Tag Archives: Library

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 3

Happy New Year and welcome to the third and final part of my interview with Jessica Rollerson.  Today, Jessica will share her tips for dealing with challenging patrons.

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 3

As a specialist in Behavior Management, do you have any tips for dealing with difficult people in the library, either staff members or problem patrons?
When I worked in larger library we had many mentally ill patrons. Many of these people did not appear to have disabilities but presented themselves in a challenging way. One woman in particular was very difficult to please. She always seemed very angry with us and we noticed she was usually using our computers to write letters of complaint to one senator or another. I offered to work with her whenever she came in and I approached her the same way I have asked people I supervised to approach their least favorite clients: love them! If you approach any person as if you absolutely love them and can’t wait to find out more about them, you start putting out fires. Allow yourself to become fascinated by them. Often, they have a story to tell and the service you provide as a librarian is thatyou hear their story. This allows you to better understand what library services they need. This woman had lost her children due to schizophrenia. She was heartbroken and did not
understand why she had lost them. She was writing letters to senators to ask for help. I offered her a word processor away from the busy first floor. This helped her feel less agitated. I then helped her find the phone numbers for some mental health services in our town. Her anger at the library dissolved and she fell in love with us! You never know what the patron needs until you can find a way to listen to them.

What do you feel is the most common behavioral problem in libraries?
Overly nervous librarians! Oh- did you mean the kids? Honestly, whenever I start seeing the behaviors from kids as “problems” I’m already in trouble. That’s my sign that I need a cup of tea and some chocolate! Behaviors from kids are directions for me. When I see kids arguing over a computer it might be a sign that I need more laptops or a better sign-up system. Kids running through the building might be telling me they need a dance party or for me to help them set up their own school where they are the teachers and the stuffed animals are the students. I always try to see behaviors as instructions for me.

What are some tricks you use when you are starting to lose your patience with a difficult young patron?
I am pretty honest with the kids. If I find myself feeling crabby, I tell the kids that. “Andy, I’m actually kind of crabby today and your yelling is really making it worse. Will you help me?” Because I have a good relationship with these kids and they care about me, they tend to try pretty hard to help me just as I help them. Another trick I use is to keep my enemies close. If a kid is having a particularly tough time, I pull them in and invite them to do something with me. Maybe they will help me shelve books, mend a stuffed animal or make a card for their mom. If a child is asking for attention, I give it to them. Finally, I schedule my day so I won’t be trying to answer emails at 2pm when the school children arrive. I know that from 2-4 in the afternoon is my time to be present with my patrons. That way, I’m having fun along with them.

Jessica, thank you so much for your insights!  It was so much fun to talk with you 🙂


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Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 2

Sydney. Fireworks Newyear 2006. Opera House an...

Sydney. Fireworks Newyear 2006. Opera House and Harbour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy New Year’s Eve and welcome to part 2 of my interview with Jessica Rollerson.  Yesterday, we got to know a little about Jessica and her reading preferences, and today she will share her thoughts about programming at the library.

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 2

How can libraries create a “low-tech” makerspace for their young patrons?
Open the closets and ask for donations! Our kids know that they are welcome to anything in the closet. They also know (I don’t know how because I didn’t teach them this on purpose) that they have to ask me to get it. And we ask for donations. Yarn, fabric, hinges, springs; these are all things people are willing to donate and kids know how to use.

What are some of the benefits of giving kids control during programs?                                                                                                                                                    

The benefit of giving kids control of a program is that you automatically are providing each patron with the program they need. That said, I think the kids here know that I’m the boss and that I allow them a lot of freedom…on my terms. It seems chaotic down here but most of the time I know what each child is working on. If they are not engaged in a project that belongs at the library, I work with them to get them there. I’m great with busy, messy, loud and exciting. I’m not into chaos at all.

What is your take on the concept of “unprogramming”?
Unprogramming is a great approach.I read about it on, “The Show Me Librarian.”  They have a great guide to Unprogramming. http://showmelibrarian.blogspot.com/2013/07/unprogramming-part-6-collection-of.html

It’s really about letting the kids lead and moving away from telling them what’s good for them. It’s sort of akin to unschooling- an approach in which one allows her children to naturally acquire education as they naturally would as curious little creatures. It requires some faith on our part!

Thank you, Jessica!  Please join us tomorrow for the final part of the interview, when Jessica will discuss tips for dealing with challenging patrons.

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Show me the Awesome: 5 tips for program promotion


Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com

Today I’m participating in Show me the Awesome:  30 Days of Self-Promotion, co-hosted by Kelly, Sophie, and Liz.  All this month, librarians are showing us what makes them awesome.  Thank you for this wonderful series–I’ve gotten a lot out of reading the posts so far.  If you are interested in seeing posts from some awesome librarians, I’ve linked to Kelly and Sophie’s intro posts above.

I work in the Youth Services Department in my library, which means interacting with babies, kids, tweens, and teens on a daily basis.  To avoid saying “babies/kids/tweens/teens” in this post, I’ve chosen the term “young patrons” which includes anyone from birth to 18.

I believe that patrons are the future of libraries.  Sure, someday we might go completely digital and the shelves will be empty, but that doesn’t mean the library will be.  Programs are one of the most exciting parts of library life because they provide the opportunity for people to get together, make connections, and learn.  So, what’s the best way to promote your awesome programs to your community? (because, after all, it might be the most awesome plan in the world, but if no one shows up, it won’t matter).

1.  Listen to their opinions and try to incorporate them as much as possible

Some of their ideas will be inspired and fantastic—ideas you never would have come up with on your own. Other ideas will be crazy (and, in most cases, not feasible for the library setting). If the ideas are doable, by all means, try to implement them! This will give your young patrons a greater sense of involvement and even a sense of ownership for the program. If the idea is way out there (reading on the roof of the library comes to mind), applaud the creativity of the idea and explain why it isn’t feasible at this time (or ever). Sometimes crazy ideas have a good idea at the center, so if you can remove the more outlandish aspects, there might be something great there. So, maybe reading on the roof is out, but reading on the front lawn might be an excellent plan.

2.  Be flexible

What do you do if you’ve planned a book club meeting and hardly anyone has actually read the book? Don’t despair! I think that it’s important to be prepared for a program, but flexible enough to throw that plan out the window and talk about a book that everyone has read, or ask everyone for one reading recommendation. It may not have taken the turn you had expected, but it’s still a great book club meeting, because the group is sharing a love of reading and discussing books. Go with it.

3.  Don’t have a specific outcome in mind at the beginning

This goes along with #2. I always try to have more activities than I need in case something doesn’t work. I bring an agenda to most programs, mostly to keep myself organized and to make sure that I don’t forget to share important announcements with the group. Lately, I’ve noticed that I usually have an activity or two left over due to a later start time or an activity early on that captures their interest (and our time) more than I expected it would. Instead of being disappointed that we didn’t get through everything on “my plan”, I take it as a compliment that the kids were so absorbed in what they were doing, we didn’t have time for everything. There will be a program in the future where you can use leftover ideas (or repeat activities that were a big hit the first time around)

4.  Give your patrons control

Young people are busy.  They have soccer practice, piano lessons, drama club, and a million other things to fill their schedules (not to mention homework).  So, why would they want to take time out of their lives to come to a library program?  They’re not going to get in trouble if they don’t go.  It’s not required.  And that’s exactly what gives a library program the advantage.  There are no requirements.

Here’s an example from my library:

When the 5th grade book club members moved up to 6th grade last year, they grew out of the age bracket for the book club (which spans grades 3-5).  They needed something different, and not necessarily an older version of book club.  So, I lobbied for an undefined middle school group that would meet once a month.  With the support of management, we had our first meeting.  The program was new and unformed, and even though I had many ideas that I would like to explore (Graphic novel club!  Short story discussions!  Read-a-thon!) I held back and asked the kids what they wanted from the group.  I tried to leave as many of the decisions as I could up to them.  What should we name the group?  What is our purpose?  What would we like to accomplish?

I found out that a couple of them wanted to read a book each month to discuss, but the majority was not interested or did not have time for this.  The group included amazing artists, filmmakers, musicians, and scientists.  All of them were avid readers.  The group was named (after much debate) The Bibliophile Read-a-force.

We are still finding our way and trying to decide where we want to go.  This month, we will be participating in a 6 hour Read-a-thon fundraiser, which will benefit the group.  When we start up meetings again in the fall, we’ll have our own budget to make movies, draw comics, or do whatever else strikes our fancy.

I still suggest ideas, but I’m careful to judge their reactions and let my idea serve as the jumping off point.  For example, the Read-a-thon idea was mine, but I thought they would want to do a 2-3 hour session.  Boy, was I wrong!  They convinced me that 6 hours was much better, and we went with their decision.

The Bibliophile Read-a-Force Logo Copyright 2013 E. Henry

The Bibliophile Read-a-Force Logo
Copyright 2013 E. Henry

It may not be realistic to completely hand over program planning to young patrons, but they will love the chance to have a say in what goes on whenever possible.  Letting them name the group, create a logo and slogan for it and give their opinions about activities is like saying “I want to hear what you think.”  Giving them a chance to participate will make them understand that the library belongs to the community.  It’s also a good way to ensure attendance.  After all, how can you miss a program that you helped create?

5.  Remind yourself of the program’s purpose:

-to have fun

-to learn (without adhering to learning results)

-to foster a sense of community

-to give patrons a chance to actively participate.

Making sure to keep all of these points in mind will ensure that:

Patrons will promote programs they enjoy

It can be challenging to promote library programs, especially when there isn’t much of a budget for it. Using the library’s website and facebook page with the occasional radio or TV ad is a good place to start, but I’ve found that patrons will promote programs they enjoy to friends and family.  Pretty soon, a small group of kids has grown to include their friends and siblings (plus others who have heard about the program through other means).  When thinking about program promotion, never underestimate the power of word of mouth.


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Legos @ the Library: Creative Creations

On this beautiful afternoon that hinted of spring, Lego builders of all ages got together to do their thing!  (Ok, no more rhyming, I promise!)  This Lego session seemed especially creative to me, for some reason.  Maybe the spring air has our minds going in different directions…who knows.  Anyway, here are some photos from today’s Lego group:


Everyone searching for the perfect piece to complete their creations.

DSC02840One Lego builder made this futuristic vehicle.


One Lego builder took one of my challenges and built this bridge in 5 minutes, only using one hand!

Here are some more creative creations:


What is your idea for a creative Lego creation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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What’s in a name?

The mysterious literary society…The Tragic Treehouse…The Monstrous Gorilla.  What do these names have in common?  They are all possible names for the new program for middle school students at the Ellsworth Public Library.  The group met for the first time on Friday to brainstorm names and figure out how the group should be structured.

Here are a couple of pictures from our meeting:

Apples with caramel sauce was the snack of the day.

And, as you can see in the picture above, we used a library resource, Chase’s Calendar of Events, to look up random things that happened on our birthdays.  The book also lists celebrity birthdays, which were fun to look up.  If you want to give it a try, this website lists fun holidays and celebrity birthdays for today.

After talking about some upcoming program and fundraiser ideas (I see a read-a-thon in our future…) we went on a behind the scenes tour of the library that included the storage area, staff lounge and offices that are usually off-limits.

There is so much potential for this group and the members have already come up with some great ideas for projects.  Now we just have to settle on a name.

Youth Services Librarians:  do any of you have a program for middle school students?  If so, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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Legos @ the Library: Back to School

Here in Maine, school has been back in session for about a week and a half.  It’s that magical time right after school starts where the weather still feels like summer and the kids don’t have homework yet.  Free time after school provides the perfect opportunity to hang out at the library and build with Legos!

There were some great creations today and here are a few of them:

This vehicle can travel on land, sea, or even fly into outer space!  The two guys in the front are driving the vehicle (and looking for bad guys) and the red one in the back is on his laptop playing  ninja computer games (the tall tower on the back is for the Internet).


This is a computer room with a green couch.  I like the color scheme!


This is a machine that can crush anything.  Look out, other Lego creations!


The vehicle is a plane/boat and the guy with the cape is riding a Segway.  He may look evil, but he’s a good guy who just needs to shave his mustache.


Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Legos @ the Library: Awesome vehicles and houses

Here are some pictures of some great Lego creations from today’s Legos @ the Library meeting:

I bet Star Wars fans can identify this creation.

Here’s a close-up:

Everyone in the future will be driving one of these:

You can drive it, fly it, or use the oars provided if you find yourself near a body of water.  You can scoop things up with the yellow bucket in the back, use the fire in the grey container to light things on fire and the palm tree will keep the sun out of your eyes.  Who could ask for more from a car/plane/boat?

Here’s another great vehicle:

They’re riding in style.

Finally, this would be my dream house if it were life-sized.  It has a beautiful garden and a garage:

This house is home to three owls!

What have you built with Legos lately?

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