Monthly Archives: July 2015

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.