Interview with Anne Hrobsky, Youth Services Division, WPL

I know Anne Hrobsky from the Pajama Storytimes at Frances Perkins Branch Library, so it was really nice to chat with her about topics beyond Sandra Boynton.

Young Adult
We were hoping to chat more about Young Adult Services and started talking about other things and didn’t get a chance to discuss it more, but she would like people to watch a video called How to Find the Books that the teen group put together.  Please leave them some feedback and suggestions for future video projects!

I’m hoping to talk more with Anne about programs for teens at the library, because there is a lot going on for teenagers at the library and whenever I’m there, the 18 computers in the YA area are always occupied.  If you haven’t been to the library in a while, you might not know how awesome their YA section is and how many kids are using their services.

Outreach to Third Graders (and other students)
One of my biggest concerns has been how children in pubic schools become familiar with the library and how to use its resources, especially since staffing school libraries with librarians doesn’t always happen in tough budget times.

For the last five or six years, the library has received a grant that allows a children’s librarian to visit every third-grade classroom — public, charter, private, parochial — in the city, to introduce the students to library services and encourage them to get a library card if they don’t already have one.  The librarian gives the children applications for library cards that they can bring home; when they go to the library to apply for their card, they also receive a special wallet to keep their library card in.  (The wallet is for third-graders only, so younger siblings will have to wait patiently for their wallet.)

As Anne says, the goal of the librarian’s visit is to get children so excited about going to the library that they do the “hard sell” to get their parents to take them.  I think third grade is a great time to get into the library — you can read, and you’re starting to get homework assignments and projects that require research.

The library also tries to offer occasional tours of the Children’s Room when they can; schools can request a tour.  They are also looking to work with a group of teachers to inform them about  new features and resources in the library; this would be a “train-the-trainer” group that could bring this knowledge back to their fellow teachers.

Summer Reading List
When I was in school, you needed to read 3 books listed on the summer reading list, no substitutions allowed.

While the Worcester Public Schools does still have a summer reading list, those books are suggested (except in the cases of students taking AP English, who have a restricted list of required reading).  Children are still required to read a certain number of books, all of which can be their own choice.  But — even with the list as a suggestion — many children might not believe that they can really read anything they choose.

So — while it’s not the decision of librarians whether the reading list goes away — it is something Anne and I discussed.  The library is the source for many children’s summer reading. Last year, 1,134 children participated in a Library Friends-sponsored contest, where they received one raffle ticket per book read, with the possibility of winning one of 69 prizes.

The possibility of moving away from a fixed reading list is something I know the School Committee will be discussing further.  I’m of the “encourage children to read whatever they like and good taste will accompany voracious reading” school of thought.  As Anne said, it’s really a matter of what the goal of summer reading is: to encourage children to begin or continue the reading habit, or to reduce the summer slide by making sure they read at least three books at their grade level and of a certain quality.

Upcoming Events
Mother Goose on the Loose en Español

This year, the Big Read is focusing on the poems & stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  Inspired by The Gold-Bug, the Children’s Room will be hosting an afternoon of bugs, with insect shows.  (They’re also hosting a reptile show during February vacation week; check with a children’s librarian to see if tickets are required.)

New Preschool Computers
For those of you who’ve seen the new preschool computers, yes, we did talk about them.  I want to do another post on them, hopefully with pictures and video and a short review from my older son.

6 thoughts on “Interview with Anne Hrobsky, Youth Services Division, WPL

  1. Tracy says:

    Was that a hint on the reading list? 🙂
    I LOVE Anne and I’m so glad you spoke with her!

    • Nicole says:

      Was that hint loud enough? 🙂

      Maybe I’ve read The Read Aloud Handbook one too many times, but I feel really strongly that one of the goals of K-12 should be to get kids excited about reading. And one way to do that is to read stuff some people consider junk (series books, etc.). I read the first 80 of so Baby-Sitters Club books about 50 times apiece, and now I read Trollope for fun, so I’m proof positive that love of reading should come FIRST and taste will follow.

      I also think (and this is something Anne mentioned as well) that reading lists tend to focus on fiction. Many boys (and some girls) prefer to read non-fiction, and I think a dinosaur dictionary or a bunch of Seymour Simon books should count the same as Little Bear.

  2. Tracy says:

    My eldest (girl) went through a big non-fiction phase.
    And whatever is popular tends to be GONE from the library over the summer. One daughter got hooked on Magic Tree House (which I’d classify with the Babysitter Club) and tracking them down was hard!
    I don’t think there’s enough in there to make it clear that reading is the first priority with “reading at grade level” a second. Thinking on it!

  3. t-traveler says:

    head librarians report
    http://www.worcpublib.org/150/Report/December.pdf

    “Youth Services staff, Terry Popek, Frank Sestokas, Rezarta Tupja
    and Anne Hrobsky met with Worcester Public School staff as part of a committee charged with revising the school’s summer reading program. When finalized, the final
    recommendations will be presented to the School Committee for their review/approval.
    The significant change being proposed is that students will not be provided with a list of titles or authors for reading, but instead will be encouraged to continue to read any book of choice; studies have shown that if students have choice, they are more likely to read. We hope this change will increase reading as an activity of choice for Worcester Public School students.”

    Do you guys think that Lexile level should help determine summer reading choices? The BN.com website includes a lot of titles with lexile levels.

    The most recent series we read were Choose Your Own Adventure and Santa Paws

  4. Tracy says:

    I wonder when we’ll get that report? One would hope before summer.

    T, my knowledge of Lexile levels is very small. I will say two things:
    1. I’m suspicious of anything that sends one to a “vendor” site.
    2. I think kids ought to be able to read anything at any level they want. Yes, once in awhile they ought to be pushed, but if a 3rd grader wants to read a picture book, good for them! Likewise, let them grab a thick book that looks interesting. One thing that drove me crazy as a parent was hearing that my first grader was “not allowed” in the chapter book section at the school library. If the idea is to get them reading…

  5. t-traveler says:

    WPS is putting lexile levels on the books available in the classroom, and the MAPS testing provides a range with lexile on it. I guess it useful at some level and for certain purposes

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