This weekend I am transitioning from working as a Youth Services Consultant for Suffolk Libraries to my new role as the director at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library. It’s been a pleasure working directly with all the youth services librarians in the county, and I greatly appreciate the gift I received at our last meeting: a copy of my favorite book of 2011, Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. It is signed by those who were at the meeting, and it brings a smile every time I look at it.

I will continue blogging about public libraries from my new perspective as an administrator. Many people have told me over the last few weeks that you can take the librarian out of the children’s room, but you can’t take the children’s room out of the director. I am sure that is true on many levels. I plan on remaining active in ALSC, YALSA, YSS, CLASC and YASD, and I am continuing to read children’s literature (right now I am reading Batchelder Award winner Soldier Bear for my next book club meeting.) I do, however, look forward to the new perspective serving as a director will offer me as the experience can only offer depth to my view of librarianship.

What should I rename this blog? Any suggestions are welcome! I will be thinking about it as I fill out my Civil Service exams this weekend.

SCLA/PLDA Civil Service Program Addresses Timely Topic

Wednesday morning’s workshop, How to Fill Out a Training & Experience Exam, at the Brentwood Public Library was a testimony to the power of open communication and collaboration. Everyone involved in putting together the joint program between the SCLA Civil Service Committee and PLDA should be commended for organizing an informative event.

Were you back at your library serving the library users of Suffolk County? No worries; here are the highlights:

We heard a pep talk and introduction from Lindenhurst Library Director Peter Ward. Peter understood that he was addressing future library leaders. “The positions that require these exams,” Peter said, “are the positions in the library where you will meet your full potential.” If Peter’s statement resonates with you, keep reading.

The program, he went on to explain, was primarily put together to address stories he’s heard of candidates losing points as a result of mistakes they made filling out the training and experience exams. He also referred to the natural cycle of library administrators retiring and librarians moving up the ranks. “Some of us are getting long in the tooth.” Peter joked. “If you hear someone go down, get your resume out.” This was met with laughs of course, but Peter went on to say with all seriousness that “there are going to be a lot of opportunities, but you have to be ready for them.”

Next Peter introduced Cheryl of Suffolk County’s Civil Service Department, who Peter referred to as a “stone cold killer.” If by that he means she is a professional who knows her stuff and is completely approachable, well then yes, she is! Remember Cheryl’s name when you call Civil Service. She’ll be glad to help you with your questions. Here are some of the actions she recommended:

  • Cheryl reminded us that reporting your experience on civil service exams is all about dividing what you do up into percentages. A good way to start this process is to make a list of what you do in a week and assign percentages.
  • Attending the computational review (which is usually offered on a Saturday morning after the scores are released) is key to understanding how the scoring was done and making improvements for the next time around.
  • Start early. The deadline is midnight on February 29th. Do not wait until the last minute in case you have questions or computer network issues.
  • Read the exam through before filling in any experience. This will help you match your experience to the right section.
  • Read the directions. : )

I’d wish you good luck, but that’s not what you need. You need plenty of time to thoroughly read the instructions, answer the questions, and to pick up the phone and call Civil Service if you have questions.

For those of you who have read this far I’ll close with a key piece of advice Cheryl shared with the group regarding reporting work experience:

“If you’re in doubt whether or not to include something, put it in.”

International Children’s Books

At Wednesday’s meeting of Children’s Department Managers at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Doris Gebel told us that part of her role as president of USBBY will be planning for 2013’s International Children’s Book Day. This event will be “hosted” by the United States and Ashley Bryan, recent winner of the Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, will be designing the poster. Doris also shared her concern that librarians, parents, and children may not gravitate to international books because the art or subject matter can be challenging to the sensibilities of our western culture. For example, a book like Duck, Death and Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch, translated by Catherine Chidgey, has been reviewed positively in four journals but is not making its way into many collections in Suffolk County. (We have this title in the SCLS office if you’d like to review it.)

Nonetheless, it’s a reality that if we do add these noteworthy titles, they may not fly off our shelves. (They might need a librarian like you to champion them!) If you find yourself forced to make a tough weeding decision over a book that was originally published in another country, please touch base with Doris at the Northport-East Northport library. She is looking into developing a deep collection of international books in her children’s department and may be able to accommodate a book that is not finding readers in your community.

Not sure how to find international books that your patrons may enjoy? Take a look at the recent SLJ article that highlights the Outstanding International Books of 2011.

After the meeting I opened my email and found the latest newsletter from Novelist featuring an interview with…can you guess? Doris Gebel! Take a look at the interview titled Best Practices: International Children’s Books.

Suffolk County Public Librarians!: Comment on this blog post by Friday and receive a free international book for your collection!

Tweens, young teens, and technology

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt has announced an exciting opportunity for those of us serving tweens and young teens in our libraries. Read on for details about how your library can be part of the 2012 Presidents’ Program at ALA in Anaheim (a joint affair between ALSC and YALSA.)

How are you handling the digital lives of tweens and young teens at your library? At the 2012 Presidents’ Program at ALA in Anaheim we will be talking about tweens and young teens and exploring their use of technology. What is the life of a tween or young teen like in this digital age? What are the particular challenges and opportunities they face online? What should libraries be doing? Show us in a video!

  • Videos should be 2-3 minutes in length and created by librarians, for librarians.  Show and tell us about an experience or project dealing with tweens and young teens and technology at your library.  What worked?  What didn’t?   What did you learn?
  • Post it on YouTube with the tag “youthprezprogram12”.
  • Email co-chairs Tessa Michaelson Schmidt and Sarah Couri at with the YouTube link and your contact information.
  • Deadline for submissions: Monday, April 30, 2012 at midnight.

All video entrants will be eligible to win a $100 Amazon gift card.   Selected videos will be shown at the 2012 ALSC and YALSA Joint Presidents’ Program in Anaheim! Speak up and speak out: how are you working with technologically active tweens and young teens?

Booklist Editor/Children’s Book Author Chats over his Morning Coffee

I was seeking out Booklist media editor Sue-Ellen Beauregard at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans when I ran into Booklist Online editor, Keir Graff, instead, and we started chatting. In addition to his role at Booklist, Keir is a writer and a father of two boys. It so happened that Keir’s first book for children, The Other Felix, was just about to be published by Roaring Brook Press. After speaking to Keir, I sprinted over to the Macmillan Booth where I cited a long friendship with Keir to get my hands on the book!

Now, The Other Felix is published and may even be living on the shelves of your library. Maggie M. of The Smithtown Library just gave it a rave review at the CLASC New Book Forum, and the book was given a Mock Newbery Honor by the students at Waukazoo Elementary in Michigan. I visited Keir in the Booklist booth in Dallas last week and, this time, the Macmillan booth was conveniently located across the aisle!

I wanted to share with all of you what has been a lovely experience getting to know Keir, and he has kindly answered a few questions over his morning cup of coffee at his desk in Chicago. Read on to learn more about Keir and his work as a Booklist editor and children’s book author. 

AO: So what is it you do at Booklist?

KG: I’m the editor of Booklist Online. For some reason, I often find it hard to describe what I do all day, but my main responsibility is making Booklist reviews and articles available via a wide variety of electronic formats. I oversee everything from our website to our blogs and e-newsletters to our social media channels. Fortunately, I have a lot more help than I used to, so I don’t have to do it all myself! I write reviews, too–but only of adult books.

AO: What made you decide to write a children’s book?

KG: It was a complete accident. I had published a number of books for grown-ups and, while I’ve always loved reading with two sons, I had no plans to write for kids. Frankly, it seemed too difficult. But then a few years ago my older son, Felix, began having nightmares in which he was chased through a forest by monsters. I offered all the usual grown-up bromides (“Dreams aren’t real, son; the monsters can’t hurt you”) but nothing I said helped. He knew the dreams weren’t real, but they were still scary. Then, one night, the dream changed: he met a boy who looked just like him, had the same name, and knew how to fight monsters. His nightmares stopped and I had a good idea for a story.

I planned to write a short story just for Felix and his little brother, Cosmo. But the concept was so intriguing that I couldn’t stop writing. A few months later, I had a draft of a short novel. I showed it to my friend and colleague, Ilene Cooper, who said she thought I might have something. After a couple more drafts, Roaring Brook Press offered me a two-book deal.

AO: Felix has some pretty intense dreams. Do you remember your dreams?

KG: I do. I love nothing more than sleeping deeply and waking up confused, still half in dreamland. When I visit schools, I usually tell the kids about my most recent dream, hoping they’ll use their own dreams as creative inspiration. Before one school visit I had a particularly intense dream that I was in a plane full of scientists, flying through a hurricane to gather data. We had just emerged into the eye of the storm, above sunlit water and below blue sky–and were just about to fly into an angry wall of clouds–when I woke up. I was so disappointed.

AO: Did being a dad yourself give you insight into writing about Felix’s dad?

KG: I don’t think I could have written about being a father until I became a father myself–and I hope I’m a better dad than Felix’s dad in the story! But I definitely gave him some traits that I’m afraid I possess, even if I exaggerated them. Mr. Schwartzwalder means well but is distant and self-absorbed, not as good a listener as he could be. Felix really has to solve his own problems. It’s good for kids to solve their own problems, of course, but it’s better if they’re doing it because their parents are encouraging them, not ignoring them.

AO: What can we look forward to next?

KG: I’m working with my editor, the wonderful Kate Jacobs, on my second middle-grade novel. It’s called The Matchstick Castle (at least for now) and should be out in the fall of 2013. If The Other Felix is kind of a quiet character study (at least, in between monster attacks!) then The Matchstick Castle is wild, zany, and (hopefully) funny. It’s about a kid sentenced to the most boring summer vacation imaginable–until he meets an eccentric family living in a dangerously dilapidated house in the woods. I had a ton of fun writing with it and I hope kids have half as much fun reading it.

AO: I’m sure it will be funny, considering what I’ve read from you on your blog. What’s this business about asking books like Fight Club for advice?!

KG: I wanted to add a new feature to the Booklist Online e-newsletter, REaD ALERT–I had always wanted to do an advice column of some sort for Booklist, but I couldn’t decide on the format. (It’s a lot harder than it looks!) Then, just before deadline, I had an idea that people would ask books for advice, not me; hence, “Ask a Book.” In the first one, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club answers a point of silly etiquette. And, next week, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road tells you how to keep your soufflé from falling. 

AO: Tell us something about Neal Porter he doesn’t want us to know!

KG: Boy, I wish I could. I’ve met him several times and have tremendous admiration for him, but we haven’t worked together. Ilene knows him much better. The whole Roaring Brook crew is amazing, though–and they have the awards to show for it!

AO: They sure do. Thanks, Keir, for taking the time to “chat” with us Suffolk County librarians! We wish you the best!

Shelf Awareness Marks an Important Milestone in Children’s Publishing

If you are not a reader of Shelf Awareness, today is a good day to subscribe! Shelf Awareness, with support from Random House Books, has dedicated an issue to celebrating 20 Years of The Magic Tree House series. Read the interviews between Shelf Awareness children’s editor Jennifer Brown and author Mary Pope Osbourne, Fact Tracker author Natalie Pope Boyce, and illustrator Sal Murdocca.

And, of course, don’t forget to share this milestone with the families in your library. Link to the dedicated issue on your library’s facebook page, or make a book display in your library.

Anne Pellowski Returns to the Suffolk Cooperative Library System

A wonderful confluence of events will bring a world-renowned storyteller to our doorstep this February. Anne Pellowski is in between visits to Ethiopia, where she taught families how to make their own cloth books, and Central America, where she will assist with the Bibliobus project. A native of Wisconsin and active member of the International Board on Books for Young People, Anne is truly a citizen of the world. Anne has kindly offered to present a program on storytelling for librarians on Friday, February 3rd at 10:00am in the SCLS auditorium. She will demonstrate how she makes cloth books and teach us storytelling techniques using our fingers, string, paper, and handkerchiefs.

Anne presented at SCLS about 18 years ago and it was a workshop Joanne K. of the Commack Public Library has never forgotten. “A librarian who attends Anne’s presentation on February 3rd will never forget it either,” Joanne said at the Dream Big meeting on January 17th.

If you work in a Suffolk County library, please register for Anne’s program online or by contacting SCLS Youth Services. If possible, please bring a handkerchief with you to the program. In the meantime, check out Anne’s books, which cover the whole spectrum of storytelling, from techniques and presentation ideas to history and research.

An Opportunity Too Good to Pass Up

The USBBY Bridge to Understanding Award Committee seeks to identify and honor innovative programs that use children’s literature as a way to promote international understanding, and libraries are eligible for this award. Does your library program promote “reading as a way to expand a child’s world”?

To learn more about the award, view information about past winners, and to access entry, criteria, and application forms, please visit the USBBY website. Or, you can contact Suffolk’s own Doris Gebel, president of USBBY, at the Northport-East Northport Library.

The award carries a monetary prize of $1000 and a certificate. The submission deadline for the next award is January 31, 2012.

What is LAPC?

While some children’s librarians in Suffolk County have been throwing around the acronym LAPC (pronounced “laps”) since 1982, others may be mystified about what this group is all about. LAPC stands for Librarians’ Alliance for Parents and Children. According to their informatative blog, LAPC is “a coalition formed for librarians who conduct Parent-Toddler Workshops.  LAPC began in the fall of 1982 with a group of six librarians who saw the need for a network to share ideas and materials which relate to Parent-Toddler Workshops.”

The group meets quarterly. Three meetings are held at pre-determined Suffolk County library, and the spring joint meeting with the Nassau County LAPC rotates between the counties. The next hosting library is usually determined at the LAPC meeting, and then a point person makes arrangments for the meeting room and publicizes the date on the LAPC listserv.

If you think this group would be helpful for you, I encourage you to join the LAPC listserv. Speak to your colleagues if you are unsure whether anyone from your library already attends the meetings. If you have LAPC-related information that you would like posted on the LAPC blog, please contact Michelle at Brookhaven or Audrey at Huntington.

Say Hello to my “Little Friends”

The best part of strolling through exhibit floor at the ALA Midwinter meeting is coming across little gems! In Dallas my treasure was Little Friends, a lovely easy reader by debut author/illustrator Onur Tukel, published by Marshall Cavendish.

Three seasons take the reader through the budding friendship of two girls and the boy across the street. Sara and Louisa are established friends. They live next door to each other and do everything together. Barry lives across the street. He likes to play with his puppet, and doesn’t say much to anyone at all. After an argument over a shared love of swinging from their special tree resolves, the three form a friendship based on their fondness of adventure and a gentle tolerance of each other’s differences.

Each of the three chapters gently pushes a different character center stage, and by the end they felt as real as the kids in my neighborhood. The colors change delightfully with the seasons;  Browns shift to blue and white and finally green. Cartoon boxes keep the pace moving along with full page spreads drawing attention to the big moments. Marketed for ages 7-9, this book may be appreciated by readers who prefer kids instead of animals as their main characters. It’s also perfect as a read aloud or for kids who are ready for a little meatier vocabulary.

I hope Tukel has more stories about the Little Friends up his sleeve! If you can’t wait to see more from Tukel, check out what he’s done for grown-ups. Contact Youth Services to borrow the galley today.