Category Archives: Guest Posts

Get to know an…Early Learning Librarian



Arwen Ungar


Your title, duties, and what an average day might look like for you.


My title is Early Learning Librarian, which is wonderful because that means I really get to focus on early literacy and be a champion for these types of programs and services in the library, the district and out in the community. My duties include facilitating and coordinating the programming and services for children aged 0 to 6.  I’m also a supervising librarian so I also do a lot of scheduling and administrative work.  I am lucky to have a passionate and innovative staff of Senior Library Assistants who put on more than 1300 children’s programs last year!   They make the supervision part pretty easy.  My library is part of a larger district so I also spend time with my peers in workgroups and meetings making decisions about technology and youth services.


An average day for me really depends on the day of the week. Some days I have two programs in the library and one out and some days I don’t have any programs and three meetings. In a typical work week, I have at least 3 meetings and I usually visit two outside locations such as transitional housing or school groups for storytime and library promotion. I facilitate three in-library storytimes including a bilingual storytime. I also work about 10 to 12 hours a week on the various reference desks–there are 5 floors so that keeps it interesting!


What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience? 


My move here was definitely intentional. In addition to the opportunity to work in a new, beautiful building that has one of the only early learning centers of its kind it also happened to be a 15 minute drive from my house.  My last job was in a basement and about an hour and a half from home with traffic.   At the time, it was the only job that I had applied for in a year so I really wanted it. Dream job, dream location!


What things give you the most joy in your position?


I love outreach!  It’s really reaffirming to go out into the community, talk up the library and then see the people you met come into the library for the first time. I also love stretching myself and getting out of my comfort zone by providing bilingual storytime. It’s scary but I know it is something that we need to be offering. Storytime in general is the most mentally demanding but also the most rewarding. I love the moment when a baby learns how to clap or wave goodbye or just gives me a huge smile when they see me. Having proud parents tell me about the milestones their kids have made since they last saw me is also fantastic.


What’s most challenging for you?


Bilingual storytime! It’s definitely difficult to do programming in another language. There is at least one moment in each storytime where I completely forget how to speak any language. But I breathe deeply and it passes.


If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?


I’ve only been at this job for about 8 months so I am very happy right now.  I think ultimately I would like to be a branch manager at a smaller branch in the system or somewhere nearby.


Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice that you would give me?


Take a job no matter what the title, no matter how far the commute is. My very first job after graduate school was a Library Assistant job for 5 hours a week and was located an hour and a half away from my house without traffic.  That job helped me to get a second part-time job which eventually became full-time. Apply for jobs where you have to fill out the paperwork and hand deliver applications because these jobs get fewer applications than jobs that you can submit online. You may have to swing working two part time jobs for a while which is not great but doable in the short term.


Try lots of things, volunteer, get an internship but don’t kill yourself. Don’t be disheartened by a lack of response to job applications. You will get an interview eventually. It took me about 10 months to get a full-time job after graduating but many in my cohort had jobs before they graduated.  Everyone is different! Remember to breathe and don’t forget to take time for yourself and your family!


Tech and Toddlers with Maria- Building with Books, Apps, and Blocks

When we are using apps with our youngest kids, it is always more fun and educational if we can take the app experience and bring it into the real world. As awesome children’s librarians, we are already doing this in storytime. We read a story and then we tell it again using props, puppets, or the flannel board. So why not extend the fun with apps.



Recently I did one of my favorite storytime themes of all time, Tools! As I read the book I Love Tools! by Philemon Sturges, I had the kids pretend to use the tools to help build a bird house. Then I shared the app Sago Mini Toolbox, where kids can use various tools to help the animals build. We even helped a dog build a doghouse, which the kids loved. Just like the book, I had the kids pretend to saw the wooden planks and hammer the nails. After storytime, the kids went into the playroom next door and were able to build with our big block set that you often find in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Here they were able to actually build their own creations.


My tip to parents was whenever you have the opportunity to take what you learned in a story or an app and bring it into the real world with extension activities, your child will absorb more on the topic. Also, it just makes the activity more fun!


Call for Submissions: Inclusiveness



Mighty SU community:


Today we’re sending up a signal and asking for guest post submissions during the month of December on the topic of inclusiveness.


For the past few months, we’ve featured material from a handful of guest bloggers who have been terrific and insightful. We’ve learned and shared so much with these voices from the community, and now we’d like to open the gates even wider.


Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, a parapro or a director, you all have unique and inspiring perspectives to share. Please consider digging deep this month and sending us your best thoughts on this month’s topic.


Submissions can be emailed to Please include the words “December guest post submission” somewhere in your subject line.


Here are our current guidelines to help get you started. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Approx. word limit: 500


Be advised:


The joint chiefs have full editorial authority to evaluate and edit submissions. Not all  submissions can be published, but some may be saved for a later date. Submissions that advertise or endorse services, businesses, or products will not be published.


Please include: 




At least one image with appropriate photo credit


Short bio that includes contact information


Some tips:


If you’re highlighting several storytime activities or resources, please consider providing them in outline or listography format. Feel free to provide short descriptions with each thing in your outline or list. This helps readers focus on the heart of your content.


Please provide sources to content that you did not create wherever possible.


Hispanic Heritage Month Music & Movement – with Melissa!

Today’s guest post is from Melissa who is sharing her Music & Movement program from Hispanic Heritage Month. Even though that month has passed we believe it is important to celebrate diversity all year round! Thanks, for sharing your program, Melissa!


To celebrate and engage our patrons with Hispanic Heritage Month 2015, we planned a week of special programs in the Los Alamos County Library System. We added two afternoon read-ins and used our weekly story times and music and movement (M&M) programs to showcase Hispanic authors and performers. Here’s the M&M program and some of my thoughts behind my choices.

We started with “Hola” from the album Salsa Tots by the group Salsa Babies featuring Ricky Franco. We all learned the word “hola” before I started the song, then I sang along as I guided the group through waving hello, clapping, stamping, drumming on tummies, waving hands, etc. This song is mostly in English and talks about saying hello, making friends and introducing ourselves.


Because this program was mostly new songs, I stopped in between each one and previewed the next activity. For “The Numbers Song” by A.J. Jenkins from KidsTV123, we slowly counted to ten and back down in English, then repeated that in Spanish. The song is perfectly written to echo each line. It’s simple and clear and most importantly, easy to sing while jumping, dancing, and directing a crowd!


We used scarves for our next song, “De Colores.” I used a slower version with children singing. Before starting the music, I talked a bit about the story of the song- the colors of nature, all the birds singing, how colors make us feel happy inside. Our actions included waving in front of our tummies, waving up high, spinning in circles with scarves flying, and rolling our hands to entwine the scarves. The chorus of “De Colores”—“Y por eso los grandes amores, De muchos colores me gustan a mi”—is excellent for reaching up high and “painting a rainbow across the sky!” For the second verse, I had everyone get down close to the floor with their rainbow scarves and pretend to scatter feed to all the roosters, hens and chicks.   


Get on Your Feet” by Gloria Estefan was my pick for parachute and ball time. “Get on Your Feet” has long been a staple of mine for instrument time because the lyrics exhort the crowd to “get up and make it happen”.  It was perfect for this program because Estefan is a major Latina artist and there are perfect tempo and lyric breaks for my typical parachute play process. Instead of focusing on kids doing the activities themselves, we’ve had great success using the parachute with little ones by engaging their adults to manipulate the parachute while the kids have the fun of being under it, playing with the balls and jumping up and down. We do slow and fast waves, pop the parachute high in the air and lower it all the way down while everyone gets “pequeño” underneath, then count “uno, dos, tres” for a high pop that reveals delighted, squealing children. I used the words “salto” and “baile” quite often and we all jumped and danced happily.


As we put away the parachute and balls, I began talking about our next song, “Saco una Manito.” I went through the whole song in English first, talking the actions rather than singing them. Saco una manito means I have a little hand, so I first showed the group one hand, then showed how the hand dances, then how it closes, then opens, then runs away behind your back. We repeated the actions with the other hand, then with both hands together. I chose a version sung by Adriana because she goes through the song three times, getting faster each time.


Besitos y Abrazos” is another song from the album Salsa Tots. I talked about the Spanish words for kiss and hug and showed them how we would do the kiss action (kiss one hand and throw kiss, change to the other hand and repeat) and how we would hug ourselves or someone we love for the hug action. For the English verses we rolled our hands and danced as salsa-like as we could manage. During my third presentation I had enough older kids engaged to the point where we could “salsa” in a circle while rolling our hands, then blow kisses and give hugs on the chorus.


We passed out bells for our next song, “Tingalayo.” I used a charmingly bouncy version from the album Canciones in Español by Sara Quintanar. Her Facebook page is Music with Sara.


Since this program included lots of new things, I wanted to be sure to include some old familiars. Everyone loves “Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas, Pies” (head, shoulders, knees, and toes)! I chose a version by Jam with Jamie from Youtube because Jamie goes over the vocabulary, then sings the song three times, getting faster each time. I also went over the vocabulary before starting the music. The kids loved this and even the littlest can participate, with caregivers pointing to heads, knees and toes, etc.


Free instrument time came next. We made tons of noise and played and danced to “Conga” by Gloria Estefan. This was a familiar song for our patrons as I’ve been using it for years.


When it was time to say adios I used two favorite goodbye songs. “Adios Amigos” from the TV show Dos Y Dos and a song called “Adios Amigos,” from the Elementary Spanish Chatbook by Julie Jahde Posposhil. This song is set to the tune of “Skip to My Lou” and in my head I call it “hasta luego, CHACHACHA.”


I’ve always used music from all over the world in M&M to add excitement and inclusiveness to our library programs. These Hispanic Heritage themed M&M programs were a piece of a larger initiative to expand our programming offerings and create themed and specialty programs in more areas each year. Using music, which is readily accessible no matter the language, we’re able to be inclusive, engaging and educational.



Melissa Mackey, Los Alamos County Library System, Los Alamos NM, paraprofessional with 25 years of adult and child literacy and music programming experience, 12 with Los Alamos County.

Get the Beat! With Allison

Allison is our guest today with some great ideas for using music in storytime. Thanks, Allison! What can you add to her list? 


In my last Storytime Underground post I talked about why singing in your storytime program is so important. Today I’m going to delve into how to use songs, music, props, and puppets. Hopefully you’ll come away with some concrete examples that help spice up your storytime!

Music can, and should, be used differently for different age groups. Here’s an idea of how to use music with different ages and interesting props.


Baby songs and activities


Babies love rhymes that incorporate bouncing, lifting, and rocking. Have you tried “Go In and Out the Window” with your little ones? It is absolutely magical! Caregivers stand in a circle and hold their babies facing into the center. As you sing the song together, they “fly” the babies in and out, all while they are peeking at their little neighbors’ faces.


Toddler songs and activities


Toddlers are just learning how to hold things in their chubby fists and waddle to the music. Try marching in a circle to “We’re All Marching in the Same Parade” (Les Julian) or the fun band instrumentals in “Inst-ChickenFat” (Laura Johnson). Pass out some instruments before you start to march and you’ll have own marching band!   Model moving in one direction, then another, as well as marching fast or slow.


Preschool themes


Music with preschoolers can round out a theme in storytime. Insert a song or finger play in between each book you read in storytime. For a “Bears” theme, try singing and acting out “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and have the group stand up for “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around”. Music with the preschool set can also teach concepts, such as fast/slow and up/down.


School age silliness


The beat doesn’t have to stop with the school age crowd! Kids in elementary school love anything silly, particularly traditional camp songs like “Peanut Butter and Jelly” and song rounds (“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”), where you’ll get the whole crowd participating. Try an online search of camp songs and you’ll get a ton of tunes.


Books can be sung


There are loads of books that can be sung as well as read. Some of my favorites include I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (Beaumont), If You’re Happy and You Know It (Carter), The Wheels on the Bus (Zelinsky), or I Love My Hat (Florian). There are lots of other great ideas at the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) Bell Awards page. Singing a book showcases it in a different way, and shows parents that there are all kinds of ways to share a book.


Scarves, eggs, puppets, and parachutes, oh my!


Using props with music is not just fun, it helps kids get the beat. Shaky eggs are fun to use with recorded music like “I Know a Chicken” (Laurie Berkner), “Goin’ to Kentucky” (Miss Carole), or “The Milkshake Song” (Wiggleworms). If baby is too young to hold the egg herself, roll the egg on her body so she’ll feel the smooth, round texture. A child needs to know concepts about shapes so that they can begin to identify the differences in letters.


Scarves are a colorful and inexpensive purchase for storytime. Reinforce different colors and learn about up and down as you play “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (Mary Poppins) or “If I Could Have a Windmill” (Sharon, Lois, and Bram). Some librarians have told me that they would never use a parachute in their program. If you have the room, give it a try! If your group is small, kids can sit on the parachute while caregivers hold onto the handles, walk the parachute in a circle, while singing “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”. You can pretend it’s raining and have the children go underneath while you sing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” or “Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun” (Raffi). For a real kick, shake the ‘chute and put some beach balls on top while Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays!


And don’t forget about all the fun you can have with puppets. If there’s a puppet that can be used with a song, I’ll try it. A monkey is perfect for “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” (Go Fish) or “Mommy’s Taking Us to the Zoo Tomorrow” (Raffi). You could inexpensively make frog finger puppets for “Three Green and Speckled Frogs” or ducks for “Three Little Ducks Went Out to Play”. Children love seeing what you’re singing about.


So, shake, dance, hop, sing, flutter your scarves and have a marvelous, musical storytime!


Allison has taught second grade, and travelled around the country with Clifford the Big Red Dog, but next to being a mom, she’s found her favorite job is as a Children’s Librarian. You can find her shaking her sillies out in story time or blowing something up in a school-age science program at Wallingford Public Library in Wallingford, CT.