Small Conference Love

I am way into library conferences. I was lucky in that as a student and in my first library job, I was able to attend conferences without paying out of pocket. In my new job, as a youth librarian in rural California, the budget is not always able to support that conference life I love so.

Luckily, the California State Library was able to support me and some other staff members to head to Fargo, ND for the ARSL conference. I was only 3 months into my new job, and this conference was really important for me. I had mostly worked in urban or wealthy suburban libraries with plenty of staff and resources to support what we wanted to do. The populations and politics were very different. Being at ARSL gave me a view into the state of small and rural libraries across the country, and allowed me to find a new context for my work and position.

The programs were also helpful. After Crystal Schimpf’s “Digital Advocacy for your Library”, I was inspired to film short storytime videos for our Facebook page, and am working on a Teen Advisory Group created Summer Reading promotion video. After Sara White’s presentation on “Reaching the Teachers”, I was able to scale my school outreach plans. Learning about the EDGE Initiative connected me to national benchmarks in technology.

The 2017 conference is going to be in Utah! Here's hoping I can go (and swing by Zion).


Wild and Scenic Film Festival Art Show

I'm so excited to have my art up in the Wild and Scenic Film Festival art show! This piece is a monster watercolor about Dendroctonus Ponderosae, the Mountain Pine Beetle, which is wreaking havoc in my new county - but interestingly is part of a healthy forest ecosystem in non-drought/non-climate change times. I just think this little beetle says a lot about our future and how we ought to handle it. The beetle in the painting is surrounded by a representation of its gallery, or tunnels burrowed in to the wood.

Preschool Art Party II

The second session of Preschool Art Party ends Monday, and it has been such a delight. With a class of 15 three to five year-olds, over a six-week session, we have created a cover and four internal pages to illustrate different concepts. Below is a scanned version of each page.

The classes I did were formatted like this:

We always sang "If you want to be an artist, clap your hands" with some silly things (ie give a high five, stick out your tongue) to start and finish class.

Class 1: color + books - cover - printmaking

Talked about books - their structure, etc, how we would be making books, and discussed color theory. We read Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin, and then did printmaking with bubblewrap and primary colors.

Class 2: This is me when I was a baby - watercolor + crayon resist

We read What Did I Look Like When I Was a Baby? by Jeanne Willis, and talked about what babies look like, and if they can remember anything from when they were a baby. Then I had them play with crayons and watercolors, and explained watercolor resist!

Class 3: This is where I live - texture

We read You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen. We discussed texture.

First we drew our homes with crayons on tracing paper, and then we painted and played with texture using anything but brushes to paint with tempera paint (ie corks, pipecleaners, popsicle sticks). Then, we pressed the tracing paper on to our painty paper to make cool textures.

Class 4: This is me when I’m grown up - collage

We did a review of the materials we have used so far, and then discussed collage; I showed examples, including The Right Word, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Then we read Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachael Rodriguez, and they made collages of what they want to be when they grow up.

I had precut out some images from books and magazines for them to choose from, and then had them at smaller tables this time. The reason I did this was to build in some kindergarten readiness skills – sharing, selecting, and communicating. I asked them all why they chose what they chose. We also learned about gluesticks, an important life skill!

Class 5: Self-portraits - watercolor

Today we read Portraits by Claude Delafosse and Gallimard Jeunesse, and then created self-portraits. We looked at my face and talked about the shapes we saw there.  I explained the concept of outlines to them, and looking at pictures of them I printed out, we drew outlines with pencil. Then, we painted with watercolor.

Self-concept is an important skill for preschoolers, and self portraits or art is a fun way to introduce it - plus I’m sure your fridge needs more decoration! Self-concept is the idea that you are a separate being from others around you, with your own likes, dislikes, and body. The “Terrible Twos” are an earlier iteration of that. Self-portraits, and art in general, is a way for them to define who they are, and builds their confidence.

Black History Month Portrait Workshop

To celebrate Black History Month, I held a registered art program for 8-12 year olds (10 of them!) to create portraits of incredible Black people. We only had 2 hours, so it was a bit rushed, though that was also the max amount of time I could keep them for a stand-alone program before they got wild.

I created packets with one page bios of some pre-selected people, and some worksheets that asked them to put down some things they wanted to highlight about their person. We started the class by looking at different portraits, talking about why they were made, and what they were expressing. Then I passed out the packets with the caveat that they could only swap packets ONCE and the kids found their subjects pretty quickly. I also handed out short picture books about the subjects so they could read about them in a different format as well.

I made sure to stay really active, asking them what they wanted to highlight, how they were going to do that, and why. We then talked about materials: watercolor and oil pastels. I gave a demo on how to use them, making sure to discuss common pitfalls (too much water, too much paint, color mixing on the paper vs in the wells, too much erasing). Then they got started!

My main mistake was not starting the class talking about why we celebrate Black History Month. I assumed that they had been doing that in school - we started off by talking about who they had been talking about at school, and they all could only remember MLK, which I should have known was a bad sign. And then, I should have talked about race. In all my preparation for this class, and in all my education and training in critical race theory and white privilege and allyship, I'm really surprised that I wasn't prepared for this obvious eventuality.

The group was made up of 6 kids who presented as white and 4 who presented as South Asian. The white girls table was totally mean girling it (talking smack about how one of them uses Wet and Wild makeup, and how Clinique is the only good kind, no it's not, what about this expensive brand, etc), with one particular perp who was a challenger in general and then said a racist comment. Her friends all called her out, and she said she didn't know what racism was, and then I asked her friends to define it for her. I wish I had engaged in a more in-depth conversation. I was in the mode of keeping us on track to finish all 10 portraits within the two hours and also, I got uncomfortable. I wish I had stuck with it, and remembered to avoid shaming her and talking about how comments and structures can be racist, but there's no use in pointing fingers and saying one or the other is a racist.

After class, I emailed the parents and let them know one of the tables had discussed racism, and sent out some resources to talk about race with your child, both for white kids and for kids who experience racism. Maybe that sparked some conversations.

Regardless, the portraits turned out well, we have a cool little gallery in the Children's Library now with black history makers, which was the point. But now I've belatedly remembered that it was just one of the points.

Preschool Art Party!

One of my registered storytimes this Winter is Preschool Art Party, a 6-week session with 3-5 year olds where we make art for 30 min together. It is so so fun.

We start out everyday with the song "If You're an Artist and You Know it" (clap your hands), doing two round with progressively sillier directives (wiggle your tongue in the air and say hello).

I focus every class on a different element from one of the seven components of childhood creativity from the Center for Childhood Creativity:

  • Imagination and originality
  • flexibility
  • decision making
  • communication and self expression
  • motivation
  • collaboration
  • action and movement

For instance, for my first class, we read Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith and talked about what they noticed in the art on the pages, drew from a still life (branches, rocks, acorns, and pinecones), looking at shapes and colors, and then painted directly on the still life!


I always send an email to the parents who register, letting them know what we did and why. Here's some of the text from that parent email:

"The reason I did this was to focus on one of the seven components of childhood creativity, flexibility. We saw the many different kinds of art represented at MoMA in the book, and then created two kinds of art using one still life. Cognitive flexibility is an important aspect of empathy – it helps us see from different perspectives – and allows us to develop creative solutions to problems, which is important in art, science, math, engineering, etc etc.

We also sang a song – If You’re An Artist and You Know It – and connected what we saw in a book to our own activities. Early Literacy skill-building takes many forms – and art is one of them! By learning to hold a paintbrush, we build muscles for writing. By expressing ourselves and explaining our art, we learn communication skills. By examining shapes, we are getting ready for letter recognition. More on that next week!

For a similar art activity at home, try setting up a still life. It can be a pile of recyclables, fruit, toys, etc. Set out a few different art supplies and let them choose what they want!"

We also drew our own picture books (communication and self-expression), and explored color making (decision-making). It's a great thing to look forward to. I only wish I had 45 minutes!

ALA's Midwitner Conference

I was so happy to attend ALA’s Midwinter Conference two weeks ago. One of the best parts of the experience was getting to participate in the Morris Seminar, a biannual book evaluation day for librarians. It was an honor to be selected, and an amazing opportunity to hear from the best in the biz about book evaluation. I illustrated some of the best pearls of wisdom for the ALSC blog; see the images below!

And, if you want to see what it was like to watch the Youth Media Awards, check this out

ALSC's Core Competencies

The Education Committee of the Association of Library Services to Children just updated their Core Competencies, and they are rad! I was honored to be asked to illustrate the new ones to help them get the word out. See the original post here!