Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Show Me the Awesome--Diversity in Collection Development

Artwork by John LeMasney,

As part of the fantastic "30 Days of Self Promotion" blog tour going on this month (full archive), I'm going to write about something very near and dear to my heart: Diversity in Collection Development.

Why Does it Matter?

I don't care how homogeneous, remote, or just plain 'white' your community is--you should be thinking about diversity in your collections, AND in the books you present during storytime. One of the biggest parts of our mission as librarians is to provide access. Access to technology, to ideas, to education and, more broadly, access to the amazing world we live in. We provide windows into other lives, other ways of living. And we also have a responsibility to show kids how much the same life is--how much we all have in common. It's our responsibility to reflect the diverse world back to our library users.

Diversity in collection development is so much more than just books about Civil Rights, or "What it's like to live in X country." Those books are very very important. But if the only picture books we have that feature people of color are history books, historical fiction, or books about other countries we are doing a huge disservice to the people we serve. We're also contributing to the concept of 'otherness' that so many people of color live with every day. I want everyone to feel that they belong in my library. If we are building diverse collections, we need to seek out fantastic books that feature people of color and that aren't about race We need bedtime books, first day of school books, friendship books, loose tooth books and scared of the dark books that feature people of color. Those are the books that I work very hard to find and feature at my library.

It's not for me to speak about discrimination or prejudice, or to try and tell stories that don't belong to me. But what I can do is listen to those in the know, and support and promote authors of color,  and use my purchasing power to encourage publishers to embrace diversity as well. I want to be a diversity ally, and I am challenging you to be the same.

What do I actually do?

  • Read blogs that focus on diversity. A lot. Challenge my viewpoints as much as possible. Learn. Grow. This is the main thing. I do everything I can to make sure that I'm aware of what's out there, and then make a point to seek out those books.
  • When I'm looking through book catalogs and review publications I am always looking for books that can add diversity through my collection. I challenge myself to stop thinking, "That won't circulate here" or making assumptions about my users. I have an eagle eye watching for books about universal themes that feature people of color.
  • One easy way I keep tabs on my collections is to watch my 'new books' displays--are they reflective of a diverse world? How many of the total number on display are diverse? Who would feel welcome looking at this display? (Example below)
  • Watch my orders, and pay attention to book covers. I try to click through my book orders before I finish them and look at covers to get an overview of the overall diversity of each order.

Some things I read to learn:

American Indians in Children's Literature
CBC Diversity 
I'm Here, I'm Queer, Now What the Hell do I Read?
De Colores: La Raza Experience in Books for Children
Es Divertido Hablar Dos Idiomas!
Reading in Color
PaperTigers Blog
Diversity in YA

Awards and Lists:

Stonewall Award
Pura Belpre Award
Schneider FamilyAward
Coretta Scott King Award
South Asia Book Award
Rainbow Book List 

 What am I missing? I'm always looking for more!

On a random morning I took stock of my picture book display and found 8/14 titles on display were either 1. A true story about a person of color 2. Featured a person of color on the cover regardless of the story or 3. portrayed a folk or fairy tale from a non-European culture. Most of the time I don't take a photo, just count how many books on the display are diverse, then count how many books are on display total. I aim for about 50% and am pleased to report that that is an easy benchmark to hit when you pay attention to diversity!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Children's Book Week: David LaRochelle Visits!

I highly recommend getting David LaRochelle to visit your school or library. He's great!

He talked a little about being an author, and read "The Best Pet of All." Then he told us about how a theater company had done a puppet show of "Best Pet of All" and sent him the puppets! 

He even got the kids moving by playing follow the leader with the puppets. It was a hit!

After that he drew us a hilarious story that he wrote, based on the numbers 1-10. Everyone was cracking up. Finally, he read "It's a Tiger" and talked about the process of making that story. It was such a treat to have him visit us. Not every author can do a great job with preschool age kids, but David's got it!

I even got a sneak peek of his new book coming out this fall with illustrator Mike Wohnoutka. It looks AMAZING and I'm sooooooo excited to read it in storytime.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Guess Who is Coming to Storytime This Week

 You get three clues to try and guess who is coming to storytime for Children's Book Week. Who could it be?

1. An amazing pumpkin carver
2. Minnesota author
3. Latest book has a cowboy hat on the cover

4. I read one of this author's stories during "Pet" themed storytime.
5. This author has a book that goes backwards

Make you best guess and stay tuned for more information!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Organizing Myself at Work

The change between being Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director and working 45+ hours per week to working part time and splitting my hours between Children's Librarian and Reference Librarian has been pretty epic for me.

Photo Credit: NapaneeGal via Compfight cc

One of the biggest challenges was the way I work, and the way that I separate out my "personal" professional work from the work that is in my job description. Before, I didn't really have to think about it. Work was work was work, and it all took place in my office whether it was blogging, conference prep, book reviews, or employee evaluations. I was salaried, and I was there all the time. I used Outlook, Google Drive, and a giant desk calendar to organize everything, and it was good.  I didn't need to be mobile because I had one space to do all my work. Central command, if you will.

Then I moved and changed jobs, and was suddenly working at multiple desks with no spacious office, nowhere to put a giant desk calendar, no Outlook, and computers that won't even support Google Drive.

I was a bit at-sea. Here's what I've found to work:
  • I have never found an online calendar that really works for me (I think it has to do with being a visual person and needing a sense of physical space to tie in with the passage of time, but I digress), so I bought myself a very nice planner to take care of scheduling.
  • I took the time to organize my workspace in a way that works (though I am rarely actually in that space, even just organizing my stuff well made a big difference). 
  • Work jump drive. ALWAYS WITH ME. Also making sure to make good use of the shared folders on our server, which I can access from any computer. 
  •  To replace the CRUCIAL to-do list scheduling function that I relied on Outlook for, I researched and tried a bunch of productivity apps, and eventually settled on Vitalist.  I am intrigued by Evernote, but since it requires you to download it onto your machines, it wasn't an option for me. I needed something web-based since I work from so many locations. 

  • I found that I'm AWFUL at working from home. When I'm working from home it's too easy to go down the rabbit-hole of endless 'net surfing since there's no interruption. Since all of my reviewing, blogging, and conference prep is on my own time now, I had to find a way to work from home more effectively. I started using an Internet-blocker app called Self Control (sigh). Basically you choose which sites you want blocked, set a timer for how long you want them to be blocked, and you're good to go. Despite the embarrassing name, I really like it, and it has been a huge help for me (self control! I has it!) Here's an app that works with Windows machines (I have not used it personally): Cold Turkey
It's a work in progress, but these are things that have helped me. What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Joke Station

When Spy Week ended at my library, I did some quick thinking and transformed the table into a Joke Station. I was inspired by April Fool's Day, but this is something that would work any time of year.

I left up the black paper, and just cut out some colorful circles. By the end of the month all the circles had funny faces drawn on them--an unintended result that was quite delightful.

Then I pulled all the library's joke books, and by the end of the month only one of them hadn't been checked out. Circ-booster!

I put out a binder with page protecters, and half-sheets that invited the kids to draw or write their favorite joke or trick.

Easy, simple, fun! I had about forty entries overall, and these were some of the first few entries:

Pooh jokes...I should have known

Made of win

This kid wrote out the ENTIRE "Eats, shoots, and leaves" joke.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Marching Band Storytime

 I had a special guest star at storytime recently: a Marching Band!

Warming Up Before Storytime

I contacted members of a local high school marching band, and coordinated a visit to storytime. We did it on a day where there was no school, and the teens were able to get extra credit for visiting. I had about 15 band members visit with their instruments, and it was fantastic!

The parents LOVED it. The kids ended up loving it too, but many of them were very apprehensive at the beginning of storytime. Since the marchers were warming up, the room was very noisy before storytime, and there were a lot of unfamiliar faces at the front of the room. I offset this by
  • Asking my band to stop playing five minutes before storytime started so people could get settled.
  • Playing one of the familiar music cds I usually play before storytime.
  • Making sure that I was visible, welcoming, and reassuring as families arrived.
I did my normal opening song and our letter of the day with Fergus, then introduced the band. I had each of the teens say their name, what their instrument was called. Then the played a quick scale or rhythm to show what their instrument sounds like. Then I read Wynton Marsalis' "Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!" Each time I came to an instrument that was in the room, I paused and prompted the teen with that instrument to give us the 'real' sound. I talked about sounds a lot with the kids, specifically high and low sounds, and we practiced a lot of sounds as a group.

The trombone was particularly popular! But we did have to adjust our tape line to accommodate the reach of the trombone and make sure no littles were sitting right in the way.

Normally during storytime kids are sitting ON my tape line, lol

After that, the band played their school fight song, and "Happy and You Know It" and "ABC's" while we sang along.

Then, with the help of the drum we used our voices to make beats with the book "Tanka Tanka Skunk" by Steve Webb (a new favorite of mine).

 Then we added a new twist to our favorite storytime song of all, "The Watermelon Song" by singing it with musical accompaniment (I told the teens that if they didn't know Frere Jacques/couldn't play it they had to sing and dance with me).

And finally, we finished by reading, "Soon Baboon, Soon" by Dave Horowitz

Then I sang our closing song, we clapped for the band, and I invited kids up for hand stamps (every member of the band also lined up for hand stamps).

You may want to put up noise-level warning signs for patrons if you do this! My colleague also did a kazoo parade through the library when she did this, but that wasn't a great fit for my library (though it would have been fun).
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