Bookmarks, Posters, and Increasing Community Ownership at your Public Library

This March, with summer reading program plans dancing in my head, I decided to try something new: why not have a poster and bookmark contest to promote summer reading! The idea was not entirely my own. I heard that my friends at Platteville Public Library had hosted a bookmark contest the year before and that it had been incredibly inexpensive to run. (Thank you, Platteville Public Library!). Our city is just over 5,000 people, and our service population encompasses another 10,000 who live in the rural areas around our city. I am always looking for ways to increase our community’s sense of ownership in our public library, and few activities promote as much ownership as seeing your creative work displayed as a poster, or given away as a bookmark!   

In the past, our library purchased bookmarks and posters from professional library supply sources to promote the summer reading program. This year, we decided to use this opportunity to showcase local artistic talent by printing designs created by local artists. In late March, I created a registration form with the rules for the contest, and made this form available at our circulation desks, on Facebook, and on our website. We had four categories: K-3rd grade, 4-8th grade, 9-12 grade, and adult.

I was worried that we would receive almost no entries. Anytime our library does something new, it takes time for our community to know about it, and begin participating. However, two of our area art teachers saw that registration form, and gave it to their students as an optional assignment. With these teacher’s partnerships, our library received over 40 entries. After the entries came in, we taped the artwork to black construction paper, and using sticky tack, we attached them to a wall and placed a number by each entry.

I also wanted our community to feel ownership, even if they had not submitted artwork. So, I made a simple ballot and asked our circulation librarian to give the ballot to each patron when they came to check out their items. I also took pictures of all the entries and uploaded the photos to Facebook so patrons could vote via that medium.

After a month I simply counted up the votes to find out which designs would be our winner. I contacted a local print company in our city, and they were able to print 500 color bookmarks (2.25 inches by 7 inches) and 14 posters for about $100.

The contest was a huge success. We were able to submit the contest results to the local paper, along with an invitation to the community to pick up a bookmark to take home while signing up for our upcoming summer reading program. Great publicity for everyone!

This was a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to bring our community together around the goal of promoting summer reading. The bookmarks are now out at our circulation desks, and the posters decorate walls that had just a little too much white space. Our patrons have begun to notice them, and realize that they were designed by local artists. We will certainly be doing it again in the future!

I think the largest takeaway for me is to look for an opportunity, any opportunity, to allow your community to find a way to leave their mark in their library. Doing so bring people from outside the library walls in, and our library grows and strengthens because of it.

Here is the registration form we used (I am so sorry. I was not able to find the editable word document on my computer):

Here is the ballot that we used: Poster and Bookmark Contest Ballot

And, here are a few more posters:



























Week 4: Coding Together, Learning Together (Community Partnerships)

No project is meant to be completed without sharing it with others. Coding is no different. With community partners, you can share the process of coding, and not just the final results of what your coding club is creating. Our lives are better together!

This is the final post for the Coding Together, Learning Together series. Here are my posts for Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3. Enjoy!

If you are interested in taking this course, it is being offered again July 31-August 25, 2017 by UW-Madison’s SLIS Continuing Education Department. This course was a game changer for me, and answered so many of the questions I had about coding that was stopping me from planning out a coding program at our library. I highly recommend taking this course.

Community Partners

The more support you have, the more you can do.

Local Schools may be your Best Community Partner:

  • Use the vacation or early release days to reach students.
  • Can help advertise your programs!
  • Ask: “What (if any) coding programs are already being offered?”
  • Older students may be available to volunteer as mentors or student leaders for community service.

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Week 3: Coding Together, Learning Together (Structuring Your Coding Program)

Putting Your Coding Club Plans On Paper!

Still blogging about the “Coding Together, Learning Together Course” that just wrapped up! If you are interested, here are my links for Week 1 and Week 2. Stay tuned for our final week blog post coming up!

If you are interested in taking this course, it is being offered again July 31-August 25, 2017 by UW-Madison’s SLIS Continuing Education Department. This course was a game changer for me, and answered so many of the questions I had about coding that was stopping me from planning out a coding program at our library. I highly recommend taking this course.

Our third week was all about putting our plans down on paper, or in my case a Word document, and actually figuring out how to structure and plan a coding club!

There are two basic ways to organize a coding program: structured and unstructured. Which one you choose will depend on your:

  • Program goals,
  • Target Audience,
  • Frequency and Length,
  • Materials Needed and Resources available.
  • What need is our coding club meeting?

Think back to our community needs assessment. What did our community members say they were interested in when I asked them about coding? As a public library, how does coding fit within your mission or vision?

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Conference STEM Presentations

Whew! What a week! I had the great privilege of presenting our library’s work on Kids’ STEM Workshops at not one but two state conferences on Thursday (WAPL in Steven’s Point) and Saturday (Wisconsin AfterSchool Association in the Wisconsin Dells). This was my first solo presentation. Thank you to everyone in the audience for being so friendly as I shared about our STEM adventures this past year!

Here is my PowerPoint from both those presentations. It was wonderful to meet so many energized colleagues from across our state and hear about what they are doing in STEM and STEAM. I am on the lookout for great program ideas. If you have done a STEM program, please let me know about it! I would be happy to use it as a model for our community! September is coming, and that means a whole new year of lesson planning!

Thank you all so much for what you do every day for our communities. It re-energized me hearing from you and the work you do!

A Year of Adventures in Kids’ STEM Workshops (PDF)

A Year of Adventures in Kids’ STEM Workshops (PowerPoint)


Week 2: Coding Together, Learning Together (Coding Curriculum, Apps, and Gadgets)

In our second week of Coding Together, Learning Together we began to dig into different options for coding gadgets, curriculums, and apps! (You can find my Week 1 Notes here).

This week we looked at different options for presenting coding programs. There are lots of options out there, and it is easy to be overwhelmed! However, sometimes just knowing what is out there is the first stop. Check out these resources!

Coding Websites (Credit: Casey Ineichen) 
Gadgets & Kits to Teach Code (Credit: Casey Ineichen)

Common Sense Media App Reviews:

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Week 1: Coding Together: Learning Together

Coding is everywhere right now! Lesson plans are on Pinterest, kids are talking about it, coding clubs are springing up all over the nation, and libraries are now offering coding programs to showcase how to create computer code for our youth, families, and adults. This spring, I was privileged to participate in the four- week online “Coding Together, Learning Together” course provided through DPI and taught by Casey Ineichen. This course was designed as a quick introduction to the wealth of coding opportunities and options for public libraries when planning programs. These were the course goals:

Learn the basics of coding and how to plan a coding event for your library so that: 

●You can share the basics of coding with your library patrons.
●You can select appropriate coding tools and software for your library and community.
●You can plan coding events for your library and community.


I found that this course was exactly what I needed to put my abstract plans about coding into a plan that was specific and timely. I understand that this course will be offered again, so if you are interested, stay tuned to Wisconsin’s DPI.
I will be blogging about my experience in this course. If you would like to learn more about code, like I did, try to work your way through some of the activities and websites that I will be posting.

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Easter Egg Storytime

Whenever it comes planning any program close to a holiday, as librarians we strive to make sure all families that we serve feel included and valued in our programs. This is my lesson plan for a scheduled Easter themed Storytime that was very successful and appreciated by the families who attended. I had given the parents a message before this week that this Storytime would be Easter Egg themed, and the parents were ready to see what fun we could get into!

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Fun story about silly Minerva Louise. It was fun to ask the kids to point to the page to find the Easter eggs that Minerva Louise kept finding throughout the story.

Happy Easter by Kurt Wiese
What happens when bunnies need eggs to dye into Easter eggs? They ask their friend, the hen. I think this book may be out of print. But, the pages have an old-fashioned feel that I really enjoy when I read this book.

Where’s My Easter Egg? by Harriet Ziefer
Great book to end Storytime on. The kids loved lifting the flaps to see if Nicky the kitten’s egg was under there.

Additional activity: Easter egg hunt!

I hid some eggs around the Storytime room while the kids (mostly) closed their eyes. Then, the kids went to hunt them down!

How it went:
As excited as the parents were as they arrived for Storytime, this was one of the most tired group of kids I have had all spring. I think several were missing a naptime. They kept telling me how tired they were, and how they just “couldn’t do it” when I asked them to sing, or play with shakers, and look at the book. I needed to make every book interactive to make it work for them. They enjoyed the Easter egg hunt, and it was also a time for parents to enjoy sharing this moment with their children. I chose not to spread the activities out to long, though. Just as the kids really were having enough, I sang out goodbye song and I then high-fived the kids and thanked them for coming to see me at the library.

After Storytime we went into the main Children’s library where we had a craft prepped by a volunteer, so each child was also able to go home with a paper baby chick hatching out of a paper plate egg.


Duck Storytime







Just Ducky by Kathy Mallat
Animals on the Farm: Ducks by Wendy Strobel Dieker
Quack and Count by Keith Baker
Goose Needs a Hug by Tad Hills

Opening Activity: Quick! Touch your toes, eyes, ears, tummy, knees, floor, clap your hands!

Sing: Welcome Song: If you are ready for a story, clap your hands!

Parent Welcome: Thank you for joining us in Storytime today! Every child, like adults, has a bad day, so if you child is needing a break, please step outside the room with them so they can calm down and not disrupt the other children. However, when your child is ready, please rejoin us again! Also, pretend there is an invisible circle around my easel. This is where I have lots of our props. If your child goes inside this circle, please gently pull them back so they do not block the view for the other children. Let’s get started!

Introduce topic: Look at the books I have! What do you guess we will be talking about today? Ducks? Yes! And, what sound do ducks make? “Quack, quack, quack!  Can you say that with me?

Read: Just Ducky by Kathy Mallat

This is a very sweet book. Duck needs a friend to play with, but all his friends, Bee, Mouse, and Frog, are busy. He goes for a swim and finds his reflection in the water. Thinking it is another duck, they play together all day. The older kids in Storytime got that he was just playing with his own reflection, which made it fun. I also had a bee, mouse, and frog puppet, so I gave those out to three of the kids in Storytime, and they held it up when it was their page.

Possible Aside for parents: Missed the aside this week! Whoops!

Write: I wrote the letter D on our white board, and asked if the kids knew the letter, and what sound the letter made. I then wrote the word, “Duck” below the T. For fun, I asked the kids to help me find the letter D in the word duck. I pointed at the u, then the c, then the k, to the kids great amusement, and then I finally pointed to the letter D. Kids like it when adults make mistakes and they can correct them, and what a great way to reinforce letter recognition. I then asked the kids what other words began with a “D” sound. We had lots of nonsense words, all beginning with a “D” sound, which made it fun.

Read and Talk: Animals on the Farm: Ducks by Wendy Strobel Dieker

Good non-fiction books for early readers about Ducks. Pictures show different colored feathers, and we had a discussion about the oil on duck’s feathers help the ducks float. The book also gave a new vocabulary word for many of us. A drake is a male duck. Femail ducks are just called ducks.

-Popcorn Kernels,
-1, 2 Shake it on Your Shoe,
-Scarves up!

Read:  Quack and Count by Keith Baker

I asked the kids to show me 7 fingers. 5 + 2=7. We had to count them all to make sure. As we read through the book, I asked the kids to continue showing me on their fingers all the ways we could make 7. It did not always work out perfectly, but it was an early math introduction through a book.

Read: Goose Needs a Hug by Tad Hills

Very good, and quick, board book to end Storytime on. At the end, I asked the kids to give a hug to the “big person who brought you to Storytime”. Lots of smiles.

Closing Song: Tickle the Stars

How it went:
Ducks are a fun Storytime theme! All the kids loved making duck noises. I really need to work on my flannelboards. I know that there are many fun activities we can do with them in this theme, so that is my goal.

Kids’ STEM Workshops: Thinking in Three Dimensions with KEVA Brain Builders

Today we get to work with puzzles! You only get 20 planks, and they all look the same. How many objects can you create with those 20 planks? A lot. How much fun will you have? Again…a lot!

The skinny: This was a very simple program to put together. I ordered six sets of KEVA Brain Builders from Amazon for $15 a set. This was much more than the $0.30 per child budget that I have been working with. However, these sets were made available to us through a grant. Also, I am able to use them over and over again. So, in time, the price for these sets will go down to less than $0.30 because of the repeated use.

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Celebrating Community through Irish Dance

Saint Patrick’s Day is one time in the year when everyone can be Irish! Ask your community if they would like to see Irish dancers, and they may just come out of the woodwork. Add in a fun craft project and some lively music, and you have a program that will be enjoyed by all ages!

We are fortunate to have a very talented and trained Irish dancer who manages her own Irish dance studio in our community. On the weekend of Saint Patrick’s Day, she offered to come to the library and lead an Irish Dance Workshop. Here are my notes on what we did so hopefully it can be easily duplicated in any community. We hosted this program on the weekend of Saint Patrick’s Day, but because its popularity we plan to offer it again as summer workshop during our Summer Reading Program.

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Toddler Tech @ a Public Library Near You!

You should be at Toddler Tech! Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

Toddler Tech is a community event where multiple organizations with services for families with children ages 0-5 are able to come together, put up their booths, and engage with families. It is a time for organization representatives to participate in a community outreach program, a time for families to connect with these organizations and learn about the services that are available to them, and finally a time for young children to have fun and play together by participating in the interactive activities each organization prepares for families that come to their booth. It is a lot of fun, very low cost, and a wonderful way to cross-promote organizations in our community.

We hosted our first Toddler Tech event on Saturday, April 1st. This event had been hosted for the past 10 years by the hospital. However, they were looking for someone to take it over, and thought of the library. Of course I said yes when they asked if we would host it. The idea of dozens of families coming into the library on a Saturday was more than any librarian could pass up!

To set up the event, I designed a poster using We chose to host this event two weeks before Easter, which is also the week when our school district schedules Spring Break. This way, I knew that families would not be out of town (probably). This year, that date was Saturday, April 1st, 2017. I then sent out letters to multiple community organizations that serve families. If you are interested in doing this in your community, here is a list of organizations that I contacted:

  • Hospital
  • Dental offices
  • Domestic Violence Shelter
  • Home Educators
  • UW-Extension Family Living Agent
  • Birth to Three
  • Parks and Rec program
  • WEAP (Autism Support Network)
  • Saint Mary’s 3k and 4K program
  • Richland Christian Fellowship 3K and 4K program
  • Lincoln School 3K and 4K program
  • Crime Stoppers
  • Fire Department (they brought a fire truck!)
  • Police Department
A quite moment reading at the Birth to Three table. Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

After sending out the letter, I waited to see how many organizations would contact me back. In total, I heard from 11. Those that contacted me received a follow-up letter detailing set-up time on the morning of Toddler Tech.




Home Educators joined us with information for new homeschool families. Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

For promotion, I created a Facebook event, shared the poster on multiple community Facebook groups, hung up the poster at the library for three months before the event, contacted the paper and asked them to put in a small article about the event, and also was interviewed by our local radio station who very generous did a short promotion on the news at noon program for us.

We planned our event to begin at 10:00am and continue until 1pm. Set-up was available beginning at 9am (This was an hour before the library opened). You may not think it will take a whole hour to set up, but I was surprised to see how long it did take our organizations to arrange their booths, and thankful that we began an hour before we opened. The fire department brought a fire truck, and they were able to park it in our parking lot before it filled up with patrons. I bought white plastic table cloths for all the tables for our organizations to use on their tables. I think this is one of the cheapest investments to make tables look professional. Most organizations already had table cloths, but a few did not, so it was nice to be able to provide this.

The hospital Therapy Department planned a simple obstacle course. Most kids went through it 3-6 times before they were ready to move on! Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

The event was a big success! Families loved it clearly came to spend hours out of their morning meeting with organizations and playing with all the activity stations. Here is a list of the different activity stations that organizations offered:






  • Pete the Cat cookie decorating
  • Face painting
  • Tambourine decorating
  • Musical instruments petting zoo
  • Finger printing
  • Quiet space
  • Sensory table
  • Obstacle course
  • Meet the fire truck and the firemen!
  • Meet a police officer

    Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

This was a very relaxed event because I did not have to plan everything! Also, we did not have to pay anything to plan the program, so it was also great for my Youth Services Programming budget.

We had a library table with calendars, table toppers giving dates for our Storytime and Baby/Toddler Play Times, as well as sign-up sheets for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. Our theme was music, so I had a small bin of musical instruments with me. Kids joined me on the floor, testing out instruments and hearing the different sounds (and picking up valuable fine-motor skills along the way!).

The fire truck was very popular! Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

One of my friends is very talented in photography, and offered to come and take pictures at the event. She received verbal permission from the parents as she mingled with the crowd to take photos of them and their children for the library to use in promotions. Everyone was thrilled to have their kiddo photographed, and it made the day just that much more special. After the event, she made the photos available to save, share, and print for the families for free.

If you have any questions about this event, just let me know! It was a wonderful time, and I am already brainstorming ways to make it better next year. I would like to ask the Police Department to offer car seat checks ask part of the program, and to set up a table for the police officer to play with the kids at a free-play table with blocks so that they can talk with the kids and parents without having to prep anything.

On to planning Toddler Tech next year!


Toddler Tech Letter to Organizations 2017

Toddler Tech Confirmation 2017

Photo Credit: Anna Arms.
Photo Credit: Anna Arms.


Photo Credit: Anna Arms.
Photo Credit: Anna Arms.


Photo Credit: Anna Arms.
Photo Credit: Anna Arms.
Photo Credit: Anna Arms.
Photo Credit: Anna Arms.

April Book Display-Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R) Month!

For the past two months, we have been experimenting with picture book displays above our picture book shelves. I had been using this space for new books, but after a large weeding project, I realized how many wonderful books we already own! These books deserve some face time too so that parents and kids can discover them. In March, we celebrated National Puppy Day (March 23rd) all month long by displaying our puppy and dog books all throughout March. We began with 80 puppy and dog books. Because our check out is three weeks, we do not code these books any differently than regular books, because by the time the display books are returned, we are prepping for our next display. So, when they are returned, we just shelve them back into the regular collection. When I took the Puppy display down yesterday, we had only 30 that had not been checked out. For April, I asked one of our library interns to go through the picture book collection and pull anything that was related to books, reading, or libraries.  I added all these books to a list in our library software so that next year we can  refer to the list and pull the books without going through every book in the picture book collection to find them again.

For April, I decided to celebrate Drop Everything and Read all month long! For more information, visit:  I asked one of our library interns to go through the picture book collection and pull anything that was related to books, reading, or libraries.  I added all these books to a list in our library software so that next year we can  refer to the list and pull the books without going through every book in the picture book collection to find them again.

Here is a snapshot of what our book display looks like. 🙂

April-D.E.A.R Poster (PowerPoint)
April-D.E.A.R  Poster (PDF)

Bridge Engineering with Legos and Engino Pieces!

Just how hard is it to build a bridge? Well, I think our library kids can best answer that question. What I do know is that planning a Kids’ STEM Workshop around bridge building using Legos and Engino toys to help reinforce the B.A.T.S. design that all bridges utilize was super easy, and super fun!

The skinny: This was a wonderful, relaxed program that cost us $0. The Engino toy parts and Legos we used were proved to us through a grant and by gift from our Friends of the Library. We already had these resources, so it made sense to me to feature them as a STEM program. Again, if you do not have these materials, then this may be a great idea for a grant project. I hope this lesson plan helps spark every better ideas you can use in your grant proposal for how you plan to use these materials in your community!

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The Hat Week 2

3rd Week of February Storytime
The Hat: Week 2

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Jingle-Jangle by Nicola Smee
The Hat by Jan Brett

Flannel board: 

This week I was able to use our “Hat” themed flannel board one of our library interns made! The kids loved it! I did this at the end of Storytime instead of reading the book. I simply held the book up and introduced the story. Using the flannel board pieces, I told the story o f “the Hat”. Even the youngest kids were attentive, and mesmerized at how the pieces “moved” as the story progressed. To help me, I also used one of our puppets which looks like a hedgehog and a red and white sock that I brought from home.

Kids’ STEM Workshop: Binary Code!

We live in a binary world. Our computers, music, books, magazines, almost every form of media is digital and it all runs on the binary code. But, it is surprising how little many of us understand about the code that influences so much of our lives. For Teen Tech Week in March 2017, I wanted to do a program for tweens on coding and showing them the binary system. But, is binary code easy enough for kids to understand and write? Can we do a coding program without a computer? As we found out, the answers are yes, and yes!

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