Dec 19, 2012

One Year In

I have been at this children's librarian gig for 14 months now. Time really flies when you ARE having fun! Thinking back on my first year, I had a lot of ups and not very many downs. Some disappointments yes, but really life at work has been grand. Kudos to my co-workers for putting up with my zaniness, and my last minute running around because I forgot the camera for a program AGAIN!

It has been an interesting transition to public persona. I run into people I have met at the library all over the place. About six months in, I found myself riding the mechanical horse in Dairy Queen after a program. As I was riding the horse, I started to get off when I realized that some of the people there might know me (and may never want me near their children again). But what the heck, I was already on the thing so I figured that I might as well get my quarter's worth- Ride Like the Wind, Bullseye! That was an eye opener for me. When you work at the public library, the public sees and knows you. When you go out into the public, the public sees you and might recognize you... after they can place you. What is a crazy librarian supposed to do? Act more responsibly?

Responsible? On my time off, well that hardly seems fun.

Dec 13, 2012

Bribe them with Candy

Kim and I were trying to come up with a catchy bulletin board for Christmas the holidays in which we could use her naughty and nice wrapping paper. We thought we could make a list of "naughty" and "nice" book characters, but I just couldn't decide which ones were naughty (they all have good qualities). Why don't we let the kids decide? They like labeling things, especially when the word naughty is involved. I ended up using some of the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town with an emphasis on "check it out" as my title.

After I had some book characters picked out, and had to decide what to do with left over candy canes from Santa's visit, I thought I would make a game out of it. Kim made a sheet of ten of the children's characters and we had the kids identify the characters for a candy cane. Each kid got to play one time, and they had got to eat their candy canes out in the lobby (librarians are Scrooges). We went through over 30 game sheets in the first two days! I have found that candy is a great motivator for children. Needless to say, I need to go buy some more candy canes.

Dec 11, 2012

From Above

The kids have been loving the loft we added to our library in September. In November I had a grand vision to change it into a gingerbread house for the holidays.  It’s not grand per say, but the kids know what it is and there are colored lights on it, so it is good enough for me. Santa visited the library and some of the smaller kids were more interested in playing with the loft than talking to Santa. The little ones who were afraid of Santa could climb up on the loft and spy on him "safely" through a layer of plexiglass.

Dec 4, 2012

That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time of year again. I’m so thankful for the little house I made for my book display in August. I used a cardboard box and duct taped on a roof and stuck a book cart inside. I had some awesome kids hanging out at the library paint it for me. It has been a school house, a haunted house and now it is a wintery house with lights and snow. The best part of these different houses is that they are all full of books! It will be interesting to think of some new ideas for my house, I am open for suggestions!

Nov 30, 2012

Nifty November Displays

My director, Kim and I must have been feeling a little punchy this month when we brainstormed our November library displays. Since we live in Wisconsin, we wanted a fun way to display our hunting books. Kim came up with the slogan “Hunt Down a Good Book” and I came up with the visual.
We pulled all of our hunting and cooking non-fiction books and added some Adult and Juvenile  fictional books about hunting. I was looking for a deer target to add, but didn't manage to find one.
Our next idea was to promote No Shave November. We thought about pulling all of the Juvenile fiction books with facial hair, but alas, not a lot of kids books have mustaches on the cover. My second grade daughter has been nutty about mustaches (she has earrings, sunglasses and a necklace with mustaches) so I thought the kids might think it was fun to have a bunch of books wearing mustaches. We cut up a bunch of mustaches and taped them to the covers of books. I made a poster with the slogan, “It’s no shave November, I mustache you to check out these books!”
I also thought it would be fun if the kids could have mustaches on sticks to wear around the library to attract some attention to the display! Because who doesn't like fake mustaches? My favorite was the little bald baby in pink wearing a mustache courtesy of her sister! I did manage to grab one of the school aged kids for a quick picture. We had to replenish our mustaches on sticks several times this month. 
Sadly, not many of the books on the mustache display got checked out for as much as the kids played with the mustaches, but we had a some fun!

For the little ones, I put a tree above the book cart display and added the picture books about Thanksgiving to the top of the cart. On the middle shelf I supplied leaf shapes and colored markers for the kids to write what they were thankful for.

We had a few participants here, but more as the month went on. When it came time for the holiday books to take over the cart, I shifted the tree to an empty wall because I don't have the heart to get rid of it yet.

Nov 29, 2012

A Long and Winding Road

What a long and winding road it has been. I started babysitting for my cousins when I was in the fifth grade. Since then, I have worked at group centers and run a small childcare center in my own home. I have earned two bachelors and two masters degrees. I started my first library job in 2011.
Both of these jobs are related to working with children, but they are miles apart in the number of and way that services are provided. Childcare has to be one of the most stressful jobs on this planet (I say that now that I am not in it anymore). I love working with kids, but I love it way more at the library than I ever did at a childcare center.
Here are a few things I've learned that helped me transition from early childhood teacher to librarian.
KiDs aRE fUn!!!  The most important thing I learned while working in childcare was that KiDs ARe FuN! Kids are honest, playful, and they love to laugh and have fun. Adults often take themselves too seriously and forget to make time for fun in their lives, and they sometimes forget to let kids have fun.

Time is on my hands! As a childcare teacher, there is time for play, but there is also a lot of work to be done and very little time to do it. I used to hope for one hour to plan an entire week full of activities that included math, science, dramatic play, block area, daily circle times and the list goes on and on. My daily schedule was also planned out by the minute. As a children’s librarian I have hours of time to plan for a handful of weekly activities that only last for an average of one hour. I also get to choose when those hours happen!

Parents CAN be your friend. When I was a childcare teacher, I had got to see the same parents every single day. As a librarian, I usually only see the same parents once or twice a week. In childcare, parents PAY for a safe, educational and entertaining experience for their children. The library provides FREE educational and entertaining service (hopefully safe, too). I’ve noticed that parents are generally easier to please at the library! To build relationships with parents, listen to them respectfully, and try your hardest to be friendly even when you have to dig way down into your left pinky toe for a scrap of kindness. You don’t have to do or like what they say, but you can listen and be kind. Parents love their kids and they want to know that you care.

Kids love you for trying! You don’t have to be the best singer or dancer, but if you try to have fun with kids, they will have fun with you. Sing loud and strong and so what if you suck, the kids usually won’t notice. If you deliver with confidence, kids and parents will have confidence in you!

Kids hate transitions. I hate them too. There is nothing worse for kids than waiting with nothing to do (visualize sitting in the bank drive through on a Friday night- YIKES!). There are a lot of transitions in childcare every day. Librarians are lucky and don’t have nearly as many transitions, if any. If you do have to have a transition during a program, have something fun ready to distract them from their boredom. Random dance time is great if you don’t like to sing and you don't have to take time to show kids how to dance. I’ve discovered that I Like to Move It by Reel 2 Real can get just about anyone dancing.

The world is my playground. Librarians are all about literacy, but they do not have to be all about literacy. As a teacher, I learned that books are wonderful tools for learning anything! I learned how to use one single book to teach all six of the early literacy skills AND math and science, too. I also am very lucky to have the freedom to create any program, dream of any activity, put up any decorations and follow through with all of these ideas at the library I work at. Some childcare centers have very strict curriculum and schedules to follow.

I love working with kids. They are honest and they like to have fun. Can they be difficult? You bet they can. I remind myself on those darkest days that kids are just little people learning how to be big people. It is a privilege to help little people learn how to be GOOD big people.

It has been a long and winding road (and long winded), but I’m finally where I belong. . . . in the short stacks.