Search Results for a to zoo

A to Zoo for Apps Conversation Starter Video Uploaded

A special thanks to everyone who came to our A to Zoo for Apps Conversation Starter at ALA in Chicago last weekend! Here’s the video of what transpired for those of you who were unable to make it. We have some next steps in the works with the Erikson Institute and ALSC (and eventually, we hope, the Fred Rogers Center), but nothing I can report on officially yet. Stay tuned, folks. If Little eLit has anything to do with it, this is going to be an unprecedented collaboration, the likes of which has not yet been seen in libraryland. More to come!


A to Zoo for Apps: The Conversation Starter at #ala2013

Saturday morning at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, a large group of professionals from across libraryland came together for the A to Zoo for Apps conversation starter. During the course of the 45 minute panel discussion, the assembled crowd heard from a number of authorities on the app marketplace and the library’s role in it.

After Cen’s introduction to the topic of apps and librarians–and the assertion that there needs to be aggregation of the disparate work librarians (and other professionals) are doing in reviewing apps–Allison Tran from the Mission Viejo Library got the panel started. Carisa Kluver of shared a starting point for the entire conversation. When Kluver began her app review website three years ago, one of her motivations was wading through a marketplace in which much of the content, both apps and ebooks, wasn’t necessarily what she expected them to be. How to make one’s way through this often-confusing landscape, she wondered? And so the review site was born.

Kluver shared a few  fascinating tidbits to further emphasize the importance and timeliness of this issue in librarianship. First, as a former social worker, Kluver noticed in using apps with her own child that “these were books that I could imagine in homes where I never found books”; when would a library argue against reaching an untapped segment of the community? Kluver also cited statistics from a Scholastic survey which found two key things:

  1. The number of children reading digitally has doubled in the past two years–a faster pace of growth than seen with adults.
  2. 75% of parents surveyed reported that they wanted help finding apps and ebooks for their kids.

Essentially, apps and tablet technology are realities–often extremely beneficial ones–for almost every child and family. What excuse, then, for libraries to not be involved?

Trista Kunkel of Birchard Public Library shared an overview of some of the best app review sources in existence now (there are so many, thus the need for reviews in one single, definitive place). Click here to access a pdf copy of her slides.

Sarah Houghton, director of the San Rafael Public Library and known as the Librarian in Black, made a plea to the group in attendance to get involved in reviewing and mitigating the app marketplace to assist fellow professionals and library customers. Houghton implored librarians to keep the marketplace honest–to prevent the commercial element from overwhelming the marketplace with their sales agendas, and instead offer a credible resource for navigating this space. After all, she said, reviewing and curating for a larger public is outreach on a massive scale.

Rounding up the panel portion of the event was Chip Donohue, whose impressive work with the Erikson Institute, Fred Rogers Center, and NAEYC allow him to provide a much-needed context for the topic of apps and children and libraries. Donohue had so many amazing things to say during his brief speech, packed with so many wonderful ideas, that his contributions will be explored in more depth on the blog later this month. For now, a few of the best sound bytes:

  • Devices are an invitation for joint engagement between caregivers and children.
  • Parents need prompting for how to use these tools effectively with their children.
  • Librarians cannot be sucked into the false dichotomy of “all tech” versus “no tech”; this is not the issue at hand, as there can and should be both technology and everything else we’ve been doing successfully all these years.
  • Kids don’t delineate between the physical and virtual space in the way that adults do.
  • The basic app marketplace is impossible, but librarians have the potential to make it navigable.
  • Looking at apps in terms of library and customer usage requires us to select, use, integrate, and evaluate–basically, everything that we have always done with other formats of materials.
  • Librarians already possess all of the skills to do this–the only potential deficit is in willingness.

Donohue wrapped up his time by reminding the audience of Fred Rogers’s constant mantra: “Think of the child first.” Are we as librarians always doing that? A meaningful question to think on.

The final 10 minutes of the conversation starter were spent engaging with audience questions, which will be explored further in individual blog posts this month.

Note: the panel intended to share a taped message from Lisa Guernsey, the author of several texts on the topic of children and technology, but the video sharing was met with technical difficulties. The video is available here:


Did you attend the A to Zoo for Apps conversation starter in Chicago? Have thoughts, comments, or other takeaways you would like to share? Please sound off in the comments.

#ala2013 Conversation Starter Proposals: Vote for Building A to Zoo for Apps!

ALA_2013_Chicago_Logo_FINAL_CLRLet the conversations begin! We have 2 conversation starter proposals in (both submitted by the awesome and amazing Allison Tran at the Mission Viejo library). Take a gander at what we’ve put together and then give us a thumbs up (through ALA Connect) if you agree it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Here are the descriptions:

Building A to Zoo for Apps: Time-tested librarian skills meet cutting edge technology for kids

“We can’t afford to ignore digital content in the one institution most ideally set up to help the rest of society navigate the next few decades.” – Carisa Kluver, and Digital Media Diet founder.

Children’s librarians are now in the software design and app curation business. This panel will begin the discussion about why librarians are ideally poised to curate the children’s book-based and educational app space, build the tools to do so and provide leadership for early childhood educators, parents and children’s app developers on the use and development of interactive media for children. Attendees at this interactive panel discussion will have the opportunity to share their concerns and hopes about how libraries can best use apps to support early learning, now and in the years to come.

Presenters: Cen Campbell, Allison Tran, Lisa Guernsey, Carisa Kluver, Trista Kunkel

Stand Out and Be Outstanding: Fearlessly Leading Your Library Career

What does it mean to lead and be recognized as a leader in the library profession? And what exactly is a rock star librarian, anyway? This session will spark an exchange of ideas about what it means to stand out- and be outstanding- in the library field. A panel of motivated librarians who have participated in California’s Eureka! Leadership Program and/or the ALA Emerging Leaders Program will share their innovative paths to leadership, including strategies for being a leader in any position, taking risks, and balancing personal and professional priorities. The panel will also engage participants in a candid discussion of:

  • Seeing the big picture in your library career
  • Standing out from the crowd: why visibility matters
  • Being a ‘rock star’: help or hindrance?
  • Haters gonna hate: dealing with backlash

Join us in this interactive session to gain ideas for cultivating your leadership role in the library field, and sound off about what you think defines a true library leader.

Presenters: Yemila Alvarez, Allison Tran, Martha Camacho, Cen Campbell, Dolly Goyal, Genesis Hansen, Patrick “PC” Sweeney

Meeting with Fred Rogers, TEC Center at Erikson, ALSC, Children’s Technology Review, LittleeLit &


On October 3 & 4, 2013, a small group of individuals representing a few mighty organizations met at the Technology in Early Childhood Center at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL. The group (above) included Iara Fuenmayor (TEC Center),  Joanna Ison & Aimee Strittmatter (ALSC), Rita Catalano & Mike Robb (Fred Rogers Center), Carisa Kluver (, Cen Campbell (, Chip Donohue & Amanda Armstrong (TEC Center) and Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review, though Warren joined us remotely). The group got together to discuss an idea that we’ve been working on at LittleeLit for some time now; unified, wide-scale librarian involvement in the children’s digital publishing marketplace. Chip Donohue offered to facilitate our little convention after meeting with Carisa Kluver, Starr Latronica (ALSC President) & me at ALA Annual in Chicago right after the A to Zoo for Apps conversation starter, and during our 2 day meeting in October we discussed the need for children’s librarians to be much more actively involved in developing resources and programming that include new media.

Initially my plan was to develop a comprehensive app evaluation, curation and aggregation tool similar to A to Zoo but for digital media, but the emphasis of the project has shifted away from the tool and more toward the training. I do think there is a pressing need for a tool that is populated with data (and metadata!) by children’s librarians, but the development of a large piece of software with buy-in from many different parties seems to require more bandwidth than most of us can handle right now, and there are concerns that the marketplace is changing so quickly, and there are many other “recommendation” projects in existence, that the resources and time it would take to build a truly comprehensive tool may not pay off as well in the long run as the training. I’m working on ways to build the development of a tool into the training materials themselves, though, even if it makes use of existing tools or takes more time to build than we’d initially hoped.

The working title for the project is Access, Content & Engagement: Media Mentors @ Your Library and the vision for the project is as follows:

In every community library there will be a media mentor who develops early childhood programming that models the intentional, appropriate and healthy use of mobile technology with young children and recommends high quality, age-appropriate digital media as a part of normal reference & reader’s advisory services.

The plan right now is to go for an IMLS planning grant to expand on the work we’ve been doing through (like individual consulting projects and New Media in Storytime workshops), trainings with Carisa Kluver and the California State Library, as well as Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Mother Goose on the Loose. Through all of these projects we’ve been working toward the development of training resources, the training workshops themselves, and early literacy technology projects within public libraries. For the planning grant we’re seeking partners to both guide the development of the training tools, and partners to act as pilot sites.

The cast of characters who are lending their resources and guidance to this initiative is impressive, and I am humbled by the continued outlay of support for what we’re attempting to do. Not only are the aforementioned institutions lending themselves to the project in an advisory capacity, we also have representatives from the Every Child Ready to Read Oversight Committee, the New America Foundation (Lisa Guernsey, who put the “media mentor” idea in my head in the first place) and representatives from other State Libraries and library systems all around the continent offering their institutions and services.

I have a few months of heavy-duty grant writing ahead of me, but I have a whole team of experienced and enthusiastic people from libraryland and beyond who see the need for guidance in this area, and who realize the potential of the public library to provide that guidance to families and educators who are struggling with managing and using new media with their young charges. The project is still in its infancy and I am working on details about who is going to do what. All we know is that librarians are finally stepping up to fill a very big void, and if we get funded, we’re going to do it nationally.

Many thanks to everyone who joined us in Chicago, especially to Chip & Amanada, our gracious hosts. I look forward to future discussions, preferably where no one gets sick!

In Response to Chip Donohue’s #ala2013 Remarks, by Trista Kunkel

“These tools are not inherently evil.” These are the words spoken by Chip Donohue who was awesome enough to agree to present with us during our conversation starter at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. What tools is he talking about, you ask? Those would be the use of tablets and apps in the library.

One of the big debates going on in libraryland right now is whether or not tablets and other technologies should be used in the library. We here at Little eLit believe that it’s the duty of librarians to embrace this new technology and that it’s up to us to help parents learn how to properly utilize it as well. A few of the loudest complaints that have been going around are that screen time for youngsters can hurt them developmentally and that apps don’t offer anything different or better than books. Thankfully Chip was with us at our conversation starter to offer some wonderful insight and advice. He touched on numerous subjects during his part of the presentation and brought up some very interesting points, the main theme being that we need to embrace this technology, and that it’s our duty to develop these skills ourselves and teach them to the public.

Chip stated that one of the issues shouldn’t be “all tech” vs. “no tech.” We should be incorporating them both together, and that if a child reads an ebook it doesn’t mean that s/he is going to stop wanting to read an actual book.  In fact, kids don’t delineate the physical and the virtual. It was mentioned during our conversation starter that some people have noticed that their child becomes even more interested in the book version of a story after reading it on a tablet. We know that parents are already using this technology at home with their children, and it’s up to us, like Chip said, to provide information for them on how to properly use these new tools.

Now I’d like to ask a question. How many of you have NEVER had a patron come to you or another library worker and ask how to use some sort of technology? I’d be surprised if anyone has ever truly had this happen. We are NOT just book slingers. We have a duty to help our patrons navigate the wide world of technology, and what better way to make sure we’re knowledgeable and comfortable with answering their questions than using and utilizing the technology ourselves? Patrons come to us expecting us to be able to help them, and how can we if we refuse to use or accept the technology with which they need our help? Another argument that Chip made was that we need to work on our own digital literacy before we work with others, that we need to be able to offer sound information for inquiring patrons and that there are no skill deficits for librarians to be able to do this. To select, use, integrate, and evaluate are all skills that we already use, and now it’s just a willingness to do it with technology.

This brings me to the next point that Chip made during our conversation starter. The app market is enormous and can feel incredibly daunting for patrons. With so many apps coming out every day, how can a parent make educated decisions on which apps are best for them? Once again, this is where we should come in. We already have the ability to assess and evaluate, so why shouldn’t we use these skills to help make the app marketplace more manageable and navigable for our patrons? And this, folks, is the main reason we had our A to Zoo for apps conversation starter. We need to take it upon ourselves to become involved with reviewing these apps and making sure that there is a credible area for us to navigate this massive marketplace.

Chip ended his portion of the discussion by reminding us that these devices are an invitation for joint engagement between caregivers and children, that when they choose to come to the library it is on purpose, and what better reason do we need to provide this service of bests for them? Fred Rogers believed technology might be good, could be great—but only when used for social and emotional development. We’re the experts here, not the parents, and it is up to us to help guide them on the proper use of this new technology. Like Fred and Chip said, we need to “Think of the child first.”

Trista Kunkel
Youth Services Librarian
Birchard Public Library

ALSC Community Forum Featuring LittleeLit!

The official invitation has been sent out from ALSC about the upcoming community forum that will be hosted by the ALSC Children & Technology Committee. LittleeLit think tankers will be present, as well as members from the Digital Content Task Force. We’ll be talking about new media for kids in libraries and next steps for developing an app recommendation, curation and evaluation tool. Join the conversation!

View the ALSC blog post here.

Here’s the description:

Save the Date: ALSC Community Forum, August 2013

The ALSC Board of Directors and ALSC President Starr LaTronica will be hosting two ALSC Community Forum live chats with a special emphasis on new media in libraries: what it is, how we use it and how to develop best practices in this rapidly evolving information environment. The ALSC Children & Technology Committee will be co-hosting this online discussion. The community forum will build on the 2013 ALA Annual Conference Conversation Starter: “Building A to Zoo for Apps: Time-tested librarian skills meet cutting edge technology for kids.” In addition to the 45 minutes of discussion, these forums will include quick announcements from the ALSC Board of Directors at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference and a time for questions at the end.

Your two opportunities to join in the discussion are:

  • Tuesday, August 20 at 11am CT
  • Wednesday, August 21 at 2pm CT

Using Adobe Connect

ALSC Community Forums now take place on Adobe Connect. The forum will take place in a similar format although the first ten minutes will include live audio from ALSC President Starr LaTronica and from presenter Cen Campbell.

A few days prior to the event, ALSC members will receive an email with a URL link to the forum. Visit for more information about using Adobe Connect. There are also links to previous ALSC Community Forums chats. Questions? Contact Dan Rude by email, or by phone, 800-545-2433 ext 2164.

Reblog: Librarians in the Digital Age – Part 2, by Carisa Kluver

Are you looking for more information about what went down at ALA Annual with regard to new media and children? Carisa Kluver, founder of and a contributor here at the Little eLit community shared her experiences at the conference weekend on her blog. She’s given us permission to share her perspective here. Enjoy!

Librarians in the Digital Age – Part 2: A to Zoo for Apps  Starts the Conversation from The Digital Media Diet

biblio-follies-sm250w-225x300At the end of June, I had the honor of being on a panel at the national ALA (American Library Association) conference in Chicago, IL. Originally I was going to prepare a video or be available remotely by Skype, but at the last minute I decided to visit the windy city, stay with a dear friend and make a little vacation of the whole thing. Chicago was especially lovely, with unseasonably cool weather, so I spent a fair amount of time on foot exploring. It was also a crazy time for parades in the city, fresh from their Blackhawks win and during Pride weekend, making hailing a cab more difficult. All that walking was good for thinking but not so good for hauling things, so the genius of digital books was particularly on my mind.

Exhibits and More …

I also spent many hours wandering around the cavernous exhibit hall booths in addition to meeting with bookish people like the librarian contributors to @LittleeLit‘s blog and ‘think tank’. In person introductions are particularly sweet, after months of contact over email, video-chat, Twitter and other digital means. Meeting others so like-minded probably represents one of the most energizing aspects of attending any large conference. And librarians are one energized group! I found nearly everyone in attendance to be sharp, thoughtful and focused on the future of libraries in the digital age. The conversations were simply abuzz about new ‘technology’ everywhere I went. While sitting at lunch by myself in a cafe over a mile from the convention center I overheard two librarians heatedly comparing the digital initiatives in their two library systems.

In the exhibit hall, there were several large spaces set aside for digital technology, ebooks and even apps. Nearly every booth also had a digital offering, from apps that integrated into their service or product for library management to eBooks in every format. However there was very little to be found about any stand-alone book apps nor much in the way of interactive book or educational software offerings for kids. I know my focus on children’s apps is somewhat singular in the publishing industry, but the lack of discussion or even an understanding of the difference between an ebook, app and bookstore portal was disheartening.

Either my focus is misplaced, leaving me out-of-step, or the industry (publishers, libraries, authors, etc.) itself is missing something. Several people asked me about my site and if I would review or promote their digital book offerings. When I explained that I only review apps, they seemed more bewildered than disappointed. I explained that so far, I couldn’t get enough traction with consumers for an iBookstore review site, and while the Kindle eBook market is much more developed, the market for illustrated children’s content is still in a somewhat embryonic stage. No one seemed to be very sophisticated in their understanding of the industry with regard to digital, but everyone seemed at least engaged in the digital shift in one way or another.

Overall, my impression was that librarians in attendance, and most of those presenting, were engaged, passionate and ready to face a digital future. This was in huge contrast to the publishers and other exhibitors who seemed to show-off a singular naïveté or perhaps ignorance, about format, access, consumer interest and other emerging aspects of the digital publishing industry. As a relative newbie to this ecosystem, I was surprised to find myself explaining (or correcting) misconceptions about digital formats, self-publishing, social media marketing and even COPPA regulations, to people who should be much more informed than I am.

A to Zoo for Apps – Starting the Conversation with LibraryLand

My panel presentation was early in the weekend, a ‘Conversation Starter’ entitled: ”Building A to Zoo for Apps: Time-tested librarian skills meet cutting edge technology for kids” and featured talented librarians:

  • Sarah Houghton, Director, San Rafael Public Library
  • Allison Rose Tran, Teen Services Librarian, Mission Viejo Library
  • Cen Campbell, Founder,
  • Trista Kunkel, Youth Services Librarian, Birchard Public Library

plus special guest:

Chip Donahue, Senior Fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning & Children’s Media and Director of Technology in Early Childhood at the Erikson Center.

and a video presentation from Lisa Guernsey, Director, Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation:

Conversation starters at the ALA are “fast-paced 45-minute sessions intended to jumpstart conversations and highlight emerging topics and trends.” The purpose of this session was to start a conversation within the library community about the best way to approach the curation and evaluation of digital content, like apps, for young children.

What should the role for apps be in libraries? Should they be used in storytimes and if so, why? How can librarians contribute to the evaluation of apps and provide useful information to caregivers, teachers and others seeking information about quality digital content for tablet devices? Should librarians even be recommending apps at all?

A nice summary of our presentation can be found on the @LittleeLit blog by librarian Amy Koester. Or you can watch the whole thing in this video on youtube:

Suffice it to say that 45 minutes was simply not enough time to answer more than a few questions and barely scratched the surface of the conversation that is brewing in the world of children’s early learning and library services. A lot of strong opinions exist about digital content for young kids, especially regarding ‘screen time’ and apps. But the interest in this content is strong among librarians, as evidenced by the overflowing standing-room-only crowd in attendance.

Conversation Started – Trending Topics

Among the most important take-aways from this conversation we’ve started are a series of new questions we must ask ourselves as adults who guide, choose and judge digital content for kids:

  • How do we evaluate, curate or recommend apps and other digital media on tablets?
  • How do we even decide what to evaluate and what to ignore in a sea of content much too large to cover exhaustively?
  • How would evaluations from librarians in particular differ from and add to the already large number of online resources currently available for app reviews (including private review sites, non-profit sites, consumer reviews and a sea of blogs from professionals and laypeople).
  • What qualities of an app would be important to librarians when evaluating?
  • How would app evaluations differ from the curation already done for print materials or other digital content?
  • What are the critical differences between evaluating, reviewing, recommending and curating apps or other digital content for librarians/professionals?
  • What resources, rubrics or other evaluation tools are available for professionals to explore before beginning their own app reviews?
  • What role should libraries and librarians play in the digital shift?
  • Should librarians recommend, model or advise caregivers and professionals about wise use of quality media for kids or primarily discourage ‘screen time’? Is this role different for toddlers under two, children under five or other age groups, like teenagers?
  • How can professionals find good age & stage recommendations for library programs & collections?


In the end, my biggest realization was an anti-climatic epiphany. As I wracked my brain to think of all the ways we might create a resource that an army of librarians could fill in to make relevant and thoughtful, I was also struck by the need to include something more than just curation in my grand plan for library-land … the need for education. Of course we know teachers, librarians and other professionals need training on how to incorporate these digital tools into existing programs and services, but we also need a large scale education effort for the general public.

Much like the world wide web presented us with a sea of content that went beyond our usual ways of cataloging, the sea of publications coming into our digital space may be more than anyone can wrangle into a single resource. There is no equivalent for the web to the ‘yellow pages’ for local business phone numbers, for instance. In a similar vein, there may not be anyway that anyone could truly create the equivalent of “A to Zoo” for kids apps. A to Zoo for Apps can’t help but be inspired by the past, but the real challenge will be making it novel and adaptable to the new digital environment of the 21st century. It appears to be a challenge that is both momentous and exhilarating!

These questions are just a few I heard, among many burning in the hearts and minds of those who attended ALA 2013 and our presentation. We will be working hard to keep this dialog going among librarians in particular and I’ll keep you posted as the conversation continues. Please let me know any questions or comments you might like to add!

Join the conversation at #ala2013!

ALA_2013_Chicago_Logo_FINAL_CLR_0As the 2013 ALA Annual Conference gets underway in Chicago, librarians of every ilk are looking to make the most of their conference time by participating in programs and conversations that are important to the profession. We at Little eLit know one particular Conversation Starter we’d love to have you join at the conference.

Building A to Zoo for Apps: Time-tested librarian skills meet cutting edge technology for kids

Saturday, June 29, 2013 | 10:30-11:15 a.m.

McCormick Place Convention Center S102d

“We can’t afford to ignore digital content in the one institution most ideally set up to help the rest of society navigate the next few decades.” – Carisa Kluver, and Digital Media Diet founder.

Children’s librarians are now in the software design and app curation business. This panel will begin the discussion about why librarians are ideally poised to curate the children’s book-based and educational app space, build the tools to do so and provide leadership for early childhood educators, parents and children’s app developers on the use and development of interactive media for children.

Attendees at this interactive panel discussion will have the opportunity to share their concerns and hopes about how libraries can best use apps to support early learning, now and in the years to come.


  • Lisa Guernsey, Director, Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and Author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child,
  • Sarah Houghton, Director for the San Rafael Public Library and the Librarian in Black,
  • Carisa Kluver, Founder of and the Digital Media Diet,
  • Cen Campbell, Founder of, and
  • Board Members Allison Tran and Trista Kunkel Librarian-Curated Kids App Database

stamposI’ve been working with a group of volunteer librarians and Carisa Kluver of on a project we’ve named (there’s nothing there; I’ve just bought the domain and we have yet to even put a “coming soon!” sign up). It’s kind of like A to Zoo for Apps, only it also includes aspects of the Read Aloud Handbook, Novelist, the now defunct BWI TitleTales, GoodReads, Pinterest and Kindertown. It’s a librarian-curated database full of great apps for kids that librarians can use for collection development for apps, appvisory, creating applists, uploading videos that show apps in use in the library, and various other cool things that haven’t been invented yet. Yes, it’s a big project. If there’s any profession that can pull together to make a shared resource that will benefit a whole lot of people who are scrambling around to find the best information or recommendations in a digital marketplace that’s gone bonkers, it’s librarians. We hope to launch in beta-beta late this summer with the current board and we will be seeking input from beyond the board after we’ve ironed out most of the bugs. Keep checking back! I’ll post an update when I have something to show off.

Guest Lecture

I’ve been asked to do a brief guest lecture for Dr. Marianne Martens and the Kent State University School of Library & Information Science. She is teaching a class on Youth Literature in the Digital Age and she asked me to speak about some of the work we’re doing here at, and about the A to Zoo for apps curation project we’re developing with Here is my first attempt at creating a non-boring blurb, and learning how to use a cool new app at the same time. Tellagami would be a really great app to use in a program for older kids, teens or adults! Get them to design a character and then give a brief book talk or review!