Sunday, May 3, 2015

Welcome to the Neighborhoods

I've updated my Neighborhoods post. While there are still a few books in the biography and juvenile nonfiction section that need to be changed, the project is largely finished. Now that it's been in place for several months, I have a good idea of the circulation and we are shifting the books a little to fill in the empty spaces. In any case, this is as finished as it's going to be...

The Neighborhoods went through a lot of evolution. I drew heavily on the ideas of Kathleen Larson at Bloomer (and a big thank you to her for being so kind and sending me all her information), the process at Darien in CT and several other libraries who have done similar projects.

The main difference in my organization is that I did not relabel ALL the books. After much discussion, angst and argument, I decided on 7 main categories with a small number of sub categories. Titles that did not fit into any of these categories and very recognizable series/authors (Eric Carle, Mo Willems, Splat the Cat, etc.) would stay in a general picture book section.

I replaced the temporary signage with new signs that had more information about what they could find in each category, my aide did a stellar job of attaching shelf labels and shifting all the books, and as a finishing touch I laminated recognizable characters, both those that stayed in the general picture book category and those that moved en masse to a neighborhood (SkippyJon Jones went straight into Pets for example) and attached them to the shelves.

As I worked on this project through 2014, I saw picture book circulation increase by 4,885. That's right FOUR THOUSAND. My picture book circulation for 2014 reached 27,214. I have had only positive or neutral feedback from patrons so far and I can easily see which sections need additional books (more dinosaurs and tractor books immediately!)

I have a detailed, color-coded spreadsheet that tracks all of the neighborhoods and especially the shortened Dewey numbers but here are sample call numbers and a list of the actual categories.





  • No Subcategory: Baby animals, collections of animals
  • Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Bugs
  • Dinosaurs
  • Mammals
  • Oceans
  • Reptiles
  • Farm (including tractors and horses)
  • Helpers (including libraries)
  • Long Ago (including biographies)
  • Pets
  • School
  • Create (including crafts, art, science experiments, inventions and cooking)
  • Dance
  • Music (including books that are a song)
  • Places (including the zoo, circus, traveling, vacation, and fair)
  • Sports
(Things that) Go
  • Air
  • Construction
  • Land
  • Space (including astronomy and planets)
  • Trains
  • Water
  • No Subcategory (including habitats, general nature and observation)
  • Plants (including gardens, food, and seeds)
  • Seasons (including night and day)
  • Weather
  • Family
  • Feelings (including faith/religion and sharing)
  • Growing up (including potty training, health and manners)
  • Nursery (including Mother Goose rhymes)
  • Princess
  • USA (including Native American folktales)
  • World
A selection of Authors and Series NOT moved to Neighborhoods
  • Jan Brett
  • Marc Brown (Arthur)
  • Margaret Brown
  • Eric Carle (Brown Bear series moved under E CAR because every single person I asked thought he was the author)
  • Lucy Cousins (Maisy)
  • Anna Dewdney (Llama Llama)
  • Lois Ehlert
  • Ian Falconer (Olivia)
  • Denise Fleming
  • Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious)
  • Leo Lionni
  • Jonathan London (Froggy)
  • MAG (Magic School Bus)
  • Laura Numeroff (If you....series)
  • Jane O'Connor (Fancy Nancy)
  • Richard Scarry
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Mo Willems
a panoramic view of the Ourselves category

Geraldine and the Nut Brown Hare tell us their books are on this shelf!
More of these are in the non-neighborhood picture books.

front of my sign-box

the back of the sign-box gives more details

the sides show some pictures. I selected a whole bunch by browsing
through the section and then tried to have books that did a good
job of representing the sub-categories as well as making sure
 there was some diversity. Except Happy Owls, which is just there
because it is my favorite.

The other sign boxes were not this fancy. I ran out of steam (and also boxes of the correct width) so the others only have the subcategories on the front and descriptions on the back.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

This week at the library; or, The countdown begins

What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • It's preschool visit week and the second to last week of programs. I also took Monday and Wednesday off. I had to use or lose my last couple PTO days. I should just stop taking Mondays off - I always seem to have bad Monday vacations. I spent most of this one cleaning out my basement, hauling stuff to work, and buying vast numbers of pots and other supplies at Walmart. Wednesday I went to the zoo.
  • Thursday was rather exhausting. I came in at 8ish for two kindergarten field trips, plunged a toilet, and then had 42 people at Lego Club. Jess helped me since my aide was gone and I left shortly before 6.
  • I worked a half day Friday because I was working Saturday - this week felt like not much got done, but I was gone several days and then had all those programs! Not to mention gardening.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Request for a book about gas for a four year old. Total blank after I realized that no libraries in our system own "The Gas We Pass" so I gave them Walter the Farting Dog.
  • Books about turkeys
  • Fan of Map to Everywhere - gave them Magic Marks the Spot
  • Reluctant, or more appropriately, picky reader - I suggested nonfiction, Jeremy Bender, and a couple other things.

Friday, May 1, 2015

My life in dioramas by Tara Altebrando, illustrated by T. L. Bonaddio

Dear Ms. Altebrando, I really don't like you right now. Gentle readers, cast your minds back to when you were twelve. Who enjoys being twelve? I mean, really, anybody? For the past twenty years, I have successfully put out of my mind that period in my life. With one book, Ms. Altebrando brought it all back to me. I am not grateful.

Just kidding. Well, kind of. Is there such a thing as too well-written?

Kate is devastated when her parents tell her that they're putting Big Red, the huge old house they live in, up for sale. It's the only home she's ever known and she can't imagine living somewhere else, especially when they don't know where they're moving and it might mean leaving her best friends Naveen and Stella and having to drop out of her dance troupe. She starts creating dioramas of her memories in Big Red as well as a campaign to sabotage the sale of the house. But things get more and more complicated and Kate feels like everything is falling apart; is she losing her family and friends as well as her house?

Like Tara Altebrando's first book, The Battle of Darcy Lane, this perfectly captures the growing pains of a pre-teen as she becomes aware of her parents as people, with their own pasts and struggles, faces her own changing friendships and circumstances and starts defining herself. As an adult (with my own issues) I can't say this was an enjoyable read, remembering those miserable growing pains, but as a pre-teen I can see kids absolutely relating to this story and taking comfort from the hopeful ending. It's not all sunshine and flowers, but everything works out more or less. The descriptions of not just Kate's feelings and confusion but also of the house and land she loves and her poignant sadness at moving on to a different part of her life are absolutely pitch-perfect. The fight between Kate and her mom at one point seems to me the best way to describe the book:

"...when you're my age, you'll have maybe a handful of vague memories of what it was like to be twelve."
"That doesn't mean it's not real to me right now!" I was almost screaming. "That it doesn't matter!"

Altebrando's story makes those feelings and growing pains real and shows kids that they do matter and that, while change may be painful and difficult, they will get through it.

The cover doesn't have the glossy appeal of a lot of contemporary realistic fiction, but it does capture the quieter, reflective tone of the book. Most of the interior illustrations were unfinished, but I'm looking forward to seeing the final art, which I think will be a great addition to the book which often focuses on Kate's struggle to capture specific moments and memories as she deals with change.

Verdict: This is the kind of book that I'd recommend to my more thoughtful students, those who enjoy contemporary, realistic fiction and want a character they can relate to. While it may not have the wild circulation of Wimpy Kid and friends, when I'm building a balanced collection and looking for these quieter books Altebrando is becoming my new go-to author. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780762456819; Published May 2015 by Running Press; ARC provided by publisher

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Small Readers: Miss Bindergarten and the Best Friends by Joseph Salte, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

This book continues the trend of rewriting or expanding popular picture book series into easy readers. Miss Bindergarten's alphabetical and colorful kindergarten adventures would have made no sense as an easy reader back when they were originally written, but now that many schools and parents are pushing kids to read at ages 4 and 5, there's definitely a market for them.

This story features two of Miss Bindergarten's students, Emily the elephant and Vicky the...muskrat? I'm going with muskrat. Each day they find more and more things that match; on the first day they wear blue coats, on the next yellow boots, etc. Miss Bindergarten remarks that they look like twins and the two happily proclaim that they are, indeed twins. When some of their classmates point out all their physical differences, they admit that they are not twins; but they are best friends!

Wolff's illustrations, like the picture books, feature a plethora of bright, cheerful colors and patterns. I think she did a really good job of simplifying the illustrations for the easy readers, since the books tend to be rather crowded in that respect (not the kind of classroom I'd personally like to work in, but a lot of teachers do have a similar design).

Penguin's level 2 readers are rather easier than some publisher's, and suitable for a strong, beginning reader. It's not unrealistic to expect some five year olds to be at this point, although they will probably be in the minority. Older readers will probably find the art and storyline a little too young for them.

Verdict: This is a colorful, simple book that nicely blends a message about friendship and differences with the concept of same and different. It's not likely to find a really broad audience, due to the combination of a slightly more complex text and younger plot-line and setting, but if you have a lot of fans of the series and/or a population of very young, strong readers, it would be a good purchase.

ISBN: 9780803739895; Published 2014 by Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to a backlist of easy readers to order at some point

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Partytime! Plan a Birthday Party; Plan a Sleepover Party by Stephanie Watson

One of the sections very much in need of updates in our nonfiction is the craft/activity area. I've looked at a lot of different party books before settling on reviewing these. I'm not 100% we really need party planning books, as it's not something I've been asked for much, if at all, but I saw a lot of positive mentions of this series from other librarians.

There are four books in the series, but I only looked at two: Plan a Birthday Party and Plan a Sleepover Party. Both include step by step instructions for planning, including a checklist, reminders on how to invite your friends without making other people feel bad, lots of suggestions for themes, decorations, and food, and, of course, reminders on cleaning up afterwards. There are also reminders of party etiquette. One, in Birthday Party was really weird - it suggested that you practice open presents and saying thank you. That really didn't seem to fit with the audience for these books, which is tweens.

Additional resources and a brief index are included at the back of the book. Each book features a few boys and a diverse group of girls. The party themes are also diverse, including sports, outdoor, makeover, and more.

One of the things I really appreciated about this series, and that moves it to the top of my list, is that the majority of the activities, decorations, and food are low-cost. Alternatives to more expensive options are suggested and kids planning a party with a small to zero budget will find plenty of options here. So many party books I've looked at are ridiculous in what they expect kids to be able to spend, but this is quite reasonable, making the books accessible to a wide variety of kids.

Verdict: These are only available in library bound and cost about $20 apiece but while I'd prefer paperback versions, these are so well-done that I think they're worth the extra money since they'll appeal to a wide variety of ages, interests and budgets. Recommended.

Plan a birthday party
ISBN: 9781467738354

Plan a sleepover party
ISBN: 9781467738323

Published 2014 by Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, April 25, 2015

This week at the library; or, Last blast of winter

What's going on in my head and at the library
  • I'm really glad I cut back on my regular outreach visits a little this month. I did all of my off-site outreach this week and then next week kids are coming to me. The eggs for hatching arrived this week, and we were closed on Friday for staff development.
  • Also, simultaneous pollen allergies and snow are RIDICULOUS.
  • Success story! One of the 4K kids I visited came to the library that afternoon - his mom said he insisted on visiting the library and seeing where I worked and he got a library card.
  • We were closed on Friday for staff development and Jess, my associate, came up with a very snazzy idea for organizing the board books better.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • I shifted the ya graphic novels (not the manga, just the comics) so the new stuff was lower down and more accessible.
  • Finished going through all the easy readers on my desk. Nonfiction sent back to be relabeled, etc. There are only about 50 titles left, waiting to be returned.
  • Processed all the new books - new stickers, loaded to Pinterest, saved on a cart for summer visits and checking out at the library camp out.
  • Worked on setting up shelves and organizing in the basement. This is not a fun job.
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Looking for Pigeon books - all checked out. Goodnight, goodnight construction site - checked out. I gave them Elephant and Piggie and showed them the construction neighborhood. Also wanted Curious George which I actually had.
  • Books on european immigration in the 1800s. A rare school project - it turned out they actually wanted the history of Ellis Island and I gave them the few things we had (yes, this was an elementary school student)
  • Minecraft requests are ramping up again.
  • Pete the Cat - checked out

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ms. Rapscott's Girls by Elisa Primavera

The description of this sounded very alluring to me - an eccentric lady takes in daughters of Very Busy Parents and they go on wild adventures. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the book lived up to the hype, although a lot of other people have liked it, so it may just be me.

Five girls are mailed to Ms. Rapscott's school (their parents are far too busy to actually take them there) and arrive in the middle of an exciting storm. Unfortunately, one girl, Dahlia, gets lost along the way so the girls' first lesson is going to be finding Dahlia. Under Ms. Rapscott's tutelage they get Lost on Purpose and while they may not learn conventional lessons, they do find out things about themselves they never knew, as well as important life lessons.

I did like the humorous illustrations, some full-page, showing the girls' various adventures. The characterizations of the girls were funny and interesting, differentiating them without turning them into stereotypes. It was really enjoyable to watch how the girls grew into themselves and changed throughout their wacky adventures. I think, ultimately, I wanted a more clear-cut plot than this offered. The girls go on "adventures" that are really just wandering around, things magically change or they find themselves back at home, and then it's on to another lesson or adventure. I wanted a more linear story and would probably be a very bad pupil at Ms. Rapscott's school.

Verdict: Will kids like this? Well, those looking for a funny adventure story about kids at school will probably be disappointed. Those who like more kooky, nonsensical-type stories, possibly fans of Series of Unfortunate Events, will probably really enjoy this. The art is attractive and kids are often not as wedded to the idea of linear story as adults are (or this adult anyways). So, it wasn't for me and I'd find it difficult to booktalk or recommend it, but if you have kids who are fans of the particular type of nonsense British authors often seem to produce, this will probably be a hit (and no, the author is not British but this felt very, very British to me).

ISBN: 9780803738225; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Small Readers: Tiny goes back to school by Cari Meister, illustrated by Rich Davis

Penguin rebranded its easy readers some time ago; I find it rather confusing to figure out if it's a new title or a reissued one. Also, why can't publishers coordinate their colors for levels? Or their levels, for that matter?

Tiny's unnamed owner tries to show off Tiny's obedience skills, but it looks like Tiny definitely needs to go back to school. When they arrive, Tiny's enthusiasm for the other dogs gets him into trouble. Then the teacher arrives, with a large bag of treats. Tiny quickly remembers all his tricks and teaches the other dogs.

The illustrations didn't really grab me. I do appreciate that they're large spot illustrations set in white space, which makes it a lot easier to locate the text. The text is set predominantly on the left lower corner of the spreads, with an additional few words or short sentence on the right. The pictures just felt kind of bland, not really memorable or integrated with the text.

Verdict: Acceptable filler, especially if you have kids who like dogs. Not a stand-out, but an easy reader collection needs a lot of these solid, mid-range fare for the kids to work their way through.

ISBN: 9780670786077; Published 2014 by Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the easy reader backlist to purchase

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Mutant Animals: Crazy Creatures Altered by Science by Sally Lee

This is a gross book. I'm just gonna lay it out there. I successfully put at least two people off their food by describing it during breakfast.

Six brief chapters (2-4 pages each) address a number of different science experiments performed on animals. These include cats who glow in the dark, dogs with second heads grafted on, goats with DNA altered to create silk-like proteins in their milk, pigs with genes altered to make their poop more environmentally safe, growth hormones in salmon, breeding species like Beefalo and Zorse, and cloned animals.

A glossary is included in each chapter, defining 2-3 words every few pages. Facts and captions are also included in the text. All of the glossary words are collected at the back and there are three titles suggested for further reading and a link to the publisher's website to find websites related to the book. There is also a brief index.

This is part of a "Scary Science" series, which is a sub-set of the larger Fact Finders series. The books are aimed at a roughly grades 3-4, although other review sources suggest it for ages 9 to 11. The book is formatted like an 8x8 picture book and heavily sprinkled with provocative and gross photos. The main thing that bothered me was the only mention of any controversy over the animal experiments featured was a small caption mentioning that some people had ethical concerns over cloning.

Verdict: This is available either in paperback ($5) or library binding ($20). It's very light on sources and is obviously aimed to shock and titillate. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and it would probably circulate well and might get some kids interested in pursuing the subject further, but it's not what I'm looking for to improve my nonfiction collection right now in the area of science. Also, the layout would be a hard sell. Kids old enough for the content are going to be reluctant to pick up a book that looks like a picture book or easy reader.

ISBN: 9781476539294; Published 2014 by Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Summer planning

This has nothing to do with this post
I just like my reticulata irises
This year I've been trying to get my programming to a more manageable level. I made goals, I revamped the summer reading program, and this is what I planned for the summer.

One change I made is that summer will now run from when school ends, June 5, to August 1. In the past we've gone a week or two into August, but no more. Programs won't resume until a week after Labor Day (school starts the day after Labor Day).

Of course there's Summer Reading - three programs for 0-3, 3-12, and 6th grade and up. Sign up for summer reading begins after Memorial Day, but kids can't actually get anything until the second week of June.

  • Mondays
    • Morning - Pattie does Playgroup, Jess is at the desk, 1 aide helps Pattie and 1 helps Jess as needed.
    • Afternoon - This is normally my off-desk time, but I will back up Jess and give her breaks as needed.
    • Evening - I go on the main information desk and Pattie will do Tiny Tots twice a month (4 total for the summer)
  • Tuesdays
    • Morning - I cover the desk, Pattie does 2 sessions of Toddlers 'n' Books
    • Afternoon - Jess covers the desk and I supervise Storywagon - a total of 7 performers this summer. 1 aide helps me set up (which usually involves breaking down all the tables so the kids can sit on the floor)
  • Wednesdays
    • I cover the desk all day, 1 aide is scheduled to give me a break for lunch. This is the day I told local schools they could bring groups to the library. They don't get a program (they can come on Tuesday for that) but I will be able to help them find books and sign up for summer reading.
  • Thursdays
    • Morning - 1 aide does summer reading until I come in at 10 and cover the desk. Pattie does Books 'n' Babies. 
    • Afternoon - Jess covers the desk, I go on the main information desk from 12-2 and then do after school clubs with 2 aides scheduled to help.
  • Fridays
    • Morning - 1 aide does summer reading while I do either Go Go Garden with Pattie or We Explore Favorite Artists on my own. One Friday is the big field trip for summer school kindergarteners, Pattie and 2 aides will help me that day.
    • Afternoon - I will cover the desk.
Other programs and schedules
   We're kicking off with a camp-out June 5th, Jess, 1 aide, and my director are helping me run it. Pattie and I are running a Safety Shower on kick-off day, June 6.
   The week ending in July 4th we only have two programs - a Toddler Drive-In on Tuesday afternoon and Stuffed Animal Sleepover for which people can drop their animals off on Thursday. 1 aide and myself and possibly some (carefully selected) teens are going to take the pictures on Friday while we're closed.
   August 1 we're having The Big Splash to end summer reading and programs.

So, overall for the summer I have planned

  • 8 weeks of programming and summer reading
  • 57 programs; 5 collaborative programs with Pattie, 32 storytimes or playgroups with Pattie solo, 7 performers (supervised by me), 14 family programs with me (not counting summer reading)
  • Both Jess and I will be on desk for about 20 hours a week each.
Some unpredictable things - the local pool will be reopening this summer. Summer school schedules have been changed around this year. Who knows what will happen? I have $500 to purchase additional books for summer reading - I'm buying extra copies of the titles we can't keep on the shelves (Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Smile, etc.) but I'm still kind of worried about having enough books. Last summer, especially when the big school visited, I had trouble finding enough books for everyone to checkout something they wanted and I'm already dealing with emptied shelves due to the popularity of the new Neighborhoods.