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Youth Services Librarianship
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Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians' series visits a library.
Rick Riordan, at the Champaign Public Library with a fan.
The Purpose of Author Visits
Youth Services Librarians are devoted to the principle that Anne Caroll Moore, the pioneer of children’s librarianship, coined, to offer “the right book for the right child at the right time.” This credo can be extended to mean “the right
for the right child at the right time.” An author visit can leave a lasting impression that will transform a child’s relationship with reading and writing for the rest of his or her life. In other words, “author visits transform quiet written words from the private exchange between reader and author into a lively community discussion” (Follos 8)
. No longer are authors seen as flat representations on a book jacket, but as vibrant and real people who share the same insecurities, foibles with writing, and family drama as children. Young people need to be exposed to dreamers who have reached their goals, who have folders full of rejection letters, but pursued and honed their craft through hard work and perseverance. As illustrator
says, “kids need more heroes” (Buzzeo & Kurtz 23)
. Meeting an author in person or virtually can reach children “who might never have read a book at all” (Follos 9). By making meaningful connections between themselves and the wider world, children’s reading takes on entirely new dimensions. The relationship between the reader and the text becomes much deeper and more personal. Young people may not remember fractal geometry, but it is certain that they will remember the connection that they made with their new favorite author.
An author visit is also an opportunity to address the needs of the youth in one’s community. When librarians focus on the real issues affecting youth in this welcoming and open format, young people are empowered with knowledge that their hopes and dreams are validated (Elliot & Dupius 217)
.They can see the possibilities that are awaiting them, and while they may not become authors, “an author just may say something that [will give] young [people] hope, insight, vision, or direction” (Elliot & Dupius 217). Sometimes, however, becoming an author is exactly the result, as in
experience with his high school creative writing teacher, Pulitzer prize-winning author, Frank McCourt. Sonnenblick states that “I always knew I wanted to write books that really moved people, but seeing a real person achieve that made me believe it was possible” (Zuger 44)
Author visits are not ‘frills’ that libraries with significant budgets should pursue. Every student deserves to be exposed to real authors. Author visits fit perfectly within each school’s or public library’s mission to provide the best educational experiences possible for the children they serve (Buzzeo & Kurtz 38-48). In order to become fully literate, children must be able to make connections between themselves, others, and the world, and author visits are the ideal catalyst for these connections. Author visits can fit neatly within a school’s curriculum and can be aligned to the state, professional, and common core standards. Librarians and teachers can use author visits to teach a specific subject area, commemorate a national or local event, or provide writing techniques. The curricular connections with author visits are endless. The positive energy from an author visit is contagious and can ripple throughout the entire school or library. With the right amount of planning, collaboration, and insight, an author visit can be an unforgettable experience for all that will stir children’s and young adults’ imaginations and leave them with “a piece of magic they will keep forever” (Buzzeo and Kurtz 24).
Begin with a Goal
An author visit should be based on a specific goal that the librarian hopes to accomplish. This goal will direct the choices the librarian makes while planning and implementing the event, and determine the nature of the visit
. For example, in response to “YALSA’s Teen Read Week theme, Get Real @ Your Library, the Kalamazoo Public Library decided to address the “real issue” affecting teens in the community: the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens” (King 470)
. They invited
, author of
Boy Meets Boy
, to “educate the community about issues facing
” (King 470). All of their plans, from the discussion with the local Gay-Straight Alliances and other advocacy organizations to the trip to the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home to the backup strategy to deal with protesters, stemmed from their goal to open up a real discussion about GLBTQ issues with youth in their community. This goal fit within their mission to provide “open access to opportunities which anticipate, support, and respond to the informational, cultural, and leisure needs of people with the Library District” (King 473).
Starting with a specific goal can ensure that an author visit will be a meaningful experience for one’s community. Many schools participate in a form of the Young Authors program, where they teach children to write and publish their own stories. An author visit can help the teacher and librarian accomplish their goal of teaching the children the importance of the revision process. During a Skype visit, author/illustrator
shows children a humorous video that deconstructs children’s expectations of the writing process, and shows that even a published author has to work hard and edit her work. Knowing that a real author goes through same writing process as them can help children reach their goals.
Choosing an Author or Illustrator (or an Author/Illustrator)
Aaron Reynolds visits Skokie Public Library during their Caldecott celebration to share his Caldecott Honor book,
illustrated by Peter Brown
Once a goal has been established, the librarian can then start searching for the perfect author. (While the focus here is on authors, the same ideas apply to illustrators, who are incredible artists who have much to contribute and share with children and young adults.) Librarians can get a head start on their search by attending professional conferences with organizations such as the
American Library Association
, state library organizations, and national content area organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English (
). This is the ideal time to network and develop professional relationships with authors. Some authors (like
, author of
The Gospel of Larry
, at the 2011 NCTE conference) distribute their school visit brochure at professional conferences. Authors often have extensive author visit sections on their professional websites. YA author, James Kennedy, author of
The Order of Odd-Fish
, has an extensive
author visit section
that includes the many kinds of workshops he offers, including his hilarious (and interactive) reading from Odd-Fish, Dome of Doom writing workshop, and Real Japan for Anime Fans. Libraries can also invite him to host their own
90-Second Newbery Film Festival
Librarians can also gather business cards and contact information from authors and their publishers. Many authors are on Facebook and Twitter, which can help librarians learn more about their previous author visits and make contacting them easier. One way to get to know authors and illustrators is by participating in the monthly #SharpSchu tweetchat, a Twitter chat hosted by Colby Sharp and John
Schumacher with celebrated authors like Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Sharon Creech, Caroline Starr Rose, Bob Staake, Mark Pett, Molly Idle, and many other wonderful writers and artists. By taking the initiative to meet the authors themselves, librarians can determine which author is the best fit for their school or public library.
Matching one’s students or patrons with the right bookperson is essential. Librarians should choose an author that their students will be excited to meet, and whose books they may have already read. The presentation that the author will do should fit the size of the group and the age level of the participants, so it is important to choose the author carefully. A variety of resources are available online which librarians can use to find authors. Each state has a chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (
), which includes a directory of speakers, often including their contact information and a short biography. Librarians can also find authors through their publishers. Scholastic provides an extensive list of authors by name and state that librarians can browse. The author’s information often includes his or her availability and honorarium rate. Librarians can then fill out
Scholastic’s Request a Visit form
to formally apply for a visit. Other companies, such as
Children’s Authors Ally
, provide lists of authors and illustrators that they represent. Librarians can coordinate with these companies to help book the author and plan the visit. Many authors also have their own websites with specific pages devoted to information about their presentations and author visits. Young adult author
has developed several presentations that he conducts in high schools, colleges, and professional conferences, including “How Not to Go Crazy in High School” and “From Personal to Published.” Similarly, picture-book author
has an extensive author visit page, which describes the variety of sessions she offers, pictures from her visits, and recommendations from delighted teachers.
Focusing on a specific author’s website can help librarians narrow down the practical considerations, such as price, proximity, and scheduling. Funding is a significant factor in hosting an author visit. Often libraries can cut costs by hosting a local author who does not require lodging or travel expenses. A local author may also have a personal relationship with the school or public library. Libraries can also “piggyback” on an author’s visit to another library or school. Authors will allow several schools and libraries to split the cost of a visit, as well as give a price cut to the library that coordinates this effort. The price range for an author visit can be anywhere between $500-$2,000 a day, plus expenses, so partnering with other libraries or organizations can help reduce costs. School librarians can reach out to their parent/teacher organization or Friends of the Library to help fundraise for the author visit, as well as help promote the event. Librarians can also apply for grants that are related to the subject of the author visit. For example, Kevin King, the lead librarian in Teen Services at the Kalamazoo Public Library, “applied for a grant that encouraged GLBTQ programming in our community. When we proposed to donate sets of GLBTQ-themed books to local agencies serving teens, purchase sets of
Boy Meets Boy
books for discussions, and give every attendee a book, the funding agency was so impressed that they doubled the amount of our request” (King 471). Grants are an essential tool for libraries to make their author visit dreams a reality.
An Author Visit: Priceless
It is important for librarians to understand the costs of an author visit and prepare accordingly. Here is a list of general expenses librarians may incur:
An honorarium is set prior to the visit and is paid on the day of the visit (unless otherwise specified). Make sure to pay the author without being reminded.
You are responsible for all of the author’s transportation expenses. Make sure to communicate with the author about how he or she would like you to make these arrangements. (Authors may want to earn frequent flyer miles and have you reimburse him or her.) Remember to arrange rides to and from his or her hotel to the event venues.
Lodging and Meals
Make the necessary hotel reservations. It is a nice touch if a hospitality bag is waiting for the author when he or she arrives. Make sure to ask about any dietary or health needs when arranging meals.
Spreading the message about your author visit, whether it is in the form of flyers, posters, advertisements, banners, or Facebook posts, is crucial to its success. A modest budget for publicity is well worth the cost.
Authors may need specific equipment, such as projectors, microphones, webcams, etc. Communicate with the author to determine which equipment is needed and purchase it if necessary.
Books (for the library collection and book sale
Saturate your school or library with the author’s books; create a veritable ‘love fest’ for the author by purchasing multiple copies of his or her books. You can also use interlibrary loan to have additional copies in stock. You should also host a book sale after the author visit. You can use the sale as a way to fund your next visit, and it provides children with a tangible memento of your incredible author visit. (Schools can order books directly from the publishers at a substantial discount.) An autographing session gives an author the opportunity to talk to “her fans one-on-one and lends a tone of specialness to the encounter” (Buzzo & Kurtz 149). Do not forget to invest in the writing implement of the author’s choice, as well as sticky notes so children’s names are written legibly.
Depending on the nature of the author visit, you may want to offer refreshments at the end of the event.
are always fun.
Thank You Gift and Notes
Show the author your appreciation by purchasing a gift to give him or her at the end of the visit. It could be a memento that represents your school or a gift related to his or her books. Be creative! Have your students or patrons practice the art of the letter writing by crafting thank you notes for the author, and then mail them to him or her.
Key to Success: Collaboration
While funding is crucial to an author visit, collaboration is key. An author visit will not succeed if everyone involved is not one hundred percent invested in the project. (For more information, see Author Visit Concerns: Epic Fails.) Librarians need “buy-in” from their community, whether that means administrators, teachers, and parents, or in a public library, library staff, supervisors, and advisory boards. Planning an author visit is a massive undertaking that is best done by sharing the labor among a group of dedicated book-enthusiasts. Once these groups are committed to the program, the planning can begin in earnest. The concept for an author visit may, in fact, originate from these groups, like in the case of the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL), where the Teen Advisory Board decided on tackle the issue of treatment of GLBTQ teens in their community. Knowing that there might be controversy, Kevin King made sure to work with his “administration, Community Relations Officer, and Teen Services staff... to develop a plan of action” (King 471). Collaborating with administrators, as well as the Library Board, was central to making sure the KPL’s author visit ran smoothly. The librarians at KPL also reached out to outside organizations such as the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource center, their local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter, Gay/Straight Alliances in schools, and local church groups. Working with these groups provided support to reach their program's goals.
In a school library, the school librarian is embedded within a collaborative community. By working together with the administration, teachers, and parents, the librarian can help ready the children for the author visit. Librarians can work with teachers to connect the curriculum to the author visit by creating thematic units, bibliographies, and resources related to the author’s work and experiences. All partners should discuss how the goals of the author visit relate to the classroom content and expectations should be clearly communicated. Collaboration is particularly important to prepare students and familiarize them with the author’s books. An author visit is an opportunity for teachers to immerse their students in the work of a specific author and create a meaningful learning experience for them. While a librarian can visit classrooms and booktalk an author’s work, a truly spectacular author visit necessitates that the students have read and are familiar with most of the author’s books. An author visit should not be a passive experience. According to Dorfman, “one of the best strategies for developing committed, empowered readers and writers in your classroom is to make students aware of the authors and illustrators who create quality literature” (Elliot & Dupuis 194). Teachers and librarians can work as a team to expose young people to a world-class author and get them excited about meeting the author. They can teach the students to treat the experience with importance by carefully preparing for the visit. They can design banners and signs with pictures of the characters from the author’s books. They can make the books come alive by dressing up as the characters or creating a classroom museum dedicated to the books. When the school staff works as allies to plan an author visit, there is no limit to the creativity that can abound. As Follos points out, “The librarian’s careful coordination of this literary symphony promises a lasting refrain that lingers well beyond the visit” (9).
Public libraries and school libraries
can partner with each other in order to plan an author visit. An author can visit a school during the day and then visit the public library at night, which allows the libraries to share the costs of the visit. The public library can promote its event at the school and ensure a good turn out. The libraries can work together to create resources and bibliographies to educate the community about the author visit. Buzzeo and Kurtz provide a variety of examples of public library and school partnerships from sharing funding to organizational details to provide inspiration for collaboration (56-60).
Planning the Visit
A Year In Advance
Careful planning is at the heart of a successful author visit. Planning an author visit starts a year in advance to provide enough preparation time for both the author and the school/public library. Buzzo and Kurtz provide a helpful organizational tool in order to plan one’s author visit (61). Authors who are very popular may even book themselves more than a year in advance, so librarians should be aware of the time sensitive nature of their requests. Some authors, like
Dianne del Las Casas
, for example, even have their visit schedule posted on their website so librarians can know exactly when they may be available. It may take time to contact the author, so the earlier the process is started, the better. Authors will communicate their price and availability, so make sure to check the school and community calendars for the perfect date(s). Authors will share a
letter of agreement
, which stipulates the method of payment, amount of sessions, contingency plans, etc. Make sure all expectations (on both sides) are clear and have been communicated. For example, some authors require formal requests before photographs or audio recordings are made. Authors may also have specific preferences when it comes to how they travel and where they will stay during their visit. Booking their flight and accommodations early may also reduce the library’s expenses. Authors may have specific workshops or presentations that they have created that can be altered to fit the needs of your students or patrons. Developing this initial relationship with an author will ensure that you make his or her experience as pleasant and productive as possible.
Two to Three Months in Advance
The intense preparation work can begin two to three months before the author visit. At this point, the visit schedule can be ironed out and made official. Details about signing sessions, food preferences, materials or technology needed, etc. can be discussed at this point. If the library will be hosting a book sale, it is important to order the books from the publisher or local bookstore to allow for ample delivery time. Depending on the visit, an order form can also be sent home with the children so parents can order specific books, which would be picked up during the author visit for the signing. Since the students or patrons should be familiar with the author’s work, now is the time to provide curricular, biographical, and promotional materials about the author. Librarians should have plenty of copies of the author’s books in their collection, either from purchasing additional copies or through interlibrary loan to ensure that all children are prepared for the author’s arrival. Librarians can collaborate with teachers to develop interdisciplinary curricula around the visit. Many authors provide lesson plans, worksheets, and other curricular and promotional materials on their websites, which are perfect for preparing children for an author visit. Teachers and librarians should work with children and young adults to prepare questions for the author in advance to spark conversation and make connections between themselves and the literature. Well-prepared children will be more excited for the visit and find the author’s presentation more meaningful.
Three Weeks to One Month in Advance
As the author visit draws closer, librarians should focus on promoting the event. Posters and flyers should be distributed in the community or local schools. In a school, a flyer can be sent home with the children to notify their parents about the visit. Librarians can also use social media like Facebook or Twitter to publicize their event, announce the author visit on their library’s website, and write about the event in their library’s newsletter. Librarians, children, and teachers can create book displays, bulletin boards, banners, and decorations that show their appreciation for the author’s work and experiences, as well as welcome him or her to the library. They can create timelines, collages, dramatic reinterpretations, videos, songs, and more. Children and young adults can even create costumes based on characters in the author’s books, especially if they are studying historical fiction
. All of these activities serve to stir up excitement for the upcoming visit and act as a visual ode to the visiting author.
Children should also be prepared for the procedures to follow during the author visit. Valuable time is wasted during an author visit when children do not know what is expected of them. Teachers and librarians should discuss the expectations of the author visit in an age-appropriate manner and prepare proactive strategies for crowd control in advance of the author visit. This does not mean that authors expect silence for the duration of their visit; on the contrary, they love when children are engaged and involved in their presentations. However, it is crucial that children understand how to behave and interact appropriately. Authors should not be responsible for classroom management or “babysitting” the class. Teachers and librarians should maintain order and attention during the visit. By planning in advance, teachers and librarians can teach children how to be a good audience. Teachers and librarians can use literature to facilitate a discussion for children to learn how to be good hosts. Esmé Raji Codell recommends books like Daniel Pinkwater's
, Louise Borden's
The Day Eddie Met the Author
, and Sharon Creech's
Love That Dog
as excellent books about author visits (Codell 317)
Two Weeks In Advance
To avoid undue stress, make sure the final details are arranged in advance of the day of the author visit. Prepare the honorarium check and have it ready for the author. Make sure all supplies are prepared and in working order. Check all technology in advance, including on the day of the visit. Check with the author about his or her meal preferences, especially on a multi-day visit. Check with administrators to ensure that a fire drill is not scheduled on the author visit day (Ruby 507)
The Day(s) of the Visit
Make sure to arrive early on the day of the author visit and be prepared to greet him or her in the parking lot. If the author is driving to the library, make sure a parking space is reserved for him or her. Offer a tour of the school or library and introduce the author to the principal or director (Ruby 506). Provide bottles of water throughout the visit. Make sure to point out where the faculty or staff bathroom is. Remember that authors are people too and schedule breaks within the visit schedule. (This can be an opportunity for the children to share some of their creative responses to the author’s work, in the form of skits, musical numbers, or art displays.) Discuss with the author in advance whether he or she would want to participate in a staff luncheon or dinner. Make sure to designate staff members to take pictures, set up signing tables, displays, etc. Also, be sure that tech-savvy staff are on hand to set up any projectors, monitors, or other technological implements that may be needed in the presentation. Because problems can so easily arise in situations where technology is involved, having the room set up the night before (and running a test to be sure everything works) will ensure that the author visit is not interrupted by time consuming technology errors, and that the program runs smoothly. The nature of the actual visit will depend on the school or public library. Even with the best planning, it is important to be flexible and be prepared for anything. For example, the morning of a school visit with Tim Wynne-Jones, when the temperature outside was below zero, Allison Follos discovered that the heat was off in the library and had to move the visit to entirely new location within the school (Follos 10). Since she arrived early, she was able to handle the unexpected problem with grace. Once the author is done with his or her visit, make sure to provide payment without the author requesting it. A thank-you gift is a thoughtful way to close the day.
After the Visit
As soon as possible after the visit have the children or young adults write thank you letters to the author. Follow up the author visit by discussing the experience with them and how meeting the author has colored their understanding of his or her work. Evaluate the event to determine what made it successful and what areas needed improvement (Harvey 30)
. It may prove helpful to conduct a measurable survey of the target audience for the author visit, to see if the program was valuable to those who attended it. Looking at the circulation statistics for the author's books would provide insight into whether or not the visit raised interest in the author's work, while looking at the attendance numbers for the program versus other author visits would show if the program was a success or a dud. Collecting and analyzing this quantitative information would provide a look at how to better author visits or other related programs in the future, as it would show on a more concrete level how successful the visit was. Conversely, if the program produced less of an audience than anticipated, it would provide a means to analyze what exactly went wrong. Though it might be as simple as the fact that perhaps the author was a bad fit for the community your library serves (which is useful information in its own right), it might also be an issue of marketing, promotion, or the timing of the visit. By studying the quantitative data produced by your author visit, librarians could make plans for future visits to be more successful based on their findings.
This author’s work can also serve as a gateway to other authors' work, non-fiction titles, and films. Prepare reader’s advisory resources that can expose children to these works. However one follows up an author visit, “a well-planned author visit provides the luxury of long-lasting enrichment” (Follos 11).
An author visit can be the culminating event on top of a series of lessons, projects, and activities that help children become critical, reflective, and lifelong readers. This can be done through conducting an author study. Author studies “encourage love of reading though intimate literary and biographical familiarity with a particular author or illustrator” (Codell 309). Codell provides an in-depth guide to conducting Author/Illustrator Studies in her essential guide,
How to Get Your Child to Love Reading
. She provides resources for researching authors, developing questions, and contacting authors. Codell explains in her introduction that helping children ask the question, ‘Why did the author write this?’ “connects the child across time and space with this real person, this author, who had something to share, and cared enough to share it” (Codell 4). An author study enables children to make significant connections between themselves, the text, and the author since author studies “revolve around biographical, critical, and aesthetic responses to an author’s works” (Elliot & Dupuis 195). This can be done through a variety of methods - from literature circles to read alouds to independent reading to author profiles. As young people gain tools for analyzing an author’s work, they begin to see patterns and variations of meaning. They then gain confidence as readers who can “continue to question, predict, reflect, and problem solve before, during, and after reading” (Elliot & Dupuis 196). Librarians can collaborate with teachers to plan author studies that fit within their curriculum and are suited for their children’s needs.
Resources for Author Studies
Jenkins, Carol B.
The Allure of Authors: Author Studies in the Elementary Classroom
. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999. Print
Kotch, Laura, and Leslie Zackman.
The Author Studies Handbook: Helping Students Build Powerful Connections to Literature
. New York: Scholastic Professional
Books, 1995. Print.
Marcus, Leonard S.
Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume [et al.]
. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000. Print.
Marcus, Leonard S.
Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy
. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print.
Marcus, Leonard S.
The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy
. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2006. Print
McElmeel, Sharron L.
Children's Authors and Illustrators Too Good to Miss: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies
. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. Print.
Children's Books and Their Creators
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. Print.
ALA’s Author and Illustrator Websites
(Great Sites for Kids)
Children’s Literature: Meet Authors and Illustrators
Random House’s Author and Illustrator Biographies
The Children’s Literature Web Guide
Vandergrift’s Children’s Literature Page: Learning About the Author and Illustrator Pages
How to Teach a Novel Blog: Author Study Resources
(A great site to research children's authors and illustrators.)
(The Children's Literature Network provides information on new authors and illustrators as well as great new books and other resources for children's librarians.)
YA Authors by State
(The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has compiled a list of authors organized by state to assist libraries in the process of finding and contacting authors)
(The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) provides tips and how-to information, as well as additional resources on author/illustrator visits.)
(This page is through ALA, but includes bookmarks from children's librarians, publications, as well as the ALA on useful resources, tips, or anything interesting by way of author/illustrator visits.)
Something About the Author
This invaluable resource for biographies about authors is available in print, as well as online through Gale’s databases.
The Children's Literature Comprehensive Database
An essential resource for studying children’s literature, including reviews, biographical information, and more.
Alternative Visits and Connections
In today’s economy, many schools and libraries cannot afford the cost of providing an on-site author visit. While costs may need to be cut, this does not mean that children should go without the important connections that can be made with authors. The online world has opened up myriad opportunities for various alternative connections. Thanks to free videoconferencing software such as Skype,
, or UStream, children can have interactive visits with renowned authors. This can help save the author’s time on touring and cut the school’s costs. In an era where it is possible to ‘friend’ authors on Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads, a Skype visit is the natural extension to this digital relationship. As in an in-person visit, it is important for teachers and librarians to prepare students for a Skype visit in advance. The children should be familiar with the author’s work, as well as have prepared questions for him or her so they are more comfortable asking them on the day of the visit. Since these visits hinge upon technology, it is important meet with one’s IT staff in advance to test it out before the visit. For the visit, the group will need a webcam, microphone, and a computer with a broadband Internet connection. Both the author and the librarian will need to use the same videoconferencing software, so it is important to communicate which software will be used in advance. Since the author will not actually be in the room with the children, it is even more important that the librarian, teachers, and staff facilitate the visit and reinforce the expectations for behavior. Librarians should also consider the use of space for the virtual visit so the children can view the author and the author can see the children. Children’s book author
has been a long time advocate for virtual visits
and publicized Skype visits in several articles in
School Library Journal
. She has created a list of
authors who do free 20-minute Skype visits
with classes or book clubs on her website. To aid educators in finding authors who use Skype, author Mona Kerby and librarian Sarah Chauncey created the
Skype an Author Network
. Authors can join the network and provide pricing, availability, and expectations. Librarians can then contact the authors to set up a virtual visit. Prices range from $100-$200 an hour, with some authors providing additional savings for multiple visits per day. The library can fundraise for the virtual visit by hosting a book sale, and ask the author to mail personalized bookplates in advance of the virtual visit. With the movement towards virtual visits, Random House created a guide called “
How to Host a Virtual Author Visit: Bringing Authors and Young Readers Together
,” which they distributed at the 2011 NCTE conference. This guide provides an author’s and an educator’s perspective about virtual visits, which includes helpful advice for librarians attempting virtual visits. A Skype visit can even save the day when an in-person author visit is thwarted by weather or health issues. In the case of
, author of
, who broke his leg and was unable to travel to the
The Flying Pig bookstore
, a Skype visit was (mostly) the ideal solution, despite some technical issues.
Another method of interacting with authors is through email. A librarian can host a book club where the group generates a list of questions for the author to answer. This arrangement must be communicated beforehand to ensure that the author is willing and able to answer the questions. With the abundance of emails that authors receive, they may not be able to respond to each individual email from children, but may be more willing to work with a structured library program, as long as the terms are outlined and agreed upon (Buzzeo & Kurtz 108). Even this kind of personal contact from an author can make the entire reading experience memorable.
Bookstore or Public Library Field Trips
When it is not possible to arrange an author visit at one’s school, the librarian or teacher can take the children to the author. When an author tours with his or her new book, they usually visit local bookstores or libraries. Librarians can prepare field trips to these locations that either take place during school or are arranged in the evenings. This is then an opportunity for collaboration with the PTO, advisory boards, teachers, and the administration, as well as the public library or bookstore staff.
Author Visit Concerns (or Epic Fails)
A successful author visit, whether in person or virtual, requires an intense time commitment to ensure that the goals of the program will be met. The difference between an author visit that has become a beautiful symphony or a terrible cacophony is based on the amount of careful planning and critical thinking that has gone into preparing it. A thoughtful librarian anticipates the needs of the author and the children by developing proactive strategies. Authors are vocal about what made their visits successful either in print or online, and savvy librarians should read these anecdotes to replicate these results. Buzzeo and Kurtz's
Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers
includes specific examples of visits from a variety of authors and illustrators to offer insights to one's own visit. When the Kalamazoo Public Library invited David Levithan to their library to discuss
Boy Meets Boy
, they meticulously planned for protests by drawing up a plan of action, hiring additional security, and contacting the library’s lawyer. This attention to detail ensured that the important program they prepared went on as planned. An author visit can fail without this attention to detail. Children’s author
describes the horror of being early for a writing workshop to be sent into a room of “900 restless kids squirming on the gym floor awaiting a robust demonstration from a professional soccer team” (Ruby 505). Authors, while often dynamic and entertaining, are not 'trained monkeys' or babysitters, and an author visit can fail from its inception if they are used this way. Similarly, authors are not responsible for crowd control. Teachers and librarians must cooperate to determine proactive approaches to maintaining order during author visits, so the children know what is expected of them and authors can go about doing what they do best. As for cooperation, it is crucial that all parties know exactly what their role is in the author visit and are supported throughout the process. Librarians and teachers can teach together to prepare children for the author visit. By sharing the workload, the prospect of planning an author visit can feel less daunting for all those involved. It is easy to become burned out in the process, but as Lois Ruby points out, “the whole point is to promote literacy; to get students reading who wouldn’t otherwise; to enhance the joy of reading among those already hooked; to let teens [and children] know that ordinary people – people just like them – write books” (Ruby 507). By focusing on the big picture, librarians can retain the energy needed to ensure that their author visit will be a smash hit.
Cynthia Leitich Smith's School Visit and Authors on the Web Resources
The Care and Feeding of Your Visiting Author: Tips for a Successful Classroom Visit
Scholastic’s Author Visit Kits
(Children's Literature provides a booking service for authors and/or illustrators and a downloadable form.)
(Balkin Buddies is another web page that allows you to easily book authors/illustrators for your library or school.)
The Author Event Primer: How to Plan, Execute and Enjoy Author Events
. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. Print.
Library Partnerships: Making Connections between School and Public Libraries
. Medford, N.J: Information Today, Inc, 2009. Print.
Follos, Alison. "Making An Author's Visit Your Best 'Good Time'."
31.5 (2004): 8-11. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2011.
Buzzeo, Toni, and Jane Kurtz.
Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links.
Englewood, Colo: Libraries Unlimited, 1999. Print.
Elliott, Joan B, and Mary M. Dupuis.
Young Adult Literature in the Classroom: Reading It, Teaching It, Loving It.
Newark, Del: International Reading Association, 2002. Print.
Zuger, Sascha. "Want to Meet Your Favorite Author?"
. 117.5 (2008): 43-45. Print.
Tindall, Jim. "Author Visits: The Elements Defined."
74.2 (2010): 42-46. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts. Web. 9 Nov. 2011.
King, Kevin A. R. "Get with the Program: Author Visits, or Hobnobbing with the Semi-Rich and Literate."
Voice of Youth Advocates: Voya
. 28.6 (2006): 470-473. Print.
Codell, Esmé R.
How to Get Your Child to Love Reading
. Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2003. Print.
Ruby, Lois. "The Perfect Author Visit: Perfect Author, or Perfect Visit?" V
oice of Youth Advocates: Voya
. 29.6 (2007): 504-507. Print.
Harvey, Carl A. "Bringing Authors to Students."
School Library Media Activities
. 22.4 (2005): 28-30. Print.
Messner, Kate. "Met Any Good Authors Lately? Classroom Author Visits Can Happen Via Skype (here's a List of Those Who Do It for Free)."
School Library Journal
. 55.8 (2009): 36-38. Web.
Messner, Kate. "An Author in Every Classroom: Kids Connecting with Authors Via Skype. It's the Next Best Thing to Being There."
School Library Journal
. 56.9 (2010): 42-44. Web.
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