Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's the End (And I Don't Want to Die)

For the past few summers, I have had a simple goal for the Summer Reading Club: I want to get to the end of the summer and not feel like I want to die. Flippant, yes, but this is the very first year that I feel like I have achieved that goal. Today, I want to write about what changes we've made to make the Summer Reading Club easier on staff. You should also check out Marge's post about what she did to make Summer Reading easier for her staff. But first, let's take a look back at the summers I've been at my current job:

  • 2009 - My first summer here. I started my job here on May 18, a week before Summer Reading started. Just making it through the summer was my ONLY goal for that first summer. 
  • 2010 - This was my first summer actually being in charge of planning an entire Summer Reading Club. I was determined to get our numbers up, and I was determined to rectify some things from the previous summer. We'd had long waitlists for each of our programs and unhappy patrons when we didn't have room for them. So we doubled up on sessions, made strict registration start dates, and offered more programs. Yeah, we were way overprogrammed. 
  • 2011 - I started to get smart this summer by offering more unstructured programs that didn't need as much staff prep time and could accommodate larger groups. This was the summer we started a weekly movie matinee and changed from our Friday "Crafternoons" to Friday "Open Art Studios". These changes were helpful, but this is the summer that I was very involved in the teen programming, due to some staffing changes. It was way too much for me to handle. 
Enter 2012... 

Honestly, going in to the summer I felt woefully unprepared. I was involved in the search for our new teen librarian in the spring and I had some committee duties that kept my attention divided. And we've had a pretty big increase (over 10%) in our signups this summer! By all accounts, I should be stressed out to the max, but I'm actually doing okay.

What it boils down to is that I think I've found a nice balance to the programming we're offering. It seems to be enough to keep patrons happy and engaged, but not so much that we're all pulling our hair out. 

While our Summer Reading Club spans 10 weeks of the summer, we only really offered programming for 6 of those weeks. We had no programs and awarded no prizes for the first two weeks of SRC so that we could concentrate on getting kids registered. The bulk of our registrations typically happen within the first two weeks, so being program-free means we can all be out at the desks helping our patrons and getting them signed up. We also had no programs the last week of SRC so that we could concentrate on awarding prizes to the finishers who are coming in droves. And we took a break from most of our programming during the week of July 4. We still offered our "easy" programs - our movie matinee and our weekly art studio. Having a week "off" in the middle of the summer gives us all a chance to breathe. 

I moved our largest attended program (a live animal show) to July when we typically have slower program attendance. That helped us keep this uber-popular program manageable and attracted a nice crowd when typically it's quieter in July. 

I moved our Open Art Studio program to Saturday in an effort to keep Fridays program-free and to offer some programming that working parents could attend. We did have a couple of programs on Fridays, but for the most part it was really nice to have one day a week that we could recoup and work on other things like book orders, planning for the fall, staff meetings, etc. 

I distributed programs as easily as I could between my staff. I'm very lucky to have an awesome staff in this department and this year I truly made an effort to balance everyone's load. And although we all had tons of ideas for programs, I was able to limit what we were offering to make it manageable. It always sounds like a great idea to me to offer hundreds of programs - we'll have so much fun with the kids! - but then when it comes time to actually do the programs, I end up overextended and miserable. We were not involved in teen programming (except for a couple of special programs in which my staff partnered with our new teen librarian).

We continued to offer weekly movie matinees and weekly art studios. By offering drop-in programs for all ages, there's always SOMETHING to offer patrons who call up, even if the registered programs they're asking about are full. 

I took some time at the very beginning of the summer to work on planning the rest of the year's programs. Oh, I didn't actually plan what we'd be offering, but I looked at the calendar for the rest of 2012 and 2013 and mapped out when we would offer fall and spring storytime, when school breaks are happening, and dates for our major annual programs like the Gingerbread House Workshop and the Egg Decorating Workshop.

I then took those plans and worked backwards to set planning deadlines for myself so that next summer I will hopefully feel more on top of things. I started with next year's Summer Reading Club starting date and figured out when we'd need to have program calendars ready, when we'd need to finalize program plans, when we'd need to start brainstorming program ideas, when we needed to put in orders with Upstart and Oriental Trading for supplies and prizes... I scheduled monthly department meetings and jotted down notes about what we'd need to cover at each meeting to make our planning process smooth. Now, when I'm working on agendas for those meetings, I know what big-picture stuff we need to tackle in addition to whatever more recent or urgent developments we need to talk about.

All of the changes we made this summer and limiting the number of programs we're offering really worked to lessen my staff's stress levels. I'm hopeful that we've finally found a happy balance that we can work from next year to make next year go as smoothly as this year. Of course, we'll always be looking for ways to make planning and running the Summer Reading Club even easier. Do you have any tips to share? What has worked for you? 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oh Those Evening Storytimes Part II

This summer, we offered an evening storytime. I have a love-hate relationship with evening storytimes. I love that we see patrons that we don't see at our other programs. I hate that attendance is generally much lower than the same program offered in the morning. We tried to attract more attendees by offering a milk & cookies snack with our storytime, but I don't know that it made much of a difference. However, when I actually crunch the numbers it turns out that we had an average of 8 kids per program, which is not a terrible turnout for us.

I think maybe it's more that I personally did not like changing up my evenings and being the one to offer this program. It has NOTHING to do with the kids who came - they were great. I tend to thrive on the energy of the kids at storytime and the evening group tends to be smaller and quieter, perhaps more suited to different storytime strengths than I have. Plus, I think I have bitter feelings carrying over from a music performer we hosted on an evening this summer when we only had 2 kids show up. It's not fair for me to project my frustration on to ALL evening programs, but I think that's what I'm doing. If we offer a similar program next summer (we already incorporate an evening session with our fall and spring storytimes), I think we'll require registration (reminder calls seem to help attendance numbers) and, frankly, I think I'll probably see if someone else would like to present this program.

For our very last evening storytime, I pulled some of my favorite books. We actually had our biggest turnout of the summer for this session (14 kids) and I think that's at least partly because the county school corporation reposted our reminder on Facebook. Here's what we did:

Opening Song: "Jump Up, Turn Around" by Jim Gill. We've done this one almost every week (we didn't do it the week I only had 3 kids because I felt it'd be a bit of overkill).

Book: Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems.

Book: Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas. This was SUCH A HIT! The kids loved doing the actions along with the book and they got really into it. I'm always a little scared to read this book because what if the kids don't go along with it? But you know what? They always have. I should just relax.

Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. I told this one with a flannel mitt and little velcro monkeys that we had.

Book: Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monk.

Song: "The Freeze" by Greg & Steve. I didn't actually have a song prepared for today, but I got a special request so I pulled it out. This one's a little longer than I wanted, so I stopped it at one of the freezes about halfway through.

Felt Activity: I Have a Crayon. Click through that link to find the full rhyme. I passed out different colored crayons to each child and had them put them on the board as I said their color.

Book: I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. Lots of the kids were familiar with this one, which is always fun.

And then we had our snack of milk & cookies! I posted before some lessons about milk & cookies with storytime when we offered this program over winter break. I would add to that advice that 2% milk seems to go over the best and make sure you can offer at least water to any kids who can't drink or don't like milk.

Also, I wish I had had our fall program publicity done a little sooner so I could have handed out information about our fall storytimes (which include an evening class time). September seems pretty far off, so I don't know that they would have held on to the info for that long, anyway. I at least made an announcement and hopefully some of them will remember to check back or think of the library at some point this fall!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

**Confession!** It was super hard for me to remember to write everything down on a single day this summer, so this is actually an amalgamation of two days, a Tuesday morning and then the following Wednesday afternoon.

8:45am - Arrive at work, put stuff away, get out stuff for this morning’s baby storytime. I go over the felts and rhymes that I’m going to use and make sure I have all the stuff together.

9:15am - Run off copies of our fall calendar so that I can pass them out at our programs this morning.

9:25am - Work on some publicity for the fall storytimes. I edit and print out some signs for our fall programs and work on getting together the handouts for our homeschooler programs which are starting again in the fall.

9:50am - Try to help someone on the computers who is submitting a resume online. Sometimes the quick fix is to ask them to switch computers, which is what I did after trying to fix it every other way I knew how.

10:00am - Mother Goose on the Loose! It’s our last time for the summer so I’m a little sad, but then 25 babies show up (and with them 28 adults, which means 53 people in the room) and there’s no time or space for sadness! We sing, read, bounce, march, and more! I’m sad that I won’t see them until September, but I hope that they’ll come back in the fall.

10:45am-12:00pm - Once I finish with MGOL and get my stuff somewhat cleaned up, I take over on desk so Miss T can go do Toddler Time. I help lots of Summer Reading Club finishers and answer questions about Star Wars, Dora, headphones for the computers, and children’s programs...

12:00pm - Lunch time! I actually brought my lunch today since it’s supposed to be eleventy billion degrees out. I eat in the staff lounge while reading Dominique Moceanu’s memoir Off Balance.

1:00pm - Back in my office, work on some handouts for our fall homeschooling programs. We’re revamping our homeschooler program for the fall and I work on a mystery book list for our October meeting. (More info on the revamp in a future post!)

1:50pm - One of the daycares that has been visiting regularly over the summer arrives for their programs. The leader tells me that they were late leaving the last time and have to make sure that they get out on time today, so I alert my staff. One of my staff does booktalks for the older group while the younger group spends time in the department choosing books to check out. I get their previous book collections checked in and then float around the department asking kids if they need help finding anything.

2:25pm - The booktalks are done, so the younger group goes into the meeting room for stories while the older group comes out to choose their books. We’ve been tweaking this group visit all summer and I think we’ve FINALLY found the smoothest way to structure it (and, of course, this is their last visit).

3:00pm - The storytime is over, all the books are checked out, and we say goodbye to the daycamp kids! Now it’s time to put our department back together. We had another daycare in from 1:30 to about 2:30, so the department is trashed. We collect the books left out on tables, refill displays, and straighten things up.

3:20pm - Back in the office, I work on an agenda for our Friday department meeting. I’ve really been making an effort to have a monthly staff meeting with as many staff in attendance as possible. It’s part of my plan to be more organized and communicative this year.

3:45pm - Work on some plans for fall storytime. We’re having our meeting on Friday to decide on themes for the fall so that we can get our publicity out. Sometimes I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants at these planning meetings and I end up with a storytime theme I’m not that excited about. This time, I’m determined to do my research and be prepared, so I’m working on a jungle theme and a construction theme. I want to see what books and extension activities I can find so I know there will be plenty to choose from when it’s time to start planning in earnest.

We’re changing up how we do storytimes this fall and we’re going to offer two separate series of four weeks apiece instead of one series of six to eight weeks. We’ll see how it goes!

4:45pm - Send out some emails including booking a local balloon artist for a program we’re having in August and sending out Friday’s agenda to my staff.

5:00pm - Do a walkthrough of my department and make sure evening staff know about any programs or issues they might have to deal with. Straighten up shelves and fill displays.

5:15pm - Time to go home!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Will I See You at CYPD?

Calling all my Indiana librarian friends:

I just registered for the annual Children & Young People's Division Conference, held August 26 & 27, 2012 in Indianapolis! Will you be there? They've got a great lineup of sessions and authors, including Lauren Myracle and Katherine Applegate! Oh, and I'm presenting Sunday on internet resources for library programming ideas (Only a Click Away: Finding Program Ideas on the Web).

Here's the full program schedule (opens a pdf). If you haven't been to CYPD before, you don't know what you're missing! It's a great opportunity to connect with youth librarians and authors.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I'm So Excited for the Olympics

CC: carlbob
The Olympics are coming back this summer and I've been counting down for months. Of course, lots of people are excited about this world event, but, as a children's librarian, the Olympics will always mean something special to me.

Summer is a lot of fun for your public librarians. We see families and kids that may not make it down to the library at other times. We immerse ourselves in readers' advisory as we talk to kids about the great books they're reading over the summer. We do crafts, build things, make art, sing songs, dance, discuss books, watch movies, and share stories with kids of all ages.

And summer is a lot of stress for your public librarians. There is near-constant activity in our Children's Rooms. We may award prizes and log reading accomplishments for five siblings at once, while the phone is ringing, a daycare has fifty kids running around our department, we have three other people in line looking for the most popular books (which, of course, are all checked out). Just because we have all this additional activity doesn't mean that everything else we do - book orders, timesheets, planning upcoming programs, attending staff meetings, etc. - stops. It doesn't.

And some summers are harder than others. For myself, I would say that Summer 2012 has actually been relatively easy. Summer 2008 was another story.

I was at a different library in 2008 and that summer, for whatever reason, was rough. We had a lot going on and I remember weeks where I might have been doing seven or eight programs during my five-day workweek. And honestly, it was time for me to move on from that library, but the opportunity hadn't yet presented itself. It was a hard summer.

It turned out that the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was August 8, the same day as the end of our Summer Reading Club. Well, after a summer of coming home exhausted and turning on the TV to see commercials for the Olympics, those two events - the start of the Olympics and the end of Summer Reading - became inextricably entwined in my head. August 8 meant the end of stress. August 8 meant we had made it through.

And so the Olympics came to symbolize the end of the Summer Reading Club.

For youth librarians in our public libraries, every summer is kind of our own Olympics. We train for it. Months or even years of planning go into picking themes, purchasing supplies, planning programs, visiting schools, contacting community partners for donations, scheduling outreach, and more. Every summer, we evaluate what we've done so that we can be even stronger for the next "event".

As the school  year ends, teachers and media specialists pass the literacy torch to their public librarians and it's our time to shine. The spotlight's on us. We stretch our muscles and show our stuff with readers' advisory, programming, and doing what we do best: connecting kids with books. 

Even though this summer hasn't been one of the hardest for me, I appreciate the Olympics coming up right at the end of our Summer Reading Club. I still connect the beginning of the Olympics with the end of a stressful season. As much fun as I'm having with our families this summer, I'll definitely be ready to hand most of our kids back to their teachers and afterschool programs in August. It'll be time to change gears in the Children's Room, to concentrate on some weeding projects, planning in earnest for our fall programs, and other things that may get nudged aside during these busy summer months.

Youth librarians, we may not actually be OLYMPIANS, but anyone who gets through the summer intact gets a gold medal in my book.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ocean Sunlight

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisolm. Grades 2-5. Scholastic, 2012. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Okay, y'all know that plants on land turn the sun's energy into food, which is eaten by animals to create the food chain. And you probably assumed that the ocean (such a massive part of the earth) also has food chains that start when plants catch the sun's light. But where are the ocean's plants? True fact: a billion billion billion teeny tiny plants live in the ocean and catch the sun's light, starting the ocean food chains.

Ocean Sunlight is all about how these microscopic plants (called phytoplankton) contribute to the earth's environment. Not only do they feed animals in the sea, but they give off HALF of the oxygen we breathe every day!

Bright illustrations help take the reader from the (relatively) warm surface waters of the open ocean to the darkest depths of the ocean floor. The text is precisely chosen to convey a big, giant concept in a way that's not overwhelming, while additional information is provided in the back of the book for curious minds. The authors explain how storms at sea and ocean currents help distribute nutrients throughout the sea and why it's so important to understand and take care of our oceans.

This book expands on some of the concepts in Molly Bang's My Light and Molly Bang & Penny Chisolm's Living Sunlight, but it stands alone well. It would make an excellent addition to units on oceans, food chains, and the environment. For older readers, I'd pair this with Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns for more on why we need to take care of our oceans.

Ocean Sunlight is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at Practically Paradise, so make sure you check it out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I love booktalking. That is all.

Last week, we had another visit from one of the daycares that is bringing kids to the library this summer. It's been a bit of a learning curve for both their group and for us, trying to figure out how to make the visits go smoothly, but I think we're finally figuring it out. I'm glad they scheduled several visits over the summer because each one is getting better (and because the kids are checking out and reading some really cool books!).

The group consists of anywhere from 20-40 kids ranging in age from Kindergartners to 7th graders, so when they arrive we split them into two groups. We do a storytime program for the younger group (we suggested K-3rd grade) and then booktalks for the older group (4th-7th grade, or however they want to split it up).

I've been booktalking for the older group and I posted about what I had booktalked for them before. This time around, I was quite excited to be booktalking for the group again. I had a better idea of who my audience would be so I could select books catered to their needs. I was also excited to incorporate book trailers to change things up a bit (and to give my voice a break, honestly).

Here's what I booktalked this time around:

Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale. I knew they'd snatch this one up since Rapunzel's Revenge had been a hit on their first visit.

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading by Tom Greenwald. This is a great funny book for non-readers and readers alike. Hand it to your Wimpy Kid fans.

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems by Douglas Florian. I booktalk this one by reading the Pluto poem. 'Nuff said.

Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor. I showed the book trailer for this one! One of my favorites:

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka. There are so many great passages to read, but my favorite is the one where they pee on the space heater (the end of Chapter 3, I believe).

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jenni Holm. The cool graphic format sells itself!

Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer. My kids love fairy tales, so it's hard to say whether the subject matter or the poetic structure was a bigger draw.

Mythlopedia: She's All That and Mythlopedia: What a Beast. This is a popular series in our Children's Room.

No Talking by Andrew Clements. I end this booktalk by asking the kids who they think would win the no-talking contest, the boys or the girls?

Shark Life by Peter Benchley. This is one of my very favorite boy books. Written by the author of Jaws, it's nonstop adventure shark diving with Peter Benchley. The kids are like "You had me at 'sharks'".

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret. I showed them pictures of an iron lung to introduce this one. (PS: This is one of my go-to autobiographies when that assignment rolls around... It reads like fiction, which is a big draw for kids who aren't excited for biographies.)

Technically It's Not My Fault: Concrete Poems by John Grandits. I show them what I mean by concrete poems and then read the title poem on the front cover. Hi-larious!

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. I started the whole shebang by showing the book trailer for this book. Book trailers can be AWESOME for graphic novels because the art is such a big appeal factor.

Booktalking for this group has been really fun this summer and it's reminded me how much I love it. I did much more booktalking at my last library where we had some solid partnerships with the schools. I haven't yet connected with the right people to make booktalking happen at my current local schools, but remembering how much I love it makes me want to try harder this fall to make some connections and get in there

I love figuring out the "hook" of a book, that place in the plot where I can leave them hanging and wanting more... enough to check out the book and read it themselves to find out what happens. I'm excited by the idea of incorporating book trailers and multimedia to shake things up a little bit. When booktalking regularly, I'm inspired to keep up with the newest books hitting the shelves so that I always have some fresh material to pull forth. I'm also inspired to revisit some old favorites so that their plots and appeal elements are fresh in my head.

What are some of your favorite titles and how do you present them to kids?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan. Grades 7 and up. Knopf, August 2012. 304 pages. Reviewed from egalley provided by NetGalley.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day. (Summary from publisher, accessed through GoodReads.)

I'll give anything by David Levithan a go and I'm happy to say that Every Day did not disappoint.

It's not only that the premise is intriguing: As much as you might think you love the person inside the body, could you really love someone who came in a different package every day? How much does gender, race, and orientation (or lack thereof) matter in who a person is? To what lengths might a person go to keep someone they love in their life? And is that even fair... to anyone? 

It's not only that the premise is intriguing, it's that in Levithan's hands the words make you question everything that you think you know about love and identity at the same time that you're nodding along with the inescapable truths he's captured on the page. 

A is an unusual protagonist to get to know. On the one hand, he's lots of characters and that's fun to see the very different bodies he wakes up in each morning. Mean girls, jocks, drug addicts... On the other hand, A (genderless, but I'm going to use he) himself is wise beyond his years. After 16 years of seeing the world through different eyes each day (over 6000 different bodies by the end, never repeating one), he's got insights that a typical 16-year-old wouldn't have. A lives very much in the moment (the present-tense narration is definitely warranted), but he also very much transcends each day. 

It's a little bit of a genre-bender: it's definitely a sci-fi concept, but the day to day really is more contemporary fiction. It's about a first love that has... some unusual obstacles. And it's definitely a book that shouldn't be missed. 

I'd try this one on fans of David Levithan, John Green, and Cecil Castellucci. 

Every Day will be on shelves August 28. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Grades 6 and up. Houghton Mifflin, April 2012. 148 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

You may have heard of Temple Grandin. She has autism. She's written a couple of books about it. She's done a lot of stuff with animals. That was the extent of my knowledge.

Did you know that dozens of large corporations (like McDonald's, Wendy's, and more) count on Temple's help to make sure that the meat they're buying has been humanely slaughtered? Did you know that Temple revolutionized the designs of many slaughterhouses to make conditions better for the animals? Did you know that she's done all of this not in spite of her autism, but perhaps because of it?

Temple Grandin sees the world differently. Because of the way her brain processes sensory information, she's able to pick up on things that might seem small to humans but are huge to animals. And it's because of this that she's able to help them.

When Temple was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, people knew much less about autism than they do now. Temple's father thought she was retarded and needed to be put into a mental institution. Many people thought that she would never become a contributing member of society.

Seamlessly weaving information about autism, the changing stigma of mental illness, and animal rights into her narrative, Sy Montgomery brings Temple Grandin's story to life with lively and approachable text. The format of the book contributes greatly to its readability: color photos and reprints of Temple's diagrams are interspersed throughout. Reading this book is like sitting down with Temple and learning about her life, her most trying times and her brightest achievements.

Readers will not only meet the inimitable Temple Grandin in this biography, but they will come away with a better understanding of mental illness and autism. Through informative breaks between chapters and through the narrative itself, Sy Montgomery paints a careful picture of autism, both how Temple experiences it and how it's different for others. The message is clear here: our brains are all different and that enables all of us to do different things and all of that is not only okay but awesome.

Temple Grandin contributes both a forward and an appendix with tips for kids on the spectrum. Back matter includes an index, bibliography, and acknowledgments from the author. The one thing I wish had been included was a timeline of Temple's life, although I admit that that's probably a tricky thing to include with a subject who is still living.

Of course, this book may have high appeal for teens who have seen the biopic Temple Grandin:

I'd hand it to teens interested in autism or animal rights or who enjoy reading great biographies. I'd also recommend it to fans of novels featuring characters with autism, like Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork or Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.

Temple Grandin is on shelves now.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why All This Silliness?

Arrggh, there have been posts flying all over the interwebs since ALA about ARCs and bloggers vs. librarians and how it's all a bunch of silliness and grabbiness over free books. A Publisher's Weekly article summed it up pretty nicely this week if you've missed what's going on.

I pretty much hate to add to any internet kerfuffle, but I feel like there is a real lack of understanding about how teen librarians use ARCs to fuel programs and get teens invested and involved in their public libraries. I happen to know some awesome librarians and teachers doing awesome things with ARCs.

If you're wondering why librarians are all in a tizzy about entitlement and free stuff and who has the right to grab what, check out what some of these fabulous librarians and teachers are doing with ARCs. It's much more than scoring a free book to read on the plane ride home.

Sarah of GreenBean TeenQueen has blogged about using ARCs in her library to get book reviews from her Teen Library Council and to inspire library staff to keep up with popular literature.

Kelly of STACKED has posted about changing teens' lives with ARCs, putting books into their hands when they may not have any other opportunity to actually OWN a book.

(Side note: we're at the public library, you say. Can't teens CHECK OUT books since they're at the LIBRARY?? you say. I've said the SAME THING, but I've found that you might be surprised at the number of kids who love to read but are reluctant or unable to check out books. Maybe they have fines on their cards. Maybe it's a 20-minute drive to the library and they don't have reliable transportation. Maybe, with all the other things they have going on, they have trouble keeping track of due dates and are skittish about taking a book they think they'll forget to return...)

Sarah of The Reading Zone writes about using ARCs in her classroom to motivate high school students to read and to expand her classroom library. She says, "ARCs are magical. Nothing hooks a reluctant reader like the promise of reading a story before the rest of the world has access to it."

Drea of Book Blather runs a teen book review program where she gets teen feedback to help her decide which books she needs to purchase multiple copies of.

Katie of Book Blather told us about her book speed dating program, a program fueled by ARCs she brought back from ALA conferences.

At my library, we've used ARCs as prizes for teen programs and we've used ARCs with our teen advisory board to solicit reviews. Many libraries use ARCs from conferences as prizes for major programs like the Summer Reading Club.

Anybody else used ARCs in your library or classroom? Please share in comments!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Flying Off the Shelves

Books in the library have a circle of life. They come in and sit on the shelves, get checked out... and then they come back again. Yup, we've reached the point in the summer where our circulation is way more than our pages can handle. Our reshelving carts are the new go-to place to see if we have any books in popular series in.

I always find it interesting to see which series will take off during a particular summer. I remember my first summer at this library, we could NOT keep Magic Tree House books on the shelves. The past couple of summers have been huge for Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Of course, both those series are super popular, but the surprise runaway hit of Summer 2012 has been... Junie B. Jones.

Junie B. Jones?!

Yup, she's back with a new book coming out next month and the Junie B. Jones Stupid Smelly Bus Tour has made a couple of stops in our area.

Other series and topics that have been flying off the shelves: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Big Nate, Star Wars, any superheroes, The Hunger Games, Ninjago (which, we learned, is pronounced nin-JAH-go and not ninja-GO!), Legos, Ivy & Bean, Bad Kitty, Elephant & Piggie (I'd like to think that's due to our Elephant & Piggie Day we had earlier this month... more on that in another post)... On a suggestion from someone on this blog or on Twitter, I purchased the entire Popularity Papers series and those haven't hit the shelves since (i.e. they're constantly checked out).

Signups for Summer Reading Club continue to go like gangbusters. Last week, we rounded 2300 kids signed up, which is a pretty significant increase over last year. We've also had some very successful programs - Professor Steve's Mad Science Show came and we had a Space Explorers program where the kids made their own model "Mars rovers" out of aluminum foil, pie tins, and lots of other random supplies.

This week, I've scheduled a break in programming. Since the library's closed for the Fourth of July holiday, it's an ideal time to take a breath. We're still offering some of our less staff-intensive programs (Monday movie matinee and Saturday's Open Art Studio), so the library still has something to offer! I like to give my staff a break in the middle of summer and it's a great time to recharge our batteries for that last little push to get through the end of July.

Which series have been the most popular with your kids this summer?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Laugh With the Moon

Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg. Grades 5-8. Delacorte, June 2012. 245 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

Clare's not speaking to her father. Which is pretty depressing, considering he's the only person she knows in Malawi...

Yes, Malawi. After Clare's mother died, her dad decided to join the Global Health project and work in a tiny village in Malawi for two months... and take 13-year-old Clare with him. Grieving for her mom, missing everything about home, Clare has no choice but to try to make the best of this trip. She'll make new friends, learn a new language, and in dealing with another tragedy, she'll learn to laugh with the moon.

Based on tons of research and her own experiences with schools in Malawi, Shana Burg has crafted a novel that takes the reader across the globe and into an African village. She's expertly rendered the sights, sounds, and tastes of Malawi.

This is a great middle-grade novel. Clare is a perfectly realistic just-turned-13-year-old: seeming too mature and worldly one moment and then too childish in the next moment. Of course Clare misses her friends and her school and her possessions, but she's also caught up in the overwhelming grief of missing her mother. Although I didn't feel like I ever had a really strong connection with Clare personally, I think the portrayal of grief was spot-on. Clare didn't have a particularly strong voice, but that's not something that I necessarily missed as I was reading. There's a lot going on and the writing concentrates on Clare's experiences with a new culture and also venturing into this new territory of not having a living mother.

The details about Clare's experiences in Malawi, dealing with the stuff that any thirteen-year-old deals with (school, friends, enemies, family) while also submerged in a completely foreign culture, are what stick with me. Even weeks after reading the book, I can recall some of the details of Clare's Malawian village very well, almost as if I'd visited the place myself.

I'd definitely recommend this one to armchair travelers. Hand it to fans of Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Lauren St. John's The White Giraffe, or Silas House's Same Sun Here.

Laugh With the Moon is on shelves now.