A few of my favourite (story time) things: If you’re happy and you know it

All right, I’m starting a series: A few of my favourite (story time) things. Here’s number one!

Variations on “If you’re happy and you know it” and other songs that everyone knows. You can literally sing virtually anything them–I’m not saying you won’t have to reorganize the words sometimes, but still–and everyone knows them already, so you don’t have to go through new song shock. I have invented songs for almost every story time theme I’ve ever used that you can sing to “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, “The Farmer in the Dell”, “London Bridge”, etc., and while a lot of them are highly forgettable, some of them are rather good! For example (to “If you’re happy…”):

There’s a mouse on my toe, brush it off!
There’s a mouse on my toe, brush it off!
There’s a mouse on my toe, and I wish that it would go,
There’s a mouse on my toe, brush it off!

There’s a mouse on my knee…
I wish that it would flee

There’s a mouse on my belly…
I wish it weren’t so smelly

There’s a mouse on my arm…
And it’s feeling rather warm

There’s a mouse on my chin…
And it’s making me grin

There’s a mouse on my nose…
It doesn’t smell like a rose

There’s a mouse on top of my head…
I think I’ll run away to bed.

Not profound stuff, but the kids love it, especially if you brush it off with great drama! And you can vary it with flies, spiders, ghosts, fleas, bugs, and anything else you like!

I always use this very simple song for playing with the parachute or scarves, to the tune of London Bridge:

We are waving up and down,
Up and down, up and down,
We are waving up and down,
My fair lady (or my dear baby, if you’re doing baby storytime)

We are waving very fast…(very popular, you have to repeat this one several times).
We are waving very slow…
We are waving way down low…
We are waving way up high…(at this point, if you are using a parachute, all the kids will get underneath so you might as well give up and play parachute peekaboo for awhile).

Reflections on 3D printing outreach

So, we’re all done our 3D printer outreach to the schools for now. Seven schools, about 1500 kids, and a lot of PLA filiment later, here are a few things I wish I’d known when we started out, and also some random interesting stuff!

1. Age: we ran this program for grades 2-8, because we assumed the technology was a little over the heads of anyone under age 7. It totally is (in fact, it is over the heads of anyone under age 9 at least), but the younger grades still had a blast, even if they don’t get it. I will definitely be offering it to K and Grade 1 as well in the Autumn. Also, the grade 8s, and to some extent the grade 7s, were pretty lame. With the exception of a handful of nerds, they are far too cool for 3D printing (although you can see when they come watch the printer up close that it’s just a pose, as you would expect!), and it’s pretty hard to get them interested in designing a mascot on 123D Sculpt. I’d probably skip that part with grade 8s in future, and maybe just give them a CAD lesson.

2. Male teachers are such a pain with a technology program! No offense, men, but if you’re in charge of a group of kids, it’s your role to sit back and make them behave themselves if necessary. Not ignore them and try to hijack the whole program and make it in line with your interests! (a couple of women did this too, but all the men did, and since we saw 6-8 male teachers vs about 45 female, that’s telling)

3. I did know this, but I wish I’d thought about it more: schools vary widely in the availability of technology and their willingness to try to help you/allow you to use it. We needed a projector and screen (or a smart board), wi-fi if possible and at least two outlets to plug the laptop and the printer into. This was made very clear when we sent out the invitations, and again when we booked and confirmed the visits. I would say about half of the schools made an effort to provide everything we needed. 1/4 of the others let us know in advance what they couldn’t provide, and the others made no effort at all, so we spent the first 10-15 running around getting everything organized, finding projectors, extension cords and so on. And several of the teachers didn’t believe they could log us onto the wi-fi, even though they were on the school board network that we’d been logged into in dozens of other classes!

4. If I were organizing it again, I’d want to send an interest survey out to teachers, to try and find out how interested their kids were, and so schedule the right amount of time. Yes, I know, at least 80% wouldn’t have time to fill it out, but if we’d known that for even a few classes, it would have been a big help. We asked for an hour, but in some cases we got as little as 25 minutes, and invariably, those were the most passionately interested classes!

Percy Jackson Readalikes

I’m sure we’re not the only library around that continually needs Percy Jackson and Rick Riordan generally readalikes. Such books are one of my guilty pleasures, so I’m here to share what I consider is a pretty good list. I read a lot of this kind of thing, and I enjoy it, so here goes. These are all highly readable, amusing, exciting, boy-friendly books, all of which share something with the Percy Jackson books. Undoubtedly you and your readers will be familiar with some of these, but hopefully not all! Links are to Amazon, because where else will you find so much information, useful and not?

Sorry if the spacing is off, it seems to work fine in some browsers some of the time, and others not at all!

Armstrong, Kelly and M.A. Marr, Loki’s WolvesLoki

Virtually indistinguishable from Percy Jackson except that it’s about   Norse mythology and has more female presence (and may be slightly better written). It’s book one in an ongoing series.


SavageSadda, Charwat. The Savage Fortress

Indian myths and demons, for a nice change! All my Percy Jackson loving kids have gobbled this and the sequel right up!


Gregor the OverlanderCollins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander

Also really good for kids who want to read the Hunger Games, but their parents aren’t ready for all the YA stuff.

Gregor thinks he’s an ordinary New York City kid, until he’s contacted by giant cockroaches who live in a world under the city, and who believe he can save their world from destruction.


Pendragon  MacHale, D.J. The Merchant of Death

Bobby Pendragon is a pretty normal middle-schooler. Then he gets swept into a multi-  dimensional adventure and learns he may be the guy who has to save the universe.


Gods  Mebus, Scott. The Gods of Manhattan

Rory discovers the alternate world of Manhattana, where giant rats, kung-fu-fighting  squrrels, and long-dead people co-exist. However, the world of Manhattana is out of balance, and soon Rory’s world may be too, if he can’t rescue some trapped spirits and set them free.


Hound  Neff, Henry. The Hound of Rowan

Max McDaniels is a mostly ordinary kid, until he sees things in an old tapestry and then finds himself studying magic and combat at Rowan Academy, preparing to fight an ancient and incredibly powerful demon. Very Percy Jackson, but with an international cast of folkloric characters.


ShaUrsu, Anne. The Shadow Thieves

Cousins Charlotte and Zee must save the world from the denizens of the Underworld and a really nasty guy named Phil.


There are more, but those are my favourites, and those that work best for readers 9-14.

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!

A fabulous program

Not much time to blog currently, but if you do craft programs at a library, please consider this program: https://blogs.princeton.edu/popgoesthepage/cinderella-story/

I tried it on Thursday, ran it after school and called it The Fairy Godmother Workshop, and it was totally awesome. You will want to charge a small fee if you can, it’s a program that rises or falls largely based on how good your craft supplies are, so I charged $5 per kid and bought some really fabulous stickers, fancy paper, ribbon and netting, as well as raiding the library’s supply of lace and ribbon. Some things I learned:

You need at least two staff people who know exactly what they’re doing, no matter how many parents and helpers you have.

Doing dresses and crowns is too much, one or the other would be plenty.

Allow at least 2 hours for this program (I didn’t, and very much regret it).

Remind everyone at least three times that they have to leave the holes clear for lacing it up!

Have fun and be glamorous!


Had an awesome program today, modelled on one I used to run weekly in my old job. It’s a puppet program, and the main point is just to let the kids hang out with puppets! So we started with all the library’s puppets on the floor on one half of our program room, and the kids got to explore them. They had tons of fun figuring out how the owl’s eyes blinked and cramming the frog back inside the prince, and making the shark eat the chicks. Then we went over to the other side of the room, and made puppets! I was worried that some of the older kids (this was an age 4-10 program) would sneer at paper bag puppets or very simple finger puppets, but I need not have. Everyone had an awesome time, and we ended with an utterly chaotic puppet show (performed using a fabulous table on its side with cloth draped over it as a puppet theatre) in which I performed the handsome but extremely cowardly Prince Edward, the oldest girl in the room performed Princess Pom Pom, a double-faced pom pom hanging from marionette strings who was supposed to be rescued by Prince Edward but actually rescued him more often than not, and everyone else performed things that frightened Prince Edward so badly that he disgraced himself and fell off his horse! It was a huge hit, and almost everyone asked me when the next one would be. I wish I had pictures to share, but the problem with running a program by yourself is that it’s hard to take pictures. Anyway, if you have a nice puppet collection that you don’t mind sharing a bit, I highly recommend this kind of program. Kids really get a kick out of it!

ALSC Institute

So I’ve been away, hence the silence. I was lucky enough, through a combination of library, family and personal resources, to be able to attend the 2014 ALSC Institute in Oakland, California. It was awesome. Children’s Services staff, I recommend it above all other conference and similar activities in terms of what it’s likely to do for your library. You will meet more people at a large conference, certainly you will have access to a trade show, which the Institute does not provide, but just think: two and a half days when EVERYTHING is children’s services related! You don’t have to go to that school library presentation that might be applicable to your job, or that really adult services session that might have a nugget. Everything is about what you do and how you do it (if you’re a children’s staff member in a public library; if you’re not, you probably won’t find it very interesting or useful).

I went to so many great sessions: STEAM Power your Library! Increasing Access to Books for Young Children! Inspired Collaborations! Dewey-Lite! Everything was so good, and so inspiring, I want to reinvent my department right away!

I also spent some vacation time with my lovely aunt in Berkeley, which is always lovely. If you’re from the northeast, whether Canada or the US, the sheer climatic awesomeness of California is kind of mind-blowing. It hardly ever freezes there! They grow more kinds of tomatoes than I knew existed! You can grow cactuses in your front yard! (if you come from a warm place, just let me say you have NO IDEA how mind-blowing the thought of no ice and snow is, much less cactuses outside all year).  Every time I’m in Berkeley, I almost have a heart attack when I see the narrow, winding streets, but of course, if it doesn’t freeze much and never snows, your roads don’t need to be particularly wide or straight. Ours have to accomodate metre-wide snowbanks for about half the year and be driveable with ice and snow on them (which means the straighter the better), theirs don’t (another awesome thought). The Bay Area is not the California of legend–not acres of beaches and year-round sun–but it is awfully beautiful and full of lovely things to see (and to eat!). Go if you can.