Monday, February 29, 2016

National Library Week

National Library Week is coming up... soon...ish...? (It's in April) But in case you were thinking about it already (hey, I'm already thinking summer reading - and I'm sure a lot of you are, too), here's a quick snapshot of what my library did last year. 

Based on a blog entry from many years ago (I think it was The Swiss Army Librarian, but I can't seem to find the original post; at any rate, thanks, Brian!!), I created a new kind of display for National Library Week. 

In the past, we'd asked patrons to write why they love the library, but it seemed a little... self-congratulatory. A little too "you like me, you really like me!!" 

So last year, I went with a more practical approach. I put up a posterboard right by the entrance of the library with a simple question: Why did you come to the library today?

I added a little stand with post-its and left the display to grow on its own. 

By the end of the week, there were over 100 post-its on the board with a wonderful array of responses. Honestly, I was surprised at the variety. It also spoke to me about meeting our patrons' needs as they actually exist, not as I assume they are.

The majority of patrons came in for our materials (yay!). They were checking out books, DVDs, and CDs, and were sometimes looking for specific things (how to speak French for kids, for examples, or the Harry Potter series).

Other people wrote about the programs they were attending, both children and adults:
·        To make French Toast! YUM! (a Sweet Snacks program I was running that week)
·        We came for Baby Time with Miss Laura! We love it!
·        Tamaron Book group – Book selected. Nice ladies!!
·        Came to yoga!

Several people wanted to use the library as a workspace: making copies or using the Internet and the printers, and some were looking for quiet to work on their homework. One was here to work on her master’s thesis in peace! 

Some people even wrote specifically about our staff (far more organically, I feel, than if we had demanded they write about their love for us): 
·         To see my good friend Susan and have her pick out books for me! Thanks!
·          Return a book and see the awesome librarians! Thanks for all you do!
And, of course, as there always will be when something is crowd sourced, there were answers that made us laugh.
·         Because they made me but I didn’t mind.
·         My turtle needed more ointment
·         YOLO
·         Because I missed the train.

Most of all, though, it was inspiring to have people comment on the value of the library itself in their lives:
·         I know I can acquire knowledge here
·         It’s the center of our town
·         To have fun
·         Because I’m always happy when surrounded by books!
·         It’s a beautiful day and the library makes it even better!
·         For inspiration and insight
·         It is great and very friendly. Keep it up.
·         I came to the library because I love to read!
·         For my social life!
·         To be a good friend.

The answers surprised and delighted us and we look forward to putting out post-its again next year.

What do you have planned for National Library Week this year?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Clubs: Historical Fiction

Every month, I have run two book clubs: Reading Rangers for grades K-2 and Pagemasters for grades 3-5. We talk about what books they are reading, read a book, make a craft, and make a snack. The theme varies from month to month, but the kids are not required to read anything specific before the club. I don't even give them the theme beforehand - I ask them to guess it based on the books I've put out for them to look at.

I start each group by putting out 20-30 books on the rug for them to look at while they wait for the program to start.

This month in our book clubs we tackled Historical Fiction. I recently weeded my intermediate chapter books and my J Fiction and I noticed that if a book was historical fiction it was much more likely to be a candidate for weeding based on circulation alone. This bums me out, so I thought I would highlight the books we have left!

Talking 'bout books and the Theme

The Reading Rangers (grades K-2) and I talked about historical fiction and why The Magic Tree House doesn't really count as historical fiction even though they travel to the past.

Then we read Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst.

This one was longer than I would usually attempt at this age, so I abbreviated a little as we went. I was worried they wouldn't really be in to it, but when someone in the book says "quilting is only for women" one little girl said "no it isn't!" And the whole group gasped when the quilt fell in the mud.

The Pagemasters (grades 3-5) and I read John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith which I find hilarious. They found it less so, though they were interested in identifying each historical figure before the book gave away who they were.

I still think this book is hilarious, but I'm starting to doubt its audience. The younger ones wouldn't know who these people are (even the older ones struggled with John Hancock) and the older ones didn't seem to enjoy the humor. But, since I think it's an awesome book, I'm going to chalk this up to my inability to read it properly. 

Both groups did the same craft and snack. We made candles from crayons and made our own butter. 


I pulled out my much maligned toaster oven (poor thing just doesn't work well for my cooking programs) while the kids peeled broken crayon bits and put them in aluminum muffin tins. 

I popped those in the oven until the wax melted, pulled them out and added a wick, and then waited for them to harden. Fortunately, crayon wax hardens quickly. 


 I got this idea from a coworker who uses it during a silly cow storytime. I used Talenti gelato containers that someone donated (the kids always want to know if I ate all that gelato by myself) and dice.

Pour some milk into the container. Add a pinch of salt. Add two dice (or marbles if you have them). SHAKE!!!

First you get sour cream: 

Then you get whipped cream: 

Then finally, once the water (buttermilk) separates out, you'll have butter. 

Spread it on bread.


It takes a lot of vigorous shaking, but the kids mostly enjoyed that part. I put on "Shake it off" and, if I were to do it again, I would probably make a CD of shaking songs for motivation. 

The younger set mostly made it to whipped cream (which is totally spreadable as whipped butter and it was enough to make them happy), but the older set took great pride in opening their jars for me and having me proclaim "BUTTER!!" 

As an extra bit of butter on the bread, one of the moms sent me a photo of their dinnertime that evening with candles for ambiance and butter for deliciousness. 

I always encourage the kids to take the books I've brought to continue reading on our theme at home. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tween Program: Cookie Wars

I love baking shows (and just discovered "The Great British Baking Show" which, if you love baking shows, you should have been watching yesterday!) and I'm in to Cupcake Wars on Netflix. Seems like a program ripe for the tweening (new word?), so that's what I did.

Presenting: Cookie Wars! Tween Style!

I had 22 tweens (ages 10 and up - most of them were 10-12) come out for the program. Before they got there, I put out all seven of my tables and covered them in tablecloths from the Dollar Store. DO THIS. It makes clean up a million times easier. (You already knew that, right? I learn things the hard way)

Six of the tables were for the competitors and allowed us to divide quickly and easily into teams. Basically: were you standing at the table with that person? Voila! Team members.

I had materials for four challenges, but we ended up going with three.

First one, taste. They got Nilla Wafers and a secret ingredient of fruit (strawberries, bananas, blueberries, and raspberries) as well as other ingredients (candy, pudding, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, jam). They made seven identical "desserts" and one person from every team helped me judge, scoring 1 for gross and 5 for awesome.

Next one: taste, part two. This time they had Little Bites and had to make something delicious with them. Again, one person from each team helped me judge.

We were running short on time (I had one more taste challenge involving small chocolate chip cookies, but I let that one slide) so I jumped to the last one: appearance. Everyone got a sugar cookie in a bowl and could decorate as they wished as long as it fit the theme: books.

While they made their creations, I tallied up the points so far. I then judged the appearance ones myself and added points to each team at the end.

The Three Bears. 
The kids had a great time with this one and they got to take home their sugar cookie scene so they were happy. The team with the most points got  full sized Hershey bars. Yum!

Things to consider: OMG, you guys, the things I had to taste. It was SO GROSS. Blueberries and smarties? Gummy bears and chocolate pudding and mint? I gave a lot of 1s and 2s. But, on the other hand, the kids thought the banana chocolate pudding combination was disgusting, so maybe I'm the one with the wrong tastebuds.

Verdict: very fun, very chaotic, and a great way to use up leftover candy from December's Gingerbread Houses. (Link is from 2014, candy I used was from the 2015 iteration of the program).

Monday, February 22, 2016

Princess Party!

Who lives in a castle like this? Princesses, of course! This cardboard feat of construction paper brick-laying was the centerpiece of my library's Princess Party. 

I had about 50 children and their parents attend this year and we had a great (if somewhat crowded) time. 

Here's what we did: 

This was the only cost of the program. Hooray for a program where I already had everything I needed!!! I bought strawberries, pretzels, grapes, small cookies, and frosted cupcakes. Bonus of doing this right around Valentine's Day: super easy to find pink and white cupcakes.

Princess Paper Dolls
I printed out a paper doll and dresses template which the kids could color and cut out. I also put out cardstock and envelope templates to make a convenient (and pretty!) holder for the doll and her accessories. I really like this station, but it was the last one people went to, so I might have to rethink putting it up when I do this again.

Pom Pom Boas
I did these for my Fancy Nancy Party last year, and I was just crazy enough to do it again. I started making the pom poms in advance this time, so there wasn't a major time crunch at the end, but I still ended up with a living room covered in yarn fuzz for, like, a week (or 3 million years if you ask my husband). So.... still not for the faint of heart. But still so cute! But so time consuming! But so fun! (I am large, I contain multitudes....)

Beaded Jewelry
Super simple (no instructions needed!), very pretty, and always a hit. Stock up on pony beads and pretty colors of pipe cleaners and off you go. 

Pin the Kiss on the Frog
I made a very large frog using clipart and had little lips with tape on them. and a pink blindfold. Stickers for anyone who participated. 

Tiaras and Scepters
I printed out a crown template on cardstock and the participants decorated it, cut it out, and stapled it all together so they could wear it. I cut hearts, stars, and snowflakes out of glitter foam which we attached to straws to make scepters. We added curling ribbon to make them extra fancy.

I always hesitate with the tiara and scepter station because so many little girls come already dressed up with dresses and tiaras and scepters and I think "why would they want to make another one?" and yet it is always the first station they flock to and the busiest throughout. I should stop questioning myself with this one.

Dragons and Swords
I did have some young knights at the party so I put out a green table just for them. (It was a nice break from all the pink). They could make two things: a dragon paper bag puppet and a sword. One of my co-workers also works at a print shop and they are always receiving printer toner with this weird cardboard packaging. Turns out you can add a little tinfoil and it works great for swords!

And, of course, a book display to encourage more princesses-y reading!

I wish I had had time (and floor space) to make some princess reading nooks using a hula hoop and a pretty shower curtain, but my time went elsewhere and I never got to it. Also, I think I need to drop the paper dolls next time. It's time to let that one go.....

Another bonus: I gave away part of the castle to families who wanted to continue playing at home! And then got an amazing picture of the girls having a tea party in the tower in their playroom! All loveliness all around, which is pretty much what you should expect from a princess.
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