The Children’s Book Review | January 16, 2013
Sara Bryce is a Youth Services Librarian at La Crosse Public Library in Wisconsin. She blogs about her GIF-fueled adventures in youth services (and even includes links and free downloads to make your life easier!) at http://brycedontplay.blogspot.com/.
You can read her unsolicited life comments and judge her untappd.com beer check-ins by following @PLSanders on Twitter. She also occasionally answers “Ask a Storytime Ninja” questions and is sometimes featured in “Coolest Thing I Saw on the Internet This Week” along with other youth services folks at http://storytimeunderground.wordpress.com/
(Photo by Fornear Photo, Eagle River, WI)
The Children’s Book Review: Why did you choose to be a librarian?
Sara Bryce: After fighting illiteracy as a teacher, reading coach, intervention specialist, and professional development writer (and obtaining my MLS for kicks in the process), I decided to try my hand at the pre-curricular/extracurricular opportunities for kids that the library provides. Librarians hold a powerful key: segments of uninterrupted time with kids who may be struggling readers. The kind of time teachers are always told they should be having, and might only dream about getting. And we get it. The kids come to us, and ask us questions. They invite us into their brains! It’s a really powerful role and I’m glad I get to fill it for awhile.
TCBR: Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
SB: Being a children’s librarian, I get to do great stuff like talk to kids about how cool optical illusions are and share facts about dinosaurs. I’ve had extensive conversations with third graders about whether Chewbacca is a better sidekick that R2-D2 (clearly this is fact and not up for debate, but children need to come to these important realizations in their own time). What I love about working with kids is that they know when you care about something. It always makes me smile to see a kid’s face light up when I recognize the character on his/her shirt or recommend to them “my favorite book” that I’m sure they’ll love (hint: I have a lot of favorites)! Once kids know that it’s okay to be a super-fan of something they love, they’ll want to read everything about it in your library (and talk to you about their findings as well). Unabashedly geeking out and forging personal connections are the keys to opening kids up to books.
TCBR: Which kids’ or teen book is the most frequently checked-out in your library? Why do you think it is?
SB: Kids at my library love the Ologies books; mythology and crypto-zoology themes are also really hot right now. I think it might be the possibility that these fantastical stories might have some root in reality. By now it is common knowledge that Hogwarts is make-believe; but Percy Jackson’s father Poseidon has been written about for centuries. And Bigfoot? The jury’s still out. The giant squid was thought to be a legend until 2004, when a live giant squid was officially photographed by the National Science Museum of Japan. Don’t worry, adults, imagination and discovery are still alive and well in this crowd!
SB: I’m going to have to say Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean. That book has it all: audience participation, practicing colors, and a moral at the end I can get behind. We’re actually modeling our kindergarten field trip adventures on it; the students will be known as “Library Sneakers,” and that’s just so cute I can hardly allow myself to process how cute it is.
SB: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney came out November 5th, and I’m waiting for the kids who have it on reserve to read it until I read a copy myself (isn’t that nice of me? I mean it’s actually library policy but I’ll take the credit). In preparation for my Hard Luck party in October, I read The Ugly Truth, Cabin Fever, and The Third Wheel, and I might now be kind of obsessed. That’s a great series.
TCBR: What steps do you take to strengthen the relationship of the library with local schools and the community?
SB: We make sure to be in constant contact with our local schools, and focus on their needs. In 2012, we started the Library Stars field trip adventures, which brings all public school second grade students to the library for a fast-paced, high-interest behind-the-scenes tour, with incentives for returning and checking in with us throughout the year. This program has been so successful we’ve branched out to offer similar, developmentally-appropriate tours for kindergarten and 7th grade. Additionally, this year we’ve begun to offer a small “menu” for in-school outreach. We’ve also piloted a program that encourages the children attending our one year-round school to visit the library during their two-week school breaks. We also invite community members to be a part of our programming, like this summer when the local Boy Scouts were invited to partner with us to make our scheduled LEGO Chima program into a surprise LEGO car pinewood derby! Reaching out with a specific fit and a flexible schedule are important for community partnerships to thrive.
TCBR: Could you tell us one thing about librarians or libraries that you think would be surprising?
SB: I just want to put out there, for the record: if you need to ask us a question, please don’t apologize for bothering us. You’re not bothering anyone; helping you is our job! (A “thank you” goes a long way, though. Not as far as candy, or presents, but definitely far enough).
TCBR: I’m sure that you are asked many interesting questions on a daily basis. What would you say has been the most entertaining question asked of you by a parent or a child?
SB: I’m tickled by interactions every day! I love to be on the reference desk for this very reason. My favorite recent exchange went like this:
Kid: “Do you have Matilda?”
Me: “We sure do! Let’s go find it. It will be in the chapter books under D for Dahl, the author’s name.”
Kid: “GOOD. My teacher’s reading it at school and it’s taking FOR-EV-ER.”
SB: I would definitely want to be one of the robots in Robot Zombie Frankenstein by Annette Simon. I really can’t think of a better way to spend my time than playing dress-up with a friend, followed by eating pie.