Storytime and Beyond on the Joan Ganz Cooney Center blog

On any given day, all across the country, something amazing happens. Herds of young children, caregivers in tow, tumble through the front doors of their local public libraries. In big cities and small villages, library storytimes are highly valued and hugely popular community programs. Storytime, like the public library itself, is iconic. Ask any adult about their relationship to their local library and many will begin with their own fond memories of storytime.

Cen Campbell I recently co-wrote a blog post about media mentorship and storytimeCollaborative Art at Storytime 2016 for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s blog. Check out the post here and read the follow up post I wrote about libraries, families, and information equity here. Be sure to sign up for their e-newsletter which is always full of valuable information!

The Election and Libraries

Back in August, I was part of an inspiring institute at New America in DC which brought together people from all over the country who care about literacy, digital media, kids, and families. In preparation for a panel discussion, the moderator asked us to think about what we would say to the presidential candidates. We never got the chance to share our thoughts during those busy two days, but I’ve been thinking about the election and libraries ever since.

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Me with my ‘I voted!’ sticker!

Today I voted early. The presidential election has been crazy. Emotions are raw and a lot is at stake. I took a seat in my curtained off station and breathed a small sigh of relief.

As I filled out the ballot, I couldn’t help thinking back a couple of weeks to when a couple with a young child asked me for help at the library. They wanted to print an official envelope so they could mail in their ballot to their home state. We got the envelopes printed, I gushed over the baby (and told them about storytime), and they were on their way. Helping the couple was just one part of another busy day at the library. My coworkers and I helped people of all ages and from all walks of life research Alaskan missionaries for a class, find and check out just the right picture book to share at bedtime, set the clock on a cell phone (a lifeline for some), apply for a job online, and log on to Minecraft.

The variety of ways we help people (young, old, and in-between) access information is common practice not just at our library, but also at others across the country. I went into the polling site to vote with not just my own family in mind, but also those at the library, in my community, and across the nation. What did I want the election to mean for them?

Since I never got to share what I wanted to tell the next President of the United States back in August, I wish I could have written a narrative response on my ballot. This simple message is what I would have written if space allowed.

Dear Madame President,

Libraries are shared spaces that bring together people of all ages, from all walks of life. They are essential to families well-being and the health of our communities. Librarians provide supported access to diverse resources and innovative programs that help families grow as lifelong learners who will become business owners, educators, community leaders, and even the President of the United States. Fund libraries, support families, and inspire us to be a country that values innovation, education, equality, and compassion.

#vote

 

 

Reorganizing the Picture Books- Finally!

picture-book-bin-descriptions-image

This summer was BUSY! Sure we had the usual summer program hustle and bustle, but we also reorganized, or genre-fied, our picture book collection! I’ve wanted to to do this for a few years, but with limited staff it was impossible. Enter, the state library!

This year, my library welcomed one of three MLIS interns who came to Alaska for eight weeks, thanks to funding from the Alaska State Library. (Our Friends group pitched in housing.) The internship made this program happen. Period.

Families tell me they are thrilled with the reorganization because they can more easily browse the picture book collection. Some have already discovered new-to-them books as they were looking for books about Alaska and the North, for example. Kids are happy too, and quickly adopted the new system. Just the other day, a little boy, age 2, came into the children’s library and said “Claudia, where are the macheeen (machine) books?” Together we walked to the browsing bins tagged with gold stickers and the word “Go” where families can find books about things that go (trucks, cars, airplanes, hot air balloons, bicycles, etc.).

Why did we make the change

I first heard about libraries’ efforts to reorganize their picture book collections at ALA Annual in 2012 when I attended a session called “I Want a Truck Book! Reorganizing Your Picture Book Collection” led by Gretchen Caserotti, Deborah Cooper, and Tali Balas Kaplan. I agreed with all three presenters that kids, especially the youngest, struggle with the systems we’ve traditionally set up for organizing books. We make it easy for adults, not young children, when we organize books by the first letter of an author’s last name, as in our case. I want little ones to confidently select books, find ones they love, and come back for more! I also want them to help me put books away in the right bin when they are done with them. We’ll teach them the DDC and how to find books by author as they grow.

I flew home from California ready to start moving picture books! But, alas, the realities of time and staffing settled in.

What now?

Over the next few years, my library’s director and I talked about the idea of reorganizing our picture books frequently and discussed how families searched and how we could also make finding picture books pretty easy for staff and volunteer shelvers once the reorganization happened. We also needed to figure out what we needed to make the transition happen without closing the library, making staff work long weekends, or removing all of the picture books at one time.

In terms of a plan, we already had a few things going for us.

  • Our picture books (about 2,500) lived in browsing bins. We liked this arrangement because it already made the books (face-out) more accessible for pre-readers and readers than if they were on shelves, spine-out. In fact, we also bought face-out bins for our beginning readers a few years ago which makes for a friendly transition for emerging readers moving from one part of the children’s collection to the other.
  • We used a colored dot system for the picture book collection and wanted to stick with it. The colored dots helped pre-readers find sections of the collection (and the colors provide a literacy talking point for families). Although the problem we had with the colored dot system was that some parts of the alphabetically-organized collection had grown to include 16 sections of books, T-Z for example,  with 20-25 books per section and this was an unwieldy number of bins to search through for 1 or 2 books.
  • We were a stand-alone library, so we only had one picture book collection to transition.
  • Other staff members were supportive and were willing to help with the process.
  • Other libraries had transitioned their collections, shared their process in blogs and presentations, and were willing to answer my questions (thanks Mel!).

What did we do next?

Wait.

Then we found out about the internship, came up with a real plan, and applied. Our plan included a draft schedule of categories, the who, what, and when of changing spine labels, what we wanted on the spine labels, and how we were going to remove parts of the picture book collection during one of the busiest parts of the year. (The internship was only offered during the summer.)

Once William, our intern, arrived, learned about book processing, practiced assigning categories with me, and got the appropriate permissions in our ILS, we got to work. The process took about 6 weeks to complete. We did this project while the library was open, picture books were still circulating, and our summer program was in full swing. At no time were all of the bins empty and during this whole process we had good circulation numbers at the library!

Picture Book Bins and New Book section image

Reorganized picture book bins with ‘New Books’ and storytime area in background. Board books now live on bottom shelf of ‘New Books’ area (left side).

Categories

As you can see from the schedule at the top of the post, we ended up with 16 categories. We identified categories we liked (many are similar to other libraries’ categories) based on families’ search behavior and sections we wanted to highlight (Alaska & the North). Then we figured out how many bins we had and estimated how many books would be in each category. Again, there are about 20-25 books per section/bin. In this calculation, we also figured two extra pieces: we moved the board books from some of the lower sections so we had more space to work with and brought many of the folk, fairy, and traditional tales from the 398’s to the picture bins if we thought they were a better fit there. A few of the categories changed in some way (grew, changed name, etc) through the process which in our situation was pretty easy because we’re small.

Each category included at least 4 bins (2 bins on the top and two right beneath). The maximum number of bins was capped at 10, versus 16 previously. We wanted that number to be even smaller to make searching for specific titles easier, but we made this work. So far it has been fine and is much easier to find specific books than before the move. Here are the final categories and the number of bins filled with books in that category. The total number of picture book bins is 114.

  • Adventures = 4
  • Alaska = 4
  • Animals = 8
  • Celebrate = 10
  • Concepts = 10
  • Families = 10
  • Favorites = 8
  • Friends = 8
  • Go = 8
  • Growing = 10
  • Movement = 4
  • Nature = 6
  • Rhythm = 6
  • School = 4
  • Tales = 10
  • Wordless = 4

A couple of things to consider:

  • We place books in categories based on the central idea of the book, starting with the LoC Subject Headings associated with the book. Those are so handy, aren’t they?
  • We did NOT include a multicultural section. We incorporate diverse characters, settings, authors, illustrators, and topics throughout the collection.
  • We did not include a miscellaneous category. We wanted to be very intentional about the books and their placement so nothing got lost in a catch all bin.
  • We wanted the categories to be general enough to capture a wide variety of books related to the topic.
  • We did include a ‘Favorites’ category because some characters are just popular and need to be in one place (Curious George, for example).
  • We can plainly see which categories of the collection need more books and which categories have plenty or need to be weeded! The ‘Go’ category is always empty (books are always checked out) and we need more books with things that go. The ‘Families’ and ‘Celebrate’ categories have plenty for now!

Sticker, Stickers, and More Stickers

Homer, Alaska is not the place to buy a variety of dot stickers. We had a bunch on hand that we repurposed
from the previous system, but we needed more. We had to order the new colors and then had to order more. This took time and made us a bit nervous, but some colors just didn’t look as good in hand and some were too similar, less distinguishable on the books. Gold and silver were too similar, for example.

You will see on the spine label that we kept the 3 first three letters of author’s last name. This was something we wanted in case we need to fiddle with the organization at some point without having to redo spine labels. With limited staffing, we didn’t want to spend resources on reprocessing books en masse. The ‘P’ stands for Picture Books which refers to the section and replaced the ‘E’ that was there before

Weeding

A coworker and I weeded the collection pretty heavily last Spring in anticipation of the big move. However, during the move we weeded even more! It felt good to freshen up the collection. I am still ordering replacements for tried and true books that were beyond repair.

Reorganizing Picture Books Sign imageSigns

Throughout the process we posted signs, talked to families at storytime, and chatted with families as we met them in the children’s library about the move. We added “coming soon!” signs to empty bins, especially when we removed a lot of books at one time.

The schedule of categories is now posted on the end of each row of book bins for families’ reference. The colorful dots are eye-catching and often make families pause before starting their search. The signs and the reorganization are another step towards supporting successful independent searching and finding.

Everyday Early Literacy Fair

Early Literacy Fair flyer

Part of my role as Youth Services Librarian is to develop community partnerships in support of families and literacy. One partnership I love, although it meets somewhat infrequently, is the Language and Literacy Task Force. We’re a group of professionals from local early childhood organizations that meet to discuss ideas, strategies, issues, challenges and potential collaborative projects. One of the projects we developed together was the Early Literacy Fair which was held at the library in the Fall of 2015. I’m writing about it now, because we are in the planning stages of the 2nd annual event.

The fair came to be after talking to families about what early literacy support they needed and wanted beyond what I share in storytime, in the monthly Growing Readers newspaper column, and brochures, handouts, etc. What I heard from multiple parents with older children (K+), was that when their kids were little they felt like they knew a lot about early literacy, but in actuality, they discovered later, they did not. Sone parent recommended targeting kids and whole families- proposing that the kid-focused approach to the event would be more effective than a parent education class or workshop. We took that advice to heart and felt we could design an event that would include parents that were already confident, but might benefit from more information and strategies, as well as families who might be intimidated by the class or workshop format and need a lot of information. The partnership aspect also helped us target families new to the library but familiar with other community organizations and services.

We designed the successful event based on Every Child Ready to Read’s five early literacy practices and created five associated stations. Four different organizations managed the five stations (2 representatives from one organzation were included). The event took place on a Saturday in the children’s library so anyone dropping by could also participate if they wanted. Most of our programs for young children happen during the week because of limited staffing, so this was a great opportunity to support families who can’t make it Monday through Friday.

At each station, families found tips on how to support one aspect of early literacy at home. They collected the tips, printed on cards, and took home a set of five to help them remember what they learned. And more importantly to the under 8 crowd, each station also had a fun, hands-on activity for young children related to the early literacy practice.

The Stations

Reading station image #1

Reading Station 2 image

Reading Station 3 image

Reading: I organized the reading station and featured great books, in all formats. I also featured one of my “10 Ways to Explore a Book” posters . I talked about different ways to read a book to young children, depending on the child, the context, and the content. (Yes- it should remind you of Lisa Guernsey’s 3 C’s for digital media use with young children.) Caregivers could take information about getting a library card, our storytime programs, accessing the library’s digital library, and digital media with young children. Kids could play with a tray full of magnetic letters and create words, spell their name, etc. We offered free books while supplies lasted. We had some funds to purchase a small amount of books from the local bookstore and the rest were donated.

Talking Station 1 image

Talking Station 2 image

Talking: Kids were able to build a snack bag at this table and a local speech therapist modeled for families how to build a conversation around everyday activities and add vocabulary to make for rich conversation by talking about what foods they were adding to the bag, for example. We also included a sensory bin full of dried beans and an assortment of plastic fruits and vegetables. I made laminated cards with the name and image of the same fruits and vegetables found in the bins so families could play a find game and match the plastic version with the photo/word version. I’ve used these sensory bins in a food storytime as well.

Playing: A local educator from a community environmental organization brought puppets and a variety of natural history materials to play with in a dramatic play station. I forgot to take a picture of this station, but it was a nice tie-in for the many families in our community who are outdoor-oriented.

Singing Station 1

Singing Station 2 image

Singing: This station was a hit with young makers! It featured homemade shakers and a representative from the local early childhood services organization supplied plastic eggs, dried beans and rice, and colorful duct tape for the musical instruments. She provided tips on why singing is important for early literacy and shared musical books that are fun to read and might interest families. She included lyrics to fun rhymes and songs in the take home tips and featured some of the CDs from the library’s children’s music collection.

Writing Station 1 image

Writing Station 2 image

Writing: A woman from the ELL program at the local college with many years experience in early literacy and family engagement provided tips on incorporating writing into everyday activities. She talked with families on a one-to-one basis about what writing looks like at different ages and stages. She was near the library’s windows so she provided kids with window markers to draw on the windows (washes off easily), small notebooks for kids to write and draw in at the library and then take home, and a variety of coloring/writing tools like gel pens, markers, and crayons pencils.

Homer’s Great Reading Adventure, part 2: The Data

Now that we are a few weeks beyond the end of summer reading, my library’s tech specialist and I have playing with the data side of the Great Reading Adventure (GRA). (See more about our first summer using GRA here.) The numbers are valuable, not just for data geeks, but also for those interested in the financial side of things, local school staff and administrators, and those of us involved in the summer program’s long term plans. The numbers aren’t the whole picture, but they will help us paint a clearer, more expansive one.

For each piece of data we’ve looked at so far, I’ve explained it below, mentioned who it interests, and posed questions as a result of seeing the info in a new, detailed way.

Summer@HPL 2016 Overview image

City of Homer Population: 5,310 Library Service Area: 12,000+/-

The Data

For families, the Great Reading Adventure digital log was the one and only place to register for the 2016 summer program. Once registered, they recorded reading minutes for the reading challenge in the digital log. (Note: We did offer a one page log, for families who wanted to log time online only periodically, at the library for example.) Additionally, families used the platform for a few other things.

  • The GRA was one of several places they could find details about events (in addition to the library’s online calendar, etc.). We did not use it for event registration since most events did not require registration. (We used a web form on our library’s site in those cases.)
  • All registered family members could earn digital badges for specific amounts of reading time and when they entered secret codes found around town at events.
  • Participants could message the two of us managing the GRA with questions about the digital log, about the summer program, or library services in general.

As I mentioned, we used the GRA, in part, for the data! So here’s what we have learned so far:

    • We were able to look at the number of kids and teens who registered for the reading challenge and picked up at least one prize versus kids and teens who registered, but didn’t participate at all. Interestingly, almost every child and teen who logged time and picked up the first prize was hooked and kept participating.

      Who: This info is helpful for me, the one who plans the budget and buys prizes, etc. It’s also helpful for the library director and the Friends of the Library, the main funder of the summer program.

      Questions: Why didn’t some children, teens, or adults participate after registering? How many prizes do we need to buy for 2017? Can we incorporate more digital badges into the prize schedule, replacing some of the physical prizes and saving money?

    • Many kids and teens self-reported their school affiliation at registration which let us share some general data with schools about numbers of kids participating, total minutes logged, etc. (More on the school connection later.)

      Who: Obviously this is of interest to school administrators who want to support summer learning, but also to both me and the library director.

      Questions: Are we reaching families at schools with low participation? If not, why?

    • We analyzed the number of kids, teens, and adults registered in total and when they registered. This was important for knowing when and where to focus our outreach, marketing, and money. I have traditionally attended multiple Spring community events, intending to register lots of families. Last year I finally admitted that attending these events has value, but the registration numbers at these events are not an indicator of how many families will ultimately register or attend events. Now I had proof that I was right! This data is already helping guide our plans for 2017. The increase in family participation, the consistent number of child participants, and high general success with the digital log supported our decision to move from paper to digital.

      Who: This information is most valuable to me as the person who does all of the outreach and makes the overall decisions about the summer program. It is also useful to general library staff and families who might have questions about the switch from the traditional paper log booklet (for kids) and archaic digital log (for teens and adults) to the robust digital log for all ages.

      Questions: How can we make the digital log even easier for families to use, even with limited internet access? Can we have a designated logging station? Will the app in development meet more families’ needs?

    • We integrated the GRA digital badges into our summer program and were able to identify which badges were most popular- those accessed using secret codes posted at city parks as part of a community-wide scavenger hunt. This part of the summer program was even more of a hit than we thought it would be.

      The posted secret codes advertised the summer program to passersby and made a connection with the city’s parks and rec department staff and program.

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop's beach Secret Code image

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop’s Beach Secret Code

      Some families collected secret codes at all of our library events also, but that part of the program is still in its infancy and will be developed more for next year.

      The scavenger hunt aspect of the secret codes was a nice, but unexpected, segue into Pokémon GO fever which hit the country and our community at the tail end of the summer program. Families hunted for codes and completed a Maker Club-made scavenger hunt in the library and then started playing Pokemon Go with us at the library and around town. It all made for an active summer!

      Who: This information was useful mostly for me, as the program manager. Other staff and city employees are also interested.

      Questions: How do we develop more opportunities to engage the community in the summer program beyond the library’s walls? How do we harness the attention these secret codes received to include more families in the reading challenge and the summer program in general?