Your Next Author Visit

Recently, Kimberly White and I gave a presentation at’ the New England Library Association conference about our work with Skyping authors. You can view our Prezi. Basically, we wanted to make our 4th and 5th grade book club better, cooler, and use more technology.

Our first Skype session was actually with an illustrator – M. Sarah Klise. She illustrated the 43 Old Cemetery Road series. We used the first book, Dying to Meet You, in our book club at the library and also at the satellite program at the elementary schools. Each time we used this book, everyone loved it. We had some fun activities, great discussions, and showed this video about the two sisters. It worked perfectly.

We paid a small fee ($100/30 minutes session’ and paid for 2 sessions). Sarah showed us art work, talked about her process, and talked about ‘ book covers. She shared illustrations in progress, various stages of her work, and rejected illustrations. We bused in 50 kids for each session and had the best time. Skyping with an illustrator is different, but worth it.

To find an author willing to Skype – try either of these sites. Kate Messner (who’s done a lot of research about Skyping and is an author herself) or this one where you search by last name. If you don’t find a particular author in either place, check their webpage or contact them to inquire.’  Also, don’t forget about the list of YA authors by state on YALSA’s wiki.

Most authors will do a short session to classrooms or book clubs for free. It’s usually 10-20 minutes. If you’re looking for something more in depth, there’s usually a cost involved. Skyping with an author can be just like a class or library visit, without paying for the speaker’s travel costs. Often they have set presentations, but some simply open things up for questions-and-answers. Others combine the two approaches. Check with your author beforehand to make sure you both know the logistics of the day.

While gearing up for the presentation, Kimberly and I had a great brainstorming session on who else to Skype, if the author you want is busy or you’re looking for a different, non-authorial perspective. We came up with a few examples to get the ball rolling:

Gallagher Girls: Someone from the CIA or Spy Museum
Contaminated: A epidemiologist or someone from the CDC
Princess Diaries: Etiquette Expert
Want to Go Private?: FBI
Genius Files: Any novelty museum

‘ Have you had a great Skype experience? Let us know in the comments

New Year’s Resolution: Getting to Know Fellow YA Librarians

I don’t know about you, but I love the days when I get to hang out with youth services librarians and talk shop. I’m pretty shy, so it’s hard for me to get to know people. At conferences and hanging out on Twitter, I’ve heard/read remarks about librarians wanting to get to know each other. But it can be hard when we’re so spread out. I’m lucky if I get to see some of my fellow Connecticut librarians once or twice a year. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all knew each other?

So I came up with this idea – that we should get to know one new person a month. I created this questionnaire – it’s pretty short, with just 10 questions. Take a look here and fill it out.

And help us get the word out so we can meet more of our people!

STEM Made Easy: Gathering Ideas for Next Summer’s Cooperative Reading Theme


I didn’t know much about STEM programming before this post – or at least I thought I didn’t. Then I did some research. Turns out, I’ve been doing STEM programming without realizing it.

Those marshmallow catapults for The Homework Machine book club and the Rube Goldberg machines both for 4th and 5th graders were STEM programs. Those bottle rockets and the lava lamps for teens were STEM programs. Best of all, they were all super fun and the kids and teens had a blast!

Rube Goldberg Machine

A machine built at Otis Library

The theme for next summer’s collaborative reading program is all about science: Fizz, Boom, Read! (for kids or as general theme for the entire library) or Spark a Reaction for teens. Both of these themes can easily support a wide range of STEM programs. Continue reading

2013 Technology Trend: Ramped-Up Gaming

Full confessions: I’m terrible at video games. I lack the hand/eye coordination needed to work magic with the controllers. But I like to watch gamers. I know I need more practice, and I think that I would love gaming if I didn’t get so frustrated. It’s a vicious cycle.

Gaming in the library seems to come in cycles. First there was the DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and Guitar Hero, big spectacles that could be as much to watch as to play. Librarians raved about those parties. Then there was the Wii games – specifically, sports with teens (and also with seniors). Once a niche event, National Gaming Day has expanded and evolved into International Games Day.

This year Minecraft programs have swept through libraries around the country, but the Darien Library in Connecticut took it to the next level, scaling up to make the gaming experience even better. They host a county-wide server. Continue reading

Weeding Fiction: A Personal Tale

It’s hard not to make it personal;’ that book looks good‘ or’ I really liked that‘ or’ I’ve always wanted to read that, but never did.

There’s usually a reason you never read it. For me, that reason is usually that a better book came along. And if a better book came along for me, one probably is going to come along for a teen reader.

This year, we’re running out of space.

Every year, I do an inventory in the YA Room. I use that time for shelf reading and weeding, too. Usually it’s a light weeding; books that haven’t gone out in a while or books that need a little TLC. At first, I was operating on ‘ a five-year shelf life, but after talking with some other YA Librarians on twitter, I realized I needed to be more ruthless. If a book hadn’t circulated in 3 years, there’s a reason. I had to find out why.

from: http://sweetheartsromancebooks.com/

from: http://sweetheartsromancebooks.com/

Some answers are easy.
* The cover is hideous. No teen in their right mind would want to be seen with that. Those are easily decided. If I feel I still need that book, I look for a version with a better cover. I wish I had taken pictures, but mostly if the cover had the 90’s feel to it, it was gone.
* The story and the cover are both outdated. Easy.
* The book is falling apart. Easy.

It’s the harder issues that make me pause and think. Continue reading

Censorship: A Personal Tale

As librarians, we hate censorship. It goes against everything we stand for. It’s part of the reason I felt such a strong sense of hatred for Dolores Umbridge. ‘ Her rules for learning the proper way and controlling to students filled me with horror. ‘ In some ways, she’s more evil than Voldermort. ‘ I want everyone to have equal opportunity in learning and above all in the library. ‘ The library is a place that should level the playing field for everyone – it’s not based on gender, race, sexuality, or economic status; you have the same access as everyone else.

Different Kinds of Censorship:

Blatant: I’m not going to buy that book because….
Situational: The library needs this book, but not in my section. (There’s a post on this coming soon)
Inadvertent: That book won’t work here because… Continue reading

Winding Down or Gearing Up? Fall Months in a Public Library

After the Summer Reading Program Ends…

This year the teen summer reading program ended August 1st, giving the teens six weeks of reading and earning prizes and lots of programs to attend. I held about three programs a week. The rest of August is spent helping teens track down their summer reading books – at this point, most of the books are out, so it’s a struggle finding something they want to read and that’s on the list.

Once school starts, the library will be quiet until the afternoon when teens start coming in to use the computers. During the day, I’ll start inventorying the collection. Doing an inventory also counts as shelf-reading as I make sure everything’s in the right place. It also helps with weeding. I check to make sure the book’s circulated in the last three years. If not, then I make a decision to keep or toss that book. I don’t have extra shelf space and with all the great new books that keep coming out, I need all the room I can get. Continue reading