Monday, August 12, 2013

Graduation and Goodbye...for now

It's hard to believe two whole years have gone by, and on May 10, 2013, I received my Masters in Library and Information Science from Simmons College on a beautiful Spring day at a ceremony by the water at Boston's Bank of America Pavilion.  As my family looked on (yes, they ALL came!) I walked across that stage and accepted my diploma thinking of all the hard work and long hours I've put in.  I felt proud, appreciative and lucky.  Not just for myself, but for all the people who have supported me during these sometimes long and trying two years.  My parents whose constant support has allowed me to reach for my dreams; my husband, who made it possible for me to get this far; my friends, who probably know more about library science than they ever thought they'd learn from proof reading many assignments; my supportive co-workers who pushed me to reach for this goal and made it easy to balance work and school;  the library board of directors who awarded me with the Karen Carter Scholarship Fund for Continuing Education; and the patrons of the Ames Free Library, who have become my own special family.  Without all of you showing interest and encouraging me day in and day out, I don't think I could have made it this far.  This degree is a shared effort, and a little piece of it belongs to each one of you as you helped me trek to the top of a large and difficult mountain.

As many of you know already, I have been honored to be promoted at the Ames Free Library as the new Youth Services Librarian, in charge of Children's and Teen services.  Words cannot describe my happiness at staying in a place I know and love so much and focusing in an area that I feel knowledgeable and passionate. As my chapter as a student ends, a new one as a librarian is beginning and I look forward to sharing that with all of you.   I hope you have learned with me as I wrote this blog, and please stay tuned for a new blog focusing on Youth Services.

As A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie-the-Pooh, "“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”   Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Scoop It!

Pathfinders, or a compiled document that lists books, websites and other materials on a particular topic, have been a useful tool to librarians for years, and a common assignment in library school.  However, as we proceed into the digital age, librarians everywhere are using social media tools in place of hard copies of these lists.  For example, at the Ames Free Library we use Pinterest to highlight new arrivals, staff picks, movies for kids, summer reading and more.

Which brings me to a new social media tool I found out about recently.  Scoop-it is a web-based curation tool, and the idea behind it is a combination of a traditional Pathfinder using a Pinterest style platform that is visually appealing.  I had to create a Scoop-it "topic" for my Children's Literature class.  A topic is a page where one chooses a subject, and uploads "scoops"-websites, books, articles and pretty much anything that can be found on the web to support that topic.  Scoop-it is growing in popularity for school projects and even with libraries supporting school projects, because a teacher or librarian can create a topic and provide students with trustworthy information on exploring that topic.  The topic is also interactive between users, who can comment on the "scoops."  This makes Scoop-it a fun place where teachers, librarians and students can communicate for projects.

Click here to read more about Scoop-it and be sure to check out the topic I curated, Hit it! A History of African Americans in Baseball:inspired by the Coretta Scott King Award Winning Book, "We are the ship:the story of Negro League Baseball" by Kadir Nelson by clicking here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Misfits: a teen book talk on fitting in

Book-talking is a great way to generate interest in books at the library.  Librarians use book-talking techniques every day when conducting readers advisory, and book-talking can be particularly useful in drawing in reluctant readers too.  Book-talking is often used in school libraries with kids and teens, exposing them to new interests and genres.  Public librarians will often travel with prepared book talks and take them to schools.  My last assignment for Young Adult Programs and Services was to prepare and present a book talk to the class. There are many strategies and guidelines to keep in mind when creating a book talk.  Here are some that I used in my book talk, taken from Gorman and Sullentrop's book Connecting Young Adults and Libraries:


Choose a theme-but it doesn't need to be an obvious one.  You just need a small link between each book for a smooth transition in your talk.
Choose a mix of old and new books-Teens will get excited seeing popular authors like John Green in your book talk, and meshing new authors with classic titles will show that older titles can still be relevant today.
Book talks should be fairly short, about one to two minutes each book.
Use props-Be sure to bring the books you are talking and if you are doing a particular theme, bring on the visual aids!
Provide a handout -This gives readers the opportunity to read more about the books you discussed so they can request them later.
Know the Books You are Talking-Perhaps the most important guideline of all! Book-talkers should have read the books they are presenting, and be able to discuss them without looking at notes!  To help stay on track, tape a small index card to the back of each book with your main points.


Movie preview style-gives a brief snippet or "trailer" of the book, leaving the audience wanting more.
Sell, Don't Tell-You want to provide just enough information to make readers pick up the book, not so much that you give everything away.
Incorporate a "gross-out"-Include a shocking detail from the book and teens will want to know more!
Include a quote- While book-talkers don't always have to do so, including a snippet from the book is generally a good way for readers to be introduced to the characters and they style of the book being highlighted.
End with a bang-End with a cliffhanger statement that will have readers fighting to get their hands on the book.

Take a look at the handout I created for my book talk, entitled, "Misfits:Young Adult Fiction about Identity, Courage and Acceptance."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Children's Services in Times of Trial and Tragedy

Sadly, there have been many recent events in our society that have forced us to prepare to help children cope with and understand tragedy.  While this topic is a sobering one, it is a relevant one that anyone who works with children must educate themselves about.  I was impressed that my professor of Children's Literature at Simmons created an essay assignment on this topic, specifically for students to think about the library's role in times of trial and tragedy.  Each of us spent some time brainstorming what we thought defined the role of libraries in times of tragedy and ways we thought the library could help children during these times.  We also explored literature on the topic to help us support our thoughts.  In the end, we had a collection of essays that illustrated not only how important the library's role can be during trying times, but that for years libraries have been at the center of supporting their communities in this way.

 I am happy to say that with the help of our professor, we are working on compiling these essays in a published e-book.  I'm not going to include my essay here until the publication process is complete, but if  anyone is interested in reading it ahead of time please contact me.  It's going to be an exciting process to learn how to format an e-book, and I hope to share my learning experience with all of you so you can read about how libraries are staying relevant, strong and invaluable to the communities they serve.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Teen Programs

One of my favorite assignments this semester was a group project where we created teen programs based upon specific library communities.  My group had 3 libraries we covered in our project; the Ames Free Library of Easton, the Brockton Public Library (what a coincidence that one of my classmates is not only a fellow Brocktonian who works at the library, but we also went to high school together!), and the Copley Branch of the Boston Public Library.
Brockton Public Library
Ames Free Library of Easton
The great thing about this project is that we learned to zero in on the specific communities these libraries were serving to plan a program based upon the teens in that community. This included utilizing local organizations to help create programming for the library and build community partnerships.  While these are not "real" programs that have actually been implemented, they all can be and are based upon actual research.  Since everyone in the class created several programs, we are leaving this class with a ton of ideas and program plans that are ready to go or can be be tweaked to fit the communities we work in!

Boston Public Library Copley Square Branch

My group created a slideshow of the 2 programs we organized, grouping together the Brockton and Boston Public Libraries because they both serve large, diverse city populations and a separate program for the Ames Free Library, which is located in a small, suburban area.

Here is our slideshow!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Analyzing a Picture Book

There are many criteria that librarians and teachers use when deciding what picture books to add to their collections.  That criteria can also extend to easy readers and nonfiction as well.  Our class used Kathleen Horning's From Cover to Cover once again as a guideline to analyze three books over the course of the semester, one picture book, one easy reader and one children's nonfiction title.  Here are the criteria that Horning discusses in her book:


  • Structure
  • Patterned Language
  • Rhythm
  • Rhyme
  • Repetition
  • Questions
  • Predictability
  • Pace

  • Visual Elements
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Color
  • Value
  • Composition
  • Dominance
  • Contrast
  • Gradation
  • Alternation
  • Balance
  • Variation
  • Harmony
  • Unity

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Collage
  • Photography
  • Digital Art
  • Style
As you can see, there are many elements that a librarian must look at when reviewing children's materials.  Take a look at my Visual Analysis of I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada and Elivia Savadier to see for yourself!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Importance of Teen Services In Libraries

This semester's Young Adult Literature class required me to look at young adult services closely from different perspectives.  The assignments included observing teens in their natural environments ( I observed at the mall after talking to my 13 year old niece for suggestions), analyzing teen space and services at local libraries, and looking closely at library policies that effect teen services.  The results of these assignments, with a few exceptions, were pretty depressing.  Young Adult services were nonexistent  in many of the libraries my classmates and I looked at.  Many of the libraries didn't have Young Adult Librarians, space or programs geared towards this population.  These observations bring up a lot of questions.  Why don't libraries have these things? The sad reality is that because of restricted budgets, many libraries focus on children's programming and services and give the teens whatever may be leftover, which usually isn't much time or consideration.  One of the discussions we had in class focused on the message this sends to teens.  When they are children, they are welcomed at the library with loads of activities and a cozy space, but when they get older they are perceived differently.  They are not greeted with the same excitement as when they were kids, and they don't have a librarian all to themselves to ask for reading recommendations or help with difficult school  assignments.  On top of that,  they don't even have a designated space in the library.  That means they either have to sit in the children's room (gasp!) or the adult area (eek!).

So what's the solution? Librarians need to advocate for better Young Adult Services! Teens and parents should also speak up so that libraries will know they need to make changes for the future-and teens are the future of libraries!  They will be adults one day, and we want them to love the library through all the stages of their lives.  They will determine the future of libraries and keep the cycle continuing on.

This class reinforced my passion as an advocate for young adults, and I plan to take these important lessons with me as I move forward into Youth Services Librarianship.