Friday, April 24, 2015

Stargazer Nights at the Library

This spring at my library, we're exploring both microcosms and macrocosms as part of the newest rotation of the BOOMbox, our flexible STEAM space. Under the heading Big and Small, the space is filled with microscopes, telescopes, and all manner of activities to explore these various cosmos.

My coworker Amy had the outstanding idea to move some of the formal programming for this spring outside of the physical library space by offering Stargazer Nights on the Village Green adjacent to the library. All the better to take advantage of the Cometron telescopes the library purchased, Amy reasoned. And to maximize the potential audience for these sessions, Amy asked me if I'd be willing to host one session per month on the night of my usual weekly evening shift while she offered sessions on hers. I was excited to help!

So far we've hosted four of our six total Stargazer Nights. While these events appear on our online and print calendars and BOOMbox flyers, they're drop-in events, with no registration required. Despite the fact that we've had 2/4 overcast evenings, we've had several dozen participants each time. And I consider this next bit exciting: through informal conversations with the folks who come to participate, we've found out that about 80% of participants had not come to the library specifically for the event; rather, they serendipitously discovered it was happening on their way into or out of the library. Visibility, here, was a huge factor--folks could see the telescopes pointing upward as they went about their library business, and natural curiosity and wonder induced them to stop and look up, too.

Regardless of the visibility on any given evening, each Stargazer Night introduced families and individuals across a wide age spectrum to basic telescope skills and etiquette. We talked about using the finderscope to help to point the telescope at the desired object to view; how the mirrors of the telescope cause what we see through the eyepiece to be inverted; and how to focus the telescope. Amy and I have also discovered an excellent way to help young stargazers use the telescope without bumping it and thus changing the view: we ask kids to put their hands in their pockets before leaning over to look in the eyepiece. Simple!

We talked about simple astronomical identification skills such as finding the Big Dipper; using the Big Dipper to locate the North Star; and how to tell a star from a planet from a man-made satellite. We also talked visible constellations, including Orion (we had a great view in March) and Leo (in April). We saw the moon in several different phases over the course of the four Stargazer Nights, and so we had conversations about the phases of the moon and their names as well.

The cream of the crop, though, truly was looking through our Cometron telescope to see the moon in sharper relief as well as a few planets. We've been able to see Venus (both with the naked eye and through telescopes), but Jupiter really takes the cake. Jupiter is plenty visible without a telescope, but we were also to see a whopping 5 of Jupiter's moons when we viewed the planet through the telescope. 5! So many participants' minds were blown at being able to see such distant celestial bodies.

While we have two more Stargazer Nights coming up in May, I must say we've already had some outstanding outcomes. On the most basic level, we've had lots of participants of all ages expressing thanks for being able to even do this sort of thing at the library. We're relatively near Chicago, with its Adler Planetarium, but even so everyone we talked to was thrilled to have this type of opportunity in Skokie. Parents commented that they particularly appreciated being able to expose their children to this type of technology. One family who stumbled upon the event and joined had never even seen a telescope before--what an amazing opportunity for the library to have a significant impact on their scientific knowledge.

The programs thus far have engaged a wide range of ages and knowledge levels. We had the aforementioned novices, but we also have had longtime astronomy hobbyists who enjoyed a) participating in something they care deeply about with others, and b) having the opportunity to share their knowledge by answering some questions when Amy and I were helping other folks.

The majority of participants fell into some middle ground--they knew a bit about stargazing and/or astronomy, but hadn't been reminded to look up in quite some time. Stargazer Nights resparked their interest. And that's what we ultimately want of any BOOMbox activity: to spur an interest or motivation to engage in a topic beyond the library program itself. To that end, we made sure that anyone who was interested in continuing to stargaze on their own was able to take home the monthly Evening Sky Map we had printed from

If we can inspire behavior that leads to further exploration? I consider that a stellar program.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Little Learners Browsing Bins: A Themed Pocket Collection for Ages 4-7

We debuted a new pocket collection at my library this week.

Let me take a step back to start. We’ve been redesigning a space in the youth department designated for children ages 4-7, whom we call “Little Learners,” and their caregivers. The goal of the space is to engage these emerging readers and their families in literacy-positive activities, including reading and hands-on learning.

One of the initiatives for the space, and the one that I’ve helmed, is the creation of a pocket collection: ten themed browsing bins of age-appropriate picture books (YES! Picture books, and nonfiction in picture book format, are wonderful for all ages!). I’ve done theming/organizing of collections before, but the really cool thing about the Little Learners Browsing Bins project is that it was building a pocket collection from scratch. Turns out it’s super gratifying to go through all the steps to create a shiny, accessible new collection.

The first step was deciding on the bin themes. I did some research on libraries that have organized/reorganized their picture book collections into neighborhoods, thinking about what themes recur most and would be most appropriate for ages 4-7. I created a list of about a dozen themes, then shared them in a poll with all the folks at my library who work the youth services desk. My team members were expert at weighing in on themes--they know what types of books families with children this age ask for over and over again, and they have a great sense of what hidden gems in the collection could use more time front-and-center. They voted on preferred themes, including writing in suggestions. A combo of these themes then went to a poll on the library’s Facebook page, which library patrons were able to take. We got some good feedback from the folks who took the public poll, too.

Thus was our set of 10 themes determined--and 10 was the magic number because our new browsing bins would have space for 10 themes (4 “major” double-binned themes, and 6 single-binned themes):
  • Award-Winners - titles that have received accolades, with an emphasis on awards recognizing diversity and inclusion 
  • Fairy Tales - folk and fairy tales from both multicultural and traditional Western traditions 
  • Science - titles that invite scientific interest and inquiry 
  • Longer Tales - longer stories told in picture book format (we had previously noted many of these books in our collections with a note reading “Illustrated Fiction” in the MARC record) 
  • Dinosaurs - picture books and picture book-format easy nonfiction dealing with dinosaurs as historical creatures and characters in stories 
  • Things That Go - books that depict vehicles and transportation 
  • Multilingual - titles including multilingual elements, with an emphasis on major languages spoken in the community 
  • School Stories - stories about the experience of starting or going to school 
  • Animals & Nature - picture books and picture book-format easy nonfiction that portray animals and nature as they are in real life 
  • Listen-Along - picture books with musical accompaniment 
Then it was GO TIME for getting books in each theme. With the exception of titles for the Longer Tales and Listen-Along categories, which were culled from our existing collections, the books for the bins were gathered by purchasing brand new copies of great books. I bought one copy of each title for the bins, and the library also owns at least one additional copy of each title housed in our regular stacks. In my purchasing, I prioritized titles that are more recent (think the past few years) as well as titles by, about, and/or featuring diverse persons. Equity is a major goal with this pocket collection.

The library’s access department staff were outstanding in cataloging and preparing these items, and our graphic designer made outstanding icons for each of the themes; each book in the Little Learners Browsing Bins collection has a beautiful spine sticker, with both text and icon, to identify its theme and home. Very simple for both customers and staff.

There are more elements to the redesigned Little Learners area at my library than these Browsing Bins, including interactive panels, circulating Little Learners backpacks for at-home learning, a rotating monthly display, and eventual hands-on activities for children and caregivers to do together. I like to think, however, that the Little Learners Browsing Bins are a cornerstone of this revamped section--something previously not offered by the library, with great books displayed beautifully and in a manner that pre-readers and emerging readers can use effectively.

I so look forward to seeing how this pocket collection is used--and, hopefully, enjoyed--by our 4- to 7-year-olds and their families.


Debut collection for the Little Learners Browsing Bins at Skokie Public Library (we’ll keep adding new titles as excellent choices are published):

  1. Princesses on the Run by Smiljana Coh
  2. Part-time Princess by Deborah Underwood
  3. Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-Li Jiang
  4. Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss
  5. Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle
  6. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
  7. Back to Front and Upside Down! by Claire Alexander
  8. Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
  9. Firebird by Misty Copeland
  10. Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty
  11. Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue
  12. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
  13. One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo
  14. Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
  15. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
  16. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin Stead
  17. The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
  18. So, You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George
  19. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  20. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
  21. Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
  22. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
  23. Grandma's Gift by Eric Velasquez
  24. The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon
  25. A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King
  26. Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth
  27. The House Baba Built: An Artists' Childhood in China
  28. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia
  29. Zephyr Takes Flight by Steven Light
  30. Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey
  31. Molly, by Golly! by Dianne Ochiltree
  32. Once a Mouse by Marcia Brown
  33. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  34. May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers
  35. The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome
  36. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  37. Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall
  38. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  39. Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman
  40. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Fairy Tales:
  1. Walt Disney's Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant
  2. The ABC of Fantastic Princes by Willy Puchner
  3. Aladdin by Giada Francia
  4. Beauty and the Beast by Giada Francia
  5. Cinderella by Giada Francia
  6. Little Red Riding Hood by Giada Francia
  7. Rapunzel by Giada Francia
  8. Sleeping Beauty by Giada Francia
  9. The Little Mermaid by Giada Francia
  10. Snow White by Giada Francia
  11. Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney
  12. Precious and the Boo Hug by Pat McKissack
  13. Hansel and Gretel by Rachel Isadora
  14. Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman
  15. The Tale of the Firebird by Gennadii Spirin
  16. Goldy Luck and the Tree Pandas by Natasha Yim
  17. Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky
  18. Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco
  19. Town Mouse Country Mouse by Jan Brett
  20. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  21. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
  22. The Girl of the Wish Garden by Uma Krishnaswami
  23. Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look
  24. Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
  25. Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
  26. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
  27. One Grain of Rice by Demi
  28. Ganesha's Sweet Tooth by Emily Haynes
  29. Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer
  30. The Contest by Nonny Hogrogian
  31. The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
  32. Juan Bobo Goes to Work by Marisa Montes
  33. Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales
  34. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
  35. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
  36. It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach
  37. The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen
  38. Ten Big Toes and a Prince's Nose by Nancy Gow
  39. Lon Po Po by Ed Young
  40. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

  1. Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh
  2. The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
  3. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
  4. Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette Leblanc Cate
  5. The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
  6. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
  7. Light is All Around Us by Wendy Pfeffer
  8. What Happens to Our Trash? by D.J. Ward
  9. Secrets of the Seasons: Orbiting the Sun in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  10. Lookin' for Light: Science Adventures with Manny the Origami Moth by Eric Braun
  11. Simply Sound: Science Adventures with Jasper the Origami Bat by Eric Braun
  12. Plant Part Smarts: Science Adventures with Charlie the Origami Bee by Eric Braun
  13. Rainbows Never End: And Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena
  14. Saturn Could Sail: And Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena
  15. What is the Water Cycle? by Ellen Lawrence
  16. What are Rocks Made Of? by Ellen Lawrence
  17. How Are Rain, Snow, and Hail Alike? by Ellen Lawrence
  18. What is Weather? by Ellen Lawrence
  19. What is Climate? by Ellen Lawrence
  20. What are Clouds? by Ellen Lawrence
  21. Volcano Wakes Up! by Lisa Westberg Peters
  22. The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes by Joanna Cole
  23. The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow by Joanna Cole
  24. How Many Planets Circle the Sun? by Mary Kay Carson
  25. A Trip into Space: An Adventure to the International Space Station by Lori Haskins Houran
  26. You Can't Ride a Bicycle to the Moon! by Harriet Ziefert
  27. Gravity by Jason Chin
  28. Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery by Margaret A. Weitekamp
  29. It's Raining! by Gail Gibbons
  30. It's Snowing! by Gail Gibbons
  31. Clouds by Anne Rockwell
  32. Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  33. Sounds All Around by Wendy Pfeffer
  34. What Makes a Magnet? by Franklyn Mansfield Branley
  35. What's Alive? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  36. My Five Senses by Aliki
  37. Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  38. The Human Body by Jon Richards
  39. Volcanoes by Seymour Simon
  40. No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

Longer Tales:
  1. Hope Springs by Eric Walters
  2. Dancers of the World by Aurelia Hardy
  3. Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold
  4. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack
  6. Lost + Found by Shaun Tan
  7. January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
  8. A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson
  9. Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy
  10. Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey
  11. Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson
  12. Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China by Deborah Noyes
  13. Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
  14. The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman
  15. Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng
  16. The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  17. The Man in the Moon by William Joyce
  18. Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet
  19. Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp
  20. Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson
  21. Henry and the Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall
  22. A Packet of Seeds by Deborah Hopkinson
  23. Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett
  24. Jack and the Giant Barbecue by Eric A. Kimmel
  25. When Grandmama Sings by Margaree King Mitchell
  26. The Beautiful Lady by Pat Mora
  27. The House at the End of Ladybug Lane by Elise Primavera
  28. The Odious Ogre by Norton Juster
  29. Stand Straight, Ella Kate by Kate Klise
  30. The Django by Levi Pinfold
  31. The Girl Who Wanted to Dance by Amy Ehrlich
  32. Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen
  33. The Flying Bed by Nancy Willard
  34. Pancakes for Supper! by Anne Isaacs
  35. Wings by Christopher Myers
  36. The Yellow Star by Carmen Agra Deedy

  1. My Dinosaur is More Awesome! by Simon Coster
  2. Brontorina by James Howe
  3. When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach
  4. Tea Rex by Molly Idle
  5. Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman
  6. Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
  7. Time Flies by Eric Rohmann
  8. Dino Pets by Lynn Plourde
  9. If Dinosaurs Live in My Town by Marianne Plumridge
  10. Dig Those Dinosaurs by Lori Haskins Houran
  11. How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge
  12. Amazing Giant Dinosaurs by DK
  13. Why Did T. Rex Have Such Short Arms? by Melissa Stewart
  14. If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey
  15. Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton
  16. Bang! Boom! Roar! A Busy Crew of Dinosaurs by Nate Evans
  17. Camp Rex by Molly Idle
  18. The Three Triceratops Tuff by Stephen Shaskan
  19. Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur by Judy Sierra
  20. Dinosaur vs. the Library by Bob Shea

Things That Go:
  1. The Too Little Fire Engine by Jane Flory
  2. Construction by Sally Sutton
  3. The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas
  4. Machines Go To Work in the City by William Low
  5. Everything Goes By Sea by Brian Biggs
  6. Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
  7. Everything Goes on Land by Brian Biggs
  8. Moonshot by Brian Floca
  9. The Glorious Flight by Alice Provensen
  10. Locomotive by Brian Floca
  11. Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander
  12. Night Light by Nicholas Blechman
  13. Digger, Dozer, Dumper by Hope Vestergaard
  14. Planes, Trains, and Cars by Simon Abbott
  15. Supertruck by Stephen Savage
  16. The Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling
  17. The Fire Station by Robert Munsch
  18. Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
  19. Earth Space Moon Base by Ben Joel Price
  20. Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper

  1. Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía Una Llamita by Angela Dominguez
  2. Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day-Book Day / Celebremos El Día de los Niños-El Día de los Libros by Pat Mora
  3. Gracias / Thanks by Pat Mora
  4. Count Me In! A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill
  5. Alicia's Fruity Drinks / Las Aguas Frescas De Alicia by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
  6. Healthy Foods from A to Z / Comida Sana de la A a la Z by Stephanie Maze
  7. Grandma's Chocolate / El Chocolate de Abuelita by Mara Price
  8. Movi la Mano / I Moved My Hand by Jorge Lujan
  9. La Florecita de la Maleza / The Little Weed Flower by Vicky Whipple
  10. Little Crow to the Rescue / El Cuervito al Rescate by Elizabeth Cummins Munoz
  11. Playing Lotería / El Juego De La Lotería Mexicana by Rene Colato Lainez
  12. Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! / Preparate, Kindergarten! Alla Voy by Nancy Carlson
  13. Mirror / (Arabic) by Jeannie Baker
  14. Time to Pray / (Arabic) by Maha Addasi
  15. Waiting for Mama / (Korean) by Tae-joon Lee

School Stories:
  1. Lizzie and the Last Day of School by Trinka Hakes Noble
  2. Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
  3. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  4. The New Girl...And Me by Jacqui Robbins
  5. Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist
  6. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
  7. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best
  8. Miss Brooks' Story Nook by Barbara Bottner
  9. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
  10. The Best Thing About Kindergarten by Jennifer Lloyd
  11. The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten by Maureen Fergus
  12. Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten by Toni Buzzeo
  13. Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
  14. Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
  15. Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin
  16. A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech
  17. Preschool Time by Mij Kelly
  18. The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
  19. Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison
  20. Miss Nelson is Missing by Henry Allard

Animals & Nature:
  1. Little Puffin's First Flight by Jonathan London
  2. My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell
  3. My Garden by Kevin Henkes
  4. Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
  5. Neighborhood Sharks Katherine Roy
  6. Whale Trails, Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  7. Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth
  8. These Bees Count! by Alison Formento
  9. Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid
  10. Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen
  11. Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone
  12. Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
  13. Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins
  14. Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins
  15. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
  16. How Do You Know It's Winter? by Ruth Owen
  17. Shaping Up Summer by Lizann Flatt
  18. Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman
  19. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry
  20. At This Very Moment by Jim Arnosky

  1. The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket
  2. Pictures at an Exhibition by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  3. Vivaldi's Four Seasons by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  4. Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  5. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  6. Bach's Goldberg Variations by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  7. The Heroic Symphony by Anna Hartwell Celenza
  8. Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf by Peter Malone