Friday, February 26, 2016

So You Want To Be a Children's Librarian

So, you have read through our Teen Librarian and Public Library Reference Librarian articles, and you've decided that you'd rather work with children. Fabulous! I am a little partial to Youth Services myself, which encompasses both Children's and Teen Services; I've been a Children's/Youth Services Librarian for about 5 years now, and I think I've amassed some good insight. If you're just starting out, or considering going into Children's Librarianship, there are some things you should know.

Actually, there's a lot of things you should know. Enough that I've split this article into several parts: Programs and Events; Collection Development and Weeding; Community Outreach; and this lovely article, which will be an overview.

PLUS! Stay tuned: we have a special giveaway!

So, What Does This Job Entail?

I want to preface this topic by saying that being a children's librarian isn't an easy job. I'm not saying that it's harder than being any other kind of librarian, but I've spoken with a lot of people who will say things like:"oh, I'll just do Children's if I can't find anything else," or "it must be nice to read picture books all day." Let me be frank: children's librarians work just as hard as any other librarian out there.
You need to be able to:

  • Recommend books and intelligently speak with patrons (and their parents) from birth through age 12 (or 18, for those of us in Youth Services) 
  • Help with homework assignments, but not so much that you're actually doing the assignment for the student in question
  • Help in finding age-appropriate materials - there's a big difference between a book for a second grader and a book for a fourth grader! Not to mention finding reading-level appropriate books for kids who don't read as well as their peers but don't want to feel babyish, or kids who read way ahead and aren't mature enough for topics in books at their reading level
  • Provide storytimes and activities for a huge variety of ages, interests, attention spans, skill levels, and schedules
  • Know what's popular and what's passe, and be able to judge what pop-culture books to buy 4 copies of and what to ignore because it'll blow over in a month
  • Know enough about award winners to be able to successfully give a Newbery winner to a kid for a class assignment - AND make him want to read it
  • Provide a safe, welcoming, fun environment for kids, teens, and parents
  • Keep track of what's in your collection so you can give the right book to the right kid at the right time
  • Keep in contact with the local schools, so you can have books ready on whichever topic kids will be coming in to learn about
  • Run a storytime at a moment's notice

It also helps if you're able to:

  • Discuss the minutiae of My Little Pony, Pokemon (yes, still), Harry Potter, and whatever the latest Disney title is
  • Make friends with everyone, from toddlers to teenagers
  • Burst into song with little to no provocation
  • Know your way around a glue stick - arts and crafts projects are no joke
  • Figure out what book someone is talking about from a garbled half-description (I actually love doing this. It makes me feel like a rockstar.)

"It's about knights of different colors and wishes and a cat!"
Still interested? Good! Let's continue.

Be Cheerful, and Make it a Happy Place

Because the other articles will discuss the ins and outs of work in the library, I thought we should take a moment here and talk about that atmosphere you want to cultivate. My goal is simple. As I tell people when they're getting stressed about late fines and dropped crayons and homework: This is a happy place.

I know it sounds silly, or maybe impossible - who is always happy? - but hear me out. We want to make the library a happy, welcoming place, to foster the love of reading, learning, and doing. Starting with babies and moving on up toward adulthood, we want people to want to be at the library.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a bad server, and you never want to go back there even if you like the food, because it just makes you so angry or depressed? Same thing. One bad experience can stick with a person - especially a child - and they might not want to come back. Try to keep your frustrations in check, a smile pasted on your face (even if it's a fake one), and be friendly and accessible. I find that a smile and a "Hello! Let me know if you have any questions!" when a patron walks in works wonders; just by doing that, you've let them know that you're available if they need or want something, but you're not going to hover and stare at them, and they're welcome to hang out, read, color, and enjoy their time.

It's The Best Job Ever

If all of these aspects of the job haven't scared you away, you're in luck: for those of us who like this kind of thing, this job is the best. Sure, we occasionally have to clean unknown sticky substances off the picture books, but we get to see the joy - pure joy! - on a kid's face when we tell them we have the new Wimpy Kid. We get to watch little guys slowly progress week after week, until they know all the hand motions to "The Wheels on the Bus." We get to tell stories, and sing songs, and do arts and crafts projects, and be a big part of people's lives. Personally, the fact that I actually want to get up in the morning is a huge bonus, and even if I had to do it all over again, I would still be a children's librarian.

Special Giveaway!

As a thanks for reading and being part of our 5 Minute Librarian family, we have a special giveaway today! Thanks to Caitlin Casey from Little Bee Books, we have a signed copy of the awesome new nonfiction picture book, The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits, written by Douglas Florian and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez! To win it, please leave a comment on our Facebook page; one comment will be selected at random and the lucky winner will be notified. Good luck!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ready to Go Display: We Need Diverse Books

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go!" Book Display. Once a month, we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group (Adults, Teens and Children) that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. 

Recommendations for Adults:

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (May 2004)
Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (May 2009)
Two sisters leave Shanghai to find new lives in 1930s Los Angeles. Follow up with the family in Dreams of Joy.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Sept 2002)

Calliope's friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparents' desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney (Apr 2016)
In the aftermath of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination, the black life-in staff at the Lazaretto quarantine hospital - the first stop for immigrants who wish to begin new lives in Philadelphia - find the wedding preparations for one of their own marred by a shooting and its aftermath. 

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (Jan 2016)
Juliet is leaving the Bronx after coming out to her family. In order to help figure out this whole "Puerto Rican lesbian" thing, she is interning with the author of her favorite book, the ultimate authority on feminism, women's bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Feb 2010)
Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping

Recommendations for Teens:

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Mar 2015)
Naila's vacation to visit relatives in Pakistan turns into a nightmare when she discovers her parents want to force her to marry a man she's never met.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Feb 2013)
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Oct 2007)
Alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture.

Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little (Nov 2014)
Devastated by her betrothal to a violent boy she does not love, Jayden is forced to accept her fate as her ancient Mesopotamian tribe moves to the Summer Lands, where she falls for a mysterious youth from the Southern Lands. Continue the story with Banished.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (Nov 2014)
Grayson, a transgender twelve-year old, learns to accept her true identity and share it with the world.

Shadowshapers by Daniel Jose Older (June 2015)
When her summer plans are interrupted by creepy supernatural phenomena, Sierra and her artist friend uncover the work of a magic-wielding killer who believes Sierra's family is hiding a powerful secret.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In this reimagining of The Arabian Nights, Shahrzad plans to avenge the death of her dearest friend by volunteering to marry the murderous boy-king of Khorasan but discovers not all is as it seems within the palace. Continue the story with The Rose & The Dagger.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Apr 2015)
After being elected as homecoming queen and engaging in a first sexual encounter with her boyfriend, Kristen discovers that she is intersex and possesses male chromosomes, a diagnosis that is leaked to the whole school, throwing Kristin's entire identity into question.
Recommendations for Children:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Feb 2012)
Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different. Hear from the other characters in Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (May 2002)
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Sept 2011)
Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, twelve-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City, and meets there Rose, who is longing for something missing from her life. Ben's story is told in words; Rose's in pictures.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look
A young boy in Concord, Massachusetts, who loves superheroes and comes from a long line of brave Chinese farmer-warriors, wants to make friends, but first he must overcome his fear of everything. Be sure to check out the entire series.

George by Alex Gino (Aug 2015)
Knowing herself to be a girl despite her outwardly male appearance, George is denied a female role in the class play before teaming up with a friend to reveal her true self.

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah Hoffman (Mar 2014)
Jacob, who likes to wear dresses at home, convinces his parents to let him wear a dress to school too.
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford (Jan 2016)
A poetic tribute to a lesser-known event in African-American history describes how after working for more than six days, slaves in 19th-century New Orleans were permitted to congregate in Congo Square to sing, dance and put aside their trouble for a few hours.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Introducing Spoilers, Sweetie!

We are excited to announce the launching of our spin-off blog, Spoilers, Sweetie!

Back in December, we wrote a blog post talking about a crazy idea we had: writing spoilers for award winning books. We were excited about the possibility, but we needed people - LOTS of people - to help us read and spoil books to make this happen. 

I am proud to say that the librarian community has stepped up and joined us. Over the past two months, everyone has been hard at work reading and writing spoilers. While they were doing that, I was trying to find a way to add this new segment to our blog. It soon became clear, though, what we were doing was bigger than what we could do here. So, we created a new blog dedicated specifically to spoilers.

So, please say hello to! (You can also get to it via the tab up top, on the desktop version of our website.)

It is much different than our 5minlib setup. We wanted the awards to be the focus, so we choose a flipcard style to make it easy for you to navigate through it and find the awards that fit the audience you are serving.

If you prefer to search by age group, announcement years, or specific awards, you can easily do so by clicking "By Category".

And when you click the flipcard to go to the blog post, you'll be pleased to know that all spoilers are hidden by a grey box, so you won't accidentally see any spoiler you don't want to read! You must click on the box for the reveal:

We will be posting new spoilers as each award is completed. If you don't want to miss a post, make sure to follow us by email or RSS feed, located on the right side of the blog.

We are covering all awards for all age groups, but we can only post the awards for which people are writing spoilers. If you enjoy reading and/or find these spoilers helpful, please consider joining our Spoilers, Sweetie team! As you can see from the Book Awards Calendar we shared two weeks ago, there are many books to spoil!

Join our Spoilers, Sweetie Team!

If you are interested in joining our Spoilers, Sweetie team, please fill out the form. You will get to choose what book you want to read and you'll have 4 weeks to read the book and submit the spoiler. It is that easy! Since we are giving everyone a month to submit, progress is slow. The more people participating, the more spoilers we can share! We especially need adult literature readers.

Special Thank Yous

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few people who were invaluable to getting this new blog off the ground. I can come up with the ideas, but without these people, Spoilers, Sweetie! wouldn't have become a reality. So, thank you to my husband, who is the technical genius behind our new blog. He helped me figure out how to modify it to fit our needs, most especially how to cover the spoilers so no one accidentally reads the wrong description. I also must share a shout-out to Kat, my former colleague and fellow 5minlib writer. She knew from day one we probably would need a new blog and was my sounding board to figure out the design. I am also excited to announce that Tegan, Amanda, and Nathalia has join our Spoilers, Sweetie Staff and will be a huge help with keeping the process moving along. I couldn't do this without any of you. Thank you so much!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Patrons Under the Influence of Drugs: What Libraries Can Do About It

One topic you don't hear too often is what to do about patrons who come in under the influence of drugs. At our recent YA Collaborative Group meeting, we invited two Community Police Officers to talk to a room full of teen and youth librarians about this important topic. They shared some great tips that I'd like to share with all of you, too.

  1. No matter how small your library, you are not immune from the drug epidemic

  • Across the United States, we have an opioid crisis. So much so that Marijuana isn't even much of a concern anymore. 
"Prescription opioid overdoses now kill more people in the United States every year than all other drugs combined, including illicit drugs. Collectively, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in the majority of states and kill more Americans every year than car crashes." (, 11/24/2015)

2. Partner with your community officers or school resource officers.

  • You can ask your local law enforcement for regular walk-throughs to your library to see what's going on and to get to know patrons and staff.
  • If they unable to visit frequently, at least get their contact information. If you suspect a patron is using drugs but have no proof, you can still call and ask them to have a chat with the patron, especially if they are a teen/child. Chances are, they are already on the police's radar.
  • Due to this crisis, thirty states have passed drug overdose immunity and good Samaritan laws. Basically, law enforcement is shifting their focus from arresting people for drug crimes to getting them the help they need. So now, if you call 911 for a drug overdose (for you or someone you are with), you won't be charged for low level drug possession and use offenses. They are hoping this change will encourage more people to seek help when they need it. (, 11/24/2015) 
    • So in these states, don't worry about getting someone "in trouble". That isn't the focus anymore.
    • Feel comfortable in trusting your gut -- if something feels off, you are most likely right. Asking for police to come in for a chat isn't going to hurt anything, and that's what community police officers do. (Please call the main office line and not 911 for non-emergency matters.)
    • People under the influence of drugs will often try to refuse medical attention because they don’t want to be arrested for possession.  It’s important that they know about the drug overdose immunity and get the medical help they need.
Image from

3. Know what to look for:

Symptoms of opioid use/overdose:

  • Pupils are like pin-points.
  • Person is lethargic.
  • Person may collapse (people suffering from an overdose usually die from respiratory failure – they may have a pulse, but they're not breathing).
  • Excessive scratching.
  • Keep in mind that people with certain medical conditions might display similar symptoms when they are experiencing an issue related to their condition (such as diabetic shock, so you should check for an insulin pump or medic alert bracelet).
  • Recognizing Opioid Overdose
  • Prescription Painkiller Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Synthetic marijuana is also becoming an issue:

  • It’s technically legal.
  • It can be purchased at some convenience stores.
  • It can produce really bad effects.
  • People under its influence tend to exhibit very bizarre behavior.
  • Synthetic Marijuana

4. What to do if someone in the library is experiencing (or appearing to experience) an overdose:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • If their heart is still beating but they are not breathing, you can use a Narcan (a nasal spray that is used to reverse the effects of opioids).
    • Narcan can be purchased over the counter at stores such as CVS and Walgreens.
    • It costs about $30.
    • It’s safe to use even if turns out the person is not experiencing a drug overdose. (There are no ill effects)
    • The effects are only temporary!  It lasts about 30 minutes so the person would still need immediate medical attention.
    • After administered, the person will most likely be combative when they first revive because they will be confused as to what’s happened.
  • There is some concern that towns might be sued if they administer this to a person without their consent, but the officers said that the Good Samaritans Law should protect from any lawsuits. 

5. Behavior you should look for if you suspect someone is dealing or hiding drugs:

  • They keep hold of their stuff at all times.
  • They walk around a lot (in and out of rooms, going into the bathroom frequently, etc.).
  • They use their cell phones a lot.
  • They’re scratching themselves a lot.
  • If you suspect that a patron has a drug problem, don’t hesitate to contact officers (especially Community Officers and School Resource officers) so that they can privately talk with them to try to help them.

6. Did You Also Know...?

  • You can order professional brochures on drugs and other topics from for just the cost of shipping. They also provide free downloads, too.
  • Some schools have allowed Teen, Children, and Youth Librarians to participate with teachers during their professional development days to learn more about these kinds of topics. Free training! And possibly, a chance to network with more people in your community.
  • Reach out to drug rehabilitation centers for any possible trainings. Our local center is actually offering a free Narcan training next week and giving out two free doses of Narcan to all participants. That's a $60 value!
  • Please consider keeping a Narcan on hand. They last a long time, and you could possibly save a life.
  • This is a great chart about the different types of drugs and their indicators: Cumulative Drug Symptomatology Matrix

Special thanks to Amanda Maclure for taking such great notes at our YA Collaborative Group Meeting and letting me use them here. Also, thank you to our local police department for coming out and talking to us about this.