Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Silent & Live Auctions Webinar by ejimpact.
The webinar offered a variety of suggestions for making these events fun, exciting, and successful and offered a step by step process from the beginning stages of planning to the auction itself. Great powerpoint in my files for reference next time we employ this type of fundraiser. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Storytime Extravaganza

Some things from the workshop that I'd like to apply:  Sorting/Patterning activities, Storytime sharing, and the Hip-Hop Tooty-ta :).  I think in the future, I would like to add the sorting/patterning activities to my storytimes.  My aha moment was realizing I will never play the ukelele :)!  One storytime question: How can we double up storytellers for our programs in Washington county?  The only suggestion I had was maybe make the musical instrument portion more general and not just ukelele specific.  I enjoyed getting fresh book and song suggestions to incorporate into my programs.  Well done girls!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bookmobiles Bookmobiles Everywhere!!!

The national Association of Bookmobiles and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference took place in Richmond, Virginia from October 10-12, 2012 and we were lucky enough here in the Washington County Free Library Bookmobile Department to be able to attend again this year. (A big thank you to WCFL/WMRL staff development folks!)

It was a big (BIG!) year for ABOS. We elected new leadership, redesigned our logo, and completely revamped our website. This year's conference brought the most bookmobiles ever in conference history (12!) and a huge number of conference attendees from all over the United States, from rural Washington state to urban Baton Rouge, Lousiana to good ol' Baltimore city here in Maryland. The conference committee did an excellent job in organizing the venue; the Richmond Marriott staff were pleasant, the atmosphere was energetic and full of fun, and the events (from the sessions to the author lunch to the ghost tour) were all a big success!

The most important thing to know about this conference is that it is not just for bookmobilers. ABOS is an organization that supports all kinds of outreach services provided by libraries and librarians, not just mobile library service. And I've yet to meet a librarian who has never performed any outreach, because it is what we do! The overwhelming majority of attendees and presenters do work in mobile outreach, not just driving bookmobiles, but delivering books to homebound patrons, sending books by mail, running rural delivery services, managing a mini-branch located within another organization/business, or conducting programming to the communities we serve. This conference brings all of these ideas and programs together in one place so that we can learn from each other and share our experiences, both successes and failures, and support one another through change and growth. This is how libraries are able to evolve.

Some highlights of this year's conference:

  • Donald Ray Pollock, award winning author of gritty Appalachian noir fiction, gave an excellent reading and Q &A session discussing the life of a writer and the challenges of living and writing in rural Appalachia
  • Keynote speaker Gary Fountain, Rector of Chatham Hall School for Girls in Virginia, spoke about the willingness of libraries to adapt both physically and culturally to patron needs, even if that means altering the very definition of library service and education as he has done in the last few years at the schools he manages (everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is done on the iPad)
  • East Baton Rouge Parish Library is doing some astounding outreach service (even if it means dressing up like a book and possibly being set on fire for Banned Books Week) and we are looking forward to next year's ABOS conference in this library system with their dynamic staff
  • Library Journal's 2011 Library of the Year Winner - the King County Library System in Washington state offered tips and strategies for maximizing your library's success and services through mobile technology outreach
Overall, there is truly something for every librarian at this conference. And the setting is intimate enough that I felt like I came away from a summer camp sort of experience having met people that will truly influence the way that I work and the way that I manage my department for years to come. In spending time with those people who do what I do every day, I find that I am amazed at the work that we do and the dedication of those who do it. It is invigorating to be a part of a group like ABOS that is so committed to library engagement by whatever means necessary. It is also humbling and inspiring to see how other libraries are working without the same support that we sometimes take for granted here in Maryland. I feel lucky to be a part of the WCFL Bookmobile team and to be able to share in the history that has made us a great service in Washington County.

If you are interested in outreach or what exactly ABOS is, check out their website at or feel free to email me and I can help you to get more involved. Maybe next year, more of us will be able to represent Maryland libraries in Louisiana because we have a lot here to be proud of.

-Amanda Bena, Bookmobile Department Manager, WCFL

Story time Extravaganza

Amanda and Tess did a great job!  
Parachute 101 was helpful, I needed new ideas.  Tess's Ukulele presentation was cool and thought provoking.  I'm always in the market for new song ideas.
I like the Story time Theme Boxes, I have boxes but they are Seasonal.  I think this has given me something to think about for my own Story times.  I can always freshen up my programs.
I think an extra break would be nice during their presentation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Storytim Extravaganza

I really enjoyed the Storytime Extravaganza.  It was very infomative, the program moved along quickly, and it kept everyone in attendance very involved.

Kids are Customers 18 Oct 2012

Easy salsa salad you can make in the library.
Incorporating nutrition tips into storytime.
Singing songs to time hand washing.
What new releases are coming from Baker & Taylor?  Heavy on the YA.
Books in Motion by Julie D-G looks to be a must have for anyone doing storytimes.
Everything she presented was imaginative.  I can see using it all.

Story Time Extravaganza  15 Oct 2012
Lots of singing and swinging.
New books, new props, new ideas.
Learn to play the ukelele!
Two presenters are better than one.
How to use a parachute.
How to plan a storytime on theme.
New ideas for "old " stories.
Joan Snapp

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Storytime Extravaganza 10/15/12

I really enjoyed the extravaganza, especially learning new songs, books, and storytime themes to use. While the storytime crowd at my branch is considerably smaller, I will be able to down-size the activities. I was glad to have the opportunity during lunch to discuss suggestions on  how to get more participation. I have brought my hammer dulcimer to storytime, but a ukulele I could keep at the library would be awesome. I liked getting up and moving, but would have preferred fewer “jumping” songs. I liked the planning documents that were shared, along with the process of developing their storytimes. I hope I will have an opportunity to use them!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kids Are Customers Too

On October 18, 2012, I attended the Kids Are Customers Too workshop in Westminster. This annual workshop is sponsored by the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.  It is always interesting to go to workshops like this, where you get to meet librarians from around the state.  Everyone always has such good ideas.  This year, I learned that it is possible to have programs in the library revolving around healthy eating that involve children and teens helping to prepare food.  We've had snacks before, but I wouldn't have thought to have kids help.  I don't know if I'm brave enough to try it, but maybe!  I also learned that it is much easier than I might think to get children up, moving, and interacting with books during storytime.  Julie Dietzel-Glair's part of the presentation was by far and away the best- she could have talked all day!  I definitely want to buy her book when it finally comes out.  I was so amazed at how simple some of the ideas were, such as just getting kids to act out the words tall and small in a book.  Storytimes are such an important part of my job, and I often feel like I'm running out of new and creative ideas.  Yesterday certainly gave me a lot to think about!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From June 13-19th, I attended a conference sponsored by Shenandoah University in Winchester Virginia entitled "Books Boys Can't Resist".  Featured authors at the conference included Avi, Dan Yaccarino, Brian Floca, Ralph Fletcher, Charles Smith Jr., Melinda Long, Marc Nobleman, Danny Brassells, and others.  The week long conference/course consisted of presentations by all of the authors, break out sessions about reading topics for boys, and  those of us who took the course for credit attended afternoon sessions on literature strategies for getting boys interested in books.   Danny Brassells discussed strategies for getting boys interested in reading.  Ralph Fletcher talked about boys' writing groups and how to get boys excited about writing and sharing their work.  Marc Nobleman's topic was superheroes- specifically Batman and Superman.  Charles Smith Jr. writes sports poetry and talked about getting kids to use active verbs in their writing.  Brian Floca discussed his art--specifically his book, "Moonshot" and the research he did for the project.   The other authors discussed their works in depth and provided us with a background behind the how and whys of thier art. Many still had sketchbooks they kept as children and were able to show how they subsequently developed into the writer/illustrators they became.   The course required us to maintain a journal that was turned in at the end of the week and, in my case, to submit a paper about a children's author.  I wrote about Maurice Sendak and the elements that influenced his art.  I was surprised that both the Holocaust, German Romantic Painting, comics, and Disney were woven into his books. 
Generally I felt that it was an excellent conference, giving me insight into to the work of many authors that we have in our collection.  It also allowed me to meet other people who are interested in Children's literature, and to explore in depth a topic about children's literature that interested me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Storytime Extravaganza

I loved the music, even though I have used some of it there was plenty of new. I also liked using a simple piece of yarn as a worm. Something that simple is really a creative idea. I always enjoy the sharing of books that others use during their story times. Fresh ideas are always nice and I will incorporate some of them into my programs. As for my a-ha moment, I keep going back to that piece of yarn that turned into a worm. Kind of sad isn't it? But I just can't believe that something that easy was so cute, and I didn't think of it on my own. My favorite part of the program was the sharing of music. I am always looking for new material and most of this was really neat. Especially the ways they jazzed it up like with the boots song. The only suggestion I would have is to not include material that is out of print. It is disappointing to see a book that you would love to have a copy of and then can't get it. You can tell Amanda and Tess work well together they really do a good job. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

LWC Day #1: Visit to MCI-H

This is the 2nd part of my learning reflection for the first class day of Leadership Washington County. After we completed our poverty simulations in the morning we hopped on a bus and headed over to Sharpsburg to the MCI-H, a medium security prison. It didn't dawn on me then but I'm just now wondering if society labels the incarcerated members of our society as impoverished or privileged. Certainly, depending on where you are on the incarcerated societal ladder, some folks have more privileges than others.

After lunch, we spent about an hour touring the facilities and learning about some of the programs offered at MCI-H - the cells (are tiny), the visiting area (is one of the last ones in the state to not have an impassable physical barrier between the residents and the visitors), the recreation areas, the work areas (i.e. metal works, meat packaging, etc), and one of the highlights of my day: the dog assistance training program where the residents work with lab/lab-mix puppies and train them to become service animals.

The next hour or so was spent engaging in a panel discussion with four outstanding residents, all of whom were there on life sentences for murder (someone else might need to correct me on this; we didn't have pens and paper to take notes so my memory is shoddy). They told us why they were there but the most interesting pieces focused on the good they were doing within the prison to improve the relationships between residents and staff. One of the residents, Gino, is in charge of a communication committee (it had a better name than that) and he's working with other residents and staff to create classes to teach new and veteran residents new skills on how to break bad habits so they're prepared to interact in more acceptable ways when they leave MCI-H; and for the ones who are at MCI-H for the long haul, these new skills benefit them and their interactions in house.

They also talked about what they think are some of the most important factors in preventing youth from following in their footsteps. They specified quality time and attention from respected adults. They also couldn't stress enough how important it is for adults in authority (parents, teachers, coaches, etc) to just listen without judging. The panelists said that if they weren't so afraid of the repercussions they would've experienced by talking to their parents and/or teachers about normal youth concerns, then they would have opened up more freely and perhaps wouldn't have engaged in less than legal behaviors. One of the programs that they'd like to start or maybe it's already in the works is a mentoring program with MCI-H residents and troubled youth (and their families, too?) in Washington county. I'd love to see this happen.

The last segment of the day was another panel of four human services experts from Washington County. These folks helped to tie the day together - poverty, privilege, charity - and basically they fielded our questions about gaps in the system (i.e. why aren't the human services departments in one centralized area so folks who need these resources don't have to trek all across town - on foot or bus - to get the help they need?) and shared their unique insights on the situation in Washington county. Again - not being able to take notes greatly hampered my retention rate here so, if any of my LWC friends are reading this, please feel free to chime in with your takeaways, too!

All in all it was an extremely eye-opening day. I knew that I didn't know much about Washington County but I didn't realize I didn't know *that* much about Washington County. There are some amazingly generous and charitable people and organizations out there doing some amazing things for folks but at the same time there's a lot of room for improvement which seems to rely, for better or for worse, on funding and priority consensus. You're probably wondering, what does this have to do with your work at the library? Well, I think there's a lot the library can do but it's going to require me to think about this some more which also means you'll have to stay tuned for pt. 3 of this learning reflection.

LWC Day #1: Poverty Simulation

The first class day of my Leadership Washington County program was Oct. 12th and since the Western MD Regional Library is sponsoring me to participate in this program I thought it was only right to post a learning reflection here.

The theme of the day was Human Resources and the thesis statement we were given to keep in the back of our minds throughout the day was something to the extent of, "How do poverty and privilege co-exist in Washington county?" To drive the point home, we were asked to read the article, "The Limits of Charity."

Part 1: Poverty Simulation
So, the first half of our day began with a poverty simulation. We were broken up into 5 groups of 6 people and each group was given a different scenario. The scenario my group had was written entirely in Spanish. Basically, our situation was this:

We are a family of four - 2 parents, 2 kids (ages 3 and 4) who mostly only speak Spanish though they know a little English. The parents are in the country illegally but the children were born in the U.S. and thus are legal. The family is currently living with some friends but they need to get food stamps, medical assistance, education information for their kids, etc. We have an appointment at La Comunidad Latina which is based out of the Community Action Council building on Summit Ave, to speak with Gladys Rojas. 

So, we set out on foot to La Comunidad Latina where we waited in line just to sign in with the receptionist. Keeping the idea of poverty and privilege it was interesting to hear some of our LWC companions wanting to skip ahead to the front of the line just because of the LWC program. We reminded them that this is a poverty simulation and the wait is what folks do to be seen at the CAC every day. When we got into Ms. Rojas' office she immediately started speaking Spanish, greeting us, etc. There were two of us in the group who had enough Spanish experience to piece together what was happening so, that made it a little bit easier but pretty much she was trying to demonstrate for us what it's like for someone who doesn't speak the primary language. Ms. Rojas continued to guide us, in Spanish, through the intake form that we had to complete. Afterwards, she reverted to English...thankfully! We spent about 30 minutes talking with Ms. Rojas and we learned that since the parents are illegal, there's really no resources available to help them. However, since their children were born in the U.S. they are entitled to food stamps. temporary cash assistance, education at the public schools, and medical insurance.  However, she cannot provide us with any of those resources there, we have to go to the Department of Social Services (DSS) for that. What she can do for us is to help us set up and maintain our own business - should we be so inclined to register one in the future.

So, we set out again, this time to DSS. When we arrived at DSS we were yet again greeted with another line. This time the LWC name (and the need for DSS to stay on their schedule) did expedite our wait (hello, privilege) and we were shown into the room where we needed to be. Did I mention that if your request is processed before 2PM it might be possible for your to receive same-day assistance? So, time is of the essence.

We shared our situation with the two DSS representatives who were waiting for us and they told us about the process we'd go through rather than actually making us go through it. They do group consultations at DSS three times a day and each group session can accommodate about 20 people. During these sessions, everyone watches an intro video which explains, in English, what services are available through DSS. After that, they're guided through the necessary paperwork (approx. 8-10 pages worth). To accommodate non-English speaking clients, they have a telephone translating system where the DSS rep is on one phone, the client is on the other and in the middle (somewhere off site) is a translator. So, each party takes turns speaking into the phone while the middle man translates for them. They can currently translate approximately 26 languages.

Basically, the only requirement for someone to receive assistance at DSS is a social security number. This means the parents in our scenario are still not able to receive any assistance for themselves but they can receive approximately $363 a month in food stamps with which to feed their two U.S. born children. They can also receive a maximum of approximately $453 a month in temporary cash assistance - again to be used to take care of the children (clothes, shoes, toiletries, shelter, etc). The children also will be taken care of medically with medical insurance. If I understand it right, they'll immediately be covered by Medicaid and then once the paperwork goes through the system, they'll be assigned to an MCO (?) through which all their medical needs will be processed. DSS does random spot checks each month and does check in with all clients 2x a year; at least one of those meetings is either in person or on the phone. Approximately 30% of Washington County residents is on one form of assistance or another (either food stamps. temporary cash assistance, medical assistance, or a combination of the three).

Just vising these two departments took about 3 hours and they were abbreviated visits. Imagine if we really had this need and had to invest even more time in our day to get the help we needed. Plus, we might end the day with no cash in our pockets anyway - it usually takes 5-7 days for folks to receive their temporary cash assistance card in the mail (it comes from TX). If we had needed food to hold us over we would have been sent back to the Community Action Council or a soup kitchen, etc.

Another thing that I learned that I thought was important to share is that both La Comunidad Latina and the DSS are safe spaces; if you're illegal - for any reason (immigration, felonies, etc) they will not report you. They're in the business of getting help for their clients, not making their lives harder by calling the police. What a wonderful feeling and I bet most folks do not realize that these safe spaces exist...

A couple more thoughts on poverty and privilege: are the impoverished considered privileged to have these services available to them in Washington County considering these services aren't necessarily available everywhere? One of my favorite questions for almost any topic, can privilege exist without poverty or vice versa?

Stay tuned for part 2 of day #1 - a visit to the MCI-H prison in Sharpsburg.

Brain-storming Exercises from R Squared (R2P3)

So, this is the final installment in the R Squared Blog Posting Series and it's going to introduce three different variations on brainstorming that we actually practiced during the conference. Do you know of other variations? Please share them in the comments!

Role Storming

Premise: You brainstorm as if you're someone else, usually someone famous - either fiction or non-fiction. In the exercise we did at the conference the question we were brainstorming answers for was, "what would you do to increase library use?"

I brainstormed as if I were Willie Wonka. Also present at my table were Oprah, Mary Poppins, Genghis Khan, Pippi Longstockings, and at least 4 others I cannot remember. Here are some solutions we came up with:

  • Make everything in the library edible; preferably chocolatey and sweet.
  • Paint with bright, vibrant colors
  • Induce horror and fear into the patrons
  • Hold a kite festival
  • Launch a golden ticket campaign
  • Employe multi-purpose Oompa Loopas (Ghengis says to make them into cheap slave laobr)
  • Create a library sports team and then sell out and make money on them
  • Create a chocolate river that flows from one town to another making transportation to the library easier and tastier
  • Use the Angel Network to advertise the library and the staff and all the good they do
  • Bully people into using the library, harass them
  • Brainwash people into using the library through forced CCTV viewing
  • Offer a "Flying High with Mary Poppins" workshop to teach people how to travel by umbrella.
  • Host a retail store - where we sell community-made goods that the community made in the library's makerspace
  • Have a library reality TV show
  • Conquor other libraries and bookstores so there is no competition

 The Opposite

Premise: When we usually brainstorm, we usually brainstorm logical solutions but the point of this exercise is to brainstorm the opposite of logical solutions. For example, if we wanted to brainstorm ideas for getting people to return their items on time or early we might impose late fees. Well, we used this exercise with the same question as in the role storming exercise. So, here are some opposite ideas for how to get more people to use the library:

  • Pay the patrons when they're late
  • Do not charge late fees at all
  • Tell them they they can't come to the library  (ala Eric Cartman)
  • Take the library to them
  • Make raw advertising content like the $1 Shave Club guy
  • Have no due dates
  • Have "adult" material for check out
  • Have no organizational system
  • Provide questions, not answers at the service desks
  • Provide pop-up libraries instead of fixed brick and mortar libraries

The Long List
Premise: With typical brainstorming sessions, lists end up being in the 30s, 40s, maybe 50s but the point of this exercise is to go beyond that and to really tap into the creativity of the brainstormer. The notion is that once you get the usual ideas out on the paper and you force yourself to keep going, then that's where the game-changing ideas live. So, for the long list, the goal is to brainstorm 200 solutions/ideas etc for whatever it is you're trying to resolve.