Sunday, June 14, 2009

A bit of info, a lot of sparkle

In my library system, each children's librarian is responsible for visiting every elementary school in his or her library service at least once and preferably twice during the school year.

During my many years at various branches, I usually visited all the classes in each school once during the fall and winter - each presentation lasted 15 to 20 minutes, so it would take me quite a few morning to get through the entire school. I'd read a few books, booktalk a few more, and let them know the 411 about my library's location and hours, how to get a library card, and other crucial stuff.

Right before school let out for the summer, I'd go back to my schools and tell all the classes, either in 5-minute classroom blitz presentations, multi-classroom auditorium presentations, or the dreaded whole-school assembly presentation, all about our library Summer Reading Club.

Although I'm now an adminstrator and no longer work at a branch, I have been visiting schools for the last couple weeks, filling in for libraries with vacancies or librarians who aren't able to make the school visits this year. Whew! School visits are exhausting and exhilirating - and since I am speaking to kids who have never seen me before and never will again, these have been especially challenging.

Here are my secret Summer Reading Club presentation weapons -

1. Link the theme to books, movies, and info that thrill kids. Our theme? Treasured Islands! Pirates, parrots, treasure - the possibilities are endless. Get the kids excited about these things, and they will be more likely to visit the library.

2. Tell kids, over and over and in every way possible, that the library has whatever it is they want and need. And if we don't have it, we'll get it.

3. Sparkle. Yep, sparkle. This has taken me many years to get halfway decent at, but it has served me better than all the polished booktalks in the world. Basically, to sell your library, you need to sell yourself to the kids. Exude charisma, charm, and approachability. Be nice, be fun, be a person they'll want to visit the library to see and talk to. This is the part that utterly exhausts me - after a full morning of sparkling, all I want to do is curl up with a book and a gin and tonic with extra lime. But it is so, so worth the effort.

I have another school visit tomorrow, far far away from both my house and my regular workplace. I'm not familiar with the area and I've only been to the nearby library a few times. I'll be talking to 5 huge groups of classes, one for each grade, in the auditorium. It will be tiring. But I'll be armed with information about the library, a few great books about pirates, my SRC spiel - and plenty of sparkle. If I do my job well, those kids will visit their local library at least once this summer, to see what all the fuss is all about. And the fabulous library staff at the Valley Plaza library will take it from there...


  1. Oh, Eva, you do sparkle! I, too, am exhausted after school visits. Seven classes in the library this am just about wiped me out! Hang in there.

  2. A big cup of coffee has restored my energy (but the sparkle is all used up for the day). Lucky you, Martha - the kids will come to your library and say, "Remember me from Mr. Roth's class?" and beg for that book you showed them. Me, I just have to imagine the kids flocking to their nearby library...

  3. School visits make my job worthwhile. I'm already strategizing how I can get to more classes more times next school year.

    On the other hand, with all the problems at our branch, I often secretly hope that the kids I meet end up going to a safer and more comfortable library...even though I love seeing them come to 'mine'! Not many of them make it over here, anyway, though.

    Once in a while, there is a kid in the class who HAS visited, and he/she will ask, "Don't you guys have a lot of police at your library?" And then I get to 'sparkle' and say, "Why, yes, we even have books for police! We have books for EVERYONE!" And the kids' eyes get wide....

    I think for a large number of the kids we visit at schools, our class visits are the only connection they have with a public library. So doing excellent class visits still matters, even if the kids don't make it to the library for years.

  4. That's so true, Sarah! I still run into "kids" who now work at the market and the pet store - "Hi Ms Mitnick, I remember you reading to our class!" That's what happens when you live and work in the same community for many years...Anyway, yes, our visits to schools make a real impact on kids.