Public Library Programs and Services

Homelessness and libraries: an interview with Ryan J. Dowd

It may surprise you to hear that staff at public libraries interact with almost as many homeless individuals as staff at shelters do. But as Ryan J. Dowd, who has spent most of his career as Executive Director of a large homeless shelter near Chicago, observes, "Libraries are one of the few places in a community where everyone — homeless and not homeless — are likely to mix." He advocates for an empathy-driven approach to these individuals in his new book The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness.

You open your book by discussing some of the myths surrounding individuals who are homeless. In your view, which myth is the most pervasive and damaging?

I think there are two pervasive myths that contradict each other, and each cause a different type of damage. One myth is that homeless people are nothing like housed people. This “othering” of homeless individuals really allows us to view them as less than human, less than citizens and less than deserving of assistance. The related myth, though, is that homeless individuals are exactly like housed people. That simply isn’t true. A homeless individual has had a lot of different experiences that effects worldview, communication style, etc. If you assume that a homeless individual interacts with the world exactly like you do, then you are completely unable to empathize with the unique circumstances they face.

What is the Homeless Golden Rule and why do you write that it's the most important thing in your book?

The Homeless Golden Rule is that you should treat your homeless patrons no better or worse than any other patron. This is so important because homeless individuals are used to being singled out and treated as “other” (and usually “less than.”). Being singled out (and discriminated against) is a massive trigger for conflict with homeless patrons. Simply not treating homeless patrons discriminatorily removes a massive source of conflict.

When there's a difficult situation to deal with, often one's default is to immediately shift into problem-solving mode rather than taking a moment to empathize. What are a few pieces of advice you would give librarians for confronting difficult situations with empathy?

The first step is to slow down. Talking to an angry patron (homeless or otherwise) is uncomfortable, and so people try to rush the situation in order to get out of it. This is a mistake. Homeless individuals are constantly rushed and ignored, so when you try to rush the conversation, you send a clear message that they are not worthy of your time or attention. This is a trigger that escalates the situation, which—ironically—causes the confrontation to take much longer than if you took a little time to listen. So few people take the time to listen to homeless patrons. When you do that, it really resolves a lot of problems down the line (and saves time!).

Let's say a library patron approaches you to complain about a homeless individual. So now you have two overlapping situations to handle. What do you do? 

The first step is to determine whether the non-homeless patron’s complaint is legitimate. At one library I talked to, the patrons call the police every time a homeless patron even enters the library. That is simply an elitist misunderstanding of the role of the library as the last truly democratic public space in our communities. On the other hand, if the non-homeless patron has a legitimate concern (e.g. sexual comments) then that is a totally different matter. So, basically, if the concern is legitimate, then library staff should address the problematic behavior. If the concern is not legitimate, library staff should do their best to explain the role of libraries in serving everyone across the socio-economic spectrum (easier said than done, of course!).

On a day to day basis, how does librarianship's advocacy role fit in with serving the homeless?

I think that any effective advocacy begins with a relationship. When you take the time to hear the stories—and learn the names—of homeless patrons you immediately become a more effective advocate. The revolution is in the relationship.  

What are some first steps that libraries can take to partner with outside organizations?

Let’s start with the idea of hiring a social worker. I think it is great for libraries to have social workers, but I am totally against libraries hiring social workers. A far better approach is to partner with a local nonprofit to provide the social worker. There are several reasons for this:  1) A social work agency will do a better job hiring a good social worker, 2) A social work agency will do a better job supporting and supervising a social worker, 3) A social worker operating in a sea of librarians will not have adequate moral and technical support; if that person works for another agency, s/he can get advice from co-workers back at the main office.  4) When another agency has staff based in the library, there are more people caring about the library. That is huge.

Learn more about Dowd's book at the ALA Store.

Though fictional, The Public, a new film written and directed by Emilio Estevez, deals with these very real issues. The opening film of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, it stars Taylor Schilling, Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, and Jeffrey Wright alongside Estevez. It centers on a group of homeless library patrons in Cincinnati. When brutal weather fills the city's emergency shelters to capacity, they refuse to leave the downtown public library at closing time, leading to a standoff. Check out the official trailer below.

Interview: McCook and Bossaller on their updated public librarianship text

For the new third edition of Introduction to Public Librarianship, Kathleen de la Peña McCook decided to bring a new co-author on board, noted public library scholar and advocate Jenny S. Bossaller. In this interview they discuss their collaboration and how the field of public librarianship continues to change.

Name one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were new to public librarianship.

Kathleen de la Peña McCook: Be engaged and active in community groups--local history, human rights, the Sierra Club especially.
 
Jenny S. Bossaller: When you work in the library, you become the face of the library to the public. Be professional, and treat everyone who walks in the door (and those who don’t) with dignity.
 
photo of Paris-Bourbon County (KY) Public Library. Design by EOP Architects (www.eopa.com), Lexington, KY. Photo by Phebus Photography.Kathleen, you’ve written every previous edition by yourself. But the new one is most definitely a collaboration.

KM: As I put together an Advisory Board I wanted scholars who were community focused. Jenny is that kind of person. Then when she began to respond to the early chapters I sent her for review her insights were so fresh and informed that I knew this would be a better book if she co-edited. I was so happy she agreed and I was right--it is a far better book than I would have done alone.

JB: It was such a privilege to work with Kathleen – I’ve read and admired her work for so many years, and had talked about how incredible it would be to meet her. I was floored when she asked me to be on the Advisory Board.

What was the collaboration like?   

KM: We are both early morning people. We would often have multiple online interactions before either of us had gone to our day jobs. I think the best part is that there was no lag time. We handled each challenge within 48 hours or less.
 
JB: I ended up learning so much from Kathleen – from how to put a book together to how to work with co-authors and a publisher. She was so patient and gracious.

book ocver of Introduction to Public Librarianship, Third EditionIt kind of boggles the mind just to think back to how things have changed since 2011, when the previous edition was published. What do you consider the most important updates in the new edition?

KM: To me the fact that librarians help people to make things is as important as finding things.

JB: I agree! The library has been a place for making for many years, but technologies have really changed what libraries can do with and for the public.
 
Public libraries are certainly more important than ever, and I think everyone agrees that the next generation of LIS professionals is genuinely plugged into that urgency. What are some of the foundational skills that are going to be the most crucial for tomorrow’s graduates?

KM: Empathy, patience, and the attitude that we can help.

JB: I don’t know if this is a recent change, but being able to communicate well with the public, officials, and coworkers is incredibly important and maybe more urgent than ever. Be able to say why the library is important – craft and perfect that elevator speech, and understand the library’s mission. Be a good listener.

Read a sample of the book at the ALA Store.

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

Get the Picture: A Great Hands-On Activity to Celebrate Back-to-school

Whether you work in a school or public library, celebrate the beginning of school year with kids with this great hands-on activity to pair with Mouse Views: What the Class Pet Saw by Bruce McMillan (New York: Holiday House, 1994)!

magicA classroom mouse escapes and takes a tour of the school in this guessing game story.  Close-up, full-color photos show a common classroom item from the mouse’s point of view, and readers must guess what it is.  A turn of the page shows the item in a more conventional view. 

Follow the story with a discussion of the importance of using your eyes and paying attention, then show the kids “mouse-eye” views of items in the library and have them guess what the items are.  In preparation for this activity, take ultra-close-up photos of the items using a digital camera, then either print the pictures or connect the camera to a TV screen to share them with the group.  Then let the children take turns taking close-up pictures of items (with help) and having the others guess what the items are.  This is a wildly popular activity with kids of all ages, and the hands-on component enhances confidence for kids of every ability level.  To extend the activity even further, print the pictures and place them on a bulletin board with the close-ups hanging over the regular views, so that others in the school or library can guess and then lift the top sheet to check their guesses.

Find more great activities for school and public library programming in Kindergarten Magic: Theme Based Lessons for Building Literacy and Library Skills by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker, available now!

Visit Kathy and Christine online at www.storytimestuff.net.

Carpet Squares: Not Just for Sitting on Anymore

Those good old standbys, carpet squares, can be so much more than just a seat!  Check out these cool new ideas for using carpet squares in your programs.

1) Surfboards: Spice up a summertime or ocean-themed program by inviting the kids to climb aboard their carpet squares and surf along with your favorite Beach Boys tune!

2) Color Action Game: If you have carpet squares of different colors, use them to play a color recognition action game.  (If all your carpet squares are the same color, put processing dots of different colors in the corners.)  Then sing the song below and invite the kids to perform the actions (to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”):         

If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carper square is red, then go ahead and show it.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
Blue…touch your shoe…
Yellow…wave to a fellow…
Brown…jump up and down…
White…curl up tight…
Green…do a forward lean…
Black…scratch your friend’s back…
Grey…shout “hooray!”
Any color…give a holler!...

3) Play a life-sized board game: Set up a path of carpet squares around the room, randomly mixing up colors.  (Again, if your carpet squares are all one color, mark the corners with different colored processing dots.)  Designate a starting and ending square.  Create cards of each color by cutting up pieces of construction paper (or put dots on index cards if you are using the dot method.  If desired, mark some squares with pictures relating to your theme and make cards to match.  (For example, a Fall storytime might include a pumpkin, apple, leaf, and tree.)  Have the children line up at the starting square and then take turns drawing a card from the pile.  If a child draws a red card, he or she goes to the first red square.  If a child draws a picture card, he or she must go to that square, even if that means going backwards.  Keep playing (reshuffling cards as needed) until everyone gets to the end.

Literacy variations:

Alphabet matching: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet and make cards to match.  (Or use a set of magnetic alphabet letters and have each child draw one out of a bag on his or her turn.)  Be sure to ask the child to identify the letter and match it to the correct square.

What’s that sound?: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet as above, but make cards with simple words that begin with different letters of the alphabet.  On each child’s turn, read a word aloud without showing it to the child, and see if the children can guess the first letter by sound.  If they have trouble, show them the card and help them identify the first letter and its sound before moving to the correct square.  (Make sure that the letters on your cards and squares are consistently uppercase or consistently lowercase to avoid confusion.)  

Big and Little Matching: Mark the squares with uppercase letters of the alphabet, and make cards showing the lowercase letters.  The children must match the letters to find the correct square.

4) Make Your Own Flannelboard: Give each child a carpet square and a set of simple felt shapes, and invite them to tell the story along with you as you use the large flannelboard.  This is a great activity for baby storytimes, as it encourages one-on-one interaction between parent and child, and gives parents a useful model for storytelling with their little ones at home.  A simple flannelboard story such “Dog’s Colorful Day”, based on the book by Emma Dodd, is ideal for this activity. (Download a free flannelboard pattern by artist Melanie Fitz here.)

For older children, consider using this activity with a tangram story.  Tangrams, a traditional Chinese puzzle and storytelling form, are easy to make and can yield thousands of different shapes.  Check out one of the books below for stories and instructions on how to make a tangram set:

Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams by Ann Tompert.  New York: Crown, 1990.
Grandfather’s Shape Story by Brian Sargent.  New York: Scholastic, 2007.

5) Lilypads: Liven up a froggy storytime with this rhyme, performed on carpet square lilypads.

“Lilypad Rhyme”      
I am a frog, lovely and green
I sit on my lilypad, calm and serene
Until a fly comes whizzing by
Then I LEAP in the air so high!
I stick out my tongue and SLURP.
Down goes the fly and out comes a burp.
I like being a frog, so I don’t think I’ll stop
Because it’s so much fun to hop!
There goes another fly, I really must dash.
I hop into the water with a great big SPLASH!

Follow up by inviting the kids to hop from lilypad to lilypad around the room while you play a frog song such as “Jumping Frog” from Pretend by Hap Palmer (Freeport, NY: Educational Activities, Inc., 1998).

6) Tuffets: Invite the kids to imagine that they are Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet and act out the silly rhyme below.

“Miss Muffet’s Tuffet”.  
Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider and sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
But she came back around and sat back down
And continued then to eat.
Her toes got cold, so she was told
To put the tuffet on her feet!
Miss Muffet was done, she’d eaten a ton
But she didn’t care.
The spider came back and jumped on her back
So she waved her tuffet in the air!
It started to rain, she said, “What a pain!
I don’t want my hair to get wet!”
So she lifted her hands like that, and made up a hat
She put the tuffet on her head!
The rain started to slow, and the spider had to go
So she said, “I’ll see you around!”
She put the tuffet on the floor, and then once more
She sat herself back down!

Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker are the authors of Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannelboards, and Other Activities
and Kindergarten Magic: Theme-Based Lessons for Building Literacy and Library Skills (forthcoming).  Find more great storytime suggestions from Kathy and Christine Kirker at www.storytimestuff.net.

"A gem of a book ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country"

The stated mission of the American Library Association is, “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” New from ALA Editions, How to Pay for College: A Library How-To Handbook is an effective guide emphasizing the help that the local library can offer in this process, using its reference materials, the Internet, and the advice of experienced researchers.

Gail Buckner, writing for FOXBusiness, agrees; in her rave review she notes, "The publishing arm of the American Library Association has assembled a gem of a book that  ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country. How to Pay for College is only slightly larger than a paperback and a bit more than a half inch thick, yet the editors who pulled the information together manage to cover more material than books that are four times larger and twice as expensive. And they do it in plain English. This is not only a book that parents should read, but they should also share it with their teenager."

Check out the full article and then surf on over to the ALA Store and order a copy for your library today!

ALSC Offers Five Spring Course Options

Whether you’re looking for lively discussion about children’s librarianship, new programming ideas, or just want to brush up before summer, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has something for everyone.

With five excellent choices for your professional development needs, our spring online courses are sure to please. In addition to ALSC’s short webinars, these five-to-six week long courses give students more opportunities to interact with their peers in a convenient online atmosphere. The five courses include:

The Caldecott Medal (May 2 – June 10)                                            Instructor: Kathleen T. Hornung

Children with Disabilities in the Library (May 2 – June 10) Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Janet Weber

Out of This World Youth Programming (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Angela Young

Reading Instruction and Children’s Books (May 2 – June 3)
Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

For more information on these courses and special rates for ALSC members, please visit the ALSC online education site. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer, Jenny Najduch, jnajduch@ala.org, or 800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

Continuing the Conversation: Supporting Early Literacy Through Language-Rich Library Environments

Earlier today, we held the ALA Editions Workshop Supporting Early Literacy through Language Rich Library Environments with Saroj Ghoting. We’re following up with a few of the questions asked during the presentation that we felt merited further discussion: Saroj will be part of the discussion as well!

  • What do you think is the role of technology in promoting early literacy?
  • What is the ideal timeline for replacing displays and material in your space?
  • What’s the difference between open and closed-ended toys? Which type is better in promoting early literacy?

Links to Resources that Saroj Mentioned today:
 

The preliminary readings for this workshop were:

  • Welcoming Place,  Chapter 6 in Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places by Sandra Feinberg and James Keller. Chicago: ALA, 2010 HUhttp://www.alaeditions.org/files/Feinberg_DesigningSpace_Ch6.pdfU
  • Parent Participation,  Chapter 4 in Learning Environments for Young Children: Rethinking Library Spaces and Services by Sandra Feinberg et al. Chicago: ALA, 1998. HUhttp://www.alaeditions.org/files/Feinberg_LearningEnvironments_Ch4.pdfU
  • Meece, Darrell and Anne Soderman. Setting the Stage for Young Children’s Social Development . Young Children. September 2010 p. 81-86. HUhttp://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201009/MeeceOnline0910.pdfU
  • Greenman, Jim. Places for Childhood in the 21st Century: A Conceptual Framework. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web, May 2005. HUhttp://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200505/01Greenman.pdfU
  • Early Literacy Research-Explained, Chapter 1 in Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success by Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Chicago: ALA: 2006 HUhttp://www.alaeditions.org/files/Ghoting_ch1.pdfU
  • The following materials are suggested resources, though they may not be available for free:
  • Copple, Carol and Sue Bredekamp, eds. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (3rd ed). Washington, DC: NAEYC, 2009.
  • Curtis, Deb and Margie Carter. Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments. St.Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2003.
  • Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Ghoting. Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards. Chicago: ALA, 2010. (includes school readiness domains)
  • Feinberg, Sandra and James Keller. Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places: How to Carve Out a Niche That Epitomizes Service. American Libraries. April 2010, pg. 34-37.
  • Gronlund, Gaye. Developmentally Appropriate Play: Guiding Young Children to a Higher Level. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2010.
  • Harmes, Thelma. Environmental Rating Scales--Revised. New York: Teachers College Press, various dates.
  • Neuman, Susan B. et al. User’s Guide to the Child Home Early Language & Literacy Observation (CHELLO) Tool. Baltimore: Paul Brookes, 2007.
  • Seefeldt, Carol. Creating Rooms of Wonder: Valuing and Displaying Children’s Work to Enhance the Learning Process. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, 2002.
  • Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
  • Zigler, Edward. Children’s Play; The Roots of Reading.  Washington, DC: Zero to Three, 2004.
  • Todd Risley interview: Children of the Code   www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/risley.htm
  • Library Environments for Early Literacy:  www.earlylit.net/libraryenvironment/index.shtml
  • Early Learning Standards  www.nectac.org/topics/quality/earlylearn.asp
  • School Readiness Domains  www.gettingready.org
  • Governors’ Common Core State Standards   www.corestandards.org

Saroj’s Slides:

How Does My Garden Grow? Children’s Programming Monthly v1 #8

You may still be coping with wintery days, but here at Children’s Programming Monthly, we’ve put away the umbrellas. “How Does My Garden Grow?” is ready to download, and it’s blooming with great ideas, books to read aloud, and fun activities:   

  • “Wonderful Worms” by Caroline Feller Bauer
  • “Grow, Grow, Grow!” by Judy Nichols
  • “Gardens” by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz
  • “Growing Books” by Sue McCleaf Nespeca and Joan B. Reeve
  • “In Our Garden” by Diane Briggs.

No subscribed yet? Visit us at http://www.alaeditions.org/cpm to sign up. If you have a program you would like to share,  you’ll find submission guidelines at www.alaeditions.org/cpm/submission/guidelines . Or contact me at szvirin@ala.org.

Design for Early Literacy

How you use space and design in your children’s area  can foster early literacy.  Saroj Ghoting will lead an ALA Editions Workshop on April 21 at 1:00 p.m. EDT that is sure to trigger ideas and support your planning. Below is an overview of the topics

  • Early literacy skills
  • Play
  • What are language-rich environments
  • Examples
  • Strategies
  • Considerations

We’ve collected a  a handful of examples of what language-rich environments in this Flickr set.

Among Saroj’s examples is the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Library’s Play and Learn Islands™, interactive exhibits that encourage purposeful play. Play projecst like Discovery Dig, Big Build, and IlluminART develop skills in problem solving, sorting, sharing, early literacy, and collaboration. The colorful design, scale and varied activities appeal to a range of ages, encouraging families to play and explore together. Check out the library’s Flickr set.

You can register for this event or get more information at the ALA Store by going to: http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=3280

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