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.”

Dream Big Recap

Sixteen children’s librarians presented storytime ideas in front of their peers at the SCLS program Dream Big!: Bringing the Early Literacy Manual to Life. A variety of books, songs, fingerplays, flannelboard stories and crafts for ages birth to five were demonstrated. Many of the ideas were from the Collaborative Summer Library Program Manual, but some of the storytime elements were original creations.

“The meeting was tons of fun today!” One participant wrote afterwards. “I am so proud of us creative librarians!!”

The librarians should be proud – it is one thing to get up in front of children, but performing in front of peers can be intimidating. The audience was superb as well; they gladly clapped and sang and tapped along, just like they were kids again!

“I learned some great new songs and stories to share with my little friends!” another librarian said on facebook. You can discover some new stories, too, by taking a look at the list of books your colleagues presented.

2012 Mock Caldecott Results

This morning, 37 librarians discussed a short list of outstanding pictures books at the 2012 Suffolk County Mock Caldecott Discussion. When the ballots were counted, both groups had selected Grandpa Green by Lane Smith as the winner. Group 1 selected Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage as an honor book, and group 2 chose A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. Judy Zuckerman of the Brooklyn Public Library took a train from Atlantic Terminal in the wee hours of the morning to join us and share her experience as Chair of the 2011 Caldecott Committee and member of the 2005 Caldecott committee.

“What a terrific, well-prepared group they were!” Judy said about the librarians in attendance.

Peter Ward, director of the Lindenhurst Memorial Library, observed the program and was equally impressed with the participants. “You’ve got the stars of children’s services interacting with the up and coming blue chips,” he commented. (See Peter’s unique announcement of the Mock Caldecott winners here.)

The discussion leaders – Danielle Carey, Julie Delaney, Christine Dengel, and Kelly Sheridan did a great job selecting the books and facilitating the discussion groups. Many thanks to the librarians who stepped up to introduce the 8 discussion titles:

A Ball for Daisy; Chris Raschka
Brother Sun, Sister Moon; written by Katherine Paterson; illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Grandpa Green; Lane Smith
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans; Kadir Nelson
The House Baba Built; the text as told to Libby Koponen; illustrated by Ed Young
Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat; Philip C.  Stead
The Man in the Moon; Laura Geringer Books, editor; illustrated by William Joyce
Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

To tune in to the ALA Youth Media Awards presentation on January 23, 2012, visit the ALA website.

Kids Can Rock YOUR Library!

A highlight of the NYLA conference in Saratoga was hearing from the Weedsport Free Library’s Jr. Friends group. During the ten years of the Jr. Friends’ existence, over one hundred kids in grades three through eight have participated, and some have gone on to be assistant counselors.

So what does a Jr. Friends group do? At the conference session titled Kids Can Rock YOUR Library (hosted by YSS and EFR), attendees learned that the Jr. Friends hold fundraising events so they can host author visits and take an annual trip to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.  Bruce Coville, Johanna Hurwitz, and Alyssa Capucilli are just a few of the authors the group has hosted. The Jr. Friends celebrate National Gaming Day with Wii tournaments and sleepovers at the library. They also help children in need by donating brand new pajamas to The Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive, which Scholastics delivers and matches with a book.

The group started back when Jr. Friends leader Anne Mlod was a Friend of the Library and she brought her daughter Jana to the meetings. Jana thought the adult meetings were boring and asked to start a group for kids. Mlod, a past library director and school librarian, agreed to help get it started, and soon elementary school teacher Holly Dietsche was brought on as co-advisor. The group is managed by an elected board of young officers who meet once a month to plan activities for the Jr. Friends.

Stephanie of the Huntington Public Library was sitting next to me at the session and was equally impressed by the program. We were even treated to presentations from Jr. Friends members Derek, Michelle, and AJ, and a musical introduction using gaming equipment.

For copies of the handouts, please contact me at the Youth Services office.

Librarians Address a Critical Need

Every Child Ready to Read really did change my life,” Jeanne McDermott said at the beginning of her presentation at SCLS Wednesday morning, October 26th. She was describing how her experience teaching the 6 ECRR skills to parents on Saturday mornings at the Brooklyn Public Library was how she heard her calling to librarianship after years of working in the publishing business.

Now the 6 skills have been folded into 5 practices: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. All of this and much, much more is described in the ECRR 2nd edition manual.

Other lives besides Jeanne’s are about to be touched by early literacy efforts. Andrea Pavlik – another of yesterday morning’s presenters ­– and her library are partnering with Raising a Reader, a national network of 2,500 community partners serving 110,000 children and families annually. Huntington Public Library is purchasing 44 book kits to circulate to children at the Head Start Freedom Center in Huntington. Andrea will also be visiting the center on Fridays, when the kids will open their new bag of books to borrow and bring home to share with their family for the week.

“If it were not for the Raising a Reader program,” one participant of the national program reported, “I would not have read to my child at all.”

Carol Burnett of L.I. Head Start also attended yesterday’s workshop focusing on early literacy skills and library service to young children and caregivers. Head Start Centers, Carol explained, are eager to partner with libraries in a way that will benefit both the families of Head Start and libraries looking for a new audience.

Renee McGrath spoke about a program that’s been in place in Nassau County for many years. Children’s librarians visit Head Start Centers on a rotating schedule (similar to Suffolk’s Stony Brook hospital visits) and offer storytime. “These visits are one of the most rewarding parts of our job,” Renee said. Many in the audience are already visiting their local Head Start centers and they, too, could attest to how fulfilling it is to see the children excited about reading.

If you missed the program on October 26th, the Power Point presentations are available on the SCLS Gateway page. You may also contact Alison for more information.

Peace the World Together with Children’s Books

Nearly 250 librarians, authors, professors, publishers, and students gathered at California State University at Fresno for the 9th Regional IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Conference this past weekend. The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) hosts the IBBY Regional Conference every other year at a site in the United States. USBBY Executive Director Ellis Vance reported that there were representatives from 30 states and 6 continents at this event celebrating international children’s literature. Fresno State – home of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature – made an ideal setting for the gathering. The Nixon Center’s special exhibit “Down the Rabbit Hole with Lewis Carroll and Leonard Weisgard: Literary, Visual, and Sculptural Translations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the icing on the cake.

The theme of the conference was Peace the World Together with Children’s Books. Some of the featured speakers were Pam Muñoz Ryan, Margarita Engle, Grace Lin and her editor Alvina Ling, Adwoa Badoe (pictured right), David Diaz, Roger Mello (a talented and prolific illustrator from Brazil), and Dorothy Briley lecturer Beverley Naidoo. Mary Lois Nicholls, retired children’s librarian from Smithtown, Anne Pellowski, K.T. Horning, Nina Lindsay, and Michael Cart were just a few of the well-known participants present from our field.

On Saturday morning, the group broke out into book discussion sessions featuring the books of the guess speakers. I particularly enjoyed discussing Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe. When storyteller Badoe addressed the group, she treated us to a tale about why fisherman always sing the same peculiar folk song. On Saturday afternoon I sat in on a session led by the previous and current chairs of the Outstanding International Books Committee, Elizabeth Poe and Kathy East. The two chairs book-talked twenty-two books from the 2010 and 2011 lists that pertained to five themes: fleeing oppression, surviving adversity, forging friendships, finding family, and creating peace.

USBBY President Elect Doris Gebel (pictured here with Beverley Naidoo) presided over the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. One of the many people she introduced was long-time supporter of USBBY John Mason (Scholastic), who chaired the committee that selected Beverley Naidoo to give the Dorothy Briley lecture. Naidoo delivered her remarks – which included an homage to editor and publisher Dorothy Briley – in an arresting, almost hypnotizing voice. It was an unforgettable evening.

When Doris asked what my favorite part of the conference was, I was hard-pressed to answer. Hearing Grace Lin read from the first chapter of Starry River of the Sky, the companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, was certainly a high point, as was seeing the work of an illustrator as talented as Roger Mello (especially since his books are, regretfully, not available in the States). Margarita Engle’s story about her grandmother who lived her whole life believing she was “word blind” was heart-wrenching (Engle’s grandmother, who was dyslexic, is inspiration for the protagonist in Engle’s next book titled The Wild Book.) But my favorite part had to be hearing Kang Woo Hyon speak about the making of Peace Story, a collection of illustrated stories commissioned for NAMBOOK-010, the Nami Island Children’s Book Festival in Korea. Peace Story is available to Suffolk library staff from the SCLS Youth Services Review Collection.

The next USBBY conference will be in St. Louis, October 18-20, 2013. If you can’t wait that long, the next IBBY Congress is next August in London! To become a member, or for more information, visit the USBBY website or contact Doris at the Northport-East Northport Library.

(Photos taken by Junko Yokota)

The Picture Book as Meeting Space

At last week’s Lit-Fest, keynote speaker Megan Lambert spoke about her Whole Book Approach to sharing picture books with groups of children. This method invites children to “read the pictures” while the adult reads the words, creating a space to meet together in the picture book. She describes this method as “reading with children” as opposed to “reading to children.” An opening question adult readers can ask is: “What do you see happening in this picture?” Technical elements such as trim size and endpapers are also great places to invite discussion. Lambert was well-prepared with examples, anecdotes from her experience, and research on how children learn.

Lambert made it clear that the Whole Book Approach is only one method of sharing picture books with children – a method she used for ten years at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Not all children take to it right away; some pushback she’s received has come from kids who can, as Lambert puts it, “do school.” They might say to her, “Why can’t you just read the story all the way through without stopping?” But when she explains that they are practicing reading the pictures, she finds that the kids who can “do school” are eager to learn this kind of reading, too.

Lambert’s Whole Book Approach is based on a teaching method called Visual Thinking Strategies. To learn more about VTS, visit their website. Look for Lambert’s column in The Horn Book called “Books in the Home” and her blog posts about reading with children.

A Story Makes a Good Container – Snippets from “The Magic of Words”

“Talking to you is like talking to thousands,” Heather Forest told the audience at this morning’s workshop “The Magic of Words” at SCLS.

The audience she was referring to was – of course – librarians. Librarians are the people with “positional power,” the “public intellectuals.” After the audience recovered from this high praise, we opened our minds and imaginations to Heather’s thoughtful presentation.

Libraries played a large role in Heather’s early life. She read comics, which her parents considered frivolous. So the family made a deal: if Heather checked out one book from the library every week, she would be allowed to continue with her comics. Heather marched down to her public library and made her way to the mythology section. She only veered from that section when a librarian steered her to the 398.2’s; Heather’s been there ever since.

Heather hates the word illiterate. “Every child comes into the world pre-literate.” She went on to point out how children read faces, read their parents’ tone of voice, read the clouds. They are living in a world of communication before they ever learn to read or write.

Today the audience learned how to discover the bones of a story, and just as importantly, how to memorize them. Through a series of exercises, we went into our own special memories where information stored in stories is easily retrieved. Once we saw the “movie” of a story in our minds, it was there for us to recall with relative ease.

Many librarians left the workshop wanting more. Heather mentioned she is interested in conducting more in-depth workshops for libraries by zone, as she did in the Huntington zone this past winter. If your zone is interested, please contact Heather Forest.

Kerrilynn Hits the Road

Kerrilynn Hurley, a Teen Services Librarian at the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library (MMSCL), presented at the ALA Annual Conference as part of a YALSA panel on Trends in YA Services: Using Mobile Devices to Serve Teens. Joining Kerrilynn on the panel was Jack Martin, New York Public Library, Jennifer Valesquez, San Antonio Public Library, Patrick F. Taylor Sci & Tech Academy students Enjoli Gilbert and Courtney Beamer, and Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System.

Kerrilynn spoke about a number of initiatives at MMSCL. In 2009, the library was awarded a grant to purchase 25 iPod Touches to use with the community. While their parents attended ESL classes, 15 high school students learned to use a variety of apps. At the end of the year party, each student demonstrated an app for an audience of their parents and peers.

A graduate of the School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College and a part-time librarian at Hampton Bays Public Library, Kerrilynn also wears another hat: Librarian on the Beach. She takes advantage of MMSCL’s proximity to the beach by bringing mobile devices and promotional material to Smith Point Beach. At a table on the boardwalk, Kerrilynn shows teens how to register online for programs, use the library catalog, and contact a librarian via text message. This summer, MMSCL will be sending a library van full of books, DVDs, laptops and library staff to the beach as part of the On the Road program. If you’ll be at the beach this summer, be sure to look for Kerrilynn!

To read more about the YALSA presentation on serving teens with mobile devices, take a look at moderator Linda Braun’s detailed post on the YALSA blog, which includes links to program handouts.

Including Children with Autism in Storytime

On April 27, 2011, Stacey Ratner presented “The Inclusion of Children with Autism” at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. Ms. Ratner has kindly shared her powerpoint presentation, which is available here. The last few pages provide specific strategies and tips for helping children with autism (and all children) feel more comfortable in our storytime programs.

Changing program formats takes time and perseverance. Jill C. of the Longwood Public Library suggested getting back together at the end of summer to discuss our efforts to put Ms. Ratner’s recommendations into effect. This discussion will take place on Wednesday, August 17th in the SCLS Auditorium at 2pm. Please come and bring your success stories and tips as well as any failures. I’ll be eating a bagged lunch in the auditorium between 1pm and 2pm if you’d like to come early, bring your lunch, and browse books from the Review Collection.

Speaking of the Review Collection: on the very same day Ms. Ratner discussed using picture symbols with children with autism, a book titled Jay and Ben (Lee & Low) arrived in the Youth Services office. This story is translated into picture symbols and the accompanying website has resources for using the book with children with autism. The website indicates that replacement symbols (which will come in handy for libraries) as “coming soon.”