Getting out of the library can be tricky, but the youth services librarians in Eau Claire found that it was extremely valuable in getting some new ideas for their library's early literacy space. Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer sat down and answered a few questions about their adventures.
1. What made you decide to take a tour of libraries? What were you hoping for?
In part we went because it is a goal in our strategic plan that we visit other libraries that have early literacy spaces.
We are always looking for ideas on how to expand and improve upon our area, and seeing firsthand what other libraries do is exceptionally helpful. We just introduced our Play and Learn area about a year ago, so we are definitely in the “how does this work best” mode. Ridgedale, in particular, has a wealth of ideas because they have been doing this for so long. I attended a pre-conference at PLA in 2008 where Dana Bjerke spoke about their space and what she showed us made so much sense to me. Her ideas were easy to duplicate or put your own spin on and we have used many of them in our room with great success.
2. Which libraries did you tour?
We toured the Ridgedale Public Library in Minnetonka (Hennepin County Library System). The Roseville Public Library in Roseville (Ramsey County Library System) and the Sun Ray Branch in St. Paul (St. Paul Public Library).
3. What did you see that inspired you?
The Ridgedale Library is always inspiring. Rather than me talking at length about what we saw, I’ll include their Flickr address so you can see firsthand. They have a community theme going right now and they had so many fun yet educational ideas that would be easy for many libraries to implement in their own way. www.flickr.com/photos/ridgedalelibrary
We also LOVED the children’s reading garden at Roseville. What an amazing outdoor space for kids and families to explore. They also have an outdoor area where they can do storytime. The “floor” of the storytime area is squishy and bouncy and I’m sure the four of us looked a little strange jumping around out there, but we couldn’t help ourselves!
Children's Reading Garden--Roseville
4. Tell me about what it was like for you as a staff to do something like this together. Did it accomplish what you hoped it would?
It isn’t often that we get to do something like this, so it is very exciting for some of us to break away from the library and get to see in person what other libraries look like, what their vision for service to children and teens is and, most importantly, to get ideas! My goal was to get more ideas for our early literacy area (Play and Learn), which we did. However, I think looking at other libraries really made my staff appreciate the library we work at and the beautiful space that we get to work in every day!
5. What are some must-see libraries for IFLS librarians, and why?
Ridgedale is a must-see if you can swing it. I have been there two times and I have come home both times with SO many ideas of things to try in our room. Last year we also visited the downtown St. Paul library, the Hopkins Branch of the Hennepin Co. System and the new-ish Minneapolis Library. Of those three, I would return to Hopkins. It is a small branch library, but I loved their early literacy space. I think it is a good example of what can be done in branch libraries or small libraries where there isn’t someone staffing the Youth Services area.
6. How much did this adventure cost?
The Library paid for our lunch (we get $13.80/ea) and either a rental car or gas.
For more inspiration, see the whole flickr account Shelly set up, with photos of this tour and the one she took last fall, too. If you have any questions about this adventure, Shelly would love to share ideas with you--she always gets more ideas, herself, when she has a chance to talk with other librarians.
A spot with chalk board contact paper where kids can practice writing their ABC's - great big spot and wonderful for kids who haven't developed those fine motor skills needed for writing on lined paper. Plus, who doesn't like to write on a chalk board? (do they even have those in classrooms anymore?)