Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sensory Story Time for Adults

Guest post by Jen Taggart and Ed Niemchak, Bloomfield Township Public Library

Why do sensory story times for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities?
Jen: Story times are not just for kids, and multisensory experiences are the best way to engage audiences of all ages and abilities. Adults with cognitive disabilities may often feel more at home in the Youth Services area. Three years ago, we began seeing increasing numbers of group home residents with disabilities visiting the library. Caregivers were asking about attending our adaptive sensory story times for youth with developmental delays, which is limited in registration to help prevent overstimulation of our young attendees with sensory sensitivities. Many of our weekly group home visitors enjoy coloring, playing with some of the games and toys, doing a simple craft at our passive activity table, and eating their lunch in the library cafĂ©. It was time to start thinking about an ongoing program for these frequent visitors who loved the library so much. One question kept arising: While youth librarians have experience creating developmentally appropriate programming and these folks seem to prefer children’s books and materials, are we being mindful andrespectful of their age by doing the program in Youth Services?

Youth Services and Adult Services Collaborate!
Jen: After reaching out to the Adult Services department for their thoughts, I soon began meeting with Ed to talk about developing a monthly program for our adult group home visitors (which would later also include young adult students with multiple disabilities from the Wing Lake Developmental Center). We decided to start with a monthly program, taking a look at the program outline for the youth sensory story times which we have offered here since 2010. We adapted the program outline for teens and adults, including simple but age-respectful materials and more opportunity for social skills development. Accessibility aids such as a visual schedule and adaptive yoga movement remained. After the first few story times, Ed adjusted some of those activities based on caregiver input.

Where Do I Start?
Ed: Identifying 24 local adult group homes, I sent out letters introducing myself and explaining our plan to offer a program for adults with cognitive disabilities. After a month I had not received a single response and felt completely demoralized. It was then that I noticed a group of six adults and two caregivers just hanging out here one day. I approached them and introduced myself, talking about the possibility of this ongoing program. They were very enthusiastic and offered to attend the first program. Word of mouth and dedication helped to grow our average attendance to between 20 – 40 participants.

Personal standing and looking at picture book in front of a white board

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Favorite Program Posts from the Archives!

This past spring as I was starting to make the move from my old blog space to this one, Courtney from the Public Programs Office of ALA reached out to me about being featured on a post of "favorite programming blogs" on ALA's Programming Librarian website.

While I was honored, the timing was tricky and I didn't want to muddy the waters and direct lots of new people to my old address when I was just intending on abandoning it. Also, I love programming, but aside from the occasional storytime sub opportunity that's not really part of my job anymore.

So, how humbling and hilarious was it that five out of the nine authors who ended up being featured named my old blog as one of their favorites?

Granted, I'm Internet Friends with each of them and we've been part of a shared blogging community for awhile (I know at least that I've been blogging about library stuff for 7.5 YEARS now...what?!). I've been incredibly fortunate that something I basically started as notes to myself (okay, a very terrible book blog that THEN turned into notes to myself that THEN turned into stuff people read sometimes) to be received so well by people I respect so much.

For a couple of years I used my blogging anniversary to lift up newer programming blogs, and then newer-to-me-blogs in general. I'm out of practice with it but I need to get back in the game. That's why, when this space is fully up-and-running, I'll be writing a post with a whole bunch of new-to-me programming blogs to add to your feeds. 

If you've started a blog that I don't know about it, please comment here so I can feature you, too! If you'd like to start collecting your programming thoughts in a place that's shareable, a blog is still a good place for that! Know that it's a lot of work, but you'd probably be doing it anyway for your own files, so might as well share your great ideas and maybe meet a few people along the way!

Bryce with some Internet Friends sitting round a restaurant table
and smiles for a picture at ALA Midwinter 2018
(From left to right those pictured are Soraya (Admin at Storytime Underground), Mary (of Storytime Underground and Miss Merry Liberry), Rebecca (of Hafuboti), Melissa (of Mel's Desk), me (of here), and Anna (of Everyday Diversity and Future Librarian Superhero).

In sum: I'm Nobody and You Can Be Too. Email me if you need encouragement! 

Anyway, wasn't I posting programs from the archives? Here you go (there may be some links that still need updating, but it'll send you right back here to the corresponding post):

Story Action Pod: Election Edition: Shark and Train face off in this passive program

Ninjago Library Party: At over 100 people between two branches, this was possibly the most successful active program I made with junk and hope.

Mythbusters for Elementary Kids: I completely forgot I did this, but there's four weeks of weekly plans for you.

Spy School at the Library: those Ology programs were some of my favorites!

Tween Scavenger Hunt in the Library: great for class visits or other group trips.

Tic-Tac-Toe/Simon Says Mashup Game: one of my last inspired activities as a frontline staff member.

Library LEGO Checkout Club: one of my most-shared posts ever! Super easy.

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!