Blog Archives

Early Literacy Programming in the Digital Age

Genesis and I had great fun presenting our Early Literacy Programming in the Digital Age InfoPeople webinar last week! The archived version is now available for your viewing pleasure, along with our presentation slides and webliograhy. We had 238 people and the chat was on fire the whole time! We had some great discussion about new media in storytime, and it became clear to me yet again that we need more venues to talk about the topic of new media in early literacy programs. Keep the conversation going!

Early Literacy Programming in the Digital Age Webliography


Saddle Up, Colleagues! Apps in Storytime Open Invitation

Ok, well, I’m rousing the troops again.  Here’s what I posted today to get some conversation going about establishing best practices for using apps with kids in libraries.

Hi Everyone,

I am so glad to see that there’s a lot of discussion going on about using apps in storytimes. There are differing opinions on this topic, but the fact remains that the technology is already here, and that it is our professional responsibility as experts in content for kids (regardless of format) to develop some best practices. We need to do this both to guide the use of technology in our programs and collections, and also for communicating effectively to parents and caregivers about the pros and cons of using mobile technology with young children.

Trista recently posted a call for apps that folks have already been using in their storytimes on the pubyav listserv, and I responded with some information about the apps-in-storytime work we’ve been doing at Many of us children’s librarians are already experimenting with using apps in our programs, but there is currently no centralized resource for tips and tricks in this area, though I am working with PLA, ALSC, InfoPeople and a few other organizations to develop some standardized professional development materials (think ECRR or MGOL with apps).

The children’s library community is WAY behind ECE educators, researchers and administrators in making use of mobile tech with young kids; we are not trailblazing here, we are catching up to the rest of the world’s current media use. Young children are already exposed to digital media; there is no question of that, and frankly, any personal opinions on that matter are irrelevant to this discussion. What can we do, as a profession, to give parents and caregivers the best information about HOW (not IF) to use their smart phones and tablets with their kids in the most positive, literacy-supporting way possible?

We are in the middle of a format-based sea-change that spans far beyond libraryland and into publishing, pedagogy, multi-literacies, special needs education, diversity and federal and state policy. It’s a much bigger phenomenon than many librarians realize, yet there is no better profession to step in and make recommendations on the intelligent use of book-based and educational apps with children.

I’d like to invite those of you who are already using apps in your programs, or who would LIKE to use apps in your programs, to contact me off-list or through to discuss working together to develop a community of knowledge in this area. We don’t all need to be re-inventing the wheel on this one, and there are plans already in the works to develop a librarian-curated recommendation service (think Goodreads but for kids apps with recommendations for using apps in programs).

Saddle up, colleagues!


Age-Inappropriate Photo of Cen and Genesis at the Infopeople Booth at CLA

Yeah. This is how we roll.

For everyone who wonders who the charming ladies are who thought up Little eLit in the first place; here we are in all of our mad library science glory. On the right is the beautiful and brilliant Genesis Hansen, and on the left, the wicked and dastardly Cen Campbell. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have about digital programming and services for children in libraries, evil laughter and questionable science.

When in Doubt, go to the Board

Cheryl Gould, whom I met at the first Eureka! Leadership Institute, has recently been elected to the California Library Association’s Board of Directors. She specializes in mental model busting, she’s tons of fun and is very supportive of those of us who are trying to innovate in the library world.  So I sent her this email about what I’m trying to do with kids and technology in the hopes that she could bring some of it to the attention of the California Library Association.

Hi Cheryl!

Congrats on your illustrious election! Well done.

I have been working on an issue within public libraries that I think could use some help from above. The children’s publishing industry has been growing at an enormous rate (252%!!!!) and interactive media is becoming the standard for children’s digital content.

“Children’s and youth media are a prototype for what is happening in the publishing industry but also for what is happening at the moment socially.” Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Interactive media is the future of publishing, and libraries are NOT keeping up with this phenomenon. Sometimes it’s a matter of the hardware (iPads are expensive!), but more often I think it’s a matter of children’s librarians thinking that interactive or digital media for kids is not in their job description. It could also be a case of the large library content vendors not having a product for libraries that extends into the interactive realm (Sesame Street eBooks are ok, and Lerner has an “interactive” nonfiction product, but it’s not at the same level as what’s available commercially for mobile devices).

SLJ, Horn Book and Kirkus are all reviewing kid’s apps. The Cybils give a Book app award. There are committees (I’m serving on one!) and task forces at a national level (ALSC) specifically for dealing with children and technology in libraries. California’s children’s librarians should be MUCH more active in this publishing revolution than they are. There should be more digital programming for kids in libraries (Douglas County Libraries in Colorado started thinking about digital programming for kids in 2011! The Darien Library in Connecticut started circulating Early Literacy iPads in 2011 too!).

California is the home of Silicon Valley! Google! Apple! Why are we not more on board with this? I have developed a small pilot project with the Santa Clara County Library District and I hope to beging incorporating digital media into children’s programming at the Mountain View Public Library as well.

People live, work and read on their smart phones and tablets. They hand these devices to their kids, but most people really don’t know where to go to find good content. Just like with books, people want to know where to go to find out what is age appropriate, good quality and not overly commercial for their children. The library should be stepping into this role. It is SUCH an opportunity for us, and we are not taking advantage of it like we should be.

I see parents handing devices to their kids to play angry birds or zombie killing games. It breaks my heart. If those parents knew that they could be handing their child a book on their smart phone, don’t you think they’d be more likely to do it? (I was really saddened by this recently in a coffee shop- if you don’t look at any of the other links here, read this one)

Children’s publishing is changing. Drastically. And California’s libraries and children’s librarians should be changing drastically to keep up with it, or face obsolescence.

I recommend the following:

  1. We need to train our children’s librarians in this technology. This is the nature of the job now. Get with the program.
  2. We need to develop digital programming and services for kids in libraries.
  3. We need to work directly with app developers to figure out a way to share good quality interactive media for children in libraries.
  4. We need to get the hardware into libraries.

I’m willing to help out on any and all of these fronts. I’ve been toiling away in my own little communities, but it needs to be addressed from much higher up.

If you have a chance, bring this up in your new role on the CLA board. Let’s get this party started!

Cen Campbell

Embrace Risk

The rock star known as Ann Awakuni has put together a little video about her experience at the R-squared conference (risk and reward) that took place in Telluride, Colorado earlier this month.

There are lots of nuggets of goodness here, but my favourite is:

Instead of imagining things as they are, imagine them as they could be.

Check out her post on the Infopeople blog.

What? Another Conference?

I have tossed my hat in the ring to attend the Risk and Reward conference in Colorado in September. Infopeople, the lovely little outfit that runs the Eureka! Leadership Institute, is footing the bill to send three of its fellows to take part in discussions that will keep public libraries from going the way of the Dodo bird.  Here’s what I said in my statement of interest:

I began with Genesis Hansen (a 2008 Eureka colleague) in late 2011 to review apps and interactive media for children aged 2-5. Since then, our little website has grown to a digital storytelling resource and a forum for radical new ideas in librarianship. We have established ourselves as experts in digital media for young children. We have been contacted by app developers, academics and educators who are all looking for guidance in this brand new world of digital publishing for children.

Most recently I was approached by a group of students at Stanford University who are developing a brand new distribution model for book based apps. They have big name authors on board, they are in talks with large publishing houses, their creative lead was an animator with Pixar for 10 years, and they want to launch their product in public libraries. There is a social media and content creation component to the platform, plus the development of an algorithm that calculates a child’s reading level according to how the child interacts with the app.

Another children’s app developer approached my library with a similar model, only their model incorporates workflow technology to enable collaboration between developers, artists and writers. Who even knew these things were possible? And what’s even more mind blowing is that these new developers/publishers are looking to LIBRARIANS for guidance, because we know content, and we know distribution. The publishing industry is about to change, and libraries will be on the very front lines IF we seize this kind of opportunity.

I want to develop a distribution platform for book-based apps in public libraries, and I want to develop the public library as a digital content creation space. I spent hours at ALA recently talking to OverDrive, Freegal,and all sorts of other ILS and digital content vendors about these ideas. I told them I wanted a mechanism to circulate apps and they all said “Gee, what a good idea. We’re not doing that.” It’s time for come creative thinking, collaboration and the busting of old-school librarian paradigms. It’s time to acknowledge that the old publishing business models are dying, if not already dead, and that libraries can serve as the end-user distribution mechanism for interactive media if we develop the right skills and relationships.

Send me to this conference and I will share my ideas of app circulation, content creation and creative collaboration. I see librarians around me who are not only unaware of how libraries NEED to change in order to stay relevant to people’s lives, they aren’t doing anything to help themselves learn. I want to become a better advocate for the changing role of libraries, and to help make some of these technical concepts more accessible to my colleagues. I want to learn to harness the creativity of my community, both within the library and without. Please help me to be a part of this dialogue.

Also, I believe I have the chutzpah to be a real and true rock star, so I will be participating in the Rock and Roll Academy Preconference session.