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Booktalking George, by Alex Gino: It kind of takes a village

A beautiful example of the school librarian and teachers working together to help create more informed students. BRAVO magpie!

The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian's Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette

When I started this blog, I was a public librarian with a clear mission for what I wanted to write about here. Now that I’m a school librarian who is settling into a whole new work culture, it’s become less apparent to me what I’m supposed to talk about on this blog, except to say, “This is really different from my last job and sometimes it feels like I have no idea what I am doing.” Though I have been a school librarian for almost 6 months, it somehow only feels like a couple of days. The newness has not worn off yet. Hence, the lack of blog posts.

I thought I would talk about how George, by Alex Gino, became a project that much of our Upper School became involved in: 2 sixth grade classes, me (the librarian), several teachers, and the school psychologist. It all…

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Program inspiration: Art Workshops for Children

Just got this book at the library and it is filled with wonderful ideas that I really want to do yet know I can’t do because PAINT!

But I’m not going to give up. I think I can find some substitutes for the messy paint and perhaps just go with markers. Our meeting room/programming room is carpeted and getting it cleaned on a normal day is difficult so I can’t imagine what would happen if we got paint on it. I’m pretty sure our custodian would never forgive me.

Has anyone done an Art Workshop for kids at their library? I’m thinking this would require registration as it sounds like the kids will need lots of space to move around for some of these.

Posting this here so I can stumble upon it later and maybe plan a program for next year.🙂


Special Event: My Little Pony Party

I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled these past few months of my life.  I bought a house, moved into the house, got married on top of working AND then decided I should do an Angry Birds program, Star Wars Reads Day, and My Little Pony Party on top of all the other things.  So, needless to say, I didn’t do as much for these events as I wanted to but the attendees didn’t know that and they had a blast so yay for that!

Today was the My Little Pony Party.  I scheduled it for a day our schools had an early dismissal because of a teacher in-service so it wasn’t connected to a holiday or anything, the kids just got out early and needed someplace to go.  I made sure to REMIND parents of this anytime they mentioned the program’s 2pm start time.

I advertised the program for ages 5 and up and made sure to mention that it was for both bronies and pegasisters so everyone felt welcome.

It worked!  We had a great turn out, around 50 kids, and the age range was a lot of early elementary.  They all loved it!

Crafts included:

Make yourself as a pony (blank pony coloring sheet with crayons)
Make a pony bookmark (corner bookmarks + one of these ponies glued on top)
Make a “cupcake” (accu-cut cupcakes with some tissue paper for “extra frosting”)
Make a unicorn horn (found here)

(I have a Pinterest board full of brainstorming, if you’re curious)

And, of course, a Scavenger Hunt because I love sending the kids into the library and they seem to love it too.  I gave them a gem at the end because they were searching for Spike.

Here are a few photos of the cuteness.  BRACE YOURSELF:

Sugarcube Corner cupcake making was a bigger hit than I expected! Lots of fancy cupcakes, wish they had all been real! Would love to team up with a local bakery next time, maybe we could have a cake decorating class for kids.
Unicorn horns were a HUGE hit, though I miscalculated how much ribbon it would take to tie them to 50 little heads.
The entire back half of the meeting room was COVERED in glitter but it was worth it. The kids loved decorating their horns with glitter and shiny paper. I only wish I had more sturdy paper, basic cardstock barely cut it, especially if they slopped a lot of glue on it.
This guy had a blast! He was probably the oldest kid there but he had so much fun creating his very own pony (complete with game controller cutie mark and xbox headset) and a horn to match.

Books read in September

Read. Watch. Blog

Wherein I should be reading books for a conference but get distracted by a bunch of comics for teens and kids that I just happened to see on the shelf:

Unicorn on a Roll (Heavenly Nostrils, #2)Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Not quite as good as the first collection, but still adorable and fun. I love this series!!!

View all my reviews
This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I think a lot of us have a “one summer” that we can remember. Maybe not quite as dramatic as this one, but I do remember having those crushes, the mystery of what being “older” was all about, and straddling that line between wanting to be a kid and wanting to be a teen. Tamaki and Tamaki capture it all perfectly.

View all my reviews
Storm Vol. 1: Make it RainStorm Vol…

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How teachers can create a Summer Reading list that won’t make librarians die or children cry: Unsolicited advice from a public librarian

This is a rant I go on every year, so nice to have someone else do it for me. She captures all of the pain and suffering inflicted upon librarians and students as they struggle over the summer to figure out what the heck the people making these “assigned lists” were thinking!!

The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian's Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette

Summer Reading depresses the bejeezos out of me. While my school librarian friends are looking 10 years younger and more carefree than should be permitted by law, I’ve got the Summer Reading blues real hard. The reference desk lines are non-stop, everyone needs everything right now (stress levels of parents seem to go up to 11 during July and August), we’re running out of titles and our will to live, and the Summer Reading assignment lists from the schools don’t seem to have been written by actual people:

Often, parents hand me lists so outlandish I’ve considered whether I was being featured on a really bad hidden-video reality show. They’re either really poorly organized or they contain titles that I know just by looking at them that we just don’t have. I’ve tried contacting schools and teachers, either by phone, email, or in person, and have had absolutely no luck. We…

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I got paid to Harry Potter today

Sorting hat #harrypotter #librarian #library

We had a “Science of Harry Potter” program this afternoon. I wasn’t in charge of it, my co-worker (who is far more hardcore into HP) was the planner. My involvement was today during the set-up and actual event.

The program was 2 hours long, though most people were there right at the start. We’re guessing we had over 150 people attend, maybe even 200. It was mass chaos when we opened the doors to the meeting room at 2pm because EVERYONE came right at 2pm and flooded the meeting room.

I ended up at the “sorting hat” table, which had a very short questionnaire for the kids to fill out and then I tallied the answers and told them what house they were sorted in to. This was so simple, something I know we have all done online many times, but OMG THEY LOVED IT! I guess because they are too young to hang out online and take these quizzes? I sorted entire families – kids dragged their parents over because they wanted to know which house they would be in. It was adorable.

We even had a few kids in Slytherin, which was hilarious. Usually it was little kids because, as we know, toddlers are evil.

Other tables included:

  • Herbology lessons — make a anti-nightmare sleep aid from a collection of herbs
  • Astronomy — make a star wheel
  • Enchanting — levitating tinsel on a balloon (which didn’t work well because the room was too humid and we couldn’t build up enough static)
  • Potions — invisible ink with lemon juice
  • Divination — tea leaves, palm reading, and tarot cards
  • Fantastic beasts — Owl origami
  • Hogwarts Library — scavenger hunt starting point, quizzes, and BOOKS!

HUGE HUGE hit, as anything with Harry Potter’s name attached to it usually is.

(I will poke my friend and see if she can post a proper blog about the program since it was her brainchild)

These kinds of family programs with brand names are always insane but so worth it.

Oh, and bonus, I posted the above photo on my tumblr and Library Journal reblogged it!  ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!

And now I’m going to pass out because what a day!!!!

Photo credit: @aacpl

stop stressing yourself out — themes are overrated

You know, when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I worked like crazy to pull together books that were all themed and a craft that tied into that theme, songs that worked with the theme, and a few rhymes or puppet that fit into the theme.

But you know what I’ve realized? The kids don’t really care.

They are just so thrilled to hear stories and sing songs together. Never once has a child critiqued my storytime choices and told me that a book didn’t fit into the theme.

Storytime “themes” should be approached the same way that an episode of Sesame Street works – you can have a letter or number of the day, but honestly everyone just wants to hear the main theme song, the counting song, and they like to hear a few new stories.

I think some of us, especially librarians who are not Children’s Librarians or who studied early literacy, but have become storytime gurus through happenstance, become obsessed with themes and it makes these weekly programs eat up far too much time and brain power, considering how much other stuff we have to do around the branch. Personally, I do at least one children’s program every week. I also work the desk at least 2 hours a day, though usually 3 hours if staffing is weird. I want to host more programs for teens. I want to weed my collection. I want to create displays!

So instead of sweating over storytime themes, I now just pick out some of my favorite books from the storytime shelf, pick one that I like enough to make it the craft (since most authors have websites now with easy craft ideas) and have a selection of songs I pick from so that the kids can learn the songs with me.

It has made my life far less stressful. I did the Babies program for 2 months and I only switched up a few things the entire time, mostly just going back and forth between the same three sets of rhymes or fingerplays. The babies and parents loved learning the rhymes with me. I’m now doing the Toddler program and going about it the same way, except with a few more books in the mix. But I am going to use the same rhymes and songs and watch as the kids learn them with me.

Summer Outreach to Middle Schools – GIFtalks!

One of the lovely bloggers at Teen Services Underground (which, if you are not a member, you should be!) linked to this post about using GIFs with booktalks.

I had signed myself up for several school visits at the end of the May and start of June so I was really excited to see this idea (I didn’t even know you could use GIFs in PowerPoint – this feature will be abused from now on, whether I’m talking to 5th graders or our library staff). I had my booklists, created from titles my coworkers and I had enjoyed plus ones that were well reviewed in School Library Journal and a few I just knew about from word of mouth from our regular teen readers.

My presentation was about 45 minutes long. The first 20 minutes was my basic Summer Reading Club plug, talking about programs we would have going on all summer long and reminding them that the public library is a place that is totally FREE to get into and also has air conditioning. I didn’t pretend like it was the only place they should want to be this summer. That’s ridiculous. But I pointed out that there were going to be summer days when they would need another activity because of weather or being stuck at home. I kept the presentation light and funny and told them how easy it was to get a library card.

After we got through that, I did booktalks for about 30 minutes. I broke them down into vague genres and did about 3-4 books per genre, with a GIF behind me while talking. The kids were on the edge of their seats when I would change slides, standing up to see what characters were up there.

ANYWAY, I haven’t seen any statistics yet but I have seen a lot of older kids and teens sign up for our program and so many have come in to get the books I talked about. And just as many have said “Hello” to me when they visit, which just makes me feel like a rockstar.

So I can totally vouch for this. If you want your Readers Advisory to be a bit more fun when you visit schools, this is a great way to go, especially when talking to a large audience. My groups about 100 kids each and I was impressed by how closely they listened. I talked to over 1000 kids in about 3 weeks and it was amazing to hear them say they wanted to read something I had suggested!

If you want to see my presentation, you can download it here!

books read in April

Read. Watch. Blog

Wow, this is embarrassing. The story here is that I have two adult books I am currently in the middle of. I’m still working on Silence of the Lambs and then a week ago Dead Wake arrived for me so I dropped everything to read that, only to find myself losing interest and going back to Lambs. But not quick enough to finish it before April 30! So my “read” list for April is kind of sad. But at least the two books I did finish were fantastic!

El DeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this graphic novel memoir about Cece Bell’s hearing loss as a child. Even if you have perfect hearing, you can relate to Bell’s story, her nervousness about trying to fit in, about not wanting people to treat her differently and managing friendships and relationships in middle school. Her…

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