Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just a little something...

Today I went to take a quick lunch break, leaving the Children's Desk unattended for a few minutes.  When I returned, this was waiting for me on the desk:

Awww!  Too sweet.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

November's teen passive program drew its inspiration directly from one of my favorite holidays:  Thanksgiving.  Bad news:  I neglected to take a picture of the display before taking it down.  You're stuck listening to me describe it instead.

Setting up this passive program was super easy.  I made a large sign on 17x11" paper with the question, "What are you thankful for?" written on it.  Then I put out some quarter sheets of colored paper and pens.  The teens could write their answers out and post them to the bulletin board.  Easy!

Most of the answers were very nice.

A few were a little bit more...interesting.

Teenagers:  Gotta love them!

I've also learned that when asking the teens to write something simple like this, a smaller piece of paper is best.  Even these quarter sheets were too large since the answers were so brief.  Next time I might use Post-Its, or perhaps cut these quarter sheets in half.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Teen Polls

For some time now I have been interested in trying different forms of passive programming in the teen area of the library.  Passive programming is great for library staff because it is (generally) much less time-consuming than traditional programming.  It's also great because your audience doesn't need to attend an event at a specific time to participate.  Staff just puts out the supplies needed and library patrons can do the activity whenever they are able to visit the library.  Everybody wins!  

During the month of October, I borrowed an idea that I had seen ages ago (so long ago that I can no longer site the article) in an issue of VOYA and put up three polls in the teen area.  The questions and the options that the teens had to choose from were each posted on a large 11" x 17" sheet of paper.  I also posted an envelope with stickers inside.  To vote, teens simply needed to take a sticker and stick it in the appropriate area to indicate their choice.  Easy!

I posted three questions in total, all of which were book-themed.  Click on the images below to get a closer look at my set-up and to better view the questions.

I wasn't sure what kind of response these polls would get, but we actually had a very good turnout for this passive program.  The number of votes for each poll ranged from 26-38 depending on the question - fantastic for one month's time if you ask me.  I could never get those kinds of numbers doing traditional "arrive at this time and do this activity" programs.  Even better, little things like this will help to give the teens a chance to express their opinions and get them engaged.

With the success of October's polls, I'm planning to roll out a new passive program each month during the school year in this area.  The specific activity will change from month to month.  Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dog with Bunny Ears

Today a girl, five years old, came up to me and asked me to help her find a movie that she had once seen at the library.  She had never watched this movie before; she just remembered seeing it on the shelf at the library once and now wanted to check it out.  Naturally, she did not remember the title of the movie.  All she remembered was that the cover featured a picture of a dog with pink bunny ears.


A dog with pink bunny ears?  Doesn't that just sound ridiculous? Still, I am a professional, and I promised to do my best to help her figure out what the movie was.

I asked a few probing questions but, of course, since the girl had never actually seen the movie she couldn't tell me anything about the plot or the characters.  Her nearby father (not prone to being drawn to cute images of dogs in rabbit ears) was unable to offer any additional clues.  So I decided to take a leap and try searching for Easter DVDs.  I reasoned that Easter was the only real reason that a dog would have to wear pink bunny ears.  I turned to our catalog, did a search, and one particular movie's title jumped out at me:  "An Easter Bunny Puppy."  I was able to show the girl a picture of the movie's front cover and, sure enough, she instantly recognized this movie as the one she had seen.

I'm going to be prefectly honest with you:  This movie looks pretty bad.  It's gotten terrible reviews from viewers on Amazon and IMDB.  For the curious, here's a description of the plot according to IMDB:
"A Mystery writer is not thrilled when she's assigned to write a children's book, 'An Easter Bunny Puppy.' Out of ideas, she asks her daughter for help. Meanwhile, her dog, RUSS, the narrator of the story, digs up a priceless Faberge egg buried in the woods and takes it home with him, unaware that he's trailing a thief who stole the egg."
Still, even if the movie is bad it was exactly what this little girl wanted.  Most days it's impossible to track down a movie or book just based on a description of the cover and absolutely no other clues.  It felt kind of nice to uncover this mystery movie for a lucky library user. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Star Wars Reads Day 2014

October 11 was Star Wars Reads Day, and for the second year I put together a program at the library to celebrate the event.  After getting some experience under my belt with this program last year, it was definitely easier to put everything together this time around.  Several of the activities that we did this year (the scavenger hunt, trivia contest, balloon lightsabers, and thumb doodle bookmarks) were reused or re-adapted from last year's program which made pulling things together a snap.  I did, however add a few activities to the mix to keep things interesting:

Activities Checklist

One thing that I had noticed at last year's program was that while we had lots of kids come into our main programming room to do our craft projects, many of the kids weren't visiting the Children's Room to look at the Star Wars book display.  This was a problem for me because in my mind, the book display was the main reason for having this event in the first place!  To encourage the kids to come into the Children's Room I did two things:  First, I put a few quieter activities in the Children's room to lure them in.  I also created a checklist of all of the activities (including checking out books!) that kids could try.  Kids who tried at least three activities could also drop off their checklists and be entered into a raffle for some Star Wars books.  This system seemed to work out really well.  Kids wandered around the library looking for different activities to try, and we had a lot more books get checked out compared to last year.

Fortune Wookies

A Fortune Wookie was featured in Tom Angelberger's third Origami Yoda book, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie.  This piece of origami is perhaps better known to most of us as a cootie catcher or fortune teller and in this case is styled to resemble the character Chewbacca.  Angelberger provides a printable template with instructions that kids can use to create their own Fortune Wookies.  I put these out along with some scissors and let the kids go to town.

Star Wars Stick Puppets

I found a PDF full of cute Star Wars printables here.  (Note:  When you follow this link, please scroll down to find the links to download the printables.  Don't use the big green "download here" button at the top of the page!  That's an add for something else entirely.)   One of my favorite activities, which I found in the first pack, was a set of printable, stylized Star Wars characters.  These characters could be cut out and then glued onto a craft stick to make an instant puppet.  I had been looking for another craft that would be preschool-friendly, and this project was a perfect fit since the puppets are very simple to make.  I also set up a table and wrapped it with a "skirt" (actually a couple of big black garbage bags) and encouraged kids to use the area as a stage and put on puppet shows once they were finished.  It took a little bit of prodding to get most of the kids to use the puppet stage, but once they warmed up to the idea it worked wonderfully.  It was super cute, and I like that it encouraged a bit of imaginative play and storytelling.

Star Wars Memory

Do you know how the game of Memory works?  Cards are laid face-down in a grid on a table.  Players take turns flipping over two of the cards.  If the cards match, then you get to keep the cards and take another turn.  If the cards do not match, then you flip the cards face-down again and it's the next person's turn.  Play continues until all cards are matched up, and the player with the most matches wins.

The pack of Star Wars printables that I mentioned earlier also contained the printouts needed for the Memory game.  Just print the sheets on cardstock and cut them apart to make your deck.  If you wanted to you could laminate the cards to make them extra durable, but I chose to skip this step and didn't have any problems.  Since I made two sets of cards, I put a different colored sticker on the back of each set to make things easier for me when they inevitably got mixed up.  I just put the cards out on the tables along with some basic instructions and let families go to town.  One thing that I especially liked about this activity was the way it got kids and parents to really interact with each other, rather than the parents just watching their kids have fun.

Star Wars Word Search

I wanted one more simple activity so I created a word search using this website.  There are lots of free online tools like this, but the thing that I especially liked about this one was that the "words" that I wanted to kids to search for could include spaces, allowing me to have the kids search for full character names like "Darth Vader" and "Han Solo."  I just came up with the words that I wanted included in the puzzle, plugged them into the website, and had it generate the word search for me.  I coppied their generated search onto a Publisher document and then added a few images, a heading, and of course the library's name.  Once I settled on this particular puzzle maker it took me all of about 10 minutes to create the word search.  Easy!

As always, Star Wars Reads Day was a great success.  Our total attendance was actually down slightly from last year, a fact that I attribute to the days' unseasonably warm and sunny weather.  Even if the numbers were down, however, we still had a solid turnout and the kids who did attend all had a great time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Storytime: Silly Stories

Who doesn't love to laugh?  My goal with Silly Stories storytime was to get a few giggles from the crowd.  Mission accomplished.

Here are the books we read:

Bark, George by Jules Ffeifer
George is a puppy.  One day his mother says, "Bark, George."  But George does not bark.  Instead, he says "meow," "quack," "oink," and "moo."  So George's mother takes him to the vet, and the vet pulls out a host of animals from inside of him.  This book always makes the preschoolers crack up.  The little guys love it when they know something isn't quite right, and a dog making the sounds of another animal instead of going "arf" is a perfect example of this kind of silliness.

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
"Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside down."  Silly is right in the title, so you know that this one just has to be good for a laugh.  I especially like the illustrations in this book, and the fact that it's goofy just for the sake of being goofy.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
Four dust bunnies named Ned, Ed, Ted, and Bob always rhyme.  But when Ned, Ed, and Ted list off rhyming words, all Bob can say is, "Look out!"  This book is all about the delivery.  I read Bob's lines with a good sense of sudden panic, which usually inspires giggles.  This book is also a good segue into talking about phonological awareness if you like to incorporate early literacy into your storytimes. 

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewis
One day the cows find a typewrite in their barn.  They leave a note for Farmer brown demanding electric blankets.  So begins a silly bit of barnyard labor negotiation that will please kids and adults alike. 

Of course, we had to do some silly activities too.  First, we listened to Raffi's song, "Shake My Sillies Out" and wiggled our waggles away right along with him.

Later we sang and acted out the song, "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum":

Icky, icky, sticky, sticky bubble gum,
Bubble gum, bubble gum,
Icky, icky, sticky, sticky bubble gum,
Makes your hands stick to your face!
Then you stretch it, and yank it, and pull it away!

Put hands on your face.
Pretend hands are stuck, then pull them away from your body.
Repeat as many times as desired with different body parts.

I also like to frame this song with a bit of narrative, which not only helps to set the mood but also gets the kids back to their seats and ready to listen when the song is over.  We hold up an imaginary stick of bubble gum, unwrap it, throw away the wrapper, chew the gum, and blow big bubbles.  When the song is over we throw away our bubble gum, turn on the water at the sink, wash our hands with soap and water, turn off the water, and dry our hands on a towel.

Finally we finished off this storytime with a craft.  We made Dust Bunnies (a la Rhyming Dust Bunnies) out of yarn.

My version of this project was adapted from a blog post that I found here.  This craft definitely required some adult help, but it was totally worth a bit of fussiness.  To make the dust bunnies, you need to make a basic pom-pom.  I had the kids wrap the yarn around their own hands 50 times (an opportunity to practice counting big numbers was a nice bonus).  Then with a grown-up's help they would slide the yarn off of their hands, cut the yarn, and then wrap a new length of yarn around the middle of the loop they had just created.  A grown-up would help them tie a nice, tight knot and fluff out the pom-pom.  They then glued some googly eyes and a paper nose to the pom pom to give their dust bunny a face.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What letter is this?

I don't know exactly why this cracked me up so much, but it did:

Mom and her daughter (4-5 years old) were reading an alphabet book together.  Mom pointed to the big letter S on the page and asked her daughter, "What letter is that?"  Daughter's response:  "Two!"

I guess I can see how the letter S and the number 2 look pretty similar.  But numbers and letters are not the same thing...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teen Program: Angy Birds LIVE

Traditionally, the last teen program of the summer is held after hours.  This allows us to use the library space in unique ways and, since the teens basically get the library all to themselves and can make as much noise as they want, it really makes the program special for the teens who attend.  This year I was inspired by a few other libraries' success stories to try out a program that had been on my radar for awhile:  Angry Birds LIVE.

Most people are familiar with the Angry Birds game, which is an video game made popular as an app on mobile devices (iOS, Android, etc.) which, thanks to its incredible popularity, is now also available on other platforms.  The premise of the game is simple:  Pigs are positioned in/on various structures.  The player's goal is to destroy the pigs by using a slingshot to fling a variety of wingless birds at the structure, hopefully knocking it and the pigs to the ground.

Creating a "live" version of the game was actually pretty simple.  Well in advance, I asked the library's administrative assistant to set aside boxes for me as we received deliveries at the library.  In one or two months' time I had collected 60 boxes, mostly Baker & Taylor boxes of uniform size, for this project.  We then used these boxes to build structures that mimicked the levels seen in the Angry Birds game.  I also purchased some small playground balls from Oriental Trading which came printed with birds' faces on them.  Not exactly trademarked Angry Birds materials, but it was close enough to give the general idea without being too terribly expensive.  I brought bath towels from home to use as rudimentary sling shots.  The only other supply that we used, which is strictly optional but helped to set the mood, was green balloons, which were taped to paper cups and set on our structures as the pigs.  My summer helper even decorated the balloons with pig faces - they were super cute!

I had seen a number of posts from other librarians online describing their versions of such a program.  Some of the most helpful ones that I used in planning can be found here:

Teen Librarian's Toolbox
The Show Me Librarian

I more or less followed these librarians' descriptions of how to put this program together in terms of what supplies to use and how to play the game.  I did make one major change, however.  Most of the program descriptions that I came across had this event taking place in a large program room, where participants were also responsible for designing the structures themselves and then knocking them over.  This is a very good way to do it, and I love that this kind of program is creative play at its best from start to finish.  However, I really wanted to take advantage of the fact that we were in the library after hours and I wanted to use as much of the library's space as I could.  My solution was to instead design six "levels" of the game in advance.  Each level was assigned a location in the library, and the teens could wander from level to level to try their hand at the game with a different structure, kind of like a game of mini golf.  This was a little more work for me, but it was the only solution that I could come up with that let us take advantage of the library's space.

 Because we were going to be spread out all over the library, I wanted to have someone present who could be in charge of each level.  I recruited six volunteers, one for each level, to help out with this program.  Each volunteer was assigned a level, given a diagram of how it was set up, and shown where his/her level was to be located.  It was the volunteer's job to be the person in charge of the level - to make sure that it was rebuilt after it was knocked over (though I also told them to make the participating teens help out with this), help chase down the balls when they went flying, and basically be the person in charge to made sure that the teens didn't do anything stupid.  Myself and another staff person were then able to wander around from station to station, mingling with the teens, taking pictures, replacing pigs as their balloons were popped, keeping track of the time, etc.

In the end, 25 teens attended this program.  They divided themselves into six groups, and each group was given about 8 minutes to try each level before I flexed my vocal chords by yelling really loudly for them to help reset the level and move on to the next one.  We were able to go through all six levels in about an hour's time.  Since destruction is always fun the teens generally were eager to try each level multiple times, which was good because it generally only took the teens about two minutes to successfully "complete" each level. 

I had created a scorecard for the teens to use, but didn't exactly expect that they would care enough to keep score.  And I was absolutely right about this - no one kept score, and they had a great time anyway.  The big thing that they did take from the scorecard was the set of optional rules printed on the back, which basically gave each color bird a different way that it could be used and launched.  I didn't even directly point this out the teens and figured that those teens who wanted to use these rules could, and those who preferred to play the game in its most straightforward manner could do that.  The groups were split about 50-50 when it came to using these optional rules.

The only hiccup that we came across was the fact that the small playground balls that I had purchased were actually almost too small and light to pack enough force to knock the large boxes over using the typical slingshot method.  We did find throwing the balls to be a more effective technique than using the slingshot, and slinging multiple balls at once also seemed to work well.  The teens, however, had no complaints about the balls that we used.  Part of me wonders if coming up with a solution to this problem was part of the appeal.  Smaller boxes, of course, would be easier to knock over but have the drawback of making each level smaller as a whole.

All in all, this program was a tremendous hit.  It was actually pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to plan - the balls were the only real expense, and I bet that a diligent shopper could find something fairly comparable to the balls that I used for cheaper.  Even still, now that the balls our purchased we have them at our disposal for future programs.  Most importantly, it was just so much fun to give the teens a chance to play.  Yes, you can make the argument that there's a science lesson to be found in this activity and that we're promoting teamwork, etc.  But the bottom line is that they had a good time just goofing off while playing a game.  Can't beat that.

Because this program was so successful (and because one six-year-old was practically in tears when we told him that this program was only for teens) we are planning to recreate the event on a smaller scale in our Community Room for kids of all ages in November.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Teen Program: Egg Drop

This summer was pretty crazy at the library.  Summer is always crazy with extra traffic, kids desperate to report their reading and earn prizes, and programs happening every day of the week.  For myself personally, it was also hectic because I was, through a series of convoluted events that I won't get into here, forced to come back from my maternity leave just in time for summer reading to begin.  Crazy!

Fortunately, I had done a ton of planning for this year's Teen Summer Reading Program well in advance.  Good thing to, because this year we had record numbers of teens signing up to participate in our special events.

Our best-attended program of the summer was our Egg Drop, which a whopping 28 teens participated in.  This program was based on a widely popular physics project done at many middle and high schools.  The idea is to challenge the participants to construct something that will protect an egg that is dropped from a great height and prevent it from breaking.  Teens need to use a little bit of ingenuity to figure out how to displace the force of the impact using a few basic supplies.

We set up several tables for the teens to work at with four chairs at each table.  Each table was given a single egg and the teens worked together to build an egg-protecting contraption.  This was great for encouraging the teens to be social and to promote teamwork and cooperation.  We set up a supply table with a variety of objects that the teens could use to construct their contraptions.  Supplies included:  Berry baskets, styrofoam, cardboard, plastic bags, string, toilet paper tubes, craft sticks, and of course, scissors and tape.  The teens were encouraged when they signed up for the program to think about designs in advance and bring any supplies from home that they might need, but most were happy to just use what we had on hand.

We basically told the teens what the goal was, showed them a few of the supplies at the supply table, and then just let them go to town.  We gave them about 40 minutes to build their contraptions, and much of this time was also filled with socializing and snacking.  I made a point of walking from group to group to ask them about their contraptions and many were eager to show off their ingenuity.

When time was up we went over to our drop point in the library.  My library has a fairly unique two-floor construction, with a main floor on ground level and an open basement below.  There is a large open space in the center of the main floor surrounded by a rail that looks down on the lower level.  We found a spot along this rail that didn't have much that could be disturbed below it, covered it in plastic tablecloths, and marked it off as the area where the eggs and their respective contraptions would be dropped.

The teens gathered on the lower level near the drop point to observe, and groups were called one at a time to go upstairs and drop their contraptions.  The group then had to come back downstairs to open up their contraption to see if their egg survived the fall.  All in all, the dropping portion of this program took a little over 20 minutes with (if I remember correctly) 9 groups.  Yes, we were a bit noisy out in the middle of the library.  But most of the other patrons in the area were actually really interested in what the teens were doing and came by to observe.  I also think that it was nice doing a program like this out in a public place so that other people could see the teens in action doing something positive at the library.

Generally this was a very successful program.  There is only one thing that I would change if we were to do this program again:  I wouldn't include so many packing supplies on the supply table.  I might even leave the styrofoam and bubble wrap out completely.  These materials are built specifically to protect the objects inside from impact, and I think that providing these materials made building successful contraptions a little too easy.  We didn't have a single egg casualty and I would say that at least six of the nine contraptions had more or less the same secure design.  While there is something to be said for such a high success rate, it could have been nice to see more variety and to encourage a little more creative thinking.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book-to-Movie: Divergent

This week we showed the movie "Divergent" here at the library.  The books upon which this movie was based, written by Veronica Roth, have been hugely popular - so much so that the multiple copies of the book that my library owns are always checked out, with an incredibly long hold list that ensures that we won't be seeing the book anytime soon.  It's no surprise that, in a movie market that is happy to turn successful YA books into film, this series was quickly optioned and adapted to the big screen by Summit Entertainment.  The film was released in theaters in March 2014 and came out on DVD and BluRay on August 5.

Our showing of the film here at the library was quite successful.  Thirty people attended this program and, just as when we showed "The Hunger Games" back in 2012, I was impressed at the number of adults - several parents and a few stand-alone adults - who were interested in seeing this movie with the teens.  It is exciting to see more opportunities for intergenerational programming here at the library thanks to the growing cross-appeal of YA books and movies.

Clearly, the movie is popular.  But was it actually any good?

In my humble opinion, the answer to that question is highly debatable.

When it comes to the movie's ability to translate what happens in the book onto the big screen, I would say that it did quite well.  As I was watching the movie I could think of only one event from the book that was left out of the movie, and though this scene was powerful in the book, I completely understand why this cut was made (time, lack of lasting impact on the series).  As far as my memory is concerned, watching the movie was just like reading the book when it comes to plot. This should please most fans of the book immensely.

There is actually very little significantly wrong with the film.  Fights are well choreographed.  Kate Winslet is significantly villainous as Jeanine Mathews.  I truly enjoyed being able to see the different factions and how each one is symbolized by a different color scheme and sense of design.  Yet this movie just didn't "wow" me.  It was fine.  Maybe I'm just a bit tired of the genre, but I couldn't help but feel that I'd heard this story before, only told better.

My biggest complaint will probably spark some debate since most critics seem to feel differently than I did:  I just didn't care for Shailene Woodley as Tris.  In both the book and in the movie, Four comments that fear doesn't shut Tris down; it instead wakes her up.  I frankly never really saw Tris wake up in this movie.  I saw her jump off of trains and get into fights and go through all of the brave motions she is supposed to.  But I never saw that spark in her eyes, that moment of desperation that drives her to be brave and to enjoy her new freedom.

Still, even if the movie isn't perfect, it is reasonably entertaining.  And since it does such a good job of portraying the plot of the book I'm willing to bet that the majority of fans will be satisfied.

Overall Quality of the Film:  C+
Overall Faithfulness to the Book:  A