Saturday, January 31, 2015

Save the Little Free Library

Libraries don't have to be buildings to be a great destination. I love my neighborhood Little Free Libraries. I pass by two on the same street when I run. Normally I prefer to exercise in a gym because of allergies, but I'm training for the Hot Chocolate Run 5K on March 1st in downtown Seattle. Otherwise I would might have never found those two libraries!

Here is a book I got from one of them recently.

In return, I dropped off about five books that I've read for book clubs over the years that I didn't care to keep. I made sure I picked good quality, popular titles (because of the librarian in me!). I just didn't enjoy them personally. Hopefully someone else will!

Also, this Little Free Library in Greenlake wins the award for best thing ever.

I've seen some news stories recently (here and here) about cities banning little free libraries in communities. This is so incredibly heartbreaking. If you live in one of these communities, go talk to your city council members. Let them know how libraries, in any shape or form, make a community better. Here are a few steps:

1. Find out who your city council district representative is and schedule an appointment.
2. Know your stuff. Bring facts about how literacy transforms a community. can help you there.
3. Bring examples of other communities that have successful Little Free Libraries. Seattle has them everywhere! Search the news, find pictures, gather stories.
4. Get others in the community involved. If the city council member has twenty of their constituents come to them and tell them that city ordinances should be changed to allow little free libraries, that will make a greater impact than just one person.

Good luck and remember that you have a voice!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seattle Story Time Tour - Madrona-Sally Goldmark Branch

Branch: Madrona-Sally Goldmark 
Storyteller: Ms. Rachel
Age/Type: Family Story Time

This branch lives in an historic building (see plaque above). It's super tiny, but they make the space work. Ms. Rachel opens the doors at 11am and we begin right away.

Ms. Rachel leads the group in an opening chant that goes like this:

"The bright sun comes up, the dew falls away. Good morning, good morning, the little birds say. Wake up!"

Next she leads the group in the traditional action song "Open and Shut Them."

Today's story time is about Birds! Ms. Rachel Asks the children about the letter B and we make the 'buh' sound. 

The first book she reads is "WOW! Said the Owl."

This book is good for going over colors and basic counting. Perfect for the younger members of the audience. 

After the book, she asks everyone to give a 'round of applause' by clapping in a circular motion. 

In keeping with the color theme, we sing the "Color Song." It goes like this:

"If you're wearing red today, red today, red today. If you're wearing red today, stand up and say hooray! (repeat with other colors)"

Ms. Rachel has us all stretch and sit down for the next book: "I Spy in the Sky."

This book works really well for the older kids as it focuses on specific types of birds and involves guessing. A particularly funny moment comes when one child proudly proclaims to Ms. Rachel that he or she has seen a bird poop. What fun!

The next few activities involve egg shakers, so Ms. Rachel passes these out. After a few chaotic minutes, everyone settles in and Ms. Rachel puts on a CD of "The Chicken Song."

Next we use the shakers to sing "Head and Shoulders." This one is easier for the younger ones.

The shakers get put away and we play a counting game. Ms. Rachel puts up a large writing pad with a tree on it. She puts up five brightly colored owls and teaches subtraction by taking away owls in groups. Prefect activity for the preschoolers who shout out answers.

After the game, we sing all five verses of "Where is Thumbkin?" This song is better suited for the younger children who need to learn those hand movements. 

The challenge of a Family Story Time is finding books and activities all ages will enjoy. I think Ms. Rachel provides a good range of books and activities to find that balance.

Now she closes with a goodbye song, "Skinny Marinky Dinky Dink."

Stamps are available for those who want them and a craft is set up for any groups that want to stay and participate. Today's craft is a paper plate bird's nest with baby birds. 

The End. Yay!

Now that I've been to a few of these, I can definitely see how the librarians influence one another. Many of them use the same songs and have the same little tricks for getting the kids to sit still and listen to the next book. This is the benefit of working in a larger system- all the resource sharing! 

Thanks for letting me watch today, Rachel.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Seattle Story Time Tour - Northeast Branch

Branch: Northeast
Storyteller: Ms. Erica
Age/Type: Preschool

Another packed story time for the Seattle Public Library. This branch, however, has a bigger meeting room and can support all the kids that show up today. Ms. Erica does a Groundhog Day theme today, focusing on the changing of the seasons. 

Letter time! We go over the letter 'G' and the sounds it can make. Ms. Erica asks if anyone has a name that starts with 'g.' A few do. So does Groundhog! 

Hello Song: "Open Shut Them" with whispered verses and loud verses. 

She asks everybody to shake their hands while she goes over story time expectations with parents.

Book: "A Friend for All Seasons"

Ms. Erica tells us the story of the Groundhog. If he sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, that means 6 more weeks of winter. 

Next we sing a song called "I'm a Little Groundhog" to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot." It goes like this:

"I'm a little groundhog short and stout. February 2nd I pop out. If I see my shadow, they all shout: '6 more weeks of winter without a doubt!'"

Stretch! She asks us all to stand up and stretch to this rhyme:

"Tall as a tree, wide as a house, thin as a pin, small as a mouse."

Book: "Tap the Magic Tree"

She asks us to tap the air in front of us to make the magic happen in the book. Very cute read aloud.

Yay! I finally get to see a flannel. She uses a flannel set to tell the story of a confused Groundhog that can't tell if he can see his own shadow. Ms. Erica asks us to chant 'Groundhog, groundhog, when will Spring be?" He decides to go back into his burrow and wait for Spring to decide on its own.

Fact: Did you know that a groundhog is also know as a a woodchuck?

As soon as I heard 'woodchuck' I knew what was coming! Ms. Erica has us chant the classic tongue twister:

"How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood!?"

After several repetitions of this, Ms. Erica leads us in singing "The More We Get Together" and shows us the American Sign Language to go with it.

She fills the parents in on an Early Literacy Tip before the closing song. Writing takes a lot of core strength. Encourage your child to play and get strong so they can learn to write.

Goodbye Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"

After the story time, Ms. Erica passes out puppets for kids to play with. She also has a craft prepared. Today's craft is a sheet of paper with four empty trees representing each season. The kids are provided with paper, glue, cotton balls, etc. to decorate them. 

Ms. Erica also provides each kid who wants one with a hand stamp to conclude the story time.

This was a great, high energy group! Thanks for letting me observe. 


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Library eBook Checkout vs. Kindle Unlimited

Photo by Sean Kelly. Text added.

Lately, every time I try to find an eBook to read through the library I notice that the title is 'checked out' and I have to put it on hold. This kind of model for eBook lending, which is the main model for the platform 'Overdrive,' can be frustrating to library users. The lending platform 'Freeding' uses a different model involving credits. Each patron is allotted a certain number of credits and newer or more popular titles cost more. With this model, at least you are never placed on hold, but it limits the patron in how many titles they can check out.

This has made me wonder if there was another service out there that could fuel my eBook hunger.

Enter Kindle Unlimited. 

I just recently stumbled across this service and signed up for the free trial. The service costs $9.99 a month for unlimited access to their selected eBook collection. Here are my thoughts after using the service for a little while.

Not a great selection - yet.

Similarly to Amazon Prime Video, Kindle Unlimited seems to have only the dregs of content available. There are no new titles and a limited selection of other 'popular' titles. This may change over time, however. Netflix started out with not so great online content and now it is the reason I don't have cable TV. There is still a lot of garbage on Netflix, but they are constantly adding new things and have great original content. Right at this moment however, I would not pay for Kindle Unlimited based on the selection.

Has eBooks and eAudiobooks.

It has both! Which is pretty great. The selection is not the best yet, as previously mentioned, but you also get a free three month trial membership to Audible when you sign up for your first paid month of Kindle Unlimited. Audible has an amazing selection of audiobooks to download, so there's that.

No limit to how many you can rent.

This is more than I would ever need, personally. I can read 3 books and listen to 1 audiobook at a time, but that's my limit. And I normally read something like 4-5 books a month max. If you share your kindle with another person, you may be able to use the unlimited books more to your advantage. There is also the fact that you can access the eBooks from the Kindle app. I don't know if/how they are going to address this issue, but this seems to open it up to sharing the service with others. You and 10+ friends might be able to share the one service provided you log into the same account on a tablet or smart phone. Hmm. Not that I would try that, Amazon!

Now we can compare to this to the Library eBooks.

It's free!

Well, sort of. You are already paying for it with your taxes, so you might as well use the service.

Selection can vary greatly.

In all likelihood, your library has a pretty amazing selection of eBooks and eAudiobooks. However, some publishers still refuse to to give libraries good deals (or any deals) for their books, so there are also some big holes in the collection. But the bigger problem is holds. When I seek out an eBook title, I want it now. I don't want to place it on hold and wait for a 'copy' to become available.  It's a part of the digital culture to gain immediate access to information. This artificial limiting of the library collection makes zero sense to anyone ever. It's not just you.

There is normally some kind of limit.

I am lucky in that Seattle Public Library has a limit of 25 titles at any one time. There is no way I would ever need more, as previously outlined. Some libraries have smaller limits. I had an account for a library that allowed only 3 titles at one time. Another library used the Freeding service, which gave you 5 credits a month. With new and popular titles costing 3 credits, you essentially end up with 1 book a month. That's pretty restrictive.

In conclusion.

Neither of these options are the catch-all "I will never buy another book again" solution. It's nice to have the free library service either way. You can check to see if the library has a title you want to read and if not, no big deal. You can purchase the eBook or find a print copy. Maybe once the selection is better for Kindle Unlimited, it will be worth looking into. Otherwise at $9.99 a month, it may not be worth it if I can't find titles I actually want to read.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Seattle Story Time Tour - Northgate Branch

Branch: Northgate
Storyteller: Ms. Claire
Age/Type: Family

As you walk into the library, a friendly whiteboard reminds all story time goers to get a ticket at the desk. The story time at this branch is more popular than the room can handle, often turning people away to adhere to fire code. Laminated tickets are given out to ensure just the right number of people can enter the program. 

Ms. Claire has made handouts with today's songs, rhymes, and books so that parents can take the fun of story time home. The repetition, she explains, helps them learn concepts and memorization.  

Even though Ms. Claire does not always do themes, she points out that the characters for this story time are all worried about something. 

Before her opening song, Ms. Claire goes through the motions that they will use in the song. This gives the newcomers a chance to learn and gives the regulars a chance to practice. Her opening song goes like this:

"Good morning dear earth. Good morning dear sun. Good morning to the clouds and the flowers, each one - Good morning to the bees and the birds in the trees. Good morning to you and good morning to me!"

Next, she takes the chance to tell parents about story time expectations. To entertain the kids while she does so she tells them to shake one hand then another as she outlines how to make the most of story time. She tells parents it is okay to be loud, but any unhappy children are also free to leave and rejoin them when they are happier. Parents are expected to participate and put those cell phones away.

To get out a few more wiggles, Ms. Claire has them sing "Open Shut Them."

Her first book is a classic. I adore this book: "Owl Babies."

After the story she has them sing the classic camp song "Boom Chicka Boom." She then asks them to whisper it, sing it fast, sing it slow, then sing it super fast. The result is perfect. The kids love this one. 

To transition into the next book she has the kids shake up high, shake down low, and shake in the middle. She reads "The Squeaky Door." 

Side note: This book is perfect for a flannel story as well.

Now Ms. Claire asks them all to stand and sing "Itsy-Bitsy Spider." They like that so much, she starts a second verse with "Great Big Spider," making bigger gestures. 

While still standing, she teaches them the finger play "Johnny, Johnny, Whoops!" 

You hold out your hand and point to each finger, naming them Johnny. When you get to the crook in the hand between the pointer finger and thumb, you swoop your finger down and say "Whoops!" Ms. Claire does this faster and faster until silliness occurs. (I feel like this is a good general rule of thumb for story time. "Repeat until silliness occurs.")

The last book is good old "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes."

The best part of her reading is when she points out how unrealistic it is to step in random piles of fruit. 

Her closing song is a fantastic counting ditty about dinosaurs. It's a song by Nancy Stewart called "Dinosaurs in Cars" and you can find it here.

She ends the story time by stamping the hand of each kid who wants one. She has them sing a waiting song. She points out to the parents that this will help them self-regulate later on. The song is to the tune of "Frere Jacques" and goes like this:

"I am waiting, I am waiting. For my stamp, for my stamp. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. For my stamp, for my stamp."

All and all, a good show! Thanks for letting me observe, Ms. Claire. 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Should Libraries be Closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

One of the perks of being a government employee is that you get federal holidays off of work. I've discovered that these holidays are a much welcome reprieve for library staff. So, sorry for what I'm about to say, but... I think public libraries should be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and possibly other federal holidays). I worked for a library that stays open and hosts a MLK Day celebration and the community really appreciated it. I poked around online and found three libraries that are open today and hosting events. Here is what they are doing.

Frisco Public Library, Frisco, TX

This is the library I used to work for. I helped organize this event, so I know more about it than the following two. On the website, they describe the events like this: "Explore an interactive exhibit that celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement." While some details may have changed, this is how it this exhibit looked a few years ago. There were banners marking the timeline of the greatest civil rights achievements around the room. There was a short documentary on loop for patrons to watch and a few other educational stations. Outside the room, patrons could write out on a paper cloud what dreams they have for the future.

Des Moines Public Library, Des Moines, IA

Most of the Des Moines PL branches are closed, but one branch remains open for a celebration. They also had an art and writing contest in honor of MLK. Here is what they say on their website:

"The Forest Avenue Library is sponsoring a student art and writing contest as part of our community event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The students whose pieces are selected will win a gift card and have the opportunity to present their work during our annual MLK, Jr. Day Celebration on January 19, 2015 at 4:00pm.

Legacy means what is handed down from the past, from one person to another. Martin Luther King, Jr. left a great legacy for all of us. He was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, which helped bring about important laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. These laws made great progress toward racial equality. He was a powerful speaker, helping people think and feel differently about racism. Dr. King believed in making changes peacefully and he earned the Nobel Peace Prize for this. Later in his life, he also worked with others to try to end poverty and war and to create world peace.

Reflecting on Dr. King’s legacy, we invite you to express yourself by creating a work of visual art (painting, photography, sculpture) or writing (poetry, short story, essay)."

Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH

CPL has a wonderful community event that they describe on their website:

"Drum Majors for Change.

The drum beat for change remains strong as each new generation continues the struggle. Join the Cleveland Public Library and the Delta Alpha Lambda Chapter of the Alphi Phi Alpha fraternity (Dr. King’s fraternity) in commemorating Dr. King’s life and honoring his legacy of leadership in the struggle for civil rights.

Keynote address presented by Pastor Richard M. Gibson, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH. A community reception follows the program."

While I know it is important to treat your staff well and give them paid time off, I'm not sure public libraries should be closed on most federal holidays. I accept that major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas should be left alone so people can spend time with their families, but do we really need Columbus Day off? Memorial Day? Veterans Day? The library could be open and serving the public on these days. This would open the door to all kinds of community learning events to honor the reason for the holiday. Instead, why not give employees extra floating holidays?

I know I just suggested that we take away what is a glorious day off of work for many of you, but think of how you could truly embody the spirit of MLK by bringing the community together to celebrate his dream.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Seattle Story Time Tour - Central Library

Continuing the series, I visited Ms. Lauren at the Central library today to enjoy a penguin themed story time.

Branch: Central
Storyteller: Ms. Lauren
Age/Type: Preschool

Three or four different preschool groups and several caregivers with children crowd into the story time room at the Central library this morning. They do a head count to make sure they don't go over the 170 something capacity for the fire code. This is a popular program! 

Ms. Lauren starts out with a new welcome song for the season. Sung to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell", the song goes like this:

"We clap and sing hello, we clap and sing hello. With our friends at storytime, we clap and sing hello." This is repeated with "stomp and sing" and "nod and sign" (she teaches them the ASL sign for 'hello'). 

Today we learn about... Penguins! Ms. Lauren points out the letter P on her dry erase board and has the audience try out the 'puh' sound. 

To get the kids ready for a book, she has them do the "Open, shut them" song and tells them the first fact about penguins (did you know that, although penguins are birds, they don't fly?).

The first book she reads is "Sergio Makes a Splash" by Edel Rodriguez. 

After this book, she asks everyone to get out their flippers and they sing this song:

"Did you ever see a penguin, a penguin, a penguin? Did you ever see a penguin, waddle this way and that? Waddle this way and that way, waddle this way and that way. Did you ever see a penguin, waddle this way and that?"

Fact #2: Did you know that there are 17 different types of penguins? She points to a stuffed animal penguin behind her and points out that that penguin in an Emperor Penguin. She points to a globe and shows the crowd where they come from- the south pole.

The next book is a big book called "Tacky the Penguin" by Helen Lester.

When Ms. Lauren finishes this book, it is time for a dance party. She puts on a song form Seaseme Street called "Doing the Penguin." 

The last book is by one of my favorite picture book authors Oliver Jeffers. She reads "Lost and Found."

Ms. Lauren then uses the ASL sign for 'goodbye' in her goodbye song to the tune of "Goodnight, Ladies."

"Goodbye, friends. Goodbye, friends. Goodbye, friends. It's time to say goodbye."

She ends her story time by stamping the hands of the children with a penguin stamp. 

This was great fun. Thanks for letting me watch! And kudos to whoever made this sweet tree for the fantasy books display.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Seattle Story Time Tour - Douglas-Truth Branch

Welcome to a new recurring series of posts that I am calling 'Seattle Story Time Tour'. I was challenged by my WLA mentor to visit all 27 Seattle Public Library branches by April of this year. As I thought about this, I decided to make my mission to visit a story time from each branch. Here is my very first visit.

Branch: Douglas-Truth
Storyteller: Ms. Lynn
Age/Type: Toddler Story Time

Right away I know this story time is going to be fun. The kids outside the door are all repeating to one another: "Ms. Lynn, Ms. Lynn!" We go inside and Ms. Lynn asks all the caregivers and toddlers to take off their shoes because today we are trying out a new activity-- a parachute. I've always wanted to try out a parachute in a story time and today I get to see it in action. It sits in the middle of the room, big and colorful. Waiting. For those of you unfamiliar with the playtime parachute, here is a little girl using one:
Photo by: Lance McCord

Ms. Lynn starts the story time traditionally with a Hello Song. She points to a little girl and asks everyone the color of her shirt and then they sing a song that goes like this:

"Mary is wearing her green shirt, green shirt, green shirt. Mary is wearing her green shirt all day long."

She repeats the song with a number of different children and then moves on to the first book, which is "Bounce" by Doreen Cronin. All of the kids stand up and bounce along.

Next Ms. Lynn puts on a modified version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" that involves counting and a fast rhythm.

They read the classic Keith Baker "Big Fat Hen" big book next. Lots of great counting and movement.

The next activity is a song to the tune of Frere Jacques that goes like this:

"Walking, walking, walking, walking. Hop, hop hop. Hop, hop hop. Running, running, running. Running, running, running. Now we stop. Now we stop."

Finally we get to the part all the toddlers have anxiously been waiting for: the parachute! Everyone gathers around the outside of the parachute and holds the edge. They sing a few verses of "Ring Around the Roise" while walking and spinning the parachute.

The next parachute activity is waving it like ocean tides. It gets faster, then slower again. Then Ms. Lynn puts on the Elevator Song and they take the parachute up and down.

By far the best part (as far as the toddlers were concerned) comes next. Ms. Lynn puts clear plastic balls on top of the parachute and they make the balls bounce. The children help put the balls away afterward.

They said goodbye by letting the children underneath the parachute and singing the goodbye song. A few adorable little girls have mad scientist hair as the static takes over. Kind of like this kid:
Photo by: Marcus Nelson

After the goodbye song, some of the toddlers and caregivers choose to stay for a while longer playing with toys and mingling.

It all looked very fun. Thanks for letting me sit in and observe, Ms. Lynn!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Destination Weddings - Best Library Spaces

Back when I was getting married, I briefly toyed with the idea of tying the knot in a library. Unfortunately, I didn't find a library in the Dallas, Texas area that I felt would support the kind of wedding I wanted. My literary wedding (pictured above) took place at the T&P Train Station in Fort Forth, Texas. Ideally, the library for my wedding would have had classic charm and would have been able to support over 200 people. This doesn't really exist in North Texas (that I could find). The Dallas Public Library is enormous at ten floors, but the building isn't really set up for that kind of event.

Dallas Public Library, J. Erik Jonsson Central Library

In fact, most libraries aren't designed for hosting events like weddings because, why should they be? It could be good income for the city or library for one. Also, being able to host large events in general is good for the community. As libraries expand their purpose to a community gathering space, I think future libraries might consider making spaces more flexible to accommodate large events. Here are some libraries that make stunning destinations to host a wedding.

The George Peabody Library

The George Peabody Library is a part of the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The rental fee for the space currently ranges from $4,000 to $7,500 plus a $1,000 ceremony fee depending on the day. The space can accommodate up to 200 seated guests. 

The Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library has many different spaces for rental. You can read the details here. The best space in my opinion is Bates Hall (pictured above), which seats 220 and has a rental fee $11,000. 

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library offer's wedding space rentals in their Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Details of the space and pricing are not available online, but can be obtained by contacting them via email.

The Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library offers their Norcliffe Foundation Living Room for $3,000 on evenings when the library is closed. The space can hold up to 400 guests.

Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square

The Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square in Washington D.C. was originally opened in 1903 and was reopened in 2012 as an event space. This venue has nine different spaces. To find out more details about cost and size of the venue visit their website and fill out a booking form.  

...just to name a few. These libraries make beautiful destinations for weddings. Do you know of any others?