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Carvers Bay (SC) Branch Library: Gaming the Way to Literacy

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If you thought gaming in libraries is only for the big-city systems, take a look at this library next to a corn field in rural South Carolina.

By Betha Gutsche

A new library for a new century

Innovation happens in the most surprising places. If asked which US library is pushing the envelope on introducing interactive computer gaming in public libraries, how many would look to the most rural, poor, and isolated corner of a county in South Carolina? And if informed that this corner of the library world has a 30% illiteracy rate, a 15% unemployment rate, a poverty level exceeding 30% with up to 90% of school kids eligible for free or reduced-rate lunches, and a meager 2% rate for library card registration, what odds would you give that it can even keep its doors open?


The new library opened its doors in May 2006. The corn field next door belies the sophistication of the technology within. Photos by Felicia Vereen of the SC State Library.

Although the brand new Carvers Bay Branch of the Georgetown County Library System has its demographic challenges, it also has some visionary leadership, strong community support, and a bit of prodding from the primary funders. When director Dwight McInvaill approached the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation to help build the new facility, the grantors pushed back with a request for something more than just books—something more cutting-edge; McInvaill responded rapidly with the gaming proposal. Having only opened its doors for the first time on May 13, 2006, this infant library stepped immediately into the fast lane of technology with the aim of reaching a new generation of library users. Not only is the building designed to be “a reader’s haven” full of books, natural light, and comfortable chairs, it is a gamer’s heaven with 10 Xbox 360s, 8 dedicated Dell Dimension 9150 gaming PCs, an auditorium with a 120”screen and surround sound, and more.* That’s an intense concentration of high tech in a place with only 7000 residents.

Where’s the literacy?

Located next to the middle and high schools, the library is physically convenient for the Carvers Bay teens, but director Dwight McInvaill knows that it takes more than proximity to get the kids through the doors. Gaming is the key. The library has extended its hours until 7 PM most nights to accommodate the students’ schedules. However, McInvaill intends for the new library to have an impact on the low literacy and high dropout rates, so he’s applying a few rules to the video game lure, linking reading with gaming. In the spirit of the game, kids can aspire to different levels of accomplishment.


The gaming consoles are filled to capacity. The library extended its weekday hours until 8 PM in order to accommodate the teens' school schedules. Photo by staff member Beverly Smith.

Level one: Any individual can use the games for two hours/week (“Just enough to whet the appetite” says McInvaill.)

Level two: Extra gaming time is earned by joining the Gaming Club.

  • Joining requires:
  • a current library card
  • good standing (no serious misbehavior)
  • a commitment to checking out four items/month, two of which must be books

Level three: Once in the Club, points are accumulated to be eligible for additional gaming time, group gaming parties, special prizes (headphones, memory units, gift certificates), or use of the conference room with the 46" TV.

  • Points are earned by doing at least one of the following:
  • writing book reports
  • attending an after-school program
  • participating in a youth service organization
  • embracing other positive, self-improvement activities

Although all funds for the gaming program come from the Bunnelle Foundation, the efforts are augmented by an exciting collaboration with the school district and the youth services organization Service Over Self. The school is using part of the grant to offer enrichment classes on some unconventional topics like photography and music as well as providing courses in test preparation. Service Over Self is helping to coordinate everything and is offering students the opportunity to do community service with the possibility of earning scholarships for college.

A touch of reverse mentoring


Hired to set up and assist the gaming program, high school senior Truman Winn (third from left) puts 12+ years of gaming experience to good use. Photo by Paul Carter of the Georgetown County Library.

This is all very promising so far, but how can you guarantee that the games and equipment will be compelling enough to today’s very discerning teens? Enter Truman Winn, the high school senior hired as the Gaming and Technology Assistant for the Carvers Bay Branch Library. Winn thinks he’s in a teen dream job—getting paid to play video games; his employers think he’s the perfect candidate for the job. Winn beat out college grads and older applicants with more work experience because he had just the right mix of technical know-how, interpersonal skills, and thirteen years of deep gaming experience. After all, he’s been a gamer since the age of four! He helped the library select the equipment and the games and set up the networks, and now he works with the gaming patrons.

The gaming program is ramping up nicely. As soon as the library opened in May, 40 youngsters joined the Gaming Club out of a potential pool of 550 high school teens. A month later, the number was up to 60, with 30 % of them checking out books to fulfill their commitments. Approximately 90% of the members of the computer club currently are African-American male teenagers, a very important demographic group to engage in using public library services in rural Georgetown County. McInvaill anticipates that things will really pick up when school recommences in August. He is already noting the positive energy of the program. “Isn’t it great to see the excitement on the faces of these young men? They actually think that being in the public library is really cool, indeed!”

Indeed! Carvers Bay Library is playing for some high stakes here –significant increases in literacy and brighter futures for the residents of the area. McInvaill anticipates that things will really pick up when school recommences in August Beyond the door counts, the real measures of achievement of the program will only be revealed over time. In the meantime, we’ll be rooting for all of the players in this library success game.

[Editor's note: If you want to see what other libraries are doing with interactive gaming, check out the listings on the Library Success wiki.]


  • 10 Xbox 360s
  • 1 unit in the Conference Room, connected to the 46” LCD television and 5.1 Surround Sound audio system
  • 1 unit in the Auditorium connected to the overhead LCD projector with a 120” screen and 7.1 Surround Sound audio system
  • 8 units with High Definition video and audio signals, 2 wireless controllers, Dolby headphone stereo adapter, 4-port headphone distribution amplifier, and 2 headphones
  • 8 Dell Dimension 9150s Gaming PCs
  • With 2G memory, high-end graphics card, and a 20” wide aspect flat panel display
  • Coming soon: Dolby headphone stereo adapter, 4-port headphone distribution amplifier, and 2 headphones for each unit
  • 6 Children's Computers
  • Planned for near-term acquisition: child-sized computer carrels with special software configurations modeled after systems in use in other branches (provided by the Gates Foundation)
  • 120 Data Ports
  • Including strategically located CAT-5 cabling and allowance for future wifi ports Intended to provide maximum flexibility for regrouping of systems for LAN Gaming Parties

Article reprinted with permission from WebJunction. Originally posted on Aug 1, 2006. Publisher: WebJunction ©OCLC 2006

Gaming: More than Just Playing

When most of us think about “video games,” we tend to envision the stereotype of a 13-year old boy, huddled in front of a television screen in a darkened basement by himself. While there are certainly some gamers who fit this profile, it turns out that video games are a very social activity -- even more social than reading a book -- and they’re enjoyed by more than just teenagers.

In order to understand why our stereotypes about video games and gamers are as outdated as those of shushing, bun-wearing librarians behind a desk, we need to realize that the definition of gaming itself has become much broader over the last 30 years. And yes, it really has been 30 years since video games started going mainstream!

For example, “gaming” doesn’t just mean using a dedicated gaming console like the PlayStation or X-Box anymore. It can also mean playing games on a computer, on a handheld like the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable, on a cell phone, or on the internet. And in each of those formats, there are games available that you can play against other players in real-time, making the game a social activity you can do from almost anywhere.

This has broadened the types of people who play games to the point where teenage boys are no longer the largest group of online players. Who is in that group? Middle-aged women who play games like Tetris, Bejeweled, Bookworm, Shape Shifter and more, on the web, late at night, to relax.

Not only that, but 38% of all game players are women, and the average game player is now 33 years old. “In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31%) than boys age 17 or younger (20%).” So it’s not just that there are more types of games than ever before and that Americans are playing more of them, but there are more people in the “mainstream” population doing it.

When viewed through this lens, it’s easy to see why gaming suddenly seems to be everywhere, and, with the help of next generation consoles like the Nintendo Wii, why more people are interested in them than ever before. With its motion sensing remotes, the Wii lets players swing their arm to hit a tennis ball, bowl, swing a bat, wield a sword, or even throw a cow or skip rope.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of video games sold in 2006 (85%) were rated “E” (Everyone) or “E10+” (Everyone 10 years of age and up), which is just one reason why gaming and libraries are such a good fit. Another is that, as gaming becomes more and more social, it becomes a group activity that requires a bigger space. All of this is happening at a time when we have more gamers in the library than ever before and when we have more games to play than ever before.

Libraries can make gaming more engaging in the same ways they do that for books. They can provide a safe, non-commercialized environment for kids and families (anyone, really) to play together without being bombarded by advertising or pressured to buy things. Libraries are also a safe space in which younger children can play with and against older children (or even adults) in ways that simply can’t happen in the divided culture of our schools and in society in general.

Why should a library offer Dance Dance Revolution, the popular (and exertive!) arcade game that has users stepping on a dance pad in time to arrows moving on the screen? How does this serve the mission of the library? It does so the same way knitting groups, book discussion clubs, showing movies, craft programs, and even storytime do, as Eli Neiburger notes in his new book “Gamers…in the Library??”

“…libraries are all about content…. We’ve found how beneficial it can be to take the content our users would normally consume individually, at home, and make a social event out of that consumption. We’re adding value. Sure, Dad could check out and take home Who Took My Hairy Toe?, and read it at bedtime and that’s great, but it’s even better when parent and child can come to the library together, hear Shutta Crum read it her way, and laugh, smile, and be scared along with other parents and children.The added value is the quality of the storyteller, the distinct, engrossing experience, and the social interaction for kids and parents that at-home consumption of content does not provide.”

Recent research suggests that more than 75% of public libraries support gaming in one form or another, whether that’s letting folks play games on library computers, providing board games, hosting a chess club, or offering video game play, among other activities. This trend is expected to grow in 2008 when the Ann Arbor District Library opens up its online tournament software to all libraries for free. This means libraries across the country can organize local, regional, and even national tournaments, and players will be able to track their scores on a national leaderboard.

If your library doesn’t already offer gaming services, be sure to let them know you’d be interested in them providing some gaming events, whether you like board, computer, or video games.


The Digital Television Transition, Libraries and You

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Television as you know it is about to change. By law, on February 17, 2009, television stations nationwide must stop transmitting signals in analog format and begin transmitting in digital. That process has come to be known as the Digital Television (DTV) Transition and libraries are set to play a big role.

What is the DTV Transition exactly?

Television signals are traditionally transmitted in analog format, which has been the standard broadcast technology since the inception of television. DTV is a new type of broadcasting technology that transmits the information used to make a TV picture and sound as "data bits" (like a computer). The difference between analog and digital broadcasting is similar to that between compact discs and cassette tapes.

So why make the change from analog to digital? One answer is that DTV enables television stations to provide dramatically clearer pictures and better sound quality. Further, DTV is more efficient and more flexible than analog. For example, DTV makes it possible for stations to broadcast multiple channels of free programming simultaneously (called multicasting), instead of broadcasting only one channel at a time. DTV technology can also be used to provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.

Download this flier


What does this have to do with libraries?

Librarians are frequently looked to for information - especially when it involves a new government initiative or process. The DTV transition will be no exception and when you make a stop at your local library looking for answers, useful information will be at your fingertips.

Libraries will offer a variety of services to help make the switch less challenging. Primarily, the library will be most valuable for the free, public access to the Internet it provides (over 99% of libraries can make this claim). Starting in January 2008, librarians will also be able to provide you with assistance in applying for the converter box coupon and will be able to offer you educational DTV pamphlets and flyers, as well as answer your general questions about why the transition is happening.

In any instance, the public library will be an invaluable resource in your community for providing the necessary assistance to making a successful transition from analog to digital television.

What are the implications of the DTV Transition?

The DTV Transition represents what is possibly the most significant advancement of television technology since color broadcast was introduced. Television stations have been preparing for the transition since the late 1990s, when they began building digital facilities and airing digital channels alongside regular analog broadcasts. Today, 1,624 out of 1,762 full power television stations nationwide offer digital programming.

While this change will mark the end of the traditional "over-the-air" television, it won't signal the end of free broadcast television, and your favorite broadcast programs and local television stations will still be available. Consumers who subscribe to a "pay" television service such as cable and satellite aren't likely to be affected by the switch, but if you currently receive television via an antenna you might need to take action to continue watching your favorite stations.

What do you need to do?

There are a few ways to ensure that you continue to receive programming after the transition takes effect:

  • Determine whether or not you need a digital-to-analog converter box for your television. Many televisions are "DTV ready," but in order to know for sure you must contact your television's manufacturer.
  • If you need one, purchase a converter box. The boxes, which are expected to cost between $50 - 70, will be available for purchase beginning January 1, 2008.
  •    At that time, U.S. households can request up to two coupons valued at $40 each from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Each coupon can go toward the purchase of a single set-top converter box. For more information on the coupon, please visit
  • Subscribe to a cable, satellite or telecommunications service provider if all desired local broadcast stations are carried by that service.

For more information, please visit or



Reading is Still Hot at Keansburg High School

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Jean Curtin, Librarian
Reprinted from the NJLA Newsletter, Summer 2007, with permission from NJLA.

As a high school librarian, I always try to think of ways to stimulate an interest in reading among my students.  At the high school level, students are involved in numerous extracurricular activities making reading a low priority.  Over the past several years, headphones and MP3 players have become an essential part of our students’ wardrobes.

Keansburg high school student Joshua Herzog listens to the downloadable ListenNJ title, "The Land of Elyon Book 2: Beyond the Valley of Thorns" by Patrick Carman and Aasne Vigesaa.

I have been working successfully with the Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic Organization for many years.  This organization provides special listening equipment and free audio of textbooks and novels to persons with vision problems.  When information about the ListenNJ audiobook project was advertised, I thought that I could achieve the same success with the general school population and faculty as I experienced with the special education students.  Since headphones seem to be permanently attached to my students’ ears, I thought I could get them to listen to a book.  I thought this might appeal to our so-called “reluctant” readers - those students who tell me that reading is too hard for them, that they must read a “thin” book or, alas, no book at all.  Therefore, I sought my principal’s support to participate in the ListenNJ Project.

Because my principal, Mr. Normile, is both a “techie” and a “gadget” man, he immediately gave me the go-ahead to participate by allocating the $1,500 fee. Initially, some teachers expressed a concern that students would not be actually “reading” a book, but rather having it “read” to them.  I explained that this would be one way to expose some students to classics that they would never read or a novel that would be too difficult for them to tackle on their own. 

For many years, audiobooks have been used to teach children to read and to increase their comprehension. Reluctant readers who are introduced to the world of books through audiobooks may some day have the confidence to actually read a book on their own. Research has proven that audiobooks can help with word pronunciation, vocabulary expansion, fluency and comprehension.  They can be used to introduce a novel or to set the stage for what is to follow.  They are indispensable for the blind.  Audiobooks can only help to encourage students to read.  I felt that the project would be nothing but positive for my school. 

So, how have we done so far with the ListenNJ Project?   The response has been so positive that we renewed our participation for year two. Several special education teachers have incorporated audiobooks into their curriculum. One teacher checked out CD players to students, along with the books they had chosen to read. This enabled the students to complete their summer reading assignment by reading the words in the book while listening to the audio version. is a downloadable audiobooks project of the INFOLINK and Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperatives

Another teacher who uses audiobooks in her classroom has told me that students prefer the audiobook narrator over the teacher reading to them and that they enjoy following along with the book.  She feels that it allows for everyone to be on an equal reading plane.  Additionally, a student recently diagnosed with vision problems, who is on home instruction, is listening to his required reading of a novel.

Last year I sponsored an after-school book club.  With advance planning, my students checked out the same audio book, burned them to CDs and participated in an audiobook discussion.  The students told me that it was nice to listen to a book for a change and that they enjoyed the experience. During my summer and fall orientation for eighth graders, students went to the ListenNJ website in order to hear excerpts from a few books in order to expose them to the project and stimulate their interest in it.  Teachers tell me that they are downloading audio books at home, burning them to CDs and listening to them while driving to and from work.  A few have established a “so-called” swap shop where one audiobook is swapped for another. As an added bonus, I have volunteered to be on the ListenNJ selection committee so that I can add books that appeal to teens to the collection.  All in all, I can enthusiastically say that reading is still hot at Keansburg High School, both visually and auditorily.

Jean Curtin has worked as a librarian at Keansburg High School for the past twenty-six years. She got hooked on the role that technology can play in libraries many years ago when she spear-headed a successful fund-raiser to purchase a computer and appropriate software to automate her library's book collection. Now, with 36 networked computers in the library and Internet access in school and at home, she looks for ways to expand her students' reading horizons through the use of technology. One way that she does this is through her school's participation in the Listen NJ downloadable audio book project sponsored by the Central New Jersey and Infolink Library Cooperatives. is sponsored by the Central Jersey and Infolink Cooperatives.


Festival of Maps

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Reprinted from Base Line, a newsletter of the Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association, Volume 28, Number 3, June 2007.

The Festival of Maps Chicago, with its theme of “Exploration, Discovery, and Mapping,” recently opened on November 2nd and continues into 2008. Festival events take place at over 30 locations throughout the city, highlighting “advances in modern cartography as they apply to our earth and the skies above.” Ongoing exhibits include “Rare African Maps, 1561-1915” at Northwestern University Library; “Mapping Manifest Destiny: Chicago and the American West” at the Newberry Library; “Mapping the Universe” at the Adler Planetarium; and “An Atlas of Radical Cartography” at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Upcoming seminars and lectures include “Mapping the World from Ancient Babylon to the Ottoman Empire,” an all day symposium at the Oriental Institute; and “Cosmic Cartography Journey through the Universe,” a lecture offered by the Art Institute. For more information and a detailed schedule of upcoming events visit the Festival of Maps Chicago website at

The following is a list of websites offering fun and games with maps; for more ideas, ask your librarian.

Percival Lowell, Detail of Plate IV from Observations of the Planet Mars, from the Adler Planetarium exhibit
Percival Lowell, Detail of Plate IV from Observations of the Planet Mars, from the Adler Planetarium exhibit

Online Maps and Internet Resources

Games Relating to Maps and Geography

For something completely different, why not brush up on your geography with these online treats. Each is a little different and some require various levels of expertise. All are fun.

Map Games

Contains a variety of games and quizzes, a few of which include: Map GeoTournament; US Capitals Map Game; Geographic Continent Map Game (Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. The South East Asia Map Game should be a workout); USA Jigsaw Map Game; Crossword Map Game; Russia Map Game (test your post-breakup knowledge); and the Super Quiz Map Game.

Just For Fun Map Game

By Rethinking Schools, an organization of activist teachers who publish educational materials. They have a geography naming test for North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. Drag the name of the country to the proper location on the map. If you are correct, the country is highlighted with its name in place; if you are wrong, you get a red “X” and get to try again.

Ashley Hunt,  A World Map in Which, from
Ashley Hunt, A World Map in Which, from "An Atlas of Radical Cartography" at UIC

Where Is That?

Select a continent and game level (1=easiest, 5=hardest). For each screen, identify the correct country (or state). Check the correct box or type in the name (spelling counts). You will receive a grade on these.

U.S. Map Test

Challenge your friends to see if they can put the names of all 50 states onto a U.S. map. Take the test against a clock. Try your luck.

Test your Geography Knowledge

On the Lizard Point site. Try the following links as well: Lyndsey’s Mania: and: How Far Is It? Place start and stop points to find out how far away the two map points are.

Fun With Maps (USA Today)

Fun With Maps

Features image files that you can download or print, to cut-out and paste to construct models of the Earth, planets, the Sun, and a number of planetary satellites (e.g., Ganymede). The main model type lets you create icosahedron (20-sided polyhedron) models. You can also find files to create cylindrical views of planets and satellites. An additional page has files for creating 3-D models on a computer with the proper (dxf file compatible) software. Other models exist but are not available at this time. There are also links to planetary art and other Solar System resources. See the Solar System Maps and Models page for a list:

All of these sites will give you a chance to test yourself and others (also a good way to review too). The next few sites are fun too, though of a different sort.

Fun Maps USA

Here is a collection of “cartoon maps” created by an artist to meet the needs of various organizations and cities. Cartoon maps contain caricatures or drawings of geographical features and places of interest for a region. This is a good site to see just for the fun of it. It may also provide ideas to use for local fund-raisers and other activities, since the artist does custom maps.

Fun With Google Maps

Google Maps has inspired an explosion of uses for its database of maps, and people demonstrate the infinite nature of imagination and (sometimes) a little silliness. The “Street View” feature on Google Maps has some privacy advocates in a tizzy, and has the rest of us searching for hidden gems. Take a look at this page and Laudon Techs New Street View Gallery.

Other Online Maps

Chicago Crime Maps

Creative use of statistics and GIS. Using crime statistics and Google Maps, the creators developed a series of maps showing crime in Chicago by such themes as: type of crime, zip code, ward, police district, and more. The website has also begun to archives data and maps allowing for time-oriented studies.

Quick Reference Maps

Need a map of a country or region, and need it fast? Try this site.

The Gold Regions of California, 1849, from the Newberry Library exhibit
The Gold Regions of California, 1849, from the Newberry Library exhibit

Air Quality Maps for the United States

AirNow is an inter-agency organization that monitors and reports air quality for the United States and Canada. Ozone and Particle pollution (called “particulate matter” PM) are shown by maps. Local and state-wide data is also illustrated here. See forecasts, current conditions, and an archive of previous conditions. There is also an International Air Quality page.

Make sure to view the Air Quality Index (AQI), for daily air quality reports for over 300 American cities. It tells how clean or polluted the outdoor air is for a location, and associated health effects. “The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. The EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health.”

Sightseeing With Google Satellite Maps

View satellite images of countries, cities, and individual places. This site calls itself the “original Google Satellite Maps repository.” It contains over 11,058 destinations at present. There is also a section of unusual images from space. An example is the following, showing what happens when you tile images from different angles:

Wild Sanctuary

Julie Andrews, honorary chair of National Library Week 2008

Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19. Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week announcements starring the legendary actor.

This is a project to combine maps with recordings of nature in its location. It is from a commercial recording site but the concept is a unique use of mapping tools.

County Formation New York 1683-1915

Animated map showing New York’s changing county boundaries.

Map of the Tree of Life Project

This site illustrates the branches and leaves of the Tree of Life connecting all organisms on Earth. Has documentation to assist users.

Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands in Ontario: A Summary of Information

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Publications produced this report that is more of an atlas, with a series of detailed maps describing the wetlands adjoining the Great Lakes region in order to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great lakes basin ecosystem.

“The report updates and consolidates information on coastal wetlands from a variety of sources including Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) wetland evaluation files, Environment Canada’s Environmental Sensitivity Atlases, OMNR’s Natural Areas Database and other site specific studies. It provides information on the wetland type, site type, significance and status of wetlands, a qualitative assessment of stressors affecting coastal wetlands, and data on biodiversity with respect to significant species dependent on coastal wetlands. This report and associated database provides a framework for the development of a comprehensive and current coastal wetlands database.” The entire report is online, including text on topics related to wetlands management. Maps show each of the lakes, as well as rivers between lakes and wetlands related to the watershed.


Ten Ways Adults Can Support Teen Reading

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By the Young Adult Library Services Association

The National Endowment for the Arts released data (To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence) this week showing that Americans—and teenagers in particular—are reading less than they did just a few years ago. The number of 17-year-olds who say they never read for pleasure doubled in the past twenty years to 19 percent. But remember, good reading habits start at home and at your library. If you’re wondering how you can help get teens to read, here are ten ways to start:

10. Say It Loud, Say It Proud. Read stories, poems or articles from magazines and newspapers out loud with your teens—even the Sunday comics.

9. Get ’Em There. Make sure your teens have regular transportation to the library and plenty of time to find books and other material that interests them. If your teen’s school library opens early or stays open late, allow your teen extra time at school to browse the shelves.

8. Stock Up. The more books, magazines and other reading material you keep around the house, the more likely your teen is to pick up the habit. (And studies have shown that more books mean greater achievement in several subjects on standardized tests.) Before you worry about how much creating your home library will cost you, remember that the library lends all kinds of materials for free.

7. Tune In. Planning to spend a significant amount of time in your car? Pick out an audiobook to listen to with your teen. Tech-savvy parents can fill their teens’ mp3 players with audiobooks or subscribe them to podcasts about books or graphic novels or podcasts from magazines and newspapers. (Not tech savvy? Your librarian can help you download podcasts and audiobooks for your teen.)

6. Reading Is a Gift. Give your teen books, magazine subscriptions, graphic novels, audiobooks or gift certificates to bookstores as presents.

5. Everybody Wants to Be Free. Give your teens the freedom to choose materials that interest them and speak to their interests and hobbies. Teens read a lot of heavy material in school—let them pick up something light or fun to keep them interested in reading.

4. Sharing Shows You Care. Talk to your teens about what you read—and ask them to talk about what they’re reading with you. Talking about what you’ve read makes it meaningful and provides a bonding moment for you and your teen.

3. Do Your Civic Duty. When library levies are on your ballot, vote for them. Call your legislators and ask them to support legislation that helps libraries, like the Improving Literacy through School Libraries program or the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. Ask your neighbors and friends to support libraries as well.

2. Lead by Example. Make sure your teen knows you set aside time to read every day and that you visit the library often. You’re a role model to your teen. If they see that reading and going to the library is important to you, they’ll make it important to them.

1. Remember: You’re Having Fun. Reading is a dynamic, engaging experience. It’s relaxing and informative, and it can be done in a number of ways. If your teen sees you enjoying reading as a hobby, they’ll realize that reading is fun and a hobby worth pursuing.

For 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audio books for teens.  For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, go to, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail:



Idearc Media Helps Makeover Libraries

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Three libraries received makeovers this year thanks to the generosity, talent, and hard work of Idearc Media and its employees….

Idearc Media's community mission is to create communities of readers where its employees and customers live and work. Idearc Media, home to and publisher of the Verizon(r) Yellow Pages, partnered this year with the American Library Association to refurbish reading areas in three public libraries.  In addition to $20,000 provided to each library, Idearc Media employees volunteered their time and expertise to make the makeovers happen.  In addition to a lot of sweat equity artists on the Idearc staff help turn visions into reality.


Wishes Come True at the Wilmington (MA) Memorial Library

The Wilmington Memorial Library children’ s area receive its first makeover since the building opened in 1969 in the middle of November. The new children’s area features the native Baldwin apple, with a new puppet theatre and murals of animals native to the area. Idearc volunteers painted walls and murals, moved books and shelving, and installed end-of stack decorative panels.

‘Celebrating Heroes’ at the D.C. Public Library

On October 4th and 5th over 75 employees of Idearc Media pitched in to update the Black Studies Division of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The employees installed new furniture, designed and updated bulletin boards, and help reorganize the collection.


Fort Worth Public Library’s Riverside Branch Transformed

During National Library Week in April 2007,the Riverside branch of the Fort Worth Public Library received a makeover from 100 Idearc, Media employees that transformed new children’s and young adult areas to a setting that now will reflect the heritage of its predominately Hispanic/Latino population.



Chasing Newbery

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Every year a Newbery medal book is chosen and recognized as the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the past year. This long history of book selections makes for a rich reading list. For some young book lovers, tackling this collection of literary greats becomes the ultimate reading challenge.

Over recent years, several parents have reported to ALSC that their child has read each and every Newbery Medal-winning book named since 1922 when the award was first given. Our hats are off to all those who have embraced this goal and faithfully read their way through decades of award-winning titles. That is quite an achievement.

To all those up for the challenge, a complete list of Newbery Medal-winning books can be found at:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Blaylock of San Diego, Calif., achieved her Newbery reading goal and tells us all about it below.

What made you decide to read all of the Newbery medal books?

Actually it was my mom’s idea. She found a pamphlet listing all the Newbery winners at our public library in Sandy, Utah, and noticed I had already read some of them. Later that day, she highlighted all the winners I told her I had read. And that’s how it all began. 

How long did it take you to achieve this goal?

I don’t have an exact answer… I had already read about 25 before I started the goal in late June. I finished A Single Shard (my last Newbery) on November 11, 2007. So I read about 60 books in 4 1/2 months to reach my goal.

Which of the Newberys were your favorites and why?

I liked them all, that’s for certain, but I would have to say my favorites were Bud, Not Buddy and Ginger Pye. I liked them because they are heartwarming tales, and they both have a little adventure in them. They are well written and I think they would be excellent books to read out loud.

Were there particular books, especially ones published a long time ago, with which you had trouble identifying/connecting? Which ones and why?

I had trouble connecting with The Story of Mankind and The Dark Frigate. The Story of Mankind felt too text book like and besides, I’m not the biggest fan of that particular genre. I did, however, enjoy the descriptive pictures—they were definitely a form of relief for me! The Dark Frigate was slow—the author spent the first few chapters developing the characters and not much else. It did get a little better when the main characters were kidnapped by pirates!

Any plans to undertake the Newbery honor book list next?

Definitely not anytime soon.  Besides, saying, “I’ve read all the Newbery honors” doesn’t sound as awesome as saying, “I’ve read all the Newbery winners!”

Was it difficult to find copies of the books published a long time ago? How did you get ahold of all of them?

My mom actually found them for me (big thank you to her). Three books had to be taken out of storage: The Story of Mankind (the very first Newbery winner, 1922), Waterless Mountain (1932 winner) and Daniel Boone (1940 winner). Any books our Scripps Ranch Library (San Diego) didn’t have, she ordered (with the help of librarian Miss Ann) online through the library system.

Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19.
Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week 
announcements starring the legendary actor.

Are you a regular library user? If so, what do you like best about your library?

As long as I can remember, my mom took me to the library. When I was little, we used to go to John Marshall Library in Alexandria, Va., and check out stacks of picture books, fairy tales, non-fiction—you name it! There was always a pile of books at our house.  We also used to go to those shows and guest presentations—puppet shows, storytellers, musicians, exotic animals. Sometimes it was just our family and other times we’d invite friends to go with us. Now, I just concentrate on finding new books. Miss Ann introduced me to the “Young Adult” section so I’ve been spending a lot of time in that aisle lately!

Besides Newbery books, what other kinds of books do you like to read?

I like to read fantasy, adventure and horror/mystery.

When you’re not reading, what are some of your other pastimes and hobbies?

I like to draw Manga (Japanese animation), play Internet games and play with friends.

What would you like to do when you grow up?

I would like to be a book/magazine critic and an author—possibly a Newbery winner?

Alas, no time to rest on your laurels, Sophie and all you other Newbery readers, the 2008 winner will be announced on Monday morning January 14, during a press conference in Philadelphia. Time to get busy reading again!

--Laura Schulte-Cooper, Association for Library Service to Children


Internet Safety, Libraries, and MySpace

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Reprinted with permission from the Illinois Library Association.
By Robert P. Doyle, Executive Director, Illinois Library Association

It all started with the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill on July 26, 2006, requiring schools and libraries receiving E-rate funds (a federal initiative providing discounts to public libraries and schools on telecommunications services, Internet access, and other closely related costs) to block access to social networking sites, such as MySpace, as well as access to a wide array of other content and technologies, such as instant messaging, online e-mail, wikis, and blogs. The Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, was the name given to H.R. 5319, which passed overwhelmingly in the House by 410 to 15. (The U.S. Senate never considered the bill.)

As is often the case, libraries found themselves in the crosshairs between legitimate concerns regarding “online predators” and access to information. In October 2006, The Illinois Library Association (ILA) carried an article in its magazine entitled, “DOPA and the Participation Gap,” sharing concerns about the disproportional effect of the legislation on lower income communities. The article offered alternative measures, such as “Basic Rules on Online Safety for Teens,” and talking points for librarians and others to use with the media, elected officials, and concerned citizens.

The article also proposed an emerging action plan to continue to address this legislation and its likely successors. At its executive board meeting in September, the ILA approved this action plan. But the challenge remained. This was a piece of federal legislation that had passed by an overwhelming margin. How the heck were they going to do all of this?

As MySpace was at least as big a target as libraries in this situation, they wondered if they might like to partner with ILA in their educational efforts. ILA connected with MySpace’s Governmental Affairs Department, and in the ensuing conversation MySpace expressed interest in a cooperative educational campaign in response to the federal Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) and possible legislation in the Illinois General Assembly. But the ball was still in the ILA’s court.

In November, the ILA Executive Board approved a concept to produce a large quantity—one million or more!—“Internet Safety” bookmarks for distribution to the general public and their elected officials. Several bookmarks were envisioned, targeted to specific audiences—kids, teens, and parents on specific topics, e.g., cyberbullying, preventive action, and social networking. The bookmarks would also be available on the ILA Web site to download and print locally. They figured if they could take a finished idea to MySpace, they had a better chance of getting them on board, so they developed the copy and got ready to go, with no clear idea of where they would find the funds to produce them.

Fast-forward to the new year. The U.S. Congress returned to Washington and on January 6, 2007, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) introduced Protecting Children in the Twenty-first Century Act (S. 49)—this bill was similar to the original DOPA bill that earlier passed the House. On February 16, Representative Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) introduced H.R. 1120—a reincarnation of the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) of 2006.

Meanwhile, in Springfield, on February 9, 2007, Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy (R-27, Palatine) filed Senate Bill (S.B.) 1682, banning social networking sites in Illinois public and school libraries. Proposed anti-social-networking legislation was also introduced in Georgia (S.B. 59) and North Carolina (S.B. 132). It was beginning to look as though legislation targeting social networking sites would be similar to filtering legislation, coming back year after year requiring energy and resources to fight both in the U.S. Congress and the Illinois General Assembly


Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19. Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week announcements starring the legendary actor.

It was time for the ILA to mobilize, to be proactive, and to launch a campaign to educate children, parents, and teachers on how to use the Internet safely. They placed editorials in newspapers across the state. They informed their elected officials that the library community is very concerned about the safety of children. They stressed that education is the key to safe use of the Internet, not laws blocking access. They blogged. They sponsored educational programs on this topic. They set an April 1 deadline to get the bookmark to the printer even if funding was not obtained. They wanted the bookmarks for Illinois Library Day on April 18.

The ILA kept MySpace informed of these activities, and their networking and bridge-building paid off. On March 29, 2007, MySpace offered to pay for the printing and mailing of a total of 900,000 bookmarks. Three weeks later the bookmarks were printed and distributed through the Illinois library systems—400 of each, three different bookmarks, times 750 libraries! In addition, ILA paid for and printed 300,000 bookmarks to distribute at Illinois Library Day (3,000 bookmarks) in Springfield, the 2007 National Library Legislative Day (20,000 bookmarks) in Washington, D.C., the Reaching Forward Conference (3,000 bookmarks) in Rosemont, and to sell. Also, this past June the American Library Association co-sponsored the distribution of one million bookmarks at their 2007 Annual Conference.

With a distribution of over one million, NetSafe bookmarks are having a positive impact in library communities all across the country. They are a demonstration of the library community’s commitment to the safety of children. They know there are legitimate concerns about the Internet. They know, however, that the best way to protect children is to teach them to guard their privacy and make wise choices. Education will promote safe use of the Internet, not laws blocking access. As the technological and political landscape of our challenges keeps changing, we must learn to quickly adapt our partnerships and tactics to advocate for libraries. Visit to download the bookmarks today.


The Schneider Family Book Award

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By Donna McMillen

The original version of this article appeared in Young Adult Library Services 5, no. 3, Spring 2007.

Each year the American Library Association (ALA) awards authors and illustrators of books, videos, and other outstanding materials for children and teens. The Schneider Family Book Award is one of them.

Three annual awards are presented for the best Teen (ages 14-18), Middle School (ages 11-13), and Children’s (ages 10 and younger) book. The winning books are selected for their excellence as an artistic expression of the disability experience. The disability portrayed may be mental, physical, or emotional. Winning authors receive an award in the form of a $5,000 check and a framed plaque, emblazoned with a silver and blue emblem featuring a circle of boys and girls holding hands around a globe, symbolizing the equality of all children. Since the inception of the award in 2003, winning titles have included characters who deal with depression, blindness, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, deafness, synesthesia, dyscalculia, physical disabilities, and stuttering.

Each year, the winning authors and illustrators are announced in January and the awards are presented at the awards ceremony during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. The 2007 winners were The Deaf Musicians by singer Pete Seeger and poet Paul DuBois Jacobs, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Putnam  Juvenile, 2006); Rules by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic, 2006); and Small Steps by Louis Sachar (Delacorte, 2006).
Winning titles are selected by a committee of seven ALA members and include a member from each of the following ALA divisions: the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA).

These days, writers and publishers are including so many more realistic protagonists and major secondary characters with disabilities, speaking to the experiences of many young readers who have family members, friends, or schoolmates with a variety of disabilities. Therefore, a segment of the real lives of young readers is no longer being ignored. Like the Coretta Scott King Award, which honors African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults that demonstrate sensitivity to "the true worth and value of all beings," this award encourages excellence in literature that includes these formerly neglected or stereotyped groups. The award-winning books portray a disability as part of a person’s full life, not as something to be pitied or overcome.

The award is named for Dr. Katherine Schneider, who worked with her father to develop the award. As a child, Schneider enjoyed the books she read in Braille, or that were read to her, and wished to expand the range of characters that were available for children to read about.

A list of the winning books for the current and past years, and a selected bibliography of children’s books about the disability experience can be found on the ALA Web site at

The Deaf Musicians, by Pete Seeger and poet Paul DuBois Jacobs, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (2006), winner of the 2007 young children’s category, tells the story of  jazzman Lee who learns to make music in a new way. The book’s upbeat narrative, along with its bright colors, teaches the reader that there is more than one way to do everything, to never give up on your dreams and that music can be enjoyed by all.

Read more about folk singer/environmentalist Pete Seeger’s motivation to take part in the project.

DONNA MCMILLEN has been a Librarian for more than twenty years with the King County (Wash.) Library System and is currently a Branch Manager. Career high points were her terms serving on the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, Best Books for Young Adults, and Printz Award


Why We Need Free Libraries More Than Ever

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by Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director of the American Library Association

Originally posted July 27, 2011 by the Atlantic at

Reprinted with permission of author.

Yes, it's time to bring a beloved institution into the 21st century -- but not by making it less effective

As a former head of the state library agency in Massachusetts and a taxpayer myself, I read with interest the recent Atlantic editorial in which an elected official from Swampscott, Massachusetts proposed public library user fees as a reasonable and "modern" solution to some perceived imbalance.

Under this proposal, a 50 cent user fee would be added to each book circulated by the library. In addition to addressing the supposed tax inequity created by the current system of funding for the Swampscott Library, the proposal would generate an estimated $300,000 in additional funds for the library.
The fact is: This would be the costliest additional revenue ever generated.
The reasons for this are twofold: First of all, this fee, while described as nominal, would hurt those most in need of the free services the library offers. While Swampscott is a relatively well-to-do town by national standards, there are plenty of unemployed and/or poor people living in the town. The costs that might not make a difference to the wealthiest users would certainly constitute an additional barrier to use for almost everyone else.
This would be even more the case for young people. Given the overwhelming proof that library use makes better readers, higher achievers, and more successful workers, we want our young people to feel comfortable coming into their local library, whether or not they have money in their pocket. The impact of these fees would certainly be a disincentive for those young users who would benefit most from library use.
The second reason is plain old economics. The municipality invested $560,000 in local taxes library services last year, about 1 percent of the total municipal budget and about $40 per capita for each of the town's 14,000 residents. In return, the library circulated 161,000 items in 2009 (not 600,000 as claimed), about $3.50 per circulation. And that's not counting all the story hours for children, public access computer usage, public programs, assistance in locating information on health, financial and e-government information, interlibrary loans and many other valuable educational services provided to the community. The 50 cent fee would actually generate about $80,000 in revenue, not $300,000.
The impact of the "nominal" user fee would unquestionably be a reduction in the library's use. This is very evident in France, where some local libraries charge small user fees in addition to receiving public support. The result: Libraries are used much less, resulting in a much lower return on the public support provided.

In short, the small amount of additional revenue results in a much less effective use of  the public support. With a fixed investment in a service that benefits those who use it and their community the more they use it, you want them to use it as much as possible. Seems perfectly clear, right?
Now, as to the notion that we need to stop thinking like it's 1900. Libraries stopped thinking like it was 1900 many years ago, and are now providing users with access to online digital resources (and the really valuable ones are not free) e-books and 24/7 online access to library services. And national surveys show that the public considers public libraries the most effectively run of all municipal services.
Libraries provide all residents with unlimited access to the reading and information resources that will mean the difference between success and failure for Swampscott residents as individuals, Swampscott as a town, and the United States as a nation. They are supported by a very modest contribution of public tax funds, and provide a fabulous return on this investment by any measure.
Sure, the library is an old fashioned concept. So is democracy. So is equal opportunity. So is getting your facts right.