Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Playing Catch Up...

December has come & gone. Yet I can't quite let it pass without mentioning a fantastic author visit that occurred last month.

The lovely Mitali Perkins visited Flushing Library for a homecoming of sorts.

As a child she frequented this library each Saturday to borrow seven books (the limit at the time). She fondly remembers the library as a welcome, safe place as she adjusted to life in America, describing the librarians she met there as "her heroes." Currently living in Boston (and around the world in the interim), she is certainly an honorary author of Queens!

Ms. Perkins stayed all day to participate in two events. In the morning she joined a professional development workshop for children's and young adult librarians which included a book discussion of her titles along with a presentation on critically examining culture and diversity in literature for youth.

In the afternoon she led a writing workshop for young adults where the lucky participants received a signed copy of her latest book, Bamboo People. Held in the recently renovated teen space, I love the chalkboard paint on the wall used to promote events.

I also enjoyed the informal, adaptable and cozy set up of their room: old school booths and a couch facing a large flat screen tv that easily hosts gaming programs, movie days, as well as Powerpoint presentations such as the one Mitali led. The light fixture hanging over each booth doubles as a speaker for music!

The stacks are further beyond the seating.

All in all, an inspirational day in a beautiful space!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Mocking Reading is a Good Thing

The 2011 Newbery Award winner will be announced on January 10, 2011. For the first time, Queens is joining libraries and schools across the country in speculating which book will be awarded this medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The Mock Newbery titles selected by Queens Library include:

Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper

The War to End All Wars
by Russell Freedman

The Waterseeker
by Kimberly Willis Holt

The Boneshaker
by Kate Milford

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
by Lynne Rae Perkins

One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia

This is an enjoyable professional development opportunity to offer librarians serving youth. The process began early this year when the Children's Materials Specialist formed a small committee of interested children's librarians. Suggestions were gathered each month through email with two in-person meetings necessary to narrow and vote out titles.

We are holding our debut Mock Newbery event on a morning a few days before the official award winners are announced. As it does require much reading, participation is optional. There will be time to discuss each book, followed by a vote (as detailed in the Newbery Selection Manual)and finally the announcement of the winner and honor books.

All children's librarians participate in the Mock Caldecott as part of our regularly scheduled youth services meetings. These titles will be announced shortly!

Mock Newbery Resources:

Newbery Award terms & criteria
Don't be fooled by authors without American citizenship!

Lisa Van Drasek, librarian at Bank Street College of Education, holds a Mock Newbery each year with her students. She posted her selections back in September, along with more behind the mock process.

Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog featured on School Library Journal

Allen County Public Library chose an impressive reading list of twenty two titles for librarians to discuss, and also offers a more concise list for children in grades 3 -6 who are interested in participating.

Kings County Library System narrowed the field down to eight choices, and invites parents and children to join the discussion and voting.

Elizabeth Bird, children's librarian at New York Public Library, previous Newbery committee member, and blogger extraordinaire, speculates from time to time on what will be chosen for this award as well as the Caldecott.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Locally Drawn

Considering Brooklyn is home to the largest concentration of children's book illustrators on the planet, it must have been difficult to select only thirty four for the latest exhibit at Grand Army Plaza, "Drawn In Brooklyn." I took the opportunity to tour this Brooklyn Public Library show following a meeting this week and it was fantastic! I particularly love the promotional image chosen from Big Red Lollipop.

Curated by John Bemelmans Marciano (aka the grandson of Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans) the exhibit features original art from children's books as well as display cases revealing the creation process of a picture book, installations and short video interviews with many of the artists.

Notably two of the illustrators included were featured in the recently announced New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2010: Sophie Blackall and Peter Brown. Other featured illustrators include Bryan Collier, Brian Floca, Brett Helquist, Betsy Lewin, Brian Pinkney, Brian Selznicck, and Paul O. Zelinsky.

There's also exciting events scheduled with various illustrators like art workshops or a chance to meet and hear them read from their work.

During the tour it was shared how many of the artists noted the powerful influence of comics in developing their initial interest in drawing as children. Yet another reason to purchase graphic novels for the kids at your library!

"Drawn in Brooklyn" will be on display until January 23, 2011.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I have a bit of an obsession with cookbooks. Not only do I love to look at pretty pictures of food but also the inspiration of new techniques and ingredients. And all the better if the approach is seasonal, vegetarian or health minded. (Or from the Barefoot Contessa! I adore her.) It must be a cookbook time of year because I have in my pending request list at the library many a new title.

Among those in queue with ample programming ideas for school age children is Turkish Delights & Treasure Hunts: Delightful Treats & Games from Classic Children's Books.

Janet Brocket offers ideas inspired by Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, the Borrowers, and the Chronicles of Narnia among others. The food inspired component could be a fun addition to a traditional book club, or a novel way to introduce many classic titles to youth.

There's also Candy Construction: How to Build Race Cars, Castles, and Other Cool Stuff out of Store-Bought Candy by Sharon Bowers.

Let candy be your new crafting material! Step by step instructions to create a chess set, spaceship, pyramid, woodland creatures, jewelry, as well as holiday ideas. The author claims that offering an alternative use for candy actually reduced the sugar consumption of her two young children. Use this resource to expand an existing Gingerbread House activity, or with a math, engineering and design bent for a hands on construction program.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Queens & Teens

Congratulations to my library system who was recently awarded the 2010 Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award for their "Queens Library for Teens" in Far Rockaway!

Those who work in public libraries are familiar with the challenge of balancing the energetic behavior of teens with the needs of other users. A few years ago, the situation at the Far Rockaway library was further exaggerated: the neighborhood is located on a peninsula isolated from the rest of New York City, with high unemployment due to the difficulty of commuting and local housing projects filled with gang activity. The library was a small yet highly used building without a separate space for young adults. With nowhere else in the community to gather, large groups of teens would congregate, disrupting and intimidating others with noise and horseplay. Expanding the current facility wasn't an option.

Rather than kicking out those most in need of a positive influence, Queens Library pursued grants to rent an empty storefront a few blocks away from the existing library and completely renovated the space, opening a building just for teens with specialized programs, technology, and collections.

Working with an interior design consultant who specializes in teen areas, a contemporary space along with 40 internet computers entices teens, with attendance averaging 120 each day. A recent addition is a sound studio, complete with a vocal booth, a recording computer and three computerized editing stations, funded by New York State Assembly members.

Some notable distinctions:

-staffing the library with youth counselors, not librarians. They provide service, referrals and act as positive role models, while librarians at the nearby branch offer traditional reference service. A licensed teacher and social worker are also available onsite.

-sign in upon entering. No gang signs or colors are permitted. If someone acts out, they are asked to leave, and if repeated will lose privileges for longer. There have been no incidents beyond this; teens want to use the space and respect the stated boundaries.

-after-school hours of service, from 2:30 - 6PM.

-specialized programming including pre-GED classes, Wii gaming, urban author visits, job readiness fairs, open mics, college fairs, computer skill workshops and more.

-no circulating collection. Due to the cost of duplicating collections and offering circulation staff, teens can browse magazines and online resources, and otherwise go to the regular library to borrow materials.

-relaxed rules. Food and cell phones are allowed and multiple teens can crowd around a computer.

In 2013, the Queens Library for Teens will be doubling in size in a newly constructed $19.3 million facility funded by Borough President Helen Marshall. More information on this initiative is available from School Library Journal, Library Journal as well as a video on NY1 featuring teen volunteers who mentor their peers.

And for even more reading on teens in Queens, visit the Queens Library Teen Challenge blog. The Coordinator of Teen Services has promised to donate $500 of her own coffee money to a charity of young adult librarians' choice if 10,000 teens register for Summer Reading 2011. Read it each Thursday to see the amount saved so far, along with ideas and thoughts on teen summer reading.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What to do when a class comes to you

Working on a presentation for children's librarians on conducting school outreach, I began to think more about hosting classroom visits to the library.

I always looked forward to offering these trips: the excitement of getting one's first library card, sharing a favorite book, disseminating library information, reaching students who wouldn't normally visit the library as well as seeing the regulars in their classroom setting. Not to mention the larger picture of building a relationship with local schools in a particular community.

There's always much to share with students like basic library card practices and good book behaviors. I like to take the opportunity to explain to children (and often their accompanying teachers and parents) how library books are organized and that the stickers on the spine of a book refer to the author's last name and *not* the level. It's also a perfect chance to promote upcoming library programs and ongoing activities like "Read Away Your Fines" or afterschool homework help.

I break up all the talking with one or more read alouds. Some of my absolute favorites to share are:

Kindergarten, First & Second Grades

Bark George by Jules Feiffer
Birds by Kevin Henkes
Clay Boy by Mira Ginsburg
Read It, Don't Eat It by Ian Schoenherr
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman
The End by David LaRochelle
The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski (I love this version set in NYC!)
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young

Third & Fourth Grades

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins (This book is beyond cool and elicits wild reactions!)
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Stories to Solve by George Shannon
The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg

Fifth & Sixth Grades

For older students I might instead do a few booktalks on titles I enjoy with multiple copies available like City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman or The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I've also focused on non-fiction at a teacher's request, making it a game to see who can locate a specific non-fiction call number the fastest on the shelf.

And if you would like to still offer a read aloud, you can never go wrong with the first chapter of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (expect everyone to chime in on "apple").

Other fun ideas are to offer a library scavenger hunt after giving students a tour of the collection or ask book trivia questions.

Monday, September 27, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

I love dogs.
I love books.
I love love Dog Loves Books.

by Louise Yates
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 9780375864490

Dog enjoys books so much that he opens his very own bookstore. As business is slow, downhearted dog begins to read his wares. "When he read, he forgot that he was waiting. When he read, he forgot he was alone." Finishing one book, he chooses another and thus begins a new adventure.

As you can imagine, reading so many stories gives him excellent reader's advisory skills. Once customers start coming to his store, he gets to do his most favorite thing of all with books: share them!

Naturally the themes of Dog Loves Books made it the obvious choice to share during my goodbye party last week. And where exactly am I going?

I'm thrilled and honored to be the new Assistant Coordinator of Children's Services for Queens Library. I am completely excited to work with children's librarians in a new capacity and serve as a programming resource system-wide. One of my responsibilities this first week is to observe a library program for children on yoga-- which for anyone that personally knows me, knows that I find this beyond cool.

It will be curious to see if this change will have any effect on my blog. I hope to continue sharing ideas and inspiration in the form of books, activities, resources and more. If anything, now I will have even more library love to give... 63 to be exact!