The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,000 children's and youth librarians, children's literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and others who work with children.
Summer is crazy-busy for children’s librarians in public libraries—I’m sure I don’t have to say much more for ALSC blog readers to understand. Besides our Summer Reading Game, my library system has high-quality summer camps at each branch. The camps are typically weekly, and ages range from entering kindergarten to 18 years old. They span from art to STEAM to magic topics. They are lots of fun.
As you might imagine, these free camps are extremely popular—most of them fill the first day registration opens. This fact leaves many of our patrons unable to participate in them. To fill that gap, my branch, along with three others, was asked to pilot a drop-in program where all can attend.
Painting made with, I kid you not, Q-Tips.
The chosen branches are very different from each other geographically, demographically, and socio-economically. My branch’s community is very diverse within itself, including both affordable apartments and small homes populated by many new immigrants and families looking for “starter homes” and large homes inhabited by upper middle-class residents. The area, historically white, now has a large South Asian community and a growing African-American population. One thing all groups have in common? They use their library. Books are just sucked right off the shelves here, almost as if vacuumed. However, programming is more hit or miss. I was anxious to see what would happen.
The pilot runs 1 day each week for 8 weeks. We have completed the first three. The program runs for four hours, from 1 to 5 p.m., and guests do not have to sign up or stay the entire time. They can come and go at will. Those entering grades 1 through 8 may attend.
The community, especially our South Asian customers, have responded very positively thus far. We have had over 40 people attend each week. Attendees have spanned the entire age range. We have had many caregivers opt to stay with their children, and they have been helpful with assisting them in the activities and cleaning up—without being asked! It has turned into a very nice family affair. The kids seem to have a really good time, and caregivers have thanked us for having the program.
Making windsocks on Nature Day
My staff approached this challenge by choosing a theme for each week. We started with Art—we had 16 different art projects we rolled out over the 4 hours. Next, we did “Make a Difference” day, where we made no-sew animal blankets and doggie treats for a local animal shelter, picture frames for a nursing home, and letters to pen pals. Just yesterday we enjoyed “Nature Day,” where we decorated pots to plant seeds in, made bubbles and other crafts, and created pine cone bird feeders to hang outdoors. Next week? Gaming Day.
While the program has thus far been very positive, it is a lot of work. I personally think 3 hours would be better (a lot of “steam” is lost in that last hour). But drop-in programs that are open to all appears to be an equitable way for kids to enjoy summer at the library.
This post covers the Core Competency of Programming Skills.
”Kids need books, not cages!” “Summer camps, not prison camps!” “”Libraries are sanctuaries!”
I stood in the heat and the rain on Pennsylvania Avenue, surrounded by librarians from a range of disciplines. It was my first ALA and also my first chance to visit DC and see some of its landmarks, including the White House. A group of kids in yellow shirts and their teachers gathered nearby. Small groups of tourists with cameras walked past and took selfies. Several security officers in sunglasses watched lazily from a distance. This was my taste of local color. I was seeing the city and not just the conference.
A colleague of mine from the area told me that every day there is at least one group protesting one thing or another in front of the White House. It’s just what you do. Indeed, alongside our group and the others nearby, there was one man collecting money for hungry children in Haiti. Another man brought a speaker and performed some dance moves. Another man with a bright orange beard brought a sign and occasionally shouted his thoughts to whoever would listen.
Members of REFORMA organized this peaceful gathering in front of the White House, Monday evening (before the Printz Awards Ceremony), and made signs for other conference attendees present. (I learned of the event from Twitter; others learned via word of mouth at workshops). I saw some landmarks yes, but also, in my country’s capital city, I cannot think of a more timely gathering of librarians, coming together as individuals and protesting in solidarity of a single cause—the wellbeing and the very lives of the children being held at the border. Six have died in custody so far.
This is my last blog for ALA Annual 2019. Other bloggers from this year left the day before I did. Many folks are already getting back into their regular weekly routine (or diving right into summer reading). But for conference attendees and members following along virtually, I wanted to close with this post to remind us that while this conference may be over, our work is never over.
Every child deserves access to a safe, loving and nurturing home with clean clothes, food and books. As children’s librarians, we are strong advocates for children and families in our communities who don’t have these things. So go out. Be awesome. Connect your communities with early literacy development, summer meals, play programs, reading clubs and all the other awesome things you do. Go you.
At the ALSC Membership Meeting on Monday morning, fellow ALSC Board member Elisa Gall and I gave an introductory presentation on the topic of bystander intervention. The topic of bystander intervention is important for all library workers, both in the context of the spaces in which we work and serve our communities and also in the context of our participation in professional spaces like a conference. Elisa and I focused our content on how to apply bystander intervention principles in a professional space—a particular need given past and continued harassment of colleagues in these conference spaces.
What is bystander intervention? “Bystander intervention” refers to the actions we take in order to keep spaces free from harassment and hate—something we all have a responsibility to do. Harassment is purposeful and repeated conduct that is unwanted and known to be offensive. Harassment, in the context of this introductory training, is different from microaggressions. Both are unquestionably harmful and offensive, but there is a distinction in terms of intent of the perpetrator; harassment is purposefully and explicitly meant to threaten, intimidate, and/or denigrate another person, while microaggressions do not carry the same explicit intent. Bystander intervention is about making sure people are safe from harassment and hate—not about educating the perpetrators.
Each of us has an explicit responsibility to use bystander intervention techniques in order to keep others safe from harassment and hate. This responsibility is laid out for us in the ALSC Strategic Plan, in our Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, and in our Statement of Appropriate Conduct at conferences.
It is also important to recognize the ways in which power, authority, and privilege impact bystander intervention as well. Based on the Diversity Within the Children’s Library Services Profession report, our profession and our association is overwhelmingly comprised of non-disabled, straight, cis-gendered, White women. Because of these demographic realities, those in our work who identify in this way—in particular White women—have additional power and privilege than those who do not. The responsibility to intervene as a bystander is greater when you have power and privilege on your side.
So what are some steps you can take as a bystander to intervene when you see/hear harassment taking place? According to the national training and resource provider on bystander intervention Hollaback!, we can consider the 5 Ds of bystander intervention:
Distract – Take an indirect approach to de-escalate a situation. This could look like starting up a conversation with the person being harassed, or it could look like creating a physical distraction (like dropping what you’re carrying).
Delegate – Get help from another person. This could look like asking a person in a position of authority to intervene (“This person is being harassed; please help them.”). It could also look like intervening through strength in numbers, asking for assistance from fellow bystanders to collectively end the harassment.
Delay – After the incident, check in with the person who experienced harassment. Ask them if they are okay and what they want to do. Their consent is important, so if they say they want to be left alone, leave them alone.
Document – It can be useful to have a recording of the harassment. Once again, the recipient of the harassment’s consent is vital here. Even if you record the harassment, you should never make the recording public without the express consent of the person being harassed.
Direct – Speak up about the harassment, being firm and clear. This may look like saying “This behavior is inappropriate. Stop it now.” Direct intervention can also look like physically inserting yourself between the harasser and the person they are attacking (if it is physically safe to do so).
A few words on bystander intervention, safety, and discomfort. Whenever you witness an act of harassment, the question of safety comes into play. Of primary concern is the safety of the person being harassed—intervention is about removing any threat to safety, whether explicit or implied, from the person experiencing harassment. Bystander safety is also at play. Since harassment plays on power dynamics related to authority and privilege, however, it is important for bystanders to understand that there is a major difference between being unsafe and being uncomfortable. If you, as a bystander, are made unsafe because of an act of harassment, you should get yourself to safety and immediately seek assistance from someone who can help (Delegate). If you are safe but uncomfortable because of an act of harassment, it is still your responsibility to intervene and help the person being harassed to get to a state of safety. I look to my colleagues to hold me accountable in my responsibility to intervene, and I will pay you the same respect.
Elisa and I concluded this introduction to bystander intervention with an opportunity for those present to practice saying out loud two statements they can use to intervene as bystanders. Research shows that we’re more likely to intervene if we have practiced what we would say, and so I encourage you to try these techniques aloud so that you are confident in using them when you need them:
To the person being harassed, practice saying: “Where are you headed next? I’ll walk with you.”
To the harasser, practice saying: “What you’re doing is inappropriate. Leave this person alone.”
You can access our full slide deck here, including more information on the 5 D techniques for bystander intervention from the work of Hollaback!
ALA, including ALSC, is in the process of developing trainings on bystander intervention to support all those who work in and around libraries to intervene when a person is being harassed. Stay tuned for more information forthcoming through ALSC and ALA channels.
If you haven’t heard yet, ALA Council has been looking at ways to reorganize and reimagine how Council works and really, how the greater organization of ALA works. Last year, a Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE) formed a 19 member team alongside Tecker International consulting firm, to complete a comprehensive look at what ALA in review form and also thinking about what we want ALA to look like now and in the future.
This restructuring is pretty huge and will very much change how big decisions are made in ALA. There were lots of focus group meeting this past conference to discuss what members want from ALA. We know that there are many challenges, roadblocks, and burdens (financial and otherwise) that hinder participation in ALA and at conferences, and while the plans and designs of SCOE are still in the formulation phase, it feels exciting to re-imagine an ALA that may be easier to be involved with, and more inclusive for all.
I encourage all of you to check out PLA’s webpage with more information on this project and look for upcoming information on the ALA page. From that webpage, they ask for community input in a survey: “you may also share your thoughts on ALA’s governance and membership structures by filling out the SCOE Virtual Session Feedback survey. It will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.” Find out more information, and think about the barriers that may prohibit your participation and or the participation and inclusion of library staff at your branches, locations, and communities.
Audiobooks are near and dear to my heart, and even though there have been times when I had to leave on Monday, I always try to stay until Tuesday. And that is because I simply cannot miss the Odyssey Award Ceremony! This year’s ceremony was wonderful, brimming over with excitement and awe. We were treated to readings by some of the most talented narrators in the business—Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittman, Gabra Zackman, Brian Amador, Cherise Booth, and Elizabeth Acevedo (who narrated her own book!). The books that were honored today range from darling picture books to gritty teen fiction, written by authors Courtney Summers, Carson Ellis, Susan Wood, and Varian Johnson.
There is something really powerful about experiencing a live reading. You watch as a shade comes down, and the narrator takes on a new persona—a troubled teen, a curious tween, a magical storyteller. They are enchanting and inspiring, and you never want them to stop. The Odyssey Award Ceremony is just so great!
This was a wonderful way for me to wrap up this fantastic Annual Conference. Now, I’m just looking forward to the Youth Media Awards at Midwinter, because then the cycle can start all over again. Until then, Happy Listening and Happy ALSC-ing to you all!
If you couldn’t be at #alaac19, you might have missed out on the opportunity to network and meet with members face to face. If you have that privilege, it is a rewarding experience to connect with people you’ve only met over your favorite videoconferencing software. To network with new people who are waiting in line for coffee with you. However, you are not limited to in-person interactions.
For this post, I want to address the third objective of ALSC’s 2017-2020 strategic plan—This topic has come up in discussion in meetings, in workshops and on the exhibit floor. Learning & Development, especially for folks not at Annual. At the ALSC and Leadership meeting on Saturday, Andrew Medlar, the 2018-2019 chair of the Nominating & Leadership Development Committee referenced this integral part of ALSC’s strategic plan. ALSC is developing stronger pathways to develop leaders in the organization at all levels. After cracking some jokes, he said, in a more serious tone, “Only through a mix of all ALSC members will ALSC leadership be able to make best choices that affect all children and all families.” He didn’t miss the opportunity to pun, noting the “AL” in ASLC.
ALSC also has so many great education opportunities, many that are digital. I myself have utilized ALSC online classes and archived webinars (webinars are FREE to ALSC members). Earlier today, I attended the ALSC membership meeting where many ALSC awards were presented, including the ALSC Distinguished Service Award.
Before the awards, 2018-2019 ALSC President, Jamie Naidoo mentioned new resources out or coming soon from ALSC process committees, including the Building Partnerships Toolkit and a new Advocacy toolkit (coming soon!) from the Public Awareness Committee. Naidoo also mentioned many upcoming ways members can develop as experts and leaders in ALSC, including:
As Maria B. Salvadore, this year’s winner of the Distinguished Service Award said, “ALSC remains the idea forum for resource sharing and networking.” It’s never too late to get (more) involved with ALSC to climb your own professional develop ladder and become a leader for all of us in ALSC and in the profession.
I am currently sitting in the airport, waiting to go home. As I sit here, I am planning for time tomorrow to really reflect on the sessions I attended and even on some of the authors I heard speak. I encourage you to do the same this week.
If you are anything like me (and I know you are because I saw so many of you doing the same thing), I wrote down a number of websites and other resources/quotes that I want to go back to and explore. During my years of attending conferences and other professional development opportunities, I have found that If I do not schedule time in my calendar this week to reflect, those notes are just going to sit there. So, get home, take a nap, and then really look through your notes and see what you can implement into your practice.
One of my favorite parts of ALA is hearing about all the work that has been going on in other divisions, round-tables, and groups. While it’s easy to get caught up in all the great sessions that directly apply to children’s librarianship, there’s a lot of value in attending other sessions. We, as children’s librarians, are not an island unto ourselves. By remaining aware of issues in other aspects of the library world we can be better advocates for our families we serve, effective team players in serving our library’s overall mission, and better informed research-practitioners.
A good way to stick a toe in the water and branch out is by attending one of the many fantastic “News You Can Use” sessions at Annual. These sessions “offer the latest updates from experts on policy, research, statistics, technology, and more, based on new surveys, reports, legislation/regulation, and projects” from across ALA’s divisions. This conference I attended two, and presented at one, and found something useful to bring back from all of them. Here’s a few highlights with links to more information!
“Immigrants, Refugees, and Displaced Persons in Public Libraries: What We’ve Learned, Where We’re Heading” discussed best practices in working with these target populations and shared information on their recently released white paper. https://newamericans.ala.org/
“Literacy for All: Resources for Serving Learners Across the Lifespan” had some great discussion on common problems in serve all ages of learners with low literacy. The newly released toolkit on serving adult literacy learners still brings up many considerations for younger age groups as well. http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/diversity/literacy
“You Learned to Plan Programs Where?! Findings from NILPPA, ALA’s National Study of Library Public Programs” shared preliminary research findings on library programming and the nine core competencies programming librarians (that includes us!) need. I’m especially looking forward to reading more about this! http://www.ala.org/tools/programming/research/NILPPA
In a large banquet room last night, we laughed, we cried, and we applauded the many wonderful achievements of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy award winners. I, for one, know I definitely cried at least three times – once for each of the incredibly moving speeches by Sophie Blackall, Meg Medina, and Christopher Myers (accepting on behalf of his late father, Walter D. Myers). It feels so important to honor these individuals that have given us books that are cherished and loved by multitudes of children (and adults) across the country. Plus, the handsomely illustrated programs done by Sophie Blackall weren’t too shabby! Keep your eye out on ALSC’s own Youtube channel for some clips of the speeches and reaction videos from honorees.
As the conference starts to wind down, the exhibit hall is broken down and all the books are quickly claimed, now might be a good time to get some fresh air in D.C.
Hopefully, you have felt some of that wonderful D.C. humidity as you have walked around either to different events or maybe starting to explore…
If you have time today, I recommend checking out some real D.C. libraries— I love to check out a real-life library when I go to a new city. We have lots of beautiful, award-winning libraries here in D.C.
The closest branch to check out (library pun) is the Shaw Neighborhood Library (1630 7th St NW)— just walk about 15 minutes north on 7th street (convention center on your left). I would recommend stopping at Compass Coffee that you will pass on the way for an iced latte or cold brew. This location is one of the busiest in the city and has absorbed a lot of the city’s population as the main branch has been closed.
If you want to do some sightseeing and plan to check out the National Zoo, I would recommend stopping into the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library (3310 Connecticut Ave NW). Walk down to the Gallery Place metro station and jump on the red line towards Shady Grove. Get off at Cleveland Park or Woodley Park (for Zoo). It’s about a 25-minute journey. The Cleveland Park library is still the newest library in the city, celebrating it’s year anniversary earlier this month. It has the largest free meeting space in the city– with a room that can hold over 200 people. If you end up around the zoo, I recommend going directly across the street to Duke’s Counter for their Proper Burger– one of the best in the city (and my personal favorite).
Hopefully, you get out and enjoy some of the city!