Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Things I've Learned in the Past 5 Years

Holy smokes. I realized lately that it has been 5 years since I started out in youth services. That's 5 years of storytimes*, teen programs, school visits, and putting Stephenie Meyer's books on hold for patrons. I have to say that the time has gone pretty fast and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few years have in store for me professionally and personally.

So, without futher ado, here are 5 things I've learned in the past 5 years.

1. When in doubt, make 'em laugh. This is a sentiment best summarized by this scene  from Singin' in the Rain. You can also learn a lot from this scene about committing fully to a performance. IMDB reports: The number was so physically taxing that O'Connor, who smoked four packs of cigarettes a day at the time, went to bed (or may have been hospitalized, depending on the source) for a week after its completion, suffering from exhaustion and painful carpet burns. Unfortunately, an accident ruined all of the initial footage, so after a brief rest, O'Connor, ever the professional, agreed to do the difficult number all over again. Can you imagine? I thought doing storytime in my third trimester was difficult. Incidentally, IMDB has a somewhat amusing (if too inappropriate for me to blog here) story regarding Cyd Charisse's dance costume that you may want to read.

2. No matter how many staff members proofread your flyers before printing, everyone will miss the program listing with the wrong day of the week. Other fun times in program marketing include:
  • Answering a phone call regarding whether storytime is at 11 a.m. or p.m.
  • Accidentally writing that sewing program participants will be making their own brick creations. (Another mistake no one caught until it was too late!)
3. It's okay to say you don't know the answer to a patron's question. It's not okay to not search for the answer. You might have to take their phone number and call them back when you find the answer out or it might be as simple as asking other staff members if they know. Get to know your co-workers interests and hobbies and you will have a sense for who the baking whiz or the techie is. Seek them out.

4. Don't take the complaints to heart. Extract the constructive criticism and see if you can apply that. Not all complaints are reasonable. For example, people might complain that the library isn't open 24 hours (but would never want to pay the taxes to fund those hours) or is closed on Christmas. Also someone questioning a staff member on a procedure or policy is not a complaint. I had someone ask me if the prizes for our carnival tended to be the cheap, plastic stuff and I said yes. She said that her family wouldn't attend as they already had way too much of that stuff. I don't consider that a complaint as she was very nice about it. I don't want a house full of plastic crap either.

5.  Hell is trying to walk patrons through their first use of OverDrive on the phone. Once they've gotten the hang of it, they really seem to like OverDrive, but the first time is a nightmare.

I'm curious, dear readers. How long have you been in youth services? And what have you learned in that time? What advice would you give a new librarian just starting out.

*Have I ever mentioned that I met my husband at storytime? He used to bring his nephew to storytime at my old library.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Appreciation of Children's Librarians

Let's get real: summer reading programs are a pain. So this time of year, when children's librarians are knee-deep in running them, it's nice to feel like someone out there appreciates us. I've compiled some of my favorite tributes to youth librarians. If I've missed a good one, please leave it in the comments. I hope to be able to refer to this post when I am feeling stressed or burnt-out.  We all need a little encouragement sometimes to just keep swimming.

Quotes and Dedications
“Adult librarians are like lazy bakers: their patrons want a jelly doughnut, so they give them a jelly doughnut. Children’s librarians are ambitious bakers: 'You like the jelly doughnut? I’ll get you a jelly doughnut. But you should try my cruller, too. My cruller is gonna blow your mind, kid.”
John Green
Dedication to Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat
Blog posts and Journal Articles

"For the Children" from the Effing Librarian.

Probably the greatest advocate for children's librarians that I have run across is Will Manley. Here are some of his many words devoted to espousing our good qualities:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest Post: On Being a Mom and a Children's Librarian

Hi everyone! I'm on maternity leave and some friends have graciously written guest posts to keep my blog from getting too bare while I'm off. Today's is by the amazing Melissa of Mel's Desk. As a mom-to-be I was very curious how my perspective on youth librarianship would change once I had children of my own and Mel was kind enough to talk about her experience. This is a topic I haven't seen covered much (at all?) in the library-world, so I found it fascinating. I hope some of you will chime in and comment about how your status as a parent (and not a parent, whether you want to have children of your own or not) has impacted your perspective and career. I would love to see some honest conversation on such an important topic. Thanks Mel for getting it started! --Anne

On Being a Mom and a Children's Librarian

Just about the same time as Anne headed off on maternity leave with her brand new baby, MY baby, my younger daughter, graduated from elementary school. My family is entering a new tweens-and-teens only phase, and the impact of that will not be only felt at home! For the first time in almost a decade, I will be working as a early childhood and children's librarian without a young child of my own in my house.

Now I don't believe in the slightest that one must have children in order to be an excellent children's librarian—any more than I think my vet must have cats of their own in order to take excellent care of mine. But I can say that in my case, being both a children's librarian and a mom with young children turned out to be a fun and beneficial overlap.

Here's some of the reasons why:

Reader's Advisory

Reading books a few times a week to real kids in storytime is one thing; reading books to real kids a few times a DAY, every single day, for YEARS, kicks it all up a notch. Reading to my girls gave me a chance to learn my Ranganathan all over again. Every reader her book? Every book its reader? Absolutely. It's not that I didn't already know that a library should have a wide variety of materials, but spending hours of my life (I kid you not) reading, for instance, this book really drove the point home. For a time at our house, the critical features of children's literature were lift-the-flaps and animal noises, not plot, characters, or Caldecott-worthy illustrations. Being reminded of this on a daily basis at home made me a much better reader's advisor at the library; more flexible and willing to think outside of the box to meet a family's needs.

Program Planning

Guess what I discovered? Library programs = birthday parties. At least, one kind of library program! As my kids grew, I found that the same basic formula that worked for designing birthday parties worked just as well for planning library programs. While my daughters were small, pretty much any idea my husband and I could come up with for a birthday party activity, I could recycle into a kids' program element. Crafts that I developed for the library, I used again at home. As the girls got older, a fun dinner time conversation was “planning Mommy's next program.” I totally relied on them for using their experience at dozens of parties and programs for whipping one of my vague activity ideas into shape! For a few years there, I lived in a sweet spot of brainstorming, where what I did with children at the library gave me fresh ideas to try with my girls at home, and ideas I encountered with my girls—at the zoo, at playdates, in their classrooms, on vacation—all funneled right back to the library.

Children's Development

I didn't come to library work from the education world, and I have never taken a class in children's development in my life. So having kids of my own, and watching them grow and learn and develop, has added such a valuable dimension to my understanding of what books, materials, programs, and services might be appropriate for children and their families. I do not make the mistake of thinking that because I know my particular two children well, that I know every child well, or that because I know my family's home life, that I am aware of what everybody's family is like. But being right there while my girls learned to crawl, and point, and walk, and draw, and tell stories, and learn letters, and make friends, and read...those marvelous experiences have given me a scaffold on which to build as I continue to read and study and learn about brain development, educational competencies, early literacy skills, and new directions for family library services.

Guess what I discovered? Library programs = birthday parties. At least, one kind of library program! As my kids grew, I found that the same basic formula that worked for designing birthday parties worked just as well for planning library programs. While my daughters were small, pretty much any idea my husband and I could come up with for a birthday party activity, I could recycle into a kids' program element. Crafts that I developed for the library, I used again at home. As the girls got older, a fun dinner time conversation was “planning Mommy's next program.” I totally relied on them for using their experience at dozens of parties and programs for whipping one of my vague activity ideas into shape! For a few years there, I lived in a sweet spot of brainstorming, where what I did with children at the library gave me fresh ideas to try with my girls at home, and ideas I encountered with my girls—at the zoo, at playdates, in their classrooms, on vacation—all funneled right back to the library.





Friday, June 08, 2012

Flannel Friday: A Very Special Delivery

My husband and I were extremely touched yesterday to receive an absolutely beautiful gift for the baby we are expecting any day now. It's a homemade colors felt book for our little one, apparently in the works since February! Isn't it gorgeous? The pages are pictured slightly out of order, sorry!

Cover by Anna

Green by Andrea

Grey by LQ


Tan by Melissa, who remembered to put Lake Michigan on the correct side (left/west)

Purple by Tracey

Pink by Katie (Storytime Katie)

Black by Cate

Blue by Linda

Red by Mollie

White by Katie at Storytime Secrets

Brown by Mary

Yellow by Sharon

Orange by Liz

Thank you so much Melissa, LQ, Sharon, Tracey, Katie, Mollie, Andrea, Cate, Mary, Liz, Linda, Katie, and Anna for putting this together! Special thanks to LQ, whose idea it was, and to Mary and Mel for coordinating and assembling. I had no idea you were all scheming up such a delightful present. When Mel asked for my address, I thought she was just going to send me an Avalanche jersey as we are residents of Red Wings Country. I have never been happier to be wrong!

Timing wise, UPS delivered the package in the middle of a small belated birthday party for my sister so I was extra amused that the enclosed card congratulated us on our "new and improved family!" Ha! Fortunately, my sister had already opened our present so I didn't have to compete with the Flannel Friday crew. Thank goodness.

I want to apologize because I didn't realize how many people were waiting to hear that we received the package as Mel informed everyone it would be arriving yesterday.  I was just going to put this post up. So, sorry! After I finally told Mel, she sent me the Google Document where this little band of international schemers had been planning for four months!

Once again, thank you ladies so much! I have loved being your virtual colleague. It has been a privilege and an honor!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Storytime Philosophy Part Deux

Last summer I posted my storytime philosophy and since I recently found another version of the Hallmark ad, I thought I'd share it as well. If there was one message I'd like to give to parents, library administrators, budding librarians, etc. it would be this: storytime is not for making kids sit silently like robots. Storytime is for encouraging imagination and for introducing a love of literature. There are no grades and no tests*. Thank goodness! There will be plenty of those in the kids' futures. I'm honored to have the chance to play games, sing songs, tell jokes, chant rhymes, and read a few of my favorite stories to the kids in my town. It is a privilege to watch them grow up and move on. 


*I don't mean any disrespect to our friends in the school sector. I was inspired to become a librarian because I had an amazing school librarian. Mrs. G. died a few years ago and I am sad that I never told her how fond my memories of being in her elementary school media class are. I was lucky enough to attend a small public school where kindergarten through high school were in the same building, so I had the opportunity in high school to serve as her student aide. It wasn't glamorous work, shelving books and typing spine labels (on an actual typewriter!), but it led me on the path to my current career and that has made all the difference in my life. 



Friday, June 01, 2012

The Field of Boliauns

The Field of Boliauns is an Irish trickster tale I discovered in Flannel Board Fun: A collection of Stories, Songs, and Poems by Diane Briggs (Scarecrow Press, 1992). I meant to have this post up in time for St. Patrick's Day, and it sort of is, just for the 2013 holiday and not the 2012 one.
The story goes like this: A young man named Patrick encounters a leprechaun. Knowing that a captured leprechaun has to reveal the location of his pot of gold, Patrick forces him to do so. The leprechaun takes him to a large field of boliaun bushes. Patrick ties his red scarf around the bush covering the buried pot. He makes the leprechaun promise not to remove it and leaves to retrieve a shovel. 

Upon returning, Patrick discovers that the leprechaun has tied a red scarf around all the bushes in the field. He tries digging at bushes he thinks might be "the one" but finds nothing. He resolves never to stop searching for the leprechaun and travels the rest of his life with the shovel. 

This is such a short story that it makes absolutely no sense to make it painstakingly out of felt. I used milk filters, but if you don't have any available to you, my suggestion would be to copy the pattern, color it, and then laminate. Stick some Velcro on the back and you'll be good to go.

This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by my fellow Michigander, Lisa. Look for the roundup soon!