Youth Librarian Insights: Happy Hour Recap

Welcome to Winter Quarter!

For some us, this is our last year. For others, there is at least one more ahead of us. No matter if you are just starting the MLIS program or you are finishing, it’s important to know as much about the field as possible.

What’s a better way to learn about the field than by eating cheesy fries alongside practicing Librarians?

Thank you so much to Dawn Rutherford and Kristin Piepho for coming out to talk to us about the job process, what it’s like in the field, and what we can do to better prepare ourselves.

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Here are some takeaways from some of us who attended the event:

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Tails & Tales: How to build a therapy animal reading program

Welcome to December, folks! Let’s close out fall quarter with some puppies.

Jobie reads one of her favorite books
Jobie reads one of her favorite books

Reading with a therapy animal can help reluctant readers, disabled readers, new language learners, and anxious readers gain confidence and develop a love of reading. Animals have no judgement, speak every language, and possess the patience to sit through the 10,000th rendition of Eastman’s Go Dog Go. I’ve seen kids initially dragged into the library by their parents barely notice their halting slog through Frog and Toad (Lobel) transform into confident sailing through Dragon Masters (West) as they bond with their therapy animal. Here are my tips for setting up a therapy animal reading program at your library.

Develop a relationship with your local therapy animal organization. I’ve worked with Intermountain Therapy Animals’ READing Paws, one of many organizations that provide the training, certification or registration, and insurance for the hundreds of volunteer handlers and animals who work in schools, hospitals, and libraries. Training requirements vary between organizations, so look for an organization with clearly defined proficiency requirements for both animals and their handlers. Check with your library’s director or legal team and work out a liability agreement between the library and the therapy animal organization. Most of these organizations carry liability insurance for the animals on its registry. Your library may require all volunteers who work with children to undergo a background check. It’s common practice to have parents and caregivers sign a waiver before their child reads with a therapy animal.

Promotional handout for the Douglas County Public Library's READing Paws program, created by DCPL staff
Promotional handout for the Douglas County Public Library’s READing Paws program featuring Tony, the World’s Cutest Pit Bull, created by DCPL staff

Create a schedule that works for your community. If you have a large number of homeschool families, go ahead and schedule that Tuesday mid-morning slot. Traditional schoolchildren may do best swinging by the library after school or on Saturday mornings. The lesson here is know your patrons. Once you do establish a schedule, stick to it. Families need time to add a new program to their schedules, and like any literacy program, consistent practice is key. This may mean seeing if your handler volunteers are available to substitute for each other should a schedule conflict pop up.

Respect and love your volunteer handlers. Therapy animal handlers undergo expensive and time-consuming training alongside their animal partners to learn how to support young readers. Most animals need to be bathed, brushed, and have their nails trimmed and teeth brushed before working in a library. All the time handlers spend coordinating with library staff and their fellow volunteers is also unpaid, and all of this happens before even a single child snuggles up to their poodle with a copy of Hop on Pop (Seuss). As with all relationships you have with library volunteers, be respectful of their time and talents, and express your gratitude for the gift they give your patrons. Accommodate the needs of their critters, too, perhaps by providing a water dish and built-in potty breaks. Check in frequently with your handlers to see how they feel the program is running, and adjust as necessary.

Tony, Trace, and Jobie: Good Dogs
Tony, Trace, and Jobie: Good Dogs

Market the heck out of your program. In addition to your library’s usual barrage of press releases, posters, and event calendars, ask your local elementary schools if you can include flyers in their weekly PeeChee folder take home. Work with your school librarians to identify readers who may benefit from reading with an animal. If your community has an English as a Second Language (ESL) program, talk to those folks. Give a five-minute shout out at an immigrant or refugee community organization program. Get creative, and remember: cute pictures of puppies basically sell themselves.

Develop a day-of coordination plan. Work with your handlers to develop how the program should work for your patrons. One model is first come, first serve, with readers signing up at the reference, circulation, or children’s service desk as they arrive. This model allows readers to browse, read, and play until their turn. Other libraries invite readers to sign-up for a time slot ahead of time. Most therapy animal sessions last about 15 minutes, a good length of time for squirmy kiddos and animals alike. Handlers may have preferences, but most programs ask that parents and caregivers give their kids space and privacy to read. It can be helpful to have a staff member or library volunteer monitoring the sign-in sheet to keep the readers to their allotted time, ensuring that all interested readers get a chance to read with an animal.

Promotional bookmark
Promotional bookmark: read with a dog eight times to earn a free book!
Handlers use paw print stamps to mark a reader’s attendance

Support your readers. Therapy animal reading programs are meant for kids who may have anxieties surrounding reading and libraries and have not yet fallen in love with reading. Greet these readers as they come into your library and make the sign-in process easy for them. Provide readers’ advisory to help them find engaging books at their reading level. Make these children feel like they help these animals by reading with them. The reading area itself should be semi-private so that kids don’t have an audience besides the animal and her handler. Most kids like to lounge on a blanket or beanbag chair, snuggled up close to the therapy animal. Kids will often smoke through a single book and have leftover time in their session. Allow them to pick a second story by stashing a basket of books in the reading area in a variety of reading levels and languages for these patrons, perhaps on an animal theme.

Now go forth and develop your own therapy animal reading programs!


Ellie Newell is an MLIS Candidate at the University of Washington’s iSchool and an iYouth first year ambassador. She is grateful to Terry Cuyler and all the other fantastic READing Paws handlers and to their beautiful, wise, and precious doggies: Jobie, Trace, Tony, Nemo, and Grizzly. Many thanks also to the wonderful staff at the Douglas County Public Library in Minden and Zephyr Cove, NV.

Resource: AAP’s Family Media Use Planner

Hello, all!  In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new set of guidelines for children’s media use.  Along with these recommendations, the AAP also launched a Family Media Plan tool on their Healthy Children website.  This planner is designed to help parents and caregivers talk with their children about how to use technology in responsible, creative, and age-appropriate ways.  It’s also a great resource for librarians to share with their patrons and incorporate into their practice.

AAP Family Media Use Planner

Available in Spanish and English, the planner prompts families to identify screen-free zones within the home as well as screen-free times and device curfews for each child under the age of eighteen.  In addition to providing a platform for families to discuss the more cut and dry elements of their tech usage, like internet safety and etiquette, the Family Media Use Planner also uses prompts to facilitate a dialogue about media mindfulness.

The AAP encourages parents and caregivers to have discussions with their children about how to balance screen time with other favorite activities, how to make informed decisions about media consumption, and how to be a good digital citizen.  By opening up a dialogue with kids about their use of media, parents and caregivers (and librarians!) can help them to make more informed choices and engage in critical self-reflection.  Children who actively learn how to be thoughtful about the way they participate in our media culture practice the skills and awareness they need to develop into mindful adults.  

If you have children in your family or work with kids in any capacity, consider taking some time to familiarize yourself with the AAP’s media guidelines.  You may find that the long holiday weekend is the perfect time to use the Family Media Plan to set achievable goals and intentions for your family or the children you serve.

Looking for more resources?  Here are a few suggestions…

  • For Librarians
    • Consider adding resources like Tumblebooks (animated/talking ebooks) or Beanstack (customized reader’s advisory) to your library’s digital offerings.
    • Get inspired by the STEM and mindfulness themes other librarians are using in their programming and brainstorm your own ideas.
    • Incorporate Media Mentorship into your work with children and families.

This blog post was written by Elizabeth Myers.  She is a first-year residential MLIS student interested in youth librarianship and issues of information access.

What American Youth Librarians can Learn from the Danish Library System: Fun as a First Priority

Happy November, readers! Although summer is now just a glittering memory for most of us as fall settles in, I remain excited and inspired by the experiences I had while visiting Copenhagen, Denmark in late August and September.

Our travel group!

One of the most exciting and important portions of the trip was a visit to the city of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark and the home of Dokk1, the most innovative and unique library I have had the fortune to visit. Dokk1 (pronounced DOC-EN if you’re Danish, or DOC-ONE if you’re American – it means “the Dock” because of the building’s location on the harbor) perfectly represents the Danish value of fun and “hyyge” – coziness. The library, completed in 2015, was built to be the living room of the city, and they accomplish this particularly well with respect to their children’s collections and spaces.


Dokk1 at night on the harbor.

The children’s area in Dokk1 is imaginative, fun, spirited, and completely different from every American library I’ve visited. The area has dress-up clothes (not just in children’s sizes either!), climbing gyms, and video games. The library was relatively quiet when I visited, but the tour guide assured us that it can get quite loud, and they actually encourage that! The library is surrounded on all sides by a globally inspired playground, with different areas representing various countries of the world: a bear slide stands for Russia while a climbable eagle points toward the USA.



The bear of Russia, surrounded by happy Danes!


The space in Dokk1 works hard to be there for all the members of the Aarhus community, and they fully include children in that ideology. Children feel, from the cradle into adolescence, that they are accepted and welcomed into community spaces.  This is in contrast to what can often feel like repressive, quiet spaces in American public libraries.

So what can we learn as future children’s librarians – we may not have the benefit of working in Dokk1 or a similarly family- or children-friendly facility, but I believe that we can all incorporate the welcoming spirit, openness, and creative use of community space that Dokk1 has made so central to their mission. If we can take even just a small piece of that Danish ability to welcome noise and chaos into our otherwise orderly library lives, I think we can create a whole new generation of library-loving kids.


LGBTQ Middle Grade

Hi everyone! Hope your classes are going well. While you may not have time for pleasure reading at the moment, you might be able to squeeze in a middle grade book over the weekend or be able to refer to this list for any kids in your life! Middle grade that features LGBTQ characters is something I wish there was more of, and if you know of any others, please let us know!



The Other Boy
by M.G. Hennessey
“Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.”
The Hidden Oracle (#1 in The Trials of Apollo series)
by Rick Riordan
“After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour. But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.”


unnamed-2Princess Princess Ever After
by Katie O’Neill
“When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what happily ever after really means — and how they can find it with each other.”


Better Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle
“Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.”


by Alex Gino
“When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”


by Barbara Dee
This one sadly doesn’t come out until March 2017, but I’m just so excited about it! You can find pre-order links here!
“Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare. Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British. As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.”

Images and blurbs from Goodreads.