Ask a Storytime Ninja: Twins in Baby Storytime

Anyone else have lots of twins in storytime? What do YOU do?



The Question:


I have multiple sets of twins with one adult in my baby storytime. How can I make the baby storytime experience a little bit easier for them? I do most fingerplays twice and explain my boundaries. Exploring isn’t disruptive (yet). Thank you!


The Answers:


From Mel:


I guess answers to this question depend on what in particular the parents seem to be struggling with: is it keeping 2 babies engaged, is it logistical issues, is it about managing props or materials, etc. I often have regularly-attending twins in baby storytime, however I don’t often have multiple sets of twins, so my thoughts might not be on target! I think doing all the rhymes twice is a great strategy, and lets parents switch from one baby to the next. Or maybe start storytime five minutes late to let everyone some extra time to get settled. If you have rules about no car seats or strollers in the storytime area, perhaps relaxing that rule for baby storytime might help the parents sit or engage with one baby at a time. Or setting out chairs for the adults if that makes it easier for them to sit with two babies in their lap than sitting on the floor. Or if you don’t have room for strollers or chairs, maybe put the call out for donations of those crescent shaped nursing pillows so you can hand them out to help prop up infants and/or corral wigglers and crawlers. Making sure the caregivers know that a certain amount of crawling or walking around is OK might help them feel less stressed about needing to keep two babies in their lap the whole time. Setting out board books throughout the room could let adults grab one and share it with a baby whose attention might be wandering a bit. For content, it might be a help to keep your songs and bounces on the super-familiar side, so that caregivers don’t have to figure out words and actions while also dividing their attention between two babies. Or just a little thing like not trying to get scarves or egg shakers back once you hand them out—getting them all back is just one more thing everyone needs to try to do twice. If your families are comfortable with it, you might investigate recruiting volunteers who would be happy to be an extra pair of hands during storytime. Or maybe you have some experienced teen sitters you could use over the summer—a local Girl Scout troop might know of some, or your local Red Cross could share information about summer baby storytimes during their babysitter trainings. This was a really scattershot list of ideas—let us know if there’s a specific type of idea you were looking for!


From Emily:


I really like what Melissa said, and so I’ll just add or reiterate a couple more ideas that have worked for me. I don’t have twins nor have I worked with them in baby time before, but these ideas might still help (I did have triplets in toddler time once–that mom sure knew how to juggle!) In our baby time, we make sure parents know at the beginning that kids that age often can’t sit still the whole time and that’s TOTALLY okay. The kids are free to explore but if they come up to the felt board or to where our computer and wires are, that they grab their child for us. This really helps create a more stress-free, fun environment for parents. We also repeat rhymes twice, but what’s great is that the majority of our program, say 80-90%, is all repeated from week to week. So, not only do the parents know and really participate, but the babies do too! It’s cute to see them get excited for their favorite ones. The repetition creates a comfortable environment for them, where they want to participate, and they have a lot of fun. Maybe, with twins, just be aware of what songs/actions can be done whether you’re holding one child or two. I also agree that it’s much easier to pass out props and not gather them up again. Just give the participants lots of chances to have a stress free time. Be flexible and it’ll be good!


From Ingrid:


Going in the same vein as Emily and Mel, I have to reiterate that flexibility is key. Give everyone lots of time to settle in and lend a hand if you can. Lots of nannies and moms of twins/siblings shoo me away when I offer to help with strollers and jackets and whatnots, citing that they’re “used to it”. But when someone does take me up on it and I get to assist anyone with multiple children, I hope I’m setting the tone that I’m there if they need anything. Sure, my main goal is to facilitate the program, but if I can make things easier for patrons while I’m doing it, all the better.


I don’t like to saturate the baby program with noisy toys, but I make sure to put out lots of stuffed animals, soft blocks, pillows, and the like. Maybe these kinds of soft and not-noisy, not-distracting toys could help your families with multiple kids. They certainly cut down on the fuss-factor.


If I notice twins in crowd, I’ll ask to “borrow” one of them for bouncing songs and fingerplays. If the baby is amenable to being held by me, I’ll use them to demonstrate the song. That way, the caregiver can get a little break and both babies can get some attention.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Storytime Details

I know many of you will have advice for this week’s asker, so please share in the comments! And, just a reminder that if you would like to be a Featured Ninja, helping out your colleagues by answering their questions and offering advice, you can! We have openings! Go here and sign up now.  If you don’t want to answer questions but instead have a question to ask, submit it here. You can even earn badges for asking and answering questions!


The Question:


I am a new librarian! I recently started as the children’s librarian of a relatively small but relatively busy branch of a large public library system. I inherited a preschool story time on Wednesday mornings and a <24 months baby time/lapsit program on Thursday mornings (is this too old? I know 18 months is a usual standard. I have caregivers say about their crawler- “oh, I think maybe this isn’t the right program for him, since all the other kids are walking” and I also have a 2 year old who isn’t developmentally ready for story time and so wants to come to baby time as well). I have been slowly (and with some difficulty) adjusting some things to make them better for me and for the attendees. The story time is attended mostly by toddlers (and yes, I have considered changing it to toddler time in name as well as function but as it stands we don’t really have any other good options for preschool and we only have a few show up anyway). The old guard did a craft at the end of each story time and I tried that for a while since caregivers seemed to find it important (even though they were mostly just doing the craft themselves…). New year, new ideas. I tried today for the first time instituting a play time at the end of story time, instead of a craft. I used foam blocks and these big toy trucks we have- everyone had a good time, from the baby younger siblings to the 4 year olds. BUT. It was really difficult to put the toys away after 20 minutes, even with 3 rounds of Barney’s “Clean up” song. So I am wondering if there are any ideas for something that is in between play time and a craft. I am vaguely remembering some cool ideas inspired by the ECRR standards, like writing with gel in plastic bags. Do people switch up their ending activity each week? I don’t have a lot of prep time since I wear many hats at my library, but I am trying to be better about enlisting volunteer help. What are some good resources for activities like these?

I really have like a zillion questions so I’m sorry if this is too unwieldy. If you could answer one I would be grateful.



The Answers: 


From Emily:

While I don’t really use the ECRR standards for my storytimes, nor am I very familiar with good activities involving such, I’ll just share what we do at the end of storytime. We have a toddler time at our library that roughly caters to 18 to 36 months (but can be baby to preschooler) where we actually have both a craft and play time. The kids can choose to do one or either or both. The reason I think a combination of the two works well for us is because we keep both really simple. For example, the craft might just be some stamps or stickers on paper while the playtime is one small basket of toys or one sensory table. Then, not only is it easy to plan and set up, but it makes for a quick clean up, too. The activities also match the theme of the storytime each week, so it’s not just the same thing week to week. Hopefully this helps a bit!


From Mel:
A few answers in response to cover the different questions:


*Baby storytimes are all over the map, age-wise; I have seen them for 0-12m, 3-18m, 0-24, and 0-3yrs, and all combinations in between. Babies go through so many critical developmental stages in the first few years that it’s probably impossible to choose the perfect sweet spot for an age range. More important I think is that you don’t have a gap between any of the storytimes you provide: e.g., if your baby storytime only goes to 18m, then your toddler or storytime should start at 18m and/or your family storytime should be all-ages.


*I’m sure it was hard to put away those toys for the first play time! I wouldn’t get discouraged, though, and give up on play time as an option. Kids (and adults) need time to learn a routine and after several weeks of putting away the toys at the clean-up song everyone will get better at it. Most of the families I see are really grateful for the chance for their kids to have another opportunity to practice their putting-away skills. I’ve seen libraries give out stickers or stamps when all the toys are put away as one way to ease the way.


*My Pinterest time has been really limited lately so I can’t point you right to some great process craft boards—hopefully someone will jump in the comments! However, you can take any art project “step” or materials and isolate it to create a quick and easy “play craft.” For instance, cut strips of construction paper on a paper cutter and set the strips out with kids’ scissors and let the kids practice cutting the strips into confetti. If you don’t want to do scissors, let them tear the strips—awesome fine motor practice. (If they want to take some confetti home, give out plastic zip bags.) Or save all those confetti squares, and put them out the next week with a large piece of paper and some glue sticks and let them make simple collages. Or give them a die cut shape, a piece of paper, and corral all the tape dispensers in the library for a half hour—let the kids practice taping the die cut to the larger piece of paper. Or set out pipe cleaners and let them bend them! Or stamps and ink. Instead of crayons and paper, you could set out chalk and black construction paper. Or markers and coffee filters (you don’t even have to do the traditional next step of getting the filters wet—the filters will be much more absorbent of the ink than regular paper for the kids to experiment with.) Or grab the newspapers from the reference department before they’re recycled and let the kids crumple the big pages up! How small can they make their page? Or use smaller pieces of newspaper and paper towel tubes—can you crumple the paper small enough to go down the tube? Have fun!

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Guerrilla Storytime: Get Local

This past Friday, 10 librarians from Tacoma Public Library, Puyallup Public Library, and Pierce County Library System got together for storytime sharing. Since I hosted at my library, I decided to force them all to do this as a Guerrilla Storytime. First, I drugged them with sugar in the form of cake and cookies, so it wasn’t like they could resist much.


In any case, I wanted to share all the fabulous ideas that came from that small, but mighty group. I truly can’t recommend this technique more for staff meetings and local get-togethers like this one. You don’t need a huge group and you don’t even need it to be in the open where bystanders can see the storytime hijinks in action. Sure, these things are great, but just creating an open environment where everyone, hopefully, feels empowered to share their expertise (yes, everyone has something to share!) and take in new ideas and skills, is the key.


Thanks to all of you who attended-I got TONS of great ideas, and I hope you did, too.


Here’s the recap:


Introductions: who you are, where you’re from, and one thing you think you’re super great at, or even an expert. We had everything from “cheating” on songs by holding up a picture card with the words to the song on the back for the presenter to read from to connecting with parents and children to a literal bag of tricks. Plus, Carol from Puyallup actually wrote the book on toddler storytime activities! In case you’re interested it’s called Artsy Toddler Storytimes: A Year’s Worth of Ready-To-Go Programming, available from the ALA Store.


Challenge: One child starts punching another

-leave it up to caregivers to break up

-put hand out or step physically between the children

-ask a caregiver to help only if it is actually disturbing others

-if it is not disruptive, be flexible-they may still be listening, just kinetic learners


Audience posed question: What times are best for storytimes? 

-basically, it seems to vary but 10:30 seems quite common for most, with 11:15 or 11:30 being next common

-whatever time you choose, build in time for stragglers


Challenge: Audience has the wiggles, what do you do?

-Shake your sillies out on the ukulele (or without, too). Do it fast and slow.

-Wiggle my fingers, wiggle my toes, wiggle my fingers, wiggle my nose, now there are no more wiggles left in you, you, you, you, and me!

-Reach for the ceiling, now how about the floor? Can you find your knees? Now find your nose. Only don’t touch your nose-touch your chin or something and fool them! Is this my nose? No!

-Get quiet. Do a softer song or fingerplay. Sometimes getting quiet has an equivalent effect for regrouping as doing a wiggle does

-Build in a wiggle as part of your storytime. Open Shut Them or This is Big are good ones. Just plan on doing these before or after a book.

-Form Banana (aka Bananas Unit, aka Form the Orange). Let them pick the fruits or veggies to form. Additional verses could include building a house, painting a house, rocking the house.


Challenge: How do you add singing to storytime?

-sing along with music found in your library’s collection

-The Shimmy Shake by The Wiggles – Carol uses lots of music- you can find her storytime plans on her blog

-Chanting to a song when you can’t find the tune or don’t have music available. Then, tell caregivers that chanting has a similar effect as singing-being rhythmic  helps children hear the various sounds of language and how they work together.

-Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: on the ukulele, give kids stars to hold for the song and on the third time you sing it have the kids come and put their stars on the flannel board. Then everyone counts the stars.

-Recess Monkey and Caspar Babypants! They’re local so we get a little excited.


Challenge: How to incorporate caregivers asides based on ECRR skills?

-write your message on a post it note and stick it to the back of the book so you will remember to mention it while reading

-integrate messages as part of the story-point to a circle and talk to parents about pointing out images while you are saying the text that corresponds. This help children understand that objects have names and expands their vocabulary.


Challenge: A child says ” I don’t like that book!” before you begin to read. 

-just keep going and don’t address it

-if they don’t let up, say “Well, you can plug your ears and not listen but other people might want to hear this book.”

-“You don’t have to listen, but maybe you will like it this time.”

-Just tell them they will like it, and they will.


Challenge: How do you add writing to your storytimes?


-including cutting activities, finding things to cut out of magazines

-art activities after using fine motor skills: finger painting, shaving cream play, etc.

-coloring sheets to do there or take home

-fingerplays, objects to grasp, anything using fingers


Challenge: Share your favorite action rhyme.

-If You’re Happy and You Know It- chicken style -flap your wings, lay an egg and more

-Bonnie has a toy toolbox and tools and sings this song

-Rob Reid’s Goodbye Rap, edited to be shorter

-Tooty Ta by Dr. Jean. You can do it with, or without the music


Challenge: Share your goodbye song.

-We Wave Goodbye Like This

-The More We Get Together with signs

-My hands say thank you 

-Goodbye Bubbles


Other things shared:

-Brian read Bunnies! by Kevan Atteberry, an almost wordless, super adorable book

-Maria loves doing “Grandma is Sleeping” (aka Baby is Sleeping or Wake Up!) with shakers

-Bonnie shared her awesome use for toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Cut them into smaller tubes (in half or quarters) and then cut open one side so the tube can open. Decorate the to be bracelets, spy gadgets, OR OR OR SUPERHERO CUFFS!!!

-Michelle shared her 5 Little Elephants Went Out One Day (she is an expert at 5 Littles) magnet board. There are lots of version of this song, but here’s one.

-Sara (teen librarian!) shared an awesome idea for using bubbles with school agers. Basically, as a drinking games with bubbles. Every time certain words or activities happen in a program they blow bubbles. Fun!

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – School Age Programming!

Time for round two of our Ask a Storytime Ninja Lightning Round! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for the week:




The Question:


“I am a new youth services librarian who trained to be an academic librarian. We just started a school age story time at our libraries and I am really struggling to find songs or transition activities that the kids don’t think is babyish. Does anyone have any suggestions or maybe a link to a blog you’ve done on how you conduct school age story times?”


The Answers:


From Jennie R. (@kidsilkhaze,


Here’s where I use all the songs I learned at summer camp. In general, Button Factory, Boom Chicka Boom, The Other Day I Saw a Bear, and Little Bunny Foo Foo always go over well! Camp Songs ( is a great site to look up all the words.


From Angela R. (@annavalley,


Naomi Baltuck’s “Crazy Gibberish” has some great stuff for school-age kids. Songs & chants and storytelling activities that are fun to do & easy to learn.


From Anita V.:


The School Age Story Time is a good time to build companion themes with fiction and nonfiction pairings, such as Amelia Bedelia and books from the jokes and riddles section of the library. Beginning readers are a great bridge into chapter books, if you are building a weekly audience, so that you could work a few chapters from one of the Magic Tree house series and match a nonfiction for the time period for details. Time to create a short story, draw an illustration of the story or write a poem could now be used in place of a craft, with time to share via a media projector, (or other media with parental permissions). Working with the Dewey Rap from is a great way to gain some comfort with the nonfiction arrangement of your library. Bring out the maracas, rewing and play along.


From Soraya S. (@vivalosbooks):


If I’m doing a school visit to a specific age group, I tend to do a storytime with a little more plot involved for K-2nd. Fractured fairytales are a must (Leah Wilcox, Corey Schwartz) and some more challenging songs (Knuckles Knees, Boom Chicka Boom) and I’ll try to find an illustrative non-fiction book to tie into the theme. For 3rd-5th I do non-fiction book talks: Egyptology, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Oceanography and then find a simple activity or craft to do if time allows.


For our school age program in the branch though, we pick one non-fiction theme to learn about and a more detailed hands on activity instead of a storytime. Mad Science is my absolute favorite where I pick an experiment for the week, we learn the science behind the project in simple terms, I conduct a large scale version of the experiment and then the kids get to do their own mini version. It’s a blast, sometimes literally! We also do Super Duper Craft Club, Lego Club, Jedi Academy, Inventors Club, all sorts of great subjects.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Transitions

The Question:


I am new to doing storytime (about 5 months in) and struggle with the transitions between the books, songs, and fingerplays. There always seems to be some awkwardness when I am about to do the next activity. Any advice for making things flow better? I’ve tried watching some videos, but the transition times are usually what is cut out.



The Answers:


From Ingrid:


If I’m doing a theme, I’ll keep explaining how what I’m talking about links together: “We just sang a song about bread and butter, and those words begin with B. This is a song about a butterfly, which also begins with B!” That way, it’s always clear how everything is related. I feel like that helps the transition a bit.


Before my first book I sing, “If you want to hear a story, clap your hands” which is basically just “If you’re happy and you know it”. So, it’s: if you want to hear a story clap your hands, then tickle your tummies, and, last, go like this “shh, shh!”. Once they are quiet, the story begins. I sing the full song for the first book I read, but only the last “shhh” verse for each additional book I read. After each book I say, “We’re going to say goodbye to this book, and now we’ll say hello to (insert whatever puppet, flannel board, song)”.


When in doubt, say, “Good job, everyone! That was great!” and smile. You’re not as awkward as you think.


From Emily:


I’m not sure what age of storytime you’re doing, so I’ll share what I do for both my Baby Time and Preschool Storytime. With babies, it’s pretty easy for me to move pretty quickly in between my rhymes and stories, since I repeat most of it from week to week. Basically, I’ll finish the song with a “Good job!” or “Excellent!” since our babies love to clap for themselves. And simply say, “And on to our next book/song/rhyme…” and go right into it. It help keeps the baby’s attention when it’s pretty quick, too. With my preschoolers, I like to explain a little bit between songs & rhymes since each week is different in theme/subject (help them know what’s going on), and because I’m helping them get ready for school (build good listening skills). Before each book, I remind them to “Put on your listening ears and remember to stay on your bums so everyone can see” and then I say the title & author/illustrator. Afterwords I’ll ask them a question or two about the book, and go into our next activity with a simple “And now we’re all going to….” Basically, I encourage them to chat with me a little bit in between and I add some commentary that feels natural.


From Mel:


I think transitions are one of the most interesting parts of storytime! In my experience, thoughtful transitions can help children sustain their attention from one thing to the next and minimize opportunities to get distracted. What I try to do with my transitions is to link back to what we’ve just done and then make a connection and look forward to what we’re about to do. I think wrapping up one thing helps children with closure and giving them a hint about what’s next gives them a clue about how they are going to need to behave or respond. Sit still for another story? Stand up and move around? The more structure and guidance we give kids, the more successful they can be. So if I wanted to sing Head and Shoulders after reading Pete the Cat, after we finished with Pete, I might show them the cover again and say, “I love how Pete’s shoes change color! Where do we wear our shoes? That’s right, on our feet! And what’s on the end of our feet? We can wiggle them in the mud or the sand. Yes, our toes! Let’s sing a song that has toes in it. Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes! Let’s stand up….put our hands on our heads….. here we go!”

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Hey, why don’t you… encourage summer “doing” for pre-readers?

Hey why don't youI would guess that it’s a rare library that doesn’t offer some sort of summer reading initiative. A huge proportion of those SRP libraries, I would guess, also offer some sort of summer literacy program for pre-readers, whether it’s the same program as for older kids or something designed specifically for 0-5s. How many libraries, though, have thought about supplementing summer reading for pre-readers with summer “doing”?


That’s exactly what the Arlington Heights Memorial Library did in summer 2014. They put together “Summer Reading, Summer Doing” program cards for 0-5s, packed with great ideas to encourage caregivers to engage in early literacy activities with their children. I love these types of programs for caregivers of young children when they include lists of activity options–it acknowledges that all children this young can be vastly different, and what activity is great for one particular little one may bomb with another. All the activities! All the literacy!

Awesome materials provided to me by Lindsay D. Huth, formerly of AHML and now with Arapahoe Library District.

Awesome materials provided to me by Lindsay D. Huth, formerly of AHML and now with Arapahoe Library District.

Bonus: AHML also handed out cards to program participants during each week of their program. For 0-2s, these cards offered tips for caregivers on how they can do simple things to stimulate early literacy skill development. For 0-3s, these cards each had a simple, excellent activity idea that could be easily replicated a home, either for free or with inexpensive household supplies. Think a balance activity using a hanger, string, and cups; making play dough; digging for “worms” in pudding; and more. Families who participated throughout the entire summer ended up with a complete booklet of age-appropriate activities for “summer doing”–having fun with early literacy benefits. What a great initiative!


So, hey, why don’t you think about how you can incorporate some summer doing at your library this summer? It could be for any age, formal or informal, part of a program or an at-home activity–possibilities are bounded only by your imagination. Get doing!

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: April Featured Ninjas

Ask a Storytime Ninja badge



I’m pleased to introduce our featured ninjas for April. They are experienced and fresh, baby whispering, STEM loving, fashionistas. Read all about them!


Meet Emily:

2015-03-13 15.31.03


I’m a fresh, fifteen-month-employed children’s librarian at a branch library in suburban Phoenix where I manage the fun stuff like baby time, preschool storytime, grade-school kids’ programs, STEM programming, and the tween book club. Some programs I’m on my own (like preschool storytime) and some I split with a coworker to conquer as a team (like baby time). While not in management, I co-supervise our group of volunteer shelvers and volunteer Teen Tech experts. In addition to all that, I help manage our social media presence and have a storytime/book review blog ( and Twitter handle (@literaryhoots). Also, I like owls.


Meet Ingrid:


I have been a public children’s librarian in NYC since 2008. I’m Director-at-Large of ALA’s GLBT Round Table and a proud former member of the Rainbow Book Project Committee. I am one of the administrators of seriously awesome Librarian Wardrobe. I blog over at The Magpie Librarian.


Meet Melissa: 


I’m Melissa Depper and I’ve been a children’s librarian for almost 20 (!) years and have been at the Arapahoe Library District in Colorado since 2003. Last year I became a supervisor for the first time to our newly-created Early Literacy Specialists team, a job which is really keeping me on my toes! I still have my Monday morning baby storytimes, though, which means I start every week with the best reminder ever about why I love what I do. I am always up for reading more about early literacy and early learning, and my favorite challenge is to try to translate what I learn into strategies for even better storytimes. I am dusting off my blog at Mel’s Desk after a slow year and am pretty much always on Twitter @MelissaZD!

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The Coolest Thing I Saw on the Internet

You guys! What a month. I’ll tell you about it eventually. In the meantime. . .Cool things! And GIFs. GIFs with zero rationale except they made me giggle.


Abby’s American Libraries column is always excellent, and she’s calling on us to be responsible for how we’re incorporating diversity into every aspect of our work.


I love Jbrary’s series on Canadian libraries, and this post by guest blogger Jane Whittington is EXCELLENT. Here is a quote: “Community outreach is particularly important in an increasingly diverse city like Vancouver. Those of us who grew up in North America may take it for granted that libraries are free and open to all, but libraries take different forms in different countries, and these assumptions are not universal. Community outreach allows us to connect with people who may feel too intimidated to enter the library because of language barriers, think the library has a membership fee they can’t afford, not see the value in the library because they do not read English material, or assume that children are not welcome in a quiet, formal space like a library.”


Katie writes about how she organizes her storytime stuff, and seriously, bestill my heart.


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This post of Erin’s made me tear up in the middle of lunch, so. GROWING READERS, Y’ALL.


This Kermit display for St. Patty’s makes my life.


I’m so glad Jenni at From the Biblio Files wrote this post about non traditional class visits.



how i feel when i watch soccer


I’m ALWAYS willing to think creatively about shelving. Why are we stuck with what we’ve always done? Brian at Swiss Army Librarian seriously shook up his shelving, and he says it’s uber-successful in his community.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Collection Development

The final question for March is all about collection development. Please chime in in the comments!




The Question:


I am the only youth services person at my Library. We are a town of less than 1500 people. My director is full time at less than 30 hours a week. We’re fairly small over here.

Anyway, she does all the material ordering for our library. I am able to ask for specific books, etc to be ordered for the collection, but she rarely follows through. For example, she didn’t order The Fault in Our Stars until I asked about 3 times and then pointed out the long hold list. I don’t know the last time she purchased a children’s DVD besides Frozen….I realize our tight-ish budget situation, but I feel like she just does not take into consideration the importance of children’s through YA materials. She has admitted to not being aware of children’s trends and whatnot and has put me in charge of weeding the collections (picture books, easy readers, juvenile, YA) but I still do not feel like I have much input in the collection.

I do not have my master’s degree and realize I may not have much experience with collection development, but I do think I have a really good idea what the community needs, what our collection needs, and what is available out there…Our library and community is missing out on so much. We have a huge shelf-browsing population… after storytime and lots of afterschool parents and families…

I would like some advice as to how to best approach this subject without her feeling like I’m trying to take over or step on toes. How often do small village youth services do the ordering? Or do directors do everything and I am over-reacting? Does anybody have a more official approach to asking directors to order materials? A form or document?


The Answers:


From Inma:


In my own experience it took almost a year before I had section to weed & order within our collection.  I think my supervisor also wanted to make sure I was extremely comfortable with the collection and our community needs.

What system does your library use for ordering books?  We primarily use Baker & Taylor, maybe within your system you can suggest you start creating a cart for your director to review and place the order.  If she only has 30 hours a week this could be a time saver for her. You already know the collection & your community, you can use that as leverage for your director to trust your judgement. Do you handle any weeding?  Do you have access to circulation reports?  You can look at the collection and what circulates or not, what areas are weaker, what areas might need to be weeded and new materials added?

I will also suggest find books/articles to help you develop a sense of collection development, I use Fundamentals of Collection Development by Peggy Johnson from one of my grad classes. Read professional journals to help you be ready to suggest titles and authors to your director.

Hope this helps.


From Polly:


Hmm, tough situation. Practically, in the short term, the best thing I can think of is that you print her out an Amazon record or the page from whoever you order from (if you use a library vendor) when you request something, or make a list of several items with isbns and stuff, so she has a physical record of your request. That’s what we used to do before we got online ordering, we’d submit a paper copy of the title, ISBN, etc. to Technical Services, and they’d order off that. For your end, maybe track your requests in an Excel sheet, so you know exactly what you asked for, when.


What you really need in the long term is for Children’s and YA to be given their own budget line, so it isn’t a question of whether your director takes those collections into consideration. You probably don’t have much ability to talk to people about getting that kind of thing organized, but it’s really important if there’s anything you can do. Even a really small budget is better than what you’ve got.


You probably need to record any questions/comments you get that touch on this issue from your patrons and pass them up to the director. If 17 people ask for The Fault in Our Stars and you don’t have it, make a note of every single one and let the director know! If possible, ask the people who request things to write down their request, email it, or even talk to the municipality or whoever funds your library about the fact that they can’t get what they want; ideally, give tangible feedback in some way that isn’t funnelled entirely through you, so it isn’t always you passing this stuff on.


In regards the last part of your question: it is usually professional staff who do Collection Development, so that may explain your setup. If your director has an MLS and you don’t, that’s probably the rationale. It sounds like the library doesn’t want to surrender that part of the job to non-MLS staff, but obviously they should, at least in terms of getting your suggestions followed up properly. It’s one thing to insist on professional staff doing it when there are professional staff, but under your circumstances, it seems like an impossible dream.


Best of luck, you’ve got a difficult problem, and I’m afraid major changes are the only real solution, unless you can just talk with your director and work out a compromise that works for the two of you.


From Karen:


I have only worked in small libraries like yours, and all of my Youth Services supervisors and/or professional staff are responsible for ordering Children’s and YA materials. I know how frustrating it can be to tell patrons repeatedly that you don’t have certain materials. I agree with what the other Ninjas have already said, and I would just reiterate that you need to keep a running list of the materials that your patrons are asking for and periodically show/send it to her. Document, document, document! I know it’s easier said than done, but I think it would be effective for you to talk with her and bring up the points you mentioned, and say that you read book reviews, are aware of children’s trends, etc. If she isn’t willing to give up control of the entire ordering process, could you ask to at least be able to make at least some of the purchase suggestions? Does your director order Adult materials, too? If not, does the Adult Services manager have an MLIS? You obviously have a great deal of knowledge to add to your library and department, even though you don’t have your MLIS. I think the best thing you can do is to approach your director calmly and with as much documentation as possible. Good luck!

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We’re 3 Months In for 2015–How go your resolutions?

Resolve to Rock meme imageAt the beginning of this calendar year, lots of you shared great posts and comments about how you Resolve to Rock in 2015. Now that we’re three months in, we figure it’s time to check in. How are your resolutions going? Where could you use more peer support and/or encouragement?


One of the beautiful things about the Storytime Underground community, both here on the website and on the Facebook Group, is the camaraderie–the guarantee that there are tons of library service folks who are going through, or have gone through, similar feats and struggles as you. Tap that resource! Ask questions, share ideas, and give encouragement. You’re all doing some amazing things.


And if you feel like reporting on the progress of your professional resolutions for 2015, please share in the comments! We’re here to support you all the way.

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