Archive for April, 2010

The Third Week

This week, Erica was on vacation.  However, that didn’t stop it from being pretty action-packed.  My plan was to visit the Northeast story times on Tuesday (Chrissy) and Thursday (Marion), and attend a few others at different branches during the rest of the week.

On Tuesday, I came in as scheduled.  However, Chrissy called in sick.  I didn’t want to disappoint the kids by canceling story time, so I volunteered to do it.  Thankfully, the room was already set up!  I had half an hour to put together a story time, so it was a bit of trial by fire.  Chrissy had planned to do a chicken story time, and we’d prepared a chicken craft and found a chicken hand stamp.  However, I wasn’t sure I could find several really good chicken books of the right length and difficulty on short notice.  But I could think of several farm animal books.  I pulled one from the shelves, “Hen Hears Gossip,” and used Erica’s big book of “The Big Red Barn”.  The I pulled a few others to set out for parents to check out.  For our song, I found an Old MacDonald felt board set.  This was the newest thing for me – I do regular kindergarten story times for Page Ahead, but I’ve never used a felt board.  I thought this would be a great chance to use some of what I’ve learned from Erica and give it a try.

Overall, I think it went fairly well.  Hen Hears Gossip didn’t garner as much enthusiasm.  I think the joke – that each animal hears the gossip in a slightly different way, and repeats the wrong thing – was a little too sophisticated for many of the children, although the parents got a kick out of it.  The Big Red Barn was familiar to many of the kids, so they loved that.  I basically just followed Erica’s outline, so the story time practically ran itself.  Most of the books I set out got checked out and played with, also, so that was nice.  And the craft was very popular.  I discovered that it’s very difficult to manage a big book, especially towards the end; I’ll have to ask Erica for advice on how to hold it and turn the pages.

I observed Joanna at Green Lake and Marion at Northeast as well.  They had very different styles from each other and from Erica, so that was great.  Green Lake gets a much smaller crowd, so Joanna was able to use musical instruments and shaker eggs.  This was a lot of fun!  Rather than doing something structured with them, she just put on a CD related to the theme and let kids play and dance.  I thought this was a nice release valve.  Also, Joanna was doing a family story time, which I hadn’t observed before.  Something less structured allows children of all ages to be involved, and gives parents with infants a chance to soothe the baby while the older child is distracted.  She also tried to have a little something for each age group.  She started out with a pop-up book for the younger children, and transitioned into more difficult books later.  Also, instead of a felt board she used a velcro glove with little puppets.  I hadn’t seen that before, but it’s cute.

Observing Marion was interesting because it was in the same space with the same kids I normally see.  That made it very easy to see how small differences can have a big effect.  One little thing Marion did that I absolutely loved was to move her chair closer to the rug.  It really added to the sense of intimacy, even though her story times were both very large (75-95 people).  Like Erica, she wrote a letter on the board.  However, she wrote both the upper and lower case.  This is a very small change, but I thought it could make a big difference in how kids learn to recognize letters.  Also, I really liked how Marion handled the book.

One thing I noticed at both story times is how difficult it is to change the children’s routine.  Joanna tried to sing along with the book “Old MacDonald had a tractor,” but it was very difficult to get the kids to adapt to the new pattern.  Marion used a slightly different version of the song “open, shut them” than Erica, and the kids essentially just refused to do it.  They sang their regular tune and words until Marion changed her version to match theirs.  I can see the importance of having a routine for young children, but I also want to make sure in my own story times that I expose them to new things.  I realize that I’ll have to be very deliberate and up-front about changing any established pattern, or it will be difficult for the children to accept the new idea.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to as many story times as I would have liked due to scheduling conflicts, but I’d like to continue visiting other story times throughout the quarter.  I especially would like to attend a bilingual story time.  Marion also suggested trying out King County story times, to compare their styles.

This week I also attended the regional children’s librarian meeting.  It was fascinating to see how the regional system is working out.  In many ways, it seems to be very effective.  The librarians from many branches have worked together to make sure story times are offered on a variety of days, at different times, and that all age groups are adequately covered.  Even though budgets have been cut and there are fewer available children’s librarians, program coverage actually feels like it’s increased.  It’s wonderful to encourage everybody to work together this way.  Also, the librarians shared their thoughts, concerns, and resources with each other.  I wonder if communication between them was this good before the region was established.  However, the regional system also has its problems.  Some neighborhoods and schools are receiving less time and attention, and covering for them with librarians from other branches puts a strain on everybody and wastes time in transit.  The librarians are not each assigned an equal load; some are leading many programs while others have almost none.  Seeing how these issues are addressed has definitely informed the way I think about distribution of time and resources throughout a system.

Next week is the children’s book group, which I’m very excited to attend!

Hours +9, Total =51 (+2 for book group next week =53)

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The Second Week

I’m starting to fall into the rhythm of story times and desk shifts.  It was nice to see each age group’s story time for the second time around.  Some of the kids and families recognize me, and I’m absorbing more of the details of how Erica delivers an effective story time  instead of just paying attention to the big outline of what she does. Her story times have a great rhythm – they flow nicely between stories and activities, and don’t get derailed when a few children get fussy or overeager.  I’m not sure that there’s one particular secret to having this kind of gentle authority – I guess it comes with experience – but hopefully watching how Erica deals with individual situations will help me get a sense of the larger skill.

Weeded folk and fairy tales

Also, this week I began a weeding project in the children’s folk and fairy tale section.  Most of the nonfiction at Northeast underwent a significant weed last year, so there’s not much to do beyond pulling damaged items.  We did a dusty shelf on the easy nonfiction, and found that almost every item was circulating (or missing).  Folk and fairy tales, however, had a more substantial group of poorly circulating items.  We speculated as to why this might be.  They’re not in a very visible location, and their Dewey classification is confusing for browsers.  Using the Horizon tools for weeding was a nice way to learn more of the technology, and also to see how other branches are dealing with this collection.  It looks like a few of them need to weed their folk and fairy tales, too!

It was interesting to be there on a day without a story time.  Even a single story time eats up almost the entire morning, between set up, the story time itself, free play time and talking to parents, helping participants find materials in the busy children’s section, and clean up.  The pace of a day without this seems pretty necessary for Erica to wind down from the high-energy story time days, and is also critical for getting things done.  We processed new

Chicken story time craft

books, worked on the book order, and set up a basket of craft materials for Erica’s sub next week.  (I made this craft sample for her chicken-themed story time.)  It’s also important for her coworkers.  Erica is much more program-heavy than they are, which means she’s available for desk shifts far less often.  That puts a lot of burden on them to be on desk, and cuts into the time they have to plan their own programs, maintain their collections, etc.  It’s a difficult balancing act when one person does much more programming than the others – but it will probably be the case in almost every library that the children’s librarian is doing  far more of this than anybody else.  It’s good to see how everybody works with this.

A day without story time also gave me more time on the reference desk.  I’m getting to help with a wide array of adult reference questions, from finding an old photograph of an amusement park ride which no longer exists to printing a list of regulations for decommissioning oil tanks.  And, of course, I’ve received many tax-form questions.  I still wish I could find these answers more quickly, but I have felt that everybody has walked away with good, useful information.  Observing and assisting the other librarians has been a great way to learn more about the resources the library has to deal with these inquiries.  I’ve also discovered that I have much stronger teen RA skills than I had realized.  Just from reading some teen lit, writing a few reviews, and spending time in the teen collection at Sno-Isle last quarter, I’ve apparently picked up a pretty solid working knowledge of teen materials.  Realizing this makes me want to ensure that I do the same for children’s this quarter.  I’m making an effort to read more children’s lit, and to pay attention what is being weeded, ordered, and processed.

Next week Erica is on vacation, so I’ll be bouncing around to visit some other story times.

Hours: +24, total 42

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The First Week

This week was a complete whirlwind of wonderful learning experiences.  Thinking about trying to distill into into a few hundred words is a little overwhelming!  But here goes ….

A big chunk of my time was spent in story times.  I experienced most of the spectrum: toddler, preschool, and baby.  There will be a few others in the upcoming weeks, like pajama story time and family story time.

The older kids were the most familiar to me, since I do preschool and kindergarten story times myself with Page Ahead.  It was nice to see that my style isn’t all that different from Erica’s – that felt validating.  One thing she does that I hadn’t thought of is repeating lines at the end of the page.  I don’t think I’ll need to do that in my small classroom, but it’s a great idea for a huge group of kids who can’t all see the book at one time.  She also uses a felt board at times, which I have no experience with.  We didn’t have time this week, but I’m looking forward to it next time!

Also, the expectation was very different from what I’m used to.  In the classroom, the teacher expects children to pay attention and behave.  However, Erica’s story times are much looser.  Kids can explore, take a break and come back, and play while she’s telling the story – she just reads louder.  It’s more fun for the kids, and probably a lot more relaxing for the adults, too.

I also liked Erica’s setup around the story time – she sets out books related to her theme that participants can check out.  She also emphasizes one of the 6 early literacy skills with each themed unit, so parents know how the stories can help their babies develop, in Erica’s story time and at home.  There are handouts as a reminder.

Baby story time was a totally different perspective from what I’ve been exposed to.  I wasn’t sure how to think about choosing books and activities for babies, until Erica explained that baby story time is more for the parents than the infants.  It’s an important forum for them to learn about and participate in their baby’s development, as well as to get out of the house and talk with other parents.  I wrote a more detailed reflection on baby story time you can download.

Being on a reference desk in a branch has also been a great experience.  As a student librarian at Central, I was specifically at a readers’ advisory desk.  That gave me wonderful in-depth exposure to RA, but it also meant I didn’t do as much general reference and dealt almost exclusively with adults.  Something I really admire about Erica’s reference technique is how quickly she gets away from the computer.  She’ll get a quick idea of where to go and how much may be checked in, and then takes the child straight to the shelves.  This is a chance for them to talk without the desk in between them, and also for the child to see and handle the books.  Love it!  More on my reference observations here.

It’s been great just getting to know Erica and see how she works.  The branch environment is great, and I’ve been lucky not only to shadow Erica as she works, but also to attend meetings and just absorb her brilliance as we chat on breaks or lunch.  More excitement to come in week 2!

Running hours total: 18

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Spring 2010 DFW Learning Objectives

I’m excited to be starting my DFW in children’s services at SPL’s Northeast branch!  I’ve only worked with Erica for one day, but I can already tell what a fabulous librarian and great mentor she is.  This blog is going to cover my reflections on my experiences throughout the quarter, specifically on projects that relate to my learning objectives.  These are:

1.  Learn to provide high-quality reference in a branch setting.  I’ll be shadowing on the reference desk, and recording my observations and experiences here.

2. Develop and exercise skills related to children’s programming.  I’ll be discussing my observations and thoughts about story times and other programs.

3.  Gain experience with school visits and booktalking.  This will kick in late in the quarter, as Erica takes me with her to schools to promote summer reading.  I’ll be evaluating my own booktalks as well as recording my observations and reflections of Erica’s.

4.  Expand understanding of collection development of children’s materials in a branch library.  This will manifest in a few ways: helping with a book order, working on a weeding project, and perhaps further developing a database of historical fiction. More observations and self-evaluations here.

Let the adventure begin!

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