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 Canva.com. 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: http://www.dropeverythingandread.com/NationalDEARday.html.  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: Engino Simple Machines

Wow! Give kids a challenge (and don’t tell them that it is hard) and watch them create for you! That is the lesson I learned by offer a STEM program using Engino toy parts to build simple machines. Our kids both followed the directions, and free built. Engino toy parts are a cross between Legos and Knex, and they are a little bit harder to work with than either of those toys. Lots of fine motor skills were needed. I ran this program with 5th graders, 2nd graders, and an all ages program. All of the groups were able to build the simple Experimental Car, and then enjoyed some free build time.

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Dr. Seuss Storytime!

In the mood for a Dr. Seuss Storytime! Me too! With Read Across America Day coming up, why not celebrate!

It can be hard to find Seuss books that are short enough for a Storytime crowd. In the end, I chose:



Dr. Seuss’s ABC
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Hop on Pop ( I read pages 1-31, ending with, “No Pat No, Don’t Sit on That!”)
Green Eggs and Ham (I read pages 1-25 and then skipped to page 49 and read till the end.)
My Many Colored Days

How it went: 

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Taking a break to Play at the Public Library

The benefits of play time for children has been long researched, observed, and promoted by educators, doctors, teachers, and librarians. Written in 2012, this article, “The Importance of Play, Particularly Constructive Play, in Public Library” written by Sue McCleaf Nespeca and published by the American Library Association is an excellent resource for making the case for the importance of play.

Play is even one of the five “magic” words in early child literacy (Write, Talk, Read, Sing, and Play) that we promote in our Storytimes and early literacy education. However, it can be one of the more difficult ones to bring out in the library in our regular Storytime (and similar program) sessions. So how we do add more play time to our library programming? I believe that children’s programs work best when they work as family programs that bring the family together, and families together. To that end, how can Play Time not only promote early literacy, healthy social skills, but also build relationships between child parents and caregivers at the same time?

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“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: 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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