Let There Be Moose

This is a Moose Cover

Some days, you plan everything and it just doesn’t work. Other days, you kind of forget about the fact that you’re actually running storytime until the day of… (I’ve never done that, don’t look at me like that…)

I grabbed some moose books. Yes, moose. We had just gotten “This is a Moose” by Richard T. Morris in, and that proud moose was perched atop the new picture books. It spoke to me, but was a little long for my toddlers. So I started searching.

There are SO MANY moose books.

Duck Duck Moose cover

I ended up using “Duck, Duck, Moose” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, which is great for a small group. It only uses the three title words throughout the story, which leaves lots of room for interaction between the storyteller and the children as they figure out the story. The pictures tell of a very hyperactive moose who always seems to be messing up something that the ducks are doing. But when it’s revealed that the ducks are trying to set up a surprise party for moose, they can’t find him – he’s too sad that he’s in the way. But they good duck friends bring him back to the party – and there ain’t no party like a duck and moose party!

Fair warning: this book is a little small, so if you have a bigger group, you may not like this one.

Looking for a Moose coverWe also did “Looking for a Moose” by Phyllis Root. This is a kind of “Going on a bear hunt” in book form. All we know is we have never, ever, ever, seen a moose, and we really, really, really want to see one. The book takes you through hills and forests and swamps to look for moose. The kids loved this one – it gave them plenty of opportunity to look for signs that moose had been there, along with some great onomatopoeia and nonsense words.

We did some moose songs, too. They are sprinkled about the web (Check out my resources below, but this one went over best:

Action Rhyme : “Mr. Moose” (via The Door2Door Librarian)
Mr. Mr is very tall  (put hands to head for antlers)
His antlers touch the sky (hand high up in the air)
They make a real good resting place (put hands out to sides)
For birdies passing by (flap arms like wings)

Really, what I discovered from this is that kids love to make moose antlers with their hands. Since we did this song before the books, I encouraged them to put up antlers every time I said the word moose during the first book, and everytime they saw a moose clue in the second book. The loved it.

We had a moose craft, too – make your own antlers! We just made construction paper headbands and had them glue on wavy horns that the adults cut out, but they really enjoyed getting to be moose for the rest of the day.

Harris County Public Library Moose Storytime
Storytime with Miss Mollie Moose Storytime
Delta Township District Library Moose Storytime

Of Harpies and Crying Wolf

Sheep and Wolves

Cover Image via Getty Images

I was killing time on my break today when I was made aware of the statements posted by #teamharpy on their legal defense fund site. 

First, false allegations suck.

Second, rape culture sucks.

Third, truth is often squishier than the facts.

Since I took Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey at their word the first time around, I feel compelled to do so again. I took them at their word the first time because I live in a culture that tacitly accepts microaggressions of all kinds because that’s how it’s always been. A culture that is so steeped in gender stereotypes (among many other kinds) that it’s sometimes hard for a woman to recognize she’s being slighted or even harassed. I hadn’t been part of the harassment described in their blog posts and tweets, but I had seen it and felt it so many other times. It was a fact of life, not only in our profession, but it my daily life, and I had no reason to question their statements.

Now, since they have retracted their statements and made apologies, my thoughts turn to that larger issue that made us believe in the first place. I don’t know the behind-the-scenes information that prompted the letters of retraction, nor do I imagine they were lightly undertaken by Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey. The facts of this particular incident are only a side item in what is clearly the real issue.

The initial movement to support #teamharpy gained traction fast. This leads me to believe that others in the library field and beyond had seen this type of behavior before. Perhaps not with Mr. Murphy, but with other men and women who make conferences uncomfortable. And we all know that it’s not limited to conferences. A recent chat with a colleague revealed that several members of her staff were “bearing up” under near-daily harassment from patrons at the front desk. Another friend recently confirmed that coworkers just told her it was a compliment when an older man consistently made her feel uncomfortable by commenting on her appearance and apparent singleness.

This is not limited to #teamharpy. Be angry if you want – we all have our reasons for disappointment. But don’t for a moment believe that we are beyond this type of harassment. That we don’t try to silence those who would come forward with veracity. That we are, as a female-dominated profession, beyond this. We see it at the front desk, in the conference room, in interviews, and at conferences. I see it from a rather privileged place, and my stories are tame compared to many that my friends and colleagues have experiences.

I’ve already seen the references to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

There’s the idea that people who are honest about these claims will be less believed now than they have ever been.

But Ms. de Jesus and Ms. Rabey had little to do with that. They were a cry of wolf, and when the people showed up and it wasn’t there, they said not only was there not a wolf now, but maybe there are never really wolves to begin with just a lot of bored shepherd boys. Rape culture works to insidiously discredit victims who would speak out before they are even harassed.  Exceptions are claimed as rules and the experiences of myriad women are swept away as “compliments” or “lies” or “attention seeking.” There’s a wolf out there. Sometimes packs and packs of them. Don’t ignore them because it’s more comfortable.

I have been called a harpy and worse for talking about things that make people uncomfortable. I have been told I’m not telling the truth to the point I started to believe it. I have watched the same camps that are now screaming about this case fight time and time again. #teamharpy was the battleground this time, but let’s not pretend that the fight is over.

STEAM Three Ways: Silly Putty

Neon Slime

Cover Image via PaperPolaroid.

Library staff are often crunched for time, particularly in the youth services department (although I may be biased here). To that end, getting the supplies and planning for a single science activity that can be used in multiple age groups has a real, measurable time and budget savings. It’s important that these activities not only be adaptable in practice, but also in interest level. So to kick off this new occasional blog feature, I thought I should start with something everyone loves: silly putty.

I have a love of making silly putty. It’s fun, it’s easy, and you can change it up to suit the lesson you’re trying to convey. I tend to use the very simple glue/Borax mix. (I know, I know, it’s not actually silly putty. I’ll address the chemical difference in the “Teen Program” section.)

Basic recipe:

– 1 8 oz bottle of Elmer’s glue (brand is weirdly important here)

– 1/2 cup warm water, supersaturated with Borax (just mix in Borax until it starts to settle out of the solution)

– a plastic bag

NOTE: I don’t ever measure it out as they do here. I tend to put some glue and some supersaturated Borax solution into a Dixie cup and stir. If it’s too hard, add more glue, if it’s too soft and sticky, add more Borax solution.

Preschool Program:

I used this silly putty for part of my color mixing curriculum. This recipe creates a white silly putty, but with a few quick drops of food coloring into the glue before adding the Borax, the kids saw how adding a bit of yellow to the red completely changed the color of their silly putty. After mixing it up initially, children can take their finished silly putty and mix it together. Create a batch of blue and a batch of yellow? Try to play with them together until you get some green putty. I’ve used homemade playdough for the same exercise, but this BOUNCES!

School Age Program:

My school age programs run grades 2-4 and 5-7. There’s a huge range of science knowledge here, so I tend to keep my explanations pretty basic to allow for differences in school curriculum.

So let’s talk simple science. The FAQs on the Elmer’s Glue site and this excerpt from Steve Spangler Science both use the spaghetti model of polymers:

In simplest terms, a polymer is a long chain of molecules. You can use the example of cooking spaghetti to better understand why this polymer behaves in the way it does. When a pile of freshly cooked spaghetti comes out of the hot water and into the bowl, the strands flow like a liquid from the pan to the bowl. This is because the spaghetti strands are slippery and slide over one another. After awhile, the water drains off of the pasta and the strands start to stick together. The spaghetti takes on a rubbery texture. Wait a little while longer for all of the water to evaporate and the pile of spaghetti turns into a solid mass — drop it on the floor and watch it bounce.

Polyvinyl Acetate and Borax reaction
An illustration of the PVA (glue) and Borax reaction. © The University of Edinburgh

I haven’t ever actually used spaghetti to illustrate this point, but depending on the program, you may want to. The reason why Elmer’s glue is sticky are the polymer chains it contains, and this illustration really clearly demonstrates how these polymer chains behave when they are lubricated (the wet glue in the bottle) and when they are dry (the solid, bouncy lump of spaghetti).

It may take students a bit to understand this, depending on their grade level. Words like “molecule” and “element” might be beyond some of the younger students, so creating a glossary can be helpful.

For this age group, I often have them try to see if they can make a batch of “gak” – really stringy, liquidy putty, and a bouncy ball. Students can experiment with different ratios of glue to Borax solution, and might discover a few more tricks about how to make the solution more solid. For instance, the more you mix a batch of silly putty, the harder it will get. Want to know why, or have curious school age kids who do? Check out the teen program below.
Teen Program:

Silly putty is great for a low-key program or a planned science class. Low key allows them to just work out their over-scheduled lives with a toy they probably had as kids. It feeds into the maker mentality because they made the thing they used to have to buy, as well as reinforcing the engineering design process as they try to make the silly putty just the right consistency. If you want hard science though, here’s what makes our Elmer’s/Borax silly putty tick.

Louisiana State University has a great explanation (with graphics!) of what’s happening:

Elmer’s Glue is made up of polyvinyl acetate, which reacts with water to some extent to replace some of the acetate groups with OH (alcohol) groups. The B-OH groups on the borax molecules react with the acetate groups on the glue molecules (relatively long polymer chains) to eliminate acetic acid and form new bonds between the borax and two glue molecules. The linking of two glue molecules via one borax molecule is called polymer cross-linking and it makes a bigger polymer molecule, which is now less liquid-like and more solid.

A model of polyvinyl acetate, the reactive ingredient in the Elmer’s glue.           Copyright © Azim Laiwalla, UCLA SEE-LA GK-12 Program, University of California, Los Angeles

…Many of these borax cross-links occur to “glom” together many polymer molecules turning them into a pliable solid “silly putty”. This really isn’t the silly putty you buy in the store, since it will dry out. Real silly putty is an organosiloxane polymer that doesn’t have any water in it so it doesn’t dry out.

Polyvinyl Acetate crosslinking  with Borax
Illustration and structural formula for the crosslinked Borax/Polyvinayl Acetate result. Copyright © CSACNAS Student Chapter at Texas State University

Get all that? If not, don’t worry – this explanation is about on par with my high school organic chemistry class (and required a lot of refresher before I understood it myself. Essentially, the strings of PVA “spaghetti” get held together by the Boron molecule, holding them in place. The more places that the Boron connects PVA chains, the sturdier the structure and the more solid the silly putty.

Try this activity to give teens (and school age groups, if they’re advanced enough) a clearer picture of how the Borax binds the PVA, also from LSU:

Have about 6 groups of 4 students hold hands and form glue chains. Have them walk around the room. These are your PVA chains.

Then send out 6 individual students to act as borax molecules to grab onto two glue chains – one with each hand. Tell the glue chains that once they are grabbed onto by the borax students that they shouldn’t try to break free. This should result in all the glue chains being linked together by the borax molecules (students). Now that all the students are linked together they represent the more solid “silly putty” that was formed in the experiment. This is a rather good physical analogy to the chemistry going on.

Quick note: while I’ve used the term Polyvinyl acetate, the reaction with water in glue creates polyvinyl alcohol. Dr. Richard Barrans from the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the Argonne National Laboratory put the difference between the two like this: “Poly(vinyl alcohol) is a polymer with the repeating unit (CH2-CHOH). Polyvinyl acetate is similar, except that it has an acetic acid ester in the place of the alcohol group: (CH2-CHOCOCH3). Polyvinyl alcohol is actually made from polyvinyl acetate, by cleaving the acetate ester.”  Down to brass tacks, both PVAs make our silly putty.

Interesting to note that the side effect of this reaction is the creation of acetic acid, which, when diluted, is better known as white vinegar. This can lead to further experimentation with acids/bases in your silly putty. For instance, what happens if you mix baking soda into it? Will it bubble and fizz like a baking soda/vinegar volcano?

Wrap up

Have other ideas for making this silly putty recipe appeal to various ages? Let me know. My library does class structures for a lot of the STEAM programs, so explanations and iterative experimentation are important. How do you do STEAM at your library? Any STEAM activities you wish you had better explanation for, or knew how to use with other age groups?

Graphic Design Basics for Librarians (Plus Free Assets!)

Graphic Design Elements

Image isn’t mine, but I’m having a hard time pinning down the original source. Help me out.

Paper pieces like flyers, handouts, brochures – these seem to be my bread and butter for building buzz about the library. I also don’t have the luxury of Photoshop. GIMP is great, but I’ll admit I have a more familiar relationship with Publisher. (Publisher can still make good design pieces, I think. Just takes some fenangling.)

Graphic design is such a big part of my duties that I wish I would  have had a better formal grounding in it. In lieu of that, here’s some great places to learn and get assets for your design.

Tutorials and Guidelines

Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or Any Other Non-Designer)

A great primer from Teen Librarian Toolbox about basic design for library marketing pieces. It’s a great place to start, especially if you’re in teen services.

Canva Design School

Canva is a free-to-use (pay-to-publish) graphic design tool, which can be useful in a pinch. What’s cooler is the “design school” they offer – covering fonts, colors, etc, and it’s all free with a free account.

Infographics Lib Guide

This guide from UPenn was designed for a workshop on creating infographics, which is a great skill, especially in advocacy. Beyond that, the graphic design resources gathered here are clear, to the point, and free. Well worth exploration.

Practical Graphic Design for Libraries

Created by the people at Influx (think DC Public Library and Sari Feldman’s campaign site), this presentation slideshow has lots of examples. Remember that it was designed to be paired with an oral presentation, because sometimes explanations feel sparse. Still the images tell a great story and present amazing examples of various principles of graphic design in library settings. There’s a call to perform a signage audit in your own library. Try it!

About.com Graphic Design Basics

I’ll admit that I love me some about.com. It’s not always the best designed (ironic, yes?), but they usually pull together some great explanations and resources. There may be more here than you want to glance through in one sitting.

Free and Legal Images, Fonts and Other Assets

78 Free Sources of Images for Your Library

MakeItHappen.us just put this up this week, and it’s a great resource for finding legal image sources in the post-Microsoft clipart age.

CC Search

This is my favorite starting point for legal images, music, videos and more. Created by the people who brought us Creative Commons licenses, this tool is a one-stop-shop for finding CC images. Various online services have CC searches built in, and this tool is an access point to quite a few of them (Google Images, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Flickr being my favorites). Word to the wise: Be smart about using this – just because one poster says an image is CC doesn’t mean they are the owner of the image. Use this as a starting point, then do your due diligence.


I discovered this site a decade ago and haven’t looked back. The forums are great for helping you identify fonts, there are tons of free fonts available to use both personally and professionally, and it’s all free. If your current font selection just isn’t doing it for you, take a look through these.

Creative Market Free Goods

Creative Market is like Etsy for graphic design assets. In a really excellent service, a handful of top-quality assets are offered for free every week. Go there regularly to get new stuff. Be aware that a lot of the files are designed for Adobe Creative Cloud products. If you don’t have that suite, keep an eye out for non-vector images and fonts.

MediaLoot Freebies

In the same boat as Creative Market, this site boasts a slightly larger collection of free stuff. As with lots of graphic design sites, a noted preference toward Adobe.

Smashing Magazine Freebies

This magazine is a go-to for great graphic design information, and they offer lots of free stuff. I’ve gotten previous WordPress themes from here, as well as fonts and icons. Lots of good blog posts about design, including web design and graphic design, here.


I just discovered this one, but I’ll be checking it regularly. Lots of free icons, mock ups, backgrounds, UI kits and more.


I Love Typography is a giant, beautiful love letter to typography as an art. Lots of history, insight into how fonts are designed and notes on why we choose to use them. You can get lost here.

I hope that these help get you started with graphic design, another one of those “other duties as assigned” that sneak up on us. Let me know if you have a favorite resource that I missed in the comments.

“Because I have a story too”: Diversity in Biographies

We Need Diverse Books because I have a story too.

Image submitted by Tye Jiles to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tumblr

“Why are there more biographies about white people?”

I’d been helping a family find children’s biographies to use for a family project on Black History Month, and the 7-year-old girl  asked a great question. I quickly came up with the best answer I could: “Because for a long time people thought white people were more important to write about. We’re just now fixing that.” She nodded, taking it in.  Her father didn’t chime in, and I thought I might have given a satisfactory answer. “Will they write biographies about you?”

She didn’t take a second to think about that. “Yep!”

“What will they say about you?”

“I’ll make speeches! Great speeches!” Though she didn’t know about what. With that, she took her books on Sojourner Truth, Madam CJ Walker, and Lebron James to the checkout desk.

But her question stuck with me: why are there still so many more biographies about white people?

Campaigns like #weneeddiversebooks seek to open people up to the idea that our books should reflect our reality. Far too often, we let our limited book selection influence our reality. If even in our library’s biography section there are only white faces, rich faces, straight faces… what do we tell the kids who ask where the other faces are? That we were too lazy to order them? That there are so many more books written about white people that it’s not worth seeking out the rest of the world’s history?

Someday I hope someone does write about the speeches that girl makes, and I hope they don’t get relegated to the “also ran” section of history. The section where we send those bits of truth that make us uncomfortable, or that interfere with the dominant narrative. I hope that when her biography is written, it sits among the George Washingtons and the Clara Bartons and the Daniel Boones. And I want people to know that her story is every bit as important as theirs – it’s all part of our larger story together.

This came at a great time – after all, Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiography Brown Girl Dreaming just won a Newbery Honor Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Robert F. Silbert Informational Book Award. The other Newbery books this year also represented severely underrepresented groups. So well done, us. But there’s a lot more to do. I have a lot that I need to learn about diversity, and a lot I need to communicate about it to my patrons.

We’ve been writing one version of history, showing off one story, for so long that it seems normal. The status quo has sunk in. I’d like that little girl to come back next time and see faces of every color, creed, and race on our shelves. Biographies, certainly, but picture books, chapter books, videos, and more. We need diverse books. We need diverse minds.

Grinding and gameification

Cover Image via Massively on Joystiq

I’ve been thinking about grinding lately. Grinding in video games, per Wikipedia, “is a term used in video gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive tasks during video games.” It’s an issue in gaming, of course, and there are numerous posts about that already. (I fall in the middle on that – some grinding is necessary and even enjoyable, but find a way to make it integrated into the plot. I don’t wanna always be killing 10 more rats.)

But today we had our first meeting for the Teen Summer Reading planning committee, and we had a discussion about gamification. It was a brief discussion centering around our use of bingo boards last year. The bingo boards were not very popular, and we were trying to figure out where to go from there. How did we make it “fun” without the grind?

Now, my two cents on the matter is that while the world is full of fun things, and even fun ways to learn things, the truth of the matter is that eventually you have to grind at least a little. You have to go into a place you might not want to go and do something that feels repetitive to get the experience you need to move on. Once you’re proficient, you can hop into bigger adventures, bigger challenges. Heck, you can even show other people the best way to get around that particular dungeon. But they’ll come to their own grind eventually.

When I started baking, it was boxed brownies. All the time. No variation from the instructions. Dozens of boxes of brownies over the first couple months that I was learning to bake. It wasn’t always fun, but it was nice to see people enjoying the product of my labor. Occasionally I regretted offering to make brownies for an event, but eventually it became no big deal. I could make a decent batch of boxed brownies in my 30 minute lunch from work (true story).

From what I learned making endless brownies, I figured out how my oven worked differently from the test ovens in the recipes, or how to modify it to make it fluffier or denser, how to tell by smell when sugar smells done but not burnt. I could use those skills on cookies, then cakes, then pastries. The skills built on one another, but it started with just a little bit of grinding.

We ask students to study and do homework to gain proficiency. It’s not because we think that homework is so gosh darned fun. It’s because that repetition with tiny variations help them learn. We ask for a certain number of practice hours with a supervising driving before getting a driver’s license.

Sometimes we mix the idea of “paying our dues” in with grinding, and I want to be careful here. Paying dues indicates that you have to start at the bottom for a certain period of time, which is not something I’m necessarily in agreement with. I will, however, agree that that sometimes starting a new skill isn’t always fun – it can have its fair dose of grinding. The important thing is to make the grinding seem relevant. If we want teens (or kids or adults) to learn new skills using the library as a resource, we need to make sure that the boring parts are made incredibly relevant. Just like the level ups you get from killing rats and looting chests let you beat the next boss, skill introductions need to have a visible and important benefit.

They’re going to have to grind. Video game designers need to make it relevant to their game. It’s our jobs as educators to make it relative to the goals of a learner.

Audiobook Review: Museum of Thieves

Museum of Thieves Book Cover

I can’t be alone in searching IMDB to find out who starred in my favorite things. I recently did this for Dragon Age. One of the voice actor’s in that series – Claudia Black, who voices Morrigan – branched into recording children’s audiobooks. Her first voiced series is The Keepers by Lian Tanner. Conveniently, my library owned the first book, The Museum of Thieves, and I have a long enough commute to crank through it. I’m guilty of sitting in my car longer than necessary, just to squeeze in a few more minutes.

Museum of Thieves is a great middle grade pick in the line of The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman or The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone – magic and mystery abound at quite a fast pace. The cast of characters is vast but memorable, and made more memorable by the distinctive voices used by Claudia Black. We are introduced to the city of Jewel, and to Goldie, a 12-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to finally be Separated. Children in Jewel are vastly overprotected, literally always attached to an adult or their bed via a chain tied to their wrists.

Jewel is a city that has resolutely pushed every dangerous thing away. Dogs might bite. Standing water might carry the plague. Children alone might get carried off by pirates. Little by little, Jewel has conquered their little corner of the world. But wildness will not be tossed aside so easily. In the tiny Museum of Dunt live all the wild forces that Jewel refuses to believe still exist. Most of all, inside the Museum is magic.

As Goldie learns about the Museum and the uses of wildness, she also learns of a truly terrible plan to destroy Jewel. Only the Keepers of the Museum can save the city – but only if the terrified citizens of Jewel will let them.

A very compelling book to listen to, with characters that leap out of the speakers. Black draws out characters both lovable and despicable – keep an ear out for Guardian Hope and Sinew, whose tones are unmistakable.

If my library didn’t already own this, we would soon.

UPDATE: Random House has a site for The Keepers Trilogy with games, character bios, and even lessons from the Keepers! Well worth a look at this companion site.

Book Review: The Red Pencil

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

I had a resolution to read more diversely this year, and I’m really pleased I started out with The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. It surprised me on a number of levels, but really hit home.

The book is told in poems, written in the voice of Amira, a 12-year-old girl who lives in Darfur with her parents. She explores growing up in a conservative village, the confusion of understanding war as a child, and the harsh realities of the genocide in Darfur. Together, these themes could make the book too heavy for its intended audience of children, but the first-person perspective of a child, along with the poetic form, help to distance the trauma just enough that I don’t feel uncomfortable recommending this to the right middle grader.

I’ll admit that I cried several times throughout the book. There is real trauma in Amira’s life – trauma that is both inflicted and dealt with in the plot of this short book. Characters are fleshed out in small aside poems, along with Amira’s own thoughts on the people in her life.

What I liked most about this book was that it didn’t expect readers to understand the situation before beginning – a short glossary of terms in the back includes some of the cultural terms Amira uses, but also words like “Janjaweed,” a concept that any adult might have trouble explaining. Readers walk with Amira through her dawning understanding of the change in her world, and so we are allowed to join her at the end of the book, as she takes the first steps toward something new.

The author, Andrewa Davis Pinkney, will be visiting Pittsburgh next month as part of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Kids Series. Follow the link for more information.

Catching Up on Last Year

Varric's Chest Hair from Dragon Age 2

From last year’s New Year’s blog:

I have smaller, simpler goals too: I want to start cooking dinner again, get back into baking, remember how to crochet and cross stitch. I want to write stories like I haven’t since I finished undergrad, and maintain the great friendships I’ve made with a little more gusto. I want to read whole books again, rather than just skimming them for papers. I want to beat DragonAge on something other than easy level.

I have been slacking on these goals. Granted, these were the small ones on the list. I did manage to graduate and get a job, so I don’t feel too bad about these. But that means it’s time for a revisit.

I still would like to cook more of my own meals. This means I’ll have to relearn how to cook since I do it so rarely.

I’ve been reading books (check out my first New Year’s Resolution about reading more diverse books). Audiobooks totally count as far as I’m concerned.

As for Dragon Age: Origins, I re-downloaded it to my new computer, and it’s next up on my to-play list as soon as I finish this second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition. There may be a pattern here.

As for crochet and cross-stitch, I’ve more officially given up on these. They’re awesome hobbies, and I may come back to them, but for now I just don’t have the kind of interest it takes to keep up with them.

Trying to think of things that I missed. Any resolutions you’d like to share?

Getting Some Jbrary Love

In web life, there’s those moments where you’re like – I’ve made it! When a former Twitter account crossed 1000 followers (now defunct), I squeed. When @neilhimself tweeted back at me, I jumped up and down. And now Jbrary has linked to me. The happiness spike is quite high, to say the least.

One of the things I love about the library world is how open we are about sharing resources and information. Jbrary has been an amazing help to me as I get set up as a youth services librarian. They took me from terrified before my first solo storytime, to slightly less terrified (a major accomplishment). If you’ve never checked them out before, try it now. It’s well worth looking through if you work with young kids as a teacher, librarian, or caregiver.

I’ll keep posting – I’ve got a lot to live up to now!

Ocarinas, Light Sabers, and Learning Gateways

It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This! Zelda/Star Wars Mashup

Cover image via Kotaku. Original owner’s site seems disabled, but if you know it, pass it on so I can credit.

About 2 years ago, a good friend of mine tried to get me into gaming. I was not enthused about the idea. I mean, I barely played Angry Birds. He sat me down in front of his console, put in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and sat down eagerly to watch me play. I was instantly… disenchanted.

Don’t get me wrong. Ocarina of Time is a great game – it’s still my friend’s favorite to this day – but it wasn’t for me. After that defeat, he practically gave up on me, convinced that if Link and Zelda couldn’t make me a gamer, then I was a lost cause.

A few weeks later, he mentioned that he was playing an MMO that I had heard of – Star Wars: The Old Republic – with his friends. Since I still wanted to get on board with some of his interests, and I already loved Star Wars, I figured why not? I created an account. I played a few quests. And then I went and bought KOTOR. Beat that. Twice. Countless hours (and dollars) later, I would say I’ve been turned on to video games.

My friend and I both laugh at the fact that he thought I could never start playing games. The real problem was that I didn’t want to play the same games he did. I still am not likely to ever sit down and play Ocarina of Time, but I do invest a lot of hours into Bethesda and BioWare games, and am branching out into some pretty sweet Indie territory (Gorogoa needs to come out yesterday).

Our problem wasn’t that I couldn’t be interested – it was that we were trying the wrong gateway. He was trying to usher me into games the same way he had been ushered in. While logical and well-intentioned, it just burned me out and made me frustrated.

Instead, I had an eye on the enjoyment other people seemed to experience, and poked around until I found my own way in. Gamers love to find workarounds, hacks, and glitches to get them where they’re going in ways that no one else has ever gone. Maybe I already had that motivation to go my own way (though that doesn’t explain my love of led-by-the-hand BioWare titles).

I know I’ve been guilty of the same well-intentioned error when teaching people new skills an interests. I know how I got interested in making/gaming/baking/books, and I want to show people in the same way. Sometimes this works. Other times though, my enthusiasm for the One True Way of getting involved in something can turn people off, leaving them feeling excluded and frustrated.

I can take a page out of my own book when I’m teaching. If the point of entry I’m most enthusiastic about isn’t working out, let them see the end goal – having fun learning something. Then share a WHOLE BUNCH of ways to get involved, even if they seem like the more boring, more intense, more complicated way. Each person will respond to different gateways. I certainly shouldn’t hold them back from trying each and every door.

Winter Reading has Begun

Photo by JoséDay on Flickr

Cover image Wie leest wie voor? by JoséDay on Flickr.

Last summer, I sort of found myself in charge of a Summer Reading Program at the last minute. It didn’t go so well, as you might imagine. We had great summer learning events, but not a lot of participation in traditional, tracked summer reading.

Since then, I’ve started a new job at a new library, and we’re running a short, low-key winter reading program during the month of January. Originally, it was just a youth services thing, but the adult services department has gotten on board too, making for a great full-library event.

For youth services, we’ve divided up participation into a few categories: Pre-K, K-5, Middle Grade (vaguely grades 5-7), and Teen (vaguely grades 6-12). Obviously, there’s overlap because of the creation of the Middle Grade category. We’ve had success with the creation of a Middle Grade collection and program set, so why not extend it to the reading club? Kids in this age group can choose whether to participate in Kids or Middle Grade (for the 5th and 6th graders) and Teen or Middle Grade (for the 6th & 7th graders). It’s not really about forcing certain categories – it’s more about encouraging kids to read at the age group they enjoy.

Each child/teen gets a welcome bag at registration with a pencil and such – teens have different bags than the kids. Then they take a bingo sheet to fill out. Each space is a type of book to read, and they try to create a bingo of any kind on the card. When they bring it back, they get a ticket for a raffle at the end of the month. There are 4 baskets, each with a target age, although participants can choose any raffle to enter.

Example of a Kids Bingo Sheet:

Kids Week 1 Bingo Sheet: Row 1 Newberry book, New book, Reader's Choice, book in a series, paperback. Row 2: Author whose last name starts with M, Book on CD, Free space, Book published in 2014, Non-fiction book. Row 3 Book with a blue cover, graphic novel, book with more than 100 pages, book of poetry, reader's choice. Row 4, a book that became a movie, book based on a true story, cookbook, mystery book, Caldecott book.
Our week 1 K-5 Winter Reading Club Bingo Sheet.

It’s low key enough to work during a really busy programming season, and it also has pretty low barriers to participation.

This program is exciting to me for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the tension between traditional summer reading proponents and advocates of other ways of directing and tracking summer learning. This kind of program – super easy to run and participate in – allows people for whom reading clubs are important parts of the library world to get that fix. And it also frees up staff time to develop other facets of summer learning at the library.

Remind me that I talked about all the “free time” this program leaves me toward the end of this month.