Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Magic Words: Getting Into the Schools for Booktalks

Image Credit: cleverclaire1983
I've been trying to get into our local schools for booktalking since I started my job five years ago.

And this year, I've hit upon the magic words to make it happen.

I LOVE booktalking. It was something I got to do on a regular basis at my previous library in Illinois; we had several regular programs set up with some of the schools up there. When I moved to my current library, I was eager to set up booktalking programs, but the marketing I was trying just didn't seem to work. No one seemed to be interested. What was up with that?!

Two things I learned helped us get started:

1. Teachers are super busy. My State Library Youth Services Coordinator, the awesome Suzanne Walker, suggested advertising "booktalking in as little as 15 minutes". That's what helped us get into the first school. One fourth grade teacher said, "I can spare 15 minutes of my language arts time for booktalks."

2. The word "booktalk" is jargon. Not everyone knows what it means. I kept shouting at everybody about doing booktalks, and it turns out they had no idea what I was talking about. Once I started adding a brief explanation (booktalks are brief previews of books, like movie theater trailers, designed to get kids interested and excited to pick up the books), interest shot WAY UP.

Knowing these things helped me get us into our first school. Last year, we visited the fourth grade classes at one of our local schools once a month. We spent 15 minutes in each classroom and found that we could comfortably booktalk 5 books in that amount of time.

It turns out that getting into one school and figuring out the nuts and bolts of how this type of program could work was the best thing to do.

This year, I approached principals about talking at a faculty meeting to tell teachers about the services we offer for teachers. I was able to give them some concrete examples of how booktalking programs can work. I made sure to take down email addresses of anyone interested in having us set up booktalks. I know teachers have a ton of things on their plate, so I took responsibility for getting the ball rolling.

And things snowballed from there!

Last year, we saw one grade at one school each month. This year, I have fifteen grades at six different schools on our schedule (so far!).

Guess what? Teachers talk! If you bring them something they like, they will tell other teachers! Some of these new groups are folks I have approached at faculty meetings, but we had several who came to us because they had heard about what we were doing.

And we're ready to handle them. I've been laying the groundwork for this by establishing our Reading Wildly staff readers' advisory program. Each month, my staff members have been sharing booktalks with each other, so they already have an arsenal to choose from. To start with, I'm scheduling booktalks in pairs. As everyone gets more booktalking experience, we may be able to break up the teams and schedule individuals instead of pairs.

(Although... being able to send staff in pairs is really nice. Not only does it cut down on the amount of prep each person has to do, it gives kids and teachers two different styles of booktalkers. It's also easier to get a balance of different types of books when two people who potentially gravitate towards different genres present together.)

I also shared with my staff some booktalking best practices. Read the book you're going to booktalk. The best booktalks are books you truly enjoy and are excited to share with kids. Even if a book's not your personal favorite, if you can get excited thinking about the kind of kid who would like this book, it's a good choice. And bringing balanced selections - including nonfiction, graphic novels, and diverse titles - is a must. We're seeing so many different kids and we want to make sure that every kid is seeing something they like at some point.

I encourage my staff to leave a minute or two at the end of their visit to get feedback from the kids and find out what books THEY recommend so we can get an idea of their tastes and better tailor our booktalks.

As I'm scheduling groups, I'm trying to say YES as much as possible. It's most important to me to start fostering a better relationship with our schools and teachers. We'll figure out details as we go along. I recommend booktalks for grades 2 and up, but if teachers of younger grades want us to come and do something, we'll brainstorm some program ideas. It sounded overwhelming to booktalk to the entire 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at one middle school, but we're making it work.

And what I've found is that as we divide up groups between staff members and as we all start planning, things are coming together. So far, scheduling has been the hardest part (and that's maybe because we just switched to a new software and I'm terrified something's going to fall through the cracks).

And thus begins our journey into the schools. May it be long and positive for all parties!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Projects

To our patrons, it might appear that we take the month of August "off" since we take a break from programming in August. While it's true that most of my staff is taking some vacation time in August since we're too busy during June & July to take vacation, we have also been super busy this month!

Here are a few of the things on my "August Project" list that I've been working on:

  • Attending faculty meetings at local schools and preschools to sign teachers up for School Collection cards and promote programs we can bring into the classroom
  • Contacting teachers and organizations to schedule booktalking and readaloud programs for the school year
  • Learning and implementing a new scheduling software
  • Cleaning out our programming room, reorganizing, surplussing damaged and worn furniture, and generally sprucing things up 
  • Figuring out how to catalog and circulate our new circulating flannel stories collection that we'll be promoting to teachers this fall
  • Planning baby storytimes for September through December
  • Planning monthly Preschool Lab programs
  • Ordering and finding places for new toys that we'll be using during the playtime that we're adding to our Preschool Explorers programs
  • Going through the catalog to assess lost books and order replacements where we can

I always feel like my time to complete projects will completely dry up in September when programs start, but that's not really the case. I just like getting as many major projects done as I can before we're back in the swing of things!

(And HEY, at least we're not transitioning to a new ILS this August!)

What's on your "August Project" (or September Project or general project) list?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Going "Prizeless"

We all know our Summer Reading Clubs are PRICELESS, but did you know they can also be "Prizeless"? I'm over at the ALSC Blog this morning, talking about libraries who have elected to ditch the cheap, plastic prizes in favor of more experiential summer programs.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Librarian's Guide to 10,000 Steps

A couple of weeks ago, I got a FitBit!

A FitBit is one of many different kinds of pedometers, fitness devices worn on your person that track how many steps you take each day. The recommended number of steps for an active, healthy lifestyle is 10,000 steps. And FitBit allows you to create an account and add your friends to cheer each other on and encourage healthy competition.

I was really excited to get it, certain that I would soon be bragging to my family and friends how I get my 10,000 steps in every day without even trying!

Walking and reading: Belle's got it down.

Of course I took 10,000 steps a day, I thought. Between tidying up the department, walking patrons to the shelves, leaving on outreach visits, and trekking across the hall to pick up print jobs several times a day, I thought it would be no sweat.

What I found is that unless I go for an exercise walk, I typically take about 4,000-6,000 steps a day.

So, where can a librarian get her steps in? Aside from parking a little farther away and walking to the corner to cross the street, I have a few ideas:

A Librarian's Guide to 10,000 Steps
  • Put the book in the customer's hand. Surely you're already doing this, but if not, start. It's just good customer service. Don't let your patrons walk away with a call number written on a piece of paper! Walk them to the shelf and put the book in their hands. Along the way, you have time to chat and give them a little information about how the library's organized. ;) 
  • Visit your stacks. Something is always in need of straightening. Even if you have enough pages to keep everything in tip-top shape, you never know what you'll find when you go visiting in the stacks. Remember those five copies of a state award nominee you ordered three years ago? Maybe some of them can be weeded. And - oh look! - you spotted a favorite book you'd forgotten about! One that will be perfect for booktalking to that third grade class next month. 
  • Take a walk around your room. Have you checked to see if you need to replace any outlet covers? Are all the chairs looking nice? Do the puzzles have any missing pieces? Here's your excuse to take a minute and make sure your room's in good shape. 
  • Visit your storage. When's the last time you were back there, anyway? Go take a look and see what can maybe be thrown out or given away. Trips to the recycling bin will help you get in even more steps.
  • Visit other departments. Do you know what's going on with Adult Services? Have you asked someone in Circulation how things are going? What is your teen librarian up to? It's always great to connect with other departments; you never know what partnerships might develop. 
  • Take a stroll with an audiobook (on your break or after work). Audiobooks are wonderful for squeezing in some reading time and getting some exercise. Chances are you sometimes get patrons needing some audiobook listeners' advisory, so keeping up with audiobooks can help you with that, too. 
  • ETA (8/6/14) Volunteer to run upstairs, down the hall, etc. and grab a book for a patron or look for a book that might not haven gotten checked in. More exercise + awesome customer service = LIBRARIAN WIN! (This can especially help out parents of young kids or folks with mobility issues... getting your steps in is a bonus!)
  • ETA (8/6/14) Take over the holds pull list or duties pulling books for teacher collections or offer to pull books for someone's program display. I got a ton of steps in this week from wandering the stacks pulling books for third grade teachers to teach character traits and themes! 
I need all the help I can get, so give me your great ideas for getting your steps in at work!