Category Archives: Library Topics

1000 Books before Kindergarten

I’ve officially been a children’s librarian for almost six  months now.  I’m starting to settle into a groove, and there are so many things that I could be writing about – book selection, recommended book lists, story time planning, special programming…all of which I hope to get to eventually.  But today I want to share one of the “special” projects that I’ve been working on with my library:  1000 Books before Kindergarten.  When I started, I was given this program as one of my special projects.  The good news is, I get to design the program to run however I want.  While the program has been officially launched already, I get to make any changes that I want to it and run it however I want.  The bad news is, I also have sole responsibility for the success (or failure) of the changes that I am making.

 

So, how does the program even work?  It’s all about reading together with your child.  Your goal is to read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.  The point is to increase early literacy skills – research shows that the more parents (or caregivers) and children read together, the more pre-reading skills are developed.  With that foundation, a child is more likely to read independently later on, and be more successful at it.  Even better, the program promotes bonding between children and adults.  I remember reading stories with my parents growing up, and this program is a fun way to build those memories with future generations.  The entire program is based on it being a “just right” goal – 1,000 is enough books to be challenging, but not so many that parents get discouraged or feel like there is no way they can complete the program.

 

Because they program is self-paced, it is also to some extent pretty hands off for me.  Parents and caregivers register their children, and then they choose whether or not to complete their reading logs and stay in the program.  But, I wanted my library to make more of an effort in marketing the program, to encourage children to sign up and to motivate them to keep reading.  The first thing that I did was completely re-brand all of our existing literature.  I updated the flyers that we had available from parents – what was once a four-page, half-size booklet became a half-sheet with the basic facts of the program and the library’s contact information.  That gave me something I could easily put around the library, but also something I can email to others or easily take with me to outreach programs.  As part of the process, we designed a new logo.  The previous logo involved a rainbow, so we chose to leave the rainbow as part of the new design.  But, we also included a little alligator as part of the design who now serves as the unofficial mascot of our 1000 Books program.  He is also on certificates and other flyers that are associated with the program.  Where we previously had a poster of the old logo, we replaced it with the new logo.  I also moved the poster into the children’s area near the picture books so that it was more visible to parents and children visiting the library.

 

To complete the program, parents must  first register their children.  Counting registrations is our primary measure for recording success in the program currently.  Previously, we had an ongoing list at the youth services desk that include the child’s name, parent’s name, and relevant contact information.  I wondered if our lack of registrations was due in part to parents not wanting to leave their personal information readily available on a public desk, especially one right by a public access phone that gets a lot of use.  So, I replaced the registration list with individual registration cards.  Parents can fill out the information and hand the card directly to library staff in exchange for a registration packet.  I still keep a master participants database with all of the information, but it is no longer accessible to the public.

 

The packets were put together in part to replace the previous brochure, and in part to make the presentation of information more professional.  I started by purchasing colored two-pocket folders to keep the information.  On the outside of each, I put a flyer for our weekly story times, featuring the same little alligator that appears on the 1000 Books logo.  Inside, I put one of my business cards, so that parents and caregivers can contact me (or the library) with any questions.  The left side of the folder includes a welcome letter outlining how to participate in the program, suggestions for caregivers, and information about the 1000 Books app for iPhone and iPad (I only wish it was also available for Android).  It also includes early literacy tips for our three main age groups, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  On the right side of the folder, I included a copy of our recommended books to read before kindergarten, their first color in book log, and a complete set (all 1000 books) of write-in title logs.

 

Since our families were already used to the color in book logs, I kept those as the staple of the program.  The child colors a circle for each book read, and after 100 books, the log is complete.  They then bring the log back to the library, where they get a special sticker to put on their log and we provide the log for the next 100 books.  In order to track more than just registrations in the program, I have asked library staff to keep a list of who returns a book log so that I can track their dates throughout the program.  However, I also wanted a visual way to track progress in the program.  Keeping with our rainbow theme, I created a giant (2 foot tall by 5 foot long) rainbow.  For each color tier (and also the clouds and the sun), I added a label for the book level (100 books, 200 books, etc.).  Each time a child completes a log, he or she gets to add a star to their level on the mural.  I also designed a giant bookshelf (5 foot long by two feet wide) as our reading wall of fame.  There are a few books on the shelves, but as a child completes the program, he or she will be able to write his or her name onto a book shape and add it to the shelf.

 

We hosted a special story time event to kick off the program in January, but attendance was fairly small.  Weather may have had an impact on the attendance, but it’s hard to say for certain.  However, in January we had a record number of sign ups – 13 – for the program.  So far February has not had nearly as many sign ups, and none of our new participants have yet brought back a book log.  The greatest challenges I foresee for the program are continuing interest and motivating children to keep reading and adding their stars to the wall.  It seems like once parents register for the program, they often fall off and don’t complete it.  In the future, I would love to apply for a grant to sponsor prizes for different levels (currently we only offer a prize at the end of the program).

 

If your library is hosting a 1000 Books program, what ideas have you had that worked?  How are you motivating parents to participate in the program, and how are you tracking your participation?

 

Happy reading!

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10 Things I Learned Library Job Searching

When people tell you that finding a job is a job, they aren’t kidding.  From my own recent job searching experience, I can tell you that it most certainly is.  You have to identify what you want to do, where you want to do it, and what opportunities are available.  You have to match your skill set to the skill sets that employers are looking for.  You have to fill out applications, send resumes, follow-up, interview, and follow-up again.  So, here are a few things that I learned from my recent job search.

  1. Find positives where you can.  Looking for a job is hard work, and if you’ve been looking for a long time, it’s easy to get discouraged.  Find whatever good things about your job search that you can and focus on those.  For me, that was sometimes as simple as being able to say that I found a relevant job and applied for it that day.
  2. It’s okay to be selective.  When I first found out that my company was closing, I went into job search panic mode.  But, I quickly realized that taking a job for the sake of taking a job doesn’t do you (or your employer) any good.  It’s okay to really look for what you want.  I found that by being more selective about the jobs that I applied for, I was finding positions where I was a better fit, and where I could see myself working long-term.  When I interviewed for those positions, I was more confident and invested in the process because I knew the job was one that I wanted and that I could excel at.
  3. Some interviews just don’t go well.  I learned this the hard way.  Sometimes, even when you think that you know exactly what to say, the interview doesn’t go well.  You get a question you can’t answer, or you just don’t connect with the interviewer.  I learned to accept these situations as something that I couldn’t change, and instead focus on what I could do better the next time.
  4. Cultivate and seek honesty.  Be honest about what you can and cannot do.  No one is perfect.  If you are honest about your skills and abilities, even if it means saying that you don’t know how to do something, I think it shows that you are more self-aware.  I learned to graciously admit to prospective employers if I didn’t have a particular skill that they were looking for, while also highlighting both my ability to learn new skills and other transferable skills that might benefit the company.
  5. Prepare.  Even though it seems like a no-brainer, it’s easy to go to an interview assuming that you know how to answer all the questions.  I’ve found that the more you prepare, the more confident you are in your answers and the stronger your overall presentation.  Even though you’re likely to have at least one question that stumps you, if you’re prepared, you also have strategies to cope with that.
  6. Believe in yourself.  If you don’t believe in yourself, your future employer won’t, either.  Even though your job search might not be going as planned, you have to believe that you have the skills and abilities that someone is looking for in their open position.  Know that you are a valuable contributor and that you will find the right fit for your skills and abilities.  Believe in what you do, and let that confidence show through when you interview.  Also, celebrate the little victories.  If you know that you answered a question particularly well, celebrate that success and keep it in mind for the next interview.
  7. Be patient.  This one was probably the hardest for me.  It’s easy to assume that if you don’t hear something immediately, you are not in the running and you should move on.  Sometimes, that is the case.  But more often, the interview process is just more lengthy than we care to admit.  If there is a deadline associated with the posting, or if the interviewer gives you a time frame, then do keep those in mind.  However, for many job postings, a deadline or time frame may not be listed.  Be patient and realize that the entire process takes time.  It may be months before you hear back.  Try and be realistic about the time frames that you associate with looking for positions.
  8. Learn something from each opportunity.  No matter who you are interviewing with or for what position, try to learn something from it.  Maybe it is a way to improve your presentation skills.  Maybe you learn a better approach to answering a difficult question.  Maybe you just add more questions to your repertoire that you expect to be asked, or you add a particularly good follow-up question to the interview.  Each interview is an opportunity for you to learn and improve for the next.  Take time to reflect on what you have gained from each experience, and think about what you will do with that knowledge.
  9. Keep track of your progress.  Job searching takes time, and it is easy to forget where you have applied, when, and anyone that you may have spoken with.  Keep track of your applications and job contacts so that you can follow through, and also make realistic decisions about positions.  I found that a simple spreadsheet worked well for me.  I could include the position, the location, the contact person, and then additional columns for the date the application was filed, any closing dates, the dates of follow-up communication, and also interviews.  The electronic format also made it easy for me to search and sort, so that I could focus on whatever element of my job search I needed to that day.  As an added bonus, having all the information organized in one place also helped me see how much progress I really was making on the job search as well.
  10. Know how to interview in a variety of settings.  I have interviewed with individuals, and I have interviewed with small groups.  I have done prepared presentations, and I have also been asked to prepare a demonstration with only five minutes of prep time.  I have interviewed in person, over the phone, and even via video chat.  Each situation was unique and required a slightly different approach.  Each interview is different, so try to have an idea of what to expect.  I found that something as simple as asking what to expect when being invited for an interview gave me additional details that helped me prepare and be more comfortable and confident on interview day.

Don’t give up!  I know it’s easy to say as someone who has found a job, but I firmly believe that the right position is out there for you and that you will find it.  I believe it’s okay to be angry, frustrated, and sad during the process.  I believe it’s okay to be ridiculously happy when you get the invitation to interview with company that you really want to work with.  Having an emotional connection to the job search is just natural.  Even though it’s difficult, I firmly believe that all the work is worth it the day that you start your dream job.  I’ve been lucky enough to find that, and I hope that you will, too.

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Emerging Trends in Information Literacy

Today I’ve been thinking about trends in information literacy.  As a librarian, information literacy is something that I want to teach to my patrons.  But, how do you define it?  At its core, information literacy is your ability to do the following:

  1. Define an information need.  In other words, what do you need to know?
  2. Follow a logical process to search for and locate information.  In other words, you have the ability to think about where you will find what you need, then actually go find it.
  3. Synthesize and utilize information appropriately.  In other words, you know what information you need from all the information that you have found, and you are able to apply it to what you are working on or what you know.  You build relationships and connections with the information.
  4. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of your process.  In other words, you are able to say what worked, and what didn’t, for the next time you need to look for information.

 

But, what does that mean for library users today?  What strikes me as the most interesting think (or maybe the biggest emerging trend) for information literacy is that it is no longer one-dimensional.  Information literacy today is multifaceted.  Library users must learn how to navigate a variety of settings in order to effectively communicate their needs.  Where the library was once a physical building, now information encompasses mobile technologies, apps, and a variety of digital reference.  It’s not enough to be able to navigate the card catalog and find the right book.  Today, you have to decide if you want a book or a website, a peer-reviewed article or just a magazine.  You have to know what is available in each format, how to evaluate it, and the most effective use of it.

 

Information literacy today includes print literacy, but also digital literacy, media, visual literacy, and more.  Library users must learn to develop a more comprehensive search strategy utilizing a variety of formats, and understand the process of determining the most effective resources for a specific question.  I love being a librarian and being part of that.  Introducing others to new ways to locate information, and meeting that specific need, is one of the highlights of my job.

 

I have no doubt that information literacy will continue to evolve in the years to come.  While I was at TLA in April, I was able to sit in some great sessions on information literacy and library instruction, and learn new tips and tricks for helping users connect with information.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue exploring these tools, and even more to being able to share them with others.  In the constant changing dynamic of information and access, libraries (and librarians) can’t afford to stay stagnate.

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