Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#ALSC12: Putting conference learning into action

The hardest part of any conference, for me at least, comes upon returning home--when it's time to put into action all of the exciting ideas you got while away from the everyday life of the library. It can be difficult to condense all of the information of the conference into reasonably-sized nuggets, and then to prioritize when and how those nuggets will start to appear in the library. I manage in a few ways. First, I tend to speak out loud about all of the ideas bouncing around in my head; something about verbalizing my thoughts aloud allows me to make more sense of them. Second, I make lists. Shocking, I know.

I want to share with you, as a means of sharing with myself, a list of the ideas I hope to put into action following the 2012 ALSC National Institute. Keep in mind this is a preliminary list of goals--I'm sure more ideas will manifest as I'm reminded of conference programs over the coming months.

Goal #1: Intentionality.
     If #ALSC12 had a buzzword, it was "intentionality." Lots of the programs and conversations left me thinking that library services should be more intentional. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Asking these questions about every aspect of the services we provide will help us pare down what is giving little value for the time it takes, and it will help us beef up our excellent services. Intentionality means knowing the reasons for doing what you do--how it helps a child developmentally, how it offers opportunities for social interaction or play, etc. I want to get my staff thinking about these questions with regard to their programs, and I also want them to consider how well we are doing at helping children of all ages achieve their developmental assets. I'm not asking for sweeping changes. I'm asking for us to offer the very best because we know what the best is.

Goal #2: Make meaningful additions to our current programming.
     This goal absolutely ties in with the goal of intentionality, although here it is less abstract. I left the Institute with some definite ideas about concrete modifications to our current programs. Five big ones come to mind:

  • Make measurement a part of story time. One presenter talked about how a program that initially talked about measurement as an aside turned into a full-blown measuring-tape extravaganza once the kiddos got their hands on measuring tools. What better way to engage with the world around you than to seek to identify its qualities?
  • Use realia in story times. Seeing real life objects that correspond with a story or theme help children create a firm foundation for understanding the world they inhabit.
  • Be more systematic about sharing early literacy tips. Saroj Ghoting advocates writing short (no more than 30 seconds) early literacy tips on sticky notes, then sticking these notes to the back covers of story time books. When you hold the book to read during story time, you'll be reminded to share the tip with caregivers.
  • Add more instruments and props. Egg shakers and rhythm sticks. Parachutes and bean bags. All of these elements were recommended as means of adding more song and movement to story times, and while that impetus is extremely worthwhile in and of itself, the enjoyment children will get from really interacting in story time will be the icing on the cake.
  • Learn caregivers' names. After you learn the names of the children who come to your programs, learn the names of the grown-ups who bring them there. This practice will create a community within the program while also holding the caregiver accountable for continuing learning outside of the program.

Goal #3: Add some new programming in the not-too-distant future.
     In particular I want to think about adding book apps to my programs. I also want to ponder debuting a Mock Newbery program in conjunction with local schools. My ideas in these two realms are varied and disjointed at this point, and I know I need more time to sit and think about what these initiatives might look like. Do you have a program along these lines that works? Let me know!

Goal #4: Foster joyful reading.
     I mentioned in my post from the Institute that author/illustrator Peter Brown made a statement that really struck me: "Joyful reading is the answer to all problems." This statement has resonated in my brain, turning into a mantra of sorts. Joyful reading. Joyful reading. How do we foster joyful reading in our library customers of all ages? To me, "joyful reading" means taking joy in the act of reading as much as in the stories themselves. Joyful reading is about the feeling of fulfillment and enrichment that comes from reading something meaningful. I must remember that what is meaningful to me won't necessarily be meaningful to you, and vice versa. So how do we reach all readers?
     One of my goals is to foster joyful reading wherever I can. I will tell stories and read stories joyfully, I will recommend them joyfully, and I will make every attempt at joyfully displaying and promoting them within the library and in the community. I really think we'll all be better for it.


I'd love for you to weigh in with your thoughts on my goals, or things you've learned at conferences, or anything else that might be on your mind. What are you putting into action in your library?


  1. Oh, now I feel like a slacker! I don't do programs because of the lessons and sheer volume of circulation. I do feel that my services are intentional, so I'm not a total wash. There is such a difference between public and school libraries, and so interesting to see what they are!

  2. Yes. Shocking on the lists, lol. Yesterday I made a list of lists I need to make...sigh.

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I am not working in a library right now, still watching and waiting for a position to open up in the new area we moved to. Reading this reminds me of exactly why I am a watching and a waiting.

  3. Hi! I about on the ALSC blog about a great program for teen moms and ECRR. Maryann Mori was the speaker but neither post mentioned her library system or organization. I searched Twitter and it is not showing any tweets older than 24 Sept. I was wondering if you had any information on her or the program she talked about? Thanks so much for blogging!

  4. I believe Maryann Mori works at the State Library of Iowa. She hasn't posted her Institute session content online, but her contact details are here:

  5. I'm late to the game here because I just discovered your blog! I love this post and think that the phrase "joyful reading" is phenomenal! I'm already a joyful reader but the best part of my job is helping others be joyful readers, too!