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Librarians of the Month: Kristin Shankles and Sara Fade

This month’s featured Mutt-i-grees librarians, Kristin Shankles and Sara Fade, were nominated by Tracy Delgado-LaStella at Middle Country Public Library (MCPL) in Centereach, NY. Middle Country Public Library (Centereach, NY), founder of Family Place Libraries™, is the national pilot site for Mutt-i-grees® in the Library.

As the national pilot for Mutt-i-grees in the Library, Middle Country Public Library uses Mutt-i-grees programming in many ways. According to library staff, children and their families have wonderful things to say about each Mutt-i-grees program and are always asking what the library has planned for next season. Librarians have found that they have needed to open subsequent sessions of programming because the demand is so high.

Kristin Shankles is a Youth Services Librarian at MCPL. Her responsibilities include planning, organizing, and managing library services for children ages birth to 14 years. While Kristin generally concentrates on programming for children in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, she has started planning more programming for 3rd-5th graders as the library began implementing Mutt-i-grees in the Library programming.

MCPL has offered a variety of programs for children and families. At their kick-off event, the library gave children the opportunity to give their own stuffed animal Mutt-i-grees a check-up or mend a wound at a “Doggie Clinic.” The library has offered many programs where children can make dog biscuits and blankets to donate to local shelters. Kristin has found these service learning programs to be very popular with children and, because of this, MCPL recently began to involve teen volunteers to create the donations. According to Kristin, the children like to get help from teens and the teens are able to get community service hours for their time. She says this type of service learning has been very successful for the library and is a good core component of Mutt-i-grees in the Library programming.

As an animal lover, Kristin enjoys working on Mutt-i-grees programming so much that she says it’s sometimes difficult to switch gears and fulfill her other responsibilities! She truly loves to see the ways in which both young people and animals are reached and are equally benefitted. Kristin has seen firsthand the way the parents and families get involved and are as interested in the programming as their children are. She says this really helps to keep the children involved and aids in keeping the conversations about Mutt-i-grees going once the library program is over. Kristin notes that Mutt-i-grees in the Library allows for so many different types of programming, so she’s able to get really creative. She believes that Mutt-i-grees is one initiative that the library will be able to keep going indefinitely because there are so many new and exciting directions in which to take the programming.

When asked what tips she would give to libraries interested in implementing Mutt-i-grees programming and/or libraries that have just begun implementation, Kristin recommends making a Mutt-i-grees presence wherever you can. She says her library had great success with their MCPL Mutt Club bulletin board (it was full of pictures after the first week!) and her Mutt Club book display and collection is very well used.

Because of the positive response with young children, MCPL recently began offering Mutt-i-grees programming for teens. Sara Fade is an Adult and Young Adult Librarian at MCPL, where she has worked for 6 years. The library has offered several programs for teens that take place both in the library and at off-site locations. Sara says the library has seen high attendance numbers for the Young Adult Mutt Club programs they have offered. Both teens and their families are very excited about these new programs.

MCPL has offered various Mutt-i-grees programs, including a visit to local shelters, where they took photos of animals available for adoption and then created an Adopt-a-Pet Scrapbook for the library’s patrons to view. Teens also made decorative frames for shelters to highlight their adoptable pets at outings.

Sara loves her work with the Young Adult Mutt Club and finds it to be great opportunity for the library and its patrons to become involved in the community on a new level. As an animal lover, she finds it very enriching to see young adults light up when interacting with local non-profit groups and knowing they are helping shelter animals.

Upcoming Mutt-i-grees Programming at MCPL

For the upcoming season, MCPL will be offering sessions of No- Sew Pet Blankets and K9 Reading, as well as a program called Express Yourself, where children will learn about how dogs express their emotions with an interactive art activity. Teen programs may include helping a shelter with display boards, making individual flyers for special-need animals for the shelter, and more educational programs with local animal groups.

For their spring Mutt-i-grees programming, MCPL is planning to invite a representative from New York Bully Crew come to talk to families about stereotypes and misconceptions about Pit Bull breed and allow them to get familiar with a few Pit Bulls. They are also planning to offer contests where children can display art or writing about Mutt-i-grees at the library and may host a Mutt-i-gree movie night where they show an animal-themed movie for families and provide snacks and drinks.

To learn more about Mutt-i-grees in the Library, please visit http://education.muttigrees.org/library.