Library Programs

Dragon Egg Craft

Dragon eggs are a simple craft that can work well as an element of magical décor during a program or as an easy take home or in-person craft program. In preparation for our annual Wizards & Wands Festival, library staff are taking home baskets of egg-making supplies to craft some new décor pieces during their work from home hours.

While we are using these as decor for a large library event, this could be turned into a fun craft program for all ages. Cost will vary based on egg size (as will time needed to complete the craft), but the final product is quite pretty and a lot of fun for fantasy fans.

Dragon Egg Craft Supplies:

Dragon Egg Craft Instructions:

Start in the center of the bottom of the egg. Push thumbtack in firmly.

Create a ring of thumbtacks around the one you first placed. Make sure they overlap slightly, so that no Styrofoam shows, but they don’t need to overlap a lot—you have a limited number of thumbtacks.

Continue around and around the egg until it is entirely covered.

Optional: After egg is covered with thumbtacks, use spray paint to create a shiny colorful sheen!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 1

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program last week. These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

This post will focus on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. Check back for Part 2, focusing on our online component run through ReadSquared.

And before this gets buried in all the upcoming text, a big shout out to my library’s marketing department who designed the physical book and put up with all of my edit requests.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds parent knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

How long will this take?

Parents may be daunted by the large number, but, by just reading one book a day, a child should finish the program in less than three years. Some possible program lengths:

  • 1 book a day = 1,000 books in 3 years
  • 2 books a day = 1,000 books in 1.5 years
  • 3 books a day = 1,000 books in 1 year
  • 5 books a day = 1,000 books in 6 months

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program Specifics

Before starting your program, there are some specifics you need to figure out. These include:

  • How will participants log their reading?
  • What are the incentives?
  • How will you fund the program?
  • Answers to Participant FAQs

How will participants log their reading?

We give participants two options: a physical, spiral-bound workbook (more info below) and an online system managed through ReadSquared (more on that in a future post).

What are the incentives?

Our incentives include:

  • Sign up = workbook & pencil
  • 100 books read = 1 sticker for every 100 books read (10 total)
  • 500 books read = free book
  • 1,000 books read = free book, backpack, graduation certificate & invitation to annual graduation ceremony  

I’ll share pictures of some of these below, but the timeline for purchasing some of these items depends on reaching certain program milestones (such as registering our first 50 kids). So, while I know what I would like to order, specific prize books have not been officially selected yet. For each prize book earned, families will have a choice between three prize book options.

How will you fund the program?

Our program is sponsored by our library’s Foundation. (Those incentives aren’t cheap!) I wanted to make this a program that would really engage our community and keep them participating over the years it will take them to finish, so we chose incentives that will hopefully encourage people to keep participating.

Answers to Participant FAQs

Your library’s answers to these questions might differ, but some of our FAQ include:

What if someone else reads to my child?
Count all reading! Books read by caregivers, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, librarians, and more all count. Watch a storytime and count those books, too.

What if we read the same book more than once?
Every time you read a book, count it in your reading log! Repetition is wonderful for reading development. Your child will notice new details during each reread. If you read Pete the Cat ten times in one day, that counts as ten books read!

We finished! Can we keep reading?
Of course! While you can only receive prizes once, we encourage you to keep going. Stop by the library anytime for book recommendations.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Workbook

At sign-up, each reader gets their own physical workbook and a pencil to log their reading. I love our 64-page workbook filled with many pages to log your reading, early literacy tips and book recommendations, advertisements for various library services, and more.

Our workbook begins with a page to label your workbook in case it is lost and to track how long the program took you to complete.

The next spread focuses on how the program works and those frequently asked questions we highlighted above.

Moving on to a spread with a reminder to log online if you would like (more on that in Part 2) and the first of two All About Me pages. This page should be filled out at the beginning of the program, with the second, similar page being filled out after you’ve read 1000 Books.

Next come the early literacy spreads! I love how these turned out. Four age ranges are featured: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, and 3-5. Each spread has an early literacy tip for read, sing, talk, play and write, as well as 12 book recommendations.

Listing books in a printing of this volume (we purchased 1000 of these logbooks at once!) was quite an endeavor. While we still ended up publishing pages filled with many of my favorite books, some of these were round two or round three suggestions. I worked with our collection development team to find books that we could bulk up on copies of now and that we would hopefully still be able to purchase (or would still own) in 3-5 years, since these log books will be sticking around a while.

Next we have lots and lots of book logging pages. Each page contains 25 images. Each image represents one book. Families can color or check off each image for each book read.

Pages marking 100-book intervals have a special spot for a sticker that participants can pick up at the library. Our marketing department designed and printed our stickers in house on label paper:

But what if a family really wants to write down the names of the books they read? There are a few pages to record up to 30 favorite titles in the workbook, and the online system encourages writing out each title.

Wrapping up the workbook, we have our second All About Me page and advertisements for some of our other library programs and services.

Learn more about our program on our website, and come back next week for more information about our online ReadSquared page!

Day in the Life: A Tuesday Work from Home

What does a day in the life of a post-pandemic children’s librarian look like? I provided a glimpse into an in-the-library day last week, and now I’m going to cover what a work from home day looks like.

Just like library days, each work from home day is a bit different, though I really appreciate the control I have over these days. I have eight hours to move through projects at a speed that I simply can’t accomplish while in the library, where desk hours, in-the-moment projects, and various distractions are guaranteed to pop up throughout the day. As we have more and more days back in the building I’ve been trying to let go of projects because it simply isn’t possible to get done what I’ve been doing at home during multiple 8 hours days of uninterrupted work while working in the physical library and covering desk hours and the like.

I’m also able to set my own schedule. For example I hate waking up early (for me, early means anything before 9 am and definitely anything before 8 am). Something I’ve also always suspected but could never test until the last year–my ideal breakfast/lunch time is actually around 10-10:30 am. And finally, the joy of not having a commute is immeasurable. The lack of traffic since the pandemic began has shrunk my commute time, but being done with work and immediately able to do other things brings joy to my days.

But what do I do all day? I keep busy, that’s for sure. One Tuesday work from home day, coming up!

8:30-8:45 am: Roll out of bed. (Kidding but not. Again, I am not a morning person). Stumble around doing morning things and waking up.

9 am: It’s time to make sure everything is ready for Baby Storytime! When I’m at home, my “studio” is essentially always set up, though I do have to make some height adjustments for Baby Storytime since I have a stuffed animal in my lap. Plus, I always run a tech check–you never know when something will decide to act up. (I use the black desk chair as a storage spot for my book, puppets, and any other physical materials that I’ll need.)

9:30 am: It’s time for Baby Storytime! I’m live on Facebook today with lots of book and animal fun. Storytime runs for about 30 minutes.

10 am: Storytime clean up! Again, when I am at home this is really quick, essentially just dropping anything I need to take back to work into my work bag, and making sure my greeter (who monitored the comments on Facebook) was able to send me the viewing stats for our live program. View this storytime outline here.

10:10-11:10 am: Breakfast/Lunch. This is really nice time on storytime days because this doubles as a post-storytime break.

11:15 am: Zoom meeting with our library’s Equity & Diversity Specialist. I’ve been a part of many sub-committees related to various projects, and during this meeting we reviewed our suggestions for policy and procedure changes that are part of our efforts to create a library-wide de-escalation training (you can’t train staff or expect them to enforce policies the same way when procedures aren’t written down or are vastly different from department-to-department). We also talked about some upcoming Juneteenth program kits that I am excited to be working on with members of the Westerville community.

12 pm: It’s a filming day, and I am filming book talk videos this week. I love our video book talks on YouTube, but this is one of those projects that I know will need to wrap up soon (I rarely have more than an hour at a time off desk or out of a meeting when at work, so finding time to film and edit these is going to become much harder). With that in mind, with the videos I filmed today, I have enough video book talks to schedule one a week through the end of May. I like to think these will continue after May, but realistically my time is going to be pulled elsewhere. I just film all of the snippets today; I’ll leave editing and uploading for tomorrow.

1:30 pm: First comes email (which is always a beast of its own), with a particular focus on confirming dates for the graphic novel virtual author visits funded by a LSTA grant.

2 pm: By around 2 pm, I’m ready to dive into another project that I managed to start at work the day before: storytime planning for the month of April. I have four toddler storytimes next month, and it is much easier for me to plan and coordinate content all at once. And, as we storytime librarians know, planning a storytime takes so much more time than the public (and even some of our non-youth-department coworkers) may think.

For toddler storytime prep, I take a look at what content I have used in the last few months and what new content I would like to mix together. Pre-covid, I mostly presented Baby Storytimes in person. We displayed words to activities on a PowerPoint during the program. To make the planning process simpler, I kept a “master powerpoint” with all the slides I’ve ever used, organized by type of activity, with the last date it was used in the notes field. After a few weeks into the pandemic, I had a feeling we were in this for the long haul, and I started the same process for all of my virtual storytimes too.

This process adds more time to virtual prep, but it also means that I am really ready, content-wise, for in-person programs to return, with more core storytime materials prepared than I have ever had previously. this bank of content is also incredibly useful when planning storytimes. I don’t theme, but instead I follow the same structure each week. Sorting the slides by type of content (early literacy tip, book, song, fingerplay, retelling) lets me easily see what is in my repertoire and when I used it last.

And finally, outlining a month’s worth of programs at once lets me see what I am covering overall. I can look at the kind of early literacy and fine motor skills I am incorporating, but also see what I am missing and figure out a way to add it in. Everything is so carefully selected during our programs–we are trying to meet so many different sets of standards while keeping to a familiar routine and also making sure storytime is fun and engaging. All of that mixed with finding materials we are comfortable and excited to present (and that work virtually!) can sometimes make storytime planning a challenge–it is never quite so simple as grabbing a book and picking a song or two.

This structure also makes it really easy to share my materials with my colleagues when needed–just email the powerpoint file.

4 pm: By 4 pm, storytime prep work is done, and I have an ALSC Education meeting. Lots of conversations about promotion of the ALSC Competencies (which we worked on updating last year) and discussion of past webinars that we have reviewed. This meeting is always fairly quick, and by about 4:30 pm, I am back to library work.

4:30 pm: It’s time for Wizards & Wands planning. This is the project I really wish I had more time to dedicate to while working from home because balancing the rest of my job and an annual event for 3000 people with a $18,000+ budget can be a lot. But, since the pandemic isn’t over, we still just don’t know if there will be an event this fall, so there is only so much work I can do.

However, “only so much work” does not mean “no work”, and even with no clear answers about whether the event will only be a month of decorations or an all-in-one magical evening, there is a lot of prep work that needs to take place to create the level of immersion we are used to. I finalize the agenda for this week’s full committee meeting, update the list of past presenters to include those we contacted and cancelled in 2020, talked to our Decorations Lead about projects she can work on and projects she can bring to the group, booked meeting rooms for the end of September so we have a space to prep our décor before we hang it up at the beginning of the month, and prepare an assignment form with all the tasks delegated to the new Prize Drawings Lead committee role that I will be creating at Friday’s meeting.

I haven’t talked about this program much on the blog–it feels like a challenge just to figure out how to structure a series of blog posts about this event. But maybe someday? In the meantime, catch a glimpse of what this event looked like in 2019 in this video (moving forward, we have made the decision to keep the magic, but remove anything directly related to Harry Potter).

6 pm: Done for the day! As much as I dislike mornings, it feels great to have a full evening to myself (especially when a work from home day follows another work from home day, and I don’t have to go to bed super early because I don’t have to wake up super early).

Work from home days have the benefit of large blocks of time that mean I can concentrate on a project and get it done in one sitting instead of having to return to it in 15-minute chunks of time over multiple days. My time work from home has helped me see the argument for the problem with multitasking–because in-library days are filled with multitasking as we help patrons, answer phones, pull bundles, respond to emails, talk to coworkers, and work on everything else on our list. I’m especially wondering how make-and-take programs will work with full in-building hours–those are ever popular, but for me, all work on those has been regulated to at-home time.

I’ve never been bored during work from home days, that’s for sure. I’ve been a bit jealous of people who have been able to power through their backlog of webinars and professional development. I have been able to watch a decent amount of content over the last year (maybe 1-2 a month), but I have really had to prioritize it. More often than not, a great webinar is added to my running to-do list, and a few months later it drops off the list again because I know I won’t get to it.

What do you work from home days look like? Share in the comments below.

Virtual Reader’s Advisory Part 2

A lot can change in a few months! I last blogged about Virtual Reader’s Advisory and my video book talks in September. Since then, we’ve tried other methods of virtual reader’s advisory, including the Virtual Book Displays I shared a few months back and even a few Virtual Book Talks directly to classrooms.

But the biggest change since any of those previous posts is that–like many of you I imagine–my library is now open to the public! Real displays are once again a regular part of our service, and it feels like our patrons want them more than ever before, with displays quickly being emptied and a few requests last week for more face out picture book options.

However, many people still aren’t coming into the library, so we are continuing to look for ways to virtually promote books. Read on for some information on Overdrive Curated Collections and new video book talks.

OverDrive Curated Collections

Our OverDrive system (part of the larger Ohio Digital Library collection) lets us create collections of books to highlight on the Libby app and Overdrive website.

The backend looks a little drab, and the process for adding books to the list isn’t my favorite:

To add books to your list, you need to search for them one at a time in Overdrive Marketplace (or search for subject headings and filter).

Adding to the frustration of that system, many kids books, especially picture books, aren’t available as ebooks (or we don’t own them, and since I am not in charge of purchasing, I can’t add them).

But even with those struggles, I had a lot of fun making lists for this service. I use Libby a lot personally, and it feels great to see something I created front and center on a service like this.

From what I can tell, you should be able to see these collections through the links below, even without an account at my library. The exact books you see will be randomized, with available titles showing up first. Check out some of the collections I’ve made:

Video Book Talks

And of course, video book talks continue on our YouTube channel. I’ve streamlined this process a bit, but these still have a similar vibe to the ones shared in my original video book talk post as well as my virtual reader’s advisory post.

Find some of my newest highlighted titles below (and subscribe to my library’s YouTube channel for at least one additional video book talk each week!).

13th Street: Battle of the Bad Breath Bats by David Bowles

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Craftily Ever After by Martha Maker

Dave the Unicorn by Pip Bird

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso

Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed

Dramatic Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith

Farah Rocks Summer Break by Susan Muaddi Darraj

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Keep It Together Keiko Carter by Debbie Michiko Florence

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano

The Land of Cranes by Aida Salazar

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

Locker 37: The Rewindable Clock by Aaron Starmer

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher

Measuring Up by Lily Lamotte

Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White

Mia Mayhem is a Superhero! by Kara West

Not Your All-American Girl by Wendy Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Meija

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Museum by Renee Treml

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Sparkleton: The Magic Day by Calliope Glass

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom by Kelly Starling Lyons

Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zoey & Sassafras: Dragons & Marshmallows by Asia Citro

Day in the Life: A Monday in the Library

What does a day in the life of a post-pandemic children’s librarian look like? Well every day is still a bit different, that’s for sure! At my library, I currently have 1-2 work from home days a week, with the rest of my days in the library. And of course, library work is much different post-pandemic. At this time, in my state, COVID vaccines will be opening up to essentially all adults around the end of March. We are still under many health orders and lots of special procedures for everyone’s safety. Some days (especially Saturdays), I may be on a public service desk for 7-8 hours out of a 9 hour day. On weekdays that is often a bit less, but the rest of that time is filled in with programs and work that can only be done in the library (department cleaning, filling subscription bundles, printing materials for future programs, etc.).

One Monday in the library, coming up!

8:50 am: Arrive at work. Return books checked out to me. For ideal social distancing, I’m currently working in the space that is regularly our Homework Help Center. Since I am headed straight to a customer service shift at 9 am, this turns into a quick dump of my brought-from-home programming supplies and moving to my first location of the day.

9 am: I’m starting my day with a greeter shift. The “Greeter” is the first person patrons see when they come into the library. We make sure that people entering the building are wearing face coverings (covering their nose and chin) and remind families to stay together. It’s a quiet morning, so I’m also able to catch up on some email.

10 am: I have the next two hours off desk, but there is plenty to do! We are at the end of our particularly busy two weeks a month of filling 25-40 subscription bundles a day. Today, we just have 26 bundles to fill. Families can fill out a form and request books for their kids each month, picked by librarians based on theme and age, and placed at the drive thru window for pickup. This services has been extremely popular at my library–with over 500 bundles to fill each month–and each bundle takes some time to curate. Keep an eye out for a post with more details on the bundle process.

10:50 am: After pulling and sorting books for about four similarly themed bundles (I’ve been focusing on same topic to try to make this process faster), I leave the books on a cart to process when I am on desk again (“process” means add titles of books to our shared bundle spreadsheet, place holds for the particular family for each of the books I’ve pulled, generate a hold slips for each bundle, and prepare the bundle to take over to the drive thru window for pickup). I pause for a quick email check and to review my Baby Storytime plans for the next day (shown above). I send links for all of my storytime activities to my coworker who will be greeting viewers in the comments.

11 am: Time off-desk in the library is limited, so soon I am on my way upstairs to the youth staff workroom. We’ve been cleaning the department in batches. Last week, I dumped a lot of the recyclables we used during baby or toddler play activities or for in-the-library craft programs that won’t be happening soon. This week, it was time to discuss some items that we simply don’t use frequently enough to keep (giant map of the U.S., record player, and more) and some items that were well-loved department play toys but aren’t easy to clean (lots of stuffed animals from our popular Imagination Station).

I’ve been cleaning in short batches of time, so this was a quick hour of doing another look around many of our cabinets to pull items to review onto a cart for everyone to look at. Plus a quick resorting of our paper area to make all of the various manila envelopes we use for distributing pick-up program kits fit on the shelves. Work on this will continue, but that was all I could manage before…

12 pm: Back on desk! Our teen room has been very quiet throughout reopening, so I bring the cart of books I pulled for subscription bundles into this space to take care of all of the computer work. That takes about the full hour, with a few more minutes to send some emails about those materials I pulled onto a cart for everyone in the youth department to review before we throw them away.

1 pm: Lunch!

2 pm: Back from lunch and working at the busier youth desk. I help with processing the last few bundles for the day before taking a look at other projects. I missed a last minute Equity & Diversity sub-committee meeting the week before, so I schedule a follow up with our E&D Specialist for Tuesday morning. I have a few more minutes to review the storytime schedule for April, in between directing families to various materials and answering questions about upcoming programs. Families REALLY want in-person storytimes back soon!

3 pm: Leaving desk, I take a few minutes to dive into Wizards & Wands planning. I chair the planning committee for this library-wide celebration of all things magic, and while we have no idea what 2021 will bring, we can start moving ahead on various projects. I update the presenters spreadsheet to include presenters we contacted (and then cancelled) in 2020 before emailing out reminders about Friday’s meeting, emailing a meeting agenda to my assistant chair, and continuing the conversation about décor plans with our Decorations Lead. There is always more work to be done here, but I need to stop because I have an afternoon storytime coming soon.

3:30 pm: Time to set up our recording studio for 4:30 pm’s Little People Big Dream’s program. This is the first time I have presented this series in the library, so it takes a little longer to setup and work through the camera frame (and it somehow still ended up at an angle–not sure what happened there). I also do a quick read through of the books I’m sharing and practice our song for getting the wiggles out.

4:30 pm: There was a little more time in there for email work, but soon it is time for storytime to begin! Learn more about this storytime in this post.

5 pm: Storytime wraps up by 5 pm, but I have to clean up and reset the storytime space so anyone filming next has a more familiar space.

5:20 pm: After about 20 minutes of cleanup, I head back over to the youth area. I help clean up some of the book displays, gather books for a future program, check out all of the books that came in for me over the weekend, and help pack up the department before the library closes at 6 pm.

Lots to share, but compared to many days, that was pretty calm! We are definitely kept busy with the multitude of activities, programs, and services we offer. Perhaps I’ll follow up next week with a work-from-home day in the life? Let me know if this look’s like your work day in the comments below.

Subscription Bundles for Kids

Long before the covid pandemic, books have been a core part of library services. Getting those books into the hands of kids and families while the physical building has been closed has been a challenge. My library decided to try a service that many libraries already offer in some capacity: subscription bundles.

Subscription bundles are similar to the concept of a subscription box (except free and no box). Readers fill out an online form and library staff pull 5-8 books for them, based on age and interests, each month for three months (with the option to renew).

The concept is simple, and the reader’s advisory work can be a lot of fun too. You are limited by what is on the shelves at the time, but you aren’t rushed by a grown-up who only has a few minutes in the library. You can promote different kinds of materials a family may not always consider (or find)–graphic novels, nonfiction, and more. And there is a small benefit of sometimes being able to squeeze into a bundle an on-topic book that is a hard sell in person–but a kid might give it a try when they are looking at it on their own.

Subscription Bundle Form

Families sign-up for the subscription bundle service by filling out a Google form found on our website. The public-facing description of this service, crafted by our marketing department, is:

Spend more time reading, and less time choosing! Let your favorite Westerville librarians bundle together 5-8 books for you each month, based on your interests. For ages 0-18

You’ll receive an email when your bundle is ready to pick up at the drive-thru. (After 3 months, you’ll have the option to continue your subscription.)

Our website directs people to our Google form:

The questions on the form include:

  • Email Address
  • First and Last Name
  • Recipient’s Name (if not you)
  • Library Card Number
  • Recipient’s Age (changed from an initial grade range)
  • Tell us about 3 things the recipient is interested in. (Examples: trains, dinosaurs, fairy tales, comics, mysteries, favorite authors, series, etc.) 
  • Is there anything else you’d like us to know? (Optional: book you enjoyed recently (or didn’t), reading level, etc.)

The form has stayed the same for the last few months with a few small updates including an increased time frame of expecting your bundle to be ready in 5 days (started at 3 days) and a change to the age question. Initially, this question had been a drop down based on grade (Baby/Toddler, PreS, K-3, 4-6, Middle School, Teen). This worked for most age ranges, but the K-3 age range could be particularly tricky, since the books a Kindergartener may want to read or have read to them can be very different than the books a 3rd grader is looking for. So, we changed this to a fill-in-the-blank general age question.

Subscription Bundle Organization

This is where things can get tricky, particularly at the incredibly high volume we are operating at.

The Google form populates a spreadsheet of responses. The spreadsheet looks a bit like this. (Columns with any patron identifying information are hidden. Filter is only on to highlight bundles I’ve personally filled.)

The left part of the spreadsheet contains the rest of the columns that match the form–date the form was submitted, email address, recipient’s name, library card, etc.

We fill in the columns starting with “Bundle 1 Staff Member.” Each round of bundles has its own set of columns, including:

  • Bundle 3: Staff Name (the staff member who took the bundle)
  • Bundle 3: Date (the date the bundle is supposed to be filled)
  • Bundle 3: Books (books pulled for that bundle)
  • Done: Initials of staff member who processed the bundle and took its contents to the drive thru
  • Bundle 3: Email Sent? (labeled when an email is sent the next morning to the people whose bundles were filled)

You may have noticed that, unless you cancel or don’t pick up two bundles, families are automatically set to receive three bundles, and then they can renew for an additional three months (and so on). This makes for a very long spreadsheet.

Since part of the perk of a bundle is to make sure a child doesn’t receive the same books twice, we don’t want to delete old columns or start a new spreadsheet for renewals (since that means more places to check for titles that were shared before). And we can’t hide columns that aren’t as necessary later (such as the name of the staff member who filled the first bundle when you are filling bundle four, because, at the very bottom of the spreadsheet, new forms are being filled out–meaning some people on the spreadsheet haven’t received any bundles yet.

I do wonder if there is a way to streamline this a bit more–maybe with a tab based system? Maybe bundles could be moved to a new tab when they move on to bundle 2 or bundle 3–that might allow for some columns to be hidden for bundles farther down the renewal process, while still allowing first bundles to be added to the original tab. That would involve checking more places, but they would all still be in one spreadsheet–and we still have to scroll a ton to check each column when we are receiving a mix of bundle 1, 2, 3, and 4’s to fill each day. (Sorry if that didn’t make sense–figuring out a way to make this process flow a little smoother still flummoxes me).

Keeping Track of Bundles

There is another step here as well. The spreadsheet doesn’t auto-populate bundle 2 and bundle 3 dates, and we had quite a rush of bundle form submissions over the course of just one week in early January. Those renewals have since been spread out using our Google Calendar.

Whenever we fill a first bundle, we also create an appointment on our department’s Google Calendar. This lets us see (and print out) a list of all of the bundles to be filled on a particular day. This looks a little like the image below (much of it is blurred because of kids names).

During pandemic hours, we are closed on Sundays,
and we moved bundles off of Saturdays due to how many other responsibilities we have on those days.

Our manager works on assigning bundles to various days to spread out the workload.

For many of us, our first step for the day is adding the dates for bundles to be filled that day to the spreadsheet for easier searching. This isn’t a permanent part of the routine, but for myself and many of my coworkers, we’ve found it really useful to see those dates in the spreadsheet too instead of having to look back and forth between the calendar and the spreadsheet multiple times a day.

Cancellations, Renewals, and No Shows…Oh my.

There are many more components to this service too including:

  • keeping track of patrons who have chosen to cancel their subscription
  • keeping track of patrons who failed to pick up their bundle repeatedly
  • asking if patrons want to renew their bundle after their first three months are up

My manager has been keeping track of all of these moving parts in separate spreadsheets.

Subscription Bundle Creation

A few hundred words later, and I haven’t actually talked about making a bundle yet! Each bundle takes time–I’d estimate about 20-30 minutes each from start to finish. Sometimes more, sometimes less–more if someone has particularly nuanced requests, and you can’t select books used in the last 2-3 bundles; less if someone more generally wants “series for third graders.”

Filling a Bundle:

  1. Look at the calendar and spreadsheet for bundles assigned to that day. Type your name in the appropriate “Staff Name” column for any bundles you are claiming.
  2. Look at the reported age and interests, as well as previously selected books if this is a bundle that has been filled previously. Either use the catalog or walk the shelves to find 5-8 books that fit those interests that haven’t been given to this person before.
    *To save time, I’ve been intentionally picking bundles that are for a similar age range and interests, if possible. For example, if there are 30 bundles that day, and 6 kids say they want Dog Man readalikes, I start by claiming all of those bundles. This lets me sweep the shelves for anything that applies, divide them up by kid, and then look for more specific titles to flesh out remaining gaps. This has also helped me from “competing” with my fellow coworkers for titles–if we are all looking for the one “available” copy of the newest InvestiGATORS book, only one of us will find it, and the rest will need to find a new book to fill our bundle.
  3. Once I’ve found all of my books (and sorted them by kid), I type the titles of the books into the Google Spreadsheet column for that bundle’s books. I double check that anything I pulled wasn’t used before.
  4. At this point, if this is the first bundle, I add appointments to the Google Calendar for the next two bundles.
  5. At a service point with access to our ILS, I put the books on hold for the appropriate library card. There may be some rearranging if a book I pulled off the shelf is on hold for another patron.
  6. After putting the books on hold, I check them in, processing hold slips for each book.
  7. Books are bundled together using a H-band. Shortest in the front for easiest check out at the drive thru window.
  8. If this is a first bundle, the bundle gets a manila envelope with some goodies–a bookmark, a sticker, a library flyer, and more.
  9. Whether this is a first bundle or a later bundle, a card is added to the front of the pile with the recipient’s name.

H-Bands:

Our bundles are secured with H bands. These four-way rubber bands work well for holding big stacks of books together.

These Amazon ones are more brightly colored, but they can be a bit floppy depending the size of the stack you are filling. (See the lack of fit over the smaller, thinner first chapter books.)

These DEMCO H bands fit better to essentially any size stack of materials, but they do have a different texture that I’m not personally a fan of.

Giant rubber bands have also worked in a pinch when we run out of h bands. We don’t ask patrons to return the h bands, though they sometimes do.

Subscription Cards:

Each bundle comes with a subscription card taped to the top book. These have room for us to write the recipient’s name:

These were designed, printed, and cut by our amazing marketing department.

Bundle Contents:

What kind of books might make it into a bundle? There are some pictures above, but I’ve also pulled some title lists of bundles that I’ve created over the last few months. I aim for the same selection principles I use for my book talks — a variety of types of materials, some easier and some harder, and lots of diversity, but I’m also trying to meet each child’s needs and interests with what we have on the shelf at that moment. This can make some bundles frustrating to pull when all of my favorite books are checked out!

  • 18 months. Board books, lift the flap, really any topic.
    • Where’s the Unicorn? (Arrhenius)
    • Never Touch a Tiger
    • Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)
    • Baby’s Big Busy Book (Katz)
    • What Is Baby Going to Do?
    • Baby Faces Peekaboo?
    • Let’s Find the Kitten
    • Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin
  • 2nd Grade: Comics, Robots (Big Hero 6), Science
    • Baloney and Friends
    • Sadiq and the Bridge Builders
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (Pilkey)
    • Big Hero 6 (graphic novel)
    • Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
    • Cat Kid Comic Club
    • Krypto the Superdog Here Comes Krypto
    • Max Axiom: Volcanoes
  • Grades 4-6. Dogman, Sports, Cars, Hilo, Minecraft. Reluctant reader.
    • Investigators Take the Plunge
    • Geronimo Stilton: Sewer Rat Stink
    • Bird and Squirrel: On the Run
    • Time Museum
    • Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker
    • Agent Moose
    • Monster Mayhem
    • Drew and Jot
  • Teen. War, Magic/Fantasy, Space.
    • Illuminae
    • Mechanica
    • The Circle
    • Scythe
    • Rebel Rose
    • Poisoned

Tips and Advice

Ah, the hardest part of this to write, buried at the bottom of an already lengthy post.

First, the pros:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During a time when people cannot or may not want to come into the library, this is a great way to get books into kids’ hands.
  • Circulation numbers are high!
  • Great books that aren’t always picked up can be sent home in bundles and given a chance at circulating.
  • I see the caregiver appeal, even outside of the pandemic. This is a great service for grown-ups-on-the-go with busy schedules, and for caregivers who simply can’t make it to the library regularly, especially bringing one or more kids in tow. There is a convenience to this service that can’t be beat.
  • The patron feedback is overwhelmingly positive. There is more positive feedback for bundles than many other services we offer.

Then, the cons:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During this intermediary time, when the public is allowed back in the library but we are doing our best to stay away from them, pulling bundles is tough, since patrons get first use of the shelves.
  • Pulling bundles is time consuming. Selecting books for a child and all of the necessary processing can take 20-30 minutes per kid. Sometimes more (and sometimes less). In an effort to move through 30-40 bundles in a day, I sometimes find myself having to sacrifice finding the “perfect” book for a kid in place of finding something that is sort of related to their interests, simply because I don’t have enough time in a day to fill this many bundles and cover the rest of my responsibilities.
  • Long term, I wonder how this will affect weeding. We weed based on circulation numbers (and other criteria, but circulation is a big part). There are some books that I see get selected for bundles that are a bit dated and grungy looking, and that I know haven’t circulated on their own in a year or more. Will weeding stats still reflect kids’ interests if we are “forcing” (not the right word) them to check out books they wouldn’t have checked out otherwise? How will this reflect in physical space on our shelves in a few years?
  • Due to the popularity and patron feedback, subscription bundles can become what feels like the “most-important service” instead of one of many that serve different needs.

Before starting a subscription bundle service, here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you have the staffing to select, pull, and process bundles? If so, how many bundles can your staff reasonably do in a day while not detracting from other duties? If your staff doesn’t have the time to do each step of that process, is there a way to remove one or more steps to make the process easier? Do you need to set a cap on this service?
  • How does this fit in with what else you currently offer or don’t offer? There are some similarities in this service to teacher collections. Is there a way to merge the two?
  • Do you want this to be a subscription service? Do you have the long-term staffing to handle that? Do you have the current staffing to handle the additional organizational components of a subscription service–processing renewals, recording cancellations, scheduling future bundles?
  • What will your response be to families who want this service to be more frequent than your interval of choice? For example, each family gets a new bundle each month, but we have had many requests for us to pull new bundles for a family on a weekly or biweekly basis.
  • Where will people pick up their bundles? Do you have the physical space to put these bundles on holds shelves? What is the capacity of your physical space?
  • Who will handle cancellations? If your circulation staff normally processes cancelled holds, can they handle the increase in cancelled items created by this service?
  • Is there a way to make this service more accessible? For example, our service requires you to fill out a form online. You could call us, and we could fill out the form for you, but do people know that? For us, people have to pick up books at our physical location (for now anyway–schools might be an option long term). Can these bundles be picked up at other service points? Related–how easy is it for people in your community to get the library card required for sign-up?

Now, I’m going to be blunt. But, I also think you *really* have to be committed to this service to have read this far down the post, so if you have put the time in, you deserve to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Subscription bundles are great. Families love them. In small does, I love them. I love reader’s advisory, and I love picking out the perfect books for a child. More books check out than ever before. Our service are more convenient than ever before.

At the same time, my biggest pro and con for this service is what my particular library experienced: we got a little bit of social media promotion from some happy families, and we have been filling over 500 bundles a month. That means, in a month like February, we pulled at least 3000 books for patrons (estimating 6 books out of 5-8, though most bundles include 8 books). If each bundle takes 25 minutes (average) to work through all of the steps of selection and processing, we spent, as a staff, at least 200 hours pulling and processing bundles (in perspective, with four 40 hour weeks in a month, one person works about 160 hours a month).

We are lucky to have a very large staff, but with many hours work from home to accommodate social distancing, reopening to the public, desk and customer service hours, full programming schedules, and more–this has been tough. It makes work days even more exhausting, during a period of peak stress as we all adjusted to the library building being available to the public again, many personal questions about vaccines, and the reintroduction of services (or even just conversations around reintroduction of services), all on top of everything we have added to our plates since the pandemic began.

Bundles are great when everyone has time to handle the workload. Before starting something like this, really think about what you and your staff have time (and mental capacity) for. Maybe you need to set a cap–only 100 bundles at a time, with a waiting list of additional participants. Maybe you need to evaluate how to make each step of the process take less time by not getting quite this elaborate. Plan a way to back out if needed. Subscription bundles are a fantastic service–but make sure to be wary of the time and logistics before committing.

Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Jean-Michel Basquiat

As part of our virtual programming, I run a monthly school age storytime, designed for ages 6-8. This program highlights a different diverse individual from the Little People Big Dreams book series. In March, this program featured Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Each program features 1-2 books on the famous individual (one book being their matching title from the Little People, Big Dreams book series). I also highlight music from a diverse artist and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad Ali
Rosa Parks

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Watch the full storytime here:

In the event description, I included the link to the printable at home activity packet.

Storytime Outline

Intro: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

First Book: Jean-Michel Basquiat by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT /ANGLAIS: SANCHEZ VEGARA  ISABE: 9780711245792: Amazon.com: Books

Movement Break: Down Down Up Up by Kymberly Stewart

Second Book: Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

Children's Books - Mobile Museum of Art - Mobile Museum of Art

Closing Rhyme: See You Later, Alligator

See you later, alligator
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug
Blow a kiss, jellyfish
See you soon, big baboon
Out the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Wave goodbye, butterfly!

Next Time: Malala Yousafzai

Virtual Book Talk: Grades K-5

Book talks are one of my favorite parts of librarianship. I love going into classrooms, seeing a captive audience of students (who may or may not be excited to see me–at first), and building a feeling of mounting excitement as kids learn that their library is full of fun places to go, fun programs to participate in, and a bunch of books that are actually really cool. My booktalks are packed with energy and popular topics. And I haven’t presented one in about a year. We reached out to schools about virtual book talk options, but while some of my coworkers have had luck, every teacher I’ve reached out to never actually schedules a virtual book talk. I’ve made over 100 individual YouTube book talk videos, and while those are fun, I don’t get to talk to any kids. Finally, (finally!) about a year since I was last in a classroom, I had the chance to talk to some kids virtually.

This presentation was definitely different than in-person book talks. First, I had a collection of grades at once: K-2 and then 3-5 (30 minutes each). Second, since I was presenting virtually with a powerpoint with images, I could pick any book. I wasn’t limited by what was on our shelves. Also, unlike in-person book talks, where we are scheduled to see the same class multiple times a year, this was a one-and-done experience for the school’s literacy day. This opened up so, so many book possibilities. I’m still not sure I’m entirely happy with my choices–it was simply so hard to choose!

The school also wanted me to talk about some other services too. Specifically, they wanted a library tour, information about library cards, and details on programs and services. This was much tougher than usual because the places and services I normally highlight on a tour or during an in-person book talk still aren’t operating. Our play spaces, video game room, and homework help center are closed. Kids can come in and use the computers, but they aren’t encouraged to come game with their friends for hours like they might have done in 2019. I can and did share the different types of books we have, but I wasn’t able to highlight much beyond that.

I talked a bit about getting a library card–which is easier than it has ever been–and about some of our upcoming virtual events as well, before jumping into the books!

Just like I do for in-person visits, I included slides with big images of covers and select spreads:

For Grades K-2, I highlighted these books:

The full K-2 PowerPoint is available here:

For Grades 3-5, I featured these books:

The full 3-5 PowerPoint is available here:

I think the content presented virtually was a bit too much for the students in grades K-2, but grades 3-5 stayed with me and even asked a bunch of questions at the end about the books I discussed, other books, and the library’s history.

It felt fantastic to be able to talk to students again, especially in a way that let me hear from them too. Hopefully, maybe, we will be able to do more of these virtual visits next year in classroom settings. Even if we can’t go into the classrooms, hopefully our local schools will be on a better routine that might allow us to stop by (virtually) more often than we could this school year. There are certain core elements of librarianship that are part of why I signed up for this job in the first place–and talking to kids about books is one of them. While I know these won’t be around forever, especially if I pursue a career in management or collection development or many other future directions, I also wasn’t quite ready to let these things go yet–so for now I’m just happy to have had another opportunity to talk to a bunch of kids about books.

Don’t Let Pigeon Take Over Storytime!

Pigeon Storytime! Featuring the one and only bird from the Mo Willems books. I have my own personal secret: I hate this bird. The books and Pigeon’s general personality annoy me to no end. But…this ended up being one of my favorite storytimes.

The highlight, of course, was Pigeon’s attempted storytime coup:

Catch a glimpse of the whole experience in the video below.

This was another very popular program: over 600 virtual attendees!

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Many of these materials are from Mo Willems’ Pigeon website, full of great resources. Download the activity packet here.

Watch the short preview video below. This isn’t like many of my other preview videos…instead Pigeon keeps popping up all over the library!

And watch the full storytime here:

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable.

Pigeon Storytime Outline

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Pigeon Book: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!: Mo Willems, Mo Willems: 8601416094786:  Amazon.com: Books

Music: Wheels on the Bus by Jay Laga’aia

Action Song: If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It

If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it,
And you really want to show it!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!

Shake your tail (shake, shake)
Eat your cookies (nom, nom)
Drive the bus (zoom, zoom)

Pigeon Takeover
After If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It, I realized–oops!–I forgot our second book! I needed to step out to get it, and while I did just that, I put on some music and needed everyone watching to keep an eye on storytime. Sure enough, Pigeon attempted a takeover!

I didn’t actually leave the room–instead I had a table on wheels to the side of the screen. When I stepped off screen, I opened and closed the door to the room before wheeling the table on screen. I tested the height ahead of time to make sure Pigeon was visible but the table wasn’t.

I had the signs piled and ready on a table off screen. The sticks were attached from the top because it is much easier to drop something from above onto the screen then for me to try to lay below the camera and get up again. If I did this again, I might try to have this situated somehow so the signs were resting on the table, and I removed one at a time. My hand was shaking quite a bit during this portion (so the signs were too).

I ran through the timing of the song and the signs beforehand and made sure I had just enough signs to last the length of the song. I came back at the end of the song with another opening and closing of the door and a loud “PIGEON!” before returning on camera to “rescue” storytime.

Pigeon Book: The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (Pigeon series): Willems, Mo, Willems, Mo:  8601420609846: Amazon.com: Books

Magnet: Pigeon Playing Hide and Seek

Pigeon, Pigeon playing hide and seek
Are you behind the yummy cookie?
Let’s take a peek!

Closing Song: I Know a PIGEON (Chicken) by Laurie Berkner
We very loudly shouted PIGEON in place of Chicken throughout the song.

Extra, Extra!
I filmed a few extra Pigeon videos that were on YouTube but didn’t make it into storytime:

Two Little Pigeons:

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a hill
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Run away Jack, run away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a cloud.
One named soft and one named loud.
Run away soft, run away loud.
Come back soft, come back loud.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on down below.
One named fast and one named slow.
Run away fast, run away slow.
Come back fast, come back slow.

Five Little Pigeons Sitting in a Tree:

Five little pigeons sitting in a tree
One flew away! How many do you see?

One, two, three four!


And finally, I attempted to write a rhyme to the tune of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, but I didn’t get it quite right. Feel free to edit and make it your own!

The happy little pigeon
Snuck onto the bus route.
Along came the driver
Who chased the pigeon out.
Along came the kids who
Jumped onto the bus.
And the happy little pigeon
Rode along with us.

Book Club in a Bag: Shuri

Take-and-make kits; craft kits; programs to go: whatever your library calls these programs in a bag that have become a staple of no-contact offerings, one thing is fairly standard: these kits are well loved, but they take time to make. I love creating materials for kits and thinking about how a family might interact with program materials at home. I’ve introduced a new pair of kits for ages 6-11 in January 2021: Book Club in a Bag. This week’s feature: Shuri by Nic Stone.

The Book Club in a Bag kits look a bit different from some of my previous kits. Instead of focusing on just one book universe, these kits each feature four characters, hopefully some old favorites as well as some new, diverse characters.

In January, these featured characters included (links provided as the bag contents are shared on Book Cart Queens):

Each bag contains some repeated resources:

  • List of kit contents
  • List of books in the featured series
  • List of readalike books
  • Discussion questions
  • Swag item (button, sticker, bookmark)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Shuri Kit

The Shuri Kit can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. Most of this kit can be re-created simply using a printer, with the addition of extra items depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Shuri Kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links below, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

Shuri General Materials

Each bag contains some of the same basic materials, and the Shuri kit is no different.

Shuri Bookmark – All Books

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing all book titles here.

Shuri Bookmark – Readalikes

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the Readalike titles here.

The Shuri readalike bookmark features these titles:

Shuri Discussion Questions

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the discussion questions here.

The Shuri Discussion Questions include:

  • Shuri has the responsibilities of a princess, even though she really wants to spend time creating fascinating new inventions. When have you had to choose between something you have to do and something you love to do?
  • When Shuri first realizes there is a problem with the Heart-Shaped Herb, the adults seem too busy to listen. How do you convince people to listen when you have something important to share?
  • Shuri meets many superheroes on her adventures. Who is your favorite superhero? If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
  • Think about K’Marah and Shuri’s relationship. Are they friends at the beginning of the novel? What about at the end? How do you know?

Shuri Swag – Activity Book

This bag also included a Shuri Superhero Activity Packet. Download a ready-to-print PDF here.

Shuri Crafts, Games, and More

This particular bag included two activities: a Create Your Own Superhero activity sheet and a pack of Superhero BINGO carts.

Download the Create Your Own Superhero Sheet here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

BINGO Cards

I also included a set of Superhero BINGO cards. I first used these for a Facebook Live event a few months ago, but I created a play at home, pre-printed set for each Shuri kit.

Download the Superhero BINGO Cards here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

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