February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Buzz, Brainstorming Mark KidLibCamp 2013

Nearly 50 children’s and teen librarians met last week at Darien Library (CT) for the fifth annual KidLibCamp, a free “unconference” in which the discussion topics, panels, and workshops are voted on by the participants. Attendees explored best practices in 12 interactive breakout sessions—everything from maker spaces to the Common Core—with several common takeaways: that innovative programming can be achieved at little start-up cost; librarians need to better market existing programs to their patrons; and partnering with schools and communities is critical to the future of our libraries.

The attendees were a varied group in many ways, with children’s and teen services librarians as well as school librarians represented in the mix, from rural, urban, and suburban libraries in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and more.

Sesame Workshop’s Jennifer Perry talks about digital publishing. Photo: Darien Library.

The day opened with keynote speaker Jennifer Perry, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of digital publications, whose “How to Reach and Teach Children with Digital Books” presentation was well received by the crowd. Perry spoke about the ways that the 44-year-old Sesame Workshop researches and develops its ebooks in line with the company’s mission to use media to help ready preschool children for school—from ABCs and 123s to the basics of STEM, health, and emotional learning.

Sesame Workshop’s content is now available on computers, gaming devices, mobile phones, and tablets—but the company still has a passion for traditional books, Perry noted. In fact, 13 of its current book apps are based on pre-existing print books, including the classic The Monster at the End of This Book, originally published by Golden Books in 1971, she said.

Attendees of the “Making Makerspaces” session brainstorm strategies and best practices.

Perry went on to talk about some of the benchmarks that Sesame Workshops uses in its app creation, which are comprehension, usability, and appeal—the same criteria that she recommends librarians use for selecting the best preschool apps for their patrons. Perry also challenged attendees to think toward the future. What platforms will become the most commonly used for preschoolers? Which design features prompt more frequent and more positive parent-child interactions? What will the next innovative device or technology be? What roles can we play in children’s learning?

Next up, attendees took 30 minutes to develop, vote on, and schedule the discussion topics they most wanted to explore during for the event’s three breakout session periods.

Darien’s Amy Laughlin (l.) children’s librarian and outreach and public relations coordinator, and children’s librarian Krishna Grady (r.) at the Guerrilla Storytime lunchtime session.

The selected topics for the first breakaway period were “Using, Recommending, & Circulating Apps & Devices,” “Book Clubs (for boys, girls, tweens, and more),” “Engaging Users via Social Media & Marketing,” and “Creating a Culture of Innovation (on a dime!).”

For the second period, “Making Makerspaces,” “Programming for Babies, Toddlers, & Pre–K,” “Fostering Partnerships & Collaborations Outside the Library,” and “Supporting the Common Core State Standards in the Library,” were the winning topics.

During lunch, attendees were treated to a Guerilla Storytime Challenge, in which Darien’s Amy Laughlin, children’s librarian and outreach and public relations coordinator, helped attendees brainstorm solutions to common problems that occur during library storytimes, including disruptive parents.

The day’s final period offered “Reorganizing Collections (Dewey Alternatives),” “STE(A)M Programming,” “Ebooks: Collection Development, Marketing, and Best Practices,” and “Tween Programming.”

Participants at the “Reorganizing Collections (Dewey Alternatives)” panel query Elisabeth Gattullo (c.), a children’s librarian at Darien Library and its collection development coordinator.

Did you miss this event? No worries! Session notes from attendees continue to pour in online, along with blog posts through the KidLibCamp site’s innovative blog sharing program, a new feature Darien Library is employing this year for the event, organizer Kiera Parrott, the head of children’s services, tells School Library Journal. Enthuses Parrot, “Any participant can update it!”

You can also view (and join) the Twitter conversation using #Kidlib13.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.



  1. If Guerrilla Storytime intrigues you and you’re sorry you missed it, visit Storytime Underground for a calendar of upcoming Guerrilla Storytimes around the country, or to learn how to host your own.