Author Archives: Soraya Silverman-Montano

A Favor to Ask: A personal story with a professional goal in mind. #ilovemylibraryjob

Hello badass ninjas! Joint Chief here to ask a favor of you that’s personal but also professionally related. It’s a simple favor but requires a little back story: Lately, I’ve been rather depressed which stems primarily from my mom, who was one of my best friends, passing away a couple months ago from her battle with cancer. I was devastated but I went back to work soon after, mostly to get my mind off of things and also because working with my kiddos as a Youth Services Librarian helps me smile. It works well a lot of the time, I’m also fortunate to have amazing coworkers who are like my support group but the sadness always comes back in some shape or form. The other day, one of my regular families who I haven’t seen in a while, comes in and the dad asks me how things are. We chat whenever they’re in and we know a general overview of each other’s lives. I update him on my mom’s passing, he knew about her cancer, and he immediately drops the books he’s holding, tears up and asks if it’s ok to give me a hug and I oblige. His young kids don’t understand what’s happened but all three of his little girls hug me too. And it takes everything in me not to bawl like a baby, from sadness but also from happiness that this family, who only knows me from the maybe once-a-month transactions we have when they return their books and get new ones, cares about me in this way. It moved me in a way I hadn’t felt since my mom died and made me realize even more about why I love my job and what I do.

 

So, from this experience I was inspired to try and find a way for library folk to share why they love their job and to act as a reminder for all of us that even on our worst days, what we do makes an impact, changes our world for the better and that there are many a patron out there who genuinely appreciate us. It can be incredibly discouraging when your libraries are underfunded; when we’re underpaid or understaffed; when you may be having the absolute worst day/week/month/year because you don’t feel appreciated, respected or valued. Some days may be so bad that you want to quit the profession all together. But sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that remind us why we put up with all that we do: when a teen absolutely loved the book you recommended and seeks you out for more suggestions; when you help an unemployed patron apply for a job and they’re successful in their pursuit; when a group of kindergartners group hug bear tackle you because they’re so excited to see you for storytime; when a patron says some kind words, writes you a thank you note, or may even give you a hug when you need one (if you’re ok with it of course). These are the things that keep me going and I hope they do for you too.

 

In an effort to find solidarity between our unique or similar experiences and to remind ourselves and others how important our roles are as library professionals, I ask you a small favor of you all: to share your own stories as you experience them and to simply tag the post with a #ilovemylibraryjob hashtag. This way someone who may be feeling uninspired or discouraged or cynical can search the tag and find some heartwarming stories, enough to give them to hope that tomorrow will be a better day and pick themselves back up. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media platform you prefer, if you don’t mind adding the hashtag any time you’d like to share, I believe it can help unite our stories, no matter how big or small, to bring us together as a profession and as a community.

 

So to the family who warmed my heart with a simple hug, thank you. You reminded me of why #ilovemylibraryjob. Thank you so much for your kindness.

 

And thanks for listening ninjas, I’m very much looking forward to hearing your own stories.

 

❤ Soraya

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Overcrowded Storytimes

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! 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 this week which is a bit longer but a tough one:

 

lighnting_round

 

The Question:

 

“My library has an attendance problem at story time…. we have WAY too many people at story times that we are regularly far exceeding the fire code for our storytime room (we’re consistently getting 60 – 80 people at several of our storytimes). We’ve talked about a variety of options. We’re spreading our storytimes out over the week (and adding one new time slot) hoping that we will no longer get families who come for the first of the day and stay for all three sessions. But we are really at capacity for the number of storytimes we can offer. We’re also discussing shutting the door and not allowing late arrivals. Which helps cut the numbers down, but still not really enough. We would like to avoid advanced registration or tickets (as neighboring libraries do this and it is big bone of contention among our families and the biggest comment we got on a recent parent survey was thanking us for not doing this) but it is not off the table entirely. Does anyone have any suggestions for other things we may not be thinking of?
 
And a follow up: does anyone have or seen a sign they particularly like the language of about no late admittance to storytime? I want something positive and upbeat, but that gets the point across. And keeps the parent from pounding on the door trying to get someone to let them in. Thanks!”

 

The Answers:

 

From Michelle M.:

 

I know sometimes advanced registration or tickets seems really discouraging but it is a necessary evil. That is great that you really want to accommodate your patrons and their children, but it comes to a point where it may not be feasible or when it is, it poses too much stress on the staff. I would not allow families to attend more than one session of storytime, due to overcrowding and I make that clear in the summer before anyone starts to register that is the case. Anyhow we do the same thing each program, so I can’t imagine that they would want to do it over, but who knows, maybe some don’t mind??
 

In my situation, I am the sole children’s librarian at my library. I’m not sure how it is where you work, but it appears that if you have multiple storytimes, it is a possibility that you could have more than one librarian. Anyhow, there is a good possibility due to limited staff that we would not have anyone to downstairs in the children’s room to discourage late arrivals. We could put up a sign but even though we have had a few late arrivals, we had not gotten to the point where we have too many people in the room. In the summer, where there are more kids, I have two programs and that works for me. I guess you may be in a community with a large population, perhaps a lot bigger than mine.
 

If you are able to have multiple sessions and each family could only attend one, that would be a big help for you all. I know it makes you all the bad guy but they have to understand that many people poses a safety hazard and poses a lot of stress on the staff.

 

From Eve P.:

 

Wow, what a great problem to have! There are only 3 choices that I can see. 1. Change venues; 2. Add more programming; 3. Limit attendance by requiring pre-registration.
 

Changing venues: If some of the participants are attending as groups, could you go to them as outreach and/or have them alternate which performances to attend? Is there another area of the library which might accommodate more people?
 

Adding more Programming: From the information presented, it sounds as though the programs being offered are all unique. Because you have stated that you cannot add more programs, have you considered cutting one or more of the unique programs? You could then offer the same program 2 weeks running, and ask that families only attend one of the two repeat performances. Or, you could cut a program entirely and then offer back-to-back presentations of your more popular programs.
Have you thought about contracting out some of your storytimes as a way of adding additional programming, or have you lobbied the library board for additional staffing to meet the demands of your community?
 

Requiring Pre-registration: You have stated that you do not wish to do this, but if you are regularly exceeding fire code regulations you may have no choice. Because there are always families that register but then don’t show up, a 5 minute rule can be handy. If the person is more that 5 minutes late their spot is forfeit and another might take their place.
 

Congratulations on this fabulous problem – may we all be so afflicted!

From Soraya S. (@vivalosbooks):

 

That is a tough choice to make. I’ve worked in a branch where we were so excited to have even just five families for storytime and am now in one where we average 40-50+ every single program so it goes against my personal beliefs to ever turn someone away. However, we were finding at my new branch, with the introduction to a month Mad Science Club, that our school age programs were now averaging 100+ which went way above our room capacity. After a lot of discussion and brainstorming to try to come up with other alternatives, we actually found the easiest way to manage the crowd with our limited supplies and staff was to unfortunately do tickets. And once we ran out of tickets, that was all we could let in, no exceptions. There was a bit of pushback for the first couple of months but it’s been two years since we’ve implemented it and it’s worked wonders. 99% of parents are pretty understanding but every now and then we do get that one irate parent who demands their child be let in but by having those ground rules explicitly stated on all of our materials, it’s quite easy to deny them access.

 

The only other alternative I could think of is reaaally stressing to your parents that if the storytimes continue to be overcapacity, that you will have to start limiting attendance. But, if they want to avoid that, they can help by ONLY coming to one program a day and that you may be able to avoid tickets happening. It may be inevitable though sadly and you certainly don’t want to be over fire code. Our calendars and program flyers all have this stated somewhere to advertise our limitations: “Please note: space is limited in all school age programs and tickets are required to attend. They are free and available after 3 p.m. on the day of the program on a first come first serve basis. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!” I hope that helps!

 

Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Summer Reading Challenges?

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! 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 this week which we’ve had a lot of responses for so this one’s a tid bit longer than most:

 

lighnting_round

 

The Question:

 

“I run the Summer Reading Program at our library. We are in a small community but have always had a HUGE success with participants in our summer program. I have a number of children who blow through our program every year and are looking for more to do. I’m contemplating creating a second, more challenging aspect next year for those kids that breeze through the original program, though I’m not sure what I should do. Do you have any suggestions?”

 

The Answers:

 

From Ann S.:

 

Our library doesn’t set a completion goal for the children that participle in our summer reading program. They are encouraged to read as many books as they can in six weeks. We do however offer bragging badges for every ten books read. The children decorate these any way they like, put there names on them, and we hang them on our wall of fame. We also offer weekly pizza slice coupons for a free slice of pizza from the local pizza parlour. They donate the coupons as well as an end of summer reading pizza party. If someone manages to read 100 books they get a free book to keep. These are gathered from donations throughout the year.

 

From Meg S. (@theemegnificent, http://missmegsstorytime.com):

 

In order to avoid children completing the program and having no reason to be involved with the library we have summer reading passports. The kids keep these for the whole summer and once a week when the come in they get a stamp on their passport and get to add a sticker to our wall (this year it is hero city). There are also 4 bonus challenges they can complete to earn more stamps and a small prize. Our bonus challenges this summer are, ‘check out a nonfiction book’, ‘be a hero for someone else and tell us about it’, ‘draw a picture of yourself as a superhero’, and ‘attend a summer reading event’. The passport has been great for engaging them throughout the summer and the kids have a lot of fun doing the challenges!

 

From Tess P. (@tess1144, www.inclusiveearlyliteracy.wordpress.com):

 

I think it would be really fun to do a book review blogging workshop series for kids. They can read whatever they want and if they don’t know already, they can learn how to set up a blog, learn how to write reviews and promote their blogs, share and follow each other’s blogs etc. If you have access to kids’ book ARCs, perfect, then let them read and review those too. I would bet that lots of kids in fifth, sixth and seventh grade already know how to blog – lots of classrooms have blogs so I don’t think it a big stretch for kids who love books to do this for fun. While you would probably need to make sure the kids had their parents’ permission to start their own blogs, I think blogging is great way to get kids reading, writing and discussing books. BTW, my eleven year old niece has been blogging about books since the age of 8 with minimal help from her mom.

 

Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Roving School Librarian

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! 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 this week which we’ve had a lot of responses for so this one’s a tid bit longer than most:

 

lighnting_round

 

The Question:

 

“Hi everyone. I am facing an unusual challenge next school year. I will be teaching my K-5 library lessons from a mobile cart that I will roll into each classroom. There will be no library that the students can visit. I will be doing lessons, checking in, checking out and doing story time from a cart. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the very thought. Has anyone out there done this? Have any tips? Thank you!”

 

The Answers:

 

From Abby J. (@abbylibrarian, http://www.abbythelibrarian.com):

 

I haven’t done this in a school librarian capacity, but as a public librarian when we do outreach, we’re often visiting multiple classrooms with just the stuff we’re carrying. What helps me keep everything straight is going in with a plan (usually written down) for each classroom and keeping my materials in the order that I’ll use them. We usually bring bags of books, props, etc. around with us, so I’ll try to arrange it so the book I need first is on top and I can just go through the bag in order. If I’m repeating the same storytime for multiple classrooms, it gets easier with each repetition. If I’m presenting different materials for each classroom, it really helps me to have a separate tote bag for each classroom so I can go straight for what I need without having to dig around too much. This could maybe translate into separate sections or shelves on your cart, or if your cart is full of books the kids can check out, you might think about using tote bags or rolling crates to keep your storytime/lesson materials separate and easily accessible.

 

From Soraya S. (@vivalosbooks):

I’m a Youth Services Librarian in a public library so I haven’t been in that situation before but I do go to schools regularly throughout the week and have done classroom to classroom visits. On days when I know I’m visiting more than one class, I bring a rolling cart separated by which materials I’m using for which classroom. So my storytimes are catered for each specific age group and I’m sure to separate the materials appropriately. That is such an interesting design and a challenge! I definitely think it’s manageable though as long as you know each day what grades/classes you’ll be at and can set up your cart to easily transition as you changes rooms. Organization is key and you’ll be fantastic!

 

Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Snacks in Storytime

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! 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 this week which we’ve had a lot of responses for so this one’s a tid bit longer than most:

 

lighnting_round

 

The Question:

 

“What is your opinion on snacks as a regular part of storytime? I’ve seen mixed reviews/policy on this.”

 

The Answers: Nope! (And we had a lot of nos but we’ve limited it to four responses.)

 

From Sue J.:

 

As soon as a snack is opened, or opening, I have lost the crowd. All heads turn to the offending noisy wrapper. I say no to snacks….along the lines of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”….I think it opens far too many cans of worms with allergies, sharing, messes etc.

 

From Lisa M.:

 

No snacks! We don’t even let kids/parents bring their own snacks in for story time. Story time (and all library programs) should be for EVERYONE. There are a lot of allergies and different food lifestyles out there and we just can’t accommodate them. By allowing in or providing food, you are excluding these people. We do have a designated eating area in our library and if people need a snack, they are welcome to visit this area before or after our programs.

 

From Eve P.:

 

Regarding snacks as a regular part of storytime, I say no! There are so many children with food allergies – eggs, wheat, rice, gluten, nuts, milk – that it is very difficult to address everyone’s allergies safely. Also, mixing food with books sets a bad example. I don’t want my patrons to think it is OK to handle a book while eating. Books are food for the mind – that’s food enough for me!

 

From Katya S.:

 

In my large library system, we don’t allow food outside of designated areas, so food at storytime isn’t an option. We have so many different potential allergies and dietary needs that feeding kids is messy and impractical for us. I occasionally have food in programs but really only for children over 9. I also lavish the teens with candy.

 

The Answers: Sometimes! (And we had a few in-betweens but we’ve limited it to four responses.)

 

From Nancy M.:

 

Personally, I prefer a craft to snacks. I always worry about leaving a child without because of allergies or family food policies. The only time I have given snacks is when I did our “bedtime” storytime as their bedtime snack and then it was just a very small treat–a few pretzel sticks or a pack of fruit gummies. However, I work in a middle class suburb. If I worked in a library serving a less affluent community, I’d consider providing healthy snacks with grant monies or community donations.

 

From Tess P. (@tess1144, www.inclusiveearlyliteracy.wordpress.com):

 

First, let me say, I love food. But snacks as a regular part of storytime, no, I am not into that mess thanks! But…for special occasion programs, like for instance the Caldecott Picture Book Party or Shamrock Shenanigans or Winter Whimsy or Spring has Sprung Storytimes, I do like to include a cookie decorating station as one of the activities that take place after the stories and songs. We always have at least one craft or art activity going on concurrently so even kids who can’t do the cookie activity will have something fun to do at another station.

 

From Ann S.:

 

I don’t serve snacks on a regular basis during story time because we have a policy that only allows prepackaged foods to be served. We also have several children with food allergies that regularly attend our story times. If parents want to bring a snack for their child to eat that is fine as long as it doesn’t contain nuts, the child sits at one of our tables to eat it, the drink is in a lidded container and no food or drink is near our computers. We allow this because we don’t know if a child is diabetic and required to eat at regular intervals. I have also found that a hungry toddler is a cranky toddler so am more than willing to allow parents to give their little ones something to eat.

 

From Natalie K. (www.talesfromthenerdy.wordpress.com):

 

We don’t have snacks in our regular storytime programs. A traditional storytime for us includes books, flannel stories, songs, a movie, and a craft for them to take home. We have created a Lunch Buddies program for children ages 3-5. The children bring their lunch and we provide them with snacks and drinks. We run a program before they eat and then enjoy quiet time together as they have lunch.

 

The Answers: Yes!

 

From Karen H.:

 

We allow snacks during storytime but the parents provide it for their own kids. I do baby storytime so its not too much trouble. :)

 

From Angela R. (@annavalley):

 

We’ve had great success with our “Milk & Cookies” storytime. We offer a peanut-free cookie, milk, and juice (for the lactose intolerant children). This is after storytime has done, and it gives parents & kids a time to chat & play. We also put toys out at this time. When we stopped offering the milk & cookies, people stopped coming, so we re-instated it. Food is a big thing around here, and so we continue. What works best for your community is the way to go.

 

Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments and I’ll post some of the other awesome answers we got that we couldn’t feature on the post!