Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Help Me Help You Help Them by Heather Booth

I recently had an awesome conversation with a 6th grade language arts teacher from the local Catholic school.  It was so great, I wish I could’ve had that conversation with every teacher in my community. The teacher didn’t come to the library to talk about her students and research, but as we chatted at the reference desk, that’s where the conversation turned.


Here’s what she told me that I think every public librarian should hear:

  • She reminds her students not to wait till the last minute to do their research.
  • Her students often need a nudge… or more than a nudge, a LOT more than a nudge… to get into the library.
  • Sometimes the road block isn’t the students, but their parents.
  • She values the library and wants her students to value it and printed books too.
  • She knows print isn’t the only way to get information and is encouraging her students to find reputable sources online too.
  • She recently learned a bit more about the differences between our databases, and why we sometimes say “It IS from a book” even if we accessed it online.
  • She wants her students to succeed in their research.

Here’s what I told her that I think every teacher should hear:

  • Your students often come to the library not really understanding how information is organized differently in books than it is online.
  • We try to give your students both the books they need, and a mini lesson on information organization while they’re here, because it’s often difficult to convince them that a book on anatomy will actually be a useful resource for their paper on arthritis.  
  • We buy databases not because we think the Internet is better, but because it’s more economical and space saving then buying the equivalent reference books in print.
  • We know you’re busy, but we can give your students a much better experience if we have a heads-up that dozens of them will be coming in asking for the same thing. 
  • We would love to work with you, visit your classroom, or provide support materials – just say the word!
On the public library side, it’s often frustrating to be swamped with a request that is unclear, or beyond the scope of what we are able to provide, or terribly urgent. It was a good check in reminder that we are just one part of the team of community partners that are supporting kids in their learning and that the teachers aren’t “out to get us” with confounding assignments. It was reassuring to hear that this teacher is doing her best to prepare her students for doing research at the library.  We’ve all run into teachers who don’t have that same approach — and one of my more frustrating librarian moments was while interacting with a teacher at the same school — so I took the opportunity to be as gracious as possible and send this teacher back with a stack of my business cards, in hopes that she would share them with her colleagues.

What do you do to connect with teachers and school librarians? What would you add to the above lists?

A Sherlock Holmes Themed Community Reading Event, a guest post by Anna Behm

My library is abuzz with all things Sherlock Holmes, but it has nothing (well, almost nothing) to do with the premiere of the third season of Sherlock. We just launched our first independent community reading event, Westmont Reads, and The Hound of the Baskervilles is our chosen book. And while it might be too soon to evaluate the overall successes and failures of the program, I’m pretty excited about what the team at Westmont has created so far. These are a few of of my particular favorites:



The entire library staff is involved and on board. We’re a medium­sized suburban library with eleven full time staff members and twenty­one part timers. We wanted the whole staff involved in Westmont Reads, so the first thing we did was open the book selection up to a vote. Once The Hound became the clear choice, all staff were encouraged to join a committee ­ programming, outreach, or marketing. Not only do we have a large pool of talent to draw from, but getting all staff involved has given everyone a stake in the success of the program.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wukf8vo6us0]

A staff created video trailer for the program builds interest.

We created something unique for our patrons. The Hound of the Baskervilles is in the public domain and available for free as an ebook from sites like Project Gutenberg (and easy to load onto a flash drive and give to patrons), and inexpensive as a paperback. We decided to give away copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles for free. A local artist who happens to work in the circulation department (again, drawing from that pool of talent) designed a custom dust jacket for the book. She also lent her talents to the design of the Westmont Reads website, posters, bookmarks, and swag (I’m talking some of the COOLEST one ­inch buttons on the planet).


The library uses Facebook to interact and conduct trivia events. Showing the prize right in the post is a great way to build interest!


We planned tons of activities and events for all ages. Programming was by far the most popular staff committee, and it shows. From lectures and book discussions for our adult patrons, to mystery game nights and The Hound themed LEGO adventures for families, to special storytimes and tea parties for children, and forensics training and special volunteer opportunities for teens ­ there’s a little bit of something for everyone going on at the Westmont Library this winter. Many of the events have not taken place yet (Westmont Reads runs through February), but I’m impressed by the range of activities the staff has come up with. Staff even planned a Westmont Reads event for themselves ­ dressing up as their favorite character from the book on Halloween.

The community is involved in a variety of ways. The outreach committee solicited a variety of partnerships with local businesses and organizations. Many businesses agreed to hang posters promoting Westmont Reads. Some locations let us drop off copies of The Hound for their customers. Other businesses acted as destinations in our community scavenger hunt. We also fostered a relationship with the local humane society ­ they agreed to come to the library to give a talk about rescue dogs, and the library set up a donation bin so that patrons could help provide them with much needed supplies. The local community theatre group is even getting in on the fun ­ they are scheduled to perform a Sherlock Holmes radio play at the library after hours in two weeks.

Aligning Westmont Reads with the new season of Sherlock was just a coincidence (though if

anyone were to ask, I’d be tempted to say that yes, we really are that hip­ and­ with ­it at the WPL). Personally I am a big fan of the BBC series, and am thrilled to have an excuse to incorporate it into Westmont Reads. It’s certainly a testament to Arthur Conan Doyle and his work that Sherlock Holmes remains such an engaging presence in popular culture. I am more than happy to ride those coattails, and enjoy everything Sherlock Holmes, for a few weeks more. 


Anna Behm is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Westmont Public Library in Westmont, Illinois.

Friday Finds News Roundup, 4/5/2013

A few things of note this week…

Tweens are having (were having?) beauty contests on Instagram.  Not too surprising, but the grassroots counter movement is certainly worth noting.  A mom ruminates on the issue, and coincidentally I spotted this piece this week too, “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life“.

One of my favorite recent professional development conversations, the #readadv Twitter chat, now has a blog.  This is great, because there has been many a Thursday night that I’m in the weeds and can’t participate.  I’m hoping this will help the conversations continue throughout the interim weeks as well.

Let’s connect teens with books!  YALSA has a few ways – their Books For Teens program is accepting applications, and if you’re near Chicago, you and your teens can get free Saturday exhibits passes for ALA Annual this June by participating in the Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Session.

Speaking of Chicago, we lost a great Chicagoan this week with the death of film critic and thoughtful human, Roger Ebert.  Jennie at YAReadingList.com has put together a list of books about teens who love movies in his honor.  If you have a hand in ordering movies for your library, please check out the offerings from Ebertfests past and present, which highlighted some of Mr. Ebert’s favorite, often overlooked films.  He understood, as many of us do, the incredible humanizing, unifying, transformative power that creative works can  have in peoples’ lives.  His quote below, from a 2005 interview on NPR, highlights what we in the teen lit world often say about books:

“If you only see films about people just like yourself, why even bother to go? Because you already know about yourself.  You can only find out about yourself by learning about others.” – Roger Ebert

This is the end of the first week of School Library Month.  A big shout out to our school librarian readers from all of us at TLT!  Thanks for all you do for your students and communities and for contributing your expertise in so many ways!  I spotted this great and growing wiki project that addresses school and public library partnerships.  Good for all of us to keep in mind.

Happy Friday everyone!

-Heather