May 10, 2012

Children's Literacy from a Librarian's Point of View


Illustrator, KC Snider, and Julie
reading the contest entries

Continuing my theme of children’s literacy for the Children’s Book Week blog hop, I sat down with Redmond Community Librarian, Julie Bowers. Julie and I first met when we were involved in the Redmond 4th Grade Writing Contest. Now, who doesn’t LOVE a community minded librarian who wears really cute skirts? Julie works at the Redmond Branch of the Deschutes Public Library.

Julie, I’m a huge fan of the Deschutes Public Library System, the children’s library in particular. I have four children and have found the library an invaluable resource.

Thank you. Me too. I can’t imagine parenting without the library. When my son was little we used to the library for so many things – story time, books for fun, books for projects, music magazines, and movies. Our budget was tight, and I was so grateful to have this wonderful destination where we could pass a pleasant afternoon of discovery and not have to pay anything! Plus, we’d take home entertainment in so many forms to enjoy all week.

What is the age range of the children your library is serving?

We aim to catch them early. The Redmond Friends of the library give books and story time invitations to parents of newborns in the hospital! We serve children with story times and books right from birth. Reading with your baby every day is important to building a reader, and also to create strong emotional bonds.

We’re really excited right now about our upcoming Summer Reading Program. Summer is so much fun for us because it gives us a chance to reconnect with school age kids and teens (beyond the classroom and school projects). The programs this year are going to have a “night” theme – we expect to have a visiting planetarium, a rocket program, all kinds of great stuff. And of course we’ll be giving away LOTS of books and other great prizes to summer readers of all ages. Word is that the grand prize for the winner of the adult drawing will be an e-reader, so be sure to participate!

Oh my gosh, the Summer Reading Program has been a favorite with my kids (and of course me) for YEARS!

What section of the library has experienced the most growth?

Our digital collection is experiencing incredible usage. The number of mobile device users is up over 50% this year alone. And it continues to grow – in February we had well over 500 new digital download users. I’m a fan of the paper book myself, but I’m seeing some wonderful benefits to e-readers. It’s great to be able to load your slim e-reader up with vacation reading when traveling – goodbye heavy satchel full of books! For some people the technology makes it possible to continue reading, because they can no longer see the print or hold the weight of a print book. We had a woman in the Redmond branch who hadn’t read for years because even large print books were much too small. We helped her set the font on her e-reader to “gigantic” and she was reading again. It was really moving to see this technology return someone to reading.

Along with e-books we’re also offering audiobooks in mp3 and other formats. And I’d like to mention that we also offer free and legal music downloads though, Freegal, our music partner. Unlike the e-books and audiobooks, which expire at the end of the loan period, these songs are yours to keep as long as you like. There were 5000 music downloads from Freegal during the last month!

I’m like your target audience! I recently stocked my Kindle with library books for my Alaskan cruise and I’ve begun checking out mp3 books on my iPod to listen to while I exercise. Thanks for the Freegal tip!

Julie, what’s the annual circulation for the library per year? Children’s library?

In 2010-11 the Redmond Public Library saw over 450,000 circulations. About 177,000 of those were children’s items. The county as a whole circulated almost 2.5 million items for the same year. (The county reported a population of 157,733 in the 2010 Census. Wow! That’s an average of 15.8 items per person!!)

In your experience what benefits does a child who reads or is read to often have over a child who doesn’t have a lot of reading in their life?

People who grow up reading have so much more experience with ideas and language than people who don’t. It’s so important to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as imagination. Household where adults read with their kids spark a love of reading that will give children such an advantage though out their lives. On a global level, we see increased literacy linked to lower crime. I think that a literate and informed citizenry is key to successful democracy.

Finally, Julie, in this age of shrinking budgets, what is the children’s library’s biggest challenge in the next fiscal year and how can patrons help?

We’ve had to mothball the bookmobile, which has had a huge impact on our outreach efforts. The library foundation is working to raise money to bring back the bookmobile, along with other great projects. If you’re able to make a financial gift of any size to the DPL Foundation, please do!

Our library enjoys a wonderfully supportive community; we rely heavily on library volunteers to keep us going. You can also help by donating books to the Friends of the Library. Or join them! The Friends of the Library does great fundraising work through the bookstore. The Friends’ Art Committee also brings art to the people with our wonderful library gallery shows.

Julie, I can’t thank you enough for visiting with us during this special Children’s Book Week Blog Hop! You’ve been such a fabulous and informative guest. I hope you and all your fellow librarians enter for your chance to win the bag of books for the library!

Listen up readers and librarians! To enter, become a GFC follower of this blog, like my facebook page, KaiStrand, Author and leave a comment on this post. Remember to sign up through Rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Then visit the other GAP authors participating in the blog hop:

Guardian Angel Publishing Author Blogs:
Come back tomorrow when I talk about Raising A Reader. Hopefully by now, you are convinced that you need to encourage literacy for your child from a young age. Tomorrow I’ll share some ways my husband and I have done it with our four children.

8 comments:

  1. Love your library tips....my kids loved the summer book program when they here snall.

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    1. Great circulation numbers! Love that you have the newborn outreach program. Wonderful!

      All the best,
      Donna

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    2. Thank you ladies! We are blessed to have a fantastic library for the size of our community. But I think libraries in larger communities are often forgotten. I hope I'm wrong.

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  2. Wonderful library information, Kai. Thank you.

    BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques
    http://www.margotfinke.com

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  3. Sometimes if I had to do it all over again, I would become a librarian. Hindsight is 20/20. Can't wait for tomorrow's topic about raising a reader, I hope I am!

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    1. I've considered going back to school for it, Margo. Seems like I chose the wrong path as well ;-)

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  4. Kai, I love libraries, too. My kids would bring home stacks of books every week when they were young. Little did I know than that I would be writing books for kids after my own grew up.

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