Category Archives: Guest Posts

Get to Know a… Youth Services Consultant



This week we’re introducing Katie Anderson, youth services consultant for Oregon State Library. Take it away, Katie!



Katie Anderson


Your title, duties, and what an average day might look like for you.


I’m the youth services consultant at the Oregon State Library. My work is focused on the three library youth services best practices identified by the Oregon State Library as a result of a statewide community analysis. Our three best practices are early literacy training, summer reading, and outreach to underserved populations.


I coordinate statewide summer reading activities, follow and share information about statewide early learning and summer learning initiatives that libraries should be aware of, foster the development of partnerships at the state and local level to better meet the needs of underserved youth and families, and administer the only state funds public libraries in Oregon receive. Oregon public libraries may only use state funding on early literacy and summer reading activities.


I also get to work on a lot of fun special projects. Several years ago I facilitated a statewide early literacy training project and last year I got to work with Oregon Public Broadcasting on Celebrating 100 Years of Beverly Cleary.
What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?


One of my grad school professors did a lot of unique work throughout his career. I asked him how he got those jobs. Essentially he said networking and saying yes. He developed good relationships with library staff all over the world. Over the years some of them were asked if they knew anyone who could do unique library and information infrastructure work. They would recommend my professor and he almost always said yes, even when he didn’t think was qualified and wasn’t sure what would be required.


This stuck with me so when I was strongly encouraged to apply for my job by a couple people I said yes. I didn’t know what state libraries do, I didn’t know the job “youth services consultant” existed, and I wasn’t sure what any type of consultant actually did. All my jobs, even in high school, were working directly with kids. Working with kids was what I enjoyed most about all my past jobs so I decided I’d stay in this desk job for two years. It’s been ten years! Little did I know this would be the dream job I never even knew to dream about. I love it!
What things give you the most joy in your position?


Helping library staff. When a librarian tells me I made their job easier or some bit of information I gave them helped them get a grant it’s like getting hug from a kid after storytime. I also love showing off the great work Oregon libraries do to state agencies, like the Oregon Department of Education, and statewide organizations, like the Oregon Afterschool Network. Too often these people are surprised by what the learn libraries are doing and how libraries support student success.

What’s most challenging for you?


Two things I thought I’d never have to do as a librarian—TV/radio interviews and complex math. I only get asked to do interviews on TV or radio a couple times a year and I always try to find someone else to do it because I’m terrible at it! Once a year I have to calculate how much state funding each legally established public library is eligible to apply for based on a $1 per child, 20% distributed based on square miles and 80% distributed based on population formula. Lots of Oregon libraries have service areas that don’t follow city or county boundaries so you have to create estimates based on voter registration and call county GIS departments. I’m not good at math (fortunately excel does that for me!), but I am good at logic puzzles which is necessary to figure out boundaries and a few other oddities so it’s a good challenge!

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice that you would give me?


Join your state’s library association and get a leadership position in the youth services division. Identify staff at other libraries you would want to learn from and pick their brains, perhaps even figure out some project to work on together. Subscribe to the ALSC and YALSA listservs and identify some other ways that work for you to follow trends and research in library youth services (like following this blog!). Follow what’s going on in education, early childhood, and afterschool/summer learning in your state—what initiatives is your state’s department of education focused on, what legislation is your afterschool network advocating for, what laws have changed for childcare providers and think about how these things impacting your patrons and the organizations you partner with and what your library can do to help.


Guest Post Series: Guerrilla Moms

You Can Take the Mom Out of the Library, but You Can’t Take the Youth Services Librarian Out of the Mom

After 10 years in Youth Services I took a break to stay at home with my daughter who is now two and a half. Filling about 10 waking hours a day is often a challenge, especially when the weather in Ohio keeps us in the house. My professional training and interests very much influence the way we fill our time.


Unsurprisingly books are always available to her and we do a lot of reading, but it goes beyond that. I believe in learning through play and creating a language rich environment. I do not believe that being a good parent means you must spend every waking second entertaining your kid. I prefer to provide materials and situations that are what some bloggers refer to as “invitations”, opportunities for her to experiment and explore with different materials. We do have some screen time, because sometimes mommy has things to do. I just try to pick well, and make sure it doesn’t take over our day.


For example, I’ve recently been planning out the next two months. There are four different categories our activities fall into:


These includes smaller trips like visiting the library, neighborhood playground, or splash pad as well as bigger family trips once a week to the zoo, botanical garden, museums, or petting zoo. We are very sad that our Children’s Museum is closed for a move, as it was an easy bus ride away and lots of fun.

Outside Play

I am an indoor person, but I can see all the ways my daughter benefits from outdoor play.  This summer she will have access to a sand table, water table, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, and other outdoor toys. The water table was a huge hit last year and I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to bring it back out.

Indoor Play/Toys

Another place you can find my librarian background is in the toys I seek out for my daughter. If it lights up, flashes, or makes noise you can probably assume I didn’t buy it for her.  We focus on toys that encourage open ended/and or pretend play like blocks, dress up clothes, and musical instruments.


Last summer I picked a different color every week and we did activities where the materials focused on that color.This summer I am not doing specific themes, but am scheduling one of these activities a day for four days a week, leaving one day for those bigger outings. Some days the activity will be a hit, and somedays it will bomb. I try hard to just let her lead and sometimes we’ll try again a few months later with more success. With a few exceptions these fall into four main categories themselves:


  1. Sensory activities are developmentally beneficial in a number of ways. This post from Not Just Cute sums it up pretty well. I usually present sensory activities to my daughter in a plastic storage bin or dishpan. Sometimes we even turn her baths into a new sensory experience with colored water or additions like pool noodle pieces, balloons, or glow sticks.greensensory
  2. Process art is art that lets children explore without a pre-determined result in mind. NAEYC has a great primer on process art if it’s a new concept for you. Process art can be messy, but an old shirt of mom or dad’s and a shower curtain liner from the dollar store can help contain the mess.paintingkiddobingodots
  3. Pretend play is pretty self-explanatory. So far, at 2 her pretend play has been mostly limited to imitating us with her play kitchen, tools, and doctor kit. This summer we will be looking for ways to expand this by setting up simple things like a stuffed animal hospital, ice cream parlor, and castle.
  4. Activities to help her develop fine and gross motor skills are generally things that challenge her dexterity, balance, and coordination. Whether due to being a preemie or just genetics she’s always done things that require large motor control at the tail end of the normal range. We’re fine with her taking her time, but I like to encourage her to challenge herself.  These activities can be as simple as tearing up pieces of tissue paper and putting them into the neck of a bottle or walking lines made of painter’s tape on the floor. Our homemade ball pit and  playground outings really help with this as well.




If you want to know more about the activities we’ll be trying this summer I’ve set up a Pinterest board to share them with you. Click here to take a look.



Beth Saxton has over ten years experience as a youth services librarian, most recently at Cleveland Public Library.  After graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 2002 she found a real passion for youth services with both little ones and teens and is an active member of ALSC and YALSA. When isn’t busy raising a little reader of her own, she’s reading,knitting, or participating in various fandoms. You can find her on Twitter (@BethReads) or her website (

Guest Post Series: Guerrilla Moms

As a new mom, I was thinking about how youth services librarians, early childhood development professionals, and storytime providers go about incorporating their knowledge into parenting. Sometimes, parents at storytime may feel overwhelmed by trying to utilize all these skills at home, especially when it comes to minimizing screen time and maximizing real world interaction. There are so many messages about screen time and kids, and so few real world strategies for what to actually DO that works as well for quieting a 2 year old having a meltdown in Target as well as giving her an iPad. So, I thought I’d ask some experts who I know are working hard at parenting with early childhood best practices in mind to share the nitty gritty of how they do it.


ninja moms


Our second post of the series is by Gwen Vanderhage. Gwen is a kids & teens collection development librarian for Brodart. She sadly hasn’t done storytime in public in a couple of years but is still on message for Early Literacy at every opportunity. She has a toddler son at home, where they read books, play with egg shakers, and have silly dance contests. Here are her words:


I won’t lie, the thing that makes me a super stealthy Storytime Ninja is that I use this stuff at home. I am a full-time toddler mom and part-time librarian. The Joint Chiefs were all, “Who might have pro-tips we can share with our storytime parents? Ninja moms!”  It’s amazing how practicing what you preach makes your preaching feel so much more meaningful and compelling.


It’s particularly timely that we talk about this right now, just after the Babies Need Words Everyday roll-out, because the easiest thing I share with parents is TALKING to your baby. All of the things we’ve practiced saying in our parent speeches are true:


  • It feels funny to narrate your day to an infant, but it gets easier
  • Talk about your errands and point out interesting things
  • Name everything, all the time
  • Singing is kinda the same as talking, so if you’re more comfortable, start with that
  • Talk WITH your kids, not just at them (make eye contact with your baby, let her coo back)


Real life example 1: One of the easiest ways to start talking about the world with your baby, is to begin in the produce section of your grocery store. No one will frown at you – they will smile. Let your baby feel the broccoli, rub a peach on his cheek, sniff the cilantro. Shoppers are supposed to wash this stuff at home, so don’t hesitate! You can talk about the produce long before your baby is big enough to eat it and also talk about it when you prepare it. Talk about it when your baby starts squelching and eating solids. Talk about it when he’s big enough to stand next to you on a stool and let him stir, or (gasp) use a child-friendly knife to “dice” a banana. You can talk about the 5 senses. You can use big vocabulary like “tangerine.” You can introduce colors. You can count apples. You can start talking about how plants grow… there’s a natural progression and you just keep talking. Hey look, PBS has parent tips for the grocery store too!


Real life example 2: Let’s talk about our feelings. Babies are really engaged with books that show other babies’ faces, particularly those baby faces that are expressing emotions, like Margaret Miller’s original Baby Faces book. With wordless books, it doesn’t feel natural to just hold a book up and turn the pages; of course you’re going to talk about what you see! Talk about how that baby feels. Why does she feel that way? What happened? “That baby is sad. I wonder why? Maybe she dropped her binky. What makes you sad?” “Mmm, that baby is eating. What foods do you like to eat?” Reading a book this way trains us and our children to have a conversation, as well as learning words and concepts. It also helps your baby begin to learn empathy. You want to set the stage to continue having conversations about feelings with your child for a lifetime, right?


I know you have other great examples you give parents for talking and how it can set the stage for literacy. Please share them!

Guest Post Series: Guerrilla Moms

As a new mom, I was thinking about how youth services librarians, early childhood development professionals, and storytime providers go about incorporating their knowledge into parenting. Sometimes, parents at storytime may feel overwhelmed by trying to utilize all these skills at home, especially when it comes to minimizing screen time and maximizing real world interaction. There are so many messages about screen time and kids, and so few real world strategies for what to actually DO that works as well for quieting a 2 year old having a meltdown in Target as well as giving her an iPad. So, I thought I’d ask some experts who I know are working hard at parenting with early childhood best practices in mind to share the nitty gritty of how they do it.


I never get tired of making Gorilla/Guerrilla jokes basically.


Our first guest post is by my high school friend Amanda Villaveces, who has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and was a Montessori teacher for 10 years. Here’s what she told me:


Ok, here are my thoughts – we as a family generally do 4 things that keep our screen time down and keep us otherwise entertained.


1. Have materials available (very Montessori). The boys have a play area in every room of the house with toys and books. They can reach all the materials they need (eg Max has all his art supplies in the closet where he can grab them, but Theo can’t because he’s 18mo and would paint the walls if he could).


2. We encourage creativity by being creative with them. I’ll paint my own picture and Max will grab materials and join me or Joe will be working on some electronics project and invite them to watch.


3. We take care of ourselves so we have to the energy to stay creative and  and patient and engaging. As the “primary” care giver since my husband works full time and I work part time, I have more kid duty, and cleaning and shopping duty etc. I had to learn when to tag him in so I could recharge.


4. We use TV wisely. We don’t own an actual TV because we bought a projector when Max was born (since we knew it would be a decade before we went to a movie theater again ) and so TV isn’t easily accessible. But we do watch it and when we do, we try to make it count. We have family movie nights or watch nature docs (sometimes Max will say “ugh can’t we just watch a fiction show today?” But he does love Attenborough). We also use TV when we need a time out but the other parent isn’t free. So if the kids are watching a show and I’m exhausted I try to make it count by reading during that time or taking a a hot shower, anything to help relax and recharge.


All that being said I think I should throw in- we encourage outside play, play dates, and we have a dog.

Get to Know A… School Services Librarian



Rachel Reinwald


Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.


I am a youth services librarian but am in charge of the school services. So I do the regular storytimes, desk work, ordering and RA, etc… but also teacher-y stuff. For school services, I do teacher resource bags, handle the teacher school cards, research and present CE workshops for teachers, team teach, host school field trips, create a teacher newsletter, etc. For YS services, I do baby storytime for 3-15 months, family storytime, 2-K, and 4-K storytime. I did the Kid Coders program for 4th-6th grade, Appy Hour for teachers, and Battle of the Books for 4th-8th graders. So, there is a lot of lesson planning, tech geekery, and research.


What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?


I was looking for school services positions because I just got off the teaching track. I like working with students and helping them research and learn, but I didn’t like all the school drama and bureaucracy. I like to get stuff done. My aunt teaches 1st grade in the area and she told me about it because she worked with my predecessor. It’s nice to have an insider giving you advice, like,  “[name] did this last year and this is what the teachers thought of it, so you should do this.”


What things give you the most joy in your position?


I love working with teachers and students in the schools. It’s nice to form a great relationship with them and then be able to give them supplemental materials and team teach with them right when they get into a unit. They’re like, “You read my mind! I would love a text features lesson on landform books!” (Sounds intriguing, right?) I also love baby storytime. I want to eat them up. I also like geeking out and doing readers’ advisory. The kid usually has a stack of 10 books and is slowly backing away from me while I jump up and down.


What’s most challenging for you?


I get things done pretty fast, so I don’t like waiting around on big projects that have to go through multiple people. It makes me jumpy. I usually multi-task to distract myself from the waiting. Like, waiting for your song handouts to get back from graphics? Make nametags.


If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?


Eventually, I would like to be a department head. I am an INFJ (go Meier’s Briggs!) and sometimes it frustrates me when I see good things a library can be and they’re not trying to be there yet. I have a strong vision of libraries and I want to help people make the most of the library so the community can benefit. People shouldn’t just go to the library to get a book, it should become part of the community itself. I also want to get more involved in professional development. I love it. I do CPDU workshops for our local teachers, I host SU’s local Chicago social chapter, I present at conferences, I’m writing lesson plans for the Library of Congress. I’m trying to convince RAILS and ISLMA to do cool professional development with me. It’s fun. It’s like teaching, but without all the parent phone calls.


Pretend I’m a brand new library professional, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?


You have to work on your own professional development. I am a school services librarian but I do all youth services tasks. It helps that I have a couple of teaching certificates, so I have the education background to know lesson planning, curriculum development, all the many standards, etc…  so that I know what teachers are talking about and they are confident that I understand them. Make a feed of library blogs that help you. Do the Storytime Underground University if you do storytimes (which I’m assuming you do, because you are reading this blog). Go to conferences. Submit conference proposals. And resubmit them. Meet people at conferences or Storytime Underground Local Chapters (wink wink Chicago). Take webinars.

If you are doing school services, there is a great site, that has free webinars on education topics (early literacy, team teaching, leadership, Common Core, Next Gen, etc…) and they give CEs for educators. I’m a geek, so I do a lot of research and tinker around with lesson plans.

Read a lot. You don’t have to, and obviously can’t, read every book in the library, but the more you do, the more you’ll get a feel for the different genres, reading levels, appeals and what’s popular to recommend to kids (I love Novelist’s Appeals Chart). Ask to write reviews and/or articles for professional journals. Right now, I’m in Library Sparks and Booklist (come on School Library Journal!).

Keep a blog for yourself on what you do. You want to share your abilities with others so they can hire you and learn from you, but you also want to reflect and learn from your past programs and other library activities. It helps make you better at your job. You could also take my ALSC Online Course, It’s Mutual: School & Public Library Collaboration J.