The Importance of Play: SNAILS Meeting, November, 2014

The quarterly meeting at Batavia Public Library had two guest speakers.

The National Lekotek Center gave a brief presentation about their services and the benefit of ‘play’ to children of all needs, especially those with special needs. What an impressive organization with highly regarded research.  They offer three types of services to parents and children primarily between the ages of 3- 8 years old. Services include 12 1-house Individual Play Sessions, Access to the Toy lending Library, Social Playgroups and more. For more information, visit  With an annual membership, benefits to a library partnership include access to the Professional Toy Lending Library for patron or library use and Professional Development opportunities such as webinars. A family membership is $300 regardless of the number of people in the family.

The second presenter was a PHD student from Australia. She spoke briefly about her research with play and will be posting a video to her blog.

The main topic of the presentation was the importance of Play, which I really value in my programs. The phrase, “You can do it and here is how you do it,” is one I will take with me regardless of a child’s ability.  Often, we are given information or ideas, but never any resources about what to do next.  The strength of this Lekotek philosophy is one of empowerment for parents and kids.

Children of all abilities are over-worked, over-scheduled and over-evaluated.  Without free and unrestricted playtime, their stress level can skyrocket, causing them to have problems in school, which then leads to ‘extra’ work to help supplement the skills they lack, making even more work, schedules and evaluations they don’t need or want.  The creativity I see in kids of all ages when they have just an hour of free time to either create an art project, play a board game, or just explore simply amazes me every time.  Their imagination and their ability to think freely and without limits inspires my imagination to help create interesting library programs and connect with kids.

Some tidbits I took away from this session included the website and the Toys R Us Differently Abled Toy Guide which offers reviews and ideas for toys. What great resources for parents and librarians.  I find that giving families reputable information is important because it’s at the core of what it means to being a librarian.  Anyone can google to try and find fun and new toys, yet, with these resources, a parent can truly be educated and take into consideration the needs of their child.  As a librarian, being able to tell a parent, here is this great toy your son or daughter can play with, and here is why it’s great, is essential information to share.

I also learned at this meeting the importance of adaptive toys and how they can help children with disabilities play and enjoy being a child, just for the sake of fun!

Ideas I really thought were great included Sensory Packs; additional special collection designation, and a bibliography to make books for special needs families easier to find. Of course, it was also a good opportunity to speak to other librarians about their programs and outreach efforts to the special needs community.

I always meet great librarians and always leave these meeting inspired.  This one did not disappoint.


Marketing Services: SNAILS Meeting, February, 2014

This quarterly meeting’s topic was about marketing to people with disabilities. With my background of 12 years in corporate marketing, I can tell you that unfortunately, many libraries just seem behind the curve with their marketing skills.  There are so many talented and creative librarians, and I just never understood why it doesn’t seem to always translate to their promotion of services.  What I do notice, is that even the smallest extra marketing effort can make a difference, whether it be a flyer, a Facebook or Twitter post, or even just telling patrons about the program when you see a flicker of interest in the topic.   The reason I have been able to make such great connections with the families that attend my sensory storytimes is because I really try to understand their needs even before they attend the program during my conversation.  Not only does it sell the family on the program, but it helps me learn about the needs of their child.

The guest speaker introduced to our group was JJ Hanley of JJ’s List.  This is a directory website similar to Yelp for people with disabilities.  Libraries can be listed and include all the services and programs they provide, especially those that are helpful for people with special needs.  We then had a discussion and reviewed examples of marketing ideas and community assessments done by other libraries.  I was really impressed with JJ’s passion for being an advocate for people with special needs and her grass roots project that has turned into such a great resource for people.  I would recommend that all libraries showcase their resources for people with disabilities on this website.

Following lunch, we viewed the webinar by Barbara Klipper, “What’s After Storytime?  Programming for Children & Tweens with Autism.”    She is also the author of the book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Specturm Disorder available at the ALA Store.  This was a fantastic webinar and I learned a great deal about how I can better my programs.

Overall, a great meeting and a room full of inspired and caring librarians.

Sensory Storytime: SNAILS Meeting, November, 2013

The quarterly meeting was held at the fantastic Skokie Public Library.  There were demonstrations from three area librarians of their Sensory Storytimes and ideas.   Being new to the Sensory Storytime program, I was really impressed with how detailed and well-thought out these storytimes were and I hoped I could replicate the same.  One simple idea that I really liked was rolling the ball to a child while saying the name during introductions.   Sometimes, as librarians, we take for granted such simple gestures when we do so many storytimes every week.  Yet, this was an easy and kind gesture that invoked warmth and welcome.

The presentation also included a great definition and goal outline for defining the Sensory Storytime.  Book ideas, game and movement activities, sensory ideas, and structure were displayed, as well as, titles and descriptions of each library’s storytime.  We also went around the room and shared different ideas about what we have done in our own sensory storytimes, what’s worked, what didn’t work, and shared samples.   Holly Jin, gave a demonstration of several Ipad and tablet apps for kids with autism or other needs.  What a fantastic way to incorporate technology!  Technology can be a great way to bring visual aids and interactive tactics into the sensory storytime.  I love this idea!  Technology seems to be so focused on STEM, which is great, but can also be less inclusive and special needs kids deserve just as much attention.  So many other ideas were shared including early literacy grants, applying with Lekotek and tweens with special needs.

This was such an inspiring meeting full of ideas!  I can’t wait to wrap my head around all the great work shown and incorporate new ideas and projects into my work.


Inaugural Meeting: SNAILS Meeting, August, 2013

This was the inaugural meeting of a new networking group for youth librarians working with special needs children.  Since I am staring Sensory Storytime this fall, it seemed like the perfect group to get to know!  The meeting was held at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and had about 40 librarians from different suburbs in attendance.  Arlington Heights does a fantastic job of offering inclusive programs.  The one idea I really liked was the practice of ‘sensory’ bins.  The idea is to have different play stations where kids can play with a variety of toys and objects, such as block building, legos, uncooked rice or beans, water and so much more.  The possibilities seem pretty endless and I think imagination is key in coming up with new stations.  It was a great mix of people and ideas shared.  I can’t wait for the next meeting!