ALSC Matters! | November 2020, Vol. 18, no. 4

Officially Speaking | ALSC Voices | Bright Ideas | Competencies in Action | Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Officially Speaking

A Fall Full of Opportunities from ALSC

ALSC is buzzing with excitement as all of our committees are busy advancing areas of our strategic plan. From advocacy work to learning and development events to diversity and inclusion efforts, we have a lot for which to be proud. 

At the beginning of October, the ALSC Institute successfully explored all three areas of our strategic plan in keynote and breakout sessions, sparking numerous invigorating conversations and unforgettable learning opportunities. This was the first time the event was virtual, and I want to again thank ALSC staff for their work in creating (and then re-creating) a dynamic Institute experience for us all. Congratulations to this year’s Institute Task Force for building an amazing slate of youth service programming: Chair, Sarah Park Dahlen, Mary Dubbs, Clair Dunlap, Paris Kelvakis, Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez, and Gretchen Wronka. Although we couldn’t be together in Minneapolis, I for one felt like I experienced some of the city and appreciate the care the Task Force and presenters took in highlighting Minnesota creators and communities. 

ALSC staff is busy preparing for another virtual meeting with the Midwinter event. Stay tuned for details and meeting times in the coming weeks.

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force has selected ALSC’s second class of Equity Fellows. Via this fellowship program, ALSC affirms its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion by engaging new generations of racially and ethnically diverse library professionals. Recipients of the EDI Fellowships are Erika Lehtonen, Melissa Stovall, Mai Takahashi, Eboni Dickerson, and Natassia Schulz. Congratulations to all these recipients! If you virtually meet our fellows at Midwinter, please take a moment to give each of them a warm ALSC welcome.        

In October, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) annual conference as the opening keynote speaker. It was a great chance to connect with other professionals committed to early literacy and ensuring all children have access to the most important building blocks. If you are passionate about strengthening children’s literacy through library services and community advocacy, think about joining their organization; membership is free and you don’t have to be in Colorado! Many ALSC members are also members of CLEL and I see a great synergy. We collaborated this summer to create a Virtual Storytime Services Guide to help improve virtual offerings during the pandemic.  

I know that it is hard to continue to have hope during 2020 but know that I am so grateful to each of you for your active participation and community building virtually. 

One of ALSC's goals is to provide children’s librarians with timely, educational, and affordable professional development opportunities. Because life in a library moves fast, ALSC's webinars are the perfect solution for someone who wants and needs educational information but doesn't have a lot of time or resources. These short (one hour), interactive sessions, taking place in Zoom, give librarians and library support staff the opportunity to learn right at their desks. The only necessary tools are a computer and the internet. Live webinars are free and open to all. All webinars are recorded and available in the archived webinars section of our website following the live presentation. Take a look at the upcoming webinars and join us if you are able.  

The Friends of ALSC will be funding the renewal of 50 ALSC and ALA memberships to members who have recently been furloughed, laid off, or otherwise unemployed. COVID-19 disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, therefore, these memberships will prioritize individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Prioritizing ALSC's BIPOC members will further support ALSC’s strategic objective of increasing the intentional retention of a diverse membership, while reducing barriers to participation. By supporting these members, ALSC's goal is to honor their contributions and commitment to the organization. Apply here.

ALSC can’t do exciting and innovative things without the help of our members, and it’s important that we give back to you. Every year, more than $100,000 is given away through ALSC's professional awards, grants, and scholarships. Please click on the individual award or grant on the professional awards webpage for application information and apply today! For information about scholarships, please click here.

Thank you for your support; be well and stay connected.—Kirby McCurtis, ALSC President

Back to top

Engaged Members Make ALSC Strong

In the practice of our profession as children’s librarians we know that, as Lillian Smith once said in her book The Unreluctant Years: A Critical Approach to Children’s Literature (c1953, 1991, American Library Association), “childhood is the most impressionable and formative period, so receptive and so brief that a child has less need of and less time for the mediocre than an adult.” This year 2020 will forever be remembered in children’s librarianship for its unprecedented disruption of every aspect of library services and community life. Most importantly, this year’s lineup of unfortunate and unsettling events has the greatest and most lasting impact on the lives of the most vulnerable, the children. 

A worldwide pandemic closed schools, libraries, places of worship, and businesses while communities everywhere were shattered by social, racial, political, and economic injustices that came to a bottleneck and erupted like an ancient volcano. In the midst of all this, children’s librarians became “first responders” in their efforts to reach out to families and children in their communities, to become media mentors, to provide access to resources and information.    

Throughout this time of transformations and uncertainties, ALSC performed its unifying role by being the platform where children’s library workers meet for the exchange of ideas, information, and best practices via the ALSC blog, ALA Connect, and other means, where these conversations commingle with discussions about organizational restructuring, the Virtual Institute, the Youth Media Awards, diversity and inclusion, and other relevant topics. 
Youth services librarians and library workers are as diverse as the communities we serve. ALSC can speak our languages and show our colors only through our active engagement and participation in the work of the organization.  

Serving on a book award selection committee or a task force is a great opportunity for professional growth and networking. It is an exciting and empowering journey to be part of the national dialog that drives the practice of our profession. As actively engaged members we contribute to defining competencies and best practices, to the selection of the best books or media for children, to creating relevant booklists, and to so much more.  

As children’s librarians, we know the healing power of books. We work for the wellbeing of all the children in all of our communities by connecting them to great books and valuable resources.  

Soon, I will be working on the nominations for the numerous ALSC committees, and I hear that it is a formidable task. Therefore, I would like to request your help in accomplishing this significant task by signing up to volunteer for a committee or task force. Visit ALSC's volunteer page for details and information on the work of committees and task forces, or on how to volunteer. 

I also want to encourage you to recruit new members from amongst your coworkers and colleagues to join ALSC. Membership involvement is crucial to the continued success of the organization. It is important to learn from one another, to speak on behalf of the communities we serve, to work together to create opportunities for training and leadership development.  

The closure of schools and libraries has impacted communities of color in ways that we have not yet measured. How do we serve families with limited resources, with no access to technology, or with limited language skills? How can our libraries reach those most vulnerable during these trying times? These are questions that are part of a national engagement and an ongoing dialog. Much has been accomplished, yet much remains to be done!  

I look forward to working together as we address challenges and projects, and work to shape the present and the future of our ALSC!—Lucia M. Gonzalez, ALSC Vice-President

Back to top

Thank You for Being a Friend!

Many thanks to the following generous contributors to Friends of ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.

Gold Circle - $500 - $999

Elizabeth Timmins

Silver Circle - $250 to $499

Susan Faust
Marge Loch-Wouters
Jo Schofield

Notables Circle - $100 to $249

Rita Auerbach
Christopher Brown
Kathy Jarombek
April Mazza
Cecilia McGowan
Ellen Riordan
Vicky Smith
Kimberly White
Susan Zeigler

Friends Circle - up to $99

Armin Arethna
Tamela Chambers
Denise Davila
Betsy Diamant-Cohen
Arika Dickens
Robbin Friedman
Lolly Gepson
Dona Helmer
Barbara Klipper
Allison Knight
Leah Langby
Beth McGuire
Sharon Rawlins
Marion Rutsch
Beatriz Wallace

Back to top

ALSC Voices

Celebrating colleagues with 25 years or more years of ALSC membership

Lisa Herskowitz
Head of Children and Family Services
Northport-East Northport Public Library
Northport-East Northport, New York

ALSC Membership: 25 years

Where did you attend library school? 

The Palmer School @ C.W. Post, Long Island University 

What was your very first library position?

Reference Page at Adelphi University while an undergraduate student

What do you love most about your current job?  

Collaborating with my exceptionally creative staff

What is your favorite term people use to describe you? 

Outgoing. I love interacting with people—adults and children. 

What was your favorite thing to play with when you were a child? 

I have so many fond memories of playing board games with my family. 

What is the best compliment you ever received? 

That my optimism is contagious.

What’s your favorite folktale/fairy tale?

It Could Always Be Worse. This Yiddish folktale provides a humorous reminder not to complain and to be happy with what we have.  

Where is your favorite place in the world?

The Galapagos Islands. To witness Darwin’s “laboratory” and to be in such close proximity to a variety of exotic animals was mind blowing. This unique place, which remains so untouched by human intervention, is by far the most amazing place I have ever been fortunate enough to visit.   

Back to top

Bright Ideas

KCLS Hosts Its First Film Contest

In October 2019, the King County (Washington) Library System (KCLS) launched KCLS Reel Fest, its first short-film contest and festival that asked patrons of all ages and filmmaking abilities, “What does the library mean to you?” Residents in the KCLS service area were invited to share their library stories in a two-minute film for a chance to win up to $1,000 and a slot in the KCLS Reel Fest film lineup. 

The library received a remarkable outpouring of heartfelt library stories and was poised to host the KCLS Reel Fest Film Premiere and Awards Show on March 20, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck King County. Following state and county public-health guidelines, KCLS postponed Reel Fest and eventually moved the event online.

On September 28, 2020, KCLS premiered the top ten films and announced the winners at the virtual KCLS Reel Fest Film Premiere and Awards Show. Contest winners were chosen in two categories: Youth (ages 17 and younger) and Adult (ages 18 and older). Youth winners included:

1st Place ($1,000): Safir Azam, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid Doodles” 
2nd Place ($700): Aidan Springer, “Treehouse” 
3rd Place ($500): Matthew Perry and Andrew Schmidt, “The Chronicles of KCLS”
Janet Chang (runner-up), “My Library Story”
Carmina Cruz (runner-up), “Libraries Don’t Just Equal Books” 

The awards show is available for viewing on the KCLS website. The taped presentation includes an introduction by KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum, the top ten films, and commentary from the filmmakers and judges. 

Back to top

IMLS Grant Provides for Mobile Library

The Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach (Florida) was awarded a $99,447 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) CARES Act to implement its new Mandel Mobile Library project. IMLS selected the Mandel project as one of 68 projects from 1,701 applicants supporting coronavirus pandemic responses across the country. The main focus of the Mandel Mobile Library will be to embark on a larger community outreach effort throughout the City of West Palm Beach and bring essential library services including education, literacy, and career resources to neighborhoods adversely affected by the pandemic.

“Our amazing staff has been able to pivot quickly in order to meet the needs of our patrons and residents,” said Lisa Hathaway, Mandel Public Library Director. “We look forward to reaching even more community members with the Mandel Mobile Library and providing services that will help residents recover from the pandemic.”

A new Wi-Fi-enabled minivan will travel to communities in the north end and south ends of the city, bringing connectivity and assistance to families in need. The minivan will provide on-site broadband access as well as laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots that can be borrowed. The Mandel Mobile Library team also will offer homework help, providing area children and teens assistance and encouragement with their studies, along with nutritious snacks. Adults will be able to take advantage of job help programs that will assist with applications, resume building, and the like, in addition to ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) tutoring to improve English literacy skills. All services will be free and open to the public, whether or not they currently have a library card.

Back to top

Financial Education and Fostering Financial Well-Being

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced its updated K-12 financial education website, which offers activities based on the building blocks of financial capability, a research-based framework to teach children at different development stages the skills and knowledge associated with adult financial well-being. The resources were developed with the help of financial literacy teachers and teachers of other subjects, including science and math.

Among the resources are:

* A searchable database of 250 stand-alone activities — on topics such as setting savings goals and making spending choices

* A video series to help you learn about the CFPB building blocks of youth financial education and how to implement financial education into activities

* Free print resources for youth financial education such as story booklets, posters and bookmarks.

A related blog post from the CFPB summarizes the materials available to educators and families.

Back to top

Resources and Resourcefulness in the Virtual World

As the year 2020 rolls on and the country's reliance on remote work, play, and communication continues, many organizations have shared free resources to help make life easier in the virtual world. Below are a few resources that you might find interesting or helpful. 

  • In response to the needs of library staff and their patrons during the coronavirus pandemic, STAR Net and its NASA @ My Library project developed a special collection of resources through a new “STEAM Ahead @ Home” initiative. Find program ideas, resources, and much more on the Star Net STEAM Ahead website.
  • PBS SoCal’s At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) to help families, caregivers, and educators support students during the school year. The site includes activities, guides, and expert advice to help expand learning and family engagement.
  • In late September, Dana Sheridan, Cotsen Children's Library, Princeton University, shared a link to the library's newest and science-related virtual escape room on the ALSC-L electronic discussion list. Dana wrote in her post, "Kids can explore the museum, find the clues, crack the code, and learn about five famous scientists along the way!" Check it out!

And, finally, just to put a smile on your masked face, below is a pictorial sent to the ALSC office from Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL). According to Alex Mullin, communications specialist at TCCL, this is a "photo pictorial of what life is like in the library during a pandemic. Tulsa City-County Library staff have worked hard to retain interactivity and relationships with customers by finding creative ways to meet their needs wherever they are."

Thanks for checking in, Alex!

Photos from TCCL
Back to top

Competencies in Action

The ALSC Board of Directors approved a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan in May 2020. One objective under the Learning & Development area of strategic action is to promote and position the ALSC Core Competencies as central to library service to children. One means identified for achieving that objective is to highlight an ALSC Core Competency and a practitioner who can speak to the importance of the competency in each issue of ALSC Matters. Below is the first installment of this new newsletter feature -- Competencies in Action.

Becoming ALSC Competent

by Edith Campbell and Tony Carmack, co-chairs, ALSC Education Committee

The work of cultural competency is unending as we continually learn new and better ways to understand, communicate with, and interact with our library colleagues and with library users. To support librarians in their work with children and their caregivers, ALSC created the Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Libraries to guide them in areas of access, advocacy, and outreach in ways that encompass and reflect positive world views. Practicing librarians find that the guidelines set forth through competencies inform their librarianship by extending their professionalism in ways that allow them to function effectively in the communities that they serve.

Pat Toney, a librarian in the Oakland Public Library system, often receives calls from caregivers asking for book recommendations for "diverse books" for the children in their lives. Pat stays current by consulting a wide variety of review sources and by being actively engaged online in ways that help her locate and evaluate materials. She's able to assist these caregivers by maintaining her knowledge base.

A Brief History

First created in 1999, the ALSC Competencies have been revised by the ALSC Education Committee every five years. The most recent revisions began in the fall of 2019 with the committee working to first become familiar with the existing Competencies and then with those in the similar professional standards of YALSA, AASL, and ACRL. Seeking member input is critical in this work so the next step was to develop a survey for ALSC members to request comments on the existing 2015 version. From the 140 responses, the following indicators were identified to guide the updating process.

  • 92% responding agreed or strongly agreed that the 2015 Competencies “fully describe the standards for children’s librarians today.”
  • 96% wanted to keep the categories “as they are currently written.”
  • Respondents identified the need for an emphasis on family literacy and library services to include families and caregivers.
  • Respondents requested a review and revision of terminology reflecting inclusivity in library services, programs, and collections.

With all the information gathered, the Education Committee, working closely with the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, prepared a draft revision for a new tool. A second survey was sent to a sampling of users, after which modifications were made to the language. When the new document was presented before the ALSC Board for approval, the only request made was for removal of the term “public” in recognition of the fact that ALSC members serve children and their caregivers through a variety of libraries. 

Cultural Competency

As a tool that exists to empower the full breadth of excellence in all children, the cultural competencies remind Pat that diversity is much more than a focus on struggles and oppressions. They call us all to work beyond the recognition of social injustice and to regularly assess and respond to the needs of children and their caregivers. During the summer of 2020 when COVID-19 shutdowns worked to limit her library's services, Toney worked to obtain paperbacks and review copies to provide to her community members. In doing so, she continues to ensure that all children have full access to materials, resources, and services. 

Cultural competencies challenge us to continually find ways to serve our communities in all of our libraries by negotiating cross culture differences; they also provide structures for uncertain times. 

Back to top

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Member News

Katie Clausen, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, Illinois, is the 2020 recipient of the Davis Cup Award administered by the Illinois Library Association. The annual award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in library services to youth. Congratulations, Katie!

Congratulations to the following ALSC members who were named to Booklist magazine's new Publications Advisory Board.

  • Edith Campbell, Cunningham Memorial Library, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Katie Clausen, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, Illinois
  • Sarah Hashimoto, Jackson (Michigan) District Library

Board members were selected to ensure representation for five key areas of Booklist’s work: children’s, YA, and adult librarianship; audio; and the business and marketing aspects of the publications. Kudos, all. You make ALSC proud!

Back to top

Online Book Discussions Open

Have you always wanted to sit in on the Notable Children's Book discussions but were unable to attend Midwinter or your busy Midwinter schedule didn't allow for it? Now is your chance to observe critical book evaluation in action! The 2021 Notable Children’s Books Committee will hold open meetings on November 18, 19, and 20, at 12 p.m. Central via Zoom. 

Register now to watch the November discussions and learn more about some of the year's best books for kids. For the list of titles to be discussed, please consult this ALSC Blog post.

Back to top

Upcoming ALSC Webinars

Did you know that ALSC webinars are free to all! Check out our upcoming offerings below. Click on each title to learn more about the session.

Curious Readers: Celebrating the Joy of Reading (Part three in the three-part Building Literacy in Every Library series from the School Age Programs and Service Committee)
Thursday, November 19, 2020, 3:00 p.m. CT

Smart Scheduling and Planning in Youth Services: A Two-Part Series from the ALSC Managing Children's Services Committee

Part 1: Managing Your Own Schedule
Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 1:00 p.m. CT

Part 2: Staff & Program Scheduling
Tuesday, December 8, 2020, 1:00 p.m. CT

Back to top

ALSC Professional Awards

ALSC bestows more than $100,000 in professional awards, grants, and scholarships every year. Please click on the individual award or grant for application information. The submission period varies by award, but currently applications are being accepted or opening soon for several awards, including:

Click on the names above for details on each award. To learn more about all of ALSC’s professional awards and scholarships, visit our website.

Back to top

#LooktoLibraries Reaches National Audience

Have you checked out ALSC's #LooktoLiraries resources? These tip sheets, articles, booklists, and more support children’s library professionals in serving as youth media mentors, a role that is especially important now in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the use of digital media to skyrocket. There are also resources included to help children and their families navigate other challenges that have been posed during this pandemic year.

In early September, ALSC President Kirby McCurtis appeared as a guest on "Pandemic: What You Need to Know," a new ABC Network program temporarily replacing the third hour of Good Morning America. The national news segment focused on ALSC’s #LooktoLibraries campaign, bringing national attention to the work and expertise of children’s librarians as media mentors, especially in times of crisis.

#LooktoLibraries is a work in progress and ALSC will continue to add more resources and more topics as time goes on and needs arise. Learn more at

Back to top

Join Us Online for the 2021 Midwinter Meeting

The ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits will take place online, January 22-26, 2021. Register now!

Highlights include:

  • Symposium on the Future of Libraries, offering sessions on future trends to inspire innovation in libraries
  • News You Can Use with updates that highlight new research, innovations, and advances in libraries
  • Interactive author events
  • Awards celebrations
  • A virtual Exhibit Hall with NEW Presentation Stages
  • Live Chats
  • Networking opportunities, and more!

Among the presenters in the stellar Midwinter line-up are:

  • Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author and Professor in the Humanities at Boston University
  • Keisha N. Blain, award-winning historian, professor, and writer
  • Joy Harjo, musician, playwright, and author
  • Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, Newbery award-winning author and Caldecott honor illustrator, respectively, and co-creators of Last Stop on Market Street, Carmela Full of Wishes, and Milo Imagines the World (2021 release)
  • Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist and author
  • Stan Sakai, award-winning cartoonist

Bookmark ALSC's Midwinter page to stay on top of our event details as they become available. 

Back to top

Grants Supporting Graphic Novel Growth

Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries. Administered by ALA's Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table, these grants recognize libraries for their role in the growth of graphic literature and award funds and resources for graphic novel collection development and programming. Recipients each receive a $4,000 programming and collection development grant, a collection of books, and more.

For further details and the application, visit the grant webpage. The submissions deadline in February 7, 2021.

Back to top

American Indians Booklist

A great resource for Native American Heritage Month and all year long, Teaching for Change's Social Justice Books website features an American Indians booklist with recommended titles for children, birth through high school.

The Social Justice Books website, geared to educators and families, highlights exceptional multicultural and social justice books for children, and provides book reviews and articles on social justice and multicultural children’s literature.

Back to top

New Museum Celebrates Language

Washington D.C.'s newest museum, Planet Word, opened to the public in October. Dedicated to the power, beauty, and fun of language and to showing how words shape the human experience, Planet Word is the world's first voice-activated museum and features immersive galleries and exhibits designed to engage visitors of all ages in experiencing words and language from a wide range of perspectives.

The museum website also includes an Educator Resources section.

Back to top

Anti-Racism Resource for Educators

As shared on the ALSC-L electronic discussion list this summer by subscriber Linda Salem, the San Diego State University Library has a new virtual exhibit recommending anti-racist books by grade level. Anti-Racism & Educators as Allies: A Virtual Children's Literature Exhibit was created to help educators incorporate read-aloud books with an anti-racist theme into classrooms and libraries to educate, enrich, and nurture young readers.

Back to top

Canadian Children’s Book Centre Announces Award Books

Last month, Birdsong by Julie Flett received the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Small in the City by Sydney Smith received the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.

Other award winners include:

  • Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, & Murdered through History by Serah-Marie McMahon and Alison Matthews David - Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non‐Fiction
  • Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide - Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
  • The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones - John Spray Mystery Award
  • In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen - Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

The awards are given by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. For more information about the Centre, please visit the website.

Back to top