I had an excellent time at BCLC 2013. A lot of that had to do with hanging out with colleagues and doing the whole “think about library issues” in person thing, rather than reading blog posts. Obviously I love blog posts and keeping up with people online is what I do, but it is nice to hang out (for example) at a table full of library techs with a drink and hear what kinds of things they’re dealing with. Or to sit in the sun on a Friday afternoon and discuss the horrors of capitalism and the challenges of optimism. I mean, this is something I just don’t get to do too often.
On the BCLA Info Policy Committee blog I’ve got a post talking about some of the IPC related things that went on. Even though Tara did a great job on the Hot Topics panel, watching it I really really wished I could have been up there participating (though I did get one question asked if not answered) and I think things might have gone a little bit more along these lines if I had.
Beyond that, I went to a very interesting session about how we advertise our early literacy programs on our websites. One of the things I’m bringing back to work is the idea to stop using stock photos and get real people involved doing real storytimish things (as opposed to the baby einstein motifs that you get a lot of in advertising).
I also went to the session on Fraser Valley Regional Library’s Service Mobile, which is an electronics-packed Nissan Cube thing that goes to homeless shelters to involve more people in the digital conversation. This is something I thought was pretty awesome and I think something we could at least put a proposal for in our library system.
The way I’d like to do it though is actually more like the MakerMobile (which was also at the conference on Saturday). On Thursday I got into Vancouver and instead of trying to catch the conference keynote speaker, I went to a Maker Education Meetup, where I met a whole bunch of people involved with 3D printers, education and MakerFaire. They were awesome (and thanks to Frank for getting a bunch of librarians out to the event). The Makers are less about buying fancy gadgets and more about being a mobile workshop to teach people how to use tools and make things themselves. It was actually kind of funny to see the two vehicles out in the conference parking lot. One all shiny and custom-electronicked up, and the other an old cargo truck with tools and clever benches in the back. I get that flashy is flashy, but man, the maker education folks really have my heart.
Last thing I did at the conference was do a few booktalks at the Ain’t on the Globe and Mail Bestseller List panel. I did that panel last year and had a great time. This year I talked about To Be Or Not To Be: That is the Adventure by Ryan North (& Shakespeare & YOU), and a little bit about Pirate Boxes and Unglued books and a great “craft of RPGs” book called Nightmares of Mine by Ken Hite. All of which was super fun, and I got a bottle of wine as a speaker present! For like four minutes of booktalking! So good.
Anyway, that was my conference. I like BCLA and it’s an organization I’m happy to be a part of. Our strategic plan includes advocacy as one of its first objectives and that sounds about right to me.
This week I hosted two preschool visits to the library on consecutive days. They were the same adults but different kids (mostly – a couple were there both days). I liked that arrangement because I got to directly fix things that went less well the first time through.
So here are the books I used. Neil Gaiman’s new picturebook Chu’s Day was our opener (after our welcome to storytime rhyme). It worked well with both groups, who really got into the “Ah ahhh ahhhh… No.” conceit. The only problem is that the “bad things that happen” probably require a bit closer examination to really admire the art. And the ending seems to leave kids wanting more.
I tried using Never Take A Shark to the Dentist the first time, because the cover was really attractive to the kids. The book ended up being a little high-concept for 3-4 year olds, but it was super easy to skip pages when that became apparent.
Stop Snoring Bernard worked really well in both groups. I got the kids to help with the snoring noises and in each group someone had one of those Cosby moments when they told everyone about one of their family members who snored. They also got to name some zoo animals, which helped keep everyone involved.
We did Shapes That Roll in the first session, but it was our last book and I think it would have played a bit better with more time to really get into all the shapes and explore them a bit. As it was we just kind of went with the rhyming.
In today’s session I replaced a couple of the less well-received books with a couple about trying very hard to be quiet. Mattoo, Let’s Play is about a loud little girl with a pet cat who forms a bond once she learns that some animals are best attracted by being quiet. We also did Read to Tiger which is about a tiger being very distracting when you’re trying to read. Everyone had fun making the loud distracting noises.
We did a dinosaur song both sessions it all worked out pretty well. Even the kid who was mad he wasn’t there to see a puppet show was unsullen at the end (that could have been because he was finally able to leave).
I’m going to try doing a few more of these types of storytime post-mortems because of something I took away from Miss Julie’s blog post where she mentioned:
In a profession that’s supposedly dominated by women, I find it sad that the librarians who get the most attention are mostly men (and, admittedly, some women), men who very rarely write about honest, simple, day to day issues in librarianship.
She goes on to discuss how technologists get all the “rockstar” status in our profession and no one cares about the bloggers who write practical things about doing the feminized work of dealing with kids. Since I’m guilty of writing the odd impractical technology rabblerousing bit, I want to make sure I’m also blogging some of these more practical day-to-day things too. It’s part of that whole advocacy for the importance of libraries and librarians thing to show that the non-technological stuff is important too. So here we go.
The best part of my job isn’t telling stories to preschoolers, surprisingly. It’s sitting at the information desk for people to ask me questions. As I see it my job is out on the desk, and anything that isn’t directly helping people find what they’re looking for is just killing time till the next question.
Helping people find books we have or placing holds on books that are at a different branch is the quick stuff. I also place Inter Library Loan requests when our branches don’t have items. That’s when people have specific books they’re looking for.
Sometimes people have questions about more specific things that we don’t have books about, like “How do I make a fire the way First Nations people used to?” or “What should I look for in an HDTV?” For those kinds of things I get to be a bit more of a librarian superhero and find a decent website or use our databases to find and print off an article from some magazine. Most of our patrons are not used to the modern research process so I get to do the balance between finding things for people and teaching them how to use resources a bit more efficiently. And after a few months in this job there are members who come by to chat because we’ve used the internet to figure out the bus schedules in Prince George and Powell River together.
Plus, the info desk is where I get to be the resident technology wizard. I spend 20 minutes helping members set up their Kobos to work with the library’s ebooks. I help people with the arcane ridiculous process to print documents and show people alternate ways to share NFL videos when the Email button stops working.
These are the tasks I missed the hell out of when I was in library school and not working a refdesk. And I’m glad I get to do them now, rather than being locked away in an office. Even now I spend about 20% of my work week in the office and it makes me itch. There’s a bit of a perception, in our branch at least, that when it’s quiet or you’re in the office you can get some work done. In my head that’s not the work I’m a librarian to do.
Now, I like doing programs, and programming is what employers want (in public libraries at least). If program planning (including storytimes) was cut out of my job I’d be disappointed. If my on-desk time was excised I’d have to find a new job. This is just too much of what being a librarian is to me. Eventually this may prove to be my undoing career-wise since it seems like on-desk time is the first thing you lose when you get promoted in libraryland.
But I’ll deal with that if it comes. For now I’ll be helping answer questions like I was born to do.
…and I’m all out of bubblegum.
I don’t know exactly when I will stop thinking of my job as “my new job” but I did unlock an achievement last week. My first sessions of both Babytime and Storytime are now complete.
Numbers-wise, Storytime (for 3-5 year-olds) grew as it went on, and Babytime (for 0-15 month-olds and their caregivers) shrunk, which probably matches up with my confidence with each of those audiences. The biggest difference between the two is that in Storytime you just engage with the kids. A parent or two might stay in the room just to alleviate any tension in their kid, but it’s basically me and children.
I deal well with kids that age. They ask questions and I take them seriously and answer as best I can. Since I’m not a teacher and only have half an hour a week with a group of them that’s nice and sustainable. I’ve also been very lucky that the storytime audiences I’ve had have been happy with a low songs:books ratio. I’m always happy when we get to the end of our half-hour and one of the kids says “but we didn’t read that one!” pointing at one of my displayed books.
Babytime is different. Because the babies are so small you can’t deal with them the way you would older kids. You’re talking more directly with the parent, and well, adults are a bit more demanding an audience. It feels weird doing early development teaching stuff because most of my courses in library school were not early literacy focused. I mean, I read up on these programs and how they’re supposed to work, but I definitely don’t feel like a natural in Babytime. Also, not having any firsthand baby experience makes me a bit twitchy about the whole “telling people how to parent” Getting through the first six weeks helped, and I won’t be as worried about Toddlertime when it starts up in February, but still. I feel like I should be spending good chunks of my workday memorizing zillions of nursery rhymes (and their actions – oh am I ever not kinesthetically intelligent).
Aside from those ongoing programs, I’ve been able to host a bunch of class visits to the library. It’s fun getting Grade 1-3 kids in there because they have things they want to know about and the library (organized by Dewey) is not set up to make it easy for them to find things, so I get to be a magician, producing books from thin air. I also get to read them more complex stories than the preschoolers can necessarily follow.
On Friday I did some outreach at the local National Child Day celebrations, which included reading some stories on the main stage. I only realized in the middle of my second set that my inadvertent theme was devouring people. Nobody seemed too traumatized though.
So yes, it’s kind of awesome how much of my working life is spent reading picturebooks to people. I do other stuff too, but I’ll write about that in another post next week.
MHPL puts the Twitter logo up at the top of the home page. Since the background is green and the logo is blue it pops out immediately, making an exceedingly obvious access point for the social media service. Clicking on that logo brings you to the library’s Twitter account. That’s not all though. Below the main images of the page there is a box with four recent Tweets. This box is the standard widget, and includes the Twitter logo, along with the Join the Conversation link that takes you to the Twitter account. While there isn’t direct access to the Twitter account from the catalogue, there is from the Teen Services page, which says good things about their accessibility.
Usability here is good. There’s no hand holding about how to use Twitter, but having a few tweets directly on the main page means people who don’t know what Twitter is are able to get the information out of it. Clicking through to the Twitter account brings you to the standard Twitter interface. The background image is of the library building and the icon is the library logo. Any usability problems on that page are more Twitter’s problems than the library’s, but the Follow button is prominent.
MHPL has done a good job of integrating Twitter into their services. They’re using it to advertise programs, share videos, and be generally a part of the community. For the latter part of their mission it seems they use the hashtag #medhat, which is used by more people than just the library. That’s an important part of being part of the Twitter community, being able to see what else is going on in the town. There is some retweeting going on but not a huge amount. I also don’t see many @replies, but in general this feels conversational and not like a list of press releases, which is always good.
The library is very good about tweeting enough to make its information useful and timely. As a user I’d be glad to see the information that certain classes or programs weren’t full yet. I also like the linking to YouTube clips of storytimes and other local access TV spots about the library. There’s a lot of good stuff here. It’s very hard to suggest a better use of Twitter for this library, because they’re doing a great job.
After storytime on Wednesday one of the kids had a huge tantrum about wanting to read books at the library instead of going home and going to bed. It was after I was done with them though, so I could laugh and laugh.
On Monday the boss is offering my position to the woman he interviewed this past week and if she accepts (which seems likely) I’ll be able to leave for downtown, hooray!
Today I was cutting out handouts for Baby Rhyme Time that my supervisor left for whoever to do. The funny part of it is that for some reason she didn’t print them two to a sheet. So each of these little things gets cut out, leaving a good 60% of a page behind on each to either go into recycling or the mound of scrap paper she’s building on the desk (possibly for some sort of nest). I wanted to leave this BRT waste stabbed to her desk with a note saying “This is on your head, Treeslayer!” That’s probably because I’m reading A Game of Thrones though. Instead, I left a post-it saying “You know, there’d be less waste if you printed these two to a sheet.”
Today is a Storytime day. I think my theme is houses and homes and stuff. I do not remember what stories I picked. I cut my hair since last week so I wonder if any of the kids’ll freak out.
Last night’s storytime was not one of my best. It was the Royalty & Romance theme (unofficially since that name was verboten) but I messed up the order of my stories so I didn’t have time for the best one, the one I had puppets for. As the theory of storytime goes, you do your longer stories first so that by the time you’ve lost their attention you are switching books all the time and can maybe hold them with novelty. My first story was kind of long (though I shortened it a bit) and my mistake was not going to the puppets and book story right afterwards. Instead I sacrificed the art of the ensemble for getting a thing about how little a normal royal person does in. But then that one went longer than I expected, and I’d almost lost the boys in the audience, so I needed to do something silly (and with a boy protagonist since the first two had been about girls). Once that was done there was time for only one more story and it needed to be short. So my favourite got left in the cold. Le sigh.
But the kids didn’t seem to mind. Even the boy who is the hardest to keep focused was pretty good, though most of the stories weren’t really his thing. But last week we did dinosaurs, so I figure it’s a wash.
Afterwards my coworkers and I were talking about Storytimes and how much stuff they do/did for them. It was kind of funny to hear my supervisor say she wanted to do more puppet shows at the branch, when she was the one who told me in September not to do puppet shows “or the kids would expect them.” I don’t really mind because I don’t have a huge group I’m doing storytime for (usually 6-8 kids) and I’m a good/energetic/silly enough storyteller to keep them occupied for half an hour without gimmicks. For now.
I have new neighbours. One of them yells all the time. I assume he’s under 5 years old, since he doesn’t seem to go to school ever. Last night at the library there were a couple of young parents with their kids. The older one (4ish maybe?) was running around the library with his pants around his ankles. Then he’d trip and fall over and say “I ran into myself.” Ha ha ha cute until it’s been going on for 45 minutes and he’s yelling when his mom tries to put his pants back on and then screaming for 20 minutes when they’re trying to leave. All the staff are trying to ignore them because, dude, no one wants to be the library asshole who tells a mom/dad to take their kids outside or learn to parent. It’s amazing how tiring it is just to have a kid yelling for 45 minutes. I don’t even have anything to do with the kid and it made me tired.
The storytime kids on the other hand were just great. We did some dinosaur tales and even the really long one I started them off with went pretty okay. I skipped a couple of pages which made it make a touch less sense, but it worked out. There’s a new kid who is the most expressive listener ever. She makes all the appropriate faces at the scary or happy or exciting bits, and she was just filled with anticipation when we played the “Where’s the dinosaur hiding?” game. Next week is a bunch of stories about princes and princesses. We’ll see how that goes over with my primarily male audience.
First Storytime of the season! (I kept on calling them semesters at work today.) Almost all the kids I thought would be there were. Nobody freaked out that their parents weren’t in there with them. My felt story version of The Mitten ended in a big “Kablooey!” I hadn’t practiced, but worked really well. One of the kids asked if we were reading about a dragon today (I keep the potential books up on a table behind me while I’m reading to get feedback of what might be their favourites and such) because he saw Derek the Knitting Dinosaur. We didn’t get to it but next week is Demanding Dinosaurs, so I know what the first one is going to be.