Monday, June 20, 2022

SRP Week 2 - Mermaids & Monsters


As I explained previously, though I didn't really plan on doing weekly themes, it just kind of ended up that way, and for week 2 I focused on mythical sea creatures. And that of course mean mermaids and sea monsters (but NOT narwhals; narwhals are real).

Toddler Time 

This has turned out to be a total misnomer, as what I had envisioned as a toddler storytime has quickly morphed into an all-ages family storytime. Which is rather ironic, because the reason I planned it as a toddler-specific storytime is that I was mostly getting toddlers for my family storytime during the winter and spring, LOL! Also, it would give me an excuse to do very simple crafts with little prep or sensory activities instead.

I am still keeping it geared for toddlers, though, with shorter books, egg shakers, scarves, and bubbles, and I employ the big kids as examples of good listening and turn-taking so the the littles can learn. I started off with a hello song, a "Creatures of the Sea" song to the tune of "The Wheels On the Bus" to warm up, and a lead in song.

I first read Three Little Mermaids by Mara Van Fleet, a great little counting book with lovely illustrations, pull-tab movement, and a little sparkle. This was perfect for the younger kids but it's an older book and out-of-print with no reasonably priced used copies available, so if you don't already have it, you're probably out of luck. Afterward, we did an egg shaker song, and the "Popcorn" scarf song (a clear favorite with all my regulars), then read a second book, I am a Sea Monster by Andiene Lopresti and Jim Lopresti. 

Mermaids and sea monsters storytime, mythical sea creature storytime

The really neat thing about this book is that is was written by a child! Andiene came up with the character and the initial story, and her father helped her hone the story, illustrated it based on her initial picture of the character she came up with (which is included at the end), and helped her self-publish it. It is a cute story about a sea monster looking for his friends, with a message that playing outside with friends is better than screen time alone. I really liked the short, simple text and charming illustrations. 

Afterward we did bubbles with a counting song, reminding the big kids to let the toddlers get to the bubbles first and watch out for them. Then we closed with a good-bye song, and those that chose to stayed for dot painting mermaids and sea monsters.


Unlike Toddler Time, I do end up getting mostly the intended age group for this one. I didn't do a typical storytime, just went straight into reading two stories, Oona by Kelly DiPucchio and Raissa Figueroa, and Monsters In the Briny by Lynn Becker and Scott Brundage. Oona is about an adventurous mermaid who likes exploring, and finds a crown. This book would go great with the mermaid crown craft I had planned for the elementary group. I had already planned a different craft for this group before I selected to read Oona.

Mermaid and sea monster storytime, mythical sea creature storytime

Monsters In the Briny is a clever book meant to be sung rather than read, based on the old sea shanty "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor", but with child-appropriate lyrics about legendary sea monsters, such as "What do you do with a grumpy Kracken..." It is super cute and I thought it would be a lot of fun. I really liked the rhythm and word play, with rhyme and alliteration. I really thought they would get into it, and I encouraged audience participation by asking them to tap or clap along to the rhythm, and join in with the "Yo! Ho!"s of the chorus, but I got nothing but crickets. It was so awkward and hard to finish like that. Very disappointing. I probably shouldn't have skipped the typical storytime beginning routine to help warm them up.

Monsters in the Briny

Then we moved on to the craft, which got a better reception. I saw this cool paper collage on Pinterest, using torn patterned paper in blues to make waves, and circles of patterned green papers to make a mermaid's tail. So I printed out a lot of patterned paper in blues, greens, purples, and rainbow (yes, probably used a lot of ink, but that comes out of the office supply budget, not mine 😉). I gave them a sheet of light blue construction paper to glue them on, a choice of glue sticks and liquid glue, and scissors to cut out a tail fin. I told them it since we could only see the tail, it could be whatever they wanted it to be, a mermaid, a merman, a giant fish, or a sea serpent. They seemed to enjoy this, and at least the parents mostly let them tear the paper themselves.

Mermaid craft for kids

Elementary Explorers

I started out by once again asking the kids if they had been reading a good book they wanted to share about, and several did, followed by me booktalking a few books related to mermaids and sea monsters, including the original Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler as well as the new transitional chapter book adaptation for younger readers, The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn with both sea monsters (#3) and mermaids (#8), and a great juvenile graphic novel adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (I'm also partial to the "Great Illustrated Classics" and similar adaptations of the classics, though I know that's somewhat controversial.) by Carl Bowen.

Mermaid and sea monster books for middle grade

Then we talked a little about mythical sea creatures and the real creatures that might have inspired them, and I presented the three crafts I had for them. I told them they could do one or all three, whatever they chose. The first was a merperson crown (insert collective groan from the boys), which I quickly pointed out was not just for mermaids or princesses, but that the king of merpeople, Triton, also wore a crown. For this, I provided pipe cleaners in silver, gold, and white iridescent, pearl pony beads, and cowrie shell beads. The second was using pipe cleaners to make a trident, also needed by any ocean ruler, and the third was making a paper chain sea serpent. 

Mermaid crowns, pipe-cleaner crowns

Despite the initial groans, I noticed that while the boys typically started off making a trident first, most of them did end up making a crown as well. Some of them got really creative, one making a mini "travel trident" and another making a tri-trident, or triple trident, with three heads. I told them they could make their sea serpents as long or short as they wanted, and a couple of kids made their really long! They seemed to really enjoy the crafts, and one of the moms made a truly beautiful crown (after all the kids were about done and it was obvious we had plenty of supplies left; she also helped clean up!)

Paper chain sea serpent

Family Program

This week we did not have a guest performer, so we had a Family Movie Day, and showed Luca (saving the Little Mermaid for later since we just had Bright Star Theatre in last week performing the original story), a movie about a sea monster and his friend who want to explore living on the surface among humans. I thought with the recent heat wave people would be glad to come in out of the heat and relax while watching a movie in the AC, after doing all the summer things for a week, but only one family came. I had it in the morning; next time I'm going to have it in the afternoon to see if I get better turnout. I also forgot to promote it on Facebook until that morning.


My co-worker had an anime night where they discussed their favorite anime characters, made sushi beeswax candles, and watched anime (I don't know what she chose).

All in all, it was a good week. Other than the movie, I had really good turnout for all programs, with another packed house for the elementary program. We are still having a lot of confusion about registering for the reading challenge on Beanstack vs. registering for programs and events, and registering for each individual program. People register for one thing, and they think they've registered for everything for the whole summer. But since our room can really only accommodate up to 36 kids and accompanying adults without being really overcrowded, and that's the number I based ordering supplies on (fully expecting far less than 36!), we really have to require registration.

There's also been some fallout over my insisting that only kids ages 6-10 could participate in Elementary Explorers program for kids aged 6-10.  With the high demand, I can't let toddlers take spots away from actual elementary aged kids, materials are limited, and activities that are engaging for elementary kids are not appropriate, and often not safe, for toddlers. I put out some age appropriate toddler toys, busy boards, and board books, so it's not like I told them they couldn't bring them or didn't make any effort to accommodate them. Plus we have programs specifically for toddlers, preschoolers, and families! But despite all that, though I'm not aware of official complaints, one mom told my assistant that "there were a lot of hurt feelings" and I was the topic of gossip among a certain clique who is used to special treatment.

Sorry, not sorry. I am not going to "dumb down" every program to toddler level, nor risk being blamed for a toddler being hurt while engaging in an activity that is not meant for them,  nor am I going to deny an older child a spot in a program meant for them so that a toddler can do it. There is NOTHING in this town for elementary kids in the summer, and the summer is the only time most of them get to come to the library regularly. While I include everyone in summer reading and plan programs for all age groups, I think of summer as being mainly for the older kids; the under 5 set gets the rest of the year. 

Also, I'm new here, got a late start planning because of that, and this is the first somewhat normal summer in 3 years. My predecessor was not a librarian and did things very differently than most libraries, and I can tell we have very different philosophies; also she left me absolutely ZERO information about anything. So, I had no idea exactly what she did, what to expect as far as turnout, what kind of programming people would want, what days/times would be best... I just had to pick something and go with it. After this summer, I will have a much better idea of how to plan next year, and I can already tell I will want to do things a little differently. For one, I'll just stick with family rather than age specific storytimes. And for another, I will add more family craft and fun programs. But I will still keep elementary programs for elementary-aged kids.

Hope everyone else had a good week! Two weeks down, just six more to go!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Can We PLEASE Stop with the Vocational Awe Already?

Vocational awe and children's librarians, youth services and vocational awe, vocational awe in libraries

You know, if there was any good to come from this terrible pandemic, I would have thought it would have gotten us as a profession to kick this ridiculous sense of vocational awe to the curb. You know, the idea that libraries are sacred and that librarianship is a virtuous calling we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for. The pervasive feeling that we have to be all things to all people, fill all the cracks in society that people inevitably slip through, give of ourselves until it hurts. I think this idea is the most pervasive in the area of youth services.

Vocational awe leads to mission creep, overworking, understaffing, and people that are underemployed and/or underpaid. Library staff resort to buying program supplies with their own money, working unpaid hours, often struggle to live on wages that are below the cost of living, and burn ourselves out in just a few short years by offering a myriad of programs, pushing for bigger and bigger, more and more... And if you aren't willing to make all these sacrifices, if you can't be all things to all people, aren't a "rock star librarian" (whatever the hell that even means), then you simply aren't dedicated enough, passionate enough, or innovative enough.

And the worst thing is, we already get it from everyone else, and instead of pushing back, standing our ground and saying "enough is enough, we are only human and we deserve to be healthy and happy and not devout our entire life to a job", we do it to ourselves, too. We spend way too much of our own time looking for program ideas, prepping materials for programs, monitoring our library's Facebook page, checking work e-mail, going to outreach events after hours. We beat ourselves up for enforcing the library code of conduct and appropriately asking rowdy teens who are disrupting the whole library to leave for the day, teaching them boundaries and accountability. We may get 20 compliments on a program, but focus on the one ridiculous complaint. We train people to expect the unsustainable. We do everything humanly possible, but still feel like it's not enough.

And the REALLY awful thing, is we keep doing it to each other. All too often when I or others post about programming/services in various online library groups, whether asking/answering questions, expressing frustrations, seeking advice, sharing patron complaints, people get insensitive responses that are not helpful basically telling them they are not doing enough, with no understanding of what their staffing or funding levels are like, what their community needs, or what they are already doing. If you have not anticipated, and moved heaven and earth to meet, every possible need within your community, you are clearly not doing enough and not worthy to be a librarian. 

You must provide every possible program for every possible age at every possible time, and at multiple locations throughout the community. You must simultaneously allow teens to have their own space and programs, while also including everyone in everything all the time. You must offer developmentally-appropriate and engaging programming, yet also include older and younger siblings. You must provide a full range of in-person programming, while also producing professional quality virtual programming, AND designing and assembling take-home kits for every age group each week. You must be able to spin straw into gold, turn water into wine, and perform miracles with limited resources reminiscent of the Biblical loaves and fishes. No matter how much you are doing, it's not enough.

Why do we do this to each other? For some, it's a need to feel superior - more "woke", more progressive, more innovative, more creative, more dedicated, more selfless - by putting others down. For others, they may be as hard on themselves as everyone else because they have bought into vocational awe hook, line, and sinker, and pass the pressure they feel to be everything to everybody on to their peers. And for others, it may be simple thoughtlessness and insensitivity when giving well-intentioned, but privileged, advice that can be like rubbing salt in the wound. Some librarians have been fortunate enough to have always worked in libraries that are very well-funded, with very supportive directors and managers, very well-staffed youth services department and don't know the alternative.

But that isn't everyone's reality. Many of us work in libraries that are not well-funded and operate on a shoestring budget. Many of us are solo librarians and may be lucky to have one other staff member besides us to do all YS programming, birth through teen. Some of us work in libraries so understaffed we are chained to the service desk and can barely manage to plan and deliver a couple of storytimes a week, much less leave the building to do outreach. Many of us work in tiny buildings and are limited by space. Some of us are limited by space, funding, and staffing; the perfect trifecta to guarantee stress, overwork, and burnout. And not everyone has supportive management or good community partners. Even when in a relatively good situation, there are still limits to what is possible.

Don't imply someone is lazy or somehow less dedicated when they say they will have to stop doing regular take-home kits once in-person programming resumes. You don't what their staffing and funding levels are. And throwing out the inevitable "get volunteers" shows you either have been very, very lucky and found the rare unicorn of reliable, competent, helpful volunteers, or more likely, have not actually tried relying on volunteer help. Telling someone to offer even more programming, or simultaneous programs, trying to please everyone rather than having appropriate boundaries is not helpful; very few of us have the staffing or space to offer multiple programs at the same time, and I don't know hardly anyone who isn't already doing as much programming as they can manage. Pushing for more and more programming is one of the main factors in the higher rates of burnout for youth services, and why so many leave the field, sometimes after just a few years.

These kinds of responses show a lack of awareness about the reality many other youth librarians have to operate within. Maybe we need a librarian exchange program, so we can all get a better understanding of the what some have to deal with. How about we start with assuming that everyone is operating in good faith, doing the best they can with what they have, and that no one knows their community as well as they do. And even better, let's recognize that we will never be able to be all things to all people. And let's go further and recognize that we shouldn't be trying to. We cannot please everyone. We cannot solve all of society's problems. We are not social workers, counselors, mental health professionals, or babysitters. We are librarians. We are human. We have limits. We have a right to focus on being damn good librarians with healthy boundaries and a life outside of work. We do the best we can with what we have.


Links to more articles on vocational awe:

Sunday, June 12, 2022

SRP Week 1 - Going to the Beach


So there is always ongoing discussion in youth services about themes, usually in relation to storytime, but also in relation to summer reading. Many libraries follow CSLP or iREAD themes, some come up with their own, and some don't really have a theme, other than "summer at the library". I've always said themes are optional, and sometimes can be fun and make it easier to plan, and sometimes can be too restrictive and make it more difficult.

Most of the libraries in my state follow CSLP, as does mine, so our theme is "Oceans of Possibilities". This was a very easy theme to decorate around, and I thought would be pretty easy to program around, but I found it harder than expected. I ended up picking several activities I wanted to do, looking at when I had scheduled guest performers, and what movies I had planned to show, and picking weekly themes to loosely follow to give me some direction [however, I am thinking more and more of moving away from themes, especially after looking at the CSLP themes for next year]. For the first week, I decided on a loose "beach" theme, with sand-based activities.

Toddler Time

This program was a typical toddler storytime. We started with a hello song, and an intro talking about the beach, a warm up song to the tune of "The Wheels On the Bus" that incorporated sounds or movements based on things we see and do at the beach, and a lead-in song to the story, Sea, Sand, and Me! by Patricia Hubbell & Lisa Campbell Ernst.

After the story we did an egg shaker song, and I had planned a rhyme counting sand castles with pictures on the magnetic board, but it was a large crowd and several were getting restless, so I skipped it and went straight to 
bubbles and "Ten Little Bubbles" song, then our good-bye song. Afterward, I got out the kinetic sand with molds and cookie cutters for them to play with. I had a pretty big crowd, and it went pretty well, but was a bit chaotic and noisy with so many little ones who weren't used to the routine yet.

Sand storytime, beach storytime

Preschool & Kindergarten

For this group, I focused more on activities today, as I've noticed the older kids usually don't like doing all the songs and rhymes. I started by reading Day at the Beach by Tom Booth, a story of a boy who wants to build the best sandcastle ever, without his little sister. In the end, he discovers it is more fun to play together, even if the castle isn't as perfect.

sand art preschool, sand art kindergarten

After the story, they made sand art pictures, and played in the kinetic sand. The sand art pictures were from Oriental Trading and worked surprisingly well. They are kind of like stickers; you peel the backing off all the sections that you want to be a particular color, sprinkle the sand over, press in lightly, dump off the excess, then move on to the next color. Though some needed more help the others, and some grown-ups may have helped a little too much, everyone really seemed to enjoy it and were really pleased with their pictures.


For the older kids I was more ambitious (maybe a little too ambitious, LOL). I started off with asking if anyone wanted to share about any books they had read recently that they really liked, and about three kids did, and after that I booktalked Beach Bully by Jake Maddox, with themes of adjusting to a new town, trying new things, and dealing with a bully.

Then we moved on to the primary activity, making "Beach Slime"! By now everyone is probably somewhat familiar with making slime, and that it requires glue and an activator, but few really knew anything about the actual science of it. I explained that glue is a polymer, which means that it is made up of molecules that are very long chains, and to imagine them as kind of like spaghetti noodles that when first cooked slip and slide easily, and pour much like a liquid. But when an activator is added, such as borax, it cross-links all the polymer strands together in a matrix, rather than individual strands. So then it become thick, and more like a gel than a liquid, somewhat like spaghetti noodles do after they've been drained if no butter or sauce is added.

To make "Beach Slime" we simply added sand and tiny shells to my basic slime recipe using clear glue: 1/4 C glue, 2T water, 2T dilute borax solution (1 tsp Borax/1 cup warm water). I had them add 2 Tablespoons of sand initially, and told them if they wanted to try working in more a little at a time, they could. We added tiny shells at the end. I told them to add the borax solution a little at a time, and that they might not need all of it. Inevitably, some didn't listen and dumped the borax in immediately, so their slime ended up being really stiff and not very slimy. But two kids ended up with perfect slime that was very oozy and stretchy without being sticky.

Beach slime

After making the slime and cleaning up, they made wearable art by layering colored sand in miniature plastic bottle pendants, either fish or dolphin shaped, also from Oriental Trading. I bought a kit, but also some extra sand and funnels. I figure I will use the tiny funnels again with STEM activities.

mini sand bottle pendants

In general it went well, but there were a few glitches and issues. First of all, I had a much bigger crowd than expected as only 25 had registered, but almost 40 showed up! (I even had to turn one family away because (1) they came late and I was done divvying out materials, and (2) I had NO place to put them.) So my teen programmer and I were were frantically having to measure out more water, glue, and borax solution. A few parents jumped in and started helping, which was great, except someone passed out the borax solution, which I did not intend to do until they were ready for it, and of course we had two spills, and a few kids who added it right away without waiting for instructions. 

The other issue was although the program was clearly listed as "Elementary Explorers", clearly specified that it was for ages 6-10, stated we would be making slime, and there are programs specifically for younger kids as well as family programs, there were still several kids who were definitely under 6, including a baby and toddler. Now, I get sometimes younger siblings have to tag along, but parents should not expect them to participate in activities meant for older kids. Some of the borderline-looking kids I let pass, but I had to tell the mothers of two toddlers (one was really still a baby) that this was not a safe activity for toddlers, and that it really wasn't safe for them to be sitting at the table (not to mention too crowded) in case of spills, small objects, sand, etc. One seemed a bit surprised, but complied, the other went and got materials when my back was turned and let her toddler do it anyway. 

Afterward I immediately beefed up my description to include language to the effect that younger siblings could not participate due to safety, limited supplies, and high demand. I do understand families have kids across multiple age groups, but I can't allow toddlers to take a slot from kids that are the age the program is intended for. And I can't do the kind of activities I want to do, that are appropriate and engaging for elementary kids, if I have to make everything toddler-safe. Plus there are toddler-specific programs and family programs every week as well. I'm sure there will be complaints, but there is so little in this town for older kids to do, but several other organizations providing programming for preschool and under, so I'm going to have to stand my ground on this one. I will have some board books and a few age-appropriate toys for toddlers in the room to help keep tag-along siblings occupied, but they will have to stay on the sidelines.


We had Bright Star Theatre come and perform Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid". They did a really good job, and all the kids (except a couple toddlers) were really engaged. I saw one toddler repeated go up to her older brother who was sitting up front and pull on him and till him "let's go", and he would always shake his head and point to the performers saying he wanted to watch. I was a little worried that it would only appeal to girls (and had originally wanted to have them do "Treasure Island" for that reason, but that troupe was all booked), but there were several boys. Though it was fairly true to the original story, they softened the darkness with humor, and had several humorous references to the Disney movie and why they weren't doing that version (something about a very litigious mouse). 

Tween & Teen

My coworker had a "Beach Bash" program where they played games and made candy sushi. Nine kids came, which is actually a good turnout for that age group here.

One week down, seven more to go! Next week is "Mermaids & Monsters", mythical sea creatures.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Summer Readin', Happened So Fast....


....Summer Readin', Are We Having A Blast??

You may have noticed my blog has been rather quiet lately, or maybe you haven't, because like me you have been so busy getting everything ready for summer reading that you've barely had time to even breathe! I started thinking about summer reading as soon as I got here in December and started seriously planning in February, but June 1st came way too fast!

Though I'm not new to summer reading, this is the first time I was responsible for designing and planning the whole thing, rather than just implementing what someone else had planned and being responsible only for a handful of my own programs. Add to that all the uncertainties due to Covid and being new to this library and community, getting a late start in planning since I just got here in December, having my initial plans rejected by a new director and having to instead use an online tracking program that was a beast to figure out and get set up, and our marketing/website/social media/graphic artist person unexpectedly quitting in April, I have been feeling very stressed and overwhelmed.

Luckily I have some very supportive coworkers and talented staff members who have helped out a lot, and was finally able to fill a vacant part-time position in May with someone who has proven to be a great addition to the team and is the only reason we were able to get all the decorating done that we did. She has also made a huge dent in organizing the chaos that I inherited, which has been a huge blessing. I helped with some of the decorating, but I had to spend most of my time working on figuring out Beanstack and getting it all set up, getting all the events and registration set up on our website; making signs, flyers, and brochures; and getting everything ready for the kick-off event. 

I've had to put in a lot of extra hours to get everything ready, and I still haven't finished planning all my in-house programming! I was super stressed about the Kick-Off: would we have everything ready on time, would the paid entertainers show up, would we have a good turnout, would we have way too many people, should I have planned something bigger and flashier, should I have had it outside, etc. I really wished I'd had another couple of weeks, but I suppose we all say that every year.

Well, the kick-off was yesterday, and it went really well! The paid entertainers showed up on time and were great, we had a really good turnout without it being overly crowded, everything went well, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I got lots of compliments on it from patrons and staff alike. I enjoyed it as well, basking in the normalcy of it all and having a very kumbaya moment, nearly moved to tears at how well things were going and how all the staff (well, except one) really pulled together as a team to help out and provide support. It was something really missing from my last position, and so nice to have again. In case you were wondering, here's what I had going on at the kick-off:

  • Island Princess & Demigod entertainers who posed for photos & did a storytime and sing-along
  • Staff Member in inflatable shark costume (best $35 ever spent!)
  • Artist drawing caricatures
  • Games in the meeting room (ring-toss, bean-bag, dart balls, feed-the-shark)
  • 3 craft stations in the program room (dot painting, stamping, seahorse craft)
  • fishing hole/duck pond game for small prizes
  • shark and mermaid cardboard cutouts for photo ops
  • bubbles and sidewalk chalk in the courtyard
  • gross motor challenge course (scuttle like a crab, flap like a ray, etc.) with facts about each animal (I got this from a generous librarian in one of my online groups) along the front sidewalk
  • our usual coloring sheets and scavenger hunt that we always have
  • signing up for the reading challenge and picking out prize books (we set up our small teen room, which is used primarily for an after school hangout and sits empty all summer, as our little prize bookstore and called it "The Treasure Trove")
So now that the kick-off has gone well, I feel a huge sense of relief. I've proven to myself and everyone else that I do know what I'm doing, and I've gotten results. While I wish I'd had a chance to really plan out all my in-house programming in advance to better market it, I'm very good at winging it and pulling things together when it gets down to the wire. Though I know the rest of the summer will be busy, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me, I feel like I can finally pause and take a breath. I look forward to the normal summer busy-ness, and even if the sense of normalcy proves to be something of an illusion and short-lived, it will be a nice break. But I'm hoping it will be the springboard to our new normal, and get people and programming back in the library for good.

I hope everyone else has a great summer! Here's a few photos from the Kick-Off, and a slideshow of all the decorations:

As a certain famous blue tang fish once said, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...."

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Reading with My Peeps - Diorama Contest

Over the last few years I had noticed a growing trend to make dioramas using Peeps. Love them or hate them, there is no denying the little sugar bombs are adorably cute, especially when portraying your favorite characters. Once I had seen them, I knew I wanted to host a library event some day, and this year I had my chance.

It took me a bit to decide exactly how I was going to structure it. My first thought was as a library program, to get people in the doors, but I didn't think an hour or two would really give people enough time. I also thought of doing it as a take-home kit, but then I didn't really know what that kit would need to contain other than Peeps as it would depend on the scene the person was doing, and let's face it, the Peeps are the cheapest component of the project, and in plentiful supply at several stores in town. In the end, I decided to just announce it and have people make the dioramas on their own and bring them in.

So then I decided on age groups and rules, made a downloadable entry form, and announced the contest a week before Easter, with dioramas to be brought in during the week after Easter, then displayed, judged, and voted on during the following week. This would be sure people had plenty of time to come up with ideas, get Peeps, take advantage of post-holiday half-price Peeps, and have a week or two to complete their dioramas.

The rules were basically it had to be roughly shoebox sized and stand up on it's own, use Peeps to represent the characters, and be based on a book. Teams were allowed, but had to be entered in the age group of the oldest member, and adults should provide minimal assistance for kids' entries. I decided to have guest judges (the mayor and a school librarian) pick winners for each age group (adult, teen, tween, and kids) and the staff division, then have the public vote on an overall "Peeple's Choice" winner.

By Tuesday of the week entries were to be submitted I realized there had not been as much interest on social media as I'd hoped, and it seemed like most of the entry forms I had put out for patrons to take were still there, so I began to get really discouraged, thinking I wasn't going to get any entries besides mine and my teen specialist's. But on Wednesday morning another staff member brought one in, and then one family brought in four. Then several more came in on the last two days, for a total of 17 entries! Below is a slideshow of them all:

Though I would've preferred to have closer to 25 entries, I was pretty happy with 17. We had close to 70 people vote for the Peeple's Choice, so there is definitely some interest there to buile on. I think it's a good start and definitely worth doing again next year, though I'll probably change a few things. Since we had so few entries per each category, the judges preferred to just pick a winner rather than use a score sheet. But, next time I'm going to insist on some kind of scoring system so that it is more objective.

Literary Peeps Dioramas

Our winners were:

  • Adult Division - I Love Lucy
  • Teen Division - Harry Peeper
  • Tween Division - The Great and Powerful Peep of Oz
  • Kids Division - There's a Peep Under My Bed
  • Staff Division - Franken-Peep
  • Peeples Choice - Harry Peeper

My personal favorites were:
  • Adult Division - In the Coop
  • Teen Division - Harry Peeper
  • Tween Division - Middle School Mayhem
  • Kids Division - I was torn. I liked "There's a Peep Under My Bed" the best, but the only other kids' entry was a Wizard of Oz theme by a 4-year old who had clearly done a lot of work, and most of it with minimal help.
  • Staff Division - Follow the Yellow Peeps Road, Five Peeps Apart, and Franken-Peep, all for different reasons.
My overall favorite was the Harry Potter one. It was so well-done, very neat and attractive, but also very detailed. Several quidditch players and the snitch suspended mid-air, the stadium full of spectators, the Peep-ifying of the four was clearly a stand-out.

Can you guess which one was mine? As the organizer I normally wouldn't have entered, and had no intention of trying to win anything, but I was so afraid there wouldn't be many entries, so I made one and put it out early to help generate interest and show an example to inspire others. 

The division winners received a blue ribbon, a "Reading with My Peeps" journal, and a Peep squishie, and the Peeple's Choice winner received a small trophy and a Peeps plushie. Since everyone clearly put some time and effort into their entries, I wanted to give everyone a little something, so I designed some Peeps bookmarks:

Peeps bookmarks

All in all, though I didn't get *quite* as many entries as I'd hoped, it did generate a fair amount of interest and engagement so I consider it a success. Hopefully there will be even more interest if we do it again next year.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spring Break Programming

Spring Break at the library

Initially I wasn't planning on doing anything during Spring Break other than my usual storytime (which I had just resumed the week prior) and self-directed activities because I was told that everyone travels and it's always been dead at the library during spring break, and I *really* needed to work on planning summer reading. But, with high gas prices and all the problems with airline cancellations, I thought more people would be staying home than usual, and with the cold, wet weather expected most of the week they would need something to do.

So I decided to plan some very simple family programs that (1) would not cost a lot, (2) would not involve a lot of preparation, (3) would not involve a lot of staff time during the event, (4) most supplies purchased could be saved and reused, and (5) would work for a fairly large age-range; basically programs that could easily accommodate a crowd, but wouldn't be a waste of time and materials if no one showed up. Since it was also Library Week, I incorporated that theme in some of them. Here is what I came up with:

  • Monday - Family Movie, "Encanto". I chose this because I thought it would be popular, but it didn't draw a very large crowd. I think most have already seen it, it's not as popular as some adults want it to be (nowhere near "Frozen" levels), and with all the streaming services and devices, watching a free movie on the large TV at the library isn't a big deal. 

  • Tuesday - Family Storytime, with a "Library Week" theme and simple book-making craft.

  • Wednesday - Bricks & Blocks, Family building program with regular bricks, preschool bricks, toddler bricks, and wooden blocks. I told them the official challenge was to design and build your own library for Library Week, but they could also let their imaginations go and build whatever they wanted. This activity is good for fine-motor skills, spatial awareness, creativity, and problem solving.

    Bricks and blocks library program

  • Thursday - Family Movie, "The Pagemaster". I didn't know about this movie before now, but it is a fun fantasy/adventure that takes place in a library, based on the children's book of the same name by David Kirschner and starring Macauley Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Ed Begley, Jr., Mel Harris, and the voices of Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nemoy, and Whoopi Goldberg (and it just dawned on me that all 3 are Star Trek alum). Again not a huge crowd, the same as for "Encanto", but they were very engaged.

  • Friday - Play-Dough Playdate. I billed this as a 'have fun with a messy activity away from home and we'll clean up" program. I found a good deal on Amazon for 3oz cans of name-brand dough for about 75 cents each, which was cheap enough to give away because I really didn't want to reuse any dough that kids had handled. I would've made my own dough if I hadn't been pressed for time, and had a better idea of how much I'd need. I also bought an assorted pack of rolling pins, extruders, and cutters, and found more rolling pins and cutters in our cabinets. I initially asked each child to take one color of dough, but then after being sure I had plenty, let them take a second one if they wanted.

    This was inspired by my son, who for a year or two had a Saturday morning routine of playing with play-doh at the kitchen table after breakfast. It was one of the few activities he ever sat still for any length of time. It's also a great fine-motor skill and sensory activity, plus encourages creativity.

    Play-dough at the library, play-dough programs

  • All Week - Library Week Book Display. I had just gotten two pieces of display furniture that were *badly* needed, and I was very excited about. I used one for all the new juvenile fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels, and the other will be used for rotating themed displays. I pulled all the picture books, early readers, boardbooks, chapter books, and kids' non-fiction that featured libraries and/or librarians for a Library Week Display.

How It Went 

Though I was a little disappointed that the attendance for both movies was so low, I was glad that I did have enough people come for each program for it to have been worth doing. I actually had a big turnout for storytime, and a decent turnout for the Bricks & Blocks and Play-Dough programs. Though I'd hoped to get some older elementary kids in with the Bricks & Blocks, I ended up with all little kids who weren't really ready for the regular bricks and most of them really didn't do much building. I'm still glad they came of course; I'd just hoped to also get some kids in the 8-10 year old range as well, and I really hope this isn't a sign of how the summer will be.

I've become aware that there had been little to no programming for elementary-age kids at this library in the past, but I'm not sure if that's because they couldn't get that age to come, or just because my predecessor preferred preschoolers and kindergartners and didn't really program for the older kids or try to attract them. I suspect it's going to take a couple of years to really build up programming and attendance for that age group, and I'm going to have to really try to get some partnerships going with teachers at the schools and do some outreach next year.

I was excited to finally have some dedicated display shelves, and was very pleasantly surprised that at least 10 books checked out from the Library Week display during that week, which is really good for this small community! I've also finally started seeing more interest in the new juvenile books now that we have a dedicated, eye-catching display front and center.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Library Week - Family Storytime


Library Week Storytime

My director wanted to make a big deal out of National Library Week, partly to acknowledge the staff for all the hard work they do, partly to remind people of all the library does for the community, and partly to get more people coming back in. So I planned for a "Library" themed storytime, which is always fun because there are several funny and cute books about libraries for kids.

I started with a short hello song, followed by a warm-up song to get everyone moving and engaged. Then we sang the alphabet song, and I reminded them that the tune we usually use is the same tune as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" but that it can be sung to other tunes as well, which is good exercise for our brains and lets us hear the letters emphasized differently so "LMNOP" aren't always squished together.

Library Week storytime
I lead in to the first book by singing "Are You Ready for a Story?", then we read Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw. I love this simple but sweet story about Lola and her mother spending the morning together and visiting the library. It also brings some much needed diversity exposure to a community that isn't very diverse.

his book does a lovely job of describing the children's area, and as a bonus it takes place on a Tuesday, which is the day of our storytime. Normally I don't like to substitute or change the wording, but in this case I change the borrowing term and checkout process to match how it is at our library. If you're promoting reading in general rather than the library, there is also Lola Loves Stories and Lola Reads to Leo.

After that I did a simple library book rhyme with the flannel board that lets us practice counting to five, subtraction, and identifying colors.

Library Week storytime

Five Little Books

Five little books at the library,
Five little books as great as can be.
Along came _______ with their library card,
and checked one out to read.

Four little books at the library.....[repeat until you get to zero]

If you have a small group, you can use the names of the children to fill in the blank, repeating the rhyme as necessary to get everyone in (or make extra books). Otherwise, fill in the blank with "a teacher", "a little boy/girl", "a big kid", "a mommy", "a daddy", etc.

At this point the younger ones were getting restless, so I got out the shaker eggs so everyone could move around and get some wiggles out. I used this modified, simpler version of a shaker song from Jbrary:

Shake Your Shakers

(to the tune of "London Bridge")

Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake;
Shake, shake, shake; Shake, shake, shake.
Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake.
Shake your shakers!

Other verses: way up high, way down low; to your left; to your right; fast, fast, fast; slow, slow,

Then at the end I told them to give their shakers one more really fast shake, then slow, then stop. They did a really great job of holding them still as I came around with the basket to pick them up, with only one child trying to sneak and keep theirs. There's always at least one, LOL!

Library Week storytime
I finished up with a book that wasn't new, but was new to me. If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! by Elise Parsley is a super fun read aloud that shows all the problems with bringing the circus to the library. And just when you think everything has settled down and the protagonist Magnolia has realized that it's just not a good idea, something happens that REALLY drives the point home with disastrous but hilarious results (hilarious only because it's fiction!).

I had a lot of fun with this book, and I'm so glad someone in one of my online librarian groups suggested it, but it is a bit longish and better suited to 5-8 year olds. Since this was spring break I did have older kids in my group for a change.

By this point I was losing the youngest members of the crowd and it was running a bit longer than I'd intended, so I quickly closed with a goodbye song and moved to the craft before people started leaving.


I was running short on time, so my co-worker looked for craft ideas for me, and came across one where kids made a book. The one she found was a bit more involved than I wanted to do or had time to prep, so I just kept it very simple and open-ended. (Not only do open-ended activities encourage more creativity and problem solving, they mean less prep for me, so it's a win-win!)

On each table I put a stack of plain white printer paper, a stack of assorted colors of construction paper, scissors, crayons, a hole-punch, and pre-cut lengths of yarn with one end wrapped in tape for easier lacing. Simply take a few sheets of paper and fold them in half, select a piece of construction paper for the cover and fold in half, then put the folded white paper inside the folded construction paper and punch two holes. Thread the yarn through the holes and tie in a knot or double-tied bow; trim and knot the ends.

I initially said they could do as many pages as they wanted, then we quickly realized I needed to amend that to as many pages as they could punch the hole through, which was about 3, though will vary depending on the paper. I also told them they could put whatever they wanted in their book, because it was theirs and *they* were the authors and illustrators. I said they could tell a story with words, with pictures, or both; they could dictate a story and have an adult help write it and then draw the pictures, they could practice letters, numbers, or shapes, or they could doodle and scribble. Whatever they wanted.

They really seemed to enjoy it, and I just loved one little boy's imagination and how what appeared to me as simple scribbling back and forth held a very detailed story for him that he was happy to tell me. 

How It Went

I was very pleased to have a much larger crowd than I'd had for the few in-person storytimes I've been able to do here previously, about 25 people total verses 8-12. This was probably due to it being spring break and more parents taking off work and older kids being home from school. It was so nice to have some older kids for a change; that's really the age group I enjoy the most and do the best with for storytime, and don't see much in the library anymore. Hopefully I will be able to get some classroom visits going in the fall!

It ran a little long and the second book was too long for the littles and a few did duck out a little early. I felt a little bad for that, but at the same time I also really enjoyed reading something a bit more sophisticated for a change! But I think overall it was very successful and people were very glad to have in-person programming started again, and people are asking about summer already. I am curious to see how many people I have next week.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Spring - Family Storytime

Spring storytime, spring flowers storytime

This was my first in-person storytime after having to suspend in-person programming yet again as the Omicron wave hit right after I started this position. Patrons have been asking for it for at least a month, but Covid numbers were still too high for me to feel comfortable. During the interim I offered book bundles and did a couple of read-alouds on our Facebook page.

I went with a Spring theme, and of course the weather that day was cold and cloudy and not very Spring-y. I am starting with one all-ages storytime per week, but will divide into toddler and preschool storytimes in the fall (over the summer I will also have separate toddler and preschool programming, but they will will vary and not necessarily be traditional storytimes each week).

I started with introductions and singing "Hello, My Friends, Hello", then moved right to "Hello, Everyone" to warm up with some movement and trying to get everyone engaged, then lead in to our first book with my "Are You Ready for a Story?" song.

Spring storytime

For the first book I read
I See Spring! by Charles Ghigna and Ag Jatkowska. This is a simple little story that describes all the signs of spring with a rhyming text that is pleasant when read aloud. 

I followed that with a song that similarly describes different aspects of spring to the tune of "The Wheels On the Bus":

Springtime Is Here

The rain coming down goes drip, drip, drip;
Drip, drip, drip; Drip, drip, drip.
The rain coming down goes drip, drip, drip.
Springtime is here!

The boots in the mud go splish, splash, splish....

The sun comes out and warms us up....

The kites in the sky go swoosh, swoosh, swoosh....

The frogs in the pond go ribbit, ribbit, ribbit....

The birds in the nest go cheep, cheep, cheep....

Then I read Spring by Emily Dawson. This one is a more straightforward non-fiction with photographs. I pointed out how both books mentioned flowers growing and asked what flowers need to grow. I got the appropriate responses of sun and rain, which I used to segue into the following fingerplay [I like to do this as a flannel board, but the felt set I made had to stay behind with the library where I made it, and I haven't had a chance to make another.]:

Five Spring Flowers

Five spring flowers, all in a row.
The first one said, "We need rain to grow!"
The second one said, "Oh my, we need water!"
The third one said, "Yes, it is getting hotter!"
The fourth one said, "I see clouds in the sky."
The fifth one said, "I wonder why?"

Then BOOM [clap loudly] went the thunder,
And ZAP went the lightning!

That springtime storm was really frightening!
But the flowers weren't scared - No, no, no!
The rain helped them to grow, grow, grow!

I was losing them by that point, so unfortunately had to skip reading Cathryn Falwell's Pond Babies (I should have read that one second) and go to our good-bye song and turn them over to my co-worker for the craft as I had to run to a last-minute urgent meeting.

Post-Storytime Craft

This simple but cute floral bouquet craft is great for spring, but would also be good for Mother's Day. It only requires a sheet of green construction paper, scissors, a stapler, glue and flowers, which could be cut out of construction paper or colored cardstock with a cricut, die-cut press, or by hand, or more realistic looking flowers could be printed on cardstock and cut out. I opted for the printed flowers on cardstock, but keep in mind the flowers will be white on the back side if you use this method. 

  1. Fold the long edges of the green construction paper together, then make cuts from the folded side towards the edges, leaving an inch intact, so that you end up with a row of strips that are actually loops. I would encourage parents to let the kids do as much of this part as they can or will do, with guidance. Cutting with scissors is a good for developing fine-motor skills that will help with holding books, turning pages, and writing later.

  2. Carefully roll up and staple the base (the uncut edges) and set upright, with the loop pointing up and "fluff" it out slightly so that it looks more like a bouquet. This will be the stems/leaves of the bouquet.

  3. Either have the flowers pre-cut or let the adults cut them out (unless there are older kids present who can cut them out themselves) and glue to the tops of some of the green loops; leave some of the loops plain to represent the leaves.

    Spring storytime craft, spring craft for kids, flower craft for kids

  4. Optional: Carefully glue ribbon around the bouquet and tie a bow.

How It Went

I have to admit, things have been so hectic lately and a lot going on, that I did not adequately prepare for this storytime and really think through my book choices and segues a little better. The first two books were just too similar and not engaging enough, and the younger kids were not paying attention at all really. I was not happy with the books available in our collection; I am finding I'm having to add a lot of materials as it is really rather limited. 

I had three toddlers and two preschool or older, and I guess I'm going to have to start planning it as a toddler storytime even if I'm advertising it as a "family" or all-ages storytime, because I completely lose the toddlers otherwise, and I'm getting more toddlers than older kids. I might just have one really fun book for the older kids that I tell them they can stick around for while the younger ones move on to do the craft/activities afterward.

I struggle to find books that are appropriate and engaging for toddlers in general, and even more so now with a smaller collection, and I tend to do better with older kids or with babies; toddlers are not my strength. That being said, I had built up a nice group of regulars for my toddler storytime at my last library that was going well, so I know I can do it. I just kinda feel with all the stops and starts, job changes and starting over of the last 2 years, I've lost a bit of my mojo and it's going to take time to build some momentum and get it back.