ALA2013 highlights

ALA: what a whirlwind. The time absolutely flew by, with amazing sessions, great people, and so much awesome sharing of ideas. I attended too many sessions to reasonably recap here, so I’ve decided to just do the highlights.

Poster Sessions: Anatomy of a Storytime Literacy Message

I went to this poster session specifically to see Melissa Depper’s (Mel’s Desk) poster, Anatomy of a Storytime Literacy Message. Mel works for the Arapahoe Library District in Colorado. In response to the revamped Every Child Ready to Read 2nd edition, the district revised its strategies for librarians to deliver literacy messages during storytime. My favorite take away from the poster (other than seeing SO MANY LIBRARIANS interested in this poster that it totally clogged traffic) was the template for a literacy message. Mel lays it out so that you can easily craft your own messages to share with parents.

4-part Template for Literacy Messages

Parents, when you do this activity,

your children learn this early literacy skill.

This helps them become a good reader because what we know from research.

Doing this early literacy practice with your children will help them get ready to read!

Mel is amazing. I felt so lucky to finally be able to meet (and hug!) her in person. Check out her handout and if you haven’t seen her blog yet, set aside some quality time to check that out too.

Do What You Love: Make Your Talents and Passions Work for You

This panel featured three librarians: Carolyn Ciesla, Julie Jurgens, and Kristi Chadwick. The panelists each spoke about the importance of bringing your passion to the workplace. Librarians who are passionate about what they’re doing are happy. Happy librarians provide great service which makes for happy patrons. Everyone is happy! Julie Jurgens, speaking on children’s services, put it best: “My enthusiasm infects that child, infects that parent and then quarantine the library because there’s an epidemic of awesome.”

What I took away from this session was that I need to make sure to remember why I’m passionate about library services, and what parts of it I am most passionate about. There will always be those long days/weeks where it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing, or I’m feeling run down and burnt out. But I love being a librarian. I’m passionate about libraries, about children’s services, about what I do every day. I’m passionate about community outreach, building relationships with kids, and meeting patrons where they are. I need to make sure to remember that, and let that passion drive the work I do.

Conversation really took off online during the session, so you can search for #404bc (the meeting room we were in) on twitter if you want to see more.

Unprogramming: Recipes for School-Age Program Success

This was the last session I attended and one of the best. The idea of unprogramming is to do programs which do not require so much planning/prep time. (Getting away from the model of spending 4-5 hours planning a 45 minute program.) The programs are also less structured, which gives the kids time to explore and discover around the topic matter.

Marge Loch-Wouters and Amy Koester set up their unprograms like centers or “stations of stuff.” The group all starts together, discussing something. (Say you book talk a bunch of superhero books.) Then the kids are released to do activities, which are arranged in stations around the room. For the example where you book talked superhero books, maybe there are various superhero activities such as: make your own mask, take your picture pretending to fly through the air (with a sky background), knock over the bad guys in a bowling-style game (with villans pasted on the pins), etc.. The kids work their way through the activities as they please.

The recipe itself is to find something that the kids have an interest in, come up with a connection to the collection and activities to go along with the topic.

A lot of the ideas shared were really cool, and could easily be adapted to a range of ages. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite ideas I heard at the session, both from the panelists and attendees. Not all of these quite fit the model because they were from the audience, but they were good ideas so I included them.

  • Superheroes (examples I mentioned above)

  • Forts (Read a book featuring a castle/catapult, something like that. Or book talk books with medieval themes. Then have the kids make catapults out of bottle caps and popsicle sticks. Then they use materials to design their own fort/castle. They arrange them in a circle and then using their catapults have a “battle.”)

  • Camping Out (In the library after hours, ask participants to bring blankets/pillows. Invite them into the children’s room to create a fort. They’ll use chairs, shelves, etc. to make their own little tent. Encourage parents/kids to read for awhile before moving on to an activity such as making a campfire out of snacks or telling scary stories around a “campfire.”)

  • Instead of typical book club, each kid reads a book of their choice, brings it to the club where they go around in a circle and share about their book – no spoilers! Afterwards the kids can trade books and check out the ones others had read.

  • Paint to music: kids pull up music on YouTube, listen to it and paint pictures inspired by the songs.

Marge has put together a Storify of the session, where you can read a bunch of my tweets and more of the ideas that were flying around the room!

A few other awesome things that happened at ALA:

  • Guerilla Storytime (on which I have so many thoughts it needed its own post)
  • I ran the ALA Think Fit 5K along the lakefront.
  • I listened to Alice Walker speak. Amazing.
  • I met some of the members of my new committee, Children and Technology. (You can join the interest group here.)
  • I fell in love with Lake Michigan. (A big deal for me, a previous ocean-snob.)
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