Friday, May 18, 2018

Seeing Things From The Other Side

So this month I started a new adventure that will give me a whole new perspective on public librarianship. Drum roll please.....

I am honored to be a newly-appointed member of my local public library's Board of Trustees!

So how did this come about? It's certainly not anything I had ever planned or even thought about doing. But one day I just happened to see a notice in the local paper that they had two openings to finish unexpired terms on the library board. I thought they might have trouble filling two spots, and maybe they'd like to have someone who had knowledge of library operations and ethics who had also been a long-time resident and library user. And for once, my age would not be a detriment as it is in job-hunting (everyone thinks children's librarians must be young, bubbly, and perky); compared to the typical board member I am on the younger side.

I wondered if it would be strange to have the employee of another library on the board, but when I posted the question to a librarian Facebook group, there was a surprising number of librarians who have served on other library boards, and all of them said it was a good experience. So I figured what the heck, it wasn't a huge commitment and could be a really good experience. So I sent in a letter of interest, interviewed with the board, and evidently they liked what I had to say, because this week I was sworn in and attended my first board meeting.

The oath I had to swear was a bit humorous. Not only did I have to swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and the by-laws of the library district, I also had to swear I had never participated in a duel and that I would not participate in any duels during my term of service 😂. Obviously duels were a big problem here at one point in history, and the oath has never been revised. 

The first board meeting I attended was short and sweet, with no major issues to discuss or decide. I admit I felt slightly out of place, with a bit of imposter syndrome triggered by receiving a very disappointing (and unnecessarily harsh) job rejection the day before that left my confidence quite shaken, but I began to feel more at easy by the end. 

I think this will be a really good experience, and being able to see things from the administrative side will help me better understand things that go on in the system where I'm employed and make me a better librarian in the future, as well as giving me the opportunity to serve my own community.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Preschool Storytime - Rabbits

This storytime actually came from a plan I prepared for an assignment. The original plan called for Everybunny Dance! by Ellie Sandall, which is what I did for the interview, but since I had already done that book and Candace Fleming's Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! with this group recently, I used the alternate books from the plan I had prepared.

We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic with a non-fiction book, Rabbits, Rabbits & More Rabbits by Gail Gibbons to give them a few interesting facts about rabbits, and the difference between rabbits and hares. Then we moved on to our story song, with added bunny-themed verses.

For our first story I chose The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo by Jonathan Allen. This is a cute story of a little bunny who likes to try making the sounds of other animals, and the other baby farm animals all join in. Eventually, they all decide that while it is fun making other sounds, the like their own sounds best, except for the rabbit who surprises the audience in a twist ending. 

Kids love making the animal sounds, which helps with phonological awareness, and they can identify the animals. Short, simple text and very cute illustrations.

I followed that with a cute flannel board and rhyme. I used the "Shapes" tool in publisher to make a simple bunny pattern with ovals for the ears and circles for the head, body, and tail, then drew on mouth and whiskers and added googly eyes.

Five Little Bunnies

Five little bunnies playing on the floor;
One hopped away, and then there were four.

Four little bunnies hiding behind a tree;
One climbed up, and then there were three.

Three little bunnies wondered what to do;
One went to sleep, and then there were two.

Two little bunnies looking for some fun;
One jumped down a hole, and then there was one.

One little bunny, alone in the sun;
He hopped home to his burrow, and then there was none.

After the first time, I had the kids put the hand they used down, and use their other hand in order to be sure their non-dominant hand got some fine-motor exercise, too.

Our last story is one of my boss's favorites, Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krause Rosenthal andTom Lichtenheld. This is an exercise in perspective and point of view as we have an image that can be seen as a duck or a rabbit.

Two unseen voices argue back and forth, each presenting different observations to support their opinion. In the end, they start to see each other's point of view. Then, look, there's an anteater! Or is it a dinosaur??

While reading the story, the kids will also argue back and forth about whether it's a duck or a rabbit. Afterward, we tried  to take a vote and graph it, but it didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. Three-year olds just can't really grasp the concept of voting, or making a choice and sticking to it. 

I tried a show of hands, I tried getting them to line up on different sides of the room, bu
t they would keep changing their minds. It was like an episode of Keystone Cops, LOL! We finally got them to stay on one side or the other, and I showed them how to do a simple bar graph of the results to work on pre-math skills.

After that, we sang our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
Overall it went okay, though slightly downhill at the end. They really liked the first book and the rhyme. They didn't quite seem to get Duck! Rabbit!, although I did hear some arguing about whether it was a duck or a rabbit, and voting and graphing were just too much for them to grasp. While I really like the idea of adding math literacy to storytime, I think I will have to stick to sorting and grouping activities and shapes with the younger ones.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Non-Fiction Picture Book Review - Secrets of the Sea

Review of Secrets of the Sea, sea life, ocean creatures, plankton
Secrets of the Sea, October 3, 2017
written by Kate Baker
illustrated by Eleanor Taylor
Big Picture Press
96 pages, ages 8-12

I'm a little late on this one, as we did not get it in our library until February, and though it caught my eye immediately, I have not had a chance to sit down and write a review until now.

This is a large, beautiful coffee-table type book about sea life, that immediately brought to mind the previous year's Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohman. However, while both books cover things not often seen, this books focus on the small things, from microscopic plankton to tiny details or larval forms of larger creatures, brought to life with Eleanor Taylor's gorgeous mixed-media illustrations revealing minute details we would never be able to see in real life.

(click on any image to view full-size)

The book is organized by the zones of the ocean, starting with the shallows. There we see some familiar creatures, such as crabs, lobster, and sea stars along with some unfamiliar ones like the tiny daphnia, or water flea.

daphnae, daphnia, water flea

From there we head into the kelp forest that shelters many kinds of fish, as well as being home to sea urchins, nudibranch, and microscopic cyanobacteria and diatoms. Then the coral reef, where we find coral polyps, the pygmy seahorse, various zooplankton, giant clams, and more. After that, we head to the open sea, where we find the toxic Man-of-War and Blue Dragon, as well as the harmless moon jelly and "sea butterfly" snail pictured on the cover. Finally, we reach the deepest part of the ocean with it's most unusual and seldom seen creatures like the giant tube worms, bioluminescent jellies, squid, and octopus.


The full-page, full-color illustrations are accompanied by text that includes both the scientific and common names, size, and a description with interesting facts and significant characteristics. At the end of the book is a bibliography that includes print materials as well as several websites.


This book is intended for an older audience that Giant Squid, but I think younger kids would still enjoy looking at the pictures and having an adult tell them a little bit about them, though not the entire text. As a former microbiologist I really appreciate the inclusion of all the various microscopic plankton, larvae, and single-celled organisms, showing their intricate patterns and geometric shapes.

A really beautiful book that I encourage you to check out! (And if you haven't seen Giant Squid yet, be sure to check it out, too!)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Good-Bye, Storytime Bus

It was with mixed feelings that I said "Good-Bye" to the Storytime Bus, my mobile storytime room for the last 3 years, earlier this month.

The Storytime-To-Go program was started just over 5 years ago as the culmination of a dream by our now-retired Youth Services Manager, in conjunction with Outreach Services. An RV that had been previously used by a business as a mobile classroom was donated and renovated to be a mobile storytime room. It had cabinets to store scarves, bells, shaker eggs, and many other manipulatives, an easel with flannel/white board, and a rotating selection of themed storytime kits that contained a variety of books, songs, activities, and felt sets. This is what it looked like in the beginning:

It was dubbed the "Storytime Bus" and would go to various daycares and preschools in the area to bring the storytime experience to kids who might not otherwise get the experience of a library storytime. I joined the program about 2 years in, after it become apparent it would not be sustainable as a strictly volunteer-driven program. Kids would come on the bus in groups of 12 and have storytime. Some were hesitant at first, afraid we were going to take them somewhere, others were disappointed that we didn't, but they all quickly fell in love with the storytime bus, and our driver, Mr. Barry, who gave them stickers at the end.

Unfortunately, the first exterior design for the Storytime Bus made it look too similar to the city transit buses, which not only had the same color scheme, but also had the library logo on many of them as part of a huge re-branding campaign. So people were constantly mistaking us for a city bus and trying to flag us down or board if we were stopped. So we requested a new design that would (1) use a completely different color scheme, (2) be much more whimsical and child-like, and (3) not look anything like a city bus! And our graphics designer did a fabulous job (the other side has a castle, and is pictured further down):

storytime bus, storytime-to-go, mobile storytime room, storytime RV, bookmobile

No more being mistaken for a city bus, plus it got a lot of attention as we would drive around town. But, being 13 years old by this point, we started having more and more problems with things breaking down, in addition to the expense of the normal upkeep and secure storage facility where it was parked. And since there was now only one place in the city that would work on it, and parts were getting harder to find, that meant any time it went down, we would be without it for anywhere from one to three weeks! So, when our driver, "Mr. Barry" finally decided it was time to retire this spring, the decision was made to also retire the now 15-year old bus, which I think was the right decision. Here is the bus and her driver after our very last run:

But, though it's a bit sad to see the bus and her driver both retire, the program itself WILL continue! It will just mean I will be going into the classrooms to do storytime, rather than the kids coming to me on the bus. It won't be quite as cool or exciting to the kids, and it means I will be driving all around and lugging material in and out, but the upside is that the teachers will no longer have to worry about the group size (safety & space limitations), which was a hardship for some of them. Now I can go in and just do a whole class together, possibly even combining smaller classes, which will be more efficient and make room in the schedule to add more centers to the roster.

It has been a more difficult transition than I expected, with several places not understanding the program was continuing (even though it was emphasized time and time again, in person and in writing), and being surprised and unprepared when I showed up in their classrooms as scheduled, but hopeful it will all smooth out soon enough!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Preschool Storytime - Cats

This has been a rough month, with so many assignments do with school, significant changes at work (I'll probably post about this at some point, but not now), taxes due, and family stuff, so I've had no time to read and little time for writing, so the posts are a bit thin this month.

A couple of weeks ago I finished up a two-week storytime rotation with the theme of "Cats" on the Storytime Bus. We started each session with our story song and Letter-of-the-Day (Cc), then read 2-3 books and did 1-2 other songs/activities with each group. These storytimes are not planned out; but done "on the fly" as we constantly have to adjust to the time we have (groups are often late), children's ages, personalities, and mood on any given day.

The Books 

(click on image to see larger)

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming, short & simple, good for younger kids
Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett, what does Matilda's cat like to do??
Kitty's Cuddles by Jane Cabrera, short & simple, bold, simple illustrations, for younger
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas, not my favorite of hers, but still OK
Come Out and Play, Little Mouse by Robert Kraus, José Aruego, & Ariane Dewey, days of the week
Cats by Matthew Van Fleet & Brian Stanton, all different kinds of cats
Widget by Lyn Rossiter Mcfarland & Jim McFarland, dog acts like cat to be accepted 
Mean Murgatroyd and the Ten Cats by Nathan Zimelman & Tony Auth, bully learns lesson
There Are No Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz, silly
Time To Sleep by Kandi Radzinski, little cat tries to find a good place to sleep

And I had already returned this book as it was from the circulating collection rather than our office storytime collection, but you could not possible do a "Cat" storytime without the currently VERY popular Pete the Cat! 
While I think the original books with Eric Litwin are superior, I did opt to use a later one with James Dean and his wife instead, because I like the dance at the end:
Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie by Kim and James Dean.

We did not have a good assortment of songs and other activities for this one, so we stuck to the same two for everyone.

If You're A Cat And You Know It...

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

If your a cat and you know it,
and you really want to show it.

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

.... lick your paws (warn them to just pretend).......drink your milk....... sharpen your claws....
....(give a purr)......... swish your tail........give a hiss....

Soft Kitty

Soft kitty, warm kitty,
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty,
purr, purr, purr.

And here's my favorite version of it from The Big Bang Theory, as Penny forces Sheldon to sing it with her as a round:

How It Went
This kit was put together before I took over the position, and I hadn't used it before now because I felt it was too specific of a topic. But this year I decided to force myself to try the last few kits at least once before I decided what to do with them.

I gotta say, this was not my favorite, even though I love cats. I thought the books were okay, but rather ho-hum and not extremely engaging. I liked Widget the best, but it's really more about the dog than the cats, and some of the others were cute, but slightly dull. The kids seemed okay with them though. Of course Pete was the most popular, with Fat Cat being next. 

This kit definitely needs more development, with more engaging stories and activities.