Ninjas, allow me to introduce our June Storytime Guerrillas of the Month: the wonderful librarians behind one of our favorite storytime resources, Jbrary.
Lindsey Krabbenhoft and Dana Horrocks work as auxiliary Children’s Librarians at the Vancouver Public Library. The two met while completing their MLIS at the University of British Columbia, which they finished up in April 2013. They started Jbrary as part of a socal media course and now keep busy sharing storytime songs and rhymes with anyone working with kids. When Dana’s not storytiming you can find her hiking, swimming, or beer in hand, nose deep in a book. You can follow Dana on Twitter at @danachorrocks. Lindsey enjoys playing and reading with her 3-year-old niece Sophie and tweeting obnoxiously cute photos of her 1-year-old nephew Blake at @lmkrabbenhoft.
Q: Complete the following sentence: “It’s not storytime until we…”
Dana: It’s not storytime until I have shared a genuine laugh with my group. Whether it comes through a book or a goofy moment with a song we’re singing, this is when I feel connected.
Lindsey: It’s not storytime until we sing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! The kids go nuts over this song, and one mom even told me her daughter comes to storytime just to sing it. I’ve used it with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and it has yet to fail me.
Q: You both have experience as substitute storytime leaders, which means showing up to lead storytimes with groups you’re unfamiliar with. How do you approach planning for storytime when you don’t know who will be in the room?
Dana: If I have the opportunity I usually try and touch base with the regular storytime leader to at least include their opening and closing routines. If this is impossible I try and plan as many familiar elements as I can to build trust and invite participation. It then becomes a fun opportunity to share yourself as well as learn from the group in terms of what storytime means to them, what song cannot be skipped, etc.
Lindsey: Like Dana says, I always try and connect with the usual storytime leader to learn a bit about his or her style and the usual components he or she includes. It’s really just to get a feel for what the group is used to (lots of puppets? flannel stories? longer or shorter books?). No matter what though, I fall back on my old teaching habit of over planning. I always bring more books than I need – in case they’ve read one of them recently – and have a variety of songs and rhymes to draw from. That way if I get a group who has an exceptional case of the wiggles, I’ve got some songs I can immediately pull out. Lastly, I try to remember to bring my strengths to storytime – it’s okay to offer them something a little different!
Q: What tip would you give to librarians who feel self-conscious about their singing voices/acting silly in front of grownups/etc.?
Dana: I don’t have any tips because I think this is something which strikes all of us from time to time but I think we owe it to the families we work with to dig deep and sing our hearts out in silly solidarity. Something which helps me with this is the fact that I am not much of singer and I can use this like a superpower to show families you don’t need to be a crooner to have fun and connect to music. I think about the fact that if we’re not having fun with literacy how the heck are we supposed to communicate just how awesome it is!?
Lindsey: Not to sound cliche, but let it goooooo! Honestly though, you have to forget about the adults in the room for a moment and just focus on the kids. They are the ones smiling up at you when you bust out a song like “Tooty Ta Ta.” And I think the adults in the room admire us for our ability to be confident in our singing or silliness even if we’re no Aretha Franklin. Some other tips include singing familiar songs that kids and caregivers are sure to know (your voice won’t stand out as much if everyone is singing with you) and try using recorded music in storytime that you can sing along with (your voice will mix with the music).
Q: When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…
Dana: The interwebs! We have been so fortunate to join the online chorus of superstar storytimers and benefit from this on a daily basis. We will often put out questions on Twitter and Facebook and get awesome advice, or get linked to a blog post which holds our hands and shows us the way.
I also depend pretty heavily on my awesome co-workers. Anyone who has shared a workspace with me knows I love to chat things out and can be found bouncing ideas around in person or on the phone. It might be obvious, but I could also not survive without Lindsey. Our constant textersations are full of work chatter (among other things) and she is always inspiring me to try out new ideas and practices!
Lindsey: This question made me think a bit. When I need storytime resources – book suggestions, song and rhyme ideas, puppet advice – I go to the blogs that I know and love. But when I have a storytime problem, I’m more likely to go to a friend (Dana!) or my co-workers who I can talk it over with in person. I’m part of a team right now that serves a very high-needs area of Vancouver, and we rely on each other for advice and support that comes with the knowledge of our specific population of kids. My branch manager is a former Children’s Librarian and she is another source of encouragement and support because she has years of experience to draw from and she does a great job of helping me phrase things to caregivers in a way that maintains the relationship.