By Carrie Boberg, Duluth Public Library

I was so excited to get a chance to attend MLA and right here in my home-city of Duluth! I attended several sessions and here are some highlights:


Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books

I’m often fascinated by the artwork in children’s picture books. I love the way that different illustrators use different medium to tell their stories. This session focused on some recent Caldecott winners.  Picture books are important because they are often a child’s first introduction to art. Nothing in a picture book is accidental. I found that walking through several styles of books made me start reading picture books in a different way. During Storytime I enjoy choosing books with different styles & making a point to talk about the artwork often.


Early Literacy Play Spaces

One of my favorite sessions. I love being inspired to come up with new ways to engage our younger patrons. This session talked about WHY play is important (every aspect has some early literacy/pre-reading skill development!). Sometimes adults forget that it is educational for kids to play. ESPECIALLY when adults & kids are engaged together. My biggest take-way was caregiver prompts. Simple signs set up or hanging near a particular activity. On half of the sheet it may say something like “ Together we learn numbers” while on the other side it might say something like “I can count the green beads.” Simple prompts like this help engage the adults, promote vocabulary & socials skills by having a conversation & generally make learning more fun!


There were lots of great ideas too for adding play spaces – themed items in a bin with relevant books; using light tables for highlighting alphabets/spelling, geometry/math, earth sciences, etc; Dollhouses which promote vocabulary & social skills; science play, reading & writing (chalk boards, water & paint brushes), etc. Best practice is to rotate play spaces to keep things fresh! I came away from this session with a lot of great ideas.


Everyone Welcome: Best Practices for Racially Inclusive Storytimes

Great session on making sure your Storytimes are inclusive. It doesn’t have to be HUGE changes. Just make sure you’re reading books in which the characters come across as real. The world is diverse, we should show it to our kids this way. Start paying attention when reading picture books to make sure you’re hitting this mark.  Take more time; choose more carefully. Even anthropomorphic animals contain certain traits of different races.  Make sure you evaluate for bias! Who’s story is being told?


Wonderful ideas on how to look for authenticity and to explore things that show different perspectives. Instead of grabbing the same old princess book (ie: northern European) maybe grab the story from China, or the Carribbean. There are other options out there.


It’s important to also make sure that your props & felt boards are expressing diversity. Classic characters don’t *have* to be white. Try to also use different names from other cultures. Having guest speakers at Storytime is a really fun way to incorporate people from different walks of life throughout the year!


Passive Programming Power

One thing I really enjoy at the Library is passive programming!  Passive programming is something that takes place “whenever” or “always.” Families & youth provide the “power” and do the activity on their own. While there is some staff prep time needed initially, these program can go for a long time on very little staff time. These programs also encourage families & youth to return often to the library w/o schedule programs. And a great by-product? Increased circulation!


Some of my favorite ideas were:

Check-out Clubs – check out books, get a……(sticker, dino track, cupcake, scoop of ice cream….whatever) to put on our wall. Sign your name to make it even MORE FUN. Great visibility, kids love to put their name on the wall, encourages repeat visits.

Magnetic Chalkboard – great for school-aged kids; book cover puzzles & mad libs work well; great place to highlight particular books.

I-Spy Table – just like the books but make your own & change it up! Put it on a table top, poster board, etc

Exploration Station – have a prompt out where kids can think, reflect & write their own response. T


 So many more great ideas. I’m already implementing some of them! It’s fun to keep things fresh & keep patrons excited.


ConnectED Library Challenge in MN

This was a very inspirational session about several libraries in the Twin Cities area being challenged by the White House to get a library card into the hands of EVERY single school-aged child! Different implementation plans & systems were discussed, but I feel like all of the DPL staff who attended this session were really jazzed up about thinking about trying something like this in Duluth. It is a huge undertaking but would be so incredibly beneficial to the citizen’s of our City!


Overall I was very impressed with the speakers & sessions that I attended. I really enjoy going to conferences like this because I love to learn; love to see what my peers are doing and I love being pumped up & ready to make a difference at my library!


Thank you very much, ALS!