Calling all children’s librarians…

…school media specialists, educators, and other assorted amazing folk who work to bring creativity, literature, technology, and information alive for children!  If you live in or around the tri-state area (NY/CT/NJ) and are interested in brainstorming about topics like book trailers, eBooks, podcasting, digital storytelling, and social media, then please join us for the

3rd Annual KidLib Camp

an Unconference at Darien Library

August 11, 2010


Perhaps you are wondering, “What the donuts is an unconference?”  Good question, my friend!  An unconference is kind of like an unbirthday!

Actually, no.  It’s not at all like an unbirthday.  But it is a chance for professionals to get together in a somewhat informal environment to talk about topics of interest.  Everyone who signs up to attend the unconference submits discussion topics they’d like to learn more about.  You can also volunteer to lead discussions on subjects of your choice.  Then, on the day of the unconference, we vote on which major discussions we’d like to have, and break up into smaller groups.  Every person is an active participant and has the opportunity to share their experience, skills, and thoughts.

Besides being a day of inspiring discussions, intense brainstorming, and true professional development, it is also a chance to meet other brilliant, creative, and funny children’s librarians!

To find out more and sign up, click here.


Takeaways from Trendspotting Ebooks Symposium

Highlights from CLC’s Trendspotting Symposium, Ebooks: Collections at the Crossroads, included a fiery, funny, and provoking talk by keynote speaker and library super geek, Eli Neiburger, and continued with a fascinating panel discussion that included Mr. Neiburger, the remarkable Barbara Genco, Harper Collins President of Sales Josh Marwell, and an exec from Overdrive, Mike Shontz (moderated by Kate Sheehan aka the Loose Cannon Librarian.)

Some takeaways:

  • Josh Marwell from Harper Collins said that the 26 checkout limit is NOT set in stone.  It is “a work in progress.”  (Also, bravo and major props to an HC man stepping into a roomful of wary librarians. That’s bravery.)
  • Dedicated ereaders (black and white devices whose sole purpose is to read ebooks) will be obsolete in a few years.  The future is in multifunction devices.
  • For libraries to adapt successfully in this brave new world of digital content, we need to Geek Up.  Libraries need to hire more geeks and train existing staff to be more geeky. That is, we must be comfortable navigating, creating, storing, archiving, and curating digital content.  And, we need to be able to confidently help our patrons do so as well.
  • It’s impossible to know what libraries and the ebook market will look like in 5, 10, 15 years.  But, as Barbara Genco put it, “we are beyond the tipping point.”  Ebooks and digital content are here to stay- and growing exponentially.  We need to dig in, learn, and experiment now- even if it’s scary and we aren’t exactly sure where we are going.
  • Librarians are really good at what we do- helping patrons, building collections, fostering community.  We are not so hot at marketing those value-added services and skills.  Even in the midst of being cut out of some of the digital community (ie, Kindle and Apple’s App Store) we can nevertheless put our awesome librarian skills to work.  We can be the learning labs in which our users play with content creation.  We can be the Genius Bar-like staff that assist them in creating their own stories, videos, apps, and photo collections.  We can be the storehouse, archive, and curators of this unique content.

In case you’d like to browse through the day’s tweets, there were two hashtags (one official, one grassroots): #clcebks and #clctrendspotting.

photo courtesy of Flickr user Pen Waggener

Highlights from the EJK Discussion Panel

I was surprised to find that yesterday’s Ezra Jack Keats event at the New York Public Library was not the announcement of the 2011 award winners (that will be May 10th), but a discussion about the award, its history, and the current state of picture books.  Although I was initially pumped up to hear the award winners announced, it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise, as the conversation was smart, illuminating, and directed by some of the most interesting and well-read women in the biz.

The discussion ranged from the frustration in finding quality picture books about and by people of color, to the importance of arts education in shaping and encouraging future writers and illustrators, to the explosion of ebooks and children’s book apps and the place of picture books in this brave new world.

Although some of the arguments and predictions reiterated points that I have heard before, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear a panel of experts talk so passionately and confidently about the future of the picture book.  This was no doom and gloom affair, but rather a confirmation of what all savvy librarians and teachers already know to be true: the picture book is alive and well, thank you very much.

One point, made by Lisa Von Drasek, that really stuck with me was that librarians and teachers have a responsibility to spread the gospel of the picture book as a medium for all ages (not just babies and toddlers) to the parents in our communities.  It’s all well and good to attend panel discussions, conferences, and participate in the kidlit blogosphere, but that’s a little like preaching to the choir.  The places we really need to reach are the mommy, daddy, and caregiver networks.  This has really got me thinking about how to use this blog to reach out farther and better to parents and caregivers.  Hmmm….  Definitely some very good food for thought.

Many thanks to the amazing and brilliant panelists, and to NYPL and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for organizing and hosting the event.

NYPL lion photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike_fleming; picture book photo courtesy of Flickr user Enokson.

True Tales from the Children’s Room

It’s been an eventful few weeks in my library.  I’m not sure if it’s the incremental changes in the weather or barometric pressure or if odd and hilarious incidents are tied to the waxing and waning of the moon.  In any case, here are some of my favorite highlights from the past month:  

Fourth of July in February

A packed audience of about 100 children and parents were enjoying kitchen science experiments performed by two local high school teachers, known as “The Wizards of Chemistry!”  A particularly robust reaction set off the building’s fire alarm and the entire library (all four floors) had to be evacuated.  On top of the inherent cool-factor of having fireworks go off in the auditorium, the fire department and police showed up on the scene a few minutes later.

No Pants, No Shoes, No Story

Some kids are just free spirits.  The group may be listening to a story or doing a craft and I find little Annie or little Jimmy off dancing in the corner or humming slightly out-of-tune or trying to do a handstand.  And that’s OK.  Hey,  sometimes you just have to march to your own beat.  But I draw the line at disrobing in the middle of preschool storytime.  Granted, I may have inadvertently inspired one little free spirit to cast off his pants with my rather enthusiastic reading of Bear in Underwear.  Nevertheless, it is now a storytime rule: while our “listening ears” may occasionally fall off, our pants may not.

Lethal Weapon

A dad and his four-year-old son stop in to pick up some new books.  Dad turns to son and asks “Do you have your library card ready?”  Son replies “No,” while clearing holding said library card in his hand.  “This isn’t my library card. It’s a gun!  Ka-pow!”  Dad turns back with an apologetic shrug and says, “And I’m a democrat!”

Brown Chicken, Brown Cow

Girl, aged 3,  came to the library dressed in a head-to-toe chicken costume (awesome).  I leaned down to complement her superior fashion skills and tell her how much I loved her look.  She looked me in the eye and said, “Mooooo.”

The Flamingo or the Egg?

If you’ve taken the Every Child Ready to Read workshops, you know how important it is to practice dialogic reading.  That is, stopping every once in a while to engage the children and ask open-ended questions about the book you’re reading.  What the Every Child Ready to Read workshops don’t prepare you for are the surprising, embarrassing, confounding, and downright bizarre answers you will undoubtedly receive from a group of preschoolers who now have the undivided attention of an adult other than their parents.

Case in point: During a recent reading of Sylvie by Jennifer Gordon Sattler, I asked the children to look at the illustrations and tell me how they thought Sylvie was feeling.  (Sylvie is the story of a little flamingo who, after discovering that her pink color derives from eating pink shrimp, decides to eat all sort of interestingly-colored items to change her color.  She eats so much that her tiny stomach swells and she feels slightly ill.)  It was at this point in the story that I paused and offered what I thought was a rather well-formed dialogic question: “Look at that illustration of Sylvie.  How is she feeling right now?”

A few timid voices offered “sick” and “her tummy hurts” and “sad.”

Then, loud and clear rang out a different answer:  “pregnant.”

Huh.  “Well,” I began, “what makes you think so?  Is it because her tummy is big?”

“Yes.  And she’s pregnant.  And she’s going to have a baby come out.”

Huh.  “Well,” I began again, “do you think that perhaps her tummy is big because she just ate all that stuff?”

“No.  She’s pregnant.”

Huh.  “Well,” I began again, “Maybe Sylvie is going to lay an egg!”

“No.  She’s not laying an egg.  She’s going to have a baby.  Because she is pregnant.”

Now, it was at this point in the back-and-forth that I began to sense a deep resistance to reason on the part of my preschool debater.  I had to then ask myself, am I going to school this four-year-old in the reproductive system of the avian class?  Or do I just let it go?

Is it appropriate?  What if she goes home and regales her parents with descriptions of mammalian versus non-mammalian birth?  What if she tells her parents that the library lady gave her this wealth of new knowledge?

And what are my motivations for doing so?  Am I really interested in transforming this into a “teachable moment” or am I more concerned with winning this battle of wills?

I looked at my audience of wide-eyed preschoolers, their moist little eyes flicking back and forth between their spokesperson and myself.  They were waiting on my answer and I knew I could show no fear.

“Well.” I met her steely gaze, cocking my right eyebrow ever so slightly.  “That is a very interesting thought.  Thank you for sharing.”  And with that, I turned the page and continued on.

No.  Fear.

photos courtesy of Flickr users Victor Bezrukov and jenniferlstoddart.

The Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights: The Redux

Waaaay back in the summer of ’08, I wrote a post musing about the formation of a Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights.  Using Daniel Pennac’s famous Reader’s Bill of Rights as a jumping-off point, I attempted to draft a document that would enumerate the many acceptable forms of reading (for pleasure) that would help encourage, and perhaps inspire, reluctant readers.  I offered a couple examples including “The right to read graphic novels and manga,” “The right to read non-fiction,” and “The right to not like a book.”  I also asked for feedback and further suggestions and promised an updated post compiling the responses at some future date.  Now that some time has passed, I thought it would be useful to take a look at some of the interesting, often surprising, comments and criticisms and offer a newly updated Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights. Continue reading

A Page by any other name?

I started my library career as a Page with at the Bayside Branch of the QueensBorough Public Library.  While I gained a lot of practical public library experience and “Library Page” certainly looked better than “Ice Cream Scooper” on my resume, it was no “Materials Handler Technician.” 

I’m inspired.  Instead of “Children’s Librarian”, perhaps I’ll start calling myself “Diverse and Emerging Literacy Specialist for Youth.”  Hmmm.  Or maybe something more fanciful.  How about “Library Goddess of Ideas, Information, and Imagination”? 

Please! Add your own superfluous titles in the comments!