Monday, March 31, 2014

Schools - Howdy Pardner!

Schools are a vital part of great service to school age children. By partnering and working with school colleagues, public libraries can find wonderful ways to reach out to kids in school and make the library connection.  Some of the ideas - both tested and blue-skyed  - that the class shared:

Pie the principal: I reached out to 5 principals at our local elementary schools to see if they are game to enhance participation in our Summer Reading Program  by introducing a friendly wager. We'll track which school participants are from and the winning school will receive a special activity in their media center/library (this element, offered to everyone) but the winning school will receive a special bonus of their Principal getting a pie in the face (or some other silly memorable thing). Some of my principals are game, one was not excited to get pied, so we are going to frame it up as the Cat in the Hat will play a trick at the school  and customize the silly prize at each school.(thus, we don't exclude any schools from participating and put the principals at ease)

Adopt a Grade Currently our elementary schools send every 3rd grade class to the art museum that is on the block next door. I'd like to adopt a grade and them come for a field trip adventure. Still a work in progress.

Literary Awards Our school media specialists/ librarians have been promoting the Maud Hart Lovelace award in March so we have been holding a Voting Gala prior to the award announcing the winner. We have book marks with the nominees listed and ask for readers to read at least 3 before voting for their favorites. We have had a steady hold list for these items (and the nominees are excellent). The school Media specialists help lead a discussion, serve snacks, and set up a voting box  with a big reveal of the local winner. Last year, we only had 1 school participating, this year we are working with 4!

Building Blocks Through perserverence on my part we now have a great relationship with teachers, principals, media specialists, ciriculum directors, PTA's, etc.  It took cultivation and time but it was all worth it!  I do need to find the balance of time between in house and outreach. I don't hesitate to ask for assistance from the experts in our schools to help with Library programming which includes Technology Workshops, science help for the upcoming SLP theme, supply needs from Art and PhyEd teachers, etc.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Programming work for kids is usually an on-going balancing act. Almost all libraries offer storytimes. Beyond that, no matter how small or large a library, figuring out how to fit in outreach, programs beyond storytime, school age programs, stealth and DIY programs is a constant challenge. In terms of doing service to school-agers, the class tackled that balance and came at it from a couple of different ways.

Schools are key - outreach visits, collaborations or partnerships or in-services for the teachers are just a few of the ways we create quality school age services with schools and kids.

Program frequency - not all programs (in house and outreach) need to be weekly or even monthly. Finding a balance and creating a schedule that balances ages, program types, breaks and other work can help serve many without creating burn-out.

Unique communities - knowing your community and the unique needs really helps to suggest where to create emphasis in program plans

Open communication - keeping parents and families up to date with what's happening helps keep the information flowing and provides great feedback.

Big breaks - if you have a huge demand for school visits or outreach requests during a certain month, consider suspending all other programs that month (or setting u a monthlong passive program) and concentrating on the outreach to avoid split shifts, overlong shifts and staff burn-out.

Know your goals - being aware of where you want to be and how you want to represent the library helps in deciding what outreach events to attend that make sense for the library.

Meet people where they are - instead of forcing people to choose between active programs or nothing at all during the school year, consider active and DIY programs to engage school age kids.  

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Perking Up School Age Programs

One thing we all face as busy youth librarians is keeping programs lively and interesting for the kids - and you!  In our discussion area we shared strategies we use to keep programs perked up and lively for our sometimes picky and always busy school-aged patrons.

Among the ideas:
Music! During library tours for first graders I turn to Pete the Cat. Normally I read/play Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin. Harper Collins has the Pete sing-alongs (

Pizza! I have a book club at the high school.  I secured funding to offer pizza for the kids on the day we finish each book.  I advertised as such, but still only five interested kids.  Well, after the first pizzas arrived, the book club doubled in size.  We continue to gain/lose members, but I have my core group intact.

Humor! For class visits, I pick hilarious and interactive books/stories, make the kids all be a part of it, and take Q and A.  The Q and A always leads to more hilarity.  I also award bookmarks (the cool ones!  Scratch and sniff!) for asking a Q.  Everyone who asks gets one.  I make sure that by the end, everyone HAS asked, so that no one leaves empty-handed. We have fun, because I like to be a stand-up comedian with kids.

Secrets! We practice checking items out on our self check on the storytime card and then the highlight of tours for younger kids is seeing books come from the outside drop attached to our building. Lots of ohhs and ahhs, I just grab a coworker to take our items and slowly drop them in. OHH! AHH!

Partners! We first started out by asking the elementary principal if we could take just 15 minutes of the teachers time on inservice day before school started. We presented to the teachers what we had at the library and that we would like to partner with them for the benefit of the kids. We then started school visits - we now have monthy class visits with 2nd, 3rd and 5th grades which lead into higher numbers in our SRP. Which lead into other activities that were very successful. We had a safety program in which  a local police officer came talked about summer safety  and we almost ran out of room in the kids room ( it was packed) We also have the fire department come with a fire engine and talked about fire safety. These programs were promoted by the school.

DIY! The biggest success we had recently was the cardboard creations party, and it was probably one of the simplest. We collected cardboard of all kinds (boxes, sheets, scraps). We also provided markers, crayons, glue, tape, scissors, and then the participants just got to build whatever they wanted. It was very low stress for the department, had a big turn out, and was easy to clean up.

Outdoors! I like using the outdoors when I can.  One of the favorite things we have done was making dioramas using items from outdoors.  We got big boxes and decorated them as teams using a specific theme for the day.  We did rocks, trees, flowers etc, and linked that to stories that we read before sending them off to collect their items.  In the end some of the groups had very interesting displays...some had basically a mess.  

Water Guns! One summer it was particularly hot and almost every program ended with water gun fights.  I tried to link that to stories with some success.  The kids really didn't care though because after all, they got to have a water fun fight! 

Super Heroes!  We had Super Hero skill training- X-ray vision (figure out what's in the bag by reaching in), Leap over Tall Buildings- obviously, and a Super Hero Encapsulator Toss- a basic bean bag tossing game.  We also decorated a mask, everyone got a cape cut from a plastic table cloth, and we had a Web-blaster where we sat in a circle and made a spider web by tossing the yarn from person to person.  We also read some hero books.  

Bang!  It's super simple and kindergarten through teens enjoy it. Best of all, it can go 5 to 30 minutes. You decorate a Pringles can and write something on small cards. Also put in several cards that say BANG! Kids pass the can around, draw out one card to answer. If the child answers it correctly, he or she keeps the card. If not, the card goes back in the can. If a card that says BANG! is drawn, it goes back in the can along with all the player's other cards. And it goes on and on and on, until you put a stop to it and declare the player with the most cards the winner.

Lively Librarian! I think the best thing I do when I'm either giving a tour or at an outreach event or really any time I interact with school aged kids in the library is be myself. Kids can tell when you're faking it: either faking interest in what they're saying or faking enthusiasm for what you're doing. I need to be authentic. It doesn't matter how spectacular a program might be. If you don't believe in it, it won't be successful. 

Take off Limits!  We do a Dr. Seuss birthday party. This yearwe have changed it do drop in format, wheras in the past we have allowed only 30 kids to participate. This was the best move ever. We get around 100+ kids for these events now!

Dogs!  I bring my yellow lab Layla to work everyday, and the patrons-adults and kids-love her.  She walks around the stacks, visits the computer station and greats everybody that comes in the door.  So when her birthday comes around in October I think I'll have a party for her :)  I can display her "recommended reads"  (hopefully some will circulate), her favorite movies, build the whole day around her personality.  Through in some cake and punch and who can resist, right?!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Formula for School-Age Programming Success?

We started looking at how to create balance in the many types of program offerings for school age kids (active, passive, DIY, outreach) and what strategies we might pursue. Luci Bledsoe of Johnsom Creek (WI) Library shared her thought process.

Strategies = time x staff + money ÷ students x program types - stress = balance

No, it doesn't  make sense. I was just trying to put all the components of school age programming together and this is the equivalent of doodling with a pen and paper. Can you tell I have writer's block? However, strategies for creating balance with school age programming would include: 

Staff time...for brainstorming...setting goals...organizing...assigning prep work…publicizing, etc.

Money...what will each program cost? Is there money in the budget? Is there a budget? Divide the cost of the program by the number of potential participants.  Will this be viable, worth doing again?

Theme... would we be more effective if we kept the theme but did the program at the local center....Boys and Girls Club?

Passive...can we get our message across by doing passive programming? If we build it, will they come? Or should we put out all the cardboard, paper towel tubes, markers, glue, scissors, and paper, and let the kids build it?

Schools...if we contact the school in September, could we get permission to visit each classroom? Or have September as our Take a Tour of the Library Month, invite all teachers to bring their classes to the library.  Set up a tour day for home schooling families. Contact Scout leaders and 4-H leaders and extend the same invitation.  During that month, we would not have any regularly scheduled programs like preschool story hour.  What would we say to a request for a tour in February?

Partners...should I talk with the school media specialist or librarian and see if we could do some joint programming:  such as a celebration for Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Early the school principal.  Could I attend their early childhood screening or their kindergarten screening and hand out information about the library and our “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” program? there more than one library staff member? Could one of us plan the passive programs? Could another be in charge of the active programs such as the LEGO club? Would this reduce stress if we all take responsibility?

Balance..will strategies like this help achieve a balance in school age programming so that we offer different types of programs and thereby reach more families? 

I think so!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

Saturday, March 22, 2014

De-Stressing Strategies to Achieve SLP Zen - Part 2

Every library looks for ways to make summer a little more fun and less frantic for kids - and for staff. The class shared alot of ways they have tinkered and toyed and thought about ways to make summer better:
  • We're implementing the concept of sessions into our SRP this year because there were so many people who weren't able to register for events because they were so crowded.  Basically, we will have a 5 week schedule of programming in June-July and then repeat that with another group of kids in July-Aug.  That cuts the load in half and allows parents to sign their kids up for the session that they won't be on vacation, involved in sports/swimming/activities, etc.  
  • About a year ago, someone gave me a tip that I'd never considered before, "Just because you've done the same rhyme or song a million times doesn't mean the kids in storytime have." I hadn't really thought about this before, and I love coming up with "new" material.  Since kids grow up and age out of programming fairly quickly, it is actually possible that the fact that you are bored with a performer doesn't mean your audience is bored.
  • This will be our 3rd year as a team putting together SRP. We've already learned a lot (Debrief immediately after the kickoff party and start a doc on the shared drive with ideas for next year! Don't even attempt to register kids at the party because the technology you've tested 9000 times will fail the day of the kickoff! Having 8 crafts that need to be executed with staff intervention is too many crafts for the size of our community! If there is money in the budget, hire outside performers especially for the first few weeks when the real crazy is in the air! Stop the multiple programs per week for teens as they won't show up! Put passive/DIY programs on the SRP chart!) and we will continue to try and get out of the way of ourselves in the future.  I think the number one thing I've learned since moving to youth services is the need to be flexible and improvise. SRP magnifies this times a thousand. Every program we plan now goes through the goals and objectives we've set up as a department. If it doesn't fit one of our goals? It doesn't happen for now. This has really helped our team which tends to be full of ideas, but still doesn't know its limitations.
  • Logging: When I started in my job, I was told that the most recent summer reading program had been a big disaster for staff, and many families. It took me a while to piece things together (no written record of how it was managed), but there were booklists, book logs and book reports, different requirements for different ages, points for various activities, paper and computer logs. I completely simplified things based on my previous library's SRP and things ran very smoothly. Best of all, no one at the circulation desk had to be involved at all - which is how they wanted it. I did get some push-back from a handful of parents who liked the old system because of the required written reports so my solution is to put a box at my desk into which kids can submit reviews. I pull one out each week and give an extra prize.
  • Last summer was my first expiernce with SRP, being the intern last summer, I helped with running a few of the programs, and by the end of the summer, I was exhausted, as well as the rest of the staff. This year is also my first year taking the driver seat, and I think we have done a really great job so far, by not only cutting back, but making our programs more user friendly. This year, we are not requriing registration. Open house style for all our programs, except for the reading logs and such. We have been doing that for our big programs so far this year, and we have had amazing turn outs, compared to having them register and needing to make that comnmitment. Also, a big thing this summer is we are going to do longer time frames and less number of programs, and concentrate on the quality. My director and I also have agreed to take turns the running the programs, not only to keep things fresh for the kids, but so we dont burn out. We are also very lucky because we have some moms in our town that love to run programs for us, so they take over that for us, and we have one less program to stress over. We also are moving our performers from our traditional Wed's at 1:30, to Tuesday nights at 7:30, right after softball so that not only can some kids come, but its an invitation to get more families to attend.
What do you do to make summer easier and more sane?

Graphic courtesy of CSLP, Approved Slogans and Artwork: Images are copyrighted. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

De-Stressing Strategies to Achieve SLP Zen - Part 1

Every library looks for ways to make summer a little more fun and less frantic for kids - and for staff. The class shared alot of ways they have tinkered and toyed and thought about ways to make summer better:
  • A less stressful SLP? I'm not sure if that is really possible.  However, I've made it a point to always have one day each week (two if we are lucky) without any programs scheduled.  It gives a day to not only catch our breath but have a day for finalizing that week's last minute needs (supplies); a day to update reading records, etc. 
  • One of our most successful stress reducers that has evolved over the years is that, in addition to the children earning free books, we set up a "school supply store" at the end of our SLP program for the children to browse through and select as their prizes. For that week, our meeting room is the best "store" in town...choose the school supplies you want and a book of your choice (I buy multiple copies of popular titles; series; or characters through our vendor and get good discounts) and no money needed! 
  • We also changed our programming schedule so we could potentially allow everyone on our staff one week off in June and July (but only one at a time ;->). Because we work with kids, we shouldn't have to give up two of the best months for vacations and family time in the year. It is radical and not everyone does it (many are used to August vacations after so many years when June-July weren't allowed). But it has definitely made it more zen!
  • Our craft room contains files of every SRP held in the past 30-some years, organized by statewide theme, with notes as to success or failure and ideas to improve each activity. Bigger craft activities have their own files. Statewide themes tend to cycle between games, food, animals, mysteries, etc. so we revisit a file from a similar theme to jumpstart planning. Ideas are recycled a lot with new ones thrown in for balance.
  • A few years ago we decided that the five of us who do programs would each take a week of the SRP.  The sixth week, we would split up the programs.  We do four programs a day, four days a week during the summer.  This includes one story time.  We hold programs for all of the area summer day camp kids (Boys and Girls Club, Parks Department, etc.). It's been so nice to be responsible for one week of programs for all of the camps than the previous one day a week.
  • I decided I needed a committee to assist me in planning Summer Reading.  When we created this committee it was comprised of myself, one representative from each branch and my director (she plans the adult summer reading) and teen librarian when she was hired.  This has been very helpful because there is more than just me that knows what is supposed to be going on.  Also if staff have questions and I am not available, chances are there is someone around that was part of the planning.
  • The very first thing I do to eliminate some of the Summer Reading Program stress is to talk over with my assistant some of my ideas and what I would like to do.  I would be absolutely lost without her as she keeps me grounded.  I try not to have programs on Mondays or Fridays as this helps us "catch up or even "get ahead".   The most important factor for me is to be organized and well prepared.
  • We decided that the reading portion of the program would be the same for all ages, which is different from years past. Our goal is to keep people coming to the library, so we're giving reading logs out on a weekly basis. Each returned log is an entry into a grand prize drawing. Everyone gets a book and bookmark at the end. We don't care how many books are read, how many minutes you read, just that there is reading happening!
What do you do to make summer easier and more sane?

Graphic courtesy of CSLP, Approved Slogans and Artwork: Images are copyrighted. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to Set-Up 1000 Books Program

In June of 2013, as part of our SLP registration,  we started our "1000 Books Before Kindergarten" program.  To get to the point where we had it ready for parents and children to participate,  we did the following:

1. Researched the philosophy behind and the benefits of "1000 Books". 

2. Looked at what other libraries across the state and the country were doing with it and the different procedures they were using to organize and monitor it.

3. Presented information about it to our library board and obtained unanimous approval to start the program. I wanted library board approval due to both the long term commitment and the financial commitment we would need to ensure its success. 

4. Decided on a format: yellow portfolios with prong fasteners,  which would include an explanation; literacy information from both ALA and Reading Rockets; and a reading log for 1000 titles, along with a strip of stickers in the front pocket of the portfolio. Ordered the portfolios and made photocopies.  Assembled the first 50 packets. 

5. Placed a request for the design and printing of a t-shirt transfer and a sticker for the portifolios with the PR person at our library system.  The design was to be cheerful and colorful depicting children and books without having to worry about a copyright infringement. 

6.  Purchased white t-shirts; plastic "Bee a Reader" book bags and various stickers with book and reading themes.

7. Publicized "1000 Books" with fliers and posters; newspaper articles; the library's website and later when it was created,  the library's Facebook page.

8. Put together a schedule of incentives for reaching different levels of the program,  such as 100 books, 500 books,  etc. 

9.  Ordered a small selection of board books and paperback picture book titles to use as awards. Devised sticky labels for the cover of each book indicating that it was presented to the child because of his/her accomplishments in our "1000 Books" program. 

10. A few days after we started our "1000 Books" program,  I learned about an early literacy mini-grant from the Department of Public Instruction,  which could be used to enhance our program.  I completed the grant application and months later,  received notice that we would be awarded one of the grants. 

11. I ordered more books and promotional items. 

12. After the program started, we contacted our library system and requested the design and printing of certificates of achievement for the children who finished the program and a triple fold brochure to help with the future promotion of "1000 Books".

13. During the summer,  I believe we registered 22 children for our "1000 Books" program.  When school started in the fall, I sent letters of explanation and invitation to the parents of the local early childhood students; the parents of the students in four-year-old kindergarten; and the parents of students at the local preschool.  I also tried to locate home-based child care providers to let them know about the program.  I also "talked it up" with the parents of the children who attended our toddler and preschool story times and with individual parents as I saw them in the library.  As of February 25, we now have 87 children registered. My goal is 100 children. 

14. My question after rereading the above: when does this program become passive? I've put a lot of time and energy into it!

15.  The answer: once the child is registered.  At that point, when a parent or child gives us the reading log, we hand them the next prize...or a selection of books from which the child can choose the one he or she wants.  We also offer lots of congratulations on a job well done!
What are the advantages for this type if programming? Once it's set up and organized,  staff time is minimal.  Some maintenance has to be on going: making sure there is an inventory of awards and continuing to promote the program will be necessary.  There could be an increase in circulation of children's books and perhaps,  an increase in toddler and preschool story time attendance. Good PR for the library will be another advantage,  along with strengthening the relationship between the library; local schools; and local child care providers,  both center based and home based. Increased knowledge of the library and the services it provides will benefit everyone. 
What are the disadvantages when doing this type of programming? In the case of a multi year program like "1000 Books", there needs to be a financial commitment so that children reaching "1000 Books" four years from now will receive the same recognition as those completing the program in 18 months.  There needs to be a time commitment made by the library that the staff will have the time necessary to actively promote the program, which could include annual letters to parents and visits to schools. Individual staff members will need to understand the importance of early literacy and feel comfortable in inviting parents and children to participate. While that is not necessarily a disadvantage,  it can be with staff not having the same beliefs as the department head or director. Everyone needs to be on board! 

Luci Bledsoe, Johnson Creek (WI) Public Library

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DIY Program Power

Not everyone knows the many types of programs available to us to use with kids. There are active programs, passive programs and DIY programs. Today we look at some fun ideas for kid-powered programs!

Kits! We are looking into little science type kits to be available in the Library this summer.  We are thinking of having a check-out type system...if a family wants the magnet kit, they bring the "Magnet Kit" card to the desk and we check it out to them to use in the Library and return when they are done.  We hope it works without too much staff time involved.

Crafts! I  put out crafts on top of our low picture book shelving. Crafts are generally a quiet activity. I used to put the crafts on a small cart with wheels. If things got to crazy, the cart could be wheeled away. Everything seemed to be fine. I took the wheels off and put puzzles and coloring sheets on it. The cart sits at the end of shelving unit.

Legos! Our Lego program is essentially DIY. One of our aides is "in charge" which basically means rolling out the Lego cart and setting up a few tables. She started with themes and will still "guide" them. "If you're stuck for ideas, today see if you can make a bridge with the least amount of Legos possible!" but most of them are self-directed. We display their creations in the department for a week (on a high high shelf!) until the next week when she takes them apart and they do it all over again. She just finished this week and had about 55 participants and remarked "It was chaos! It was awesome! It should be screaming and crying and pushing and not sharing, but those kids do an amazing job of working together!" 

Passports! Kids get a passport and moved along several country stations in the library, to see materials, books and crafts.  At each station they got a sticker from that country to put in their passport. Very fun!

Packets! TheCraft of the Month program is very basic and simple craft activity is available to patrons whenever we are open. Basically, we have the craft example behind our desk for patrons to see. We then take a form of ID (library card, state ID) and they get a craft packet which includes markers, scissors and a hole puncher. Patrons then take their craft and materials to our craft room to complete. We get many happy and satisfied participants who complete this DIY program. 

Idea Sources! PinterestLibrarian's Guide to Passive Programming by Emily T. Wichman and DIY Programming and Book Displays: How to Stretch Your Programming without Stretching Your Budget and Staff by Amanda Struckmeyer and Svetha Hetzler

What DIY programs do you do!?!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

Monday, March 17, 2014

You Say Passive, I Say Fantastic

Lots more shares of passive or stealth programs in the class. Here are just a few!

Most of our passive programs are centered around our monthly theme and therefore change every month.  We seem to do a lot of "Find the..." hunts.  This month it is finding the bookworms (bookmarks sticking out of books) in the books that they have fallen in love with and write down their titles.  We let kids do it individually or in teams and then come up for a sticker.  There are a few other activities lying around that they can do (a puzzle, coloring sheets, brown paper laid over the tables for free-style drawing, some Duplo blocks with words on them that are supposed to be kind of like magnetic poetry).  We're also trying out a Winter Reading Program this year.  I like having passive programs in the library because it gives the kids something new to look forward to when then come and something to do while their parents look for books.  

Our first DIY/passive program was Wimpy Kid station I found thanks to one of the many, many, many blogs I follow: Future Librarian Superhero .  This was a huge success for us with about 65 kids participating. We did give away a copy of the book which I think increased the numbers.

I currently am doing a Love Your Library Month program that consists of a library bingo where the children pick up a sheet with 9 blocks on it asking them to check out an item from 9 different areas (ex: check out a DVD, check out a audiobook, a new book, etc) to get a black out and when they are done they can turn it in to be entered in a drawing for a prize. They can do this as many times as they like throughout the month of February. I also had a library trivia sheet they could do and turn in for another entry and a library scavenger hunt for different ages to get them to identify the different areas of the library. And I included a guess the # of heart marshmallows in the jar for another entry in the drawing and to win an extra prize. All of the papers are kept on a top of a low table with pencils and slips of paper and an entry box. I also include some books on love on the table to fit the theme.

We do an optional bingo board as part of our SLP. It has the traditional 25 squares with a free center square. Except for two of the remaining squares each square represents checking out a different genre or format or categories like "DVD based on a book". The remaining two squares are 1) donation for the food pantry or the humane society--we provide a wish list for the latter and 2) 10 pennies for our penny jar that sits at the circ desk.

I started a simple activity called the Guesstimation Station. Kids guess how many items are inside a Ball jar placed on a display. They write their estimates, names, phone numbers, and place them in the box. The child with the closest guess wins a book or prize from the hodgepodge of extra SRP stuff we have. I switch out the items monthly. Here's a quick blog post about it if you want a visual.   It's really easy, and I get over 100 kids each month putting in a guess! I didn't know how many would participate, so I was pleasantly surprised the first time I opened the box! The only drawback I have encountered is duplicate entries, which I only count as one participant for statistics purposes.

I started a Pete the Cat reading program which runs through the month. I used the small display case in the lobby to promote the program.  There is also a guessing game. How many buttons are in the jar?  When children sign-up, they receive a reading record and a bookmark.  Upon completion, each child receives a certificate and a pair of shoelaces. I had read somewhere that children today are having a hard time learning how to tie shoes.  So, if a child can show staff that he/she can tie his/her shoes, they also receive a piece of chocolate candy.  We have many children proudly showing us how he/she can now tie their shoes.

A passive program we have had is a “How Many/ Who Do You Recognize?” display (example). We numbered the shadowed characters, made a worksheet, and asked the interested children to complete it. They returned their worksheet to our desk. We picked the most accurate guesses and the winner receiver a bag filled with past reading program prizes (it was a great opportunity to clear out our older stock). Like mentioned above, a disadvantage was checking on the display to make sure pencils and worksheets were available in an orderly fashion.

Stop by my Pinterest Board for more stealthy ideas.

What cool passive or stealth programs are you doing?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What's Great About Passive Programming?

In our class we looked at different types of programs: passive (stealth) programs, DIY programs and active programs. The class discussed some of the positives they see with programs other than active programs.
  • Having a mix of programs allows you to provide something that appeals to more people.  Those people who don't bring kids to programs or storytimes but do come in every Saturday morning to check out books have a chance to participate in some type of program (probably passive) without interrupting their routine.  Also, having low maintenance programs like passive and DIY programs can take the pressure off to have more active programs.  If someone asks why you're not having a big active program all the time, you can point to smaller programs that kids can participate in at their own convenience and maybe keep them coming in for more than just a 45 minute program.
  • In this same vein, I think passive programs can be a better fit for older children. Although young children at our library love all the programming we provide (or their parents do), we have more trouble reaching older elementary school children. Passive programs seem like a good fit for this group since it allows them to have more agency and they don't have to worry about bringing a friend to every program.
  • Passive programs work well for busy families that can not always make to the library to planned programming at a certain time.  They can stop by when it is convenient for them, pick up some books and participate in whatever passive program that is happening while they are there.  I think that active and planned programming is great for families that might be looking social interaction.  It is great with preschoolers and elementary aged children.  It's great for the kids and the parents to interact with each other, plus we can use that time to share our book collection.  Pitfalls for passive programs included keeping the project contained, keeping staff updated on what the program is, and depending on how long the program goes- helping staff remember to encourage patrons to participate.  Pitfalls for active and planned programs would definitely be time constraints for families.  They have so many activities after school and in the evenings.
  • I am a full-time librarian and my work desk is the public desk in the children's room. When I'm not doing storytimes, I'm at the desk observing and always asking myself how I could make my department better for every single kid that walks in the door. That being said, I am a firm believer in meeting kids where they are. Some children LOVE a crazy storytime with 20 kids running around (with 20 adults in a 43-capacity room!). Some kids would rather go to the dentist (no offense, dentists!) than participate in a jam-packed, fast moving program. With the different types of programs, we as librarians can meet kids where they are and indulge their unique personalities and interests. If we only did one type of program, a huge chunk of kids would never get the experience of being themselves at the library. I do many DIY programs that are 90% self directed (the 10% being a sign that says "Hey, this is cool! Do it!"). This catches the kids who are not able to attend formal active programs, or kids that have half an hour to hang out while their caregivers print something in the computer lab. I think we as librarians can do ALL OF THE THINGS with a good mixture of programming. :)
  • I actually think a mix of active and passive programs are virtually essential for a library to embrace in order to remain financially viable. We started exploring passive programming because we had to. We don't have enough staff to execute traditional "active" programming for all ages on a consistent basis.  But that's not the only reason to do it. Technology has been a game-changer for this generation. Kids are more independent and self-directed. Our culture has fundamentally changed as a result of the internet. I think it's our responsibility to not only help them navigate that world, but to offer relevant programming for a variety of interests. There used to be a more collective experience around "cultural" events: the country stayed home on Thursday nights to watch the Cosby Show or you anxiously listened to hours of the radio to hear that one song you loved. That's not the case anymore. Passive/DIY programming allows libraries to widen the scope of interests. And it allows libraries the chance to quickly adjust to trends. Active programming takes advanced planning and by the time an event comes around, kids may have moved on. I also think it's a really sneaky way to redirect kids to books. I am not a the-library-is-for-reading-books-and-only-reading-books type of person, but I do believe one of the greatest thing I can do for a child is get them to see that reading is FUN. If kids choose reading as a leisure activity, they win life forever. Passive and DIY book-based programming can excite kids and remind them how fun reading is. 
  • Passive activities give that shy young reader who is uncomfortable in group activities a chance to participate, entertain children while their parents are using library computers, and introduce “new” books to children and parents.
  • Having a mix of programs allows you to provide something that appeals to more people.  Those people who don't bring kids to programs or storytimes but do come in every Saturday morning to check out books have a chance to participate in some type of program (probably passive) without interrupting their routine.  Also, having low maintenance programs like passive and DIY programs can take the pressure off to have more active programs.  If someone asks why you're not having a big active program all the time, you can point to smaller programs that kids can participate in at their own convenience and maybe keep them coming in for more than just a 45 minute program.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

6 by 6 Early Literacy Stations

In talking about passive and DIY programming in class, Melendra Sanders from NCKLS in Kansas shared the perfect preschool stations.

I created early literacy stations focused on a specific book. These stations are out in the children's area of the library for 2 months at a time.

For the stations, I would come up with activities that related to at least 5 of the 6 early literacy skills from Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR), although in Kansas it has been rebranded as 6 by 6 which is how we "label" all the activities. Each station has an introduction that explains what the 6 early literacy skills are and how they help children be ready to learn to read when they start school. There is also a description and the materials needed for each activity. The activity descriptions contain information about the individual early literacy skill the activity promotes and simple directions for how to do the activity.
The stations contain a mix of items, such as toys, games, and writing/coloring tools. There are also containers for each activity's materials, so that all the things have a "home" and can be cleaned up or moved easily.
Often stations are planned to coordinate with active programming. For example, Kansas has a Kansas Reads to Preschoolers (KRP) week, and the 6 by 6 station that overlaps with that week always focuses on the KRP book.  
This promotes the use of station materials in active programs too. The year the KRP books was Lola Loves Stories, I created a felt board for the 6 by 6 station that had different hats Lola could wear related to specific books she may have read. The kids loved it at the station, and all the storytime librarians used it in one form or another for their storytimes that week.

Here is a sample station for the book Bear in the Air:
6X6: Tell Stories about Everything
Recounting what happened in a book helps your child learn to follow, understand, and tell a story. Knowing how stories work helps a child learn to read because it gives him a better understanding of what he is reading.
Retell the Tale:   Using the map from the end of the book, help your child retell the story by finding the important scenes or characters on the tables.
6X6: Take Time to Rhyme
Rhymes, because they emphasize the individual sounds that make up words, are a great way to help children hear those smaller. Being able to isolate those small sounds helps children when they are learning to read.
Find the Rhyming Words: Find the rhyming words on the sea shell halves and match them to make whole sea shells.
6X6: Talk, Talk, Talk
The more you talk to your child about the everyday events of the day, the large his/her vocabulary will be. Children with large speaking vocabularies learn to read more easily because it is easier to sound out a word that they already know.
Make Lemonade:  Use the lemonade recipe and props help your child make lemonade. Talk about how each ingredient would taste, look, and feel.
6X6: Noticing Print All Around
Helping your child notice the words in the book and how they go along with the illustrations allows her/him to better understand that the print is what you are reading.
Hanging the Laundry:  Match the shirt illustrations and short words to hang them on the laundry line.
6X6:  Look for Letters Everywhere
Noticing different shapes is a first step in recognizing the difference between letters. Sorting activities are great for this skill.
Sort the Shapes:  Help your child place each shape through the correct hold in the bucket. While you’re at it, talk to them about the upper and lower case letters on each shape.
6X6:  Look for Letters Everywhere
Learning the letters of the alphabet is more than just singing the ABC song. Children need to recognize that letters are different from each other, that even the same letter can look different as upper and lowercase.
Match the Letters: Help your child put the upper case letters in alphabetical order. Then help him match the lower case letter to the upper case letter.
The patrons love the activities; we have families play with them for hours at a time.
Parents and children are exposed to new books.
Staff get more storytime resources for current and future use.
The program both promotes the early literacy skills and exposes parents to the rationales behind some of the things librarians do that are educational without us having to constantly "talk up" our role in early literacy.
The stations are portable and storable for reuse in the future.

They do take planning and effort on a regular basis.
They have to be cleaned up regularly.
Sometimes pieces go missing or get damaged.
Depending on how much staff wants to repurpose items, they could be expensive.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Need a Die-Cut Machine -Creative Funding

For years, we wanted a die cut machine and dies for the library,  but there was never enough money in the budget.  In 2001, we learned about a printer cartridge recycling program called Funding Factory. 

We advertised throughout the community and since then, have sent in hundreds of used cartridges and in recent years, have sent in old cell phones, laptops, and other devices.  The program is free: FF provides the cartons and mailing labels and when UPS makes a delivery to the library, we can give them a packed carton of cartridges and they ship it free to us.

We earn points for each item we recycle and send and redeem the points for cash. We used the cash to purchase a die cut machine and dies, including an alphabet set and update our selection of dies on a yearly basis using these funds.

This ongoing project has kept  pounds and pounds of technology waste out of the landfill; it has provided a public service to help our residents properly dispose of such waste; we have a die cut machine and dies to use for library bulletin boards and programming; and we offer the use of the die cut machine and dies to the public. It is a "win-win" for everyone!

Luci Bledsoe/Johnson Creek Public Library

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Parent University = Powerful Partnerships

A small comment on the discussion boards intrigued the class, so we asked Kelly Allen of Oregon WI to share her experience of this cool way to collaborate!

The school district was planning its first Parent University in 2012. I managed to get the library involved by chance. A local doctor was looking for outreach opportunities and approached me about hosting parenting classes at the Library. I was intrigued but decided to check with my school contact to see what parent education the schools were doing to avoid duplication. That is when I learned about Parent University and how the district would love the library and local doctor’s clinic to help plan it. Now in its second year, we added more school districts, libraries, and healthcare groups to provide experts and to help promote.
The name “Parent University” is not copyrighted or trademarked. You do not need to purchase a kit from a vendor. Many school districts use some variation on the name but structure their program to suit their needs. It reminds me of the summer reading program. Lots of different names and set ups but all have the same purpose. Summer reading is promoting literacy and library use. Parent University is educating parents about important topics and connecting them to local resources.
Parent University in Oregon, WI is a mini-conference for parents of preschool to high school age children. The event is free and open to anyone, even those outside of the district. It is held on a Saturday morning (8:30- Noon) in March when winter sports are ending and spring ones are starting. We host the event at the local intermediate school and use several classrooms for the workshops, the lunchroom for registration and breakfast, and the art room for childcare.
The conference is divided into three sessions that are each an hour long and have 4-6 workshops. Each session has a mix of topics concerning preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school children. Topics include literacy, financial aid, bullying, puberty, sports injuries, mental health, and drug abuse. The workshops are led by an expert in that field (doctors - puberty, librarians - literacy, bullying- guidance counselors). The experts are pulled from the sponsoring school districts, libraries, healthcare organizations, and other community agencies.
We do a few things to encourage parents to attend. We provide a free continental breakfast.Free childcare is provided if you pre register. National Honor Society students help with the child care. Each sponsor provides a door prize. Parents receive a drawing slip for every workshop they attend.
The partnership between the school district, library, and other community agencies is working well for everyone. The event has allowed many of us to create connections with other community groups and now we are working together on projects outside of Parent University.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stretching Money into Fun Programs

As we talked about the relationship of money to program success, many student-librarians shared how there are many fun programs that can be created with very little money to create a big impact.

The class also felt strongly that spending alot of staff time on preparing and doing programs also equals money so they make a concerted effort to keep the planning reasonable.

This is what they shared:

  • Every summer we do a wildlife scavanger hunt.  We are lucky to be in nature, so I give each team a list of items to collect to make a collage.  It costs nothing for kids to gather various colored and textured rocks, leaves, flowers etc.  
  • We always have a program that is "If you build it, they will come"  we gather paper toweling tubes plastic lids...etc. The kids use their imagination and come up with some fantastic displays.  This is a free program.  Very little planning, just time to collect, and set up the program.  best part, we all have a blast.
  • I know I did a program for fall where the kids activity was to use stencils to put colored leaves on a tree on our library window. It turned out lovely and many patrons and the library board loved it. However the library board from then on wanted something on the window all year, well let's just say I wasn't as excited to do it after awhile and the ideas for something new all year stopped flowing.
  • Our Smart Cookie program right now, is basically free. Our kids read, when they finish a level, then they get a free cookie from our local grocery store. Of course, we are lucky that our local grocery store donates all these cookies :)
  • It is so fun to model to parents how so much learning can be done with so little money. We love using everyday objects to create a lot of fun and to use the imaginations of our kids. Sending home the recipe for homemade play dough, or bubbles, or origami instructions is very fun for all.