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!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Armchair Managering

One of my favorite blogs to read is Ask A Manager. She's non-profit which is a great perspective, but she also answers lots of questions from the for-profit sector. A lot of her columns are answers to job hunters, but a good portion are HR and managerial issues.

My favorite recurring theme is how often people ask "is this legal?" Things are often bad practice, but rarely illegal. She actually did an entire column listing all the things she and another blogger have been queried on as to legal status. Read it, it's amazing.

Earlier this week she posted a great question that I've been thinking about a lot. And making my husband discuss. And my mother. And various other people in my life. I'm going to go ahead and quote the letter, but not the AAM answer or her reader comments. Her readers are intelligent and insightful and the comments are one of the highlights of her blog. I firmly encourage you to go read her answer and the readers comments.

I am a manager of a small HVAC service company. One of our service technicians is refusing to enter any residence where a teenager is home alone, even though we have scheduled this appointment with the parent, and although they can’t be there, their 14-year-old will let him in. This will be the second time in a week that this technician has left the residence without fixing the problem, causing me to get an irate customer on the phone. When our scheduler asks him why he left, his response is that he feels uncomfortable being alone in the house with a female teenager. This technician has three daughters, and I think he is letting his paranoia about his daughters interfere with his judgment.

Our company has protocol in place that if a customer is not home, a technician isn’t to enter a residence, without prior approval by the customer. Our service techs are licensed by the state, with background checks performed annually. In the 9 years I have managed this company, I have never run across this before.

I am having a meeting with this technician next week, and I want to make sure I say the right thing. Several times he has commented that the company cannot hold it against him if he doesn’t want to do something that makes him uncomfortable (this includes not working overtime on occasion if asked, going into any home with mold, and now the above reason.)

I know that we can certainly let him go, but we are a small company and he has been with us for three years now. I’m not willing to do this, until I have addressed these problems, and try to come up with something that will make us both “comfortable.” If this cannot be achieved, then I guess I’ll have no other choice but to let him go.

Any help you you can provide in the way of things I might say to him will be greatly appreciated.

Okay, the way I see it there are two distinct issues here.

1. There are some legitimate policy and safety concerns.

2. The employee believes they can dictate the terms of their job.

Let's start with number one. A lot of the commenters said, and I agree, that it seems odd to allow an adult serviceman into the house with only a minor present. Beyond the obvious false accusation fears (which even if disproved can effectively ruin your life), if there is a change in service needed, more work, additional charges, you usually need the signature of an adult to authorize it and any payments. Some companies want payment immediately and some will bill later.

The last time I let an HVAC guy repair our furnace he wanted my signature twice. First I signed to authorize him to work. Second I signed to authorize the payment on the credit card. A few years ago (in 2006 actually), my grandma sent me into town to pick up some food she ordered for a family dinner. She sent me with her checkbook with the top three checks signed. That worked because it is a town of about 200 people and my grandmother was their queen. I'm thinking that won't work with your average HVAC guy.

The AAM commenters indicate that a number of major companies (like cable companies) have hard and fast policies requiring an adult to be in the residence for service. I'm not sure since I have no minor children to foist repair duties onto, but if I was told that, I wouldn't blink. Instituting a policy like this would be a completely reasonable choice for this company.

I have never been a service person fixing up people's homes, but I would imagine that they are often exposed to various toxins. Having masks available to your techs to use at their disposal would seem appropriate.

Second issue: the employee believes they can dictate the terms of their job. This to me is a MUCH bigger issue. Employers should be amenable to talking to employees about difficulties they're having and adjusting policies where appropriate, but at the end of the day if you're told something is your job, do it. If you can't, quit or be fired. You don't get to not do things because they make you "uncomfortable" and then expect your employer to not penalize you. That isn't the way the world works.

Also HVAC is kinda a big deal. I've had to call in for an emergency repair on a Sunday in January in Alaska when it was -8 and the heater stopped working. (Side note: I had to call 3 companies before I got one that had a free tech to send to my house. He spent 20 minutes working, charged $180, and was on the phone the entire time scheduling techs for other calls. Librarians, we are in the wrong field.) If I was not told that there was a requirement to have an adult home (and it sounds like this company is already emphasizing that someone must be home when they do the scheduling) and then the work was refused I would be really upset.

Let's look at this conversation could have been handled.

Tech: I'm uncomfortable going into this house because the only one home is a 15 year-old girl.
Boss: Really? No one's ever mentioned that before.
Tech: Yeah, a false accusation could ruin my life and your company.
Boss: Fair point. But I talked to her mom when she scheduled the call and she said that only her daughter could be home. It's your last call on a Saturday, go ahead and do it since the mother authorized you to be there with her daughter, we'll talk about it on Monday.

Then on Monday there would be a discussion and a potential change in policy to be emphasized to customers when scheduling appointments. Or perhaps all your company wants to do is get confirmation from the parents that it is okay to work in the house alone with a minor. I think that's a risky policy, but a company could do it and require a tech to do so. However if the tech had still walked away from those jobs, write it up. Hopefully you have a policy about how many write ups = disciplinary issues or termination.

Ideally you create an environment where management is responsive to concerns from employees and employees feel free to bring them to management.

Another potential conversation:

Tech: The last home I was called out to had some really nasty black mold all over the place. I can't do that.
Boss: Yeah, we see all sorts of stuff in people's houses. (Shakes head sympathetically). But we still have to do a job. I'm going to get you some protective masks to wear whenever you feel they are necessary.

And the overtime thing: it's legal to require overtime. It's legal to hire a person for two years and never require overtime and then when your company grows start requiring overtime in the third year. (I don't know that is the case here, just making a point.) If the employee doesn't like it, they can find another job. Lots of people work schedules that aren't ideal, it's life. This presumes of course that you are paying them any legally required overtime pay.

For years my mother was in charge of payroll at a major company and I didn't see her as often as I liked (or she probably liked) during January/W-2 season, but on the other side her company offered her the flexibility to be a room mom and take off in the middle of the day to throw parties for our classes.

So this is my last example conversation, presuming everyone is a reasonable person:
Boss: Okay I have three more calls for you to go to. I'm authorizing overtime pay.
Tech: WHOA! I'm done for the day. I've promised to take my wife out for a date.
Boss: Sorry about this, but it's the first bad cold snap of the year and everyone's heater is breaking. I need you to work these three calls.
Tech: Fine. I can use the overtime money to take my wife out to that B&B she likes next weekend instead.

I think this entry really resonated with me because it is a management issue I've struggled with a lot. I want to be open and accommodating. I ABSOLUTELY want to hear my employees concerns and work with them towards solutions. And every now and then it just comes down to "I'm the boss and you need to do this" but it's always better to try to talk it out and not have to flat out say that. I'm not perfect at this, still working at it.