YOU DID IT! Summer Reading is either approaching its end or is hopefully all over for you all. I hope you celebrate all the successes and how flexible you have been during a crazy year. Whether the summer reading numbers show an uptick from last year or were lower than what you were expecting, you should celebrate that you did it. We’re proud of you!!!!
For most of the summer, we had been under the impression that indoor in-person programming would resume in August. However, we got the news late July that indoor in-person programming would not be resuming due to the high number of COVID cases in our area. Katherine has reflected on the ethical considerations of returning to in-person programming in our “Reflect” section. Check it out! I’m not sure what your libraries’ have planned, but I hope you all are staying safe.
We also have some wonderful guest contributors: Melissa Schultz and Sara Vickers! If you have a cool program you want to share or a subject you want to address, please email us. We would love to include you in our next newsletter. We’ve also added a “In Case You Missed” section that has some articles related to recent library news, as well as some of our favorite reads in 2021!
Stay well friends and we will see you soon!
Learn: A Whaley Big Display
Every summer, I’m the kind of children’s librarian who goes a bit nuts with Summer Reading-inspired library displays. Our library only started offering limited in-person programming in June, so our staff had a bit more time leading up to summer than normal. I was inspired by Leuyen Pham’s whale artwork for Tails & Tales and started dreaming about a giant whale hanging in our children’s area. Understandably, my manager was a bit skeptical. But I kept talking about this idea until one of our library assistants sent me a video by Make Anything on how to make a papier-mache whale. After getting the green light, I reached out to more staff, and together, a team of us designed, sculpted, painted, and decorated a 7-foot-long whale that we named Coralina! We used foam core and chicken wire to make the frame, then did traditional newspaper papier-mache for the first layer. We next made a clay mixture that provided great texture after it dried. Then, we painted her with acrylic paint and ink, and we used Sculpty clay to make the barnacles. Make Anything had great step-by-step instructions, and we followed their recipes for most of the process. The only area where we deviated was in spraying the entire whale with spray lacquer to give it a nice fresh-from-the-ocean sheen. Luckily for us, we had most of the materials already on hand—chicken wire from a previous project, glue, paint, newspaper, foam core, and flour. In total, we only spent about $25 on the project.
It took us about five weeks to complete, with five people working on the project for 1-4 hours each week. Making Coralina was a fun team-building project that got both our Youth and Adult services departments working together, and the patron feedback has been great too! We plan to hang her up again next year for Oceans of Possibility (she might be living in my garage in the meantime).
Melissa Schultz is a Youth Services Librarian in North Carolina
Unlearn: DEI Scorecard
The American Library Association released a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scorecard for Library and Information Organizations developed by the ALA Committee on Diversity. The scorecard’s purpose is to help administrators assess their organizations in five core areas:
- Embeddedness of DEI into the Culture and Climate of the Organization
- Training and Education
- Recruitment, Hiring, Retention, and Promotion
- Budget Priorities for DEI
- Data Practices
While we know our audience is primarily children’s librarians, and not administrators, we wanted to bring this helpful tool to your attention. Evaluate your own library using the scorecard with the knowledge that you have. Take it to your managers and administrators and ask them how they would score your library. This scorecard is an important tool that can start important conversations for not only your library as a whole, but for your children’s department as well. While you might not have control over the logistics of budgets and data practices surrounding DEI, you do have a say in what trainings you want to take and the kind of culture and climate you want your library to have. We hope you review the scorecard and start some conversation with your co-workers and supervisors so that your library can have a robust and sustainable commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice.
Play: Take-home Kits
Need more ideas for some take-home kits? Don’t forget we have a Take-home Kits folder with ideas not only from Katherine and myself, but also from many of you! You can add your take-home kit ideas to the folder to share with everyone as well. You may need a gmail account to upload files; if you don’t have one you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can upload it for you. Below are some of our recent take-home kits:
- Make a Jellyfish (Early Childhood)
- Make your own Pizza Craft (Early Childhood)
- Bird Feeders (Early Childhood)
- Re-write the Billy Goats Gruff (Elementary)
- Mermaid Tales (Younger Elementary)
- Valentines Coding (Elementary)
- Geocaching Starter Kit (Family)
Please add to our folder and share with us your amazing ideas!
Plan: Comics Club
The craziness of the pandemic has allowed me to branch out and try new programs, which disrupted our regular programming in the best way possible. Sometimes you are in a programming rut where it all seems to be going ok, but you know deep down you could use a bit of a switch up. In comes our graphic novel book club- Comics Club! Relatively new to the children’s librarian position, I had always been a fan of MG graphic novels, and starting a virtual graphic novel book club was a little less daunting than starting an in-person one. I want to give a HUGE shout out to Book Cart Queens because they gave me the confidence and MANY resources to pull this book club off!
We received a grant that allowed our library to purchase 4 sets of 10 books to allow children to keep the book after they were done participating in the club. It ran from 3-4pm twice a month on zoom throughout the summer (June and July). We had a steady 6-9 participants each meeting and we had a range of artistic ability. We started off with an icebreaker of sorts, showed each other what we were currently in the process of drawing, and any fun events that had happened during the summer. I made a point to often remind attendees that they didn’t have to enjoy drawing to join the graphic novel club, OR be any good at it! I can’t draw to save my life, but it’s all about trying new things and having fun with it. We also practiced drawing every session, so those who felt they wanted to improve their drawing skills had the chance to do so!
Our makeup went a bit like this:
Updates on summer programs, updates on what (if at all) we were all drawing/doodling
Warm up/Ice breaker
Rules of graphic novel book club
- Rating of book
- 2-3 general questions
- 2-3 book specific questions
Drawing/Doodling for the last half!
- Shared our drawing from the last meetings’ prompt
- Did a small exercise, using the resources found on Digital Comics Club
- Give out the next prompt (prompts were always appreciated, but weren’t made mandatory)
This book club was often a highlight of the week for me. Seeing kids excited not only about reading, but about drawing and sharing with their peers puts a smile on my face everytime! The kids asked if we could continue this book club, so I hope to continue an in-person version of it sometime in the fall. I have also reached out to a local comic book artist to see if he can teach a comic drawing workshop at one of the sessions.
Sara Vickers is a Children’s Librarian at the Woodland Public Library in Woodland, CA.
When I started my current job in 2018, I remember ALSC had a series of blogposts titled: “Children’s Librarians are Experts in….” I contributed to the series about how children’s librarians are experts at Interactive Displays and Katherine wrote about how librarians are experts in Sensory Play. I loved the heart of the series: to remind children’s librarians that we are experts and we contribute so much to our community and libraries.
However, we are not experts in everything. In the 2017 Every Child Ready to Read report, children’s librarians described themselves as, “early childhood educators, parent educators, community workers, and social workers.” While we all bring unique talents and education (many of us come from other professions and have a range of education backgrounds), most ALA-accredited master’s programs do not prepare children’s librarians to be social workers or early childhood educators. Sometimes when I plan programs for elementary students, I feel like I must become an expert in all things science, history, or math, or whatever theme I have chosen for the program. STEAM programming is at its height of popularity and need, but my undergraduate degree is in communications, not science, technology, art, or math.
I’m not saying I (or any of you) don’t have the skills to learn the necessary information to lead a science program or to give excellent early literacy tips, but I am saying that we don’t have to be the experts. We can invite the experts to the table. Some of my most successful programs have been when I have invited the experts to lead the program. One year I partnered with the Geosciences department at a local university to lead a program about geology for elementary students. The students LOVED it AND the Geoscience department brought a rock kit for each student. Or another year I partnered with a local organization, The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, to lead a conversation and a series of programs with children and their parents about race, bullying, and stereotypes. Our system has a program called “123 Play With Me,” where we invite speech pathologists, nutritionists, and other resource professionals to a play program for parents and their kids so they can informally interact with these professionals with questions and concerns about their child. By all means, I could have led these programs with lots of research (and humility), but reaching out to the experts gave these families an opportunity to connect to the real experts about these subjects. When I attended the ALA conference session, Building Equity through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, they discussed the value of having real engineers and scientists in their STEM programs. The Chicago Public Library partnered with the Museum of Science and Industry as well as local engineering interest groups, like the University of Illinois National Society of Black Engineers group and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers to do STEM programming. It wasn’t just important to have experts in the room, but it was also important to have mentors and experts who represented the race of the kids they were working with. These partnerships increased the validity of the program and filled in knowledge gaps of library staff.
Will I have an “expert” for every program? No, of course not. Will I consider reaching out to experts when I can? YES! I think children’s librarians’ real expertise is the ability to research and connect in the most valuable of ways. Sometimes that means we learn new skills or utilize the skills and talents we already have. And sometimes that means we consider connecting with experts and invite them to the table. Either way, I know we are trying to meet the goal of providing the best services for our patrons.
Read: Action-Packed YA
If you’re anything like me, there’s something about summer (August is still summer, right?) that makes me want to read things that are fun. I love a gritty memoir or nonfiction exposé the most of the year, but summer demands adventure, excitement, and fast-paced reads!
These are some of my favorite fast-paced, fun reads for the teen who wants a un-put-downable read:
- Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (2018)
What. A. Ride. This conspiracy thriller will keep you hooked from page one (and the zombies only play a minimal role). Jane is an attendant who is highly trained in combat and etiquette to protect Baltimore’s elite from zombies that rose on the Battlefield of Gettysburg.
For fans of: The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead, Children of Blood and Bone, Front Lines
- Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (2020)
One of the most exciting and well-developed fantasy titles I’ve read in a long time! Bree infiltrates a secret society at UNC Chapel Hill, determined to discover the truth about her mother’s death—but she might not be prepared to discover the truth about herself.
For fans of: Harry Potter series, The Mortal Instruments series, Once & Future, Marvel movies
- Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (2017)
This is edge-of-your-seat science fiction at its best! When Emmett accepts the gig of a lifetime, he doesn’t realize that he will be fighting tooth and nail for the ultimate prize—a spectacular fortune and lifesaving medicine for his mom—against other kids just as desperate as him.
For fans of: The Fifth Wave, Divergent series, The Maze Runner, The 100
- Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price (2021)
Speaking of fun, how hilarious is this literary mash-up? Aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet is on the case when Charles Bingley is accused of murder. Convinced that Bingley is the wrong man, Lizzie tries to untangle a web of intrigue—and feelings for Mr. Darcy—before its too late.
For fans of: The Lady Janies series, anything Jane Austen, Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Princess Bride
- Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson (2018)
A 100-year-old unsolved mystery, a true-crime obsessed teen, and an elite boarding school where learning is a game—what could go wrong? Stevie Bell just wants to see a dead body, but she might get more than she bargained for when she vows to solve the famous Ellingham Murder. Bonus: The Box in the Woods, a new Stevie Bell mystery, came out last month.
For fans of: Nancy Drew, One of Us is Lying, We Were Liars, The Westing Game
- Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (2015)
Wolf by Wolf combines fantasy with alternate history. What if Hitler won WWII? You get a yearly motorcycle race across the Axis continents, a shape-shifting concentration camp experiment gone wrong, and a one chance to kill Hitler.
For fans of: The Man in the High Castle, Renegades, Legend, Scythe
Reflect: Ethical Considerations of Returning to In-Person Programming
Covid has affected each community differently, and it makes sense that our respective library policies would be reflective of those variances. There isn’t a one-size fits all model. That has made it particularly difficult to assess how to proceed with programs for the rest of the year. As the number of the Delta variant cases continues to climb, we are now faced with the following question: do we start in-person programming again? According to our very scientific Instagram poll, only about 25% of our readers are currently doing indoor, in-person programming but 75% anticipate they will do so this Fall. How do we decide when to pick back up? And for many libraries, the decision doesn’t reside solely with them. They answer to a Commission, a Board, and a community of taxpayers who have their own measures. However, here are a few of the questions and considerations I’ve been reflecting on, especially as they relate to children’s programs.
- What protections are in place for our youngest patrons, specially those who cannot yet be vaccinated?
- Are we inviting unsafe interactions by hosting a library program, even with protections in place?
- Are we ready to deal with a potential outbreak that may occur through a library program?
- Do we have a way of contacting patrons who attended a program if a positive COVID case is traced back to that program?
- How will protections be enforced? For example, if a customer doesn’t social distance or wear a mask, are we ready to ask them to leave?
- How are we protecting staff who may not be able to be vaccinated for health reasons?
- Is there the possibility to offer the program outdoors?
I’ve seen some libraries offer in-person programs by:
- Having groups/families sit together, socially distanced from other groups
- Offer a self-paced program, where groups move from one station to another
- Reminding participants of their personal responsibilities in a non-judgmental way
In the midst of all of these considerations, I keep returning to this question: what is our priority? Is it safety? Is it maintaining a good relationship with the public and stakeholders? I’m reminded of Brene Brown’s book on leadership called “Dare to Lead.” A central tenet of her framework is being guided by core values. Situations will always change, risks levels will evolve, but our core values stay the same. It doesn’t make sense to claim integrity as a core value in one situation but not in another. I think this is a great guardrail for decision-making: what are our core values, and how can we live them out in the context of the pandemic? I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on your library’s core values, if you have some, or, that you’ll identify your personal core values. It’s been a helpful exercise for me to recenter myself and think through these tricky situations.
In Case You Missed It: Library and Book Related News
- Did Twitter Break YA? By Nicole Brinkley – An essay about the impact of Twitter on Young Adult publishing
- Want to Get Into Booktok? – An article in Book Riot by Claire Handscombe about the rise of “Booktok” popularity. Helpful information if your library is on Tik Tok!
- Body Language in Middle Grade Lit (potential paywall) – A NYT article by author Sarai Walker about the evolution of body and diet talk in Middle Grade literature.
- Why We Need Diverse Books Is No Longer Using the Term #OwnVoices – The popular hashtag is retiring to make room for more precise and helpful terminology.
Our Favorite Books of 2021, So Far
A different kind of readers’ advisory for this month! We are halfway through the year and wanted to highlight some noteworthy titles.
Despite being a Children’s Librarian, I mostly read adult fiction and non-fiction. I listened to the audiobook of “Come Fly the World” by Julia Cook last month for my book club, and it quickly propelled itself to the top of my 2021 favorite list. It is an investigative look into the world of Pan Am flight attendants, and how they became icons of the Jet Set age. My favorite element (and what really set their story apart for me) was the creative ways that Pan Am flight attendants subverted their positions as objectified, infantilized women to pursue their dreams of travel and career. The author also looks at racial dynamics within the airline, as well as the many ways the women fought for equal rights and pay within the airline. Don’t sleep on this gem! –Katherine
This was another audiobook that completely transported me, about a teenager with a history of dark, twisted cons who gets taken hostage in a bank heist. I’ve only read 1 or 2 YA books this year, and it tends to not be a genre I gravitate towards. And yet, this one was so clever and fast-paced it reminded just how escapist and fun young adult literature can be when it’s at its best. –Katherine
Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi warmed my heart. This YA novel explores the importance of bi-visibility, even when you’re dating someone of the opposite sex. CeCee Ross’s girlfriend breaks up with her. While this would be an awful occurrence on any given day, it’s even worse since CeCe and girlfriend are social media influencers. While CeCe is navigating her breakup and her social media followers, she meets Josh, a musician who knows nothing about her social media followers. But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life. –Allie
One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite is the type of book that once you start it, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN. So carve out time for this book or you will end up canceling plans just to finish it. I read this when I went on vacation and I was THAT person that stayed on the plane so I could finish the last chapter. This young adult novel is a thriller mystery that also explores race, sisterly love, and social media. –Allie