Sunday, July 14, 2024

And the Survery Says..... We Are Busy & We Are Burning Out!

A few months ago when I was feeling particularly stressed, overworked, unappreciated, and frustrated in my position as a solo children's librarian being expected to do all the things and be everything for everybody, I put together a survey to see how many others were in the same boat. I posted a link to the survey on my page as well as in two Facebook groups for youth services and summer reading, and collected 228 responses over one week. It's taken me a while, but I've finally finished going through the results. To be clear, this is a casual opinion survey, and not proper research.

All but two of the respondents currently work in public libraries in a youth services capacity; one described working in a mixed-use academic/public library, and another had very recently left the field. Most were employed full-time as either a youth services librarian or manager, though various other positions were represented, as well as a few part-time staff. The remaining survey questions related to experience, job duties, work-life balance, compensation, perceptions of how well supervisors and upper management understood and supported youth services positions, what respondents wish management better understood, and how they could be better supported.

Position & Experience:

Job Duties:

Survey participants were given a list of job duties and asked to check all that applied; additional duties not listed could be written in under an "other" option.

*Various forms of social media, promotion, marketing, and/or communications were written in by 14 respondents under an "Other" option. That number would possibly be even higher if it had been listed as one of the original choices. Other items written in under the "Other" option were (each listed once unless otherwise indicated): transferring materials to other locations, helping patrons in other departments, serving on book award committee, storywalk installation, translation, grant writing, special projects, state committees, library committees (2), person in charge (2), branch management, greeter, cleaning & sanitizing (2), soliciting summer reading coupons, departmental management, volunteer recruitment, budgeting, resource sharing within consortium, cataloging, and other duties as assigned. 

These results clearly show what those of us in youth services already know: we are spread very thin, being responsible for a wide range of tasks, many of which are time-consuming and require specialized skills, knowledge, and experience.  
As anticipated, programming is a primary responsibility of almost all youth services staff, with over half of respondents being responsible for 2-4 programs per week, and over a quarter being responsible for more than four programs per week! That is a lot of programming!

Work-Life Balance:
I also wanted to look at not just what we are doing, but how long it takes us to do it, how many extra hours we are putting in, and especially how much free labor we are doing on our own time.

I have to admit, these results surprised me, in a good way. I really expected that more of us would be putting in more 'overtime' at work, and doing more work-related tasks at home on our own time. So maybe we are starting to be better at having healthy boundaries and limits as a profession, though I must admit I still struggle in this area, partly because it's easier to concentrate at home, I can multi-task and look for program ideas or read over book lists while watching TV, and sometimes I have to take care of something to ease my anxiety or I will never get to sleep. I also can't help but wonder if people may have under-reported unpaid work from home because they don't consider trolling Pinterest, Facebook, Tik-tok, and Instagram as work, but if you are in library-related groups, looking for crafts, program ideas, book reviews, etc., that IS a work-related task.

Though almost two-thirds reported working less than one extra hour per week at the library, and nearly half reported spending less than an hour per week on work-related tasks at home, there is clearly still work to be done in normalizing a 30-40 hour week week (max) and maintaining healthy boundaries and work-life balance. Nearly a third were averaging 1-5 extra hours a week at the library, and a few individuals were putting in as much as ten or more extra hours a week! Then looking at unpaid work from home, a third of us are averaging 1-2 hours of unpaid labor per week, 17% are averaging 3-5 hours per week, and a small, but significant number are spending 5-10 hours per week, or even more, on work-related tasks at home for which they are not compensated.

Misc - Time, Staffing, PTO, & Compensation:
The survey had all of the remaining topics listed as statements with which respondents indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed. I divided them up into 3 separate figures for the sake of visibility, and tried to group statements in a way that made sense.

I was a bit surprised that more respondents had not disagreed, even strongly disagreed, with having adequate time to perform the myriad of duties and large number of programs shown above, and that responses to having adequate staffing were so mixed, though the results do indicate that while staffing and time may be somewhat sufficient to meet management's expectations, they are generally not enough to fully meet the community's needs.

I was slightly surprised that those feeling they are fairly compensated for the work that they do outnumbered those who did not, and I was very surprised that taking PTO did not seem to be a problem for most respondents. While I am fortunate enough to have a salary I feel is fair and is a living wage for the are in which I live, being able to take time off when I want or need to has been a problem, especially the last year and a half. No one ever told me that I couldn't, but since I had no staff who could cover storytimes or other programs, I always felt like I couldn't; when I did take off I would sometimes regret it because the work would just pile up and I would be so behind and overwhelmed when I got back it almost wasn't worth it. 

Supervisory & Managerial Support:
Now to what I REALLY wanted to know! I have observed out-of-touch management, particularly upper management, in every job I have ever had; it is not unique to libraries. But, when combined with the strong sense of vocational awe our field commands, it creates an even more stressful, unhealthy environment than I had observed in my previous career, and Youth Services in particular seems to be more affected by out-of-touch management who have little understanding of what we do. Even when management is made up by former youth services staff, over time they tend to forget how much time and work go into things like programming and collection development. I wanted to see how pervasive this problem is, and whether youth services staff felt their supervisors and upper management really understood what their job entailed and the time and skills required, and gave them adequate support.

The results indicate that most respondents felt that their immediate supervisor understood their job duties as well as the time and skills required, and felt supported by them (though there was a slight drop when it came to understanding the time required). However, the perceived understanding (particularly the time required to perform duties) and support from upper management/administration was noticeably less. This is likely due to the fact many youth services staff are supervised by a youth services librarian or manger who is a former youth services librarian, while many directors and other members of upper management and administration do not have a background in youth services. Understanding the time required to perform all the duties of a youth services position seems to be the area of greatest disconnect.

I also asked open-ended questions about what survey participants wished their supervisor or upper management better understood about their job and how they could better support them, and finally invited them to leave any other relevant comments. The vast majority related to wishing management understood the overall workload, the number of tasks and the time required to complete them (and more specifically to how much time, work, and energy go into programming), and the energy require for interacting with that many people, and sometimes difficult people. Others mentioned unrealistic demands, understaffing, struggles with mental health, neurodivergence, understanding the needs of children and teens, quality over quantity, understanding that what we do requires special knowledge, skills, and expertise; the need for appreciation, recognition, acknowledgement, and adequate compensation; and more. [I will provide more detailed analysis and quotes from the several hundred comments collected in a follow-up article tentatively titled "What Youth Services Staff Wish Directors Knew", coming soon!]

And in a final question to assess how pervasive burnout is in youth services, participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statement: "I am feeling some effects of burnout."

It is very evident that burnout is a real problem among youth services staff, with 84% of survey participants reporting that they are at least feeling some degree of burnout. While this is not really surprising in and of itself, it is somewhat inconsistent with the responses to other questions on this survey which indicated more positive feelings about supervisors, compensation, PTO, having adequate time and staffing. 

I am not sure what the explanation is, perhaps it has more to do with the mental and emotional labor involved that cause burnout even with working conditions we feel are generally favorable? Or has the pervasive culture of vocational awe conditioned us all to perceive heavy workloads, low pay, and unpaid labor as normal, so we know we are feeling burned out, but aren't sure why, or feel like we can say we're burned out, but feel like we can't complain about specifics because we have been ingrained with the "do all the things, be everything to everybody" attitude? 

Whatever is going on, I am confident in saying that if this many people in our profession are experiencing burnout, there is definitely a problem with library culture and management. People do not burnout if they have reasonable workloads, adequate staffing, a living wage, adequate PTO, and management that truly supports them and enforces healthy boundaries and work-life balance. 

Don't forget to follow or check back for part 2, "What Youth Services Staff Wish Directors Knew", coming soon!

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

New Books - Preschool Storytime

This was a bit of an "off" week, as it was the week of the Fourth of July. Our numbers are always low for this week, so we back off on the programming a little bit. The holiday fell on the day we would normally have had the elementary program, and instead of booking a performer I just did a very simple family Lego program. There was no weekly theme, and I had a couple of new books that I really liked, so decided to forego a theme for storytime and use them.

We started with a "Hello" song, followed by introductions and expectations, then this month's warm-up song, followed by our lead-in song:

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.

If You're Ready for a Story?

If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, if you're ready for a story,
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!

(turn around, sit down, clap hands, pat knees, say "shh"...)

For our first book I choose The Wrong Book by Drew Daywalt and Alex Willmore, which starts out as a perfectly normal book, presenting objects/animals/people and saying what they are and what they say. On the first spread, a red apple is shown, and the text reads "This is an apple. And apples go 'Crunch! Crunch! Crunch' when you eat them." However, things soon begin to go hilariously wrong when the book says that a pretty flower smells good and says "Chugga, chugga, Chooo-Chooo!", followed by a puppy that the book says is a bicycle and goes "Buurrp!". The silliness and mis-information continue, much to the consternation of the serious bookmark.

This book is super silly, and super fun to read aloud! It would be even better if done with two readers, one reading the main text of the book, and the other reading the part of the bookmark, which I realized as I was reading it and really wish I would've thought of earlier, in time for a second person to prepare. This would be a great book for elementary classes, too.

After reading such an incredibly silly book and getting our sillies all wound up, it was time to shake them out!

Next up was another new book I ordered primarily to beef up my selection of beach/sand related picture books. The Squish, by Breanna Carzoo, tells about a poor little sandcastle that keeps getting knocked down. He gets stepped on, hit by a frizbee, rained on, wiped out by waves. He tries picking himself up, dusting himself off, and rebuilding himself taller, to no avail; he still ends up getting squished. Will he give up and just stay squished?

This story starts out a little bit funny, a little bit cute, and a little bit sad. The messaging about dealing with trauma felt a bit heavy-handed to me, and I felt took away from what could have been a fun, cute story (which is what I thought I was ordering). But the kids didn't really notice, and it might be a good book for someone who needs that message, and it can be interpreted as dealing with frustration when things don't work the way you want them to and trying again, which is the spin I put on it for storytime.

I decided to stop there rather than attempting another song, book, or rhyme and sing a quick "Goodbye" song, followed by activities and play time.

Since I expected a very small turnout, I just planned on two activities, figuring I could always pull out more if we needed to.
  • Kinetic Sand - I gave each child a couple of handfuls of kinetic sand on a tray, along with a handful of shells, 2-3 mini castle molds, and 2-3 animal molds.
  • Sensory Bin - This week it contained rice and several different kinds of beans, along with measuring cups and spoons.
  • Soft blocks - we got these out for the one younger sibling who was too little for the other activities.

How It Went
It was a weird morning, being the day after the Fourth of July. I expected a small crowd, and at start time only one family was there. I waited a couple of minutes to see if others would show up, but none did, so we went ahead and started. After we got going, 3-4 other families trickled in, the last one not arriving until we were almost finished with the storytime part. Other than that, it went well. I think kids that are a little older, 5-8 years old would appreciate the humor in The Wrong Book even more.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Wiggle - Toddler Storytime


My toddler storytimes often don't have a strong theme, since we use the same songs/rhymes all month, and I can't always come up with activities that are developmentally appropriate and strongly tie-in with the book, and this was one of those times. Themes can be fun and help give direction, but sometimes it can unnecessarily complicate things, so I don't worry too much about whether I have one or not (for a more in-depth discussion of themes, please see my previous "To Theme, or Not to Theme" post).

This was the first week of the month, so we have new songs/rhymes (other than the Hello/Goodbye and lead-in songs, which only change every few years when I get tired of them). 


Hello, my friends, hello.
Hello, my friends, hello.
Hello, my friends at storytime;
Hello, my friends, hello!

Followed by introductions, expectations (we have so many late-comers I've started saving expectations for after the greetings and hello song), then a warm-up song with movement, followed by two songs with manipulatives (scarves for this month).

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

 Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes; knees and toes.

(repeat 2x, faster each time)

This Is the Way....

This is the way we wave our scarves,
Wave our scarves, wave our scarves.
This is the way we wave our scarves,
Because it's fun to do!

(shake, twirl, scrunch, throw, look through)

(to the tune of 

Popcorn kernels, popcorn kernels,
(wave scarves overhead)
In the pot, in the pot.
(scrunch into ball)
Shake them, shake them, shake them;
Until they POP! Until they POP!
(throw in air)

(They LOVE this one so we usually do it three times.)

Then it was time to settle down for our story with our lead-in song:

If You're Ready for a Story

If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet.
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet.
If you're ready for a story, if you're ready for a story,
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!

(turn around, have a seat, clap hands, pat knees, say "shh")

movement storytime, toddler storytime
I'm finding it is becoming more and more difficult to find books for storytime, especially toddler storytime, as kids' attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter, but today I settled on an older book that has toddler time written all over it! 

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin and Scott Menchin is a fun read-aloud that is perfect for those shorter attention spans as it encourages the kids to move along with the cute dog that is narrating the story, and it has a very pleasant rhythm and rhyme, which I've observed seems to hold their attention better. Wiggle is part of a movement trilogy, which includes Bounce and Stretch.

After that we worked on our ABCs and 123s with the "Alphabet Song" (to the traditional "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" tune) and "Ten Little Bubbles" (first counting up, popping bubbles, then counting down). Bubble time generally turns into a toddler mosh pit! 

Following bubbles, I announced we were done with the storytime part and would go ahead and sing our "Goodbye" song in case we didn't get to say goodbye to all of our friends later, but that we did have activities afterward.

I put out a variety of developmentally appropriate toys and activities afterward:

  • Busy Boards with various locks and fasteners to open and close
  • Puzzles - Chunky, simple wooden puzzles with animals or vehicles
  • Foam Blocks
  • Sensory Tubes
  • Sensory Balls
  • Stacking/Nesting Cups
  • Paper & Crayons
  • Sensory Bin - with a variety of beans and rice with measuring cups and spoons
  • Magnetic gears

How It Went
Everything went well, though I am finding that now that I am getting steady attendance, those that started as new toddlers a year or two ago are turning 3 (or already have), and I have a new bunch of 1-2 years olds, I feel like the age range (1-3) is too broad and the older kids are taking away from the experience of the true toddlers. 

I have started trying to gently suggest the older kids (who don't have younger siblings) move to the preschool storytime by changing the stated age range for toddler time from 1-3 years to 12-36 months and reminding the group that we have a preschool storytime for ages 3-5 and that it is usually a smaller group and less chaotic, but so far, no one has moved up. I'm not sure if it is a scheduling thing, they just like the toddler storytime better (more songs and movement, and less books than preschool), habit, or what. This is the conundrum I will be trying to figure out how to manage over the next few months.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Art Storytime - Preschool

Art Storytime

As with the previous toddler storytime, this preschool storytime took place during the third week of summer reading, which had an "Exploring the Arts" theme as part of the overall "Adventure Begins at Your Library" summer theme, so our books and one of our songs were about art, and the activities afterward were arts-related.

We started with a "Hello" song, introductions, and expectations, then proceeded with our warm-up song for the month, "Hello, Everybody". Then I introduced the topic of exploring the arts, and asked the kids to name different types of art. They immediately came up with painting, drawing, and coloring, and with a little prompting added music and dancing, and I added sculpture. One of the kids also mentioned jewelry-making. 

After our lead-in song, I read our first book, simply titled "Art", by Patrick McDonnell. There is a little word-play involved, as it is about art, but the boy's name is also Art. 

Though I wish the book were a little bigger and had bright, bold colors rather than muted ones, I liked that it was short and simple, had motions to mimic, colors to identify, and showed various types of art - zig-zag lines, wavy lines, dots, splotches, blotches, splatters, black & white doodles, and full-color drawings.

I followed this with an action-song about painting to the tune of "This is the Way We..." (aka "Do You Know the Muffin Man"):

This Is the Way We Paint

This is the way we stir the paint, stir the paint, stir the paint.
This is the way we stir the paint, when we are painting.

This is the way we dip the brush, dip the brush, dip the brush.
This is the way we dip the brush, when we are painting.

This is the way we paint on the canvas, paint on the canvas, paint on the canvas.
This is the way we paint on the canvas, when we are painting.

This is the way we blow it dry, blow it dry, blow it dry.
This is the way we blow it dry, when we are painting.

This the way we hang it up, hang it up, hang it up.
This is the way we hang it up, when we finish painting!

For the second book I chose Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortensen and Bob Sayegh, Jr. I chose this book not only because it has a cute story with colorful illustrations and a child of color, but primarily because I love the way it addresses creativity, making mistakes, perfectionism, and frustration.

Arlo is trying to draw an octopus, but in the end becomes frustrated because he doesn't think his drawing is good enough, and doesn't really look like an octopus. He initially tries to push through, and reminds himself that it's okay not to be good at something, because no one is good at everything, and recalls some of the things his friends & family are not good at. But he ends up crumpling his drawing up and throwing it in the floor. But, in a twist ending, he discovers that an actual octopus thinks it looks just like his aunt!

This story was a little long for this group, and I was started to lose some of the kids by then end, so I decided to scrap the song I had planned, and do something more engaging instead. In the story, Arlo thinks his attempt at drawing all the suckers on the octopus's tentacles looks more like a bunch of bubbles, so I decided to do bubbles instead.

Then I ended with a "Goodbye" song, prefacing it with saying we did have activities afterward, but we would go ahead and sing our goodbye song now, in case we didn't get to say goodbye to all of our friends later.


Just as I did for the toddler storytime earlier that week, I had a variety of different artistic activities for them today to "explore the arts":
  1. Sculpture - I provided multiple cans of Play-Doh, rolling pins, cookie cutters, rotary cutters, and plastic knives.

  2. Painting - The kids are always excited about using paint, and this time I jazzed it up by giving them a few unusual items in addition to thick and fine paintbrushes - textured paint "brushes", textured scrapers, sponges, cotton balls, bubble wrap, and fluffy bath scrubbers made of wadded plastic mesh, along with red, blue, and yellow paints. When they asked for other colors, I reminded them they could mix the primary colors to make new colors.

  3. Music - I provided a variety of musical instruments: maracas, bells, cymbals, triangle, tambourines, wooden sounder, and toy microphones.

  4. Drawing - I put crayons and paper out on one table, but I don't think any of the kids actually chose to do this activity, finding the often forbidden-at-home paint, play-dough, and musical instruments much more exciting.
How It Went 

I would have preferred to have had one of the books be about some type of art other than drawing/painting, but I couldn't really find anything suitable in our collection about sculpture, dance, or other types of art. I did find one board book about musical instruments, and in hindsight I wish I had used it instead of Art. I had originally thought I might be able to sneak it in as a third book, but since Arlo was on the longer side a third book just wasn't going to work.

The kids really enjoyed the play-dough, painting, and musical instruments since unfortunately most parents don't allow those activities at home. My assistant did not particularly enjoy the musical instruments, but sometimes you just have to let kids do the noisy, messy things. Especially when they are not only very developmentally appropriate, but also bring such joy, and they get so limited opportunities to do them elsewhere. This was a much smaller group than for toddler storytime, so it was not as noisy at chaotic.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Exploring the Arts - Toddler Storytime

Art storytime, exploring the arts with toddlers

This was our second week of summer reading, which had the overall CSLP theme of "Adventure Begins at Your Library". I usually pick loose weekly themes after I've booked performer/presenters based on their shows; this week I booked an interactive steel drum performance so used "Exploring the Arts" as the theme for the week. This was a very fun, busy, and noisy storytime!

My toddler storytimes incorporate a lot of repetition and movement, with generally only one book, followed by activities that are usually open-ended, exploratory, and play-based. We started with our "Hello" song, followed by this month's warm-up song:

Hello, Everybody
(from Jbrary)

Hello, everybody, can you touch your nose?
Touch your nose, touch your nose?
Hello, everybody, can you touch your nose?
Touch - Your - Nose

(I do 4-5 verses with various body parts/actions)

Next we did two movement songs with props. This month, we are using shaker eggs and I chose two recorded songs, "I Can Shake My Shaker Egg" by Eric Litwin & Michael Levine and "I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner:

Then I tried to get them settled down with several verses of our lead-in song:

If You're Ready for a Story

If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, if you're ready for a story,
If you're ready for a story stomp your feet.

(turn around, clap hands, take a seat, say "shh"...)

Since we already incorporate so much music into storytime, I chose a book reflecting a visual art form, Beautiful Hands by Bret Baumgarten and Kathryn Otoshi. 

This book has beautiful, creative illustrations that use handprints and fingerprints to create images of flowers, trees, butterflies, a dragon, and more. I immediately fell in love with the idea of using handprint art for one of our activities, but as I read the book in storytime I realized the text really didn't flow that well or tie in to the pictures well enough. 
Sometimes I do an additional song or rhyme after the book, but I had a large group and I was losing them, so I went straight to counting with bubbles, which is how I end every toddler storytime.
Ten Little Bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles,
Four little, five little, six little bubbles,
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go POP!

(blow bubbles during second verse using a bubble gun)

Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
All the little bubbles go POP!

(repeat second verse as many times as needed)

Ten little, nine little, eight little bubbles,
Seven little, six little, five little bubbles,
Four little, three little, two little bubbles,
One little bubble goes POP!

Then we sang a "Goodbye" song, which I prefaced by telling then that we did have activities afterward, but we would go ahead and sing our goodbye song in case we didn't get to say goodbye to all of our friends later.


I set up four different "stations" with simple, age-appropriate activities to explore various types of art:
  1. Handprint Collage - Inspired by our book, but I used large stamp pads with washable ink instead of paint because it is easier, less messy, and dries much faster. Also provided markers for adding details.

  2. Dot Painting - While perhaps not as creative as others, young kids really love this and it gives them practice with their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, and they can play with color. While I do give them printed templates with the circles to fill, they always have the option of turning it over and doing their own thing on the back.
  3. Play-Dough Sculpture - Provided several different colors of play-doh, cookie cutters, rotary cutters, plastic knives, and rolling pins and just let them do their own thing! Parents love when we do this at the library, because so many don't do it at home (unfortunately). I emphasize that rolling, squishing, and cutting dough is such great exercise for little hands and fingers, building strength and motor skills.

  4. Musical Instruments - I could not come up with anything I liked for the sensory bin, so I decided to just put all the instruments in it. After all, they are definitely sensory! I felt a little bad about it, because I knew my assistant and some of the adults (and some kids) would have a hard time with the noise, but I felt I just had to this time and knew most of the kids would love them.

     [Btw, a set of musical instruments is a great passive-aggressive gift to give to a child whose parents have annoyed you, but also very developmentally appropriate! A couple of my nieces/nephews may have received such a gift in the past 🤣]
How It Went

I had a large group (for this library) of at least 22 children and 18 or so adults (it's so hard to get an accurate count because of people coming and going due to arriving late, needing to step out early with a fussy/wiggly child, or not staying for the activities afterward), and it was a very busy, noisy, but fun storytime.

The book I chose was great for inspiring an activity, but not so great for a group read-aloud, and I lost all but the oldest kids' attention, but of course quickly re-gained it when I brought out the bubbles! A few families opted not to stay for the activities, or not very long, due to being overwhelmed by the noise and number of people, and that's okay. Usually, after they have been coming regularly and get to know people, they get used to it, plus it's usually not as noisy as it was today 😉. For example, the child in the photo above gleefully banging the cymbals with a huge grin of pure joy on their face used to be very quiet and shy, and would leave right after storytime instead of staying for the activities. Now, they stay afterward and dive right in!

Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian


a day as a children's librarian
We are now in the thick of summer reading, when kids and family programming doubles and we have increased foot traffic. It is very busy and exhausting, but luckily only for two months; I'd never be able to sustain this amount of programming year-round without additional programming staff.

This was a day when we had a performer coming in, which you would think would give me a break, but though I don't have to plan a program I still spend a lot of time and energy on set-up and take-down of the meeting room and interacting with people. In addition, I had not one, but two, meetings. Although every day is different, I'd say this was a fairly typical day during summer reading. So here's how it went:

    • 9:00a-9:15a - Arrive to work, clock-in, check e-mail, check schedules.
    • 9:15a-10:00a - Lower thermostats in meeting rooms, clear out all the tables and set up chairs. Make a few adjustments after performer arrives at their request. (Fortunately, a co-worker who arrived earlier had already started this for me and another arrived to help when she had to return to the desk; without help this would have taken much longer.)
    • 10:00a-10:15a - Check both service desks and info table to see if they are sufficiently stocked with summer reading brochures and reading challenge sheets; get clicker-counter and performer's check from office, refill water.
    • 10:15a-10:30a - Return to meeting room, give performer check, and open doors for audience to enter and be seated, count attendees.
    • 10:30a-11:15a - Make opening announcements, then stay in room for show to monitor.
    • 11:15a-12:00p - Rush to meeting with reps from science center (who were 45 minutes early!) about traveling exhibit we are to host in the fall.
    • 12:00p-1:00p - Looked over books assistant had pulled for me for consideration for next week's storytime, covered children's service desk, re-filled displays and summer reading info, asked another staff member to put tables back in meeting rooms and return to normal arrangement, checked e-mail, recorded program attendance stats, assisted patrons.
    • 1:00p-2:00p - Lunch
    • 2:00p-3:00p - Checked in with staff member who was just beginning shift at children's desk, discussed scheduling off-desk time for them to participate in webinar the following day, various administrative tasks, prepared for upcoming meeting, prepared books to be dropped off at daycare next day.
    • 3:00p-4:00p - Management team meeting, discussed changes in purchasing, program planning, and marketing, upcoming performance reviews, and departmental updates.
    • 4:00p-5:00p - Reviewed plans & preparations for next morning's elementary program and re-arranged tables & chairs in program room to be ready, put away materials left from previous programs, general tidying. Pulled a few more books for displays, checked in with various staff, checked-email, checked library's social media.
    • 5:00p - Clock out & go home.
That's most of it, anyway. I am sure there are things I have forgotten, as well as multiple quick conversations with co-workers and patrons while passing through, trips to the printer, short breaks for the restroom, water, or a snack, etc. It's all kind of a blur by the end of the day.

This was one of those days where I am busy non-stop, going from one thing to the next with very little downtime in between. I enjoy those days because they go by quickly, I'm too busy to get tired, and I'm usually interacting with a lot of people, but I am glad that every day is not like that or I would never have time for planning, collection work, and professional development. Plus, being a true introvert, I need some down-time with less interaction to recharge. 

I enjoy the busy-ness of summer reading, though I wish I was not the sole person responsible for planning ALL kids and family programs. Maybe by next summer one of our new youth services staff will be ready and willing to taking on some programming themselves. I'd still be there to help and guide, but it would be nice to have someone else be able to take lead on a few things and genuinely participate in overall planning. I find the *planning* of summer reading to be incredibly stressful! By the time it's actually here, it's a relief and just busy rather than overly stressful.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Cinco de Mayo - Family Storytime

Cinco de Mayo storytime, Latino Book Month storytime

I take a break from storytimes in May to clean, organize, and get ready for summer, so I try to make the last one a little special. Last year I did a Kentucky Derby theme, complete with hats and horses, and wanted to do something different this year. I decided to go with a Cinco de Mayo theme to celebrate Mexican-American culture and Latino books month. While I've done this theme before as a virtual program at a previous library, this was this first time I've done it as an in-person program.

I started out by greeting everyone and reminding them this would be the last storytime until the first week of June, and briefly explaining today's storytime was inspired by a special day coming up that some people celebrate called Cinco de Mayo. Then we sang our "Hello" song, followed by our warm-up song for the month, "The Wheels On the Bus".

Next I used a non-fiction book, Cinco de Mayo, by Sharon Katz Cooper to help explain what the Cinco de Mayo holiday is and how it is celebrated. I really would rather have had a book written by someone of Mexican heritage, but I wasn't able to find one (hello, series non-fiction about getting some own-voices authors???). I didn't read from the book, but showed pictures in the book as I explained that "cinco de Mayo" means "5th of May" and that while many people mistakenly believe the holiday celebrates Mexican independence, it actually celebrates a victorious battle against the French in the town of Puebla, Mexico on that date in 1862.

I further explained that in Mexico, it is a minor holiday focused on that battle, but in the United States it has become a much larger celebration of Mexican and Mexican-American heritage and culture, featuring parades and festivals with dancing, music, art, and lots of yummy foods. Since I had planned a piñata craft, but the book didn't show one, I printed out a picture of a traditional one to show them. I told them that in that vein, our stories and activities would be inspired by aspects of Mexican culture and feature Latin authors.

Our first story wasn't necessarily related to Cinco de Mayo or celebrations, but featured something uniquely Mexican, the dramatic performance wrestling knows as the lucha libre! In Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez, the main character loves playing superhero, but becomes upset when the boys say that girls can't be superheroes. Her abuela comes to the rescue with a story about the luchadores of lucha libre and a shiny, silvery cape and mask.

This is a fun read aloud with lots of action, that also provides an important message that girls can also be superheroes, luchadoras, or whatever they want, and they don't have to just be "sugar and spice, and everything nice" all the time. It also shows that you don't have to hide your skills and accomplishments, and that by "removing your mask" you can help inspire and encourage others.

After that we practiced counting in Spanish, and learned the Spanish words for "friend" and "I have" with a simple counting song:

Tengo Diez Amigos
("I Have 10 Friends")

Uno, dos, tres amigos;
(One, two, three friends)

Cuatro, cinco, seis amigos;
(Four, five , six friends)

Siete, ocho, nueve amigos:
(Seven, eight, nine friends)

Tengo diez amigos!
(I have ten friends!)

For our second story I selected Paletero Man! by Lucky Diaz and Micha Player, which is based on the author's song of the same name. Diaz is not only an author, but also a popular Latin Grammy-winning "kindie" musician from the Los Angeles area. This was also a really fun read aloud, with a nice rhythm, repeating elements, and a sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases throughout, which I translated as I read. The story is about a boy who thinks an icy cold paleta (Mexican ice pop) would be the perfect treat on a hot day in Los Angeles.

As he races through the barrio looking for the vendor, Paletero José, he greets several of his neighbors and friends. However, after finally finding the paletero man and ordering his favorite flavor, piña (pineapple), the boy discovers he has lost his money. However, all ends well as the neighbors he passed on his way picked up his dropped money and have brought it to him. Paletero 
José is so touched by their kindness, he declares free paletas for all!  (See trailer below):

After that it was time for our craft, and a special treat - paletas!


We made simple piñatas out of paper bags and crepe streamers. Though it would be more traditional to completely cover the piñata with fringed crepe paper, I knew that would require more time and patience than my group typically has, so I made an example that just had 3-4 rows of fringed paper around the bottom of the bag, and used markers to decorate the top. I showed them the quickest way to fringe the streamers was to cut or tear a piece of the roll, fold it half several times, and then cut about 2/3 across through several layers. On the back side of my example, I showed an even faster and easier method of decorating by just attaching long strips hanging down.

Paper bag piñatas

I gave them the bags, several different colors of crepe streamers, markers, glue, tape, and scissors and let them get to work. Once they were finished, I instructed them to put their bags on a side table, opened, to dry. While the bags were drying, they got to have a special treat and try paletas! I had assorted flavors: mango, lime, coconut, strawberry, and strawberries & cream. I also gave them paper plates to catch drips and have a place to set them down if needed. Most kids chose by color rather than flavor, and almost all seemed happy with their choices; however, one child was not happy with her lime paleta at all and gave it to her dad and chose a less adventurous strawberries & cream one instead.

While they were enjoying their paletas, I filled their piñatas with goodies (fruit gummies, alphabet cookies, slap bracelets, bubbles, squishies, and plastic animals) and closed them up. I instructed them to take the piñatas home and let them dry thoroughly, and break them open later (when their grownups said it was ok) for a special surprise!

How It Went 
This was a super fun storytime for all of us, so much better in person as opposed to the previous virtual version I did a few years ago! I really had fun with the stories and getting to use a little Spanish, which I studied in high school and college, but have mostly forgotten due to not having opportunities to use it early on. I was pleasantly surprised that most, maybe all, of the kids already knew how to count to ten in Spanish, and knew that "amigo" meant friends.

They also surprised me by how well they listened, considering both stories were on the longer side. However, they each were great read-alouds and very relatable. What kid hasn't played superheroes, or enjoyed a refreshing popsicle on a hot day? They really enjoyed getting creative with their piñatas and getting to try the paletas. I envied them, as it was very warm in the program room and I would have loved a cold treat, but alas, I am diabetic and could not indulge.

There was one really funny moment during the reading of Lucía the Luchadora. When I read the the part where the boys tell her that girls can't be superheroes, the little girl that happened to be sitting directly in front of me made a face of pure outrage and disgust that was so dramatic it made me crack up. Such a strong reaction!

For a bonus feature, I found a video of the author of The Paletero Man and his daughter making homemade paletas: 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Messy Storytime - Preschool


Messy Storytime

Finally, a new storytime theme that I haven't done before! 

I'd been thinking about trying the paper marbling activity using shaving cream for a while, and after doing it for a group of developmentally disabled adults and seeing how easy it was, I decided to incorporate it as part of a "messy" storytime for kids.

We started with our usual "hello" song, followed by this month's warm-up song "The Wheels On the Bus". Then I introduced the topic of messy play and messy art, and lead into our first book with "Are You Ready for a Story?".

I started off with a new-ish book, Oops! by Julie Massy and Pascal Bonenfant. This is a great interactive book that encourages the audience to explore cause and effect, often with funny, unexpected, and/or messy results. 

It's perfect for storytime because it is interactive, has repetition, and is not too text heavy, something that is seemingly harder and harder to find in picture books these days. This is not only a chance to have some silly fun, but also an opportunity to talk about accidents and how everyone makes mistakes.

We followed that with two messy songs, "Icky Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum" by David Landau:

"Icky Sticky Bubble Gum"

Icky, sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum, 
Bubble gum, bubble gum.
Icky, sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum
Makes my hands stick to my _____.

And I pull, and pull, and *puuulllll* them away!

And Laurie Berkner's "I'm a Mess":

"I'm a Mess"

I'm a mess, I'm a mess 
I'm a big old messy mess 
From the north to the south 
And the east to the west 
What I am is a really really, really big mess!

I try to get dressed but I make a mess 
I jump in the puddles and can you guess 
 make mud pies when the mud is fresh 
And then UH OH I've made a big mess 

I'm a mess, I'm a mess . . . 

Now eating messy food. You know it's the best 
'Cause no matter what I do I make a big mess 
Get dinner on my jacket; Breakfast on my vest 
Lunch in my socks, UH OH what a mess!

I'm a mess . . .

For our second book, I choose the classic I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow. This is a really fun and funny book about a naughty child who just can't stay out of the paint. They are caught painting all over the walls, ceiling, and floors by their caregiver, who hides the paint in the closet and tells the child "Ya ain't gonna paint no more!", and sends them to take a bath. However, the mischievous child just can't help themself, and gets the paints out and begins painting all over....themself!

The book has a great rhythm for reading aloud (and can be sung as well), using a rhyming scheme to help the audience guess what is being painted next, ending with "I'm such a nut, I'm gonna paint my ____!" This is a really fun book, though I have to confess the improper grammar bothers me, from years of being drilled that "ain't" isn't a word in grade school.

Then we went straight to our messy activity!

Activity - Paper Marbling

Shaving cream paper marbling, messy storytime

I filled the sensory bin with shaving cream (not really full, but a nice thick layer) and squirted drips of washable tempera paint all over the top, then used my fingers to swirl the colors. Next, the kids, with their caregivers' help, pressed a piece of paper down onto the shaving cream, rubbing it to be sure it made contact. [You can also give each participant their own individual tray or foil pan to spray shaving cream on.]

Next, the carefully lifted the paper up and placed it on a tray, then used a squeegee to scrape most of the shaving cream off and followed with a paper towel to get the remaining residue. Then let dry.

While the papers were drying, I invited the kids to play in the remaining shaving cream in the tub, which I thought they would be all over. However, some of the kids didn't want anything to do with it, a couple of others finally at least tried it, and only one child really got into playing in it, eventually blending all the colors into a peachy-beige. One little boy kept going back and forth, dipping his hand in the shaving cream, then going to the bathroom to wash it off, and

The marbled papers really turned out well, and I was surprised at how easy it was and how well it worked.