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Posts in Librarian Job Description Category

Susan

Flannel Board Stories

Posted by Susan on June 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Blue Hat.jpgThis post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

Do you know what a flannel board story is? That's when you tell a story without the book, using pieces of felt to represent the characters. Teachers and children's librarians make these all the time. Getting dressedA felt story can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can make five felt apples (or anything else), put them on the flannel board and do a song or a story about them. But then there are those small or out of print books that you really want to give a second life to.

That's when you go all out.

Start by picking a book. Okay, this sounds easy, but there are only certain books that work well as flannel board stories. They have to be repetitive and have a relatively small number of characters. The book I picked for this one is Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, because it's a small board book about important concepts. And, let's face it, it's downright adorable.
In process
Once you've got your book, making a super complicated, exactly-like-the-book flannel takes no time at all.

Nope, I lied. It takes forever, and then a little longer. But, the good news is that it lasts forever too. You can keep a flannel story for a decade or two (or more!) if you treat them nicely. So, my feeling is that it's always worth the extra effort to make it great.

Now, this certainly isn't the most glamorous part of the job. It involves a lot of mess and glue and patience and then more mess, glue and patience. But it's incredibly rewarding when the kids see characters on the flannel board that they recognize instantly.

Blue Hat Final
How did I do? Please ignore the fact that I accidentally put the green hat on the bear instead of the moose, and that the elephant isn't wearing his shoes....

Susan

A Summer of Reading

Posted by Susan on June 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

makeasplash.jpgBooktalks are finally over. Public children's librarians can breath a sigh of relief. No longer will they have to explain the summer reading program 10 times a day.

Because, now it's time to explain summer reading 300 times a day. Kids from all over come to sign up for the program and each one gets a personal explanation of how many books need to be read, what the prizes are, what the deadlines are, etc. If you poke a librarian in their sleep in mid-July, they'll be able to tell you, without waking up, how many books a second grader needs to read to complete the program and what day summer reading ends.

Every summer reading program is different. Some count the number of minutes the kids read, other count the number of books. One prize can be given out at the end, or lots of prizes can be distributed throughout the summer. You might need to fill out a reading log or complete a game board. The prizes might be toys, coupons, books or something else. Some libraries may host one big program such as a magician or a puppet show, others might have a program each week.

makewaves.jpgHowever, there's a few things all library programs have in common.
~They all promote the joy of reading.
~They're all free.
~They all have a theme. This summer, it's all about water and fish.
~They're all an enormous amount of work. Planning starts for summer reading at the end of last year's program and takes the entire year.

Why does every public library in the country have a summer reading program? For a few reasons: to keep kids from losing reading skills over the summer, to make sure kids know there's a place they can get books while their school library is closed and to show kids that reading can be fun. For more details, see the New York State Library's research findings on the subject.

Find out what your library has to offer this summer. And sign up today!

Susan

Let's talk books

Posted by Susan on June 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

It may be hard to catch a glimpse of your children's librarian during early June. That's because they're at the local schools doing booktalks. Don't know what a booktalk is? (That's okay- almost nobody does, hence the reason for this post).

BooktalksThe first part of a booktalk is basically a summer reading pep rally. The public librarians go to the elementary schools and explain the summer reading program to the kids. We tell them all about how to sign up, the rules of the program, and all the exciting events we have during the summer. Then comes the fun part. We also bring lots of cool books with us to tell the kids about. The goal is to tell just enough about a book to whet their interest without giving anything away.

And then the next grade comes in, and we do the whole spiel again, with different books. And then we do it again. And again. And again. We see each grade separately, so that we can tell them about age appropriate books. At the school I went to yesterday, we talked to almost 600 kids over a six hour period. Finally, the day is over (booktalks are exhilarating but completely exhausting)... which means it's time for tomorrow and another round of booktalks at a new school. And so on, and on and on, until we've talked to every class of every public elementary school in the county.

Magical Ms. Plum.JPGHere are a few examples of booktalks I've been doing this year:

Ms. Plum is the best teacher at Springtime Elementary School. Why? Nobody's quite sure, but everyone wants a chance to go into her supply closet. Discover what's hiding in there... everything from incredibly organized squirrels, to a tiny horse to an extremely talkative parrot. Read The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker to find out what's waiting for you in the closet.

Never Smile at a Monkey.jpgCan everyone smile? Be careful not to do that when you see a monkey because they interpret it as an aggressive gesture and respond violently. Check out this book by Steve Jenkins and learn many other important things to remember the next time you're in the wild. Find out why you shouldn't pet a platypus, step on a stingray, bother a blue-ringed octopus or confront a kangaroo. And remember, Never Smile at a Monkey!

Curious what this looks like? Ask your child's school media specialist if there are booktalks at your school from the public librarians this year. They're well worth watching (they really end up being quite a performance) and you get lots of great book recommendations.

Ever seen a booktalk? Ever give one? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Susan

How to Write a Booklist

Posted by Susan on June 1, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibrariesRecommendations
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librarian3.jpgThis post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

Need a new book to read? Librarians are here to help! One of the ways we provide guidance is through booklists. How does a booklist get created? Having just finished work on an immense booklist project, I can tell you exactly how it works. Warning: these projects can take anywhere from a a few months to a few years (and involve dozens of spreadsheets, meetings, phone calls and e-mails.)

booklists.jpgWhere to start? Let's say we're writing a recommended booklist for two year olds. The first thing to do is to think of all the books appropriate for two year olds. This involves reading the books that are brand new, browsing through the shelves, brainstorming with colleagues and remembering all of your personal favorites.

Got your list? Good. Let's divide it into categories. Take a good look at your list. Do you have several books about cars and trucks? Make a transportation category. How about a spot for books about animals, friends, family, etc? Next, assign a category to each book on your list. Now check all the books for age appropriateness. The best way to do this is by pulling every single book off the shelf and checking if it's right for two year olds (or whoever you're writing the list for.)

Once that you've eliminated several titles, go through the library's catalog. Check every last book to make sure that the title, author, and call number appear on your list exactly the same way they do in the catalog. Then get someone (ideally someone who hasn't been involved in the project) to proofread everything for typos and mistakes you may have missed.

Printing press.jpgYou now have your beautiful and perfect list. But wait, aren't you forgetting something? You've got to print it. This involves designing it, laying it out on the computer, finding the cute pictures to go along with it, working with a printer, selecting paper size, type, color and quantity. Then you need to check the proofs from the printer and (assuming that you have the budget for it) get the lists actually printed. This is one of the hardest parts.

Finally, after months of effort, you're holding the completed list in your hands. What to do now? Pass it out to every single person you can. Then, start the process from the beginning in a year or two. It's important to update them regularly in order to keep the lists relevant and current.

Want to see the results? Click here and check out all of the Arlington Public Library lists for younger and older readers. For the younger folks, we've got Shower Your Baby With Books, Tales for Twos, 3, 4 Read Me More, and 5, 6, 7 Read it Again. For elementary school kids, take a look at our lists for kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade. But wait, there's more! We also have a Historical Fiction list for first through sixth grade.

Also, check out Terry's excellent post featuring suggestions of where to find many more terrific booklists for kids.

Susan

Librarian or Mind Reader?

Posted by Susan on May 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Last week, I began a series of posts about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here.

How are librarians like mind readers? Because we get asked questions all day long on every subject imaginable and are expected to come up with accurate answers. Here's some examples.... all are real questions I've gotten at the reference desk.

Wrinkle in Time original.jpgQuestion: What's the name of the blue book with people standing in circles on the cover? Answer: A Wrinkle in Time, first edition, cover designed by Ellen Raskin.

Question
: What's that book where a chicken takes a plane? Answer: Olvina Flies by Grace Lin.

Come on, challenge me, people.

Now, here's a great question from a few days ago. All the quotes from the patron are real. I couldn't make them up if I tried.

Elementary school patron: I want that poetry book with a hippo on the cover.

Librarian: Hmmm.... okay, nothing springs to mind. A search on poetry and hippos yields nothing. Neither does a look through the covers of all the books by Allan Katz and Jack Prelutsky (if any poets would use hippos on their covers, it would be them.)

Patron: I think the hippo might be holding a lemon.

Librarian: After a catalog search, Google Image search, and intensive questioning of my colleagues, I'm still drawing a blank. Is there any other possible piece of information you remember about the book?

Patron
: I think it had something to do with the number five.

The librarian does a catalog search for poetry books about the number five. The patron recognizes the picture of the book in the catalog.

Monster Goose.jpgAnd the mystery book is: Monster Goose by Judy Sierra. Here's the cover. You can't help but notice that there are no hippos, lemons, or the number five anywhere on the cover. The only reason it came up in the catalog at all is because it was described as a book of "twenty-five" poems. The fact that it was the right book was completely serendipitous. (And yes, it was the right book. I asked the patron about ten times to be sure.)

Children ask for books in different ways than adults do. One of the great parts of being a children's librarian is when you figure out what the patron is really asking for and find the right book.

Come on, Google. I dare you to find Monster Goose based on that description.

Susan

What Do Librarians Do All Day?

Posted by Susan on May 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Very few people realize all the things that children's librarians do as regular parts of their jobs. My feeling is that the more you know about what a librarian does, the more they can help you. Do we spend all day reading? How about walking around and shushing people in stern voices? Not so much, no.

Children's LibrarianThis post is the first in a series about what being a youth services librarian entails. I thought I'd start off with the biggest part of the job: research. Librarians don't know everything (although I firmly believe my colleagues do). Librarians are professional researchers. We may not know the answer, but we know how to find the answer.

Sometimes, the answers are easy. Questions like "what's the name of the new series by the author of Percy Jackson?" or "I need information about colonial musical instruments" or "What's that book about a fish that grows bigger and bigger until it needs a swimming pool as a tank?" can usually be answered quickly. (Answers: The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, take a look in books about colonial life or a music reference book and A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer.) Then you have the challenging ones that involve some creativity. Here's an example:

NATO Flag.jpgSeveral months ago, a 5th grader asked me for all our children's books about NATO. As it happens, NATO isn't a hugely popular topic for children's book writers and our juvenile section has exactly zero books on the subject. What to do? Use the internet, you say? No such luck. This assignment (like most elementary school assignments) specifically prohibits online sources. No problem, let's check the books on the 1940's, since NATO was founded in 1949. Nope, nothing there. How about the books about the 1950's when NATO became a larger entity? Still nothing. Let's take a look in the encyclopedia (which is still an excellent resource, by the way, even in the digital age.) Hmmm.... Dwight Eisenhower was the first supreme commander of NATO. Let's walk over to the biography section, and voila, there we find tons of information about NATO on a fifth grade reading level in biographies on Eisenhower.

Librarians can find you an answer to almost any question. Just ask.

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