Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four Tips for Job Seekers

I've been able to be involved in a lot of public library hiring and training so far in my career, and I always meant to write up a post about some of the suggestions I have for library job seekers.

Today I read this great post over at Letters to a Young Librarian, and it inspired me to share a couple of gentle reminders.


1. Personality matters. A lot. A huge part of working in the library these days is customer service. We look at an enthusiastic friendly personality as a key skill that can't be taught, and for anyone who works with the public this is a huge factor. If you're someone who is quiet and nervous during interviews practice practice practice.

2. For public libraries, the core answer to every question is basically the same: Consider your users.
(Know your community/engage with your community/we do this to improve patron experience/to make it easier for patrons to___) I absolutely LOVE Cari Dubiel's take down of the "I like to read" response. She just nails it with this sentence, "The interviewer does not want to hear what the library can do for you.  She wants to hear what you can do for the library." So true, and extrapolating that answer out even further, everything you do for the library is for the benefit of your users/community. There's a reason it's called public service.

3. Your cover letter is too.damn.long. Librarians! Come on! You don't need to list everything that you've ever done in your cover letter. I know we're a long-winded bunch but if your cover letter is longer than this blog post you're not doing yourself any favors.

4. Read the Ask a Manager blog. Honestly everyone who needs a job, has a job, or ever will have a job should read this blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Choosing Books for Storytime

Creative Commons photo by Ozyman

I love love love reading other people's posts on how they put storytime together. In the spirit of fairness, I thought I'd share my process.

I use themes in storytime, but I don't start by choosing a theme. I'm sort of ridiculously picky about books I'll use in storytime. If I'm not feeling it, I just can't fake it--and that goes for some classics that just don't resonate for me.* I got burned a few times early on in my career by picking a theme first and trying to fit books to match it, but doing that made me miserable, so I came up with my own method.

I read all the picture books I can get my hands on. When I find books I like, I think about what themes they would fit well, and brainstorm if there are any other awesome ST books I could team them with.

Once I have an idea, I start a ST outline for that theme/idea. I do this digitally. I have a Storytime folder, and in that folder there are folders for finished storytimes and one for work-in-progress storytimes. Sometimes a theme/idea will sit in the work-in-progress folder for months and months before I find enough books to create a whole storytime. Often, once I have a book or idea, I will order a bunch of options using the library catalog, and fast-forward the process. Sometimes I don't find enough books I like and I scrap that idea or theme (Camping ST, I'm looking at you). Once in a while I'll do a no-theme storytime to catch all the orphan books I've wanted to read in ST, but couldn't build a whole program around.

What do I look for in a storytime book choice?
  1. Do I like it? 
  2. Will it suit my audience? As much as I L-O-V-E books with off-the-wall humor or abrupt jokey endings, many of those books are more suited to class visits than my particular storytime crowd. I look at length, storyline, and amount of dialogue as key factors here.
  3. Can I make it interactive? Is there room in the story to add sounds or actions? This is a big factor in adjusting a book to work with a wide age range. I can read a longer, more complicated book in family storytime if I can make it interactive for both the older kids AND the younger kids.
  4. If it won't work 'as is' but I really like it, what can I do to make it work (and is it worth the time)? Here's where I look to see if the book is too long (if it's repetitive, maybe I can cut out a few verses) or if the pictures are too small (can I project it? Flannelize it? Puppetize it?).
For any given storytime I will identify at least six books that would work with my group. I make sure I have a variety of lengths and storylines.  It's amazing how many good books I will find on a theme, but they all tell the same basic story. Unfortunately that makes for a boring storytime, so I have to make some tough decisions, sometimes!

Once I have my books chosen it's time to write a storytime outline.

To be continued...

*for example, I know lots of people love "Brown Bear Brown Bear" and all its iterations, but that one just doesn't work for me. On the other hand, "When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry" by Molly Bang is like magic for me; every time I've read that book to a group of kids you could hear a pin drop--but I know some other storytime bloggers just don't connect with that one. It's so personal!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flannel Friday--Anna's Coworker Edition

Welcome to Flannel Friday! I'm delighted to be hosting again it has been a while. If you're not sure what Flannel Friday is, check out the blog to find out how to get involved!

Since I'm calling it "Anna's Coworker Edition" for a reason, we'll start off with this darling song for the flannel board created by my crazy-talented co-worker Monica over at Ram Sam Storytime--she even includes a bonus video of her performing the song!

Next up is Tami, one of my library school bff's/now coworker with her darling story, The Hair-Raising Adventures of Shanice Suzanne (hosted by me since Tami doesn't blog).

Anne at So Tomorrow continues to inspire us with her fun draw-and-tell stories. Bookmark this one since it's perfect for those spring storytimes--Jane's Garden

Lisa at Libraryland presents a great way to highlight the names of storytime kids while letting them get hands-on with the flannel board. T-Shirt Song

Miss Mary Liberry inspires me to re-do MY careworn flannel song Five in a Bed with her utterly charming Five Bears in the Bed

Trails and Tales shares a whole bunch of activities related to woodpeckers and bird beaks

The Library Lady shares a simple Turkey Hat Craft with great visuals that illustrate the importance of individuality and creativity

Storytime Katie spreads the love by sharing two ideas inspired by others, both of which deal with a favorite theme among young patrons--Horses!

Ooh, here's a super fun creation from Linda at Notes from the Story Room--Whose Tail? Guessing Game
(apologies to Linda for the typo I fixed--totally my error!)

A fantastic and original idea from Andrea at Roving Fiddlehead Kidlit Art Vocabulary Cards. I love how this reuses something that would otherwise be tossed or recycled, familiarizes kids with famous works of art, and has many uses.

The Hair-Raising Adventure of Shanice Suzanne

Today I’m lucky enough to share my blog space with a coworker who doesn’t blog. I thought this story was too cute not to share!
Look at that adorable face!
The story is adapted from a story on page 181 of the book Glad Rags: Stories and Activities Featuring Clothes for Children by Jan Irving and Robin Currie, and it's about a girl who simply won't take care of her hair--until animals start living in it!  

This version is made using clip art, laminated pieces, and magnets, and yarn. 

I had a copy of that book at my old library and have a long list of ideas to create from it—it’s definitely a book worth getting your hands on (even if some of the stories DO need adapting for cultural awareness).


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ode to the Picture Book: Vol. 1

Happy Picture Book Month!

I love love love picture books. I love art, I love words, and I LOVE the magical combination of the two found in exemplary picture books. I have an odd sense of humor, I'm drawn to the quirky and the odd and bow down to good design. Naturally, some of my favorite picture books are ones that don't work in storytime, but are ones that I look forward to sharing with my own (theoretical) children someday.

House Held up by Trees by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Not everyone is going to understand this story. Many people are going to reach the end and feel like it is abrupt, and strange and..."I just don't get it."

That's ok: Every book its reader. 

I am a reader for this book.

There's something so sad to me when I see a yard with no trees. As a former woods-child, I can't imagine growing up in a yard without those quiet hidden places. This book is so evocative of those whispery green places and the subtle magic of the sun-dappled wild. There's a quiet sadness to the story--kids growing up, life changing, leaving things behind, abandonment. But the theme of nature threading through life and holding it together, it's so beautiful. It's like The Giving Tree without the syrupy moral*

And the art! Total Jon Klassen fangirl here, not going to lie. Have you seen the jacket he designed for the book The Watch that Ends the Night? GORGEOUS. This book lacks the humor of Extra Yarn or I Want my Hat Back, but that really allows readers to appreciate the gorgeous subtlety of Klassen's amazing artwork. He does wonderful things with texture, color, and perspective in this book, keeping each page turn fresh and interesting when the story is largely static (I mean, there's not a lot of action in a story about a house and trees over several decades).  The imagery Klassen uses adds so much depth to the story--the seeds floating through the sky (beginning on the endpapers!) representing the inexorable pull of nature in our lives, and the red folding chair providing an anchor to our eyes throughout the story. So good!

Also, this book is set in Mrs. Eaves, which is one of my favorite fonts. Perfect!

Give this lovely, thoughtful gem a try. Preferably sitting under a tree or, considering the weather, at least in a window seat. 

Video of Ted Kooser speaking about the writing of this book (Poor sound quality, but interesting)

*Sorry Giving Tree fans. Also, a tangent: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid bit about Shel Silverstein's scary author picture on the back of The Giving Tree? PURE GENIUS. Jeff Kinney, I salute you).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pro-tip: Making the Most of Conferences

Totally what my desk looks like post-conference. Source
You know that thing where you go to a conference or workshop and have an amazing time? You get all fired up with awesome new ideas, avenues to explore, and procedures to implement. You take frantic notes, collect handouts, and network like a champ. You've got everything in your conference folder and head back to work ready to take on the world.

Then you get to work and all the happy conference thoughts fly out of your head due to about 10,000 emails in your inbox, notes from coworkers, damaged items, messages to return etc.

Your regular job momentum kicks in, and your conference folder full of hopes and dreams gets set aside, never to be opened again until your CE forms are due at the end of the year.*

The best thing I've done to combat this phenomenon is to literally schedule time to organize myself post-conference. Once you head back to work it's so easy to get sucked into the daily routine, but taking the time to prioritize conference follow-up makes a big difference.

Before leaving the conference, or ongoing during the conference, I like to sit down and make a list of:

1. Follow up list--People to contact post-conference, and why
2. Inspiration list--ideas I want to explore, further reading, professional development goals etc.
3. Implementation list--things I can bring back to my library right away, or things I want to share with my boss. 

Once I'm home or back to work, I enter these things into my calendar/to-do list just like I would for any other task. I decide what things need to be taken care of right away, and what things I want to come back to at another time and just plug them into my calendar. This works well for me because instead of a whole folder to deal with, I have a series of small manageable tasks that can easily be accomplished over time. Task management...revolutionary, I know.

If I don't make sure to prioritize and schedule post-conference tasks, it ends up just being a distraction from my regular job, and a fun waste of time. I owe it to my employers to maximize what I get out of conference attendance, because even if they aren't paying for the conference, they're allowing me to attend on work time.  

*for example. I think this has happened to a friend.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stop Duplicating Efforts! Creating a Unified Online Community Calendar


Have you ever planned a program and no one showed up?

Ever worked hard laying groundwork for a new idea only to find halfway through that some other community group already does that?

 What about discovering (after you've published all your PR) that your big event conflicts with another big event in town?

I know I have. Imagine my delight when the head of Parks and Rec contacted me about starting a project to create a single unified calendar for the whole community  YES YES YES!

If you'd like to view the calendar we created, you can do so here, Antigo Community Calendar. In a nutshell, instead of many different organizations publishing event calendars, and event coordinators  needing to contact multiple sources to advertise programs, we're all using the same calendar. No matter what organization's website you're on, they're using the same calendar.

I recently spoke at the Wisconsin Library Association's annual conference about this project. I was only one part of a team that worked on creating the calendar, but I think it is such a great idea that I support it wholeheartedly, and think it's something that other librarians--especially those in smaller communities--might benefit from as well.

Our presentation was a success, and if you're interested here are some links to more information about the project.

Our presentation
Example of PR and category breakdown
Sample PR business card
Our funding was sourced by the local hotel/motel tax--see the application form
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