. And whereas most book clubs this could be problematic, this ended up being a huge opportunity to talk. We talked about why we did or didn't finish the book. But more than that, we talked about the huge topics at play in the book, simply because everyone who read it GOT THOSE. It was a fantastic discussion of media influence, government, and feminism/sexism, and we had a great time talking about the different things in the book that we did enjoy. So this is to say, even though finishing the book proved challenging, we had a lot of good things to talk about. We talked for about 30 minutes about the book before diving into taking a "hands on" photo from the class2k11 website and developed a small list of questions to ask the author.

While the kids prepped their photo, I got our chat rolling. We decided to use facebook to chat, since my library's facebook presence is actually a normal profile, rather than a page you can "like." This gives us chatting privileges. I hopped on and said hi to Julia, then took my kids photo, before getting back to the chat and our questions.

This chat was fantastic. The answers my kids got to the questions were so good, and not only that, but Julia offered US questions, too, which really got the kids rolling. We talked about who would play Nina in a movie, as well as whether we thought our world was moving toward the one depicted in XVI. We kept the chat to 20 minutes -- enough for 6 questions or so -- because that is about the attention span of me typing and reading answers to them. But here's the big heart warming moment: this was one of the coolest things these kids have done. Every one of them said this was the first time they got to talk to an author about her book and some were excited to be talking to someone "famous." This was what made it ALL worthwhile.

After chatting, we picked our next book and meeting location. Folks, even though I covered their drinks and food at Starbucks, they were begging to meet in the library next time so they could have a book swap. I don't think you need to go fancy or buy your kids to come. If you have fun and follow their interests, they will show up.

Picking our next book was a bit of a challenge, since I apparently drafted a good list of next choices. We had 9 of the 12 books starred as next possibilities, and we ended up throwing the titles all in a hat and drawing. I asked if they wanted to talk with the author (if possible) and it was a resounding YES! from all around. And I cannot wait to post about the next meeting because I have a discussion medium cooking up I doubt has ever been done before. . .and it was actually all their idea. I just facilitate.

So if you're looking to get a book club started, my advice is this:

- Get in with your local teachers. They know who their readers are. They know who'd be interested. Get those students' names and send them individual invites. This thrills them.

- Know your current teens and talk about your idea with them. Tell them to bring their friends. Word of mouth is key.

- Let the kids do the deciding. I have some parameters, but I keep them loose. I let the kids pick the club name. I let them draw a mascot. I let them decide what books to pick -- with my input simply to keep the choices manageable. I let them decide what things they want to do during the book club. Guess what? Good book discussions aren't necessarily vocal. Sometimes, it's through art. Sometimes it's by connecting to something in the book and making that meaningful. Let them express themselves as they want to.

- I realize not everyone has the flexibility I do in terms of where to meet. But try if you can to see where kids have the best chance of getting to. Let them pick times and dates to meet. The more ownership they have, the better.

- Keep your patrons informed. We post our book club info on our blog and website. I plan on making a bulletin board in the teen department showcasing the awesome stuff these kids are doing. It lets others know what you're doing and invites others to join. It also gives those core kids excitement. They MATTER.

- Have fun but be proactive. I am a very hands-off person in management, and this is good for most teens in a group this size. But there are quiet kids who are afraid to jump into discussion. Sometimes, you gotta call them out (nicely, of course) through easy questions. Ask them what they thought about specific things. Ask them to be the one to pick the book for next time. Ask them to talk about their favorite things. It works. But if it doesn't, remember this: they wouldn't come if they weren't getting something out of it, even if it's simply companionship from other teens.

I'll be back to talking about the book club again in a couple weeks to talk about other lessons learned. But in the mean time, what is your book club advice? What's worked and not worked? Share with me so I can learn more, too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tour my youth department

You've seen my teen department already (which, as we speak, is completely overflowing with materials, and may not look that way much longer). This time, let me give you a tour of my youth department. The entire area is downstairs in a separate room from the teen department.

First, my "office." It's not really an office but rather the hallway between the youth department and the cataloging room. I've got doors but they're pretty ineffective.

It's also purple. And a disaster. Note the book on the left side there: The Zombie Werkbook. I'm pilfering it for zombie puzzles for Saturday night's Teen Masquerade Ball.

Another view. You can see my millions of calendars which I use to plan my programs. My shelves are packed with professional story time books (pop up books we use in story time). I've got to move them from where they are down lower, since my colleague and I aren't able to reach them without using my chair.

That's the back side of my office. You can see tons of my art/craft supplies, a mini fridge (empty), and my flannel board envelopes. Notice how clean it is? My volunteer made it sparkly clean for me. On her own volition.

Now on to the youth department. We'll start at the door for an overall impression.

You can see we have yellow and red walls, and a nasty tree on one of the walls. That thing is going soon. Our department is pretty small and it is packed tight, as you can see. Immediately in front of you is the new set of shelves for new picture books, and behind it are magazines and easy readers.

From the same position, you can also see this:

The blue house thing is our book return, and the big blue this is obviously our children's desk. It's a one-desk, so we do circ and reference right there. The white pvc pipe shelving there is new as of Tuesday after I had a fit of genius. I *hate* things crowding the reference desk, so I moved everything off our desk and onto that.

There's a better shot of the shelving. It houses all our program fliers, as well as our digital picture frame. The frame used to sit on the corner of the desk you can see in this photo, but more people have actually been looking at it here. I'm proud!

So immediately behind us is this:

The shelves on the left house a small (very small) collection of reference materials I would like to make circulating. The other shelves are our Spanish collection; we have board books, picture books, easy readers, and juvenile spanish materials here. On the top of the shelves are some of our lego club creations. We also have a coloring/activity table, and you can see the most popular thing in our department: ALL of the family-friendly movies.

Behind the DVDs is our parenting collection (the magazines on the portable shelf), as well as puzzles, puppets, a couch, and the big mats for kids to move around and play with. Also in this area is my Phineas and Ferb poster and the framed monstrosity I cannot get rid of due to donor reasons. It's a clown poster. My town is the "19th Century Circus Capital of the World," and this is in celebration of that bizarre distinction. It terrifies me.

From the couch, this is the back area. You can see on the right the last of our picture books, and on the right, the board books, the 900 non-fiction ranges, and at the very back by the red wall, our juvenile fiction collection.

There's a bit of a picture of our picture book collection. We keep them in alphabetical order, unless it's a series book like Clifford, Curious George, Arthur, Berenstein Bears, Eric Carle, or Dr. Seuss. Those are on the Clifford spinner. On top of the shelves are more new picture books.

Here's our non-fiction -- well, non-fiction from 000 to about 899. The top showcases some of our new non-fiction books, as well as our lego club creations (those are at the other end). These guys are PACKED. I need to find a better way to organize this collection and to make sure it doesn't jump shelves the way it does. That was arranged before I came but I'm really kind of stumped.

This is our juvenile fiction collection. I'm pretty proud of how much this has improved in my time there. I've really spent a lot of time and energy making this particular area a strength, and I can tell in our kids coming in now. We almost always have what they're looking for!

That's the last set of shelves on the ones pictured earlier that have our board books and our 900s. This is our graphic novel collection, another area I've been working hard on. I've got a Babymouse poster and bookmarks, as well as an Owly poster hanging out there. On the right is also a NERDs poster, courtesy of Simon and Schuster. I love it. On the left's the last part of our juvenile fiction.

Turning around:

You can see my new shelves for new juvenile fiction, as well as the rest of our reference desk. I hate that sun painting. I cannot wait to see it go. I've got permission to paint the department, but we have to wait to get it professionally done next budget year.

To my left of there is this:

We have two public computers and an OPAC here. We let all ages use them, but after school hours, we try to limit it to children. That hallway on the right there is where my office is, and when you step in, before you actually get to my office, there's this:

Here's where we have our Daycare Kits (on top). Anyone can check them out, and they're packed with books, activities, and toys on a theme/topic. There's also all of our materials for baby bags (I'll post about that sometime soon) and our tubs for story time prep. Also, this area is a total mess. I'm hoping secretly my volunteer can't stand it and makes it sparkle for me.

And an obligatory shot from the ref desk. I cannot wait to get rid of that sickly vine thing in the back. From here, you see our easy readers in the middle and the picture books in the "L" shelf set up.

This is our display in the youth area. It's on top of easy readers. This week, I've got "sweet reads." It has a little of everything -- love, food, and friendship. Seems our official Valentine's Day titles are mostly checked out already, so I improvised.

Hope you enjoyed my tour. I cannot believe how packed this place is, and I dream of room, room, room. Also, I am eager to paint this place solid colors.