Bright Ideas | August 2023

Just for You! Books and Treats | Arts-Based Summer Literacy and Learning | Human Rights Project Fosters Advocates for Change

Personalized Reader’s Advisory: The Just for You! Program

Reader’s advisory is one of the best parts of being a youth services librarian. Getting to tell our patrons about a great book we just know they will love is always such a joy! But sometimes patrons can feel like they are too busy to stop and have a conversation with a librarian. The Alsip-Merrionette Park (Illinois) Public Library came up with a solution—the Just for You! Books and Treats Surprise Program!

Since launching in 2019, we have made 480 Just for You bags, and it’s quickly become a favorite way for patrons to find their next great read. The program starts when patrons fill out a registration sheet either online or in-person. The registration sheet is made up of Reader’s Advisory questions. Patrons write down if they prefer to read picture books, beginning readers, fiction, or non-fiction. They choose their favorite genres, and the titles of their favorite books. They also write down their least favorite genres, and if there is anything they do not want to read. Patrons can answer these questions when they have time—even patrons with a busy mix of after-school clubs and sports leagues, who might not have time to stay at the library for long, can find the time to turn in a quick registration sheet.

sample Just for You boxesAfter receiving a completed registration sheet, we get to work making the perfect bag for each child. Each bag contains a library book checked out to the patron’s library card, and three treats. The treats are picked based on each patron’s age and interests. They are usually a mix of extra prizes from Summer Reading, coupons donated from local businesses, and individually made craft packs. When choosing the treats that go in each bag, what matters most is that the patron knows they were chosen with care.

We always include a handwritten note from the librarian who made the bag that thanks the patron for joining the program. It also explains that the library book must be returned to the library. Then, the librarian explains why that book and those treats were chosen. Writing the notes by hand is a bit more time-consuming than typing them, but it’s worth the extra effort—patrons see those handwritten notes as a sign the librarian truly cares. Some patrons will write a thank-you note back to the librarian and return it with their book. We have even had a patron send a thank-you card in the mail!

We track our program in an Excel spreadsheet. There is a tab for every month when a patron can request a bag. When a patron’s bag is made, we open that month’s tab on the Excel spreadsheet. In the row for that patron, we list the patron’s demographic and contact information, the book and treats they received, and when they were notified that their bag was ready. This way, when patrons sign up again, we can search their name in the entire Excel workbook and see every book they’ve received. We use this to make sure that patrons don’t receive the same book twice.

The Just for You program can help library patrons find their new favorite books and can quickly become a favorite program for everyone—staff and patrons alike.—Ann Baillie, youth services assistant manager, Alsip-Merrionette Park (Illinois) Public Library

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San Francisco's Arts-Based Literacy and Learning for Summer

California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom visited with 30 San Francisco teenagers in July, during an afternoon workshop of poetry, dance, and creative maker-space activities at San Francisco Public Library’s (SFPL) The Mix teen center.

Recognizing the importance of movement, creativity, and the arts in summer learning, the workshops were led by experts from several local arts organizations including ODC/Dance, YouthSpeaks, and SFPL’s own teen librarians. Youth participants also received copies of books selected from the First Partner’s Summer Book Club booklist. The Summer Book Club is an annual initiative in partnership with the California State Library to help children of all ages cultivate a love of reading and books.

“Today’s workshops were the culmination of our goal to integrate arts education into the First Partner’s Summer Book Club. Literature and the arts are critical for children’s mental health, social and emotional development, language mastery, and long-term academic achievement, and both provide an antidote to excessive time online," said First Partner Siebel Newsom. I look forward to a continued partnership with the California State Library as we scale this model to libraries across the state.”

Michael Lambert, Greg Lucas, Lee Herrick, Michelle Lee, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and Jonathan Moscone (l to r)The First Partner was accompanied on her visit to San Francisco Public Library by Mayor London Breed, California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, California State Librarian Greg Lucas, California Arts Council Executive Director Jonathan Moscone, and San Francisco City Librarian Michael Lambert.

The teens broke up into three groups to participate in three distinct creativity workshops:

  • A poetry workshop with California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick with support from nonprofit organization Youth Speaks, led by its executive director, Michelle Mush Lee.
  • The Mix maker space workshop, a hands-on creative craft project with The Mix manager, librarian Jason Hill.
  • A dance and movement workshop with nonprofit organization ODC with Brandon "Private" Freeman and Colton Wall.

The Mix at SFPL is an innovative, teen-designed learning space inside the San Francisco Main Library. It provides space and equipment for youth ages 13-18 to explore, create, and develop digital media and computer skills, get involved in creative pursuits from crafts to music to creative writing, as well as discover and engage with the library’s traditional books and materials.

Participants also had the opportunity to engage with the First Partner and with on another about the thought-provoking titles that appear on the First Partner’s Summer Book Club, including Caldecott Honor title Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Jason Griffin, the young adult edition of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and Printz Award-winner We Are Okay by San Francisco author Nina LaCour.

“This afternoon was really inspiring. I’m excited about the First Partner’s Summer Book Club list because all the books on it have their own special message, and we can learn more about the experiences they describe,” said Charlize Becerra, a participant in the workshop, as she browsed through books on display.

This Summer Book Club list was curated by the First Partner in partnership with librarians across the state. The books highlight themes such as navigating mental health struggles, identity and belonging, and the importance of exploration and curiosity. The books range in reading levels from preschool to high school.

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Human Rights Project Fosters Advocates for Change

AASL logoThe “Global Human Rights Research Project” at Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito, California, received the 2023 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award, which recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.

In a six-week collaboration between the school’s two middle school librarians, Julia Bourland and Mia Gittlin, and seventh-grade Humanities teachers, Lauren Konopka and Matthew Williams, students became experts and advocates for change on at least one human rights violation central to the theme of an historical novel of their choosing. At the end, the librarians attended the students’ multifaceted presentations, which included a book review, an infographic explaining the historical incident they studied, and a call to action on how others can speak out about similar human rights violations that are happening today.

“The committee was impressed with the degree of collaboration between the school librarians and humanities department,” said Committee Chair Margaret Lincoln. “This project was a powerful way to bring literature, social justice, and advocacy together with a call to action to help learners consider how they might speak out about human rights violations happening in our own world today.’”

School librarian, Julia Bourland, shared, "The primary objectives in this collaboration were for students to make connections between human rights violations that occurred in the past and current ones, to increase student agency in understanding global injustice, and to help them find their voice inspiring others to learn about the issue and take action.”

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