Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Reshaping Summer Reading: Questions to Guide the Conversation

Does everyone have their Summer Reading 2019 folder created yet? I had mine on 8/20, beating the creation of my Summer Reading 2018 folder by a whole 7 weeks (yaay?).

SRP (or SLP, or whatever you call it*) continues to barrel through the years. A program of the magnitude, impact, and history  that SRP is seems to be best left How It Is, mostly because it is easiest. But also because it's a ton of work and we put a lot of thought and heart into it. There's lots of Feelings and ownership wrapped up in SRP for a lot of us. For instance, when approaching the conversations this post is about with others on my team, I used the example of myself: the Summer Reading Game Cards I developed are my favorite and no one can convince that anything is better. And I mean, sure, there are so many people doing so many great things when it comes to SRP, but given the opportunity and without the guideposts I'll address here, I would probably run SRP with them until I was done in libraries.

But that doesn't mean What's Easiest doesn't ever come with a healthy dose of overwhelming dread.

Youth Services representatives at our local libraries expressed interest in revisiting countywide support from central services for SRP, and this support involves a lot of people and a ton of moving pieces. Big picture conversations, therefore, need to happen at the administrative and the local level. My coworker Katie and I decided to turn this into a fiscal year priority project (I keep meaning to write about these, they changed my life) and map out the conversation. I'm not going to share a lot about this process, or update about it as the conversation happens, in the interest of preserving the psychological safety of my team and local staff. But I did want to share to the questions we're asking. Because here's the thing: much has been written about the need to reshape SRP, or specific things people have tried, but what I haven't seen is the how: whose buy-in is needed? How do you advocate for change? How do you make sure no one on your team feels left behind or experiences burnout?

My answers to these questions:
1. your entire team, to help with the next question when speaking to higher ups
2. basically, make no assumptions and try to know your sh** (for instance: redemption stats for incentives, historical knowledge, staff time/resource analysis, preliminary conversations; observations; I've been meaning to write THIS post for awhile too. To demonstrate the extent to which I attempted to prepare for these conversations, I reached out to Angela who held my position--er, what was my position 3 people ago-- to ask for anything she remembered about the history of support)
3. involve your entire team in the following conversations. Even the "pearl-clutchers".

I share these questions with the caveat that there is a likelihood--possibly a high one-- that your staff doesn't feel psychologically safe enough to share their thoughts on these questions with a supervisor or another in a position of perceived power, especially if the supervisor has historically been the main creator of the program. It might be good to get a facilitator from another department or an outside source. Facilitation isn't for everyone. Feel free to reach out if you need help with figuring out this crucial aspect.

Because of how BIG countywide support for SRP is, we decided on two conversations: one at the central level, and one that spans multiple meetings of the county's Youth Services Committee. I changed some of them slightly to make them more general. Feel free to use these questions when planning your own changes to SRP with your team!

-What is the purpose of our Summer Reading Program?
-How do libraries get the kids who need to read over the summer the most to participate in the Summer Reading Program?
-What is meaningful participation in the Summer Reading Program?

-What do I value most about the current model of Summer Reading?
-If I were to change one thing about the current model of Summer Reading, it would be _________
-My favorite thing about Summer Reading is _________
-The most frustrating part of Summer Reading for me is ___________
-If I had a chance to tweak/streamline/adjust the current model of Summer Reading, the first thing I would want to do is ___________
-If I had a chance to create a Summer Reading program (from the angle I’m involved) completely from scratch, the first thing I’d want to try would be _______

A lot of these questions have similarities, but approaching questions in different ways can help enhance responses. For example, "your favorite thing" and "the thing you most value" could be the same, but they also could be different. Example: someone could say their favorite thing about being a librarian is seeing kids smile at programs, but what they most value could actually be the feeling they get knowing they're helping kids make memories. While I might advise to do you best to not remove anyone's favorite thing from their job, you may be able to approach it in a similar way to still get at what they value ("we're not doing active programs anymore. What else can we do to make sure kids are making memories here?").

Remember these questions are big-picture only; try to keep the group from coming up with concrete solutions yet. As I've mentioned before, Youth Services needs space to think about things on a level we rarely get to. Afford your team the indulgence this time; it'll make a stronger program! (I think! Nothing's happened yet!)

What other considerations have you made when reshaping SRP?

*When I Onboarded at My Last Job Everyone Talked About SLP And Coming From the Education World I Thought They Meant "Speech Language Pathologist" for an Entire Two Months AMA

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Should I Share This Inspiring Story About Disability? A Checklist

TL;DR: Usually, no.

NOTE: If you're new here, welcome! When I write about accessibility, you will find that I use the terms "people with disabilities", "PWD", "the disability community", and "disabled people" interchangeably. This is something I deliberately do to challenge our institutional insistence on "person-first language."

The other night I was dismayed to see several people I follow on social media sharing, liking, and "loving" the same new viral story about a PWD. These stories are great for the people and their families, when shared personally and on their terms. But then, sometimes the stories are picked up for likes and shares, and go viral  by playing into the abled narrative: disabled people don't just live their life and enjoy new experiences for their own sake; they exist to teach everyone about how grateful we should be to be able to do something they can't.

I was so confused as to why, after so many posts, conversations, and shared links, that people close to me still didn't get it. Didn't think critically about this story and whether they should share it before hitting "share post." Didn't think about the lived experience of PWD before deciding that the person featured existed to teach the world about gratitude. I wondered what I was even doing here. I wrote a FB post about it, then deleted it almost immediately, thinking about the fights I didn't want to have.

I slept on it and decided to write this post instead.

This, of course, is not just about that one post. I've also seen posts across groups and Twitter threads where library staff share their sweet stories to keep us all going-- and some of these happen to specifically mention the fact that the person they were helping was disabled, or "looked" disabled. Occasionally these posts are called out in the comments, to be defended as "I just wanted to share a story." Members in groups tag mods who assert that it's the job of disabled members to educate other members, that everyone is "still learning." (if you're serious about learning, there are two Facebook groups-- here and here-- that exist for PWD to volunteer their time to answer questions). As if Google doesn't exist. As if we're not all information professionals.

So I decided to make checklist about whether or not to share stories about disability you find "inspiring", particularly if you are an abled person.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Symposium on the Future of Libraries 2019: A Youth Services Opportunity!

Do you have ideas about the future of youth services? Five years in the future will be here in no time. How about 20?

I've been honored to represent the youth services perspective on the Center for the Future of Libraries Advisory Group the past few years. The Center is a great resource for tracking library trends and sharing future-focused stories through the weekly "Read for Later" newsletter. The Advisory Group's main duties so far have been to review and make recommendations for the Center for the Future of Libraries Fellowship and the Symposium on the Future of Libraries. The Symposium has quickly become a popular offering at the Midwinter Meetings.

A lined background with a red stamp that says, "Due 8/15/18." 
In black text: "Symposium on the Future of Libraries: A YS Opportunity!"

As you know, the Midwinter Meeting is where the Youth Media Awards are announced, which makes it a great space for more youth-specific sessions. This Midwinter's last-minute "Storytime Deep Dive" in the Uncommons was an attempt to fill this need by ALSC member Melissa Depper.

As I said about the the Center for the Future of Libraries Fellowship earlier this year (I mean it double this time):

"I'd love to see a ton of Youth Services submissions. I really feel like there are so many great conversations happening about even the nature of youth services itself, but implementation can be tough when you're running 15 programs a week/managing tours for your whole district/on the desk several hours a week/yelling 'walk please' every 20 minutes/getting Child Germ Flu/constantly planning either Summer Reading or Battle of the Books/ etc etc etc. Or maybe you're facing a rough time and buzzing along and could use a new project to sink your teeth into.

Youth Services IS the future of libraries; we're literally shaping family library legacies and creating lifelong library users and supporters, everyday. But we hardly get the time or support to really consider what that even means. We see it in the courses that are offered, the conference proposals that get accepted, the Storytime Underground questions that get asked again and again: we're looking for quick tips for right now, and that's what we're getting.

And that's great, and it can work.

We ALSO deserve the space, the time, and the support to really consider what youth services actually means, and what our future could look like"

SO: I want to see your proposals for the Symposium in 2019! What ideas are floating around in your head that you want to shake out? Have a presentation in mind, or a discussion you want to see had? The proposal application is live now! Submit your youth-focused proposal by August 15th (not that there's anything else going on for youth services folks right now...).  I know it's all in the throes of SRP,  but I'd love for anyone who has the bandwidth to consider this opportunity.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Rerun This Fall! The Disability Community in the Library: The Class

I am so happy to announce that this Fall I will be teaching the online course, "The Disability Community in the Library" with the University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool Continuing Education program! The course will run November 5-December 16, 2018. Register by October 22, 2018 for a 10% discount!

Unsure if this course is for you? Need some help justifying this course to your admin? Read on for more information!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Battle of the Bands Escape Room for Tweens and Teens

This post is written by Jennifer Johnson, my current programming blog intern. Find all of her posts here.

Happy summer! I hope that everyone’s summer reading programs are off to a great start! Like most libraries, we are absolutely loving the music theme this year with Libraries Rock! And like most libraries, escape rooms are hugely popular with our patrons at the moment. Up until this summer, we had used pre-made games from BreakoutEdu for our escape room programs, but we just couldn’t find one that struck the right chord (pun totally intended) with our music theme. Thus, we embarked into the unknown territory of writing our own games!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Investing Energy-What's Working For Me: The News Edition

“When one is engaged in suffering, there is so much more to it than keeping it all together”.
This is a quote from Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, founder of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. She said this in a TEDx talk in 2015 titled “Beyond the Cliff.”



There is a lot going on.

I get that it can be hard to focus, and hard to know where our focus is supposed to land. I believe this is by design.

CW: murder of people with disabilities. Skip to bolded points below.

As a disabled person, I regularly fear for members of our community. In history class growing up, it was a common occurrence to learn about past events and immediately think about how I probably would have been dead. I’m still working through how the historical trauma of PWD has affected me.

Monday, June 18, 2018

I Have the Mind of an Infant: Mental Age Theory in Libraries

NOTE: If you're new here, welcome! When I write about accessibility, you will find that I use the terms "people with disabilities", "PWD", "the disability community", and "disabled people" interchangeably. This is something I deliberately do to challenge our institutional insistence on "person-first language."

I have this thing due to my cerebral palsy where the muscles in my right hand constantly want to be clenched in a fist. This runs the spectrum from annoying, since it distracts people, to frustrating, because if I’m holding something in my left hand I’m basically immobilized, to incredibly painful. All of my shoulder muscles are nearly constantly tense. Add to this the practice of mirroring; which is where my right hand just really wants to do anything my left hand does due to my mixed-up-rewired Frankenstein of a brain. This results in things like having to ice down my hand after work if I’m writing all day by hand, my right hand deciding that WE TOTALLY NEED TO CLENCH A TIGHTER FIST THIS IS A LOT OF WRITING WE’RE DOING. Standardized tests were a nightmare.

“This thing” is actually a leftover from the Moro reflex, a reflex useful to infants to cling to a parent for survival. It looks like this should go away by the time a child is 6 months old. I’m not big on developmental timelines, since there can be a lot of parental anxiety about that, but I’m thinking 35 is a safe age to say this shouldn’t be happening.

My brain is developmentally disabled, and my body performs in a way that mimics a baby. So, I have the mind of an infant.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bookmark This: Summer Reading Hype Videos!

Okay everyone, I did a ridiculous thing and accidentally deleted my original SRP Hype Video content! Whoops... Good thing I never delete any email I ever receive so I could find them all again!

I decided to just put them all together into one post, a one-stop shop for your Summer Reading calm down/check-in needs. These are all the video from 2016 and 2017.

If you weren't around a few years ago, here's the context:
I started this position in the middle of Summer Reading. When the start of SRP came around again, I knew I wanted to do something to support our member library youth services staff. I thought back to what helped me, and I remembered how comforted I felt when I read (and read again and again) posts like Ingrid at The Magpie Librarian's "I Got 99 Problems and They're All Related to Summer Reading." I laughed, I cried, I felt comforted. Like we were all in this together.

So I reached out to some folks and got enough responses to send one video per week from June to August to our member library staff. The next summer I put out an all-call on the blog (since it was no longer a surprise) and I got fewer responses, but still got some. I wonder what changed between 2016 and 2017? It's a mystery.

Anyway, here is a sloth in a teacup followed by some amazing library Youth Services staff from all around the Internet ready to talk self-care, sing pump-you-up songs, and make you laugh. Forever. Because they're recorded.

It will all be okay. You're doing great.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Fresh Take on Book Brackets: An Outreach Event Series!

This post was written by Jennifer Johnson, my 2018 blog intern. You can read more programming posts by her here.

One of my favorite things about my job is that I am fortunate enough to do not only public programs, but outreach programs as well. This month, I want to share an opportunity that I had to do a program with an outreach group that worked better in their setting than it ever would have as an in-house library program.

For years, I’d wanted to do a Battle of the Books at our library, but we had very spotty participation with the public, and anything we tried along those lines just sort of fizzled out. From August to December 2017, I had conducted a weekly book club with an after-school group at one of our local schools. They were the first to invite me to do this and I was very excited about the possibilities. For that first semester, we read one middle grade novel, going through it in small chunks each week. But for this spring, starting in January and ending a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try a Battle of the Books with them. I was excited to do this because not only would it be fun, it would also expose the kids to several books that they might not otherwise pick up. I also viewed it as a chance for them to begin building a summer reading list with title suggestions from our brackets. The kids involved in this program were second through fourth graders. The Battle was a hit from start to finish and here’s how we did it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

T-Rex Tea Party at the Library!

This post was authored by Jennifer Johnson, my amazing 2018 blog intern. Check out the rest of her programming posts here.

Happy spring! This month’s program is a perfect mesh of high-interest topics for kids from all walks of life. If your young patrons love tea parties, dinosaurs and/or free snacks, then this program is sure to be a hit! And what’s great is that I was fortunate enough to be able to take it on the road as an outreach program as well. Are you ready to dine with the dinosaurs? Here we go!

Person wearing an inflatable T-rex costume waving at children sitting at a table

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Having it All Figured Out

[This is another self-indulgent blog post about my life. You're welcome to read it. If you're looking for a good Youth-Services-related read, check out "There's No Room for 'Priceless' in My Advocacy" by Amy Koester.]

I’ve been spending time with 20-year-old me lately.

It started out because Caleb and I are writing a toast for a friend who’s getting married next month. I met this person in college and we became closer friends in Junior year. I thought that maybe I could dig through my old journals and see if there were any funny stories we’d forgotten about to share.

There wasn’t much of what I was hoping for besides stories we revisit any time we get the chance; because, of course, we are obviously the funniest people we know.

Crossword clue taped on a denim background.
Text originally said "Peggy Lee hit",
has been changed to say "Peg Leg hit*."
This is the front of my journal from 2003.

What I did find, though, were the musings of a version of myself that I hadn’t forgotten but I also hadn’t checked in with in a long time. And I came to a realization:

35-year-old me would scare the hell out of 20-year-old me in all of the best ways.