Category Archives: Librarianship

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I first heard about libraries doing “stuffed animal sleepovers” a couple of years ago when one of my favorite library patrons told me about a library on the Cape that had done one.  And then the children’s librarian listserve started to be abuzz with librarians posting about their sleepovers.  And then a librarian posted a request for advice on how to run one, and later posted a compilation of all the advice that she had gotten.  Now I had no excuse: this compilation was virtually a guide on to how to run a stuffed animal sleepover.  It was time for me to schedule one.

But first, what is a stuffed animal sleepover?  Kids drop off their stuffed animals at the library, and after the library is closed, the stuffed animals have a grand old party together as they explore the library.  Some librarians make videos, other librarians print out photos of each stuffed animal to give to each child at animal pickup time, and other librarians take a ton of photos and post them on Facebook (the option I chose).  Basically, it would be tough to have a “real” sleepover at the library for real kids, so this is a fun option that carries no liability issues but still gets kids jazzed about the library.

Last night was the big night, and I am so glad that I chose a Friday night.  The library closes at two o’clock on Fridays, so I knew I would have plenty of time to take photos and then post them on Facebook and Google+.  I figured it would take me two or three hours…but I was wrong.  I finished posting the photos at eight-fifteen, and for that six and a quarter hours I was running around like a crazy woman.  At one point I was wheeling the book cart loaded with stuffed animals along the window-lined hallway on the top floor of the building, and as I looked out at the dark parking lot I thought that anyone out there in their car would probably think this was pretty funny:  a frazzled looking librarian pushing a cart of animals full-tilt along the hallway to the large program room.

Despite taking way longer than planned, I had a lot of fun posing the animals, taking their photos, and then writing captions for each photo (eighty-two or so altogether) as I posted them on Facebook.  Part of the set-up was that Pepper B. Collie, the storytime puppet, was taking the photos, since the librarians had all left for the day.  S. took a photo of three of us librarians standing outside the building waving goodbye to the animals (who were lined up on the window sill looking out).  So I had to be careful that I didn’t show in any of the photos (there are a lot of windows in the building that could catch my reflection), and when writing the captions I tried to write them in the voice of Pepper and the other animals.

Before the sleepover, Jennifer did a lot of brainstorming about places and ways to pose the animals, and yesterday morning I took her list, added some ideas of my own, and then typed up a two page bulleted list of locations, organized by area of the library.  This helped me to be much more efficient and ensured that I wouldn’t forget any of the best ideas.  Some of the ideas (I wanted a photo of the animals looking out the window at the sunset) were time sensitive, some were not; so in addition to areas of the library, I did have to keep the time sensitive ideas in mind as the evening progressed.

And it all worked out, especially since Jim was willing to bring a fresh hot pizza to the library rather than me taking the time to run out and get the pizza.  After posing the stuffed animals with the pizza, Jim and I took ten minutes to eat our pizza dinner, and then we set up the animals for the final pose:  dancing under a disco ball (definitely a two person pose – Jim shone a flashlight on the disco ball and held the disco ball out on a ruler while I took photos).  Then we cleaned up and headed home, where I uploaded and captioned the photos.

If you’d like to see the photos, the best ones are on Facebook (I was too burnt out by eight- fifteen to put captions on the Google+ photos):  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-Room-at-the-Harvard-Public-Library/565116156844784

Happy September

I actually love the month of September – even though we’re busy at the library after school with kids coming over from the elementary, middle, and high schools, the mornings are lovely and quiet and I get tons done.

Sometimes my storytime regulars ask why I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September, and I always reply, “So I can get some ordering done after the summer!”  Summers at the library are almost relentlessly busy, and it’s difficult to focus on reading book reviews in The Horn Book Magazine and Kirkus when kids are coming up to the desk every few minutes to redeem summer prizes or ask for summer reading book suggestions.  I need these next few weeks to pay some careful attention to ordering, and to make sure our shelves are fully stocked with the latest and greatest as winter comes around the corner.

But there’s another reason I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September: it’s vitally important to take a little time off from them so that I get refreshed and revitalized.  Yes, I could keep plugging along at the usual stiff storytime pace that I keep up the rest of the year (five or so storytimes a week), but we all benefit from me having just a few weeks off.  I actually love that I get nervous and edgy before my first September storytime, because it means that I’m coming back to storytimes with a fresh perspective.  If I’m nervous, then I’m fully engaged, and if I’m fully engaged, then storytimes are soooo much more fun for everyone.

One of my greatest fears is getting stale in my job, which is why I’m always pushing myself to do more and to try new and different things.  And by stepping back and taking a break, I can look at my storytimes from a bit of a distance and evaluate what I’m doing well and what I need to do better.  I’ll never go so far as to film myself doing a storytime, because that would destroy my self-confidence, but I’m very capable of being objective about my own performance.  I know that I overuse certain phrases, and I’m aiming to not say those phrases coming up in September.  I know that I’m a little afraid of using parent tips in my storytimes, but I need to get over that hump and start incorporating those tips more regularly.  And I know that by the end of the summer I was a bit tired and worn out, and I’m glad to take this breather and regain my enthusiasm.

So the next few weeks will be devoted to freshening my storytime perspective, and spending some intense time doing my absolute favorite part of my job: ordering books.  Yay!  Happy September, everyone!

Analog clocks

I’m worried that analog clocks, which I personally prefer to digital, will be going the way of the dinosaurs.

The computer sign-in sheet for the children’s room computers is on the end of the librarian’s desk; I have thoughtfully provided a pencil and an analog clock for kids to log the time when they sign in.  Thoughtfully, because I like to encourage kids to practice their clock reading skills.  But I do get a lot of grief from kids about this clock, and they frequently ask me what time it is.  For the younger ones, I talk them through how to tell the time on the clock.  Sometimes I talk the older kids through, too, but most often I encourage them to think about it for a minute and they usually get it.

Yesterday, an eighth grade girl (a regular in the children’s room) was signing in for the computer, and she casually asked me “What time is it?”

With a smile, I replied, “The clock is right there…”

“I know, but…”  [heavy, heavy sigh]

Me:  “Well, think about what time you get out of school, since you just got out, and see if that helps you figure it out.”

Another heavy sigh.

And then the boy next to her whispered, “It’s 2:26.”

I may lose this clock battle, and, more importantly, the analog clock might lose – sooner than we think.

Procrastination…the fine art of

I turned on the computer to work on the library tour that I’ll be giving to the elementary school students this week, starting with two third grade classes tomorrow.

“Why don’t you get your work done now, in the morning, so that we can enjoy the rest of the day?” said my wonderful and wise husband before heading outside to work on installing the cedar decking on our new back steps.

That was about an hour ago.  In that hour, I’ve checked Facebook (both my account and Pepper B. Collie’s account), checked my email, read something my sister sent me, checked my work email, looked at a shirt on Garnet Hill, drunk two cups of tea, sent an email to my friend, turned on a McAfee scan on the computer, and now logged in to write a blog post.  And my flashdrive and the hard copy of the library tour that I printed out on Friday are both sitting next to me on the chair, unused so far today.

Sigh.

Saving a day with silliness

Today was one of those days, and when I got home I wrote a rather self-pitying draft of a blog post.  It made me feel better, which was good, and I had the sense to save it as a draft and come back to it later and delete it, which was even better than good.

The thing is – and you won’t often hear this because it’s hard to put these feelings out there – that it’s tough being a public servant.  Every day is public, which is usually ok, and then there are days like today when there are brief moments where you truly feel the servant part of the job description.  It really was the briefest of moments today that I felt servile, but like most negative things, it outweighed all the positive moments of the day for quite a while and got me down.

So I made myself do two things this evening to get myself out of my little funk:  I reminded myself that it is impossible to be universally liked at all times by all people (yes, that’s a bit redundant, but I don’t care), and that what’s important is that I try very, very, very hard every day to do the best job that I can with the best attitude and a smile on my face.

And then there’s the second thing I did to get myself out of my funk:  I watched an online clip about the exercise video that I saw a tease for on the Today Show this morning…Prancercise.  Thank goodness for that.  I instantly felt better.

T minus six days

The elementary school class visits begin next Monday – always an exciting time of year!  I’m working on my final preparations for the visits, which include narrowing down the book choices for the books that I’ll read to the Kindergarteners and the first graders (I’ve pulled at least thirty of my favorites…so so hard to pick only a couple); streamlining my tour of the building to make it history-rich (the building is historic and very cool) but still engaging for a large group of kids; and creating a new feltboard story to use with the younger kids.

I’m really looking forward to next week’s class visits, since it’s such a great way to meet and make meaningful contact with every child in town who attends the public elementary school.  And, of course, to promote the library’s ever-popular summer reading program.

And now it’s just up to the Bruins to establish whether I wear my Bruins shirts for the class visits…if they’re still winning, I’ll be wearing the shirts, since the Bruins are statewide co-sponsors of the summer reading program.  If they’ve lost and are out of the running for the Stanley Cup, it may be a bit too fresh and painful for the kids.  (But wearing a Bruins shirt does catch the attention of sports-minded kids, which is always great.)  Stay tuned to find out what I’ll be wearing next week…

Coming on Tuesday

I’m trying something new in programming this month at the library: a paid performer on a weekday morning.  This month is rare in the town in which I work – there is no early release day from the public schools in May.  Normally, I schedule most of our paid performers to come on early release days, since after experimenting with Thursday evening shows and Saturday shows I have found that the best attendance for events is on early release day shows.  (And, of course, magic shows always get the best attendance of all, much to my sadness, but that’s a post for another day.)

When the May early release day was cancelled back in December, I was first very glad that I had not yet scheduled a performer, and then I had to decide what to do for May programming.  I toyed with the idea of having no performer at all, but that didn’t feel right to me.  Then I thought about scheduling a Saturday show, but quickly decided against that given the weak attendance at the very cool Saturday program we hosted in January.  January is an indoor month in town, where May is full of outdoor sports programs and the Apple Blossom Festival and the Garden Club Plant Sale and all kinds of other things.  Not worth me bringing a performer to the library on a May Saturday.

Then I decided to try a weekday morning performer who specializes in working with preschoolers and infants.  We do not have storytimes on Tuesday mornings, so that seemed the natural time to run a show.  And, even better, the Memorial Day holiday means that my Monday morning storytime regulars would be happy to have a Tuesday morning program to make up for their missed regular storytime.  And I’ve been wanting to bring Hugh Hanley back to the library, since I love the gentle way that he encourages  parents and children to sing and do fingerplays.  And I always learn from him: watching Hugh is like attending a master class in working with preschoolers.

Happily, we have a large group signed up to attend on Tuesday, and I suspect that even more attendees will drop in, which is just fine by me.  The more the merrier!  After all the mental machinations (and agony) that it took to get me to this decision of having a morning program, I’m thrilled that it turns out there is a demand.  This may be the beginning of a new programming trend at the library, budget allowing, of course.  How awesome would it be to have an early release day program each month for the older kids and a Tuesday morning program each month for the younger ones?

4:30 Panic

Ok, it’s that time of year.  I woke up at 4:30 this morning, and started to panic about all that I have to get done.  The elementary school visits begin on June 3, which is the unofficial start to summer reading (even though the “real” summer reading doesn’t start until June 25, the day of the Ice Cream Social).

It’s lovely that there is a movie night tonight, and equally lovely that this is a three-day holiday weekend, but in reality all that means is that I lose four hours today and eight hours on Monday when I could be getting a lot of work done.  So I gave up on sleep at 5:15, and hauled myself into work very very early.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get enough done this morning before we open so that I can enjoy my holiday weekend.

And this is one of those days when I want to point out to anyone who thinks my job is “cute” and easy – it ain’t.  It’s a lot of never-ending, hard hard work.  Rewarding work, but hard hard work.  And did I mention never-ending?  🙂

Still here…

Yes, I’m still here – but I’m finding that my still-healing broken foot is limiting my evening creativity.  While at work, I think of things that would be awesome blog post topics: a very young child who says or does something charming, a book group that takes the book discussion to a new level, an idea for a new program.  But I can’t write blog posts at work, and by the time I get home I’m a bit cooked, mentally and physically, after stumping around at the library all day with the walking boot on my foot.

So here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks:

  • Lots of storytimes, which have been especially crowded now that the gloom of winter and cabin fever has set in for everyone.  Last week there were forty-one adults and kids at the Thursday storytime, which is about the limit of what we can fit into the story room.  But it’s such a nice group of attendees, all of whom participate enthusiastically.  There was a wonderful moment at one recent storytime where every single adult in the room was belting out (in harmony, of course!) “Where is Thumbkin?”.  Very very cool.
  • Lots of great book groups.  Of course I’ve waited too long to write up coherent retellings of each book group discussion, so I’ll just sum up each one quickly.  The 5th grade group read Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, and eleven out of twelve kids disliked the book because it was “too slow.”  The teen book group read The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, and while talking about what kind of book it is I discovered that most of the group had never heard of caviar, creme brulee, or Agatha Christie.  The 4th grade group discussed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, and they unanimously loved it.  (They were also happy to hear that a book they read earlier this year, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, was the winner of this year’s Newbery award.)  And the 6th grade group discussed Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, which they mostly loved; it interested me that they were all surprised to find out that Brian Selznick both wrote and illustrated the book – the group members thought that he was only the author.
  • And then there are the random things: sweet moments at the art portion of the storytime for 4’s & 5’s (a five year old discovering that he can “erase” his painting and start fresh, thus prolonging the creative experience); an eighteen month old finding his dancing legs and grinning ecstatically while bobbing up and down to some Zydeco; two sweet girls at the Create a Valentine program surprising me with Valentine cards (one said “Feel Better!” and the other – launched at my back – was emblazoned with “Guess Who???”…the artist finally came over and told me she had made it, since I was clearly confused); and the daily niceties of working in a small town filled with caring people.

Hopefully my foot will be fully healed soon (eight weeks and counting right now, this is a loooooooong process), but until then please forgive me if I have lapses of blog entries.  I’m still here!