November 2020

Hello neighbors,

I am working on this intro from my coworker Julianna’s house – Oklahoma was hit with a terrible ice storm this week and it looks like most of the Oklahoma City area will be out of power for the next week or so. Thankfully, Julianna texted me as soon as she learned I was without power and offered to board me and my dog for as long as I was displaced.  I have felt overwhelmed with gratitude for such a kind display of friendship, and am reminded of how fortunate I am to have a support system in my life. 2020 has been an absolute dumpster fire and we still have about a month or so left. There’s a lot of unknown, so remember to check on your loved ones. This year is almost over – we’ve got this. 


Learn: Library Journal Summit: Practical Alternatives to Calling the Police 


While 2020 has dished out a fair amount of frustration and pain, I do believe it has given us the opportunity to have access to some great free professional development. Library Journal not only made their Library Journal Summit FREE, but also FREE FOR 3 MONTHS. Our supervisor has encouraged us to delve into some of the great presentations. I highly recommend the conversation on Practical Alternatives to Calling the Police. I have put my notes down below, but the full panel discussion is like having coffee with friends, talking about the serious issues facing library professionals (and specifically library professionals working with youth!) and working with the police. 

Why/when do we call the police? 

I think when we evaluate WHY we feel the need to call the police, we might reconsider even calling them in the first place. People tend to call the police when they feel they don’t know what else to do. Having alternatives in place or having staff trained on de-escalation strategies can help staff evaluate a situation more effectively to know if the police/security should be involved. Asking for system/administration guidance to set the tone and expectations can also give a clear picture of when and why the police should be called. 

De-Escalation Strategies 

It’s important to think about why a patron might be upset and it might not be as simple as we think. The panel discussed how a lack of representation in staff can contribute to a power dynamic and we need to remember that what we perceive as “bad behavior” can be subjective. We need to give patrons and staff a frame of reference for the severity of their behavior. Running in the library isn’t a grave disruption. We shouldn’t criminalize behavior that is just annoying. Ask “is this dangerous or just annoying?” I think this is a great question to think about, especially with teens and school-age children. School discipline is different from library discipline. It’s important to educate teens on procedures and expectations, and what might happen (“if you don’t make better choices I’m going to ask you to leave for the day”). We can’t expect teens to act like adults. They are in a different place developmentally. We need to question our intergenerational bias.

While having trainings about de-escalation strategies for staff is ideal, the below IESCAPE framework is a great place to start to think about difficult conversations with patrons.

IESCAPE framework

Isolate the conversation. 

Explore the young person’s point of view.

Summarize the feelings and the content.

Connect the young person’s feelings and behaviors. 

Alternative behaviors discussed. 

Plan developed/ Practice new behaviors. 

Enter the young person back into the program.

Know when you need to put a “time out” on yourself to regroup

Use banning conservatively. Restricting library use can be a real barrier for some people 

Library Nurse Program at Pima County Library: 

The Pima County Library created a library nurse program that is intended to diminish instances of calling the police. County health nurses come to the library and administer vaccines and can act as caseworkers which allows for follow-up. They have someone 1-2 days a week at branches and 5 days at the main branch. The panel encouraged libraries to prioritize hiring people with social work backgrounds.

Overall this panel was INCREDIBLE. You can watch the entire panel after registering for the Library Journal Summit here. Check out the rest of the Library Journal Summit’s great presentations and let us know what you think! 

Plan: Anti-Racism Learning Circle

Priya Charry

Several libraries have started anti-racism learning circles this year and we are in awe! We love 1. The explicit and intentional use of the word “anti-racist” and 2. The fact that it is on-going and the curriculum builds on itself. The Kitsap Regional Library has hosted circles for people of all ages, each month encouraging participants to read, watch, and listen to materials related to a specific topic such as policing and microaggressions. The Ramsey County Library hosted learning circles using the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Talking About Race portal

We are so grateful to Priya from the Kitsap Regional Library for writing about her experience developing her program.

Back in May, I noticed a growing number of online anti-racism book clubs featuring titles like How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility (books with painfully long waitlists here at Kitsap Regional Library). There was clearly a demand for anti-racism materials and community building in the midst of a pandemic that has isolated so many. With the goal of connecting our Kitsap County community through brave conversations, the Anti-Racism Learning Circle was born!

The Learning Circle is a twice-monthly Zoom program supporting dialogue and active listening in our community. Each session has a topic informed by participants’ interests. We provide 3-4 resources to explore before the discussion: free online articles, essays, news, videos, and podcasts to cater to several learning styles. We do a group activity, then share our perspectives and explore anti-racist responses to the topic. We’ve talked about white culture, having difficult conversations (with a dispute resolution trainer), and policing (with guests from the local police department), to name a few. This informal learning setting is a place to practice collective vulnerability. To help guide conversation, we have a “playbook” of group norms and “silence breakers” for uncomfortable statements. 

Attendees have been open and engaged so far, with approximately 12-15 joining each session (mostly white adults age 30 and up). One challenge has been identifying ways to prioritize youth and families while allowing for the depth of conversation we’ve seen among adult participants. All ages are welcome, and there are youth and teen librarians present for age-appropriate discussions in breakout rooms. In the future these could branch out into age-specific programs of their own.

The first months of the Learning Circle have been transformative for me as a librarian, a facilitator, and a person of color. Based on the strong community response, I’m optimistic that these conversations are helping our patrons through their own anti-racist journeys and the Library will be here to support them.

Feel free to get in touch with questions or suggestions: Priya Charry, 

Program details: 

Content and resources from previous sessions: 

Consider: Visual Schedules


Picture borrowed from the ALSC Blog, “Sensory Storytime: A (brief) How-To Guide”

Virtual schedules describe a sequence of events in picture form. They are great for kids and grown-ups to have a more seamless and relaxed learning experience. Renee Grassi wrote a post on the ALSC blog detailing all of their benefits. They are a fairly easy “upgrade” to your storytimes: print out some pictures, laminate them, and find a place to display them during your program. As you move through each activity, point to the relevant picture and use a vocal cue explaining that you are now moving onto a song, a book, etc. I have also seen librarians use a clothespin they clip to a picture, and then move.  Have you used visual schedules? How did it go?

Connect: Kelly Baptist


 I finished Isaiah Dunn is My Hero in early October and I couldn’t put it down. It was such a meaningful and raw story, perfect for middle-graders! Below is our interview with the author, Kelly Baptist. Enjoy the interview and make sure to pick up the book soon!

Tell us about your book, Isaiah Dunn in My Hero and the inspiration for the book.

First off, Isaiah Dunn REALLY is my hero! The book is actually a continuation of my short story, The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn, which is included in the middle grade anthology, Flying Lessons and Other Stories. In a nutshell, Isaiah is a 10 year-old kid who recently lost his father and is trying to hold his family together. His mother is suffering from depression and alcoholism, and Isaiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his little sister, Charlie. Though the family is living in a motel, Isaiah finds his father’s notebook and finds a connection to his dad’s words, even as he finds his own words again.

What are some books that have had an impact on your life and/or writing?

As a kid, I read and re-read EVERYTHING by Mildred D. Taylor. I loved following the Logan family in The Well, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Let The Circle Be Unbroken, The Road To Memphis, etc etc etc.  She and Walter Dean Myers were my absolute favorites. More recently, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land blew my mind, and helped me to write without holding back any emotional punches.

How can our readers connect with you? Any other upcoming projects that you would like to share with us? 

Readers can connect with me via Twitter or Instagram, both handles are @kellyiswrite. They can also check out my website: or email me at I have a picture book coming out in March 2021 (The Electric Slide and Kai), a middle grade in October 2021, and YAY!!! A second Isaiah Dunn book. Kelly is definitely WRITING!!

Read: 2020 Middle Grade Graphic Novels 


Is it just me or have there been PHENOMENAL middle grade graphic novels this year? Below have been a few of my favorite graphic novels that have been published this year. If you haven’t read them yet, NOW IS THE TIME.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang 

Gene Luen Yang, a computer science teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif., chronicles a year he spent observing the school’s incredibly talented basketball team as they strove for the state championship. I like that the book is a little meta, as he will often refer to the graphic novel he is writing in the graphic novel. I thought I loved it because I am a die-hard basketball fan, but even Katherine (who is not a basketball fan) enjoyed it! The mixture of memoir and reportage makes the book light-hearted while also addressing serious issues like equity and race. This will definitely appeal to sports fans, but also anyone (children and adults) needing a fast-paced read. 

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

We’ve already highlighted this book in our August 2020 issue in our “Connect” section, but it deserves another highlight because IT IS THAT GOOD. Robin Ha gives her honest, personal experiences as she navigates her Asian American identity, adjusting from her life in Seoul, Korea to Huntsville, AL, and her relationship with her mom. I can see this book being an excellent mother-daughter book club pick, as it appeals to both adults and tweens/teens. It is a heartfelt graphic memoir that readers who loved Guts by Raina Telgemeir or Best Friends by Shannon Hale will devour wholeheartedly. 

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

I love a touch of magical realism, and Snapdragon delivers the best kind of fantasy and realism in this deep and fun graphic novel. Snapdragon, or Snap, hears rumors of a witch in their town. Not only is there really a witch in their town, but this witch, Jacks, is using magic to release the souls of roadkill back into nature. Snap wants to discover if she herself has magic. In her quest to find magic, she also learns about her family’s long history with Jacks. It’s heartwarming, sweet, but also fierce and compelling. Fans of The Witch Boy will welcome this book wholeheartedly. 

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

I don’t know why all these semi-autobiographical/memoir graphic novels are giving me alllllll the feels, but I’m okay with all the authors sharing their childhood with me via graphic novel. While Stepping Stones is fiction, Lucy Knisley uses experiences from her own childhood to tell the struggles and joys of adjusting to a blended family. Jen (the character loosely based on Knisley), is not excited about moving in with her mom’s new boyfriend. She’s even less excited about the fact he lives on a farm. While Jen adjusts to life on the farm, she also has to adjust to having siblings and her mom’s new boyfriend, who ignores others’ feelings and commands space in a way that seems abusive at times. Knisely captures her characters’ real feelings with eloquence and heart.

Class Act by Jerry Craft 

I know you’ve probably already devoured this book and the companion book, New Kid, but this is just a reminder to read it again. I didn’t think Jerry Craft could create another masterpiece with the same characters, BUT HE DID. The book contains content related to race, wealth, class, and diversity education, all while doing it in a creative and relatable way. This time the book focuses more on Jordan’s best friends, Drew and Liam, and how not only their skin color, but also their income affects how they are treated at school. I know this book is already on everyone’s to-read pile, but I couldn’t NOT include it. It’s really as amazing as everyone says it is. I think it even rivals New Kid

When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson

This is another book that I am sure you’ve either finished or already put on your to-read pile. It’s already gotten a lot of award attention (AS IT SHOULD), and is not only heartwarming, but inspiring. I laughed, I cried….and I cried some more. This book is a near-memoir interpreted into a graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson. Omar Mohamed lives in a refugee camp in Kenya with his younger brother, Hassan, who has a seizure disorder. Their father was killed in the civil war in Somalia and as they were fleeing, they were separated from their mother. The book covers Omar’s struggles of wondering if his mother is alive, his experiences attending school in the camp, and his challenges of taking care of his brother. The book captures the trauma and uncertainties of a refugee’s life. 

Reflect: What Makes a Book Award Worthy?


Allie is serving on a children’s book book award committee and it has been fascinating to hear her process through the very large question “what makes a good book?” We will regularly debate the merits of books that are educational or address a unique theme, but that aren’t particularly well-written. Can a book be good just because of the topic it explores? I’ll readily admit that I have been particularly enthused about books because of their representation and not necessarily due to the quality of the prose. I think that’s ok, and books with representation are still valuable regardless of their literary merit. I was glad to see the School Library Journal address this question in a recent blog post called “It’s a Good Book and I Love the Message, but…”: how “didactic content” can impact the Newbery Medal.” In summary, for a book to qualify for the Newbery Medal, it can’t be valuable only because of its “didactic content” (what it teaches the reader about the world.) The didactic content has to be paired with strong character and story development. 

I’m not particularly interested in policing readers’ opinions regarding what makes a good book. However, I found this to be such an interesting distinction in broader conversations about what makes a book award-worthy. No award committee is perfect and I often wonder how much personalities and personal tastes affect outcomes. 

Share: Song of the Day

Theresa Rodriguez

Years ago I was reading a blog post on the American Library Service for Children (ALSC) website. The post was written by a Children’s Librarian who created a die to roll during storytime and the picture the die landed on would determine the song to sing. I thought this was such a wonderful idea! The storytimes that I was part of did not allow for this activity to be presented this way so my coworker and I changed it up to suit our storytime needs.

We cut out die cuts that would represent a song. (See picture)

The Star  – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

The Heart – Skidamarink

Smiley Face – If You’re Happy and You Know It

Sail Boat – Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Teddy Bear Bookmark – Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

We took an empty oatmeal container, decorated it and then placed the die cuts in the oatmeal container. We shared what song we would sing for each die-cut shape with our storytime attendees. We presented it as our “Song of the Day.” We asked the attendees for a drum roll. One of us would close our eyes and pull out a die-cut. It was always so fun to hear how excited the children and caregivers were when we pulled out a die-cut.  

We created a poster board with each song title on it along with one die-cut shape. We stapled the poster boards to the wall in our storytime room. Before we sang the “selected” song, one of us would go over and match the die-cut to the right poster board. We used to pretend not to know which poster board it should go on. The children had fun correcting us and guiding us to the right poster board. We then sang the song. We taped the die-cut shape to the right poster board. Then we invited the children to help us count how many die-cuts we had on the poster board. The next week we would do it all over again. 

After a few months, we changed up the die cuts to represent new songs. We used circle die-cuts from different colors and sang a color song based on the color that was pulled from the container. We always created somewhere for the die-cuts to be taped onto, be it poster boards or bulletin board paper. We pretended not to know where the die-cut should be placed and the children really got into helping us. We sang, we matched, and we counted together. With the color song, we extended the activity outside our storytime room by placing the poster boards in the children’s area of the library. We included a poster board with a few questions that asked the children to count certain colors and which color had the most die-cuts. 

Since so many of you are doing virtual storytimes, all the extension activities might not be doable or might need some tweaking to fit your storytime. You can use one poster board, have a row for each song and ask the children to help you match and then sing the song together.

Follow up about REALM project

Test 5 results were released October 14, 2020. They tested a leather book cover, synthetic leather, polyolefin fabric, cotton fabric, and nylon webbing to see how long the SARS-CoV-2 would last on the items. Results show that after eight days of quarantine, SARS-CoV-2 virus was still detected on leather and synthetic leather materials. For the polyolefin fabric and nylon webbing, only the amount of virus after the initial 1 hour of drying time could be measured: fewer than 131 particles detected on the polyolefin and fewer than 655 on the nylon webbing. No data for the cotton fabric could be collected or reported. You can read the full Test 5 results here
REALM also released another literature review finding that you can read on their website.

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