maker storytime booklist – #vmmf 2014

I made the trek to the mainland last weekend to do stuff at the BC Libraries Cooperative-sponsored Makerbrarians booth for the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire.

I had a heap of picturebooks that fit in with the idea of maker culture at our makers in libraries booth. I did get to do some storytimes, but I realized what a bad librarian I was when I didn’t have a booklist to give people. So terrible. But here’s one!


I divided it into two sections, because there are a bunch of picturebooks out there about building stuff with tools, which is great, but while tools are important to makers I see the culture of invention (and the different paths we take to make things) as being even more important to tell stories about.

I haven’t labelled them for ages or reading levels because I really try to fit the book to the individual. They cover a wide range of complexities though.

Culture of Invention & Problem Solving

Building Things

There was loads of awesome non-librarian stuff going on at VMMF too. My buddy got a cheese-making kit. I got a collapsible cardboard soundstage with LED lights to make movies with. I did not ride the mechanical snake though.

program review: family literacy day 2013

In our town, Family Literacy Day was done in partnership with a bunch of the local literacy groups, and of course the library was a part of it. Because Family Literacy Day itself is on January 27, which is a Sunday and many venues would be closed, events were spread out over the full week. There was in-school reading and a gym day, and this weekend there’ll be events at the museum and art gallery.

The library’s event was on Thursday. This was my first big-L Literacy event I’d planned and integrating into the plans of all these literacy advocates and educators with way more experience than me was a little intimidating. Part of the challenge was figuring out my target audience. Family Literacy Day is about promoting this 15 Minutes of Fun to share learning with everyone in the family. It goes beyond the staples of just reading to playing board games and cooking and math and all of that stuff that literacy helps with integrating into people’s lives.

Our theme was about discovering the community, and very early on I knew I wanted the event to be like a very basic “make your own comic” workshop. I am a huge fan of the connection between pictures and words that comics represent and getting that into an early literacy program might make comics a more palatable choice for parents who don’t like them in the future.

So I planned a comics for kids kind of event. But a few weeks ago I realized my error. The library’s event was going to be at 2:30pm, so I was not going to be getting the 6-10 year-olds and their parents that my program was aimed at, since they’d be at school. So I rejigged the whole thing to focus more on preschoolers, which meant we did some stories about communities and the comics-making got downgraded to drawing pictures about themselves. The idea was that “I couldn’t find any stories about our town, so can you draw some for me?”

To be honest, I probably should have dropped the “comics-making” part of the event and shifted to a more crafty kind of craft. The “three pictures makes a story” was still over the heads of the preschoolers who attended. There was one older girl who was there for a while, who would have been perfect for the original older-kids comickery focus, but the people who did show up were better off with our picturebooks and drawing.

The best books we ended up doing were:

  • A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper, which worked very well for getting the kids to be observant about details (and let us model some of those good critical reading behaviours matching up words and pictures)
  • Dinosaur Woods by George McClements, which was about how the people/animals living in a place are what make it special (not necessarily giant robotic dinosaurs)

I’m not sure it was the best Family Literacy Day event ever, but it was my first and no one went out to find pitchforks and torches to equip a mob and storm my castle, so I consider it a modest success.

storytime review: chu’s day, stop snoring bernard & mattoo let’s play

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.

Helpdesk 01 by Peter Cuhalev on Flickr shared under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 license

i left my heart at the refdesk

Helpdesk 01 by Peter Cuhalev on Flickr shared under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 license

Helpdesk 01 by Peter Cuhalev on Flickr shared under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 license

The last in a short series of posts where I talk about what exactly I do in my new job as a Children’s and Youth Librarian.

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.

book review: sir cumference and the viking’s map

I have a couple of friends who are getting their education degrees right now and one of them asked if I’d read any of these Sir Cumference books. I hadn’t, but now I have.

Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map is a story that goes over the basics of the Cartesian plane. There are two kids who get a map that’s supposed to lead to treasure and they have to figure out how the coordinate system works, while being chased by enemies.

I like the concept but thought there weren’t enough plausible mistakes in it. They just read the clues and knew what the negative numbers meant and that you’re supposed to read the X axis first. There are probably sound pedagogical reasons for that, but it made it feel overly simplistic as a story. It felt too obviously like a lesson and not like a story you could happen to learn something from – for my taste at least.

Now I’m looking for more math/story books to see if I can find some I really like and will let you know if I find any.

i am here to chew bubblegum and read you picturebooks…

…and I’m all out of bubblegum.

Tomato Story by jeffsmallwood, on Flickr Shared under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 license

The first in a short series of posts where I talk about what exactly I do in my new job as a Children’s and Youth Librarian.

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.