Interview: West Virginia Library Commission

Karen Goff, Director/State Librarian, West Virginia Library Commission

IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012), and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Timothy Owens interviewing Secretary Karen Goff and then-Director of Library Development Services John Paul Myrick. Read more about the West Virginia Library Commission’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for West Virginia.


Timothy:  Looking back at the prior five‑year plan, what did you see as the three most important community needs that you wanted to address with library services?

Karen: The community needs that we were trying to address related to lifelong learning. We used funds to enhance the capacity of the library to meet those needs through connectivity and development of the statewide library network. This involved establishing automation consortia, which ultimately met about 90 percent of the needs through shared materials. The consortia, the database subscription, and the library network consume over 80 percent of our LSTA allotment, but on a statewide level we see that we can have the most effect there. Our training has been focused on library staff, and without a library school in the state, we need to take a leadership role in providing continuing education. Another thing that we’ve done toward meeting the lifelong learning goal is the development of our Book Discussion Group collections, which are basically adult programs in a box.

John Paul:  It has taken off and grown phenomenally. People want to get together with others in the community and talk about ideas, and it’s also opened venues for other types of public discourse programs. The public is starting to recognize that libraries are the place where the community comes together.

Karen:  The other big community issue in West Virginia is health. Heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are all high, and we think libraries have a key role to play in disseminating information about healthy lifestyles.


Timothy:  The second question is, looking at the evaluation, how did that affect the development of your new plan?

Karen: The insistence on an outside evaluator was a very good thing. There weren’t any big revelations from it, but the evaluator had a chance to hear from library directors without us standing there. It reinforced our perceptions of the high impact programs including the consortia support, the network support, and the databases.

John Paul:  The evaluation was a good guidance tool for developing the new plan. We addressed the things mentioned in the evaluation, such as competencies for library workers and training for trustees. As a result, there is so much emphasis on continuing education in the new document.


Timothy: The final question is, looking ahead at your new plan, what do you see as the three most important community needs?

John Paul:  Supporting the network consortia going forward, as well as job and career development, community economic development, and health education. The continued education component will also be important over the next five years.

Karen: Basically, it’s continuing what we have done and emphasizing that libraries have a key role to play in addressing community issues. We have a real responsibility to support the library directors and their staff. A lot of them do amazing things in 1,400 square foot libraries with one person. Others struggle. And I think that’s a big role that we have to play; we have to be the cheerleader and the educator to give them the capability.

John Paul: Collaborating with other states is another priority. We’re learning to quit reinventing the wheel, particularly among the Continuing Education coordinators. We’re working very hard to share programs and training opportunities among one another, and we’ve even jointly come together to provide training for state library workers.

Karen:  IMLS is to us like we are to the local library. With IMLS, I can say, “They’re really doing this well. We do that too. How could we gear it up a little bit and do it as well as IMLS?”

Posted in Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational | Leave a comment

Children’s Museum Birthday Bash Keeps Kids Fit

By Mary Murphy
Marketing Associate, The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast continues in its quest to keep kids active and fit. On August 2nd, we celebrated our 6th birthday with a bang. Along with bounce houses and balloons, we wanted to incorporate an activity where kids would associate physical activity with fun. We collaborated once again with Nancy Erlick and her Spiffy’s Once Upon a Farm series, and used her “banana jump ropes” to have a jump roping contest during the party. These fabulous jump ropes have faux bananas as handles to get kids to start thinking about wise food choices, all while having a blast jump roping!

Kids jump roping

Our birthday party would not have been complete without birthday cake. We make it a point to ask the kids, “Can you have birthday cake at a party?” Our answer is, “Of course you can!”

The Children’s Museum makes it a point to teach kids about making good choices when it comes to what they eat, but that they can also enjoy themselves and eat fun foods in moderation.

Teens showing off cucumbers from the garden

The museum’s interactive garden has been busy this summer as well. This summer’s garden included cucumbers, scallions, rosemary, and basil that were harvested by summer campers and museum staff. Kids got to make homemade pizzas, salsa, and salads from these wonderful ingredients, which came fresh from our garden. We strive to find ways to keep children active, healthy, and educated, and we’re excited to be bringing it to our community in Florida.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Comments Off

Poets on Poets: Aline Dolinh

Ed note: This is a cross-post from the AYAW Blog.  You can find the original blog post here.

Photo of Aline Dolinh

Inaugural National Student Poet and Northeast Representative, Claire Lee, returns to the AYAW blog to interview the 2013 Class of National Student Poets for her “Poets on Poets” series.


This week’s interview is with National Student Poet and Southeast Representative, Aline Dolinh!




Claire Lee: Hey! How’s your summer been? What have you been up to this summer, in terms of NSPP summer events?


Aline Dolinh: I’ve had a really great summer so far, though I’ve been missing my four fellow poets a lot. I was away from home for a month to attend Governor’s School for the Humanities, was a counselor at a kids’ debate camp, and I’m actually headed out to sunny California for the last week of August. In poetry-related activities, I’ve continued working on my service project and I actually had the chance to listen to the poet Nikki Giovanni speak back in July as well as talk to her briefly afterward—I not-so-subtly promoted the NSPP to her and offered her one of our matching t-shirts.


CL: Hahaha, that’s great! What were some of the major NSPP events you participated in? Which was your favorite, and why?


AD: This year, I had the chance to visit Frankfort for the Kentucky Writer’s Day celebration, which was a completely new experience for me. Kentucky is a state that I think defies a lot of outsiders’ preconceptions—it’s filled with the kind of magnificently vast, open space that you don’t get to see living in a sprawling suburb like mine, and the poetry community there is so tight-knit it feels almost familial. I had an amazing experience there getting to read alongside Kentucky’s past poet laureates and even befriending some of them (Frank X. Walker, the current Kentucky poet laureate, was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, in addition to being strikingly talented—he bought me a pin as a gift before even meeting me). I got to know several members of the Kentucky Arts Council as well, who showed me everything from the best restaurants to a family-owned coffee shop. While I was there, I also lead a found poetry workshop at Western Hills High School, which was a lot of fun! I don’t think the experience I had in Kentucky could have been replicated for anyone else, which speaks volumes about how special this program is—I think it reflects the fact that poetry’s power is in its ability to transcend boundaries and connect people while simultaneously speaking to something slightly different in everyone.


CL: Yeah, the program is really great at what it does and what it offers to individuals and communities. In that regard, what was the highlight of your year as a National Student Poet?


AD: In general, I really treasured the connections I made—I loved leading workshops because of the chance to interact with such a wide variety of students, from non-native English speakers at my high school to fourth-graders in Harlem, because they really made me conscious of the idea that everyone can be a poet (even if they don’t think of themselves as such). My favorite thing about the NSPP is the people that it’s helped me meet, from those students to the amazingly hardworking staff who made this award possible to my four fellow poets, who are without a doubt some of the brightest and most beautiful people I’ve ever met. We came together as a group from day one – it sounds cheesy, but we definitely had that metaphorical “spark” they speak of when people talk about connection, and we’ve managed to keep in touch and support each other throughout the summer despite being scattered across the country. You’d be hard-pressed to find friends like them anywhere.


CL: What was one way in which your year as a National Student Poet changed you? In other words, what was the biggest takeaway for you?


AD: I realized this year that truly anyone is capable of becoming a poet, which I think is particularly powerful. The sheer spectrum of experience that I observed in classrooms was extraordinary—I was able to work with students who had grown up speaking no English at all to high-schoolers who were already in love with poetry to third and fourth graders who didn’t even think of themselves as writers at all. The fact that all of them were capable of creating such vibrant and diverse work, no matter if they thought of themselves as “poets” or not, really resonated with me. It made me recognize that poetry isn’t close to dead, not even a little bit—as long as it still belongs to our collective consciousness, it’s still overwhelmingly alive. 


CL: Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience. Were there any difficulties or obstacles that you encountered?


AD: I think one of my biggest challenges was figuring out what exactly I wanted to accomplish. As the youngest poet, I was definitely a little intimidated at first and didn’t want to seem out of my depth! I went into the year with a lot of ambition and energy but I wasn’t really sure where to aim it—and outside the bubble of poetry paradise that is the NSPP, outside organizations didn’t always grasp what the program was or why it was important. I think my experience forced me into adapting quickly to these kinds of situations—even when you can’t initially get through to people, there’s almost always a way in if you try communicating differently.


CL: If you could go back and change or do-over one thing about your year as a National Student Poet, what would it be and why?


AD: I’m not sure if it’s a regret, but I always found myself hating how brief all the event experiences seemed—the days I spent with my fellow poets were undoubtedly some of the best memories in my entire life, but to me they always passed too quickly. I also didn’t attend the Aspen Ideas Festival with them this summer because I had a prior engagement that wouldn’t budge, and in an ideal world I would have been right alongside them in Colorado. I definitely wouldn’t take any part of this year back—if anything, I just wish it was longer so we could have a little more time together!


CL: I know! When you look back on the year, it feels like it went by too quickly, which is a bummer… But it’s summer! What are you currently reading? Do you have any fun summer recommendation books?


AD: I know I’m late to the party, but I just picked up Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I love it—it’s incredibly observant and poignant while also being funny. I’ve also been reading a lot of nonfiction, which might sound dry and scholarly, but it’s really not! In particular I’ve really been loving The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev, which is a super-engrossing biography of Caterina Sforza, who was an infamous Renaissance-era Italian countess. And in terms of poetry, I’ve been picking up a lot of bits and pieces—lately I’ve really been enjoying Tina Chang, who is a great storyteller and always seems to have a sense of history intertwined with her poems, and Anna Akhmatova, whose work is a blast from the past that I’ve just started getting into. Her works tend to be short but I think they always feel lovelier because of their brevity.


CL: Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with us?


AD: I just want to reiterate that I’ve made some friends for life and accomplished things that I had no idea I was even capable of before I got this opportunity—it’s one of those things that sounds too good to be true, almost infomercial-testimonial fake until you’ve actually lived it.  For anyone who does have doubts about submitting their work or doesn’t think they’re good enough—what do you have to lose by trying? I had no idea that the handful of poems I wrote in freshman year would have brought me all this.




The President’s Committee on the Arts and the HumanitiesInstitute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Students Poets Program, the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Each year, five National Student Poets are selected through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for a year of service as poetry ambassadors, each representing a different region of the country.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Cultural Heritage/Sustainability, Education Support, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Meet the National Student Poets | Comments Off

Let’s Move Pittsburgh: Celebrating Champion Schools

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted on To view the original post, click here.

Posted by Erin Saltmarsh, Program Assistant, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens on August 13, 2014

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens does a lot of work with area schools. From conducting field trips to teacher trainings to the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps, we reach a lot of students and educators each year. Let’s Move! Pittsburgh, a program of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, is working to take this work out into the community to positively impact children’s health.

Let’s Move! Pittsburgh and Phipps are partnering with area schools by inspiring and celebrating champions committed to promoting healthy food choices and increased physical activity for local students. Children spend a large percentage of their time in school, presenting us with a great opportunity to impact their well-being. To this end, the Champion Schools Award program, supported by Giant Eagle, recently solicited applications from area schools, as well as organizations working within these districts, for both seed grants to fund new projects and awards to acknowledge existing efforts to foster healthy lifestyles.


Young explorers learn about building healthy lifestyles at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Cory Doman)

Young explorers learn about building healthy lifestyles at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Cory Doman)


As a result of this program, Let’s Move! Pittsburgh was able to provide resources and funding to 21 schools in Allegheny County that will implement programs and projects during the 2014-2015 school year related to the following themes: Bag the Junk—Increasing Healthy Food and Nutritional Education in Schools, Getting Kids Moving, and Inspiring Kids to Grow and Cook Food. Awards range from $500-$1,500, with priority given to public, charter and private preschool and elementary schools. To ensure success, Let’s Move! Pittsburgh offered resources, project examples and networking opportunities to assist with the development of programs that will have a measurable impact.

“As part of the Champion Schools Award program, Let’s Move! Pittsburgh challenged local educators to increase student access to healthy foods, develop opportunities for kids to be physically active, and incorporate cooking and gardening activities into the school environment,” says Hannah E. Hardy, Let’s Move! Pittsburgh director of programming and operations. “The response was wonderful, and we are really excited and inspired by all of the health-promoting projects we are now pleased to support.”

Want to make schools healthier? Here are some ideas:

  • Does your school have a wellness council? Consider joining or starting one!
  • Start a healthy fundraiser at your school.
  • Assemble a team to put on a health expo for families.

For more information about upcoming events and ways that you can make schools healthier, visit Let’s Move! Pittsburgh at or send an email to

Posted in Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Comments Off