Thursday, May 08, 2014

Guidelines (Rules) for Storytime

Recently we've been tightening up on some of our storytime procedures and it has led to confusion from the patrons. We're using signs outside the storytime areas when necessary and we are adding guidelines to the back of our storytime flier.

Our storytime flier is a quarter sheet/post-card sized flier that lists every storytime in the system. Each location has slightly different challenges and rules so we needed to be generic enough to apply universally. At our main location, people coming late can be extremely disruptive because the only way into the room is to walk directly between the audience and the storyteller. Thus the door is closed and there is only one "late admittance" window during the songs after the first book. Also we sometimes hit firecode maximums and have to close programs due to being full. All programs are first come first served, no reservations. Other locations have entrances in the back and less stress on space and are able to allow parents to come and go freely.

I'm verbose (no kidding) but we wanted to keep the guidelines on the shorter side. It was also important to focus on reinforcing positive behaviors rather than listing "don'ts". That is why we are calling them Tips or Guidelines and talking about making storytime successful. I wanted to start with a bolded action statement and then an explanation. Of course all language is gender-neutral, but I also wanted it relationship-neutral. All sorts of caregivers bring children to storytime so we avoided the "your child" phrasing.

Number three is the one we debated the most. I started with the phrase "overly emotional" which another librarian pointed out was too formal and "bad day" was better. We left in disruptive as well as bad day because some kids are having great, happy, exuberant days that are just as disruptive to storytime as a child having a meltdown. They just hit the other end of the scale and are too happy/excited to sit during stories.

Naturally we reinforce all these things verbally at the start of every storytime. But, especially with the latecomers issue, it can be helpful to parents to have advance warning about those expectations. I've had some very disappointed parents when they couldn't get into a storytime that was full/already started. And if you've never been to a storytime, it can be good to get a sense of expectations. Anchorage is a very diverse community with a large immigrant population who might not have a cultural tradition of library storytime.

Why yes, I did rather overthink this. And the thing is, I'm sure I'm not done overthinking it. I bet I'll edit again before the year is out. But for now, here is what we have.

Tips for a Successful Storytime
  1. Sit, sing, & listen to stories together. The more you participate in storytime, the more children will participate, enjoy, and learn from storytime.
  2. Please be timely. Storytimes are short and every minute is full of fun and learning opportunities. At some locations, we may not be able to accommodate late comers or have size limits.
  3. Don't be afraid to leave. Some days children aren't in the right mood for storytime. If a child is having a bad day or becomes disruptive, please feel free to take a break and try again.
  4. Please enjoy your food, toys, and cell phones after storytime.
We're working on putting these on a sign outside our storytime door as well. I'm interested in hearing what everyone else is using as storytime rules/guidelines/tips, parent expectations!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Piggyback songs - baby specific customization

Let's keep talking about piggyback songs. Once again these are songs that take a familiar tune and change a few or all of the words. They can be customized for themes, your location, or your family.

It's a great early literacy trick because it helps kids hear the rhymes/phonemes in words even more clearly when contrasted with what they are familiar with. Also parents/caregivers can catch on to the new song much easier than tackling new words and a new tune at the same time.

Last time we talked about Alaskan piggyback songs, this time let's talk about baby storytime piggy backs.

There isn't a storytime that goes by without me doing a piggyback song, but they are my favorite for baby storytime. Here we call baby storytime, Mother Goose time, and I took it over when I came back as youth services coordinator in December. I structure it as 90% songs with one flannel/puppet activity and one story  followed by open playtime. but that's another post.

This piggyback to Frere Jacques is one of our Mother Goose staples. We sing it every week.

I Love Baby
(tune: Frere Jacques)
I love baby, I love baby
Yes I do, Yes I do
And my baby love me
Yes, my baby loves me
Very much, Very much

This is a great framework to modify for any situation. You can insert any caregiver (I love mommy, I love daddy, etc.) I've got a version I sing to my new blender when I'm making smoothies at home.

For Mother Goose time, after we sing it once through with "baby" I ask the caregivers to sing their baby's names. (I just sort of hum a noise or sing my child's name.) The first time I did it, about half the caregivers turned the baby around from facing me and sang directly to their child. Perfect response! While I don't know that anyone is doing that at home, I can hope! And I'm showing parents on the spot how to modify a song quickly.

And just for giggles, here's the other version I sing a lot, but mostly to myself at the reference desk the hour before lunchtime:

A song to sing when doing the 12-1 shift on the reference desk:
I am hungry, I'm so hungry
When is lunch? Is it lunch?
Cause I've got yummy thai food
Leftovers from last night's thai food
Yummy noodles, Nom nom noodles

Start practising creating piggy back songs on the fly (perfect shower singing) and you'll be making lots of them in no time. And hopefully if you get caught singing something like this, no one commits you. They've not stuck me in the insane asylum.

A song to sing while making a green smoothie:
Let's start blending, brand new blender
Juice that fruit, grind that flax!
I'm so glad I got the nutribullet
Even if my husband laughs at me
Add more juice
And more spinach

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Alaskan Piggyback Songs

I absolutely adore piggyback songs. For those of you who don't know, piggyback songs are songs that "piggyback" on an existing well known children's tune with slightly (or greatly) modified lyrics. They're great in storytimes because caregivers and children already are familiar with the tune and rhyme/rhythm structure and so pick up the changes easily.

Eventually I will write up a post about how I use piggyback songs. Some I sing alone and some I sing as a "second verse" to their well known cousin.

I am starting a series on piggyback songs because I use them constantly. This week (Monday) was Seward's Day where we celebrate the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. Apparently the Russians are petitioning to get Alaska back. However since that seems an extremely unlikely outcome, for now we will celebrate as I share some of my favorite Alaskan piggyback songs. It helps that I live in Alaska, but perhaps you too want to do an Alaskan storytime for the Iditarod? Or just because Alaska is ridiculously cool? A few of these will work for general Northern or animal storytimes.

Maybe someday I'll get all fancy like the good folks at jbrary and make videos of myself singing these songs.

Twinkle Twinkle Northern Lights
(tune: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Twinkle twinkle northern lights
Sparkle in the Arctic night
Up above the world so high
Blue-green ribbon in the sky
Twinkle twinkle northern lights
Shimmer in my dreams tonight

(Motions: sparkly/wiggly fingers for twinkling lights, draw a ribbon in the sky, tuck your heads under your hands in the "sleep" position on dreams, or just improvise)

(tune: BINGO)
There was a musher had a dog and Balto was his name-o
And Balto was his name-o

(Continue as you would for Bingo with clapping and replacing letters with clapping. This is a great one to use during Iditarod time and to use with felt letters. You can pull off the letters one by one or cover them up with felt stars as each letter becomes a clap.)

Itsy Bitsy Grizzly Bear
(tune: Itsy Bitsy Spider)
The itsy bitsy grizzly bear climbed up the honey tree
Down came the angry bees and stung him on the knee
Out came the mama bear and kissed away the pain
And the itsy bitsy grizzly bear climbed up the tree again

(Motions: make grizzly bear claws climb up; pointer fingers are bees that circle and poke your knee, mama bear comes out in big arm motions and kisses, and grizzly bear claws climb up again.)

(tune: Here we go Loopy Loo or Here we go Looby Loo, depending where you grew up)
Here we go Moosie-moo
Here we go Moosie might
Here we go Moosie-moo
All on an arctic night

Here we go Moosie-left
Here we go Moosie-right
Here we go Moosie-left
All on an arctic night

Here we go Moosie-up
Here we go Moosie-down
Here we go Moosie-up
Now the moose goes all around

Here we go Moosie-front
Here we go Moosie-back
Here we go Moosie-front
Here we go Moose ATTACK!

(Add verses as you need. Motions: make moose antlers with your hands on head and dance around with the lyrics. Charge and giggle on the last line.)

Moose Pokey
(tune: Hokey Pokey)
You put your antlers in,
You put your antlers out,
You put your antlers in and you shake them all about
You do the Moose Pokey and you turn yourself about
That's what it's all about!

You put your right hoof in...
You put your left hoof in...
You put the whole moose in...

(Seriously you can figure out the motions to this one on your own. I have faith in you. Also can be Moosey Pokey if you need to keep the beat structure closer to the original)

I've got more, but they are mostly animals I'll save them for a future Alaskan/northern animals storytime post.

Happy singing!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grant Writing - suggested verbiage

I'm in the middle of grant writing season. I think there's a season, most of them seem to be due around April 1st. Prior to becoming a youth services coordinator, I'd applied for a few smaller grants directly and been a worker/helper bee on others. But nothing too extraordinary. Now I'm working (often with a team) on stuff in the 6 figure range. It's scary that people are willing to trust me with that sort of money and no one blinks an eye at me asking for it. Huge case of imposter syndrome, but that is another blog post.

When I was chatting with my sister about the endless narratives involved in grant writing, she suggested the following. I humbly sumbit it here for anyone else who needs a bit of levity as the words of their grant application start to blur.

Dear people with money,

The library is amazing! People love us, we change lives and do awesome things. We need more money to do even more awesome things. Please send check.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Mods for Storytime When Pregnant

I'm currently 6 months pregnant, visibly showing, and starting to have some difficulty getting around. Mostly I'll go to lean against a counter and it's much closer than I think it is. Or I try to squish between cars in a parking lot and my stomach doesn't suck in and I don't squish anymore. So far I can still touch my toes (I've been told that will go away).

As I was lamenting to my husband that every week "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" gets a teeny bit harder and I'm not sure I will make it to the end of the storytime session, he suggested I skip that song. Let's all pause to note in his naive, pre-fatherhood days, that he thinks you can just skip head, shoulders, knees, and toes without a full on toddler riot. I've been brainstorming solutions and before last week I had: just wave in the general direction of my feet and hope everyone knows what I mean.

Last weekend though I was at the Alaska Library Association annual conference and joking about this with another librarian who had a great solution. (Apologies because it was an off the cuff conversation between sessions and I can't remember who suggested this.)

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes becomes Head, Shoulders, Knees and Hips!

Of course you need to change nose (in "eyes and ears and mouth and nose") to lips to maintain the rhyme structure. (DUH, rhyme structure is very important to toddlers, helps build phonetic awareness, and soothes the feelings of OCD librarians who need the rhyme too). However you don't want to say "mouth and lips" because that has you pointing to your mouth twice in a row. Boring! Thus "eyes and ears and nose and lips" works perfectly.

If you're a children's librarian, you're nodding along with me (and humming under your breath). If you're not a children's librarian, you've probably stopped reading. Or are totally confused that I just put that much time into this.

I haven't had to do any other mods for storytime yet for pregnancy. The next thing to go might be the little bitty storytime chair because we have a rhyme that has you jump out of your seat. It's harder when you're large, pregnant, and sitting on a small stool about 8 inches off the ground.

This morning in toddler storytime (here called Lapsit) we did Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and followed it with Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Hips. The moms laughed at the explanation why and some of them who are further along than me looked grateful. The kids are always just happy to sing and dance. And we felt very jaunty ending our song with our hands on our hips.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Doing storytime when your voice is MIA

Periodically, and for me today was one of those days, you have to do storytime with a cold or a complete case of laryngitis. Sometimes you're not sick enough (or contagious enough) to miss work. Sometimes there's just no one else to do it. So you do what I did this morning, grab a cup of hot tea, and shoulder through.

Side note: as a manager, STAY HOME if you're sick. I have worked with a thousand people (almost always women) who come in even though they are sick because "we are so far behind" or "I knew how busy we would be" and so on and so forth. I've been tempted to do it myself. It's a nice thing, a sign that an employee is invested in their job and that you've created a workplace team culture.

But it is also overall very detrimental. When people come to work sick, they are often increasing the amount of time that they will be sick. It took me years personally to learn when I get sick if I can stay home towards the start, I'll often be out of work only 1-2 days, not the 3-4 days if I try to "power through" it. You don't get as much done when you're sick. I'd rather have you take time off sick for 2 days and then be back to full steam, then work at half power while sick for two days and still take a couple of days off because you've made yourself much worse. And of course the damage is magnified because you're also spreading your germs to all your coworkers risking even more lost time.

So stay home when you're sick. Which I didn't do today, I have a fairly mild cold, not worth staying home for. And if an employee came in with the same cold, I wouldn't object despite the legitimate objections raised above. However that cold has turned me into a gravelly voiced monster. Thus a blog post, five things on a Friday, for doing storytime when you've lost your voice.

  1. Stick to songs most people know. This is not the week to introduce new songs. Keep it simple stupid. If you're adding an extra verse, give people the words. I used to love doing projector + slides in storytime, but currently we're going lo-tech with easels and flip charts. If people know the songs, you can get everyone started and then just do the motions with an occasional pathetic croak.
  2. If it is really bad, use recorded music. People will forgive you this once. I've whipped up a playlist and attached my iphone to computer speakers, or strung together various songs from Raffi CDs. (Please note this is why you never put my music collection on shuffle everything, you'll skip from classical to hard rock to Raffi and it makes your head spin.)
  3. Find books with lots of participation. Books where kids shout out a refrain are good. Today I used If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera. It's a sing along book, so I just rather got them started each page and then croaked quietly along.
  4. Go high energy. This seems counter intuitive, but if you get the kids rollicking and chanting, it's less obvious that you can barely talk. This is a good time jump, shout (encourage them to shout), hop like a frog, roar like a lion, etc. You can not sustain a quiet gentle storytime with sweet songs with no voice, but you can get the party started and croak along.
  5. Call in a video ringer. Show one of those Westin Woods videos the library paid way too much for so you would have public performance rights. Years ago I had totally killed my voice screaming along at a concert. I couldn't vocalize at all, only whispers. I "demonstrated" a new database/story reading service that over our website would read picture books while highlighting the text. I let the computer read the book for me!
Today I went with tips #1, #3, and #4 and still got compliments on storytime. Remember storytime is not about you doing a perfect performance. It's about engaging kids and caregivers to interact with songs, rhymes and books. You don't need a perfect, opera ready voice, you just need energy and a good attitude. Notice my repeated insistence that you croak along, start the wave of energy and just ride it.

So go forth and do your gravelly monstered voice storytime! But if you're really sick, please stay home. Either way, I raise a cup of tea to you.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Job Openings! (and a promotion)

If you follow me on facebook/twitter, then you know that recently I was promoted to my dream position: youth services coordinator at the Anchorage Public Library. That promotion took me away from my beloved Mountain View Branch Library. Unfortunately it happened to coincide with the MV youth services librarian receiving a job back in her home state.

Sometimes timing isn't ideal. But onward we go! I'm mostly telling everyone why the only two librarians at a branch left at the same time so no one thinks something BIG and BAD happened. As a result, I would like to tell you about two job openings. And I'm going to be shameless in asking you to promote this to your contacts. Tweet, retweet, post, please! This library has a a huge place in my heart and I want to see the right people there.

It can be scary to have two new people in one location at once, but rest assured they will have support from the rest of the system to help with adjustments and transitions. And the paraprofessional staff at that location are the best in the system. (I'm biased but it's true.) I can also promise you that I will not be interfering or armchair managering you from my new position - this will be your chance to manage and help shape a library!

Later on I will tell you about my new job, and everything with that, but for now here is a more official announcement:

Job Openings!

The Anchorage Public Library is recruiting two librarians for the Mountain View branch library. Mountain View is the most diverse census district in the United States and the library has become a strong neighborhood partner with agencies and community groups serving the diverse residents and helping to revitalize the neighborhood.  The library itself is only three years old, LEED certified and a welcoming and friendly environment. While Mountain View Library welcomes and provides programming and services for all patrons, the library shares a parking lot with a middle school and is in walking distance of two elementary schools. As a result the library has a large number of thriving youth and teen programs.
Currently we are recruiting a youth services librarian to plan, present, and evaluate programming for youth from birth to age 18. The YS librarian will also assist with system wide collection development, do outreach to local schools, work on the reference desk, and manage the library in the branch manager’s absence.

We are also recruiting a branch manager who will manage the library staff, facility, and adult collections. The manager also plans and presents programs for adults, builds partnerships with local agencies and community groups, and participates as needed with system-wide initiatives.

For general information about Anchorage Public Library jobs:

For the youth services librarian job:

For the branch manager librarian job:

Both positions will be open until January 7th. If you have any questions about life in Anchorage, Alaska, or the Anchorage Public Library system, I would be happy to answer them!