Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Bit of a Dry Spell....

For the last 3-1/2 years I have posted pretty regularly here, generally weekly, but right now I am having a bit of a dry spell. I just don't have any material right now, and I'm out of ideas.

Part of it is the job change, which has led to a long break in programming due to both a greatly reduced amount of programming in my new position, and my transfer coinciding with the end-of-summer break from regular programming. It's been SIX weeks since my last storytime, and I won't do one for another month! That has been a huge change from my previous 12-15 storytimes a week schedule! While the break has been a nice rest for my strained vocal cords, I must admit I do miss it. If I could create my ideal position, it would include one or two mornings of outreach storytimes each week.

So I've had no storytimes to write up, no STEAM programs, no new picture books have caught my eye... It's been mostly six weeks of very busy customer service, weeding, and shelving since all of our pages left at the end of the summer. Next month I will finally start doing regular programming, one family storytime and one school-age STEAM program a month, which I really need to get planning, but have had a hard time finding the time, since I'm on the desk all the time and we are short-staffed.

I've already decided to play it safe for my first STEAM program, doing my "Mirror, Mirror" program that I did many times for different outreach groups the last two summers. I decided it would be best to start with something I'm comfortable with, is cheap and requires few supplies, and I know works well with a wide variety of ages and groups since I don't really know what to expect. It's marketed for ages 5-12, but we don't know what we'll actually get or how many. But I need to get supplies together as well as decide on topics for the rest of the year.

I could do storytime in my sleep, but I have no idea what I'm going to do for my first storytime here! There's just too much pressure on the first one! For one, I'm not used to having parents in storytime, possibly judging everything I do. Then, I have to worry about a craft, which we didn't do for outreach storytimes either. I keep hoping for an epiphany, but I'm just going to have to pick something soon, as well as plan the rest of the year, since I need to request any good seasonal books I want to use NOW and hoard them before all the teachers beat me to them! (Luckily, I do own several of my favorites, just for this reason.) 

But right now, I just do not seem to have any original, new storytime ideas, and I know I've already done most of my themes at least twice and run out of new content. I'm really hoping we start getting new picture books in soon and some good ones catch my eye and inspire me! My blogging may take a hit until I get back into the swing of regular programming, so please bear with me.

Feel free to suggest any ideas for storytime, STEAM programs, or topics for blog posts below or via e-mail!

Friday, August 3, 2018

From The Other Side - On Being A Board Member

Back in May I wrote about being appointed to the Board of Trustees for my local library to finish out a year of an unexpired term, in order to feel more connected to my own community and gain some perspective from the administrative side of things. It's only been three months, but so far it has been a very surreal experience! 

Let me explain. I work in another, much larger, public library system as a part-time paraprofessional where there is a huge divide between librarian and non-librarian, and full-time versus part-time. So as a part-time non-librarian, I'm pretty near the bottom, and have always felt very anonymous and invisible. For the most part, I have no voice, nobody really cares what I think or recognizes what I do, except immediate supervisors and co-workers (which is probably why I'm drawn to blogging, to have someplace to express all my deep thoughts 😉). That's just how it is, and I imagine that's fairly typical of most larger libraries/systems. Sometimes it's frustrating, but mostly I try to accept my place in the hierarchy.

But then I go to my local library to meet with the director, and get a tour of the library and introduced to everyone as a new board member and treated like a VIP (ironically this same library did not even interview me for a clerk position I applied for 6 years ago 😆). At the board meetings, not only am I free to express my opinion, my input is sought after and valued. At the last meeting we did the director's annual performance evaluation, and later on we will be reviewing and revising library policies and setting the tax rate. I mean, this is REAL stuff, and I have a say in it!

It just feel so strange to be in a position that has some real authority to effect change, and where I have a voice. Half the time I feel like an imposter and that I don't belong there, and the thought is always in the back of my mind "why are they asking my opinion, don't they know I'm just a peon?", but I just keep reminding myself I'm there as a library user and long-time community member (who just happens to have a deeper understanding of library operations than most), and in that capacity I have every right to be there and not only the right, but the obligation, to voice opinions and ask questions. But it still feels very surreal at this point!

One side benefit, is that as a board member, I already had all the information I needed to do my community analysis paper for the Adult Services class I took this summer in the form of circ stats, patron survey results, Edge assessment, strategic plan, budget reports, etc., and using this library as my profile library for my class helped me get more familiar with all the information I need to be aware of as a trustee, so that worked out nicely! 

The time commitment is not huge; the monthly board meeting lasts about an hour and I spend about half an hour reviewing the reports before the meeting, and I try to drop by a library event each month. I am also working my way through several webinars required for trustee certification. It is a great way to give back to your community and the profession, as well as see things from a different perspective, so if anyone else is considering it, I would say go for it, especially if you have the opportunity for a short-term commitment by finishing out someone else's term like I did to see how you like it. But don't be suprised if sometimes you feel a bit like Alice!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Shark Week 2018 - Even More Picture Books About Sharks

I didn't put together a list last year as I didn't think there were a significant number of new shark books to add, but this year I was really hoping to add some new material to my usual "Shark Week" repertoire, so I searched our catalog and I did find a few new picture books (links to my previous two lists are at the end):

Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon; April 24, 2018. Orchard Books. 48 pages. Ages 4-8.

This book is right up my alley with it's dark humor and sprinkling of factual information. The filming of an underwater show is interrupted by a shark, who seems to be on the verge of eating a poor fish on live TV! But, when he realizes he has an audience, he swears he is misunderstood; he was only showing the fish his loose tooth. He finally convinces everyone he is just misunderstood, only to reveal his true self in the end. Funny, but definitely for older kids due to the dark humor and length.

Smiley Shark by Ruth Galloway; March 1 2017 (first released in 2003). Tiger Tales. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

This is a cute story for the younger or more sensitive kids. Smiley Shark is trying his very best to make friends, but his well-intentioned smile just scares everyone away because of his huge teeth. But then one day, the others are caught in a fisherman's net! Can Smiley Shark's teeth save the day? The ending is a slight twist from what most people are likely to expect, so ask the audience first how they think Smiley can help, and see what they come up with.

Benny Shark Goes to Friend School by Lynn Rowe Reed, illustrated by Rhode Montijo; July 11, 2017. Two Lions. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

Benny is not very friendly; in fact, he is rather grouchy, rude, and a bit of a bully. But he soon realizes that he is lonely without friends to play with, and tries to make friends with the other sea creatures by ordering them to play with him. Janice Jellyfish kindly explains that's not how it works, and takes him to Friend School, where he learns to share, be polite, and listen. But, when the ultimate test of friendship comes, will Benny make the right choice? 

There Was an Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark! by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee. March 27, 2018. Cartwheel Books. 64 pages. Ages 4-8

Like all the others, this book is mostly pure silliness with a nice rhythm and rhyme, but this one also sprinkles in a few facts, with more factual information at the end. Kids who are familiar with this series will especially love it. Though I like the idea of facts being sprinkled in, they interfered with the rhythm a little bit. I liked how it ended with it all being a daydream and nobody in danger of dying.

The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna; September 5, 2017. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

Mr. Fish and his friends are having fun, until a bully shark comes along. Can Mr. Fish find the strength to speak up for himself and his friends? This has a similar rhyme and rhythm to the original, and has a good (if a bit heavy-handed) message, but lacks the magic of the first book and doesn't have the catchy, repeated phrases. It would be better for a lap-read than a group read aloud.

Big Shark, Little Shark by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Tim Budgen; May 9, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers. 32 pages. Ages 3-6.

I don't normally use early readers for storytime because they are so small, the text is short and choppy, and some of them are 50-60 pages long, but I would make an exception for this one. I think this would would work for storytime for a small group of toddlers and just-turned 3-year olds. It is short, and has very simple text focusing on contrasting terms as the two sharks try and fail at catching lunch, until they work together.

Shark Nate-O by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie, illustrated by Daniel Duncan; April 3, 2018. Little Bee Books. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

This is probably one of my favorites of this year's finds, and I am sad I didn't get the chance to use in in storytime (but there's always next year). Nate is a little boy who loves sharks and knows quite a bit about them, but surprisingly, Nate doesn't know how to swim. The story follows Nate as he learns to swim, eventually joining the swim team!

There are references to various species of sharks throughout the story, followed up by two pages of facts at the end. But my favorite thing about this book are the references to the two most well known shark movies. The title is obviously a nod to the campy, so-awful-it's-funny Sharknado movie franchise, and there are also references to the movie that started it all, Jaws; Nate apparently lives in the town of Amity and at one point he tells his swim teacher that "We're going to need a bigger float". 

I love it when children's materials include a few jokes for the adults' benefit as well. This book is a bit longer and probably best suited for older preschooler and school-aged kids, and would be great for family storytimes with plenty of adults to appreciate the references.

For more books about sharks, check out my previous "Shark Week" bibliographies: 

For non-fiction books to learn factual information about sharks, visit your local library and look in the 597.3's.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Shark Week Storytime Plan

This is the first year since I started doing storytime 4 years ago that I won't get to do a "Shark Week" storytime, because I changed jobs and as it works out, I won't do a storytime in my new job until regular programing resumes in September. I'm a little bummed, as it's one of my very favorite themes, but it couldn't be helped.

However, I DO have the "Shark Week" storytime plan that I prepared for the interview that got me the new job. It uses components I've used in previous Shark Week storytimes, plus a couple of new additions.

Storytime always starts with our welcome song, then I have several things to include as part of the introduction. First up is the shark puppet above  to greet the kids with his toothy grin, and many kids will want him to "bite" their fingers. Then I would use a non-fiction book like this one to show some different kinds of sharks and share a couple of interesting facts.

Next, I have a couple of things for "show & tell". One is a small collection of fossilized shark teeth I found while vacationing on Manasota Key, Florida, and the other is something I made to let the kids get a sense of what a shark's skin feels like. Many assume it would be smooth, possibly slippery or even slimy because sharks are fish, but in fact it is rough and feels much like sandpaper. I searched everyone and finally found dark gray sandpaper and cut out a shark shape and glued it to a piece of cardstock and added detail and shading with a white colored pencil and a sharpie. The kids can then "pet" the shark and feel its rough "skin".

After that is my usual lead-in song, "If You're Ready For A Story".

The book that I read for
my interview is one I've done many times, and have so much fun doing, The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark by Ken Geist and Julia Gorton. It's obviously a re-telling of the classic Three Little Pigs, but I think is even more fun. I love all the repetition, which makes it easy for the kids to participate and say it along with you.

Another fun book is the classic Shark In The Park! by Nick Sharratt (or the sequel, Shark In The Dark). In this story, Timothy Pope is at the park, looking through his telescope; he looks up, he looks down, he looks all around. He keeps thinking he sees the dorsal fin of a shark, but it turns out to be something else. 

This is particularly good for younger kids, as the text is short and simple, and they can can pretend to look through their telescopes as well, and predict whether Timothy Pope really sees a shark, identify what it really is, and make the appropriate animal sounds.

I was excited when I first discovered this great pop-up shark story, that is also a re-telling of a classic folk tale, The Little Fish Who Cried Shark by Trish Phillips. (It is out of print, but I was happy with the two used copies I ordered from Amazon.) 

Little Sprat loves playing tricks, and his favorite is to yell "Shark!" and watch everyone scramble to hide. But he eventually learns that sharks are nothing to joke about! This one is slightly heavier on text, but it has a good rhyme and rhythm, and kids LOVE the last page with a giant pop-up shark!

A final book I had as an option for older kids is the latest installment of the There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a.... series that is perfect for a Shark or Ocean theme, There Was An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed A Shark by Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee. 

Older kids who know the original song love all the other versions, and love the pure silliness of them. This one has a few facts about the various creatures sprinkled in, with more detailed information in the notes at the end.

I have several fun songs to with these theme that I've used before: Baby Shark, Slippery Fish, and The Creatures In The Ocean Go.... (to the tune of "Wheels On The Bus", and let the audience suggest animals and sounds/motions to go with them). Then for my interview I made two new felt sets that I've featured earlier for "Flannel Friday". I'll show the pictures, and link to the original Flannel Friday posts for all the details.

And finally, a craft. This is something new for me, as we did not do crafts in outreach storytimes since we did so many. I saw some that I liked, but did not think they were appropriate for the younger kids I would expect for this particular storytime, so I settled on this simple one that used a CD or similar circular pattern to create pieces to assemble into a shark that greatly resembles a certain literary shark.


While I haven't had the chance to put this exact plan into practice yet, evidently the hiring committee liked it, because I just finished my second week in the position! Right now I'm just working the desk, but will start regular programming in September, with one family storytime and one school-aged STEAM program each month.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A New Chapter Begins....

I'm excited to say, this week I started a new job! 

For the last three years I have worked in the Outreach Services department providing early literacy programming to preschoolers in daycares and schools all around the city, averaging about 12 sessions per week (with a 20 hour work week), plus providing early literacy training to childcare workers at 2 events each year, doing some school-aged STEAM programming in the summers, and working at the children's service desk in our main downtown library one afternoon a week.

There were a lot of things that were great about this job, I had a great manager who had a very collaborative management style and was open to others' ideas and let me try new things. As a result, I got a great deal of programming experience in a relatively short time, vastly increased my knowledge of picture books, authors, and illustrators, and gained experience presenting. It was great for the the first two years, but approaching the end of my third year I was starting to burn out. I LOVE doing preschool storytime, but found it too much of a good thing to be doing so much of that, and not much of anything else, plus it was putting serious strain on my vocal cords.

I found I really missed working in a children's department and having a wider variety of duties, being able to form deeper, more long-term relationships with the kids and families, and each day being a little different. So when a position opened up in the children's department in the branch that was closest to my home, where my previous supervisor was now the branch manager, I knew it was time for a change!

So now I am a Library Associate in the Children's Department of one of our busiest branches, and it's going to be quite a change. I will be doing far fewer storytimes, just one family storytime a month at least initially. I will also be doing a school-age STEAM program once a month, and probably some other programs as I get settled in. Right now everyone is still in summer reading survival mode, and regular programming will resume in September. Much of my job will be customer service, including RA and reference, which I have really missed.

The schedule is a little weird, as it's all over the place: 1 morning, 2 afternoons, and 1 evening; plus one weekend a month, but in the long run I think it will be a good thing, as I will see a broad cross-section of patrons and activity, and it will give opportunities for a broad range of programming for various ages. It has been super busy so far, but it's a good busy, and makes the shift go by fast! Just as I've always heard, branch life is very different from working at the main library downtown! It's a whole new world....with a shorter commute! 😉

Next week I'll share the storytime plan that helped get me the job 😊.