Tag Archives: library program

Book Club in a Bag: Sadiq Kit

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: Book Club in a Bag (also known as Leap Off the Page, since we already have book club kits at our library, and the original name became confusing). This week: Sadiq by Siman Nuurali.

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

  • Ages 8-11:
    • Tristan Strong (Kwambe Mbalia)
    • Last Kids on Earth (Max Brallier)
    • Two Truths and a Lie (Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson)
    • Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Kat Leyh, Faith Erin Hicks)

Check out these previously featured Book Club kits:

Elephant & Piggie (Mo Willems)
Mindy Kim (Lyla Lee)
Yasmin (Saadia Faruqi)
Azaleah Lane (Nikki Shannon Smith)
Wings of Fire (Tui T. Sutherland)
New Kid (Jerry Craft)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Dana Simpson)
Shuri (Nic Stone)

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, bookmarks)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Sadiq Kit

The Sadiq 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 (like DIY journals) depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Sadiq 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.

Sadiq Kit General Materials

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF featuring all kit activities here.

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing readalikes here.

The Sadiq readalikes bookmark features these titles:

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

The Sadiq Discussion Questions included:

  • Talk about Sadiq and the Fun Run:
    • What reason did Sadiq’s parents give for not letting him try out for football? Do you think they were being fair?
    • Sadiq feels left out when his friends Manny and Zaza talk about their football team. Share an experience you’ve had of feeling left out.
    • Sadiq receives a lot of encouragement as he trains for the Fun Run. Who helps Sadiq prepare? Discuss how they help him.
  • Talk about Sadiq and the Perfect Play:
    • Manny feels upset while the Friends Theater Club works on the play. Why do you think he was mad?
    • Mr. Anderson, the director of Aliya’s play, tells Sadiq a director must ask others for help on completing a project. How do you delegate or ask others to do certain tasks?
    • Baba and Hooyo help Sadiq with his problems in the story. What are some of the lessons they teach him as he puts his play together?

This bag also included one swag item: a 2.25″ button made with our button maker.

Download the button images here.

Sadiq Crafts, Games, and More

First up: draw constellations! Each bag included two half sheets of black construction paper, a white crayon, a gold star sticker sheet, and constellation identification cards.

Slideshare not working? Download the constellation cards here.

Slideshare not working? Download the constellation instructions here.

The second craft also involved science–specifically sunlight. Participants made their own pipe cleaner creatures using pony beads and UV beads When put in sunlight, the UV beads will change color! For an extra challenge, participants can try to find something that they can wrap or coat the UV beads in that will stop them from changing color when they are placed in sunlight.

Download the instructions here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Book Club in a Bag: Zoey & Sassafras Kit

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: Book Club in a Bag (also known as Leap Off the Page, since we already have book club kits at our library, and the original name became confusing). This week: Zoey & Sassafras by Asia Citro.

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

  • Ages 8-11:
    • Tristan Strong (Kwambe Mbalia)
    • Last Kids on Earth (Max Brallier)
    • Two Truths and a Lie (Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson)
    • Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Kat Leyh, Faith Erin Hicks)

Check out these previously featured Book Club kits:

Elephant & Piggie (Mo Willems)
Mindy Kim (Lyla Lee)
Yasmin (Saadia Faruqi)
Azaleah Lane (Nikki Shannon Smith)
Wings of Fire (Tui T. Sutherland)
New Kid (Jerry Craft)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Dana Simpson)
Shuri (Nic Stone)

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, bookmarks)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Zoey & Sassafras Kit

The Zoey & Sassafras 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 (like DIY journals) depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Zoey & Sassafras 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.

Zoey & Sassafras Kit General Materials

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF featuring all kit activities here.

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing readalikes here.

The Zoey & Sassafras readalikes bookmark features these titles:

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

The Zoey & Sassafras Discussion Questions included:

  • Who is telling the story? How do you know?
  • What does Zoey learn from her first experiment?
  • What is the coolest magical creature that Zoey meets? Which would you like to meet the most?
  • Talk about Dragons and Marshmallows:
    • How did Zoey feel about being in charge of the barn and any magical creatures that might need help while her mom was away? Why do you think she felt this way?
    • Why does Zoey keep a science journal?
    • Zoey’s mom always tells her that in an experiment she needs to change just one thing and keep everything else the same. Why is it important to change just one thing?

This bag also included one swag item: a printable bookmark. I printed these on white cardstock.

Download the printable bookmark here.

Zoey & Sassafras Crafts, Games, and More

First up: make your own Sassafras! This cat craft was inspired by the headband craft from this blog. I recreated their template with a printable cardstock template with some color options to make it work in this kit.

Everything was printed on white cardstock.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft template here.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft instructions here.

The heart of this kit was the DIY Zoey & Sassafras science journal. I had a lot of fun designing this one–though there was more assembly involved than I initially anticipated. Each journal had a handful of opening pages and then four sets of the science journal/experiment pages, followed by some blank paper for more open-ended writing and drawing.

The cover images were printed on white cardstock, cut to size, and attached to slightly larger chipboard. Our industrial holepunch created the holes for the binder rings. The final assembly was left for the participants.

Download the instructions here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Download the covers here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Download the ready-to-print activity sheets here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Who Would Win: School Age Take and Make Kit

Who Would Win kits were created as a homage to the perennially-popular book series for early school-agers, Who Would Win by Jerry Pallotta. I have had this idea in my head for years but our youth programming schedule/my own personal schedule never allowed time for me to present this as an in-person program. Then, of course, the pandemic hit, so I chose to reformat this one as a take-home kit. 

The Who Would Win series is so sought after for our 1st-3rd grade readers and it has spawned some other series that you might want to check out:

Who Would Win Kit Contents

For the Who Would Win kit, I included several materials—the most time consuming of which was the document I created to emulate the Who Would Win book format. This document is inspired heavily by the original book series in format and content and this choice was intentional. This isn’t to copy what Jerry Pallotta created or to infringe on his intellectual property at all, more so to give the vibe that program participants are creating the next book in the Who Would Win series.

Download the ready-to-print Who Would Win booklet below:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

The Who Would Win kit came with several items:

  • Instruction sheet
  • Who Would Win Booklet
  • Blank sheets of paper for illustrating your animals
  • Glue dots (strips of dots affixed to wax paper for easy use)
  • Magazines (library discards—National Geographic Kids, Ranger Rick Jr., etc.)

The instructions for the kit include resources for kids to access for researching their animals. I included QR codes that would direct kids/grownups directly to our kid-friendly research databases. Of course, the kids were welcome to research the old-fashioned way and check out library books about their animals of choice.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

I like to design my kits so that they are all-inclusive. The only thing this kit does not include is a pair of scissors (that was cost-prohibitive). I don’t want to assume that any kiddo participating in my programs has access to a printer or computer at home so I don’t structure my programs so that either of those are necessary. I had 50 kids participate, and all those spots were snapped up pretty quickly after the program’s registration opened. 

This program could be easily reformatted to be an in-person program once supply-sharing is given the green light by health officials. I love an opportunity  to tie into our most popular book series. (I did another program series called Who Is/Who Was based on the “Big Head” books that circulate SO well.)

I really enjoyed making this one and the design of it was challenging but it was a lot of fun.

Want to use make a Who Would Win kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links aboce, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

Book Club in a Bag: Pete the Cat Kit

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: Book Club in a Bag (also known as Leap Off the Page, since we already have book club kits at our library, and the original name became confusing). This week: Pete the Cat.

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

  • Ages 8-11:
    • Tristan Strong (Kwambe Mbalia)
    • Last Kids on Earth (Max Brallier)
    • Two Truths and a Lie (Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson)
    • Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Kat Leyh, Faith Erin Hicks)

Check out these previously featured Book Club kits:

Elephant & Piggie (Mo Willems)
Mindy Kim (Lyla Lee)
Yasmin (Saadia Faruqi)
Azaleah Lane (Nikki Shannon Smith)
Wings of Fire (Tui T. Sutherland)
New Kid (Jerry Craft)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Dana Simpson)
Shuri (Nic Stone)

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, bookmarks)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Pete the Cat Kit

The Pete the Cat 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 (like buttons) depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Pete the Cat 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.

Pete the Cat Kit General Materials

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF featuring all kit activities here.


Unlike other kits, this bookmark does not include every Pete the Cat book, as there are a lot of them!

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing readalikes here.

The Pete the Cat readalikes bookmark features these titles:

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

The Pete the Cat Discussion Questions included:

  • Talk about Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes:
    • Did Pete’s day go as planned? Why or why not?
    • How would you feel if you stepped in a pile of strawberries, blueberries, or mud?
    • How do you think the large pile of strawberries got there?
    • How can you tell the difference between a big problem and a little problem?
    • Can you re-enact your favorite Pete the Cat story? What happens first? Next?
    • If cats could talk, what would you ask the next cat you meet? What do you think the cat would like to talk about?

This bag also included two swag items. The first is a Pete the Cat Activity Book, collecting activity sheets from the official Pete the Cat website.

Download a printable PDF of the activity booklet here.

Also, I printed stickers on 2.25″ Avery Circle Label Paper:

Download the printable sticker sheet here.

Pete the Cat Crafts, Games, and More

First up: make your own Pete the Cat headband! This craft was inspired by the headband craft from this blog. I recreated it with a printable cardstock template to make it work in this kit.

Everything was printed on white cardstock.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft template here.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft instructions here.

I also included a second craft, Pete the Cat button bracelets. I first saw this craft here, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how easily buttons can be strung onto a pipe cleaner.

Download the instructions below:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

And finally, I made a Pete the Cat BINGO set:

And download below:

Slideshare not working? Download the Pete the Cat BINGO cards here.

Little Free Library Kits: Dragonfly Craft

The highlight of 2020 (and 2021) No Contact Library Programming: Take and Make Kits! I’ve written about this before in other kit-based programs, but my library didn’t initially have the option for curbside-based pickup kits, like many other libraries have adopted. First we mailed kits to patrons, but more recently we have offered drive-thru (and now in-library) kit pickup. All of our take and make kits have required registration through our event calendar. This limits who we are reaching, as patrons have to know to check our event calendar to sign up for a program. One of our new service offerings that has allowed us to actively reach new people are our Little Free Library Kits!

These kits contain materials to make just one craft, though they also have to be physically small. Bags can’t hold anything larger than a half sheet of paper. Each month, we create 200 new bags that are distributed at 14 Little Free Libraries around our community. Even while our building may be closed, our amazing outreach team has been restocking these boxes with books (and now kits) that are always available to our community.

Read about my December picture frame craft here.

For May’s kits, I created a clothespin dragonfly craft and a nature scavenger hunt. I promise, not all dragonflies looked this depressed, but the last set of eye stickers I had for my sample were fairly sad looking.

Each kit included the following materials:

  • 1 clothespin
  • 1 pack of crayons
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • 1 set of eye stickers
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt

Instructions encouraged kids to make their own dragonfly to take on an exploration of their neighborhood as they complete the nature scavenger hunt.

Download the instructions here and the nature scavenger hunt here, or send me an email for the editable file (bookcartqueens@gmail.com).

Are you taking books and make-and-take kits to unique places in your community? Share in the comments!

Book Club in a Bag: Narwhal & Jelly Kit

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 this month: Book Club in a Bag (also known as Leap Off the Page, since we already have book club kits at our library, and the original name became confusing). First up: Narwhal & Jelly Kit.

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

  • Ages 8-11:
    • Tristan Strong (Kwambe Mbalia)
    • Last Kids on Earth (Max Brallier)
    • Two Truths and a Lie (Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson)
    • Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Kat Leyh, Faith Erin Hicks)

Check out these previously featured Book Club kits:

Elephant & Piggie (Mo Willems)
Mindy Kim (Lyla Lee)
Yasmin (Saadia Faruqi)
Azaleah Lane (Nikki Shannon Smith)
Wings of Fire (Tui T. Sutherland)
New Kid (Jerry Craft)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Dana Simpson)
Shuri (Nic Stone)

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, bookmarks)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Narwhal & Jelly Kit

The Narwhal & Jelly 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 an Narwhal & Jelly 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.

Narwhal & Jelly Kit General Materials

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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF featuring all kit activities here.


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

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing readalikes here.

The Narwhal & Jelly readalikes bookmark features these titles:

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

The Narwhal & Jelly Discussion Questions included:

  • General Questions:
    • What is a Narwhal? Are they real? (Research narwhals to find out!)
    • Who was your favorite character? Why?
    • Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
  • Sample Story Questions: Super Narwhal & Jelly Jolt:
    • How does Narwhal cheer up Jelly? Have you ever cheered up a friend? What did you do?
    • What superpower does Narwhal end up having? How do you know?
    • There are some made-up words in this book that sound like real words. Can you find them? What do you think each word means?

This bag also included some 1″ buttons as swag. Download printable PDFs to make those yourself here.

Narwhal & Jelly Crafts, Games, and More

First up: make your own Narwhal & Jelly! This craft was inspired by the paper plate craft from this awesome blog. I don’t have the time or patience to paint paper plates for 50 take home kits, so I turned this into a printable template.

I realized afterward that the sizes are a bit disproportionate, but the craft still works. Everything was printed on white cardstock.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft template here.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the craft instructions here.

I also included two printable activity books. One includes a variety of Narwhal & Jelly activity sheets, mostly from the Narwhal & Jelly website:

Download below:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the activity booklet here.

And finally, make your own Narwhal & Jelly comic book. Practice drawing Narwhal before filling in the provided comic panel templates with your own story:

And download below:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the comic activity book here.

Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Malala Yousafzai

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

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 Black artists and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Note: I did not present this program–my fantastic coworker presented this for me since I was out sick. I’m still happy to share these resources with all of you!

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Jean Michel Basquiat
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

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: Malala Yousafzai by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

Malala Yousafzai (Little People, Big Dreams) - Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara,  illustrated by Manal Mirza - 9780711259027 - Murdoch books

Movement Break: Super Shaker Song by Culture Queen

Second Book: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Malala's Magic Pencil: Yousafzai, Malala, Kerascoët: 9780316319577:  Amazon.com: Books

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: Maya Angelou

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
Malala Yousafzai
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

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.

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