Guerrilla Storytime and presenting a breakout session on Digital Story Times, I got to attend many a quality, thought-provoking session at the 2013 Missouri Library Association Conference. I left with oodles of ideas, some with potential for immediate implementation, and others for future initiatives. Here are my favorites:
For Immediate Implementation:
Get/Make a sensory blanket for babies. This simple and brilliant idea was shared, as a brief part of a larger idea, by Stephanie Smallwood of Springfield-Greene County Library District during her session on taking early literacy to outreach. Sensory blankets are soft quilt-like blankets, with patches and sections of fabrics with different textures and sensory features sewn into the main blanket fabric. Think a touch-and-feel board book in quilt form, ready to be taken anywhere, laid on the floor, and machine-washed when needed. Genius.
Create a designated science area for children, and operate it thoughtfully. I'm taking Stephanie Smallwood's broad preschool STEM idea and applying in more broadly and with more specifics. In my carved-out science space in the branch, I'll keep the science items/theme consistent for an entire month. Use rocks as an example: rocks will by at the science station all month long. For the first two weeks of the month, the station will be about engaging with rocks: lots of varieties so kids can explore what they look like and how they feel, and also including books on the topic to help kids (and caregivers) answer questions they may have. During the second two weeks of the month, the rocks will stay the same but additional elements will be added for experimenting with rocks: a scale to weigh, magnifying glasses to look closer, a tub of water to test buoyancy, for example. Over the course of a month, when a child may visit the library two or more times, he or she gets to first engage with the STEM concept and then experiment with it, allowing for deeper concept learning. There's no reason this strategy would apply only to preschoolers--I can think of many a school-age child who would be fascinated by said science station.
Use the Recaptains (recaptains.blogspot.com) for help catching patrons (or myself) up on series backstory before reading a new release. Enough said.
Keywords for database instruction with school partners are "easy" and "visual." Teachers are super busy with nary a spare moment in their schedules; if we want to entice them with databases and all they can do, we need to emphasize that we can provide tools to make aspects of their jobs easier. For students, be they elementary, middle, or high schoolers, visuals are important. Share the databases with visual interfaces and they'll be much more open to learning how to use them.
For Storing In the Library Brain Until a Later Date:
Partner with lots of community organizations to support early literacy initiatives, even those organizations that may seem less obvious. Stephanie Smallwood talked about some of her library's community partners, ranging from the traditional (WIC) to the less common but really smart (The Doula Foundation). There are many, many community organizations with potential to impact families in a positive way; the library should work with them.
Provide early literacy training for the staffs at partner organizations. The library has the potential to interact with families who utilize these organizations only while a library staff member is present and conducting outreach. Organization staff, on the other hand, have much larger windows of opportunity for interacting with these families--basically, anytime they visit. By providing early literacy training to the staff at partner organizations, not only do these staff get a greater understanding of why the library is involved, but they also develop their own skills and knowledge to share early literacy messages and resources with families during the course of their regular interactions.
Have you been to a conference lately? What were your favorite takeaways?