Category: Youth Services

Bring it to La Crosse…

For anyone who was wondering, our Board approved replacement of my position.  That means if you’ve ever wondered about La Crosse, ever imagined tackling storytimes in the Boat, ever thought you’d like to work with Mesdames Director and Storyteller or the infamous Acquisitions Man…here’s your chance!

The formal job description is available here and I imagine will be or is going out to the usual job boards. Please share it around.

What can I tell you about La Crosse Public Library?

LPL is a vibrant resource library for both the La Crosse community, which uses us heavily, and for our system, which spans 90 miles and includes many smaller libraries.  We have a really great DVD and audiobook collection–I have not had nor felt the need for a Netflix account nor an Audible account.  ILL is solid. We have video games, graphic novels for kids/teens/adults, and I’m pretty proud of the chapter book collection.   We have an Archives and an Archivist. It’s a pretty good bet that if I send up a pleading email to the appropriate selector, the book or movie will be ordered (which is why we have the Smurfs and a couple of sock knitting books).

We’re a little tight for collection space, what library isn’t?  That being said, it’s bright and feels spacious.  There’s a huge basement to explore and there are secret storage areas that one feels could also lead to mysterious tunnels that are at the beginning of some adventure novel.  We have the Boat.  I’m sorry to say that I think with my departure the Chocolate Drawer will be no more, but not everything can stay the same.  We have a very nice staff room and it does not have a television in it–so it’s usually quiet!

There are people I have greatly enjoyed working with. I mention the Director, Head of Reference, and Head of Youth Services often enough right?  They have been wonderful sounding boards and always willing to share things from a more experienced perspective or just from the other side of the desk.  I don’t hear the word “no” often but when it comes it is with an explanation.  The transparency they have shared with me about library operations has been invaluable.

I am leaving a good place; my taking a new job is about being ready for different challenges.

What can I tell you about La Crosse?

La Crosse is a beautiful town on the banks of the Mississippi. Yes, it gets really cold in the winter; hot and humid during the summer. We see a temperature swing of about 100 degrees between mid-March and mid-July.  You will need a 3/4 length down coat, wool socks, and a really fabulous hat. That being said, they know how to handle snow removal and I’ve only been unable to get myself to work on two days in three years.

It’s a wonderful family town. We have good schools and a strong community that really focuses on families.  Festivals seem to happen every weekend between May and October, many of them several day events with dancing, music, kids shows, beer tents, ethnic foods and crafts. The public library is good ;).  We have a community college that is overflowing with students, a popular UW campus and a private Catholic university here.  There are two major hospitals. There are a lot of churches and community organizations.  Decent music and theater scene.  We’re a small hub for conferences and get a lot of national tours through on a one-night/one-weekend appearance.

There’s an airport and Amtrak.  You connect either through Minneapolis (Delta) or Chicago-O’Hare (American).  It’s a 3 hour drive to the Twin Cities; 2.5 to Madison; 5 to Chicago. There are five yarn stores in about 45 minute radius, possibly more now…

La Crosse is a good green/eco/outdoors destination. If you like hiking/camping/trails/nature/gardening–definitely consider coming up to La Crosse.  There are many freely available trails (talk to MVC and HPT), there are places to rent snowshoes, and we have Mt. La Crosse skiing. There’s a Food Co-op and plentiful farmers markets. Many people bike though we don’t have bike lanes.  Madame Storyteller reminds me that the region has been known for it’s commitment to organic and locally grown foods since the sixties.

You will need a car. There is a bus system but the timing is sketchy and the downtown drop-off is a bit of a walk from the library.

I’m happy to answer questions, my email is on my About Me page–which I need to update with a non-braces picture and my new work information. 🙂

KidLitCon 2010 Review Part 2

Here’s Part 2!  I went offline while I was staying with the Master Sergeant’s parents.  They are wonderful hosts and made my sniffly self very welcome.  I noticed, when I got home on Monday, that it felt as though I had been away far longer than 2 days for having been offline during that time.  How to extend your vacation through lack of technological devices…a future idea to examine.

Anywho, back to Saturday afternoon.  When last we left our intrepid hedgehog, she was off in search of tissues and armed with directions from author Steve Brezenoff to a pharmacy for better sinus clearing medication.

The last two sessions of the day were about the emerging changes in school/library visits by authors.  Nancy Carlson was there–insert a bit of fan girl moment here! I’m not a huge picture book reader but it was Nancy Carlson! Cool! She shared with us her first author visit–a small library where no one showed up, and where she thought she might be off the hook until a busload of senior citizens arrived with her as the afternoon entertainment.

Most authors visits still come through word of mouth, though that mouth is expanding to tweets, blogs, etc… Another story Nancy shared was about how mentioning a trip to Maine for an author visit turned into a ten day tour down the North East coast.  Nick at joined us via Skype, demonstrating that technology from Montreal and talking about how author visits can come via Skype and how teachers/librarians can use resources such as his site to get pre-taped videos in advance or in substitute or addition to a school visit so kids can connect more with the authors their reading about.

One of the new things with author visits that was hit on was how now we have to be concerned about whether or not it is okay to take pictures of kids. Schools now have various forms that are usually filled out in advance.  At a library visit, because it tends to be public, parents can have the okay–still it can be a gray area.  This is something librarians can plan in advance so they have kids who can be photographed and included on the authors blog.  The idea of photographing a bulletin board relating to the author that the kids created was also a way to include the kids without showing actual pictures of them.

Our final session talked about the creation of the Kidlitosphere and the Cybils.  We got a quick history of the kidlitosphere, including creation of the word. We heard who some of the heavy hitters were–I added a few names to the RSS feeds (Children’s Literacy: Scrub a Dub Tub; Cynsations for author interviews).  I didn’t realize there was a Yahoo! Group specifically for the kidlitosphere.  I may peruse though I’m not sure I’ll be an active participant at the moment.

The Cybils were most interesting.  The award was described as the “Organic Chicken Nugget” award for children’s literature–really taking into account what was child friendly as well as well written, rather than trying to lean on one or the other.  This year they saw the number of people volunteering to be judges jump to twice their actual need but those of us interested in the future are encouraged to apply. One can follow along on Twitter or Facebook too.  There are two rounds of judging: the short list and the winners. The short list sounds like the Newbery work–read ALL these wonderful books and pick the best five.  Intimidating amounts of reading, eh?  But hey, gets us into the lit of the year right? And it gives librarians a small list to run down and see if we’ve got all of them….Speaking of that backlist blogging…

Then was wrap up, announcement of locations of 2011 (Seattle) and 2012 (NYC).

I pinned Liz Burns at the end of the day and we had a nice chat about the infamous SLJ cover.  And then I was back onto I94, managing to miss both Presidential and Viking traffic!

Weirdest Storytime Ever….

Sometime last year, in a fit of brilliance, I did a fish themed storytime. By the time I got done, I was giggling like a mad woman. I fled back to my coworkers, just slightly horrified by what I had just read to “my” kids and wondering if the parents would bring them back or write me off as just a little crazy.

Fortunately, “just a little crazy” seems to be accepted as part of the job description.

What had I read?

Pout Pout Fish Cover

Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

(or… fish suffering from depression who gets a prescription by the end of the book, which happens to have the side effect that they make him really affectionate)

Trout Trout Cover

Trout Trout Trout by April Pulley Sayre

(Go look at the art work. It’s, um, vibrant.)

Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway

(The fish with ADHD!!)

Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau

(A story about a carnivorous cannibalistic fish….every other page reads “And then he ate him” and there is definitely not a happy ending.)

Now, I could get away with this for a Storytime for Adults (which I totally wish we could institute) or even with my Wee Reads but in the future, may I suggest some other combination for the three year olds?


Of Course I Use Blogs…

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a SLIS student. She’s taking a summer course on children’s literature and was looking for information* about librarians using children’s lit blogs as part of their collection development tools.

Well, yes, of course I use blogs, I said. There are so many goods ones out there! She seemed surprised and rather dismayed (at least, that’s how it sounded to me), which made her reaction stick with me. And since this is my own little soapbox, I get to elaborate here.

As I’ve addressed in a couple of articles recently, my primary resource is the professional journals to which my library subscribes. This includes Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, andVOYA. There might be others but that’s all I can think of/find on my desk right now.  Those reviews go through editors, are recognized throughout the industry, and can be a line of defense should something get challenged.

But that doesn’t mean that’s the only place I find things. I get publisher catalogs in the mail regularly, get emails daily, have wide eyed and eager or subtly shy kids making requests, parents leaving me formal acquisition request slips….and I read blogs, browse bookstores, and look for books wherever I can.

The student was concerned about the quality of blog book reviews. I said I can usually tell the quality based on the overall quality of the blog, which usually is pretty apparent if you read five or ten posts.  If someone is caustically slamming everything they read, then yes, I’m going to be a little suspicious. If they are only ever staunchly cheerleading every bleeding title, also  potentially suspect. I know Tasha Saecker only publishes reviews of books she enjoyed (her policy) but she’ll also note if there are weaknesses in those books and I know what her policy is.  It’s my job to evaluate information and  that’s something I do every day, so wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that after reading quite a lot of them, I have a pretty good idea which kid lit blogs have usable reviews on which might I rely? And while a blog is someone’s opinion, so is a review printed in a journal. For example, Madame Storyteller reviews for School Library Journal.  Her reviews are absolutely her personal, informed opinion–they just happen to go through an editor and into print rather than cross my eyes via Blogger.  Why wouldn’t I trust another informed librarian who chooses instead to blog?

I referred the student to Kids Lit and Fuse #8, pointing out that Betsy Bird made Forbes this year, so it’s not like children’s lit blogs are running completely under the radar.  I suggested that she email ALSC-L and ask for opinions there.  I hope she does, though I’m sure they’ve had the conversation before, it would be interesting to have again and see what new additions I can add to my blogroll.

So yes, kids lit blogs are an important part of the collection development toolkit.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the student’s name and email. I wish I had–I’ve thought of five other blogs she should look at, two other mailing lists, and had three interesting conversations about it. Oh…and now it’s documented on my blog….

Those other blogs:

Abby the Librarian

100 Scope Notes

Bookshelves of Doom

Zooglobble (Children’s Music–I get TONS of great indie stuff here)

Read Roger

*I think she was hoping I’d say “ah yes, there was a recent study in Peer Reviewed Journal by Most Highly Respected Children’s Lit Professor entitled How the Reading of Blog Reviews Led to the Downfall of Children’s Fiction Collections.”

Playaway Woes….or the Issue with the All in One

I came in to another two Playaways that had stopped working. It’s been more than 30 days, so of course we can’t send them back to Ingram.  One I can’t even get to turn on and the other the volume has to be turned to maximum to even get the lowest muttering. I could hear it in my quiet office but the possibility of hearing it in a noisy car on a trip would be slim.

These things are supposed to hold up to middle school student abuse, preschoolers antics, etc…and 8 circulations in they’re toast.  They won’t turn on or the volume is screwy or the display screen has flaked out. I’ve heard from the selector for adult audio that she’s having similar issues and somehow I don’t think adults are randomly flinging all of these across the room. When we’re paying $60 a piece for these, we need to get more circulations out if it.

And it’s not like there’s an easy replacement plan–I can’t just send away for a new disc/tape. I have to scrap the entire thing and buy again. Our discount from Playaway is pretty much nonexistent so we usually go through Ingram who, somewhat understandably, won’t let us return them 6 months/4 circs later.  I could ask that Acquisitions Man get them directly from Playaway and then replace them with each breakage but oh–that’d just mean I’m spending $15 in replacements on however many every single year.   My audio budget is already stretched with the ever increasing demand–I need these things to hold up and do their work, not constantly need to be sent back/replaced.

I think I’m going to have to give up on Playaways–they don’t seem to be fiscally responsible as a way to use my library’s monies.

It does raise the “all in one package” question though. If we put everything into one small device, what do we do if that device fails? Jason Griffey had to send his Ipad back recently when the screen failed–but at least with netbooks/ereaders/tablets/laptops we usually have things backed up and can get our data back within a day or two.  Even that often comes with a shipping cost and headache and frustration as we wait without the information we’ve put into the machines. Playaways are supposed to be an easy answer to people not wanting to lost parts and pieces, forget a disc or worry about scratches–but when they fail,  it’s total and complete and I’m up a creek.

I want to like this format–I’ve argued FOR this format–but ultimately I’m faced with high prices and low reliability. And that makes me really crabby.