Do ALA Right: . . . and Night, by Kirby McCurtis

Angie told you how to make the most of every minute of your DAY at ALA, but y’all know some of the best networking, PLN building and unfortunate karaoke video evidence (Hi, Sophie!!) comes out at night. How do you know what parties to go to? How do you get invites?

Every great party I have ever attended at a conference, I got to by following Kirby McCurtis (@kirby_mcc) around. You guys know that Kirby is one of the best, right? She’s a killer storytime provider, social activist and friend. She is heavily involved in ALA and has impressed the hell out of a lot of really important people who might want to hire you someday. She is also more than willing to introduce everyone talented she knows to everyone important she knows. And she can dance. Basically, you need to cultivate her friendship, and then ask her about literacy outreach to teen moms, and then be in awe.

We asked her to tell us how you get into the best parties at ALA. Here’s what she said (GIFs, as per usual, are my own addition):

HOW TO DO ALA BY NIGHT, by Kirby McCurtis:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! No, not Back to School for all you readers with kids or Christmas/Hanukkah for all the “kids at heart.”  It’s Annual Conference time! Whether this is your first conference or you are a vet, remember one thing and one thing only: Ain’t no party like a library party. For reals. If you haven’t had the time of your life at at least one conference, where you woke up the next day with sore feet and no voice, then you have not been “conferencing” right. But have no fear! Me (Kirby) and Angie are going to give you a sneak peek at our social calendars for Vegas and you can join in the fun.

Angie and I agree that social success at conference comes down to two things:

1. Running your mouth and 2. Listening. That is it. No secrets other than talk to folks and listen to them. If you have something in common, fantastic! If not, move on.  Fake is not fun, and trust me–your kindred spirit is out there in the crowd.

I am heavily involved in ALA–I am on Council, NMRT board, and a few committees. Basically, for me conference is WORK time. I’m typically power walking from one meeting to another, trying to pop into a Conversation Starter or a Program as time permits. That means night time is my social networking time. I will go out every single night I’m in town, starting Thursday. This is the only time I can connect with folks that don’t have the same focus within ALA that I have and I cherish this time. If large groups are intimidating to you, bring a buddy. If you don’t think you will know anyone there, think of it as the perfect opportunity to meet someone new. And BE FLEXIBLE. This is what my schedule looks so far, but of course new invites can be accepted at any time 🙂


Thursday June 26, 2014

8:30 pm All Conference/ALA Think Tank Pre- Party Pub Crawl

This is the Conference kick off party and EVERYONE is invited. This is the only event that costs money (tickets are $42) but you get a heap of goodies for the cash, including:

  • Free Drinks
  • Drink specials
  • Menu discounts
  • Free appetizers
  • No cover charges
  • No lines to get in

If you have ever been the Vegas in the summer, and tried to hit a bar or club on the strip you know the no cover charges and no lines aspect of this deal is completely worth the money. Party starts at Blondies (Miracle Mile, Planet HWD)

Friday June 27, 2014

10:30 pm Urban Libraries Dance Party, Vince Neil’s Tatuado (Circus Circus)

This dance party happens every year and is always a good time, whether you are on the dance floor or not. This year’s host is Urban Libraries Unite, a group dedicated to reaching out into the community with creative tactics. I will be out on the dance floor so find me if Drake comes on.


Saturday June 28, 2014

9:00 pm Annual After Hours Party

If you’ve ever heard about a  Mango Languages party but didn’t get the invite, do a little happy dance, because this year you don’t need the VIP invite. Mango has joined with my favorite PAC EveryLibrary and Treehouse for the ALA14 After-Hours Party at The Arts Factory in Las Vegas.


Open bar and DJ courtesy of Treehouse and Mango. Bring your badge! Enough said.

The Arts Factory is conveniently located between the new strip and the old strip in the thriving Las Vegas Arts District. It’s public transportation and cab friendly. Donations for EveryLibrary are most welcome at the door.

Arts Factory Las Vegas
107 E Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89104

Monday June 30, 2014

5:30 pm Library Games

First there were the Olympic Games, then the Hunger Games became all the rage. Combine the two and you get The Library Games. Audience participation and voting will be crucial to the outcome, so make sure you are there!


8:00 pm Libraries Build Communities Social

Join Librarians Build Communities to enjoy laughs and conversation at the Laguna Champagne Bar on The Palazzo casino floor!


Do ALA right: Day, by Angie Manfredi

Ninjas, ALA is coming.

ron panic

You may be a first timer, hoping you can do enough networking to make the expense worth it. Or, you may have been to many conferences but feel like you always miss out on the cool shit everyone is talking about on Twitter the next morning.

We reached out to two geniuses of DOING ALA RIGHT, and they gave us their secrets to killing ALA.

Angie Manfredi (@misskubelik) is a woman who leaves ALA every year with no regrets. She knows EVERYONE at EVERY publisher. She has in depth MOMENTS with amazing authors. She goes home and is a ROCK STAR to the kids at her library. How does she do it?

HOW TO DO ALA BY DAY, by Angie Manfredi:

During one ALA Annual conference I spent just about two and a half hours waiting in line to get Rick Riordan’s autograph.  (When I actually got up to meet him, I almost wept with excitement but that’s a story for a whole other day.) Now, I am sure I could have spent that time in a meeting or a roundtable discussion or a workshop.  In fact, to many people the idea of spending that long just waiting in a line while so many other professional development activities are happening might seem nothing short of wasted time.

Yet these two and a half hours were invaluable to my library.  I came back with a signed Rick Riordan book to use as an end-of-summer prize and the sheer excitement of this HUGE incentive kicked up our summer reading participation for the entire month of July, with our patrons reading more than ever in an effort to win the book.

I often tell this story when people ask me for tips on how to get the most out of their ALA experience or how to “do ALA right.”  Why?  Mostly because it shows there is no one right way to “do” ALA.  But also because how it illustrates some of the biggest benefits I’ve ever reaped from ALA have come from walking the exhibit floor, an activity you might hear dismissed or disparaged.

I’ve served on committees and spent my days in meetings.  I’ve attended program after program.  These are experiences I cherish and experiences that make ALA unique.  But I list along with those experiences my exhibit floor experiences, which have helped connect me to publisher and vendors in a way I truly believe makes me better at my job.  I think this is the kind of networking and growing as a professional that I can’t do anywhere else.

How can YOU gain these benefits too?  Here’s a few tips that have helped me over the years.

1. Talk, talk, talk!

The people in the booths want to talk to you.  They want to tell you about their books and their programs.  In fact, they are there to talk to you.  Please do not think of the booths as a place you go to load up on free stuff.  If you do that, you might walk away with free stuff but you will never make connections. And the free stuff pales in comparison to learning people’s names, finding out what they read, and having them see YOU as a person.  Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had at ALA are with the people working in the booths.  They’ve read a lot of the same books you have and they relish discussing them in depth.  Oh, the pleasures of just talking about books!  Take advantage of this chance, it’s way more valuable than free stuff. (even if free stuff is books.)

2.Share what you do!

The reps working in booths also want to hear what their books actually do and mean to people.  Have you made a cool flannelboard based on one of their books?  Tell them about it, show pictures.  This is what THEY come to conference for and THIS is how you meet and connect with people.  Did they publish a book that makes your story time rock?  Share that with them.  Do you have a teen who gushed and loved a book?  Explain how and why.  You never know who you’re talking to – it could be someone who worked directly on the book or someone who is looking for exactly this kind of feedback as they work on other books.  This is how they connect with you as a person and a practicing librarian. This is how they come to know you and this is how they’ll remember you. (and yes, you should have cards with your info to hand out.

Once I spent fifteen minutes rhapsodizing to a booth rep how much I loved the book Essex County by Jeff Lemire.  At the end of my reverie, he pointed to the guy next to him. “This is Jeff Lemire,” he said calmly.  I gaped.  “Hey. that was cool,” said Jeff Lemire.

rainbow vomit

(How I imagine Angie coming face to face with authors -C)

One year when Jon Klassen was signing, I carefully cut a small piece of red paper to look like a hat. This was a simple take-home craft I’d done for my story hour kids when we read I Want My Hat Back I brought this one all the way to ALA. When I pulled it out and posed with it to show him just how much I loved his book, how much my kids loved it, how I made it real for them – he laughed with sheer delight.

And what did Jon Klassen do next, you ask?


Authors, illustrators, editors, publishers – THIS is what they want to know their books do. WE are the ones who do it and we should share it not just with our peers, but with them too.

3. Do things on your terms

Sometimes the best times to talk with people, to browse slowly, to go to the Demco booth and have them demo things for you is during sessions.  But I’m not telling you to skip sessions to go to the exhibits or to a signing.  UNLESS that’s what works for you.  UNLESS that’s a decision you make for a certain time or a certain reason because you think you’ll get the most benefit out of it.  You’ll get the most out of ANY aspect of ALA, exhibits included, if you do it on the terms that work for you and your objectives.

4. The buddy system works

Do you have a friend or colleague who has been to ALA before? Do you have an online network you’ve never met in person?  ALA is your chance to make all that gel in real life.  I’ve had some of my best experiences wandering the exhibit floor with colleagues – it makes everything less intimidating and more fun. Are you on social media?  Ask to meet your social network in real life!  Ask someone you know who has been before if they want to take a walk around with you.  Ask if they know booth reps and can introduce you or have tips about what works for them. Or take another ALA newbie with you and just start walking and talking.  I’ve even been helped by friends who aren’t present: “My friend Kelly says this book is just amazing.  She reviewed it on her blog and was tweeting about it and I can’t wait to read it.  Do you have any advance copies?” Not only was this a true statement but it, again, made me into a real person who has real colleagues active in these conversations.  It makes me more than just another pushing face shoving books into a bag – it makes a connection they’ll remember.

All of my conference experience begins and ends with the same advice: just try to be a person.  Better still: try to be the person you really are, the person you are when you love your job and you love librarianship more than anything.  That shines through.  That makes people remember you.  And that’s when the fun really starts happening.

cat dj

(This is the fun starting -C)

Even if you find yourself standing in front of Rick Riordan unable to form complete sentences… (ah, story for another time, as I said.) Please feel free to ask me any ALA related questions (I’ve been attending Annual since 2006 and have only missed one annual conference in that time) I didn’t answer here or about any other thing!  I hope to meet up with many of you face to face at our Guerilla Storytime sessions as we shake, shake, shake our sillies out.


June Photo Diary Prompt

SU Photo Diary Badge

At the beginning of each month, we post the Storytime Underground Photo Diary prompt for the month. Community members are invited to submit photos (and maybe a bit of text) to us, and we’ll feature all Photo Diary submissions in a roundup post at the end of the month. The idea is that we can share peeks into one another’s libraries and storytimes, hopefully finding some inspiration, ideas, and common ground along the way.

June Photo Diary Theme:

Share your go-to professional travel supplies. ALA Annual Conference is coming up, and that means plenty of library folks will be headed to Las Vegas to get their professional conference on. Whether you’ve never been before, or you’re a seasoned conference attendee, knowing what’s useful to pack with your luggage can be tough. We want to see your must-have item/s for conference travel–those supplies that make attending conference easier and more stress free.

How to participate:

Email your photo to us in either jpg or png format by June 21. We’ll let you know if we have questions.

The photo share:

Check back later in June for the photo roundup to see your fellow guerrillas’ must-have conference travel items.

The Complete Massachusetts Guerrilla Storytime!!!

Remember how I told you guys about the AWESOME Guerrilla Storytime at the Massachusetts Library Association conference? Rachel Keeler and Ashley Waring sent us an amazing write up AND PICTURES. After you get done reading it, if you haven’t already facilitated a Guerrilla Storytime, you’re going to want to. I cannot WAITTTT for Vegas, personally.

Here’s what they wrote:

On Wednesday May 7th at the Massachusetts Library Association annual conference in Worcester, MA, the Youth Services Section sponsored a Guerrilla Storytime. Rachel Keeler of the Boston PublicLibrary and Ashley Waring of the Reading Public Library rallied together and led over 45 youth services librarians as they shared songs, fingerplays, problem solving ideas, and more. We gathered in the convention center hallway during lunch. Many librarians were with us from the start, but more and more kept joining us as they walked by after lunch. Quite a few library administrators got to see all the action, too.


Rachel started us all off by singing her favorite hello song:

If you’re wearing red today, red today, red today

If you’re wearing red today, stand up and shout “hooray!”

(continue with other colors)

Then she started pulling questions from our sparkly and be-ribboned question jar.

1) What’s your favorite shaker song?

We shake our eggs together, together, together

We shake our eggs together because it’s fun to do

We shake them up high, up high, up high,

We shake them up high because it’s fun to do (down low, behind your back, in a circle, etc)

Take your eggs and shake with me, shake w me, shake w me,

Take your eggs and shake with me, it’s easy as can be

Take your eggs and shake them high, etc etc

(sung to London bridges tune)

Throw in a “stop” to surprise the kids and make sure they’re paying attention!

Laurie Berkner “Popcorn Calling Me” song – super fun to act out

Laurie Berkner “I Know a Chicken” song


2) A firetruck pulls up outside and everyone gets up to look, what do you do?

Sing a firetruck song.

Hurry hurry fire, firetruck, hurry hurry fire, firetruck etc.

Change words to “hurry hurry let’s go sit down”


3) What are your favorite websites for ideas/help:

Evernote for planning

Mel’s desk

Storytime Katie


Storytime Underground website / facebook group


4) No one is dancing with you. What do you do?

Keep dancing but change it up so they want to join you. Make it a challenge. “I am going to dance

slow…” “I am going to dance fast…”

Ask people to get up. Don’t start song until they stand up!


5) What’s your favorite fingerplay

2 blackbirds sitting on hill (hands behind back)

one named Jack and one named Jill (bring one hand out with finger up, then other hand)

fly away Jack, fly away Jill (put one hand behind back, then other hand)

come back Jack, come back Jill (bring them back out again)

Can change where they’re sitting to change the action rhyme: on cloud=quiet and loud, in snow=fast

and slow, or high and low

10 snowflakes blow into town (put up two hands with all fingers out)

5 were square and 5 were round (hold up each hand)

They drifted up, they drifted down (shake hands up and down)

And then they drifted out of town (shake them behind back)

(can also do leaves, horses (black/brown), whatever you want as long as you can make a rhyme with

town and down)

We have 5 eggs and 5 eggs and that makes 10 (hold up each hand then both hands out)

and on top sits mother hen (cup one hand on top of fist)

crackle crackle crackle (clap clap clap)

and what do we see

10 little chicks happy as can be (hold up ten fingers and shake them, say “cheep cheep cheep”)

This is big big big (open arms wide)

This is small, small, small (put hands close together)

This is short, short, short (put hand close to ground)

This is tall, tall, tall (reach hand up high)

This is fast, fast, fast (roll hands quickly)

This is slow, slow, slow (roll hands slowly)

This is yes, yes, yes (nod head)

This is no, no, no (shake head)

These are my glasses and this is my book (makes rings with fingers for glasses, open hands for book)

I put on my glasses and I open my book

I read read read and I look look look

then I take off my glasses and I close my book (clap during close)


6) How do you handle siblings in storytime?

– Tell parents to have older sibling bring their own babies (ie: dolls, stuffed animals)

– Make extra props to engage older kids and have them on hand just in case (ex: star wars characters

jumping on the bed)

– Have them be “helpers” and model for younger babies how to sit, listen, etc.

– If old enough, talk to them about how they are older and smarter and need to let younger kids answer

questions and have a turn. Remind them it takes about 9 seconds for little kids to process and respond

to questions, so ask older kids to slowly count to 9 in their heads before answering.

– Have older kids who are readers read a short poem to the group at the beginning and/or end of

storytime (a funny one is good).


7) What is your favorite felt or flannel prop/story?

Take a tissue box, decorate it, and put different colored felt animal shapes inside.

Ask “What’s in the mystery box?” Hold it up and makes a sound clue (ex: meow if cats are inside).

Do a little rhyme as you take them out of the box and put them on the felt board:

So many fish in the deep blue sea, what color fish do I see?

Blue, blue this fish is blue

Continue thru all animals in the tissue box.

To clean up, at the end ask the kids to help scare away the felt animals – count to 3 and say “boo!” and

quickly scoop up felt animals when kids yell out.

Peek a boo game for babies/toddlers:

Print out clipart pictures of things babies know (ball, cat, flower, etc. – things you’d see in a “My first

words” type board book). I do 4 pictures each storytime.

Tape picture to the feltboard and cover with a blanket draped over the board.

Peek a boo! I see you! (cover eyes and play peek a boo with kids)

Peek a boo! I see… (lift the blanket to reveal the picture)

Repeat 4 times or for as many pictures as you have.

Hide felt mouse behind 4 colored houses and have kids guess

Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the red house? Little mouse little mouse are you in the blue house?

Can take same concept and have mouse hide behind different colored shapes.

Little mouse, are you behind the red circle? Little mouse, are you behind the green square? Etc.


8) Do you do any signing in storytime?

The colors of the rainbow sign language song is great for many ages. Little kids may just do the signs for

“color” and “rainbow,” but older kids like learning signs for the colors.


9) All the kids have the wiggles. What do you do?

Sing “Head shoulders knees and toes!” Sing it slowly and quickly.

Wiggle rhyme:

I wiggle my fingers, I wiggle my toes, I wiggle shoulders, I wiggle my nose

now no more wiggles are left in me, so I will sit still, as still as can be

Sing “Shake your sillies out”

Do the Hokey Pokey – change up the lyrics to your storytime theme (ex: put your right claw in for

dinosaur storytime)

One clever librarian just hums and wiggles her fingers at the group. It is intriguing and unexpected and

always gets the kids’ attention (parents’, too!)

Sing “The wheels on the bus” and end with “shh shh” verse


10) What is your favorite book for audience participation?

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett

Dinosaur vs Bedtime by Bob Shea

Early Bird by Toni Yuly

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

Can You Make a Scary Face? (and almost any other title) by Jan Thomas

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams

I Am a Backhoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

The Squeaky Door by Margaret Read MacDonald

Press Here by Hervé Tullet

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt


11) Do you use wordless picture books in your storytimes? How? Which ones?

Yes, I just share the book and ask what kids see or notice.

A good feature of doing wordless books is that kids come up to you to and want to be more involved.

You can model these concepts with all books – like “What do we see on the cover? On the endpapers?”

Someone did a themed PJ storytime with all wordless books. At the beginning she did a mini-lesson on

how to “read” wordless books. So the storytime was a nice teaching moment for parents and kids.

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

Tuesday by David Wiesner

Chalk by Bill Thomson – do in summer and follow with chalk outside

Wave by Suzy Lee


12) What are your favorite book to use with babies?

Favorite authors:

Karen Katz

Sandra Boynton

Jane Cabrera

Todd Park

Nancy Tafuri

John Butler illustrations


Yawn by Sally Symes

Diggers Go by Steve Light

Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel

Sleepytime Rhyme by Remy Charlip (can sing to Twinkle Twinkle melody)

Big Bug by Henry Cole

Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig

10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes by Mem Fox


13) What are Your Favorite Props?


Bubble gun


Guess box – kids reach hand in and feel what I’ve hidden inside. They make a guess based on


Song sheets for parents and caregivers to sing along

Song cube

We ended with some fun songs:

Mr. Sun Song with sign language


Fruit Salad song


Banana chant:

Bananas unite! (clap hands over head)

Peel banana, peel peel banana (peel)

Slice banana, slice slice ban (pretend slice)

Mash banana, mash mash banana (smash hands)

Eat banana, eat eat banana (pretend eat)

Go….. bananas! (crouch down then shimmy up high and wave arms around)



Ask a Storytime Ninja: Fresh and Challenging

This is last Ask a Storytime Ninja for May, which means we bid adieu to this month’s featured ninjas, with a HUGE thank you for their hard work answering questions. THANK YOU May Ninjas!

Ask a Storytime Ninja badge



I’ve been doing storytimes and school-age programs for a while now, and they just don’t feel particularly challenging anymore. I like being challenged at work. How do you keep things new, fresh, and interesting for you as well as for program attendees?

Yeah, probably not a good idea so maybe read on.



I think this can happen to us all. Do you ever give yourself a break with a couple weeks off from programming? That may help things to seem fresh and new when you come back.

Another idea may be to set individual challenges for yourself. Can you design a storytime using an entirely new theme or new books? What about adding sign language or a new musical instrument (either that you play or that the children can play)?  If there’s a craft component, can you switch from product based crafts to process based crafts?

In your school age program, maybe try a program about something new and “trendy” that you don’t know much about. I did a Ninjago program earlier this year after hearing positive things from other librarians and seeing those books fly off the shelves. I knew nothing about it, but did some research (AKA watching an episode or two) and had a very fun time and successful program.


Good question!  I haven’t gotten to that point yet because I’m pretty new to the field but I can definitely see where you’re coming from.  I think we are in great positions to constantly be challenging ourselves and trying new things.  Every time I look at blog posts by other children librarians doing something extra cool that I hadn’t thought of before I am reminded that there is always something new and interesting to try out.  By doing this I hear about other cool programs that people are doing and their success and failures.  Maybe you could check out some of the blogs on the Storytime Underground sidebar and just look around for some fresh ideas?  If you have a pretty regular schedule of events each week than maybe you could switch it up and go on a storytime break and introduce a STEM related preschool group or a baby storytime if you don’t already have one.  For the school-age kids you could even ask them something they might like to try that you hadn’t thought of before.  

I really like what Danielle said about challenging yourself to try new things.  One thing that I like to do to up my creativity and get my thinking when I get sick of planning storytime’s is to try to think up my own songs and rhymes that go with the theme!


When things start to feel stale to me, I try to shake things up a little bit. I might revamp my baby storytime and choose new songs and activities that’ll be repeated each week). Or maybe it’s time to add a new element to your programs – add STEM components, take up the ukulele, learn rhymes or songs in another language. If you have the opportunity to attend another librarian’s programs, I’d recommend that, too. The blogosphere is great for finding storytime and program ideas, but being able to see and hear new stories, rhymes, and activities is even more inspiring to me.


While not adding challenge, I’ve found connecting into the larger storytime/programming network on blogs, Pinterest, and Twitter has kept me more engaged and fresh, as there are so many great ideas out there that I want to try, too.

Sometimes though, when I want a challenge, I just make one for myself. One time, I decided I needed to introduce more world languages into my baby storytime, so I researched the justification, and then had a new world language rhyme every month (so we’d all have 4 weeks to learn in together before doing a new one.) (Also, I highly recommend it. It was really fun, I learned some GREAT rhymes/songs and it can be a really good way to engage your ESOL patrons, by having them teach you a rhyme or song.) Sometimes I mandate that I *have* to do a new rhyme or song every storytime. A little over a year ago, I decided to learn how to play the ukulele and use it in my programming. Some other challenges that would be good for me are to use more puppets (I’m not that comfortable with them, so I don’t use them. It’s a skill that I could learn) or to make and use more flannel boards (maybe a new one every month or week) or I’ve stagnated a bit on the uke front– I really need to learn some more songs.

Meet Joel Nichols, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

Joel makes all of his storytimes so much fun, and you can totally tell that by his happy photo.

Joel makes all of his storytimes so much fun, and you can totally tell that by his happy photo.

Ninjas, meet Joel Nichols, an outstanding storytime provider and our May Storytime Guerrilla of the Month!

Joel Nichols is a Children’s Librarian and Branch Manager at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Past jobs there have included the Parkway Central Children’s Department and the Techmobile, a computer lab on wheels. He is the author of iPads in the Library (2013) and Teaching Internet Basics: The Can-Do Guide (forthcoming 2014), and also writes fiction. Recent stories can be found in the weird fiction magazine Phobos and in With: New Gay Fiction. He has an MSLIS from Drexel, an MA in Creative Writing from Temple, and BA in German from Wesleyan University. He lives in Philadelphia with his boyfriend and their child.

Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for storytime?
Joel: For books, the art and book design have to catch my eye. The pictures need to tell the story. The text has to be clear and work on many levels: a preschool-appropriate message level, the right vocabulary level, to start, but it also has to offer something to adults in the group and, for the best ones, also in terms of symbology and reference to other texts.

For songs and rhymes: they have to be something I can sing/remember/recite! I’m no singer, so simple tunes work for me. I’m also drawn to anything about the moon and space, elephants, whales, insects, dinosaurs, and lots of other stuff.

That said, I test books out in storytime all the time that I don’t even necessarily like, but that have interesting connections to real-life events or other books. The final part of my philosophy for planning storytimes is that I try out lots of stuff and keep doing whatever seemed to work, whatever kids enjoyed, whatever they ask for, etc.

Go away, Big Green Monster!

Go away, Big Green Monster!

Q: If you had free reign to try anything in storytime, what would it be?
Joel: Crafts and writing activities. I work in a small branch and do storytimes on the floor. I wish there were appropriate space and furniture for preschoolers to have a chance to write/draw/make about something we just read or talked about in storytime. I’m constantly pairing storytime books that have lots of intertextual resonance, like Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown and Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, and then asking kids to talk about the stories and books and what was the same and what was different. I’d love to be able to do more of that, but with big groups of preschool classes, it’s challenging.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to librarians just starting out in youth services?
Joel: Think of your professional practice and development as a “see one, do one, teach one” field, and observe as many other librarians doing their work as you can. Watching, assisting and asking questions to learn about the practice of others teaches you new practical skills and builds confidence through repetition.

Q: What one storytime skill are you really great at? Okay, you can share two things.
Joel: My favorite thing is being like a narrator for an amazing literacy experience. Sort of like Levar Burton on Reading Rainbow: setting the scene, introducing the books, and then also asking about and discussing them…I like taking storytimers on a magical journey where they are seeing some things and learning about some ideas for the very first time. That’s what I really enjoy.

Q: You’re in an elevator and an adult services librarian says something about storytime that makes it clear she just doesn’t get it. What do you say to convey the importance of storytime?
Joel: Sometimes people just don’t get it because they haven’t experienced it. You could ask her to join you in giving a storytime sometime, or just invite her to watch yours. In my community, storytime is a place where kids get access to a world of books, stories, art and ideas that’s more interesting and different (and maybe better) than the other media they are exposed to. It can be frustrating that this work is so often reduced to “reading with kids” by people who don’t understand the 5 early literacy areas and the role of children’s librarians in supporting literacy development, but go read to some kids and you’ll feel better.

Advocacy Toolbox – Everyday Advocacy

Is everyone ready to add to their Advocacy Toolbox? Your tools should help you advocate for yourself, your library, or simply increase your knowledge on a topic. This one should definitely go to the top of your toolbox.


Have you all been to this website? GO IMMEDIATELY! Right now.


The site Everyday Advocacy is an initiative from the Association for Library Service to Children all about advocacy! It started a year ago and the amount of resources on the site is outrageous. This initiative was started to help youth librarians be more informed about advocacy and its potential in their profession.

If you’re looking to become more involved in advocacy and you’re just not sure where to start then this website is made for you. It explains the different types of advocacy, how you can realistically become an advocate, and gives some really great information about how to best share your message. There’s even a whole page dedicated to using statistics effectively! 

Check out this website if you’re looking for extremely useful advice, or if you are simply trying become more familiar with advocacy in general.

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Summer Storytimes

The latest installment of Ask a Storytime Ninja is here! And just in time for Summer.

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How to plan for summer storytimes which will be at the same time my preschool during the year times are, but may include preschoolers and older siblings or school aged kids for the summer. Can I still include songs? But not the flannelboard? I’m new to this and could use any advice!

Answers from our Featured Ninjas:

Meagan: If it is still being advertised as a preschool storytime than I might leave it mostly how it was, just have back up longer books if your crowd tends to be older.  If it is just an all ages storytime that happens to land in the same time that your preschool one did previously then you might want to tweak your plans to suit the older kids a bit more.  Maybe have longer books, use the flannelboard for more stories and less “5 whatsits” type of rhymes.  I would definitely keep songs in, especially ones that get the group up and moving and dancing.  All ages storytimes are tough because you never really know what age groups will come that particular day.  Make sure you have a variety of book options to choose from in case you have a younger crowd or an older crowd and extra songs or rhymes if it doesn’t seem like your books are working.  Really, I think you might just have to play it by ear the first couple weeks to see who is coming and what they respond to the best.  I don’t think there is any right answer!  Good luck 🙂


What a great question—I think this happens a lot during the summer! Yes, I would definitely include songs. I find that many older kids respond really well to dancing and using musical instruments, especially if you get really enthusiastic and into it.   Flannelboards could definitely still work as well, especially if you use them to tell longer stories.

When I’m doing a storytime with lots of different ages, I try to ask lots of varying levels of questions (reminding the older children to let the little ones answer too, as necessary).  Other things that have worked well at my library include shadow puppets and letting the older children be your special helpers. Having them be helpers works especially well if you don’t have very many older ones in a particular storytime.

Something that will also work really well this summer, especially if you’re doing the Fizz, Boom, Read program, is doing experiments during storytime.  All ages can be fascinated by your homemade volcano and you can give the older kids some great science information too!

Do any of you have more to add? How do you prepare for those older kids in storytime? Feel free to share in the comments!

Don’t forget to check Flannel Friday for some ideas for longer flannel stories.

Photo Diary: Zany Storytimes

This month, we tried something a wee bit different for the Photo Diary. Instead of asking you to share a first person photo of something to do with your library or storytime, we asked for submissions of stories of your zaniest storytime experiences–accompanied by ridiculous pictures and gifs, of course! As per usual, you did not disappoint.

Oh, my fellow librarians. The strange and wonderful things you’ve survived in your storytime tenure.

From an anonymous librarian who now lives in Nova Scotia:

When I was working in Oregon, I did outreach to Family Home Daycares. Once a month, I took a box of books and a storytime to home daycares and did storytime, then left the materials for the child care provider to use until the next month when I returned. Going into people’s homes is interesting, to say the least. Once while I was in the middle of reading Caps For Sale, one of the little girls just stood up and started peeing on the floor. Luckily, she was far enough away from me that the pee stayed off my books (and me). The woman in charge was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. She just waited until she was done, and then wiped it up. I, of course, just kept reading the book.

zebra pee

From Lisa Mulvenna:

A couple of years ago the air conditioning went out at work during the middle of summer. If you haven’t experienced summer in Michigan, it is not unusual to have 90+ degrees and 100% humidity. Since we had storytimes running all morning, we propped open the outside door in the meeting room to let some air into the room while we set up. While this would seem like a good idea, multiple bees flew into the room and decided that they loved our fluorescent lights in the ceiling. We didn’t know this and they all decided to come out during the first program of the morning: baby storytime. The parents were pretty good natured about the situation, but in our 30-minute break between storytimes the two of us children’s librarians were trying to swat bees up in light fixtures in a 10-foot ceiling.


From Meagan Schiebel:

I’ve only been doing storytime for a couple years so I’m sure the worst of the horror stories is yet to come, but I had a failure of a storytime this past fall. It actually is the storytime that prompted me to completely redo my entire storytime.

I don’t even remember the theme or any of the books I read, probably because I was only about to get through about one book and then it all went downhill from there. It was a larger group than normal and all the kids who maybe aren’t on their best behavior (c’mon, I know you have some like that, too) were there. When you get one hyperactive kid around another hyperactive kid in a room with 15 other not hyperactive kids, then they all become hyperactive. The next part is expected: toddlers running around and screaming. Parents apologizing. Me struggling through, still attempting to sing and failing miserably. At one point the instigator of all this, a three year old girl, was running around with her pants around her ankles.

I closed up shop early and pulled a Merida in this GIF. Shock, tears, escape.

Guerrilla Storytimes @ 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas!

It’s happening.

GS flyer

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