Things I’ve enjoyed #2

GreenGhosts of Greenglass House, the second Greenglass House book by Kate Milford. I love everything Kate Milford writes, and the Greenglass House books are gentler than her others, and right now I like that. This is a fantastic follow-up, I may like it even better than the first book!



JaneJane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore. I also love everything Kristin Cashore writes, and this is fabulous. Mind-bending, strange and wonderful, and OMG those umbrellas!


Lilliput Hats. Milliners extraordinaire in Toronto, I bought my wedding hat here, and would happily buy half of what they make if I had a lot of money, which sadly I don’t. Right now I’m lusting after a particular top hat-style hat I saw when I picked up my wedding hat!






Things I’ve Enjoyed #1

A random list of things library-related and not!

Magician  This book, which is extremely amazing and you should read it! It’s steampunk/magical New York, and it’s romantic and scary and fabulous and just about 100% my idea of what a perfect YA book should be.

This designer, who made my wedding dress (I’m getting married in three weeks), and whose entire Etsy store I want to buy!

The Stratford Festival, which has long been one of my favourite ever things! We came every year for a hefty part of my older child/teen years (thank you Grandpa!) and now I go with my parents (or now my Mom and my soon-to-be-wife, now that Dad is dead and I have a partner) every other year or so. This time we saw Guys and Dolls, Tartuffe, and Twelfth Night, and it was all very good! Do go sometime, if you live in reasonable distance, it’s always worth it!

Walking. I have driven to and from work for the last five years, and I finally got rid of my car and am now walking/taking the bus, and it’s great! 4 km of exercise per day, and an hour of reading on the bus each way!

Summer Round Up

It’s been an insane summer, more programs and more kids than ever, and so I haven’t been able to even think about posting. However, school begins in two weeks, and so things are winding down, so here’s a quicky “What’s been happening in my library this summer” post!

TD Summer Reading Club: of course, the must-do for Canadian public libraries (at least in Ontario, I know some provinces offer alternatives). I think I posted about it last summer, here, so I won’t again, but once again we are offering an alternative Activity Path (as opposed to the read-books-and-get-prizes model of the Reading Path, aka the typical TD Summer Reading Club), and it was more popular than last year, I think (stats not in yet), partly because I made it easier this year, and partly because more people knew about it, and I really encourage my staff to talk it up. It’s most popular for kids who finish the Reading Path first and early, so need something else for the rest of the summer, but also good for kids for whom reading is not so much fun.

Wonderworks: borrowed wholesale from the wonderful Library Makers blog from Madison (WI) Public Library. I chose four of the posted programs, made a few adjustments, and have run it as an August drop-in special. I won’t say attendance has been awesome (but it’s August in a very cottage-owning town), but those who have come have really enjoyed it. So far we’ve done Sorting, Velcro, Chains, and we’ll end with Blocks and Playdough this week. I’d love to run it during to school year, but I just haven’t got a time and place.

What Wednesdays: designed to occupy our summer programming student and to fill a need, this was an hour every Wednesday morning during the summer when anyone 6-11 years could come in and explore something: animals one week, games another, colour another, and so on. We had six to ten activities each week, and kids could explore them as they wanted. It turned out really well, mainly thanks to our brilliant summer student (and former library page).

Sew Crazy: I already posted about this here, but once again it was very popular. I did downsize it to about eight kids, which was so much better.

Preschool Gym: a rerun from last summer, and a good one. We have a few articles of gym-type equipment: a pop-up tunnel, a balance board, a rainbow gym mat, and a bean bag toss game. We put those out, plus a few other things–this year we had ‘soccer’ balls to kick into a cardboard box goal, a tape balance beam and math hopscotch. Very, very popular, I think we have 70-odd people show up–way too many for the program room, but they worked that out fast, and some people left so it was more manageable.

That’s not all, but it’s the more exciting free things that I had some involvement in, and I highly recommend any or all!



Sew Crazy

I recently ran a fun sewing program for kids at the library, called of course, Sew Crazy! Here’s how it worked:

This was a registered program, I did it once before as a drop-in, but it was too much, it works much better as a registered thing. I registered 15 kids, but only 12 showed, and that was still too many for one seamstress, given that 10 of them had never even seen a needle. I think I’ll register 12 next time, and hopefully have 8-10 show up.

Our project was making a small purse/pencil case from a piece of felt. Total cost for this program was less than $20, which involved a piece of felt, a small spool of thread and a needle for each kid, and they could take it all home to practice further sewing. I supplemented those with sequins, beads and buttons from our huge stash.

To prepare: thread a lot of needles, double thread, with a good thick knot at the end. Do at least five more than you have kids.

Project: each child gets a piece of felt and a threaded needle. Have them orient the felt with the short sides at top and bottom, like this:

Sew 1

Then fold the bottom up, leaving a flap of about 5 cm (2 inches) at the top.



The folded part is the bag, and the top part will fold down to make a sort of envelope bag.

Have the kids sew up both sides of the fold (I usually have them use an ordinary up and down stitch, so they learn that, but whip stitch looks nicer, if you have more advanced sewers).

Have them pick a button, and sew it on (they will initially need a lot of help finding the holes), here:



Then help them cut a slit in the upper part, as a buttonhole, to close the bag.

Then, let them go crazy with decorating! If you’re nice, have glue to add sequins and stuff, if you aren’t, make them sew them on (I did the latter–they learned more techniques that way!) Fabric paint or markers are a nice addition as well.

I did this for ages 7-12, which was a good range, and invited the kids to bring adults with sewing skills along–I got one grandmother, and her granddaughter was very lucky to get so much individual attention!

For kids who already knew how to sew, I had some random fabric scraps (donated) out, and almost everyone was doing things with that by the end of the program.

It was a surprisingly popular program (with a waiting list of almost half the registered number, which is very rare for us for this kind of program), and it’s something I feel good about teaching. Yes, we need more people to learn computer coding, but not everyone will grow up to be a coder, yet everyone will grow up to wear things with buttons and hems that need an occasional, easy repair, and it would be nice if everyone, coders too, could learn to do that. I know people who take things to a tailor to have a button sewn on, and that’s ridiculous! Everyone can learn to sew a button on, and this is my way of helping make sure at least a few kids learn (and clearly their parents are very enthusiastic about this).


So busy…but here are some picture books!

Things are crazy at work (everyone’s sick, including me), but here’s a couple excellent new/recent picture books!

GardenerThe Night Gardener, by the Fan Brothers.
This picture book is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in ages. I don’t buy many new picture books (no kids of my own and I can get most of the books I need at work), but I am totally buying this. It’s a touch creepy, I guess, but it is SO beautiful! You need to read it.




The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, by Tony Wilson, pictures by Sue deGennaro.
Prince Henrik’s older brother found his princess by placing a pea under a pile of mattresses, but Prince Henrik finds his sister-in-law kind of ridiculous. He wants a princess who isn’t so sensitive, one who will play hockey and go camping. So he tries putting a packet of frozen peas under one mattress, and all the princesses whine and complain and get bruised–until his old friend Pippa shows up for a sleepover. A charming and funny happily-ever-after story for those of us who wouldn’t notice a pea under a pile of mattresses!


A Brief Fall Quiet Time

School started yesterday, the Summer Reading Club ended this past Saturday, so we have a temporarily quiet respite here in children’s services. The first week of school tends to be quiet for us no matter what else we do, since most kids and their families are more worried about getting settled in school than what to read next, and it’s a little early for assignments requiring lots of reading.

What’s next? Well, Fall preschool programs start next week, that’s all our registered story times, and school-age one-time programs start happening in about two weeks, when the newness of school has worn off a bit. Right now we’re all tidying our desks and counting the summer reading stats, as well as doing any final prep for next week’s programs.

It’s going to be a busy Fall, with more programs than we’ve ever run in one season here (to my knowledge anyway, and that includes the input of people who have worked here for more than thirty years). We’re doing a bunch of 3D Printing for Kids programs, since the one I ran in the Spring was an insane hit (not a good program–too many people, but a huge one for the content). We’re also starting this library’s first ever weekly story time. Previously all our story times have been in 2-4 week registered sessions, or once or twice a month drop-ins. Getting a weekly story time is something I’ve been trying to do since I started (since it’s so much better for families if they can just know it’s always happening if they want to come), but it’s been a long time coming, thanks to various factors. I’m guessing it’s going to be a huge hit which may change how we do all our other story times.

I’ve just been going through our Summer Reading survey, we asked older kids (7 or 8 and up) or parents to answer two questions and provide any other feedback about the program, and it’s really nice to read all the feedback. 63% said they read more this summer because of Summer Reading, and everyone said they enjoyed the program. Lots of comments said how much the program encouraged reading and how nice the staff were, which is such a shot in the arm for all of us–and provides us with tons lovely quotes for budget presentations and so on all year.

The appalling heat of the past few days is finally starting to break, and I (being one of those weird people who loves Fall, even if it means winter is up next) am very pleased–no air conditioning at home is not fun when it’s 32-36 degrees (C) outside!

The everyday life of a children’s librarian

Something a lot of people wonder about libraries is what on earth library staff members do; I mean, all there is to do is check out books, right? Well, no (this is akin to people thinking that my mother, who’s a priest, does nothing but show up to church on Sunday and preach). And actually, checking out books is not part of the duties of post librarians who work in mid-size to large libraries–it’s a different story in a small library. So what do we do all day? Well, different things. One of the lovely things about being a librarian is that no day is exactly like any other, and most days are full of many different things to do. So here’s a Friday a few weeks back, just in case you’ve ever wondered what we do!

9:00: arrive.
9:05-9:10: participate in staff circle time, where we share what’s going on that others might need to know about.
9:15-9:30: pack props and select books for outreach I’m doing later.
9:30-10:00: answer email, make sure I’m on top of my phone messages, talk with colleagues about CAD training we’re running later this month.
10:00-10:20: Go through a publishers catalogue to make sure we have all the new, hot books on order already (and we do; I rock!)
10:20-10:35: Coffee break
10:35-11:00: Drive to my outreach, to the children’s classes at the Welcome Immigrant Centre (to those of you who are not Canadians, this is a federally-funded centre which offers language classes, job search help, recreational classes and many other kinds of help to newly arrived immigrants, and also child care so that the parents can take the classes and so on)
11:00-11:45: Storytime with a class of 8 children, none of whom have been in North America for more than six months; they are awesome, and it’s truly delightful to share “The Wheels on the Bus” or some other well-worn classic with someone who has never heard it before.
11:45-1:00: Lunch and travel back to the library (and spend ten minutes finding a legal parking spot!)
1:00-3:00: on the Children’s and YA Info desk, giving help to anyone who needs it, reading professional journals and blogs and planning my summer programs if no one needs help.
3:00: Off to our program room, where I will plug in our 3D printer and start printing off some sample items for an upcoming program, then go through the craft supplies and see what we need that we don’t have for summer programs.                                           3:30: Meet with manager to discuss various things.
4:15: Afternoon break
4:30: Read local papers (part of my job duties) to keep on top of local issues.
4:45: Make sure the staff who are closing are doing okay–sometimes it needs lots of people to get everyone out on time!
5:00: Head home.

Still weeding but…

We’re still weeding (although it should be done soon), and now we’re madly busy touring our local schools in the company of a Makerbot Replicator Mini!


Yes, we’re bringing 3D printing to the scholastic masses, and I highly recommend it! How are we doing it? Like this (much of this program was borrowed from Innisfil (Ontario) Public Library, many thanks to the staff there for sharing with us!):

We contacted all our elementary schools about two months ago, and asked if they’d like us to come and visit some or all of their grade 2 + students with a 3D printer. About 80% of the possible classes said “Oh yes, please”, so we’re going to be doing this every spare minute till the end of March.

We (2 children’s services staff) go into the classroom with the 3D printer, a laptop (since the Replicator Mini doesn’t do anything without a computer attached), and an ipad mini. We plug everything in, connect to the school wifi (or use our Bell stick if they don’t have wifi), start the printer printing something simple (there are lots of good 20-minute bookmark designs), and start talking about the printer and 3D printing generally–how it works, how you can find/make designs for printing, and Library-specific stuff like how much it costs and our guidelines (no weapons, nothing inappropriate, no intellectual property violations). We also invite the students to come up and watch the printer  When we’ve done that (20-30 minutes, including a brief tour of Thingiverse and free CAD programs), we plug the ipad into the projector, and walk the class through designing a class mascot with 123D Sculpt. Then we pry the bookmark off the printer and give it to the teacher, email the mascot design to ourselves, and more onto the next class. The mascot design is juggled for printability once we’re back at the library, and then we’ll print them and deliver them back to the school within 2-3 weeks.

The students adore it, even the ones who have seen a 3D printer before. They love having it in their classroom, being able to see it working up close, and designing something for it as a class. The teachers love it because it’s a class visit from the library which is interesting, different, and suitable for even the oldest elementary students (it’s hard to sell summer reading to Grade 8 teachers), plus lots of STEAM connections!

Our administrators/management/etc. love it, it sounds so current and topical, and although I doubt it’s as good for the kids as going in and reading to them, or talking about databases, you have to keep the senior people happy!

And do we love it? Yes, we love doing anything that anyone enjoys as much as this. We don’t love the fact that we will be insanely busy for the next month and a half (busy is good, but insanely busy for that long is tough), and that nothing much except 3D printing visits will get done, but that’s life–come June, we won’t do anything much except Summer Reading through until August, when we won’t do much except Back-to-School stuff, and so on and so forth.

If you’re wondering about cost and technology, we have 2 Makerbot 3D printers, a Makerbot Replicator 2 and the Mini; we got a grant for the 2 (which we’ve had for two years) and IT stumped up for the Mini last year (which costs about the same as a Macbook Pro). Our ipad was liberated from Adult Services, who had two for showing people how to use them, and we decided that one was more than adequate for that, and we have several laptops for programming and webinars and things, so we just borrow one of those. We are well-funded by our community, but not outrageously so, and the actual money we spent on technology specifically for this program was the price of two cables for plugging the ipad into projectors and smartboards, so we can allow the classes to see what their mascot looks like!

Weeding and weeding and more weeding

I have not been blogging because my working life has recently become a race to see how many carts of Children’s materials I can weed (decide whether to remove from our collection) in each day. See, we’re going RFID, and we weren’t really given enough notice (at least not those of us who actually do the on-the-ground stuff), so now it’s a race to see if we can get it all done before the company that’s doing the tagging leaves the building! I will return to at least once-a-week blogging when the weeding’s done, but right now I have half the hardcover easy readers still to go, to say nothing of children’s fiction (but children’s non-fiction is done, yay!)

And in case you’re a worried, we sell (on our book sale shelf) or send to Better World Books everything we weed that isn’t literally too disgusting or wrecked!