Day in the Life of a Youth Librarian

Thursday, February 30, 2014

8:30: Arrive at the library, open blinds, turn on computers, and feed the fish. Start pulling the holds list for the Children’s Room. It’s a long one today. Someone requested lots of fox books. They look like fun!

9:00: The library opens and I’m still pulling holds. I help some families get on the computers. There is a 2-hour school delay this morning so people are here to fill those extra morning hours. But after many days off school, kids are finally going back to school today. I love to see our AWE Early Literacy Station always in use.

9:30: Some parents come in looking for some Magic Tree House books for their son and all the titles they want are checked out so I help them put 5 or so of the books on hold. I start replying to an email reader’s advisory question for young adult books. I love reader’s advisory challenges like this one!

10:00: A co-worker who is on vacation comes in and we work on some scheduling issues. Our region’s Mock Caldecott was postponed due to the crazy winter weather so now we have to work out who can go and what programs we have that day, etc. We also chat about the Youth Media Award winners since we haven’t seen each other since the announcements.

10:40: I spend twenty minutes practicing the ukulele for my debut performance at baby storytime next week. I am learning “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “If You’re Happy and You Know it” I am still building up calluses and strength in my wrist, so twenty minutes is still about all my poor hands can handle.

11:00: I work on approving and sending book orders while also answering several requests for popular titles like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Llama Llama. It’s so much fun to select the new books for the collection and think about our patrons and want their wants and needs are.

12:00: It’s time for lunch.

1:00: I check in a couple bins from our deliveries from our branch locations. This and a request for a particular book about the states keeps me busy for most of the hour. The 50 states book proved to be a bit of a challenge to find because the patron did not remember the name and it turned out to be not in the 973’s with the other state books but in 917 with geography books. Oh, the imperfections of the Dewey Decimal system.

2:00: Time for a shift on the information desk! I get many, many tax questions and repeat myself several times. “Sorry, the forms we have out are what we have. We are still waiting on more from the state/IRS.” And, “No, I cannot give you tax advice, but we do have a great volunteer organization here Monday, Wednesday, and Saturdays to offer free tax aid!” All offered with a smile, of course. I’m so glad we are able to provide this important service for our community.

3:00: Back on the children’s desk. A young girl is participating in Read Away the Fines and is such a fast reader, I am up and down helping her find her next book to read. I am really impressed with her knowledge of picture books, as she asks me for specific titles and authors like Kevin Henkes, Extra Yarn, and Skippyjon Jones. She and her sisters end up reading for so long they each get almost $5.00 waived from their cards!

4:00: I check in with the Young Adult area and talk to some of my regular teens who are participating in the CSLP Teen Video Challenge. We need to discuss our next meeting time to start working on making and collecting props. It’s almost time to start filming. I’m getting pretty excited, and the best part is, I can tell our teens are too!

4:30: I answer a few emails about our first annual Battle of the Books competition, pull a couple book ideas for baby storytime, and before I know it it’s 5:30 and time to go home!


Youth Media Awards: My Picks

If you are a youth services librarian like me, most likely you also totally geek out for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards every year. These are the Academy Awards of our profession and gosh, aren’t they just exciting! The past several months have been spent reading and discussing and debating and speculating about what each of the committees will chose to honor as the best books of 2013. The three biggies are the Caldecott for best illustrations in a children’s book, the Newbery for most distinguished children’s book, and the Printz for young adult fiction. There will be live stream of the announcements first thing Monday morning, January 27 at 8 am EST for any that want to watch. Or you can follow on twitter with the hastag #alayma.

My department is not missing out on any of the action. I held a virtual Mock Printz Club with my besties from library school and we had our final vote this Tuesday. Let me tell you, that was an adrenaline rush! I said it was one of the best moments of my life and I wasn’t kidding. Just imagine being on the actual committee! My coworker gets to attend a Mock Newbery Club on  Saturday which she has been reading all year in preparation for. The club is held at a nearby library and is lead by an actual Newbery Committee veteran so that’s awesome! And then another coworker will be at the Mock Caldecott at another nearby library on Monday, while the actual announcements are made, and that one is a lot of fun (I got to do it last year). They bring all the picture books out and there are dozens of them to look through and then they vote and it’s wonderful and glorious and the most fun ever.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my top three picks for each of the big awards!

For the Caldecott Medal: Journey by Aaron Becker, Nino Wrestles the World, and Water in the Park

For the Newbery Medal: Flora & Ulysses, The Thing About Luck, and Doll Bones

And for the Printz: Far Far Away, Midwinterblood, and The Summer Prince.

Toddlers and Teens

Baby sitting indoors with block smilingMy job is fun because I get to work with kids on both ends of things. I get to do our infant and toddler lapsits with the youngest of our patrons, and then on the upper ends of things I do all the teen programs too. I like to think it keeps things lively and gives me a lot of variety in what I do day-to-day. But there are times when I think working with toddlers and working with teens really aren’t too different. I thought I’d share a few of the similarities I’ve discovered between these age groups.

  • Group of Teenage GirlfriendsThey can be loud, messy, and leave chaos in their wake.
  • They might feel awkward and unstable in their bodies. Toddlers are just learning to walk and frequently tumble over. Teens, well everything is changing, of course it’s awkward!
  • Their emotions are all over the place; they can be laughing one minute and sobbing or throwing a tantrum the next.
  • They are pushing boundaries and exploring their limits. Toddlers are learning to say “NO!” and express themselves. Teens do almost the same thing when they try to see how much they can get away with.
  • They are learning to be independent and want to do things themselves.
  • They are expanding their horizons and learning about the world!

Working with these age groups really requires you to be flexible and embrace the chaos. I remember one of my first lapsit program and the terrifying feeling that things were slipping out of my control as toddlers wandered about the room and all my structured plans fell apart. I’ve gotten much better at adapting since then and I feel so lucky to be able to work with groups of kids who keep me on my toes. They are at such an exciting time of growth in their lives, it is marvelous to watch them learn and grow, even if it can be tumultuous at times!

Teen Murder Mystery Party

The teens at my library Seek the Unknown during Teen Read Week!

We had a murder mystery party during Teen Read Week this year, and I have to say it was probably my most successful teen program yet!TeenReadSlider2-400x217

When I was younger I did a few of those “How to Host a Murder” mystery parties in a box for birthday parties. And I loved them! So when I became a teen librarian, I knew this was a program I wanted to do. I read a lot about how other libraries did theirs, and when Teen Read Week rolled around, I snagged up this perfect opportunity.

I decided to write my mystery script myself. As someone who loves writing, I found that I really enjoyed doing this! The suspects, the motives, it was all coming together.

The main thing I really wanted was for teens to be able to play the role of the murder suspects, like you do in the “How to Host a Murder” games. I knew this would be a level of participation that would be a lot more fun for the kids than simply solving the murder. So I created six characters and when I started telling teens about the program I told them the first six to sign up would get to be a suspect. I think this really helped grab their interest.

Normally I don’t even require registrations to my programs because my teens never sign up ahead of time. But two weeks out from the program I already had more kids signed up for a program than I ever had before. I promoted the program at my booktalks and had flyers to hand out to everyone who walked through the teen room. I really pushed the marketing for this one, and that made a difference as well.

A week before the program I started calling the kids who signed up. If I could get a hold of them and they were still planning on attending, I asked them to come to the library to pick up their character packet a few days before the program. This way they would know their character and be prepared for their role.

The great thing about this program was that other than writing the script, there really wasn’t a lot of set up! I didn’t even have to decorate the room or anything. The murder mystery was enough to draw them in! So the day of the program arrived. The six characters arrived for a character meeting 15 minutes early. We went over their roles and I told them they would be team leaders and talked a little about their responsibility as a leader.

When the other teens started arriving, I had them roll a die to see which team they would join. I was so glad I came up with this easy method (six teams so it worked out perfect!). Then let the fun begin!

I had two types of clues, and three rounds. During each round the characters would get character clues about the other suspects and the kids acted out accusing one another with their suspicions and defending themselves with their backstories and motivations. Some kids just read their clues straight from what I wrote, but some really got into acting their part and saying their lines in their own words. It was awesome! The other type of clue was a book clue. This part was like a scavenger hunt. They went out to the rest of the building in teams and looked for the books with clues in them. I loved that I was able to combine everything that is fun about a murder mystery party with the scavenger hunt elements and I think the kids really loved it. You should have heard their stampeding feet up the stairs to the rest of the building during each round. But as soon as the entered the main part of the library, they were quiet and focused on finding their clues and they did such a great job!

In the end they all made their guesses of who they thought the killer was. This is the one part I probably would have done differently. It would have been better to be more structured here because the teens were yelling and shouting over one another and it was hard to gain control of the room again. But I did, and to wrap things up I played the detective announcing the cause of death, which revealed who the real killer was! I think some of the kids felt the reveal was a little anti-climatic, so when I do it again next year I’m going to really have to jazz that part up.

All the kids had a fantastic time and were asking me if we could do it again next year. It was my most well-attended teen program so far. I used the chance to heavily promote my Hunger Games Party next month. I hope it is as much of a success as the Murder Mystery Party was. As the kids were hunting around the library, enthralled in their characters and the mystery I had created, I know I was having the time of my life, and I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!” Those are the moments I live for as a librarian.


Allison’s Favorite 2011 Reads (Part Two)

It’s time for part two, highlighting five of my favorite reads of 2011.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Adult Scientific Nonfiction.

I am really fascinated by medical/scientific nonfiction books for some reason.  This book is a history or ‘biography’ of cancer. It is a fascinating history! I really loved that the author tied the history in with his own stories and experiences working as an oncologist to make it more readable.  Mukherjee has a wonderful way of making even the most technical details easy for the average reader to understand. I am so glad I read this book and I came away with a much greater awe for science and also for the mysterious and scary thing that is cancer.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Ages 9-12. (I listened to the audiobook read by Lincoln Hoppe).

I really hope this book wins a Newbery! I think it totally deserves it. This book tells the story of 14-year-old  Doug Swieteck. He recently moved with his parents and brother to Marysville, New York. And he doesn’t like it. But with the help of a new friend, Lil Spicer and a book of Audubon prints Doug comes to love this new town as well as learn how to grow into the type of person he wants to be. There is a ton going on in this book but Gary Schmidt weaves it all together into a story that will have you crying and laughing and in the end, cheering.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Ages 10 and up.

This is a book that stays with you. This is a book that left me speechless. Conor is a young boy dealing with the fact that his mother has cancer. Dealing with the fact that his mother is dying. But it is also a book about hope, and about the power of stories in our lives. There is a monster who comes to visit Conor. The monster will tell Conor three stories, and then it will be Conor’s turn to tell his own story. The writing in this book is amazing, and so are the darkly beautiful illustrations. I will never forget this book.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai. Ages 9-12.

A story told in verse. A 10-year-old Vietnamese girl immigrating to the United States with her family after the Vietnam War. Ha relates her travels her new home and her difficulty adjusting to the new life and surroundings. I was so impressed with how well Lai is able to say with so few words through the voice of Ha and her poems. This is a moving book and one that is filled with hope.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. Adult Fiction. (I listened to the audiobook read by Grayce Wey).

This is another immigrant story, though a very different one. Kimberly Chang immigrates to the United States with her mother as a young girl from Hong Kong. They live in heartbreaking poverty as Kimberly’s mother works in a Chinatown clothing factory and Kimberly becomes a star pupil at school with her bright intelligence. They must work hard for everything they have, but Kimberly is determined to make a better life for herself and for her mother.

Also, I must add two more books: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. They both receive honorable mention.

Halloween Craft Night

Thursday night was Halloween Craft Night at our residence hall library. It was the first success of our Thursdays at the Library programs! We had five families show up this week, compared to only one family for the past two weeks. So I was pretty jazzed about that!

We made owls and spiders. The owl idea I borrowed from my public library’s Crafty Creations program last week. I thought they were so fun and simple and such a big hit with the preschool age. The spider I got from our office manager and a lot of the other residence hall libraries were using it. But when the little kids tried to do it, it was more of a challenge for them to do one their own. I probably won’t do this one again with such a young group. But they are still super cute, aren’t they?

After the crafts were all done the kids even asked if they could watch a movie. Overjoyed, I put on “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” The great part about these programs is that these families are usually already friends and it is a great way for the parents to get together and talk while the kids are participating in the activity.

My only concern is the language barrier. I believe all of the families that attended last night spoke Korean as their native language and some did not know a lot of English. It made communicating with some of the parents really hard and I feel so bad about it. I’m wishing I could learn Korean, but I know that isn’t very practical. Maybe a few phrases.  Any suggestions for programming for families when there is a language barrier? What can I do better?

A Library Filled Day

Today was a really great day because I got to do library things all day. Okay, I know for me that is pretty much every day, but today just felt especially great that way for some reason. I spent my morning at my internship at the public library. We had a rather large fifth grade class come in for a visit to work on their famous Americans research project. I had such a blast helping this group of kids out! The librarian I was working with gave a quick introduction to library resources and then we let them loose in the library for their research. And of course we were there for all their questions.

First of all, fifth graders are an age I don’t work with a lot, so that was a great change. It is also a really fun age! They were all so smart and it was great to see them scattered about the library, working away. The other cool thing was seeing all the variety in the fascinating famous Americans they had chosen to study. Yes, some of them chose topics so out there it was a little difficult to find good resources for them, but they were each so passionate about their choices that I could tell they weren’t going to give up in the face of a little challenge here and there.

Helping them with their questions gave me such a thrill and reinforced how much I can get excited about information literacy and sharing that knowledge with students. It was so heartwarming to my little librarian heart to see these fifth graders learning to use reliable databases and knowing how to look something up in an index.

In the afternoon, it was time to shift gears as I headed over to my little on-campus library. Today was our first day care visit and I was really excited. There is a day care in the same building as our library. We are trying a new community partnership with them and invited them to come into the library once a week for a visit and a short story time. The class was a group of 12 two-and-a-half-year-old children. I was a little nervous that they would be too young to enjoy the fall stories I had picked out, but it turned out that the story time went like a charm.

They were really enthralled with my choice, Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall. They were able to relate to all of the fall experiences of the children in the story and it made for great talking points throughout the book. Crunching leaves, jumping in big piles of leaves, gathering leaves to look at them and study them, they really latched on to all of that. My second pick was a great fall classic, Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell. I have fond memories of reading this story myself as a child. It is not ideally suited for a read-aloud, as the illustrations are quite small and there isn’t a lot of story. But the fall experience is there and it is quick enough that it held the children’s attention.

I interspersed the stories with a few songs and rhymes. “Open them, shut them,” “Leaves are falling all around,” and “Two apples in the tree.” These were also pretty good hits. The story time was followed by about 10 minutes of letting the children pull and look at books on their own in the library. They really seemed to enjoy this, though I did feel bad for all the re-shelving my student assistants had to do!

The best part was at the end, after all the children had put their jackets back on and were getting ready to go back into the rainy weather to walk to their center, the teacher asked, “Can we come back next week?” And my answer was a resounding YES!