“Doodling” Around at the Public Library!

This past Saturday we offered a “Doodling is for Everyone” Family Super Saturday program. Our program was ridiculously easy to prep for and it costed us nothing to offer. Although this was a fun Family Super Saturday, in future I think I will use this ideas as a passive program. To prep, a volunteer cut out maybe 100 3.5″ squares of drawing paper and sharpened our drawing pencils. I had three books on doodling designs on the tables in our programming room. When people came, I showed them the doodling and Zentangle books we had available on the tables and told everyone that “You just have a small piece of paper to fill. Do not worry about coming up with a perfect idea right away. Try something new that you usually do not try when you doodle. These books have lots of ideas to get you started!” I was surprised that everyone who came settled in very quickly and went to work. We doodled for an hour and only stopped because the library was closing. I also realized after about 5 minutes that I needed to sit down and doodle with everyone. It was not okay for me to just introduce them to the activity, I needed to be there doodling myself and talking with the kids and parents every few moments about their designs. It was a good reminder for me about how important it is to be “present” at every program and available for questions and to build relationships with the patrons who come!

For more ideas, Karissa in the Library blog also has a great write-up on a doodling program she offered.

If I was to offer this again, I would probably want to have more doodling books available, or even print off some adult coloring sheets and have those out as doodling examples. I also think next year we will try to offer our large family program the second Saturday in January (instead of the 3rd week in January like we did this year). It seemed like adults parents/caregivers were getting cabin fever last week and our library was alive with kids and families returning and checking out books. A parent even asked me if we had a program last Saturday, and when I told it was next week, they seemed disappointed. Last year I offered a “Kids’ Winter Crafts Open House” Family Super Saturday on the second Saturday in January, and it was very well attended. This year we did not see as great of an attendance, so I am not sure if it was because the program that was less interesting, or if the third Saturday in January is a tired time for families and they do not want to leave home to go out and do things.  So, I will keep tabs on this, and see if it is a hidden programming opportunity date in my community!

Have you offered a doodling program before? What went well, and what would you like to see changed and offered differently?

Kids’ STEM Workshop: Marble Maze (Push and Pull Physics!)

Put kids and marbles together and you automatically have a great time planned. Add a few lessons about Push and Pull, and you have an experiment in physics that combines fine motor skills, creative design, an understanding of force, and lots of marbles that went home with happy families. We held this program as a our second Workshop in January of 2017.

The skinny: This was a super fun program, although it was one of our shortest ones yet. I talked with the kids for about 15 minutes giving them some background in forces, balance, and push and pull physics. Then, I turned the kids loose on building their own marble runs. It only took the kids 15 minutes to design their own, which was much less time than I expected. In the future, I will try to combine this with a second activity to stretch it out, because I do like these workshops to go for 45-60 minutes. It was budget friendly, with supplies left over for me to do this again during our summer reading program.

Inspiration: I found this idea on Buggy and Buddy Blog. Her photos were so engaging that I thought, “We can try that!”

Cost: About $0.25 per child. I ordered a large box of Wikki Stix from Amazon for $23 (this box should serve 156 children, so we will certainly be doing this project again to go through it all!). I also ordered a large bag of Soak-Proof Foam Dinner plates ($4) so that the kids would have something sturdy to build on, and these plates had high edges. I also purchased three packs of 50 marbles for $1 at the Dollar Tree. We also used tape and scraps of construction paper that we had on hand. Each child received one plate, one marble, three of the Wikki Stix, and free access to the paper, markers, scissors, and tape.

Foam Plates
Scrap construction paper
Wikki Stix

STEM at work: Building a marble run on a paper plate, which is meant to be held and moved back and forth to make the marble go on the desired path gives children an opportunity to experiment with physics principals, Newton’s First Law, the force of gravity, and creative engineering through original designs. To keep it focused, I decided to talk about the forces of Push and Pull.

Set up: To keep the kids on track (and not using more supplies than they needed) I took the time to prepare individual bags and place settings for each child. That way we did not have to fight about which color or Wikki Stix each child wanted. In each bag I placed 3 of the Wikki Stix, all in different colors and 1 marble. I set up the tables so that each table had five plates with the prepared bags, and I also pre-cut a piece of blue painter’s tape about 8 inches long and stuck it to the table. That way, each child has the materials they needed. I also pre-cut about 200 strips of paper approximately 1″ by 4″ to use for building arches and guards for their marbles. The paper strips were placed on the tables in pie tins so that the kids could grab them and use them at will.

Resources: I used the book, Give it a Push! Give it a Pull! A Look at Forces by Jennifer Boothroyd.

How it went: I brought all the kids and families into our Storytime/Programming Room. The kids sat on our magic carpet and I started off by placing a toy bus on the table. I asked the kids what the bus was doing. (Correct answer: nothing!) I then gave the bus a push. Now what is it doing? (Moving!) Why? One girl answered, “Because of the wheels!”) Really? I turned the bus on its side and gave it another push which sent it a few feet away. We got to the part that it was moving because I pushed it. I then pulled the bus over to me, and the kids go that it moved because I pulled it. Push=move something away from the force. Pull=moves something closer to the force.

I then took out our book,  Give it a Push! Give it a Pull! A Look at Forces by Jennifer Boothroyd. I try to use a book at least for a few moments every Workshop because it shows that literacy and STEM go together in fostering curiosity! I did not read every page of this book. Instead, I prepared some post-it notes and I placed them on pages where I wanted to ask the kids questions. This helped keep the book engaging, and kids and me asking questions about what we were reading.

After finishing the book, I showed the kids the marble run that I had created, and how they would be tilting the plate to push and pull and marble towards them, or away from them, for the marble to go through its maze. I had the kids count and time me to see how long it would take me for my marble to go through the maze that I had created. (Answer: 6 seconds!)

I then had kids volunteer to bring the tables out from the corner of the room and into the center. One little girl was frustrated with her partners who were not lifting the table and she said, “Why is this table not moving?” I could not help it, and I had to answer as I went to give them a hand, “Because we are not applying enough force”. J I have found out that kids love to help me set up and take down the programming room after a program, and this is an important time for me to build positive relationships with them by thanking them for helping.

With the tables in place, the kids were ready to build! Like I said above, it only took them about 15 mintues to finished their maze. Then, the kids raced each other to see who could make their marble go through the maze fastest. I am getting smarter at this, and after the program I asked the kids to give me back and sandwich bag that held their marble and three Wikki Stix. I can re-use the bag, which cuts down on waste and cost! Some kids wanted to keep their bag, though, so their marble did not get lost on the way home, which was fine.

Another STEM Workshop in the books! Stay tuned for our February Workshops: Human Heart Science and Write Your Name in Computer Code!




Can we find more books like that?

Quick resource that sparked some reading empowerment (and totally impressed a library mom). Last week a parent came in to the library and told me about her son who finds the skill reading easy (he reads above his grade level), but just has a hard time getting into books. She was looking for chapter books that he may enjoy and was asking my advise and help. She told me her son had just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and loved it. “Can we find more books like that?” You bet! And, a handy tool to make that happen has been created in a free online visual guide!

The web resource,  Literature Map-The Tourist Map of Literature works by asking you to type the name of any author into it’s search bar. I showed my library mom how to find the site and search for Roald Dahl. A whole screen comes up with your featured author in the center, and different authors who are similar in some way to the author that you searched for floating around your featured author’s name. My image above and below is what the “map” looks like after searching for Roald Dahl. The closer the author’s names are to each other, the more they have in common in their writing, and the more likely the reader is to find a new author to enjoy. Click on any of the author’s names that come up and a new map will be created featuring that author in the center of the map, and new authors to discover. It gets addicting to keep clicking on authors and discovering new maps and ideas of what to read next. I was introduced to this by the Youth Services Librarian at my library before me, and it has consistently been a fun and impressive resource to show kids and parents/caregivers. And, today, it helped a mom feel more empowered to help find books for her son that he would enjoy reading.

And, in case you are a fan, Life Hacker blog published a post on Literature Map with their “Find Authors with Literature Map” article.

What are your favorite resources for readers advisory?





Dewey Decimal Signage…

Beautifying the library space is always something that is in the back of my mind. I have visions for projects to make our children’s library “feel as magical as Disneyland”, but then life comes in. And patrons. And books that need to be shelved. And programs that need to be planned for. But this project is one that I was able to finish, and it was surprisingly cost efficient to complete.

I found this image online of the Dewey Decimal System explained in images and knew it was what we wanted to have in our room over our non-fiction bookcases. After a little bit of poking about online I was able to locate the designer of the images as Maggie Appleton and sent her note. She was incredibly gracious to write back:

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Computer Coding with Scratch!


I had heard about computer coding being done at libraries for several months before attending the 2016 Wisconsin Library Association session: ”A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Coding Go Down” session lead by Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Ryan Claringbolde, and Jen Fait. I did not really understand what tools may be out there to offer coding at our library, or how we could begin offering coding in my rural community with a library budget that is already limited. However, this session opened up my imagination to what could be possible in my community. Why not have kids coding computers at their public library? These same children that I talk with during my school visits, see playing games on the library computers, watch play sports at community games, and create music on their instruments or through their voice the school band or choir will be the future adult consumers. Why not teach them to be a producer, and not just a consumer of media? And, could I find a creative way to do it that would also be FREE of offer (no laptop or computer purchasing required)? Could there also be a hidden partnership opportunity with my schools linked in this somewhere? I think so!

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Bats in Flight!

Who loves bats? You know, those amazing mammals that fly, eat mosquitoes and harmful insects to farmer’s crops, and represent good luck when seen in China? How do those bats fly and swoop in the air, so much more agile than birds? Better yet, can we make a simulation of a bat that also swoops like the real thing? You bet we can, in Kids’ STEM Workshops!

The skinny: This program totally came from an area science teacher. I asked her if she had ideas for October themed programs, and she came in and gave me the template to make this project. Although there is lots of folklore and fears associated with bats, they are an important part of our natural diversity with important jobs to do. They also are mammals that fly, and their unique wing design allows them to swoop and dive mid-air, something that birds simply cannot do. Our activity made a model of a bat with a challenge: can you make this paper bat swoop and fly like a real bat? Best yet, this program cost us $0 to offer and it filled our library with swooping bats and a lesson about flight!

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Storytime: The “Mitten” Week Two

I try to pick one new folk tale each month and present that story in my Storytime by choosing different books from different authors and illustrators who interpret the basic story each a little differently. In January, we are learning the folk tale, The Mitten. I have noticed that the kids enjoy knowing at least one of the stories as the month goes on, and I am able to layer in more interaction (ask the kids to join me in telling the story, acting it out, repeating after me, and making predictions) because the kids know what is going to happen. This lesson plan shows our second week on the folk tale, The Mitten.

Second week of January Storytime
The Mitten: Week Two

The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Red Sled by Lita Judge
Spot’s Snowy Day by Eric Hill

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Things that changed my (Library) life in 2016…

Things alone do not make us happy, but the right tool at the right time can make all the difference in our sense of satisfaction! In our jobs as librarians we are asked to be organized, informed, energetic and agile. We are asked to make the library the best place it can be for our patrons, but I believe that in taking care of ourselves we do a better job taking care of others. I don’t often say that a “thing” changed my life, but these products and services changed the way I do “Library” in 2016. (And no, I am not being paid anything for promoting these products or services. I just hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me!

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Straw Towers!

“Who have guessed that a box of straws could be so entertaining?” one of my parents at our Kids’ STEM Workshop: Straw Towers remarked to me after watching her children totally engrossed for 45 minutes with their creations. And, what a great way to get kids to use their fine motor skills working with materials that are not usually used together! The challenge: build the largest tower you can with straws and paper clips. Or, build another structure and go for the most creative, or, the most similar to a famous tower or building. Go!

The skinny: The night when we offered this program it was incredibly cold, rainy, and otherwise not “go out to the library” weather. I honesty thought we would have no one come, but a nice crowd showed up despite the conditions, and our Children’s library was alive!

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Kids’ STEM Workshops: Marshmallow Igloos!

With snow on the ground and Wisconsin suffering from a cold snap, it was the perfect night to talk about how Inuit people build houses with nothing by the natural materials their environment gives them: snow and ice. And, what better way to learn about it than by experimenting with geometric shapes to build igloos of our own…in the comfort of the heated library with marshmallows and toothpicks as our building materials of choice!

The skinny: This was a wonderful winter themed STEM program, and it brought in working with 3-D geometric shapes, which is a program that I had not done before. We had many families attend, which was surprising since they it was January and many families were still out of their normal routine with December not so far in the past. But come they did!

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Winter Passive Program: Make Mittens!

I try to pick one folk tale each month to highlight in Storytime. I try to find 3-4 different books that tell the same tale and I use a new book each week in Storytime. There are some folk tales that are part of our cultural experience. I have even heard that some teachers as part of the 4 and 5 year old Kindergarten screening will be asked questions about folk tales that every child should know, such as “The Three Little Pigs”. So, why not tell these stories in Storytime? And, why not use Passive Programs to re-emphasize these stories once Storytime is over?

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Kids’ STEM Workshops: Bridge Engineering!

This was the first Kids’ STEM Workshop we offered. We had a great attendance, and it was a wonderful way to kick off our series and let parents and kids know we would be doing this twice a month by offering an incredibly low cost program. And, what kid does not want to build the tallest tower in the room?

The skinny: This was a wonderful program, and it cost us $0 to offer it. The kids and parents enjoyed working together on something incredibly simple: build a tower out of nothing but newspaper and yarn that can hold the most weight possible.

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Toilet Paper Mummies!

Our last STEM night was very close to Halloween. What else but wrap ourselves up in toilet paper and practice some math skills at the same time?

The skinny: This was a very successful program, and it was the first program that I saw parents actively pulling their phones out to take pictures of their kids all wrapped up in toilet paper. When parents are taking pictures, you know you are on to something good. Also, this was a program that used the “Math” part of STEM, which is something that can be tricky to have good programs for.

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Passive Program: Gingerbread Imaginative Play Station


In December, we wanted to offer something different. Enter “Gingerbread Imaginative Play Station”!

I purchased a play dough mixer from Amazon for $25. Then, I went to the dollar store and bought two cookie trays, two spatulas, a bag of googly eyes, and Christmas colored pom-poms. I then went to Walmart and bought two Gingerbread Men cookie cutters. One of my fellow librarians offered to help trace out the cookie cutters on brown paper, and cut them out. We cut out 100 gingerbread men to start with, and I placed a bowl of glue sticks on the table. The kids loved this station, and I even had high school students come in and make one because they said, “It was so cute!”


Favorite Books of December 2016

gertieWhat I love about children’s literature is that the main character can be faced with any number of difficulties and injustices, yet they do not despair or fall into cynicism. They remain optimistic and confident that good will win, tenacity yields rewards, and forgiveness can be given even when it is not deserved. This is why I love Gertie. I read this book in two days and am excited to share it with youth and adults alike in my public library.

countingBecause of a busy college semester and a full time job it had been several months since I was able to read a book that was not a textbook. This title was recommended by a friend and it was the perfect title to break my drought. I finished it in two days. Having experience with cancer, I can say that this book was not unduly melodramatic, it showed a family with positive parental figures trying to cope and raise healthy children in the midst of a horrible health reality, and three children who really do love one another despite their fear and anger over what has happened. These are themes I wish were more often portrayed in books for children


Hello Library Friend!

What I admire most about librarians is how much they love sharing information. Whether it is with our patrons, or our colleagues, we do everything we can to provide access to ideas for anyone who asks. When I became a Youth Services Library, everything was new. Blogs, however, put the knowledge and experience of my colleagues within my reach. Their writing and photos–so generously shared–became my mentors. Blogs allowed me to look through ideas and use the programs and resources posted as models for my own community. I hope that you will similarly find information here useful. There are so many good ideas out there. Let’s keep them circulating…because providing access to information is what librarians do best.