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Session Notes: Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Christine Kroger
Christine Kroger



Christine Kroger,
Children’s Librarian
Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls

Currently the Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls is in process of implementing the Comprehensive Plan for Vision Transformation.  The library’s vision is to inspire the community to become a knowledge seeking culture that empowers lifelong learning and enables innovation.   This is what the 21st Century Library experience is all about and how timely that the theme of the 2016 Pennsylvania Library Association Conference is Reaching New Heights.   Not only is this my first library conference, I was able to present a session on the programming I created as a recipient of the ALSC/Disney Curiosity Creates Grant.

As one of the Pennsylvania Winners of the ALSC/Disney Curiosity Creates Awards, our library was asked to present our program for Innovative Library Programming for Children along with three other winning Pennsylvania libraries, including the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Monroeville Public Library, and the Reading Public Library. The ALSC grant was based upon the Seven Critical Components of Creativity in Children published in the Executive Summary of the Center for Childhood Creativity (2015).  Each of the libraries chosen to present had implemented unique approaches to meet the needs of an underserved population within their community, whether due to poverty of resources or to special needs.

Building UP: Architecture is a year-long program consisting of three 4-week sessions during the school year for students in elementary through middle school.  It enables them to acquire and develop knowledge of the basic concepts of design and building used by engineers and architects.  Building UP is also intended to “build up” the relationship between under-served youth and their local public library.  To that end, the library entered into a partnership with TRAILS Ministries, a Beaver Falls organization that supports At-Risk students.  Through individual work and collaborative team activities the students from TRAILS have the opportunity to creatively express themselves and constructively use their imaginations.  Additionally, they should develop important and useful personal skills such as flexibility, resilience, and problem-solving that will aid them in all facets of life. The program continues this school year with a focus on Kinetic Art and the works of Alexander Calder.

You can read more about many of the projects in the ALSC Curiosity Creates Innovative Programming for Children Best Practices manual written by Paula Holmes.

Attending the conference was a great chance to learn about the ways libraries are providing innovative services to meet their community’s needs as well as ways that other libraries are connecting with community partners. As a relatively new face on the Children’s Librarian scene, it was a privilege to be able to attend the conference and present our program among larger and more experienced practitioners and library systems.  A plethora of anticipated and unforeseen challenges are faced in library programs and services, especially among special populations, and hearing from various speakers and presenters offered an invaluable learning opportunity.   Having the chance to share ideas with larger library systems who are seasoned at creating programming and who are confronted with similar obstacles that we encounter each day was both challenging and encouraging.

During my time at the conference, I was able to absorb ideas from numerous poster sessions and attendees present.  As much of my work time is devoted to planning or conducting outreach, I found the session entitled Stretch Your Reach, presented by Kim Englebert and Courtney Bonnet of Northland Public Library to be of particular interest.  The presenters shared how their library has implemented a more effective outreach program to schools, preschools, and childcare centers, increasing outreach by 153% without adding staff hours.   This claim from the beginning of their session grabbed my interest!

One of the strategies they utilize is both cost and time efficient.  Using a selection of five different grade-appropriate books, they coordinate with the schools to visit the various classrooms five times throughout the school year.  Each classroom visit takes approximately ten to fifteen – minutes, during which they read one of the five books and distribute a coordinated coloring or activity sheet to the students with the library’s information included.   At the end of the fifth visit, the classes vote on their favorite book.  This is a wonderful program to provide familiarity between the public librarian and students without requiring a large sacrifice of classroom instructional time.

Other outreach ideas offered during this informative session include the use of kamishibai (Japanese street theatre and storytelling), puppetry, and music during storytime.  Northland Library also implemented a STEM outreach program to the schools and daycares in their service area in a way that I found very useful and replicable.  Breaking down large thematic concepts into small adaptable units, they created portable items that can easily be taken to an outreach program or checked out by a library patron.  For example, rather than generate a large program around ocean animals, they created a mitt that shows how blubber helps protect ocean mammals from the cold.  This is an adaptable item that can be linked to various literacy activities and used in multiple ways.   Our library system has already replicated this idea and is excited to begin using it!

Reaching new heights means getting into your community and connecting with kids, families, and educators in their space.  As Children’s Librarians, we already know that reaching new heights won’t involve reaching high at all, but bending low to learn the things that spark the creative interests of our youngest or most challenged learners.

My attendance to the Annual Library Conference was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.


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