Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Exercise in Futility

At the Head Start Center

I walk in. At first, I am unnoticed.
Then one child inevitably looks up, and recognition slowly dawns. That child proceeds to lose his/her ever-loving mind and starts shrieking, "The Library! The Library is here!" Soon there is a chorus of children yelling, "Hi Library!" and running around the room like I am a shot of espresso they've just mainlined.

Me: "Hi Friends! Does anyone remember my name?"

Them: "The LIBRARY!!!!!!!1!!!"

Me: "I work at the library. But my name is Ms. Anna. What's my name?"

Them: *blank stares* "...LIBRARY!!!!!!!!!!11!!!OMGBBQ!!!!!!!!"


Monday, April 23, 2012

Teen Programming Part 2

Read Part One

I've been trying to get teen programming off the ground for three years now, and I'm hoping that I'm finally reaching success. Let's talk about it, shall we?

Library Background, three years ago:
No teen program. We have a teen space, but the library as a whole is not teen friendly. There is a 'comfy chair' seating area in a bank of windows, but there's a tendency to see that as 'adult seating' and teens who sit there are eyed warily and frowned upon. Before my time there was a futon couch in the teen area, which led to lots of making-out problems. So that was removed and a study table was put in--unfortunately being near some of the only outlets in the library, this table is monopolized by adult laptop users. We also have this awful set-up where the library has two entrances to a giant hallway that is isolated from the rest of the library. The local Boys and Girls club was a block away, and kids coming from there would head to the library if they had no where else to go. These kids had little or no interest in using the library, just needed a place to hang out and continue being unruly. Teens tended to congregate in the entrances and hallway and there were problems with noise, swearing, and blocking entrances.

What I tried first: 2009
Building relationships with the teens who were coming to the library. I would go talk to them, say hi, learn their names etc. Whenever there was a discipline issue, I tried to get other staff to let me handle it and I would use a relational approach to deal with it. "Hey, you know you guys can't use that kind of language if you want to hang out here. I have no problem with you being here, it's your library too, but you need to follow the basic rules and make sure that you're not disrupting other people." That type of thing.

How it went:
It worked.  And it didn't. I built great relationships with many of the 'trouble-makers.' They would come seek me out in my office (part of the library they'd never venture into otherwise). I got random hugs. They listened to me--or at least tried--and respected the rules. But all my teen events were flops, except the lock-in. I would tell them about my events, they would sound excited and promise to come...and they wouldn't. The lock-in was the only event that would attract a large enough group to justify the planning, but the dynamics were terrible. I'd have some quiet, shy, and respectful kids I didn't know well, some of my 'trouble-makers,' and some of my trouble-makers' friends who were loud, crazy, and not at all interested in whatever it was I had planned. I'd plan activities and games that would just devolve into chaos. That dynamic was like oil and water, and nothing really worked. It drove everyone away.

Winter '09/'10: 
More events like I had during summer. More flops. I had my second lock-in. As with the first it was a success attendance-wise, but didn't lead to any other success.

Summer '10:
I had a bunch of random teen events throughout the summer. I made myself a public facebook account and tried using that to advertise/reach the teens in the community. I was constantly using great ideas from successful teen programs--Minute-to-Win-It, spa days, Wii games, art programs etc. All were flops.

Winter '10/'11:
Didn't really do much during the school year. In August 2010 the library went through a reorganization, and it was incredibly chaotic. How the library worked was restructured, two full-time positions were lost and five part-time front-desk staff were hired.

Summer '11: "One World Many Stories"
I came up with a PLAN. Since all these big fancy one-off type programs weren't working, I would offer consistent weekly teen programming on a variety of topics to try and start building a solid group of teens who would prioritize coming to my events. I would then continue "Teen Thursdays" into the school year and taste sweet sweet success. The events would be smaller/require less work from me, but they would always have treats and would happen consistently. I gave it the old college try, but, yeah--flop. I think the highest attendance at any Teen Thursday was eight, maybe? And I had no consistent attendees.

Winter '11/'12: 
I pretty much gave up. I stopped my feeble attempts at Teen Thursday around the end of November, and  decided to focus on tweens. I had a super successful Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 6 party (like, whoa, 100 people were there). I was ecstatic! We were playing large group circle games, I was in heaven! I asked them if they'd like it if I had more game events to play games like we were doing right then and they said YES! Two weeks later I had a game event--same day of the week, same time, same advertising format. Two kids showed up. I scratched my planned twice-a-month tween events off the calendar in frustration. I wanted to give up on all kids older than six.

Since this is so long, I'm going to stop here. Look for "Part 3: Where We're at Now" coming soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Flannel Friday--Without Flannel Edition

Way back when, I did a house-themed storytime, and was inspired to create a little finger-puppet stage that looked like a house.

I used an old shoe box, and sheets of adhesive craft foam. I love building with cardboard!

Little House

Who's behind the door?

What color window will Little Chicken pop out of? 

Back view

I've used this with Popsicle stick puppets, to introduce letter of the day items, and for guessing games. I wish that I had made it bigger, because it's really too small for a larger crowd (my smaller storytimes are usually about 15 kids plus adults, but since I don't require registration I don't ever really know when those will be).  But it's perfect for a storytime of 15 or less.

Recently, I was inspired by Flannel Friday (Katie via Smashed Peas and Carrots) to have my student worker create a "Lorax Dice Game." I wanted to use it for my "Lorax Party" storytime during National Library Week, but didn't have a giant die to use. So, I re-worked the game pieces to coordinate with a letter (A=Leg, B=Arm etc.) and put foam letters into the box behind the house. The idea was to have the kids put their hands in through a window or the door and 'randomly' choose a letter and then put the corresponding Lorax piece on the board ('randomly' since I'd be able to nudge the right letter in their direction). My Lorax party ended up being insane attendance-wise,* so I didn't end up using it.

*I don't automatically consider large crowds insane, I LOVE big storytimes, but it depends on whether the majority of the group is new to storytime or not. If I have a lot of new kids, I usually end up substituting less-involved activities on the fly.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet Success-Teen Program Style. Part 1

Youth Services: Programming for one age group, Collection Development, Working only 40 hours per week

After three years, I may have just had my first entirely successful teen program. No spin, no excuses, just 100% success. It feels really nice. Not sure if it's a trend, or something I can replicate but I'm sure going to try.

I've been part of ground-up successful teen programming before. I did an internship with a branch of a large suburban MN library while I was in library school. A classmate of mine (she worked there) and I created teen programming there for the first time, and it was very successful. We were reaching teen library users. They were regularly coming to library events and bringing new people to the library. We developed relationships with our population and turned a possibly disruptive element into library advocates.  Soon after, the system hired a dedicated Teen Librarian and it has been interesting to watch the progression and success of teen programming in that system.

My current position serves ages 0-18, and frankly, I think that's a nigh-impossible task. My personal belief is that truly successful teen programming requires--REQUIRES--a dedicated, location-specific, teen liaison.

What is successful teen programming?  I consider successful teen programming to be that which reaches a consistent, dedicated group of teens--especially those who are already library-users, and turns them into library advocates.  It is not just one-off events that attract a bunch of kids who will never set foot in the library until the next big sexy event you throw (not that those events are wrong, but I don't consider a series of one-offs to be successful teen programming--you follow?).  If you only consider attendance you may have the appearance of successful teen programming, but I bet for every 'successful' event there are at least as many flops/no-show events. I think this is why bigger libraries often seem to have more successful teen programs--a larger pool of teens to draw from means more attendance. But is it really successful teen programming?

Teens are so relational, you really need a LOT of time to build those relationships. Those of us in smaller libraries who wear many hats struggle to find that time.  It's not impossible to do, but I think administrators and the public need more appreciation for the time and dedication needed for teen programming in general.

In part 2 I'll talk more specifically about last week's program and what's working/what hasn't worked here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fourth Annual Egg Hunt

One of my most successful collaborations is the annual egg hunt we hold at the library. The groundwork for this was laid before I started my position, and we had the first hunt at the end of my second month as a working librarian--no pressure!  For this event, I am so lucky to work with the coordinator of our local Family Corner Resource Center. It's a great Wisconsin organization whose mission goes hand-in-hand with that of the library, and if you have something similar I encourage you to seek them out to start some collaboration.*

The hunt is for kids 6 and under, and is held inside the library. We rope a local highschooler into dressing up as the Easter Bunny, offer simple face-painting (pink bunny nose and whiskers), a take home craft, and of course--storytime.

The event was such a hit that we ended up splitting it into two sessions limited to 40 kids, and have to firmly enforce pre-registration each year. The kids/parents are told how many eggs they are allowed to collect, and we ask that they empty the eggs and "donate" them back for next year's hunt. There's always a kid or two who gets upset at having to give the eggs back, but I believe it's a good lesson for them, and we don't actually require them to give the eggs back.

While there are many egg hunts that happen in my area, the Library Egg Hunt serves a special niche audience since there is no competition from older kids and no concerns about weather.  This is a wonderful, fun, successful event that has become very beloved in my community. Maybe it's something that would work for you!

*I also work with FCRC to offer family events that supplement school district's four-year-old kindergarten enrichment program, and we are planning to use Every Child Ready to Read 2 for programming this fall.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeing Stars

I just checked  School Library Journal's Starred reviews for April, and was ecstatic to see that two of the books I reviewed were given stars! I'm as happy as if I wrote/illustrated the books myself.  But wait, there's more: I'm super excited to see a new Traction Man adventure as well.

If All the Animals Came Inside by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Marc Brown.

Great for storytime, this book is really something special. Marc Brown who is, of course, most famous for the Arthur books, combines that classic cartooning style with the more recent collage work seen in books like "Dancing Feet!" (Craig) and really creates art that is above and beyond anything he's done before. The emotion and expression from his cartoon work is perfectly enhanced by the texture and liveliness of his college work. It's amazing to see such a well-established illustrator evolve in such dynamic way.  Truly top form! (There's even an Arthur cameo on the page showing the animals watching television).

I'll Save You Bobo! by Eileen and Marc Rosenthall

When I saw the first Bobo book at the bookstore, I fell in love. Poor Willy--his pesky cat Earl just won't leave his beloved monkey, Bobo, alone. In this adventure, Willy is annoyed both by his boring book and Earl's fascination with Bobo. Willy solves both problems by drawing his own stories--all of which pose a threat to Earl.

I just love love love the expressiveness of the art. So simple, but with such masterful use of line to convey the action and emotion of what's happening. You can practically feel that cat invading Willy's space and pestering him (but he's so charming, that Earl)

Look at the great composition of the image above. The curve of Willy's body makes a shallow arc, which is echoed both by Bobo's shape and the shape of Willy's imagination bubble. It's also reflected within the leaves of the imaginary jungle. Our eyes like this repetition of shape, and naturally bounce around the whole drawing, helping it appear lively and interesting. So good!

 Traction Man and the Beach by Mini Grey

And finally, a shout-out to Traction Man. Traction Man is an action figure who has many heroic and harrowing adventures. Those who pay attention will find that his adventures seem to take place in locations common to young children--the bath, the sink, the backyard--but are transformed into Exciting! Dangerous! Missions! by the the child's imagination. I love the Traction Man books because I find them hilarious, but I also think they do a particularly great job of capturing what it's like to get really lost in your imagination. They do a great job of showing how a child with an imaginary superhero toy sees the world. And did I mention hilarious?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...