No, that headline isn’t a mistake. “Boogers, Books and Behavior: The Elementary School Mind” is the official title of a session at one of the few conferences devoted solely to children’s librarianship, literature and technology. The session will take place this week at Fairyland when we host more than 300 children’s librarians from around the world as part of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALCS) 2014 National Institute.

We couldn’t be prouder. Children’s librarians are our heroes—and, increasingly, our partners. At Fairyland we firmly believe that if we can make the connection between imagination and books, we can create some lifelong readers.

The “boogers” session will be led by our own education specialist, Shana Barchas, who holds advanced degrees in teaching and counseling. At Fairyland, Shana has built an important bridge to the Oakland public library system: Each semester, she brings in a library science graduate-student intern who brings her or his expertise to our enchanting environment.

Over the last year we’ve completely re-imagined and upgraded our reading room, adding comfy chairs, a skylight, new hardwood floors and hundreds of new books that reflect our community’s diversity.

Our newest intern will create regular story times led by trained volunteers. “Libraries can offer magical environments for a child,” Shana says. “At Fairyland, there’s a story around every corner, and at the library there’s a story behind every cover.” Our reading room also helps kids sign up for their first library cards.

In her ALCS institute session, Shana will talk about the psychology of 5-to-10-year olds; the challenges they face socially, morally and cognitively; how those challenges might manifest at home and at the library; and how kids can master these social stages.

“Humor is a great way to relate to kids,” Shana says. “And if you know what certain ages find funny, you’ll have an ‘in’ with them.” Hence the “booger” in her session title. Nina Lindsay, supervising librarian for children’s services for the Oakland Public Library, told me that children’s librarians aren’t trained in child development, so the contributions of people like Shana are much appreciated. (We have Nina to thank for bringing the ALCS National Institute to Oakland.)

Nina is a proud product of our Oakland public libraries. Her first library card was produced on a typewriter at the Rockridge branch more than a few years ago. I asked her to tell me something most people don’t know about children’s librarians. Her answer: Their finely honed sense of the absurd. “Children are the most interesting people to have conversations with,” Nina says. “And they’re very forgiving.”

While the majority of the institute will take place at the Marriott Hotel downtown, Nina lobbied hard for a series of breakout sessions to be held at Fairyland. “Since I grew up in Oakland, my worldview has Fairyland in it,” she told me. “The park speaks to kids at their level, inviting them to explore, play and express themselves, which is also what we librarians do.”

She also wanted to take advantage of all of the park’s nooks and crannies: The whimsical environment will put attendees in a playful, inventive mood, she told me. Shana’s presentation will take place in our Old West Junction.

We’re also excited that a children’s literary star will also be featured at a Fairyland session: San Francisco resident Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, which collectively sold more than 60 million copies and inspired a feature film and a video game.

Institute attendees are coming from Australia as well as from Alabama, Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, New York and Texas. We’ve thanked Nina for putting Fairyland in the spotlight for the sold-out event.

She in turn thanked Fairyland for providing a unique and utterly appropriate setting for the breakout sessions.

“I think it will be the most memorable part of the conference!” she says.

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