Book Recommendation by Guest Blogger Sonja James

Cover of book DarkfeverBook Recommendation by Sonja James of the Gadsden County Public Library

My recommendation is not a book, but a series. The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning is a wonderfully dark, thrilling, and suspenseful series that grabs the reader by the neck and never lets them go until the very climax of the series.

Even then, you’re begging for more.

Full of very dark characters that give the illusion of being bad — but the line is so gray that the reader doesn’t discover the true motivation of the characters until the end.

This series is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an adventure I think everyone should try. No other series has captivated me like this one has. I guess it’s the way that Moning writes that makes you care about the characters, and you as the reader get to watch them grow into their full potential.

Plus, there’s Jericho Barrons, who, outside of Roarke in the J.D. Robb In Death Series, is the baddest, sexiest character I have ever read in a book or series.

The series consists of 10 books:

  • Darkfever
  • Bloodfever
  • Faefever
  • Dreamfever
  • Shadowfever
  • Iced
  • Burned
  • Feverborn
  • Feversong
  • High Voltage

I suggest reading them in order or you will be lost.

You are going to Thank Me Later!

Share This:

From Partnerships to New Programs with Guest Blogger Kris Odahowski

Photo of people playing chessBy Kris Odahowski, Gadsden County Public Library System, Youth Services

The McGill Library Chess Club was about to begin, and the instructor was late. A new student decided to join the club, and when the instructor arrived, the student’s jaw dropped as her principal walked into the room. The student was taught to play chess by her principal at the library that afternoon.

This experience reinforced to me the power of active partnerships in the library and how they can bring totally new, unforgettable experiences to the young library user. The chess instructors are members of the alumnae chapter of a national fraternity with the goal to provide mentorship and learning opportunities to youth.

Are you ready to build new partnerships or would you like to see your partnerships develop into shared activities at your library? I want you to know there is power, growth, and benefits in shared activity program partnerships.

Monthly, I work with over 15 active partnerships. Some of these partnerships have developed over my work career and others are a part of a new effort to work with local groups, schools, and business representatives. Having these shared activity partnerships has encouraged me and supported my mission while providing new programs when funds are not available.

To grow and maintain active partnerships, there are some partnership building practices I do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I try to be open to adults in the community and build new relationships. I strive to be open-minded when talking to anyone I meet through my work, and I try to suggest shared interests which may lead to a partnership. I share my contact information and business card widely so it can be shared or passed on as a referral.

Partnerships are unique, and the shared activities presented are often created through brainstorming meetings with organizations and groups. These meetings provide a time for give-and-take which helps partners and the library staff create the best activities so that everyone benefits.

Partnerships should be nurtured. Many of the partnerships require supervision of volunteers, recruitment of volunteers, and the negotiation of new goals and guidelines for volunteers. Partnerships bring many new opportunities to your library, but they take work and they demand you keep an active working relationship with those volunteering time and donating resources.

Active, unique, and nurtured partnerships can thrive in a library setting, but they demand attention to the relationships. I contact partners regularly about schedules, volunteers, and material. Sometimes I take a supervisory role with volunteers from partnering organization, but I also encourage the group to supervise their own volunteers through their own volunteer guidelines.

Both our library system and our local community have reaped the rewards of these partnerships. A recent partnership with an alumnae chapter of a fraternity provides skilled training and mentorship for students during our weekly Chess Club. Other partnerships provide free new books to students at Read Aloud programs sponsored by a local women’s organization. Professional child development trainers and providers have partnered with the library to hold child development screenings at the libraries.

These partnerships are mutually beneficial. Partnerships that produce shared activities and provide new programming and resources to the community bring a potent in-kind contribution to public libraries.

They provide the library with needed resources and strengthen services to both the community and the library. With care and dedication, you too can build programs from partnerships in your community.

Share This:

The Breakdown on Breakout Boxes with Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School in Santa Rosa County

Photo of breakout boxesEscape rooms are all the rage these days and for good reason. Everyone loves a challenge. Think about the fact that people willingly let themselves be locked in a room from which they can escape only if they solve clues to free themselves within an allotted time period. Social media pictures abound detailing each team’s success or lack thereof. The interesting thing to note about these pictures is the smile on each participant’s face regardless of the sign they’re holding saying whether they escaped or that they came so close. With the process as the focus, the positive outcome is just the icing on the cake. This same concept holds true for using Breakout boxes in the library.

Breakout boxes offer the escape room experience by challenging students to break into the box rather than out of a room. offers complete kits for sale, but boxes can be just as easily assembled on your own. Anything that is capable of having a lock put on it can be used as your container. Examples include bags with two zippers, tackle boxes, tool boxes, or wooden boxes with a latch. There are typically multiple locks like three and four digit, word, directional, color, or key locks. The locks used can be customized to fit your game. A hasp with multiple holes is useful for putting multiple locks on the box.  Kits also contain a black light and invisible ink pen for writing clues. If designing your own box instead of purchasing the preassembled ones, you are only limited by your imagination and budget.

After purchasing or gathering the materials for the physical box, the next step is to either create your own breakout game or use one from the library.  A free account gives access to many games in a variety of subject areas. The games come with a background passage that sets the stage for the context of the breakout along with lock combinations, a video with setup details, and files for the game that are typically shared via a Google drive. These resources are there, but the choice can also be made to create an original game to meet your particular needs. The site has blank forms to guide in the creation of an original breakout.

Photo of breakout boxesAfter choosing or creating the breakout game, the boxes must be set up according to the game instructions. I was given some really great hints that I’ll share with you to make the actual playing of the game go more smoothly. Use cable ties or zip ties on the hasp and then hook the lock through the loop of the tie. If the lock accidentally gets stuck, the wire tie can be cut to free it. In the school setting when boxes have to be quickly reset between classes, I only cut the wire ties if all combinations have been solved and locks removed. Then the locks can be quickly added back to the hasp without reassembling the entire box. Another helpful hint is to use the lock parking lot that can be printed from the website. As locks are removed, have participants place the lock on the appropriate parking space so that combinations aren’t accidentally reset. I also labeled all of the boxes and locks for each so that materials were easily reassembled after a game.

The items that are placed in the box or container can lead to other clues or might possibly be treats for the winning team. Signs for breaking out or almost breaking out can be located on the website or you can make your own. Participants enjoyed having their team picture taken with the signs even if they didn’t make it through the whole game.

Photo of breakout boxesI would be remiss if I made the whole breakout box experience sound glorious and did not share my first experience with you. The game I chose to do first was way too hard for my group of students and the allotted time too short to allow for completion. As I watched the students struggle with the clues and tried to provide some guidance without helping them more than I needed, I was beginning to feel like a total failure. In the back of my mind, I was thinking this would be my first and last breakout. My mind was quickly changed while doing the reflection discussion with the students at the end of the period. They were totally undeterred by the fact that the game was too hard and time was limited. They were still excited about the activity and asked if they could do another one soon. They actually wanted to continue the same one the next day, but due to scheduling, that wasn’t possible. We discussed what went well and the challenges they faced. The overwhelming response was that they had never done a breakout prior to that one and had no idea how to attack the clues. They also said that they felt next time would be better since they now understood how the process worked. Even though they thought critically, collaborated, and communicated, they didn’t breakout, but a breakthrough was made. The success was not in the final outcome but in the process itself.

Share This:

Collaborating for a More Effective Library Program by Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School in Santa Rosa County

Photo of breakout boxesHave you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels even when constantly working hard to bring quality books, information, and skills to your library patrons? Does it seem like everybody else has the latest, greatest program going on in their libraries and you’re behind? This is the point I was at before attending ALA Midwinter. As I soaked in the sessions about Makerspaces, coding, augmented and virtual reality, new and exciting educational apps, and creating spaces where patrons really want to be, I reflected on my program and ways that I could make a more positive impact in my library. Thus, the journey toward a more effective, collaborative program began.

Each school year starts with two weeks of orientation followed by two weeks spent introducing the RARE (Random Acts of Reading Enjoyment) reading program as I do book talks, book passes, and thirty-second brain dumps using the SSYRA books. Because students need this information, these two lessons are non-negotiable; however, the rigid two-week rotation of library lessons for every student in the school is. Library activities are now planned around content being taught in each language arts teacher’s classroom at the time of their visit, which means that some visits are for checkout only. Planning library visits like this has enabled me to open up the library to meet the needs of other subject areas while teaching skills in context so they are more relevant. It has also allowed me to create STEM lessons that tie into other subject area teachers’ curriculum.

Photo of breakout boxesTo give a better idea of what this looks like in practice, I’ve been collaborating with each of the language arts teachers to determine their scope and sequence. We have then brainstormed to plan activities in the library where I teach students the process they need and their language arts teacher then applies that process to the content or skill being studied in class. For example, sixth-grade students struggled to locate books needed to meet their class reading requirement, so we used a GooseChase scavenger hunt to familiarize them with materials location and reinforce library procedures from the previous orientation lesson. Two other language arts teachers are focusing on setting and characterization using the horror genre. We’re collaborating to have a “campfire” and tell scary stories in the library at the end of October. Students will then use the experiences from our storytelling as examples when writing their own stories. A seventh-grade teacher is trying to motivate her students to read from a variety of genres, so a book shopping activity is in the works. An eighth-grade language arts teacher is looking for a creative way to teach context clues, so I’m currently brainstorming ways that I could turn a traditional lesson into a STEM activity in my media center. Another upcoming lesson involves teaching students the process for using ebooks and the language arts teacher introducing her debate project using an unlimited access Thinking Critically ebook that covers both sides of the topic. Through these collaborative lessons, I’m still teaching those same processes that I would have taught during my old two-week rotations, but now they’re relevant to classroom content and are being practiced in context.

While still working consistently with language arts, having a more flexible approach to programming has allowed me to focus on other subject areas who don’t normally frequent my space. In an effort to lure math teachers into the library, I am creating a nine-hole mini-golf course using a different book theme for each hole. Sixth-grade math students will cycle through playing each hole and gathering their real-world data on scorecards to use for practicing mean, median, and mode. The seventh-grade civics classes needed a way to recognize Constitution Day, so we collaborated to set up ten Breakout boxes in the library. Breakout boxes are similar to an escape room, but students solve the clues to break into the box rather than out of a room. Thirteen classes cycled through to attempt the constitution Breakout while learning about the Bill of Rights and Articles of Confederation. Another Breakout box about fossils was the result of collaboration with a seventh-grade science teacher.

Through collaboration with teachers from every subject area and a focus on creating lessons and activities that encourage critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication, my library program is more relevant and beneficial to our students. Skills are no longer taught in isolation but are practiced in context for better retention so students make connections to the standards being taught in class. Those collaborative relationships with teachers are being developed so they are now coming to me asking how we can work together to create a STEM activity in the library. The wheels are still spinning, but now we’re actually moving forward together.

Share This:

Bringing Health, Beauty, and Fun to Your Local Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington, Gadsden County Public Libraries

By Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington, Gadsden County Public Libraries

About 3 years ago I decided I wanted to bring a health and beauty series to the Gadsden County Public Libraries. The communities that we serve have a lot of women who are looking to improve themselves physically. So I decided to incorporate Zumba first to help with the fitness aspect. I attend classes on my own in Tallahassee, so I reached out to my instructor, and she was more than willing to help. Zumba has been successful at the libraries for a couple of years.

I next decided I wanted to do something out the box for the women of Gadsden County. I called in a few favors from friends with various talents and put on a makeup glam and a hair seminar. My personal hair stylist is Aveda-trained in hair, makeup, and eyelash extensions. Together we put together two amazing programs for women. The presentations both included PowerPoint presentations, hands-on tutorials, sample products, and a live demonstration (with me as the model). Guests had a chance to ask questions, take notes, and there was even a drawing for door prizes. I was also able to obtain nice refreshments from a local caterer at little to no cost. Both events were well attended and greatly appreciated. I scheduled them close to Mother’s Day in 2017 and 2018, to draw more women in.

A month prior to the event, I had a poster-size flyer made of the event. I also had a display table made as a teaser to the event. The day of Ladies Glam Night, the meeting room was decorated in pink and black. I used plastic tablecloths from Walmart and made the tables look like gift boxes. On each table were containers with eye pencils, concealer, sponges, toner, and wipes. These items were used for participants to practice drawing eyebrows on each other. The beauty consultant gave them a demo and later went around and assisted the guests.

The grand finale was the live full makeup demonstration featuring me! I got a full face of makeup, false eyelashes, and my hair curled. I thoroughly enjoyed getting glammed up, and my library patrons did, too!

Share This:

From Clueless to Coding! with Guest Blogger Rebecca Jones, Wakulla County Public Library

By Rebecca Jones, Wakulla County Public Library

I have been the Youth and Children’s Services Specialist II at the Wakulla County Public Library for a little over 3 years. Part of my job has been to add programs and ensure that current programs evolve as we grow. Over the last three years, we have had some wonderful programs and seen several grow and split into other things.

Sphero logoOur STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program is one of those programs. We started with science experiments and cool (but cheap) building challenges. We eventually added Sphero robots to the mix, and they were a big hit. Due to the interest in them, our Kids Coding program was created.

Taking on a coding program is no small feat! The biggest problem for any library is the cost to run or start a new program. In order to start a kids coding class, it needed to cost next to nothing.

I already had robots, which was a good start, and access to our library’s computer lab, which was another piece of the puzzle! Lastly, I needed to learn how to code, because honestly I was clueless! Lucky for me I found a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera for Scratch programming. Scratch is a free program created by the MIT Media Lab that teaches block coding for beginners and kids.

With the online training and a few books, I was able to start a coding class. The class started small and required kids and parents to sign up because the computer lab only has 11 computers, making that my maximum class size. We have class once a week for five weeks. Each class is an hour long. In 5 weeks, the kids make a computer game using Scratch and learn how to program the robots to go through a maze that is taped out on the floor. The kids look forward to working with the robots, and saving them for the last two classes is a good motivator for them to learn how to code.

I am a prime example of the possibility of starting a class on something you know little to nothing about. You just need to be willing to learn, able to put in the time studying it, and be ready to have fun!

Share This:

Joint Conference for Librarians of Color by Guest Blogger Bridgett Birmingham, FSU Libraries

Photo of 3 librariansBy Bridgett Birmingham, FSU Libraries

The third Joint Conference for Librarians of Color (JCLC) was held this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event is organized by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association; REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking; the American Indian Library Association; the Chinese American Librarians Association; and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. Although it is affiliated with the American Library Association (ALA), ALA membership is not a requirement to be a part of either JCLC or the associated caucuses. JCLC’s purpose statement is: “To promote librarianship within communities of color, support literacy and the preservation of history and cultural heritage, collaborate on common issues, and to host the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color every four to five years.”

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a librarian of color to attend. Many of the sessions addressed serving populations of color or with specific literary needs and those methods are of use to librarians in any community. In my role as the Diversity and Inclusion librarian at Florida State University (FSU), I felt fairly well versed in diversity and inclusion topics before going to the conference. I was surprised by just how much I learned over the course of three days and how often my eyes were opened to new ways of looking at issues. For instance, at FSU we run a very popular and very successful Hackathon each year in conjunction with our students. A Hackathon is a 48-hour event where people come together to prototype a new design or create software, usually in a group or team environment. Prior to attending JCLC, it would not have occurred to me to assess the barriers for participation in an all-night event for working parents or those with medical needs. That is one of the benefits of going to a conference like this: there are always opportunities to reflect on your practices and look for ways to improve them.

Logo of the Joint Council of Librarians of ColorThe sessions were great and varied in their topics but one other aspect of JCLC that I appreciated as a librarian of color was interacting with other librarians of color. At the conference, we could discuss microaggressions or challenges that arise from not having the same cultural touchpoints as other librarians. Many sessions ended with brainstorming or Q&A where members of the audience worked collaboratively to solve problems or give advice.

Librarians of all ages, genders, and backgrounds were treated like experts and valued for their unique experiences. Partly that might stem from the types of people that are drawn to a conference to discuss diversity and inclusion with a thousand other people from all over the Americas, but I was impressed with the spirit of inclusion that infused the conference.

I would highly recommend anyone that is even slightly interested attend the next JCLC conference. The conference was definitely a highlight of my year. The next JCLC won’t happen for another four to five years so you have a bit of time to make your decision. I, for one, will be going.

Share This:

Share Your Knowledge with Your Peers with a PLAN Blog Post!

Do you have something to share with your peers? We’re looking for people to write blog posts. You do not need to be a professional writer – you just have to be able to string 300 to 1000 words together, and hopefully provide a photograph or other graphic with your post.

You can write about topics such as:

  • How you are helping new students adjust to college
  • Serving autistic patrons
  • [Software program] tips and tricks
  • Archival tips for non-archivists
  • Readers’ advisory
  • How to find government resources
  • Understanding blockchain
  • Any cool apps, software, extensions, etc., that you want to share
  • Any great book you read
  • Any fun programs (adult, seniors, kids)
  • Special collections (cake pans, ukuleles, seed library, Internet of Things, iPads, etc.)

We will issue a new blog post every Monday. Please sign up for a date between October 1st and September 30th on the shared spreadsheet. Please put your name, library/organization, and your general topic on the spreadsheet. Dates are first come, first served!

Anyone can write a blog post like this:

Cover of book The Strange Case of the Alchemist's DaughterI recently discovered a great series by Theodora Goss. So far, there are only two books in the series, which is based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, but I am hooked!

In the first book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club Book 1), we meet Mary Jekyll, daughter of Dr. Jekyll (yes, THAT Dr. Jekyll), who is now alone in the world. Her father is dead (or is he???) and her mother recently passed away as well. Mary discovers that her mother had been sending money for the upkeep of Diana Hyde, daughter of Mr. Hyde (yes, THAT Mr. Hyde). Throw in Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson along with Beatrice Rappaccini (who is poisonous), Catherine Moreau (the cat-woman), and Justine Frankenstein (estranged wife of Frankenstein’s Creature), who are all daughters of other “scientists” who have performed experiments on them, and this is a great story!

The second book, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club Book 2), follows Mary and the others as they seek to save Lucinda Van Helsing, daughter of Professor Van Helsing (yes, THAT Van Helsing), who has had horrific experiments performed on her. The “monstrous gentlewomen” dash across Europe from Paris to Vienna to Budapest in a race against time to save Lucinda and confront the secretive Alchemical Society.

I hope you will write a blog post and share your knowledge with your peers in the Panhandle!

Share This:

5 Reasons to Eliminate Overdue Fines in Your Library

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen numerous reports of libraries who have eliminated their overdue fines. The more I hear about it, the more I am in favor of libraries eliminating overdue fines. There are several excellent reasons you should consider eliminating overdue fines in your library:

  • Do it for the children! Children and teens are probably the population most affected by the inability to check out materials due to the accrual of overdue fines. It can be difficult for them to get to the library on their own, and they have no control over whether their parents bring them to the library in time to return books.
  • Eliminate some stress for your frontline staff. We’ve probably all experienced the feeling of dread of having to tell a patron that they owe overdue fines on their account. Especially a problem patron, who will argue that they returned the materials on time, they put them in the book drop while we were closed, how dare we charge him when he returned them on time… all while the line at the circulation desk grows longer and longer. (How much am I getting paid for this? Oh, right. Not enough.)
  • Free up staff time. Collecting overdue fines can take up a nice chunk of staff time. Not only is there the interaction with the patron (especially the ones who argue about the fines), but the staff member also has to mark the fine paid in the ILS system, print the receipt, possibly ring up the fine on a cash register, and make change for the patron.
  • Foster goodwill in the community. We want the community to feel good about the library, not to have horror stories of unpaid overdue fines, collection notices, and disapproving librarians. We want people to feel welcome, not fear that they are going to be called out because they owe us 30 cents.
  • Libraries are about providing, not restricting, access. The American Library Association issued a policy statement on Library Services to the Poor, which states, in part, that ALA is in favor of “Promoting the removal of all barriers to library and information services, particularly fees and overdue charges.” ( Many times, overdue fines prevent access to those patrons who need it the most.

Yes, but…

I hear some of you saying, “But we’ve always had overdue fines!” “How will I replace that money in my budget?” “Won’t this teach people to be irresponsible?”

As far as your budget goes, figure out how much is actually overdue fines (not replacement materials). Many libraries find that it’s less than 1% of a library budget. Maybe you can make up that money in other ways. Perhaps your Friends group or your Foundation would be willing to host an annual fundraiser to make up that money. Maybe a group of local businesses would be willing to offset the overdue fines in return for good press. You could also place a donation jar on the circulation desk that says, “Since we eliminated overdue fines, we are requesting donations to make up the loss.”

As far as enabling people to be irresponsible, I ask this: Are we the morality police? Is there anything in your library’s mission statement or the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights that says we must teach people how to behave responsibly? (I looked – and there isn’t.)

I’m not suggesting that libraries not charge for “lost” items. Sending a notice two to three weeks after the due date for the replacement cost will ensure that most patrons will bring those materials back, stat. When the High Plains Library District in Colorado eliminated their overdue fines, they found that 95% of materials were returned within a week of their due date. (Long Overdue, Ruth Graham, 02/06/2017).

Not ready to take the plunge?

Consider a pilot program. Test it out and see what happens. Or start with eliminating fines for children and young adult materials. You could also consider charging overdue fines, but not blocking a card for owing fines. In this case, you would only block cards of patrons who have not returned materials.

What do you think? Has anyone tried it? Anyone willing?

Share This:

Summer Reading Workshops

The days are getting shorter and winter is getting closer, but it is time to start thinking about next summer’s library programming!71eac357-f8c8-42be-8dd6-f5dc9c772189

The Division of Library and Information Services will be holding Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP)/Florida Library Youth Program (FLYP) workshops for the 2017 Summer Library Program. Youth services staff, media specialists, and adult services staff are invited to attend these free, all-day workshops that will be held across the state. The theme for next summer is “Build a Better World.” Dress casually and plan to be inspired!

The presenter for the youth workshops in the Panhandle is Zedra Hawkins:

  • January 6, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Central), at the Milton Public Library (5541 Alabama St. in Milton), Santa Rosa County
  • January 9, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Central), at the Calhoun County Public Library(17731 NE Pear St. in Blountstown), Calhoun County
  • January 12, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern), at the Wakulla County Public Library (4330 Crawfordville Hwy. in Crawfordville), Wakulla County

Register for a youth workshop

The presenter for the adult workshop in the Panhandle is Donna Bachowski:

Register for the adult workshop

For more information, please contact Jana Fine at or 850-245-6629.

For ADA assistance or other workshop questions, please contact Sena Heiman at or by phone at 850-245-6628, or Jana Fine at or by phone at 850-245-6629.

Share This: