Storytime University: Resources

If you aren’t already enrolled in Storytime University, stop reading this and click on the “Register” link at the top of your screen. Once you’re registered, come back to this post for some ideas for earning badges.


For those of you registered and ready to earn some badges, below are some resources your fellow Storytime University students have shared while earning their badges, plus some I’ve come across.


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Webinars (after you view one, complete the View a Webinar task under the Grasshopper badge):


Foundations of Early Childhood Development: It’s All About Relationships


Everyday Makerspaces: Low-tech, Highly Engaging Library Programming for Youth (by our very own Donatello)


Mobile-Friendly Youth Library Services


Create a Personal Learning Network That Works for You and other ALSC Student Sessions webinars (ok, so I didn’t just come across it, we presented it, but still. It has Ninja Turtle gifs.)


Programming Librarian online learning archive It’s not super easy to navigate-it’s not organized in any way as far as I can tell-but there are still some good things there.




Blogs: Read a blog post and comment on it, then submit for the Read and Comment task badge. Check out our blog roll (in the side bar-Blogs that Kick Butt) for lots of options for reading and commenting.


Alyssa also shared her blog (and earned the Blogger task badge for doing it) so check hers out and comment!




Videos: Earn the Watch and Learn task badge by watching a storytime content video.


Jbrary. Obviously.


Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Fingerplay Fun Videos Some in Spanish!


King County Library System, Tell Me A Story Rhymes and Songs




Flannel Friday: Today is Friday so the perfect time to start working on the tasks to earn that badge. Check out their website for more details on how to get involved. Then come back here and earn some badges!


You are now armed with some of the weapons you need to conquer the storytime world. Go kick some ass!

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Meet Lucy Iraola, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

Fav book 2013Ninjas, allow me to introduce Lucy Iraola. Lucy completed her Masters of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Denver in 2013. She is currently working as a Bilingual Spanish YS Librarian with the new and exciting Every Child Book-Bag Rotation program. She is passionate about libraries, diversity, outreach and providing excellent early literacy education and resources for children and their families. Lucy was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she received her Bachelors of Arts in Communications from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, PR. We’re glad to have her share her expertise and perspective here this month!


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?

Lucy: Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do in storytime is singing. I LOVE to sing! I mostly like fun songs that people have to act out and dance! I try to have at least two songs that are fun with lots of actions and movements. I believe music is extremely powerful, it just brings people and kids together. The best thing about it is that it makes you feel good because it lowers stress and I think that’s awesome. There’s so many positives that comes from music, singing rhymes and action songs and research proves it. Children are happier after singing. And, who doesn’t like to see those cute faces smiling, playing and laughing during storytime? That’s what it’s all about, making kids happy and involved.


Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?

Lucy: I like to read library magazines to see what other libraries and librarians are trying and what’s working well for them, besides learning about new picture book titles that I would like to order and try later. I try to attend conferences, webinars and workshops whenever I can to keep myself up to date on early literacy research and to network with other librarians who share some of my early childhood interests. I’m also fortunate to know so many wonderful youth services librarians from all the library systems I’ve worked with that I always can call for advice if I need to. Lastly, I check out blogs and some bilingual websites that can help me plan my storytimes whether I’m doing them in English, Spanish or even in another language.


Q: What’s been inspiring your library work lately?

Lucy: The relationships I have with my co-workers who I also consider my friends is very inspiring. We are always ready to share a new book, rhyme or song, idea or resource, etc. It’s great to collaborate and work together on new projects or something related to storytime and improving our parents messages. One of the greatest thing about our profession, is that there’s always something new we can learn and try. Whether is something about STEM, the Sensory Friendly storytimes, using technology, there’s so much to keep ourselves busy.

I’m excited about the beginning of the school year as well. It’s where I’m most active presenting storytimes and providing early literacy workshops outside the library building. I manage the Every Child Book-Bag program, it is a bag rotation program where we provide age and culturally appropriate children’s books in many languages to approximately 8,000 children in Multnomah County. We partner with child care organizations like Head Starts that help us bring books to children that are at risk of not having books in their homes.


Q: You were nominated for Guerrilla of the Month specifically for your expertise and experience offering Spanish storytimes. What would you say to library staff and administrators who are hesitant to offer multilingual programs for young children and their families?

Lucy: Considering that providing library service to all the people is at the core of what library service is all about, public libraries ought to think about the importance of providing equal library services to all children and their families no matter the language. It is no secret that the US is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, therefore public libraries need to start thinking about ways to keep up with new demands of a growing community. It’s important that every public library look at their community demographics and see what are the common languages spoken around the community they serve and take action. Sometimes libraries and even some librarians are intimidated to serve diverse language groups, mainly because they think they have to speak the language in order to be successful, fortunately that’s not the true. Most librarians feel afraid to try something new when they don’t know, not realizing that often times we have more in common than we think. Read and educate yourself about the changing demographics and new trends. Even if you start small, your multilingual library patrons will appreciate your efforts in providing something that’s meant for them.

These are my main tips when thinking about providing multicultural storytimes or programs:

  • Read a good reference book about providing services in other languages
  • Find community leaders that can help you promote library programs and services — for many diverse language groups is all about that personal relationship
  • Make an effort to learn a few words and phrases in the language you’re trying to reach and serve
  • Make outreach a priority and connect with your community
  • Have a budget for multicultural library materials, for marketing and publicity
  • When possible hire bilingual, bicultural staff to represent your community, if that’s not possible get library volunteers who can do storytimes and help you promote new library programs you’re trying
  • Find other library professionals you can contact for support and advice, network is key
  • And finally, always smile, be welcoming and friendly – some people didn’t grow up with libraries so there’s a lot that they don’t know and need to learn


Q: How did you come to be a storytime practitioner?

Lucy: When I moved to Oregon, I visited the library regularly and was interested in volunteering there. Later, through a friend, I got a part-time position at the Hillsboro Public Library, Shute Park branch working as the Libros (Library Outreach in Spanish) Coordinator. This position allowed me to present Spanish storytimes and connect with the Latino community. It was during that time that I realized how much I loved reading to the children and singing songs to them and their families in Spanish. That job prepared me to apply for a Library Outreach position with Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) in a program named the ¡Sí program! that was funded by an LSTA grant. While in that position, I had to visit family child care providers who were not registered with the state and provide informal workshops and storytime trainings in their homes with the children in their care. Due to the success of the Si program and all the people we were reaching, WCCLS decided to make my position a regular position adding more responsibilities, like providing early literacy trainings, supporting the library branches with cultural programs and collection development and by continuing to do storytimes outside and inside the library buildings. I was then providing storytimes at migrant camps, in different child care centers and Head Starts and partnering with different community organizations. I worked with WCCLS for seven years and even though I didn’t have a library degree I was working as an outreach bilingual librarian. I was attending library conferences and trainings and was able to increase my knowledge about early literacy, outreach to diverse communities and effective storytime best practices. I took the Every Child Ready to Read trainings, both the 1st and 2nd edition and the Early Words training. I also became a member of PLA, OLA and Reforma and started connecting with other librarians who had similar interest in providing culturally appropriate Spanish storytimes. I was extremely happy in my job, and then I got the opportunity of a lifetime! I applied for a fellowship at the University of Denver in Colorado to do a MLIS with a specialization on Early Childhood Librarianship. I was one of 10 fellows that received the fellowship! While in Colorado I had the great pleasure to work with two library systems, Arapahoe Library District and Jefferson County Public Library. I am very grateful for the time I was in Colorado and all the people who helped me during some difficult times there, but the reality is that I missed Oregon and my friends too much so I decided to move back. I received a job offer from Multnomah County Library and just recently had my first year anniversary. Life is good!



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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Art in the School Library

This week’s Ask a Storytime Ninja is for all you amazing school librarians. Looking for some ideas for incorporating art and music in your library? You’re in the right place!


The Question:


What are some ways to go about incorporating music and the arts into an elementary school library?


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The Answers:


From Bryce:


What a great question! While I work at a public library at the moment, I spent years working in and with elementary schools. With the school library experience I’ve seen in mind, here’s a few ideas you can try:


1. Passive programming involving art and music: Once the kids are done checking out, they’re maybe waiting for their classmates to finish, and this can sometimes cause behavior problems. One way to keep them occupied while incorporating the arts or music could be a table or cart that would be engaging and self directed. In our public library, we’ve had success with day camps using a “Stories in Action” table for kids who aren’t checking out. I could definitely see this type of thing translating well to an elementary library. And if they’re well-behaved, maybe a reward could be bringing out materials that can be used as instruments for some noisy learning fun!


2. Focusing on books that specifically have an art component, like graphic novels or books with songs in them: that way you can incorporate the art portion into your book-share. Books like Pete the Cat  or Diary of a Wimpy Kid can tap into interests kids already have while extending their learning to more artsy endeavors.


3. Getting kids to shake their sillies out through song: From “The Freeze Song” to “The Watermelon Song” to even “Cha-Cha Slide”, kids can pick up rhythms and have fun while you don’t have to wonder when their last recess was (hint: probably 2 days ago). You can even bring out exercise through dance to signal a transition (from book-share to check out, from passive programming to lining up). The one thing to remember about this method is that you really have to sell it; if you’re not ready to be a goofball yourself, you won’t get that 5th grader in the back of the class assuming they’re too grown to dance on board (I just came back from an outreach where I got a group of high school juniors to play I-Spy with me, so I feel like I know what I’m talking about there!)


With the arts becoming more and more of a luxury in schools, I want to tell you that I really appreciate this question, and YOU! Good luck.


From Lisa: 


Can I just say ditto to everything that Bryce said? :)


Let me preface this by saying that I have never worked in an elementary school.  Here are some things that I have tried in a public library setting that may work for you:


  • Can you bring in a special guest, such as an artist or a music teacher?  If you don’t know anyone, search your staff and see if they have a connection.  We brought in a college student who was just graduating with a degree in art and she showed off her paintings made out of weird or interesting stuff (such as painting with Legos).  My brother is a high school band teacher and he brought in a variety of brass instruments.  After demonstrating the ranges of notes on each, the kids were able to try out the instruments.  The tuba was a giant hit!


  • Can you take a picture book illustrator and create art in their style?  If you are not supposed to do actual projects in the library, can you work with an art teacher to create a unit together focusing on various illustrators.  We have had great luck with making collages like Eric Carle.  We have also made leaf creatures like Lois Ehlert.  By adding extra components to the literature (like art), you are actually making the stories more memorable for the children.  I still have kids who come into the library and ask when we are going to do “that caterpillar guy’s art project again”.



From Anna Francesca:


Can I say how much I love this question! I am a public librarian, but I am our system’s liaison to schools and a longtime supporter of arts education.  There are some great books about visual art, performing art, and music that make for wonderful displays and read-alouds.  Here are just a few suggestions that I have in terms of stories to share with younger elementary kids:


  • Art by Patrick McDonnell works for Pre-K students up first grade. It focuses on a boy named Art who paints all kind of designs, patterns, and objects.  His art fills his dreams on my favorite spread—one with no words.  Then, his mom hangs his art on the refrigerator.


  • M is for Music by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Stacy Innerst goes through the alphabet with terms from across the spectrum of musical types.  While each letter has a featured word, others terms starting with that letter are on the page, too.  Pre-K to third grade kids will get a kick out of this one.


  • The DotIsh, and Sky Color are fantastic books by Aaron Reynolds about people discovering that there are many ways to be artists.  The drawback to these books is that have pictures that are too small for group sharing.  If your library subscribes to Tumblebooks and if you have a projector, you can show students The Dot or Ish that way.  Tumblebooks suggests these books for kindergarten to third grade.


With older kids, it can be great to book talk some chapter books or non-fiction books. These also make for great displays. Here are just two examples, but there are a plethora of options.  Stage Fright on a Summer Night from the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne is a good early chapter book that gets into a bit of Shakespeare.  My name is Celia : the life of Celia Cruz = Me llamo Celia : la vida de Celia Cruz by Monica Brown with pictures by Rafael is a bright biography.


In addition, the library space can double as a wonderful display area for the students’ creations.  Partner with your school’s art teacher to brainstorm how you will do this.  Also be sure to post flyers for upcoming plays and concerts that your school is doing. Another way to make the library a home for art is to play music softly as children are checking out. You can have a contest where students who correctly identify the type of music (i.e. jazz, classical, Broadway, country, etc.) can either win a small prize (like a bookmark) or be entered into a weekly drawing for a bigger prize (like their own CD, headphones, or an MP3 player).


Whatever you do, thank you for incorporating the arts into your library curriculum.



From Sue:


The other responses were terrific.  I don’t feel as I could add a thing to them.  Just a happy face and a hearty “I concur”.  Local artists are often willing to help out.  You might find that one stay-at-home-mom who does music or art on the side.


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Storytime University: The 2 Month Recap

It has been almost exactly 2 months since we launched Storytime University. So far we have about 180 people registered! WOW. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of great professional development and sharing within the storytime community. Let’s keep it going. Here’s  a recap of some of the activity and accomplishments so far and more information about how you can earn badges.


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There are 8 badges so far (stay tuned, a Storytime Basics badge is in the works):


Flannel Friday 3 people have completed all tasks and earned this badge! Hooray!


Foot Soldier: no one has earned this badge yet, but it’s not hard! Submit an article to be included in our Advocacy Toolbox, comment on an advocacy post on the blog (there are lots of those!) and submit a story for TL;DR-seriously, we know you have great stories to share!


Grasshopper: this one takes a little more time to earn, but one person has done it and you can, too! Stay tuned for another post including a list of free webinars and videos to watch, plus some blogs you can read and comment on (or you could just read Coolest Things each week!)


Guerrilla: you have to attend a Guerrilla Storytime and host one to earn this badge. One person has done it! Are you next? 14 others have earned a task badge for attending Guerrilla Storytimes at Washington Library Association, Wisconsin Library Association, Nova Scotia, ALA 2014, Darien Library, PLA 2014, ALA 2013, and the Idea Playground Youth Services Unconference (ok, that sounds FUN).


Ninja: no Ninjas yet. Which is unacceptable because I KNOW there are lots of people who have done the tasks listed. Get credit for them! Commenting on Ask a Storytime Ninja posts and asking questions is easy. Then, finish off the badge by submitting to be a featured storytime ninja.


Samurai: no Samurais, either?! If you have ever been featured in Coolest Things, or have submitted an idea for the Coolest Things blog post, you are only one task shy of being able to complete a badge. The last task on the list? Post on the Storytime University Facebook page. You got this.


Sensei: This is the most epic badge you can earn. Earning this badge means, while we all still have learning to do, you are considered a mentor and teacher in our community.


Warrior: Do you know a Storytime Guerrilla? Nominate them for Guerrilla of the Month! One task complete.  Next, be a guest blogger on Storytime Underground. Send us an email with your idea!


*Did you know? You can count professional development you did before you registered for Storytime University. For example, if you were a featured ninja in May you can still get your badge now. Or, if you attended a Guerrilla Storytime last year, you can still claim a badge for it now.*


If you have any questions about or technical issues with Storytime University, please don’t hesitate to ask! Email us at storytimeunderground at gmail.


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The Coolest Thing I Saw on the Internet This Week

Beth had a Guerrilla Storytime and she sent us this picture of her challenge cup!!


beth challenge cup


Amy made an Unconference, because she is secretly/not secretly A LIBRARY CYLON GODDESS and they had a Guerrilla Storytime and let’s just all take a minute to wish we’d been there. Here are some notes so you can a little bit feel like you were there.


I love love love that Melissa is always asking herself, and us, hard questions about best practices. Real talk, folks, Mel is an invaluable treasure to us as a profession.


Check out this awesome Block Party that is family event/STEM activity/ early literacy skill builder all in one!   I


bet this Smell-A-Rama Bingo from Thrive After Three would be a BIG hit with your school-aged kids.


Have you caught up with In Short, I Am Busy lately? 1) Messy Art Club. 2) Take Home Storytime!!! Soooo smart.


I thought this was a good quick picture of how to make your programming/library more inclusive, no matter what you’re trying to be more inclusive OF.


I love these pictures of library buildings from across the country. Ask me sometime about the story behind my great great grandfather and Truth or Consequences, NM.


This YouTube channel has a bunch of cute baby rhymes, with bonus cute baby!


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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Storytime for Older Kids

Lots of great tips for storytiming with kids older than 3 this week! Have something to add? Please do!


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I have to plan an after school storytime with the ages from 3-7 and maybe a touch older. I have only done toddler storytime and I’m not sure if the songs and flannels will fly with the older kids, so I’m at a loss at what activities to do between stories and I also am unsure how to structure it so it’s still interesting for the older kiddos. Help?




From Sue:


I use flannels even up to age 7 or 8 when I have school visits.    The flannels I would use in Toddler story time (colors, counting, ‘5 littles’) I wouldn’t use, but I would definitely use full-story retelling, or a story like Monkey Face that has a buildup and punchline to it.  Kids this age like to anticipate outcomes and have the attention span to hang on longer for the ending.  The other great thing about K-2 is they will tell you when you’re not doing it right, so you can re-tell a familiar tale (like 3 little pigs) and make lots of funny mistakes and even have THEM participate with voices and sound effects.  If the crowd is even older, you can make it like a play with props and costume pieces.


Unlike toddlers, you can take advantage of them being able to sit and interact for longer periods.  Songs where they follow directions (Freeze Dance for example), repeat, or build (Going on a Bear Hunt) would work too.  You could even do more non-fiction stories and do show and tells.


From Lisa:


We run a story time for grades 1-4 after school.  While this is a little older than your group, we still use flannelboards and songs.  I also look for longer picture books, such as Cloudy with a  Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.  Since this group should be able to sit, you can also work in some great nonfiction, such as Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy.  My favorite resource when starting this program was Cool Programs for the School-Age Crowd by Rob Reid.  If you can’t that title, then most of his professional reference books are adaptable to working with school-aged kids.  This title really helped me with my original plans until I had enough experience to come up with my own ideas.


The other thing to keep in mind when doing an afterschool program is that these kids just sat for most of the day at school.  You will want to work in some games, crafts, or activities that involve some movement.  We tend to work in a 10-15 minute craft/activity time where the kids can talk or move around, whether it be a scavenger hunt or making a pet rock.


From Bryce:


I definitely agree with Susan on attention span and silly songs!


“Ages 3-7″ is actually a difficult to range to program for; cognitive development at 7 is much more advanced than at 3. Kudos to you for trying it out! Something that I’ve found that works with a range of ages is including activities that encourage team work, with older kids helping their younger siblings when needed. This gives the older kids ownership of the program and they’ll sit through the parts they might think are “babyish”.


I recently held a story time for older kids based on Bedtime Math (, and the attendees were families with kids ages 3-10. The structure worked for me and I would definitely use it in the future when planning storytimes for this age group:


1. Introduce yourself and list the things you’ll do at the program (this helps for all ages with self-regulation; they’ll feel a connection with you while also knowing that if you start with a book, you won’t be reading forever).
2. Read 2 short stories or one longer one
3. Release the families to complete one activity or crafts related to the books at stations (explain the activities first!)
4. Bring everyone back with one more book or song


This way, everyone gets what they need!


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The Elephant in the Room, by Tabin Crume

I’m speaking for myself (because I’m not the official press secretary for all minorities) and using Disney princesses to describe race relations today. On the surface, every Disney princess is beautiful and smiling, which either means she’s happy or she was harassed enough by men on the street to plaster a perpetual grin on her face. Yet on closer inspection the minority princesses wear the least or plainest clothes, their princes are nothing to write home about, and the black one has a job. I mean, really? We finally have a black princess and her “after” looks like Cinderella’s “before”? Shouldn’t birds be cleaning, not Princess Tiana? Sure, some will say, “It was her dream to open a restaurant.” Let me scroll through my dream index… craftsman home in the country, fountain of smart, intergalactic travel, limo service, mega millions jackpot, private plane…Nope, I searched between “universal health care” and “world peace” yet didn’t find “wake up at 4 a.m. next to broke husband to chop onions” in my dream index.

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But because 1 black president princess is better than 0, it’s progress. Really, our racial relations slogan could be: “Minorities…we acknowledge you exist.”


So when something racist happens involving children, instead of saying, “Maybe you’re being too sensitive,” people, including library people, are asking themselves:


Am I biased?
Have I treated one group better than another?
Do I merit out unequal punishments?


After searching our hearts, many concluded, “I hate everyone equally,” or “I only hate those who park next to me in an empty parking lot. Seriously, there’re 80 spaces yet I have to crawl through the passenger side because my car has a conjoined twin?” And more than likely, you discipline the public equally; if you didn’t, you’d read about it on Yelp. However, there are library discrimination problems that extend beyond individual onsite patron interactions. These include only hiring or acknowledging minority performers and staff members for heritage months; fuzzy guidelines that lead to unequal and/or unfair development and treatment of staff; and library to library treatment of patrons. I’ll break it down for you because some things are fixable.

Juggling while Japanese is not a heritage program.

It’s 5 a.m. on a Sunday in February and I’m on the news. Why?


1.      It’s black history month.

2.      I’m black, and…

3.      TOBL (The Other Black Librarian) said no.


TOBL did the Black Book Festival this year. So we can either hire ABL (Another Black Librarian) or next year one of us will probably do it…or not. These events are open to all…oh, who are we kidding? TOBL and I are preferred representatives. It’s kind of like how your boss wouldn’t send Steve from accounting to represent your organization for Women’s History Month. Steve could have written Title IX. Doesn’t matter. They will sooner put a woman on the news who thinks Title IX is a Kanye track than send Steve. I get why we’re preferred. At the same time, I’ve hosted so many events that I get evil glares and people asking, “Wait, a Chicago Bear is coming? Didn’t you just have in the Sacramento Kings?”


Yes, I did.


That said, many minorities’ existences are only remembered when big events pop up: the Black performers who only work in February; the Cuban magician who disappears on October 15th and magically reappears on September 15th; the Mexican-American poet who is only booked May 5th. Systems often promote minority performers for these events as a reminder that they’re available year round. Yet the message doesn’t always get out, or worse, performers are hired not because they’re discussing their heritage, but because their heritage in and of itself is considered enough to make it a heritage program.


It’s not. It’s just a Random Act of Ignorance (RAI).


Staff also gets hit by RAIs. You’re in a meeting, the boss says, “It’s almost LGBT Awareness Month,” and instead of asking who wants to do a display, all of you look at Mike, a gay librarian.


And Mike looks behind himself to see if anyone is standing there.


Mike is not asked if he would like to make a display. Bridget didn’t want to be responsible for Black History Month programs. Harold figured anyone could pull books from the 950s because he was going on leave. Creating events and displays should be open to all, yet it’s expected that minorities will handle it.

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Maybe they’re booked. Maybe they wish they were asked to do things all year long instead of for four weeks. Maybe they’re busy with their Amish Vampires in Space book discussion group. Yet many are afraid not to participate, and not simply because they fear displays of urban fiction and books depicting large chopsticks; they’re asking themselves, “If I don’t do this, will I never be asked to do anything else again?”




Same time, next year.


Can I get it in writing?

Librarianship is fairly ambiguous work, probably so that when you’re asking your boss, “Since when do I have to re-tar the roof?” they can answer, “’Other duties as required’ was in your job description. Now where are you with those spent nuclear fuel rods? We need them done before we can start processing adoption papers.”


Libraries do a lot more than we used to.


Little is in writing, which is ironic since we’re book people. Unless it’s on YouTube or Instagram, whatever verbal agreements you have might as well be written on a snow cone. Many of us don’t know what exactly we should be doing or what others are doing, expectations are ever shifting, and you don’t know your boundaries until you step over them. Thing is, your boundaries are different than people’s the boundaries.  It’s like we’re playing football, we know the rules of football, but the tight end shows up with a golf club saying, “Coach said I can defend myself with this.”


That’s not going to work.


Either we all get golf clubs (and better insurance coverage), or hopefully a referee says, “We should wait until the concussion study is complete in the year 2986 before we do this.” But what ends up happening is he gets to keep his club, we’re all bleeding, and we end up playing a game called “If That Were Me…”


The rules: watch an outrageous act or statement by a colleague seemingly go unchecked or even get applauded, and wonder what would happen to you if it were you.


Event: A librarian says, “Get your ass to the library.”

ITWM: My supervisor would get a call.


Event: Staff members are chronically late.

ITWM: I’d be at home unemployed watching Netflix.


Event: Librarians get applauded for crazy examples on handling unruly teens.

ITWM: I’d be sitting next to my union rep on live TV for my hearing.


Sometimes something so unfair happens (like your shelver is promoted to deputy library director) that you’re about to explode. I will honestly say there are times I think, “This wouldn’t have happened if I were white.” And I hate thinking this, but without transparency, all of us are left wondering what is going on. I might be thinking it’s about race, yet older white woman might be thinking, “If only I were young. These newbies are taking over.” And a young librarian might think, “If only I were hip. They only seem to like edgy people.” The next person believes, “They’re not interested in developing me as a librarian because of my disability.” This could go on forever. If only I were thin, rich, a man, a woman, older, plain, pretty, straight, gay, married, single, childless, a family person, fill in the blank. We see people being treated differently, we don’t know why, we internalize it in the manner our brain can best digest, because truth is more difficult to handle than straightforward racism, sexism, and most other isms: it’s favoritism and nepotism. Favoritism is like the new girl on a campus. All the boys like the new girl, and you don’t get it because the new girl is just like you, only new! Not improved. Not better. She doesn’t come with a bonus pack of magic erasers or a 30 day trial membership to the shaving club. She’s just new. This creates lots of WTF moments. Nepotism is Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods being hired by her sorority sister, all of whom share the same background, the same outlook on life, and except for the woman who plays Robin Scorpio on General Hospital, look like attack of the clones. But at least Elle was qualified, because sometimes nepotism doesn’t simply mean hiring the people in your cell phone circle, but believing it’s okay for your friends and family to take a year to learn the job skills all other applicants are expected to have starting day one. Favoritism and nepotism are more insidious than other forms of discrimination because they’re not flat out racism or sexism or ageism. It’s more that those aspects are a side effect, like how your hay fever medication gives you itchy eyes and makes you take long walks on the beach. The perpetrator can say, “I’m not (whatever)-ist!” And while this may be true, the results are the same, and all of us know how it makes us feel when rules are applied to us yet not to others.


It feels horrible.


It’s paralyzing. You’re immobilized because you can’t point out the unfair behavior without sounding like a blamer or a snitch. You learn, “Do your job, stay in line, and we’ll get along fine.” You learn not to speak.


You learn not to be all you’re capable of being.


Unfair treatment means two similar people doing the same acts receive different responses. One gets verbal reprimands equivalent of farts in the wind. The other has a paper trail started.  One is seen as fun, fresh, and innovative. The other learned to keep the status quo and becomes a work horse, a mule. Who do you think will get promoted, tracked into emerging leader programs or declared a mover and shaker? People can have the same degrees and goals and one receives steady promotion and accolades and the other is singing “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” for three decades.


Which brings me to your treatment of your library patrons.

My theory is library patrons face de facto discrimination based on the library they visit, which is most often in or near their neighborhood, which in America, is likely to be segregated. Confused? I’ll give you an example. There are two system libraries, Average Joe Library, and Important People Library. Average Joes is in an average area, possibly even segregated since we’ve reach the point that upper class blacks live in neighborhoods with more poverty than lower class whites. At Average Joe’s, the staff follows the library system rules because they know they weren’t just made up by a bunch of drunk librarians out to ruin people’s lives (at least I don’t remember doing that). Rules are what keep the library organized and prevent someone from filing the House of Pleasures books next to the Harry Potter series. When someone breaks the rules there are consequences such as being asked to leave or pay a fine. While there are complaints, staff holds firm, reminding patrons of the rules and regulations, the patrons each agree they all get equal treatment, and peace rules on earth.




Now let’s pan over to Important People Library, the library for Important People (IPs). IPs have problems and you are there to help them, especially since they pay your salary with their tax dollars even if all their money is in the Cayman Islands. It seems there have been a few misunderstandings about how they and their children use the library, because they are upstanding citizens and their children would never behave like anything but perfect little angels and I don’t know what you’re talking about and you had better withdraw those statements. IPs aren’t VIPs, people you actually know are important because they’re celebrities or you voted for their political opponent, but they know VIPs, and if you upset them they will write city hall more letters than the women on White Chicks.

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IPs have decided the library rules should, and will, be bent to their liking, and you will do it because the longer you deal with them the greater the chance they will give you an aneurism. Fine. You’ll help them. It might start with waiving fines, yet that creates a paper trail, so maybe you’d be better off backdating the items like you did following that new shelver training incident involving mixed up carts. And the damaged material…the book had checked out a good two times already. It’s easier to weed it than to argue with this IP about charging them. They don’t care for this whole “claims returned” deal, so perhaps it’s easier to turn in the item and mark it missing. Or just delete the record. And move the DVDs to a more secure location? Are you implying just because half the movies are gone that IPs are giving themselves the five finger discount? They should stay right where they are, and you should give my children at least 17 warnings before kicking them out, and if they say sorry, immediately let them back in.


Now the reason Important People Library exists is you may have noticed that IPs congregate in select areas. If not, watch HGTV. No one wants to move from their neighborhood. It’s to the point that I think their ex is buried in the backyard and they want to stick around and discourage the new owners not to build a pool. They’re all in their quaint spots, probably in homes worth ten times as much as yours even though yours is larger and doesn’t have black mold. Since they’re all together it’s understood that this is their library, it will be run how they see fit, and if not, they’ll do something about it. Thus on paper Average Joe’s looks like a criminal training center with its loads of fines and incident reports; Important People Library is a shiny gem and Little Sally has apologized for setting the carpet on fire.


Does this seem fair to anyone?


Okay, You’re Depressing Me

You’re probably thinking, “Gee, this sucks.” But as someone succinctly put it at The Library Games, “It all begins with sucking.” So here are things you can do today @ your library that don’t require an act of Congress, not that Congress does any acting anymore.


1. Have a variety of performers throughout the year.

As a bonus, it’s much easier to book them in their off season of the other 11 months. I balance male and female performers, and a man comes in for my storytime breaks so that small children learn that just because a man likes to be around children doesn’t necessarily mean he belongs on Megan’s List.


2. No, I’m not TOBL.

When newbies call me by TOBL’s name I don’t mind because there’s a 99.78% chance I have no clue who I’m talking to. But if anyone, black, white, brown, Martian, has passed probation, learn their name or call us “library lady” like our patrons do.


3. Offer events and displays to everyone.

When I’m enjoying the view of my private pound from my sprawling country craftsman home, someone else will have to pull 15 multicultural books, and then they’ll need to pull 15 more that aren’t on MLK, Rosa Parks or Caesar Chavez.


4. Don’t be that person.

Occasionally (80% of the time) the je nais se quoi that makes you more loved than all others is you work for free and don’t get reimbursed.  Don’t do that. The rest of us like money and have to catch up on OITNB. Sure, I wrote this at home, at lunch and on break, but that goes into the next item on the agenda.


5. What are the rules again?

Ask for guidelines, and when I say ask, I mean send an e-mail. Even if your boss’s office is so close you’re practically wearing a red suit and asking them if they were bad or good this year, get it in writing, and use examples such as, “I noticed Buffy takes five hour lunches and does storytime from home and I would also like to do that.” I actually have a list of things I’m asking in the next month.


6. Document.

Yes, it’s not fair that Paula counts her visits to Massage Envy as outreach, so write it down, take a picture, but while you’re doing that, document what you’re doing and make an album of event photos. Toot your own horn. (“Hey everyone, I cured Ebola!”) It’s also important that you document exceptions. Exceptions should be made, but when you make them you should make sure they don’t become the rule.


While I know one day soon everyone everywhere will be treated fairly under all circumstances (HAHAHAHAHA!!!), until then, here are some tips. And don’t feel bad: if you’re wondering if you have a discrimination problem, awareness is half the battle.


(Yo, Joe!)


Tabin Crume works at a library in California.
This is the third post in a series exploring what it means to be an anti-racist library professional. See the first post, “What It means to be an anti-racist children’s librarian,” by Maggie Block, and the second post, “We can do better,” by Angie Manfredi.
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Nothing is Cool Today

I have so many links for you, but you guys, I just can’t. Not today.


On a personal level, mental illness and alcoholism and Peter Pan are all pretty formative parts of my existence and upbringing. The loss of Robin Williams is a deeply sad one for me.


On all levels, the events in Ferguson, MO this week are emotionally and mentally consuming, from the loss of another bright young life in the murder of Micheal Brown to the military state the peaceful protesters now face as they try to gather to mourn and understand and make their voices heard.


You can watch a live stream of the events in Ferguson here and here. Let us ask ourselves, as librarians, whose work is at its core social justice, and specifically as a community within librarianship that is committed to anti-racist works, what can we do? How can we be of service to this community held hostage by grief and state-sanctioned violence?


I think we can start by asking ourselves if we treat the visibly mentally ill who come to our libraries, for sanctuary, with the same compassion and grace we give to Williams’ memory.


I think we can start by asking ourselves, really asking, without flinching, how we react to young black men when they walk in the library, and what assumptions we make about them.


This dad, he looks an awful lot like the dads I see every day. The ones bringing in their beautiful little girls in fresh summer braids for storytime, playing Wii with their middle schoolers, and helping their about-to-go-to-college sons find books on their reading lists.


My job is to make one place where he is not watched with suspicion for the color of his skin. To make a space where those doing their best to cope with the betrayal of their own biochemistry can be treated as fully fledged human beings. Is it your job, too?


Let us ask ourselves who we are meant to be.



Let us make our nation safe, so that for young black men, living can be an adventure and not a daily exercise in terror.




I don’t know how to cure depression, or alcoholism, or systemic racism, but we can stand with the victims and ask, what can we do?


What can we do, Michael? What can we do, Robin?

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Adapt for Special Needs

This week’s Ask a Storytime Ninja is all about ways to make storytime accessible for all capabilities. This month’s featured ninjas have a lot of great information to share so read on!


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How do you make adaptations for special needs children that attend your regular storytime? What kinds of changes do you make? I have encountered this in a couple of different scenarios recently: a 14 month old that was born 3 months early (11 months adjusted age) and has a variety of developmental delays at our toddler storytime for one and two year olds and a 5 1/2 year old older sibling with a variety of cognitive and motor delays that attends my toddler storytime in the summer when not at preschool. I want to make storytime a good experience for these children as well as those that are typically developing and encourage these parents to keep attending the library.





From Sue:

How wonderful you are considering the individual needs of your patrons!  My answer would change depending on the specifics of the situation.  In the toddler years, there is nothing wrong with coaching the parents to do a gross motor activity WITH their child.  A simple dance with scarves or shakers with the parent modeling would work wonders.  Like a workout coach, you can show parents how to modify the same finger play (for example Itsy Bitsy Spider) using fingers and using whole arms, demonstrating the fine motor and gross motor skills. You won’t look like you are tailoring to one child, but to the whole group depending on the individual needs.


For the older child coming to a younger story time, that would depend on the needs of the child.  Is he participating now and/or is he disruptive otherwise?  I had one older boy that was very disruptive but sat perfectly still when I did a felt story.  I learned he was fascinated by them and sat intently until after story time so he could play with the sets.  After I caught on, I made sure to have an extra set ready in case he came that day.  Another child completely changed when I threw in a transition song.  He recognized the tune and wanted to join in.  When I worked with special education children, I understood quickly that blanket answers never worked.   Maybe the mom can help you determine what the child really latches onto.




From Lisa:

Every child is different and learns in a different way.  Many of us hit these different ways of learning as we plan our various programs, from pairing a book and a flannelboard to choosing songs where the words match the actions.  Here are some things you can try if you would like to adapt your programs for special needs:

  • Be mindful of sound as some kids are especially sensitive to noise.  If you use CDs, try to choose songs with a simpler flowing melody (ABC song), rather than those that can be loud and energetic.  If you do action songs, I tend to use ones with larger gross motor actions, such as Johnny Works with One Hammer.
  • Share your plan.  The unknown can be scary and almost all kids appreciate knowing what will happen when.  With a sensory program, I will use Boardmaker to make a posted schedule.  When I have a group that is especially squirrelly, I will bring out the schedule also.  It helps them to focus on what we are doing and see when their favorite part is going to occur.
  • What kind of room are you in for story time?  Is there a defined space for where the story time will take place?  I used to run our programs in a large meeting room that seated 100 and the first time I tried story time in there the kids ran laps around the room.  To make the room work for story time, we purchased a large carpet with alphabet and number squares.  It gave all the kids a boundary.  For those children on the autism spectrum, they knew that they sat on a particular square.  They needed a place that was their place.
  • Allow for movement and noise.  I know that as kids get older, we try to get them to sit on the floor and pay attention.  Many children with special needs will not sit still, whether they rock back and forth or fidget with their hands.  They may also make noises.  As long as it isn’t too disruptive, let them do it.  They are still paying attention to the story.
  • Add props!  This is the time to experiment with different ways to tell a story or sing a song, from stick puppets to scarves.


If you have concerns about meeting a certain segment’s needs, then definitely talk to the parents.  I normally phrase it as “Is there something that I can do to make this a more enjoyable experience for your child?”  Parents are great resources and many of them will gladly talk to you about what the library is doing or how you can make their experience better.




From Anna Francesca:

I love what my colleagues said about asking parents or caregivers what the kids who come with them can do.  They know best.  To that, I add:


I think that having a variety of types of activities helps children of all types and levels. No matter if participants are differently-abled than their peers, the opportunity to move and to touch things can be hugely important in making storytime a positive experience and one in which they learn. For kids with motor delays, letting them hold items with their parents or caregivers still allows them the opportunity for touch without it being overwhelming. This can be a fantastic chance to bond, too.


Bean bag or scarf play can be very helpful. I love basic musical instruments like shakers, too. Be sure with any little ones that the objects they hold have no pieces that could break-off and fit through a paper towel tube since those are choking hazards. If you can incorporate simple movements and/or music, that is great. It is amazing how some people who find traditional learning uncomfortable will open up when they get to hear rhythms in music.




From Bryce:

Speaking as someone who has grown up with a disability, I know that a lot of times when I was younger I just wanted to do what everyone else was doing. And it didn’t matter that the way I was doing it was slightly different because of my cerebral palsy; I was participating and I felt like I was part of the group. I remember the times when I was given something different to do, and was the only one doing that activity– OR, when someone didn’t notice my disability at first and then acted REALLY WEIRD when they found out. Those were not the most pleasant experiences!


I understand that librarians are extremely empathetic beings, and if you see someone struggling it’s natural to want to help them. And from the looks of it, you are– having an older child in a group with accepting children at his/her cognitive level is great, and the 14-month-old will pick up things every storytime whether or not he/she is fully participating. If motor skills are difficult for these children, you can switch up finger plays with larger movement songs like Row Your Boat or the Elevator Song so everyone can participate. In fact, when I was going to substitute for Brooke’s Toddler Storytime last month, no finger plays were on the menu– My Itsy-Bitsy Spider is a one-sided broke joke! It doesn’t even travel anywhere. I feel like including a video so you can see how awful it is. BUT, when I was little, I learned that finger play too, and I looked all weird for the short duration of that rhyme. But Row Your Boat? I owned that, dude.


If a child IS having a visibly difficult time (crying, screaming, etc), trust that their parent or caregiver will know what they need. If you think they have a particularly bad experience one time, I would definitely approach the family afterward and ask if there’s anything you can do to make next time go more smoothly (Sue’s ideas are great!). They may just decide storytime is not for them, and that’s all right– a lot of kids visit the library and check out books to read at home. Not attending storytime doesn’t mean they’re not attending the library.


If you’re looking to create a special needs storytime, this ALSC blog series is a great place to start.


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Feed Research: Participate in the Young Children, New Media and Libraries Survey

We here at Storytime Underground love research that pertains to library services for children and their families. Anything that helps us understand our customers and our work better is a good thing. For that very reason, we’re excited by this current survey from ALSC. Check out ALSC’s full description below, and participate in feeding the research that can help our field to continually improve!


From the survey researchers:

Young Children, New Media and Libraries Survey

In order to examine how libraries incorporate different kinds of new media devices into their branches and programming; we ask for your participation in the Young Children, New Media and Libraries Survey prior to Monday, August 18, 2014.


Participation in this survey will help us better understand the scope, challenges, and next steps for libraries regarding new media use. We would like one librarian from your branch who is able to answer questions regarding your library’s use of new media to complete this survey.


Survey link:


The survey includes 9 questions and we anticipate it will take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. Additional information regarding this survey can be found online:


This survey was created in partnership with, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, and the University of Washington. If you have any questions about this survey, please contact us at the below emails.


Cen Campbell (
J. Elizabeth Mills (
Joanna Ison (

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