Monday, September 15, 2014

Got Summer Checkout?!

It all started innocently enough: Shain Pounds, NPL Library Associate extraordinaire, accepted our invitation to come out to my school, Shwab Elementary School, to be a guest reader for Read Me Week.  We had a lot to talk about – I spent seven years in Children’s Services in Public Libraries and was thrilled to hear about some of the changes that were coming with their revamped Summer Reading Challenge.  One thing I heard clearly: they were looking to partner with other agencies serving kids in the summer in order to meet them where they are.

Now, it may have been that my oxygen levels were low because my suspenders where too tight, or that my beard made breathing difficult (I was Piper/Paul Bunyan that day), but when I got up on my soapbox to beat my chest about how great the Shwab community is, with so much potential, and how underserved they are (no Public Libraries or community centers in walking distance or simple bus trip) an idea began to form:  If NPL is willing to work with us, why not open our Library to neighborhood families during the summer?

Of course this very thought had crossed my mind at the end of every school year, knowing that the summer gap and/academic backslide is a big problem for our students (and the building and resources sit unused).  Yet this time, my conversation with Shain made the idea feel different.  I started to flesh out logistics in my head: how would we get kids in and keep the building secure?  What if nobody came?  What if too many people came?  Will the custodians freak out about the floors?

Before I got too far into the what-ifs, I got permission from my principal.  Then I campaigned like crazy for volunteers, knowing that I certainly couldn’t do this all by myself, especially since I was going to be out of town for a month.  So I created a schedule that wouldn’t intimidate volunteers and would be consistent enough to be remembered - every Wednesday from 1:00-3:00 for a total of eight Wednesdays.

Thanks to NPL and our amazing volunteers, many of those days felt like events.  Shain came out three of those days to sign up folks for the Summer Challenge, talk to kids, and distribute prizes.  We even got to have our own show from the Puppet Truck!  Alison Forte from Homework Hotline brought volunteers to come out and do projects with the kids four of the days, and the Shwab staff volunteers did crafts, played games and just talked to kids, making every Library Wednesday fun for the students and families that showed up.

While our overall statistics aren’t mind blowing, they are solid: 395 items checked out (only 6 haven’t been returned yet) and we averaged approximately 40 people each week with many families returning for multiple visits.  Seeing those kids and their families take advantage of this opportunity was priceless.  My latest conundrum: just last week my most reliable summer volunteer, an educational assistant here at Shwab, stopped me in the hall and asked, “Ms. Piper, what do you think about Saturday Library?”

Guest blogger,
Piper Nyman
MNPS Teacher Librarian  


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spreading Book Love Through Little Free Libraries

Imagine a place where neighbors meet for the first time, children gasp with delight, and a community shares willingly and joyfully.  There is a place in my front yard where all of that happens, and the best part is, books are at the heart of it all.   

I learned about Little Free Libraries when my husband, who spends a lot of time reading on the Internet, shared the website with me.  After reading about the organization’s mission and worldwide success, I knew that I wanted to join the movement by building my own library and becoming a Little Free Library steward.  For one, I was excited about doing something that contributed positively to my community.  And of course, as a Librarian, Book Lover, and former Reading Teacher, I am also passionate about promoting literacy.  So, when I thought about building a cute little house and filling it with books that anyone could take, I could barely contain my joy.   

My husband and I chose to build our own library using the instructions that were provided on the website.  When it was ready, we held a “Little Free Library Grand Opening” party.  We invited all of our neighbors and friends to bring a book and fill the library as a community.  Since that party almost two years ago, it has been thrilling to see a constant exchange of great books happening in our front yard.  I can highly recommend joining the movement, and I look forward to spreading book love for many years to come! 

If you would like to learn more, go here:

Guest Blogger,
Erin Bridges
MNPS Teacher-Librarian

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The (un)Conference: No Zombies Needed!

           As  a new employee to MNPS, I wasn’t sure what to expect at our (un)conference.  I assumed there would be the standard “we’re going to have a great year” with a few library buzzwords thrown into the mix.  I thought I’d catch up on Tumblr posts, see what my friends were posting on Instagram or Twitter, and then get to a new level on Plants vs. Zombies. 
Much to my surprise, our (un)conference was more than I could ever have imagined.  Aside from meeting some wonderful librarians, I was introduced to a whole new world of what a library could be.  My recent experiences are from a small county system.  Really small.  So small, in fact, that the nine or so librarians in the county never had our own in-service.  We were thrown in among the art teachers, music teachers, and gym teachers to listen to policies and practices that didn’t apply to us (and play Plants vs. Zombies out of boredom).
Thirty minutes into Joyce and Shannon’s (yes, Joyce Valenza and Shannon Miller, real librarian celebraties!) keynote and I was blown away.  In fact, I sent out the following text message: “can’t talk now.  In new job conference thing…learning more now than in 2 years of pd in at my previous position, plus most of grad school!”  Curation is brilliant! Why hadn’t I heard about it before? Then came the new tools , like Symbaloo, Smore, Diigo, and Canva! Hacking your library, genre-fying your collection, and creating maker spaces – it’s enough to make your head spin, in the best way possible of course.
            No librarian could possibly do everything that was talked about and learn every single tool mentioned, which is why I think the best advice Shannon gave was to only pick two or three things to learn during a year.  It’s a tangible, achievable goal that we can do.  I’m also pledging to “quit making the bed” – that is, to stop doing all the things in the library that don’t directly help our users so that we can focus on things that will!

MNPS Librarian