Thursday, December 06, 2012

Hard-To-Buy-For Kids: A Book-Giving Guide

It's Christmastime and you might still have a few kids to shop for, since Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping allows you to procrastinate even further than you would have. You might want to get a book for said kid, but are not sure what to get. THEN, you read something like this and not only do you bemoan your complete lack of creativity, you now have the distinct desire to buy books so you can give an inexpensive but sugary treat that you know won't be duplicated... at least, not with a book that isn't an unabridged version of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" for a struggling 8 year old.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Story Action Pod: BOT edition

C/O Mr Schu Reads
So after the overwhelming fun that emanated from our last Story Action Pod (which, by the way, was a landslide victory with a write-in candidate) I was energized to create another one. After all the sharks and trains, I decided that the Story Action Pod was severely lacking in the robot department.

I went with "Boy +Bot" by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino, which I snatched greedily from the fingers of an unsuspecting child while laughing maniacally and possibly pointing before tearing off on my Harley

Or from the new picture books display. I promise. It's another one of those, though, that we probably should have more copies of, because it is literally never available. So after I checked it out to myself, I smacked one of these bad boys on it to prevent it from walking away:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Readability Measures and Libraries: An Unsolicited Rant

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a friend, for whom I had run long-distance reader's advisory. She was looking for a historical fiction book for her 4th grader to write a book report. Her fourth grader is an avid reader and so I knew I could have fun with it. I gave her about ten titles, from Gordon Korman's Titanic series to Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.

She got back to me and said that based on their AR established book levels, and since he tested at a 6th grade level on his readability test, he actually is not allowed to choose any of the suggestions I gave for his book report. Including two Newbery award winning contemporary classics; one of which was Bud, Not Buddy, which should probably be read by all 4th grade boys everywhere. The aforementioned Gantos title even has a copy housed in the teen section of our library. But no matter; its book level comes in at a lowly 5.9.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Diary of a Wednesday Kid: Make a Comic Like...

All DOAWK images by Jeff Kinney (obv)
The first three Wednesdays in October (the fourth being during my conference committee duties) I ran a new program. It wasn't the most well attended program ever (6-10 kids each time), nor was it the most inspired program I ever did. But:
1) It attracted 3-5 graders
2) I got good feedback from those who attended
3) It took literally 15 minutes to develop and set up every week.

SO, here's what happened:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Story Action Pod: Election Edition!

C/O Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
I went back and forth a lot as to whether I should put something in the Story Action Pod about the election. I've heard of other libraries doing Vote-for-Characters, such as Best Bear in a book or something; I'm sure that works for them, but I just couldn't get excited about it. And as Joyce Sidman said in her luncheon address at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference last week (more on WLA later): "Kids know when you're really into something." And I just wasn't. (On a personal note, the first election I could legally vote in ever was the 2000 presidential election. Hopefully, you can see how that would be a total bummer).

More than that, though, I have a problem with any kind of program that doesn't have a far reach. If they have to come at just a certain time, or they have to come back to get anything out of it, or if they have to read widely to even know what they're talking about... okay, so I know I sound like a jerkface, like I don't want kids to read or something, but our regular patrons are just a small scope of who we serve.

BUT: the Story Action Pod allows for a small engagement in the library no matter when you're there, who you're with, what you read.

So I decided to create a Story Action Pod based on a book that kids could use to make an informed opinion in one sitting: Shark vs Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wanted: Early Literacy Librarian!

If you haven't already seen, Marge posted an ad for an Early Literacy Librarian, which I obviously think is the opportunity of a lifetime for Some Lucky Librarian. I mean, you get to work with me, after all, and I have it on good authority that I'm pretty awesome. As a cross-country transplant and a recent hire, I want to tell you about the reasons that you should apply:

1. La Crosse, WI, is one of the greatest places to live. I've lived in a lot of places, and this is one of those where I might need to live here for 10 years and that thought doesn't depress me. The people of La Crosse are so nice it's ridiculous, and in a real, genuine way. It's also beautiful. And then, there's also this.
This is the actual view from my back deck, taken with a phone.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Angry Birds Live!

My first thought when I heard "Angry Birds Live"
"The video game you know and love is coming to your library. Birds, pigs-- larger than Life! Build a level, knock down a level, and earn achievements!  Spend your Friday out of school with this fun free program."

Does that sound like I've ever played Angry Birds before? I don't even know. But I haven't anyway. No smartphone+a particular aversion to the laws of physics=not interested.

BUT, That didn't stop me from putting on a quality program, loosely based on this post by Future Librarian Superhero, who I refer to by her Twitter name in everyday conversation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Let's Go, Cybils Force!

It's that time of year again. The trees are changing, the festers are festing, and people let me officially judge things.

Yes folks, fall is in the air and so is the pungent scent ( tells me I could have also used, "whiffy") of the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literacy Awards (Cybils). I was grateful to my Past Self for pasting that image ahead of time, so I could correctly spell out the acronym.

Nominations are open now and run through Oct 15. They have a handy nomination page  that is even easily accessible on mobile devices. You can nominate your favorite title in the following categories:
Book Apps; Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books (never fear, these are two separate things. I too was worried); Fantasy & Science Fiction; Fiction Picture Books; Graphic Novels; Middle Grade Fiction; Non-Fiction Picture Books; Non-Fiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult; Poetry; Young Adult Fiction.

Judging is based on kid-friendliness, which is definitely key. And if there's anyone who knows kid friendliness, it's kids. BUT, if there's anyone who's a grown woman who watches Cartoon Network while drinking in her pajamas...


ANYWAY, I nominated some great things, and so should you. But they won't be as great as mine, because things can't be nominated twice, and I already stole the best ones. For instance:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why 1000 Books Before Kindergarten?

Our library has a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. It's awesome.

Here are the reasons that it's awesome:
1) The kids know that they're a part of something. Something big.  Whenever they finish 100 books, they come to turn in their sheet, waving it in the air and skipping. You can tell they're really proud.
2) Parents are cognizant about their role in school readiness. Reading before school is not only a fun way to bond as family, it actually does terrific stuff to the brain. Like map it to be smart.
3) It benefits us, it benefits them. Our circulation numbers increase. The families have a successful, productive visit to the library. The kids feel good coming to the library. Snag 'em early.

Here's not a reason why it's awesome.
1)Studies show that kids should read 1,000 books before Kindergarten. Despite that the idea has been passed around a lot for the last year, no one has ever scientifically concluded that kids should read 1,000 books before Kindergarten.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Return of the Iron Fist: Child Management Part 2

Lately I've noticed a discussion on a list-serv I follow about child management in the library. I wrote a successful post last summer that has been helpful to many, but this debate made me realize I didn't go far into the use of the negative in rule-making in the children's area.

Mainly because our problem was bribery of children to behave.

But truly, on the other end of the spectrum, there is a matter of writing rules for children and tweens that are inviting rather than negative.

The entirety of what I'm about to write will probably sound overly fluffy. You may dismiss it, as some might, assuming that by omitting the word "No" only feeds the fire of Precious Snowflake Culture.

But I assure you, this is anything but. This is years of trying and failing and trying again and failing and crying in the bathroom and then trying again because me and kids were stuck together.

And sometimes I was just like:

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

So Much Screen Time

So according to some sources (the sources that completely ignore the fact that there were any kind of teenagers in the late nineties) I am technically of the inaugral birth year of Millenials. Which makes sense, I guess, because I did grow up with technology in a different way than even those who were born a few years before me did. My family got their first Apple IIE when I was 7 or 8. I spent free time playing Oregon Trail and Dragon's Keep and Lemonade Stand in all their cutting-edge green monochrome glory. I made birthday banners on Print Shop that only took around 15 minutes to print on our dot-matrix. Not that I had such a keen sense of time, but I do know that it took more time than taking a bathroom break but less time than watching an episode of Punky Brewster.
On the second thought, maybe I was 6.

In my childhood, it was a novelty to get "computer time." The Apple IIE was really my only computer experience until about age 11, when I picked up a Baby Sitter's Club book and in the back it was like, "join us on the Web" and had a keyword and I had no idea where I would possibly put that in a computer. I was just all like:

Monday, August 06, 2012

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

So maybe the title is a little over-dramatic. But I think I might be done with technology-based programming for K-5.

After the awesome book trailers that were made by three kids on a no-school day back in February, I decided to make 3 super-short Kid Vid Mondays during July. I thought, maybe they didn't come because it was beautiful in February. Maybe if I make it shorter, and in the summer, we'll create things like all those libraries I hear about with their fancy tech centers, wherever they are.

Attendance was... well:
Kid Vid #1: 4 kids
Kid Vid #2: 3 kids
Kid Vid #3: 4 kids

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Field Trippin'

Have you written scripts for your tours field trip adventures yet? I sure hope so. And if not, here's an anecdote that happened to me today, which, to me, proves the usefulness of scripted tours.

So, it's summer, which means I get calls from day cares and day camps about library field trips.

I got a call last week from a local school ESL camp that had "at most 30 kids, but probably closer to ten" who are going into 4th grade in the fall. The teacher admitted that she wasn't sure what degree of English language learning each of them were at, but they were learning about space, and needed a very short introduction to the library. I said, "sure, yeah!"

And promptly forgot about it, because I could afford to. Because I knew I was giving this field trip.

Yesterday, I saw on my calendar I was working a split shift  (since the group was coming at 9am but I'm working until 8pm) and started thinking about the books I'd pull. In case you were wondering, the 2 and a half hours between shifts today were spent getting me hopelessly, embarassingly addicted to The Glee Project. I don't even like the show Glee (Ryan Murphy can't write past a first season, which is why reality television is perfect for him). So, there's that.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Librarianing in Hades: a how-to guide

C/O Hyperbole and a Half
There’s a lot of talk this week about how ever-loving hot it is outside. And people, Midwesterners especially, are finding out that those “in-style-summer” fashions, though expensive and bought this year, are not cut out for the current war in which the weather has ensnared us.

Luckily, I spent six years of my professional life in land-locked Tallahassee, FL. I come bearing gifts of fashion advice. Not that I’m fashionable (I actually don’t think I would have agreed to enter the working world if wide-leg trousers hadn’t started selling—RIP my favorite pair of JNCOS 1998-2003), but having lived through entire summers of unbearable heat I do know how to dress for work in an outfit that feels like you’re wearing nothing; which, of course, should be your objective when it’s, as my fiancée so eloquently puts it, “hot as balls outside.”
Here’s a few tips you can hopefully use, if not for your own sake but for mine, because I’m tired of looking at people and feeling sympathy itching. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Survival of the Fittest, and Astro-pigs

My second Warp Speed! Astro Adventure was based on Mars, taking inspiration from both Marge's SLP pinterest board and the workshop I went to in Madison.

I had 20 attendees total, a little low for the Main library but it WAS extremely hot outside and I probably would have only gotten better numbers if my program took place at the pool or the river.

Like my last program I started with a short read-aloud to set the scene. In fact, the garish drawing on that poster is supposed to be Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. That sound you hear is my artist father cringing 10 hours away.
Here's a breakdown of what we did:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Alienology: an SLP-themed -ology Spectacular

Of course, being me, my first Summer Reading Program installment-- one of my contributions to our Warp-Speed Astro-Adventures series, a twice weekly program that pretty much is the entirety of my superviser's Pinterest board separated into various 30-45 minute nuggets of fun-- was Aliens. I started with the idea of Alienology due to the success of my mid-winter Wednesday-ology program, and ran from there. 29 kids showed up, and had a great time!

Here's what we did, for easy replicating purposes:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Story Action Pod: Dream Big Edition

 For the Summer Reading Program kick-off this year, I pretty much lucked the eff out by finding a book that not only has a rocket on the cover, it ALSO talks about dreaming "big": "I Could Be, You Could Be" by Karen Owen. Is it the greatest text in the world? No. But does it inspire the most no-brainer Story Action Pod in the world?

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Ill Effects of Puppetry

Step away from the puppet. You don't have to do this.

"This" could be Summer Library Program school visits in general. The ability of these visits to increase summer involvement has been debated around the blogosphere (okay I couldn't find any more but I swear this has been an actual conversation, on listservs as well).

Me, I like visiting the schools, getting students excited about reading, and hope to see them in the summer. Though, I could easily see multiple visits throughout the year happening, too. This is only the second summer I've experienced SLP, and one may argue, the first year I'm really in the thick of it.

What a perfect time, then, to randomly spout a theory I have about SLP school visits. If this ends up working (proven by summer enrollment), great! If not, or if I'm entirely off-base or inconsiderate, please, PLEASE disregard me. After all, I'm a stupid cat!

My theory is:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Most Important Thing

Me teaching people euchre, 2005.
“The Most Important Thing is to: Have Fun.” –my mother, since forever
In the beginning of May I presented at the WisconsinAssociation of Public Libraries (WAPL)’s annual spring conference as part of a panel. Our panel consisted of three separate presentations. I was honored to present alongside Ashley Bieber of Rice Lake, and Shannon Barniskis of Lomira.

People have asked me how it went.
Well, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown. I wore proper attire to avoid profuse sweating. I guess those are pluses.  But you know what I end up saying the most?
“I had a lot of fun.”
Because I did. I got to tell my story about some cool stuff I did, and I really enjoyed myself. People were laughing and writing things down, each at intended places.
And most people chuckle in reply and say, “Well, I guess that’s all that matters.”

And it was then that I remembered my mother’s adage, which I heard through first days of school (no pictures, please) to cheerleader tryouts (I never made it) to job interviews (though after six months it pretty much had to change to: “The most important thing is to?” “Have fun. And get this job so I can make fucking money like a normal person and not have to drive 20 hours to move back in with my parents.” “That’s exactly right, baby.”)

And I thought to myself, “Yes. That is, actually, all that matters.”

Some people naturally take themselves very seriously. I am not one of them. When I'm too serious, as has been proven as recently as yesterday, I talk like a robot.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Field Trip Adventure Updates!

Adventure, Jamie! Adventure!
Well folks, I am flying high from the outpouring of support my library has gotten for our tours FIELD TRIP ADVENTURES! the past few weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do Not Run This Program

Getting ready for SLP, it' important to keep our senses of humor. The national theme "Dream Big" can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Here are five programs NOT to run this summer (but wouldn't be cool if we did? Actually, you should probably run these and get back to me about how they went).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Day

"The only thing I'm hungry for is ART!"--Casey, age 10
The Monday of the public schools' Spring Break, I orchestrated a Do-It-Yourself in the children's department. As previously mentioned, the idea was inspired by this book.

I loved the idea of DIY Day for the following reasons:
1. We could get rid of a bunch of junk from the basement.
2. I am not at all crafty, and the complete lack of my involvement in the actual crafts was appealing to me.
3. We could get rid of a bunch of junk from the basement.

We planned for a come-and-go 3 hours worth of crafts, which actually turned out to be the perfect amount of time. 11am-2pm stretched right through for the before lunch/after lunch crowd. We overlapped an hour with story time, which meant we needed to utilize the homework tables by the Boredom Busters, but I was still glad to do it then. We actually got a lot of kids who might not have come, because their baby siblings were in storytime!

I had originally planned for maybe 20 kids, but ended up, at the end of three hours... with 57 TOTAL. Whoa. It was even a nice day! Go outside and grill various meats!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The NASA/Madison Concurrence

Dispel all Mars misconceptions. I dare you.
I'm writing this post from Great Dane Brewpub, waiting for my fiancee to get done with a tasting he's doing at a Madison grocery store. He's had 3 in the past two days, which is cool, because I'm also in Madison.

Why am I in Madison, you ask, with bated breath.

Thanks for asking. I participated in the Explore: Life on Mars? workshop presented by the Lunar and Planetary Institute at the U-W Geology Museum!

It was awesome! Not only did I get to satiate my festering obsession with museums, but I'm coming back to work tomorrow with a binder full of ready-made ideas to include in my summer reading program.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Collaborating with Teachers

It’s very interesting, outside of the education world: people are afraid to talk to teachers. I don’t mean everyone, and I don’t mean librarians. I mean in the general sense of everything. They are seen as exclusive, defensive, and stubborn. And they are, sometimes. And I can’t blame them. Probably because I was one of them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Time & Bodies

This post is about our Library Stars tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE, and can be considered on its own or as a continuation of this post.
They're coming. And they smell your fear.
Very soon—perhaps alarmingly soon—after your grant has been accepted, it’s time to plan what the tour will actually look like. The schools, with whom you’ll be collaborating, will want to know intricate details about the tour.  In the early stages of planning and school collaboration, this may feel excessive; but having your hows/whys down will help solidify teacher buy-in and satiate all worriers.

And with the worriers, you may encounter two of the most worrisome hindrances to tours on the library’s end—Time and Bodies.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Popping the question: Grant proposals

As funding for programs continue to get cut, a great way to fund your stealth programming library initiatives (the ongoing stuff that may bolster check-outs with minimal extra staff time in the long run) is through grants.

As school funding gets cut, so does funding for extraneous frivolities like gym and field trips. For our Library Stars initiative, we knew that a large part of getting all second graders to visit us during school hours required about 14 buses. Buses are expensive, between gas prices and extra pay for the driver. We knew that if we couldn't offer to pay for the buses, it would be an uphill battle for schools to agree to visit (no matter how much they would like to, personally). So that's what our grant application asked for.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dude, I dunno: trepidations and success

I've been wanting to write a post for some time about the awesomeness that has become the Library Stars program, which brings all second graders in our city to tour FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE the library with a grant for buses.

But, as I've shared with my wonderful supervisor, who I look to for any semblance of what has happened before... I want to shout my love for this initiative from the rooftops but I always feel like this:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book trailers; or: 3 kids, a librarian, and a no-school day

Friday was a no-school day for the kids in my city, so I thought I would tackle something that I've wanted to do with kids since I learned of its inception: the creation of book trailers. Because I knew it was going to be pretty involved, I had registration and capped it at 10; 7 registered, and I ended up with three (hey, it was a sunny, warm, no-school Wisconsin Friday in February).

The kids who did show up were from other program that I've run; 2 from Wednesday-ology and one from the Garfield party. Knowing them like I did already, I couldn't ask for a better group to try out a brand-new program that was entirely conceived, written, and implemented while I was hyped-up on cold medicine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Halfway through the Wednesday-ologies, and I started to get a little crazy. Well maybe not crazy, but I decided to run with Monsterology into this Crypto-zoology wonderland.

My search, as always, began downstairs in the Shelves that Craft Day Forgot. There, I found glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and farmer's hats. Upstairs, I found passport-like stickers left over from the Summer Reading Program. Put the stickers on the farmer hat, and you have a great Indiana Jones hat.

So with this, I decided to make nametags with ______ Jones on them, with the ______ being the name of a state. I have a LEGO Indiana Jones keychain on my library lanyard, so naturally that name was taken; then I took the name Wisconsin Jones, Wisconsin being the state our library is in. All fights averted, I randomly handed out other state names to the kids.

We learned about monsters according to the Monsterology book. Here's a write-up of what was taught (I had pictures so that the kids could get good visuals. Never underestimate a Google image search and a quality color printer.You can skip to the activity if you don't care; my feelings will not be hurt. MAYBE my pride):

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two committees, one unanimous conclusion

Typical  Saturday for me at Pearl Street Brewery, my fiancee's work.

I have two passions: kids' literacy, and craft beer.

Though they may seem different, they aren't so much at all. Getting a kid to read is like the beer industry: it takes hard work, a lot of heart, is usually thankless, and for the most part is the reason to drink at the end of the day. People from the outside think it's fun/easy, and people on the inside form fast friendships. And even political opinions are similar: there are people who have faith that all can succeed, and others who believe that some people deserve to get a shot at success while others don't ("survival of the fittest" also equals, in a whole lot of cases, "survival of the richest"). There are people who ride on the latest craze, those who hang on the the traditional, and those in the middle.

But most of all, they're both labors of love.

So it's with this that I discuss the winners of two selection committees I was on in 2011:


And of course, as you can see, these committees came to the same conclusion...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Avast! Pirateology

Now that we're in the Wednesday-ology swing, I decided to go this time with pirate-ology. Yar har!

I set the mood with a few CDs by the incomparable Captain Bogg & Salty, a pirate-themed children's band from the Pacific Northwest. Like last week's Spyology, I brought back the nametag idea. This time, I pre-populated a sheet of 20 nametags with pirate names, and had the kids pick them at random from a bag. My personal favorite was a little kindergartener who totally owned the name "Muscle-Arm Jones". Other examples of names were Sloppy Skipper, Happy Shoes, Rusty Boot, and Gilly Grog. Yes, I made these up from the top of my head. It took a disproportionately short time to do. But hey, when you're listening to Captain Bogg & Salty....

In case you were wondering, I also had a nametag; I am a cheeseball, after all. My name was Cap'n Pegleg, of course, as Pegleg is my undergrad nickname and remains, for the most part, the only name I will respond to in a crowded place (do you know HOW MANY PEOPLE are named "Sara[h]"?! My best friend in undergrad shared my biblical name, which I'm sure would've confused a whole lot of people if my name wasn't actually Pegleg instead).

Friday, February 03, 2012

A #Libday8 Tale of Espionage, Villiany, and Happy Feet

Wednesdays in February I decided to hold camps/classes based on the Ologies series. My first -ology was Spyology. Seventeen school-age attendees learned about all things Spy-related. For effect, the Agent Cody Banks soundtrack was played in the background.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Defense of Internet-Based Children's Programming

Last week I held a program on a no-school day. It was two hours long, and was especially for kids over 8 years old.

And we went on....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Everything's better with dogs

 After the success of the school-aged tourlibrary Field Trip ADVENTURE!, we decided to revamp the preschool tour library Field Trip ADVENTURE!.

As always, the preschool tour we offer revolves around a book. Last year was "Knuffle Bunny" by Mo Wilems. This year the book du jour (That's French for "soup") is "Dog's Colorful Day" by Emma Dodd.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Superheroes in Training

by Kelly McConnaughey

  Over my holiday break, I met up with the ever-genuine and wholeheartedly joyful Michael Mallon about his Superhero Training Academy initiative. Our friendship is a rather odd one, having met in an undergrad poetry course back in 2003(?) and have since kept in touch over email. I suppose that might not be too unique anymore, but considering that I was an relatively late adopter of Facebook, and stories varied from turkeys loose in classrooms and pictures like this: