Thinking about Picture Books

I have been spending a lot of time recently hanging out at other libraries and checking out how they organize picture books.  Many libraries are grouping at least a portion of their picture book collection into topics because it makes it so much easier for the library’s smallest patrons to browse for books by subject (Example: I want a book about Dinosaurs!).  There’s also been a lot of research done on how grouping books into genres or topics aids literacy because it allows readers to find more books about what they’re interested in–so they are more likely to read more.  The overall goal of arranging books in this way is to improve access to materials and save the patron’s time. Additionally, for the youngest readers, arranging the books face-out as opposed to spine-out presents picture books in a way that is visual–which is exactly how they’re supposed to be presented.

I went to talk to the librarians at Des Plaines Public Library about their experience reorganizing the picture book collection. One of the most interesting things they told me was that circulation rates for their picture books increased significantly after they reorganized.  I began to think about Ranganathan’s 5 laws of library science and how they apply to a project like this: Books are for use; Every person his or her book; Every book its reader; Save the time of the reader; A library is a growing organism.  A picture book reorganization project touches on each of these laws.

It makes a lot of sense to me to arrange at least part of the collection into topics that will showcase the books, while making it easier and more efficient for patrons to browse and find what they’re looking for.  The hard part comes in deciding precisely which categories would be most beneficial to the community, and then physically rearranging everything, but the benefits to patrons make reorganization worth researching.  I appreciate the way that libraries as institutions, particularly SPL, are constantly evaluating services and are willing to evolve when necessary in order to find ways that best serve patrons and all of their diverse needs.  It makes it an exciting profession to be part of!

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Story Time!

On a recent Saturday morning, I presented my first story time here at the library.  It was jungle themed and I had an absolute blast. There were about 20 kids in attendance who ranged in age from 1-5 years old.  The kids seemed to be engaged throughout the program and I kind of liked being the center of their attention. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about what works in a story time for this age group and also a chance to identify things I can work on and adjust based on the crowd on any particular day.  One thing I think worked well with the first story, “Oh No” by Candace Fleming (love this book), was to make a sign that said “Oh No” and hold it up at the appropriate point in the story so they could help me “read” the story.  Even though most of them couldn’t actually read, I think having them associate the words we were saying with the printed text was important–and they seemed to enjoy shouting “Oh No!”.

Something that this experience reinforced is that kids this age want to be up and moving around. Incorporating action into the program is a natural way to help foster early literacy skills and it’s fun when parents get in on the action too!  This group responded really well to the song, “if you’re an elephant/monkey/crocodile and you know it”.  They really got into performing the motion for each animal–especially the snapping jaws of the crocodile.  I think it was helpful that the tune was familiar to them and also that we practiced the motions before we began to sing.  We also did an action rhyme that asked them to stop and listen to different animal sounds.  I played the sounds on a speaker and they really enjoyed guessing what animal they were hearing.

Something that realize I need to work on is to find strategies to help the kids refocus after an active portion of the story time.  I also want to learn some additional techniques for the kids who get  excited and have trouble sitting in one place.  I love the enthusiasm, but I want to make sure the other kids aren’t distracted.  I’m sure I will learn something new every time I do one of these programs. Overall, I had a lot of fun and I look forward to continuing to refine my skills and grow as I have more practice.

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Thoughts on my time here so far…

It’s amazing to me that the first semester is almost over.  There have been so many ways that I have seen this place and the people who work here make a difference in patron’s lives.  The thoughtful programming that is offered, the personal interactions with patrons and the enthusiasm for the work that is done here is inspiring.  It’s so much fun to be sitting at the desk and watch young adults interact with the librarians that they’ve known since they attended story time, or parents come in and show pictures and tell stories of their kids that had been using the library their whole lives.  This semester I’ve had the chance to learn about many aspects of librarianship, from collection management to reader’s advisory to working with partners in the community to provide services.

Looking forward to next semester, I’d like to become more active in engaging with patrons through story times, helping to plan for the picture book reorganization project as well as by spending more time at the desk, which has been a tremendous learning experience.   I feel like the past few months have shown me how much I didn’t know about being a librarian, but also how much is possible in this field. There are so many opportunities to be creative and also to advocate for the things and people you care about.  I’m looking forward to the experiences that next semester will bring.

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Reflection on the First Month

The first month of the internship has really flown by!  I have had a chance to meet with several departments and I feel like I have gained a much better understanding of the operations of the library as a whole–how the different departments interact with and impact each other to make library services more effective for the community.  It has been great to run into the other interns as well–to check in and hear how our experiences are similar and different.

So far this experience has provided me the opportunity to discover (or rediscover) some of the things that I am passionate about and ways that I can make a difference for people.  In the course of one of my projects, I revisited best practices on using media with young children.  This area really fascinates me because media in recent years has had such a huge impact on not only being a kid, but raising kids as well.  Providing thoughtful guidelines and educating caregivers about appropriate and effective media use is so important and a key element of promoting early literacy.

I also feel like I am starting to see how many of the things I learned about in various classes can be applied in a real library setting.  For example, after reading blogs and articles about libraries that have retooled picture book organization to make the collection easier to browse and more user friendly, I now have a chance to join in the conversation about how to undertake a big project like that.  Where would you start? What challenges and concerns need to be addressed, and how do you make changes that will be beneficial to the community without having a huge impact on the level of service that’s provided.  I feel like this has already been a great opportunity to participate in real library work–not just busy work, and it’s exciting to be able to apply what I’ve learned about in a real-world setting.

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Looking Forward to a Great Year…

My name is Laura, and I will be working as the Children’s Services Intern this year.  My background is in education and I have never worked in a library before, so I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from such a vibrant and dynamic one.  My first few days as an intern reminded me of taking my son to his first day of third grade last week.  As I walked him into the classroom, I could tell from the look on his face that he was a little overwhelmed by the new space, the new teacher, and the new faces he saw.  But it only lasted a moment–as soon as he found that his desk was near a good friend he looked at me and said, “This is going to be great!”.  Reflecting on my orientation days, I can relate to the feeling of being a little overwhelmed, but also tremendously excited about the opportunity that this experience provides.  It was great to meet and get to know the other interns and learn about their backgrounds and aspirations.  I am really looking forward to hearing about their experiences throughout the year.  Additionally, listening to staff in various departments talk about the work they do was inspiring and motivating.  Their enthusiasm for the library is truly contagious.

One of the things I most appreciated from the orientation and that I am looking forward to participating in is the culture of collaboration and learning that is fostered at the library. Through the opportunities that are presented to listen to and dialogue with patrons, other organizations in the community, and colleagues we will have the opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas and figure out ways to meet the needs that are expressed.   I love the fact that libraries are not stagnant institutions, but are continually evaluating and refining services, collections and even library spaces to best serve the community.  I am excited to be a part of it.  This is going to be a great year!

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