Category Archives: Motivational

Guest Post Series: Guerrilla Moms

As a new mom, I was thinking about how youth services librarians, early childhood development professionals, and storytime providers go about incorporating their knowledge into parenting. Sometimes, parents at storytime may feel overwhelmed by trying to utilize all these skills at home, especially when it comes to minimizing screen time and maximizing real world interaction. There are so many messages about screen time and kids, and so few real world strategies for what to actually DO that works as well for quieting a 2 year old having a meltdown in Target as well as giving her an iPad. So, I thought I’d ask some experts who I know are working hard at parenting with early childhood best practices in mind to share the nitty gritty of how they do it.


ninja moms


Our second post of the series is by Gwen Vanderhage. Gwen is a kids & teens collection development librarian for Brodart. She sadly hasn’t done storytime in public in a couple of years but is still on message for Early Literacy at every opportunity. She has a toddler son at home, where they read books, play with egg shakers, and have silly dance contests. Here are her words:


I won’t lie, the thing that makes me a super stealthy Storytime Ninja is that I use this stuff at home. I am a full-time toddler mom and part-time librarian. The Joint Chiefs were all, “Who might have pro-tips we can share with our storytime parents? Ninja moms!”  It’s amazing how practicing what you preach makes your preaching feel so much more meaningful and compelling.


It’s particularly timely that we talk about this right now, just after the Babies Need Words Everyday roll-out, because the easiest thing I share with parents is TALKING to your baby. All of the things we’ve practiced saying in our parent speeches are true:


  • It feels funny to narrate your day to an infant, but it gets easier
  • Talk about your errands and point out interesting things
  • Name everything, all the time
  • Singing is kinda the same as talking, so if you’re more comfortable, start with that
  • Talk WITH your kids, not just at them (make eye contact with your baby, let her coo back)


Real life example 1: One of the easiest ways to start talking about the world with your baby, is to begin in the produce section of your grocery store. No one will frown at you – they will smile. Let your baby feel the broccoli, rub a peach on his cheek, sniff the cilantro. Shoppers are supposed to wash this stuff at home, so don’t hesitate! You can talk about the produce long before your baby is big enough to eat it and also talk about it when you prepare it. Talk about it when your baby starts squelching and eating solids. Talk about it when he’s big enough to stand next to you on a stool and let him stir, or (gasp) use a child-friendly knife to “dice” a banana. You can talk about the 5 senses. You can use big vocabulary like “tangerine.” You can introduce colors. You can count apples. You can start talking about how plants grow… there’s a natural progression and you just keep talking. Hey look, PBS has parent tips for the grocery store too!


Real life example 2: Let’s talk about our feelings. Babies are really engaged with books that show other babies’ faces, particularly those baby faces that are expressing emotions, like Margaret Miller’s original Baby Faces book. With wordless books, it doesn’t feel natural to just hold a book up and turn the pages; of course you’re going to talk about what you see! Talk about how that baby feels. Why does she feel that way? What happened? “That baby is sad. I wonder why? Maybe she dropped her binky. What makes you sad?” “Mmm, that baby is eating. What foods do you like to eat?” Reading a book this way trains us and our children to have a conversation, as well as learning words and concepts. It also helps your baby begin to learn empathy. You want to set the stage to continue having conversations about feelings with your child for a lifetime, right?


I know you have other great examples you give parents for talking and how it can set the stage for literacy. Please share them!

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

Motivational Monday: Team-building Awards

This week, we have some new awards for you to hand to your co-workers. Take some time this week and in the coming weeks to observe what your teammates do well and praise them for it. These awards are just examples, but please feel free to print them and give them to someone. I would encourage you to write a specific note on the back about what you’ve noticed.


Building a happy, powerful library is on the shoulders of each and every person who works there. Don’t forget your security guards, your IT helpers, and your janitors. Encourage someone every day, if you can.


For those of you who work mostly alone, take some time to reflect on what you do well and reward yourself somehow.






Do you have a way of lifting up your teammates? What are some practices that work well for you? Please share your stories in the comments.

Resolve to Rock Roundup!

At the beginning of January, we challenged you all to Resolve to Rock in 2016. And boy did you! Here’s the round up of all your rockin’ resolutions!

Resolve to Rock meme image

Edited to add:

  • Erin resolves to be positive and be herself (so important!) and get rid of that darn imposter syndrome. Go Erin go!

Check out our original post for even more resolutions in the comments!

Did we miss you? Still want to resolve to rock? Share your resolutions in the comments and we’ll add you in!

Motivational Monday: The Ready for Anything Playlist

Some days are big. And when I say big, I mean drinking-all-the-coffee, arriving-early-staying-late, planning-all-the-things, taking-the-show-on-the-road, omg-is-that-the-entire-school BIG. Amiright?


Some days, I can’t even see the top of the mountain I have to climb. I know it’s up there in a swirling cloud of wind and snow, but I’m way down in my covers and too warm to get out and put on my boots.


This is music for those kinds of days. There’s some funk, some whimsy, some feel-good, and some serious attitude. Listen, feel amazing, and then add your own motivational favorites because it’s collaborative!


Just a heads up, this playlist is not safe for the public desk.