June 2019

June 2019

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Dear Neighbors, 

By the time this newsletter goes out, you will be nearly halfway done with Summer Reading! My hat goes off to you for all for your hard work and perseverance through what often feels like a whirlwind of activity. Only a month left – you can do it! 

I wanted to let you in on a small change affecting the Cardigan: we are moving the monthly release date from the 20th of the month to the first Wednesday of the month. We initially chose the 20th as a nod to our hero Fred Rogers, who was born on March 20th.  However, this means that newsletters sometimes fall on the weekends which can be hard to schedule and plan for.  This new release date will help our planning process and hopefully provide you with a more consistent midweek pick me up!

We are also writing a guest post for Hack Library School identifying four ways to prepare to be a Children’s Librarian. We hope you will keep an eye out for it and add your ideas in the comments section. 

Thank you for being a part of our neighborhood!



STEM Kits for Patrons to Check-Out

Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.  


When I was working in a small rural library, I was asked to create some STEM kits as many of the surrounding rural libraries were already circulating them. Coming from a large system where we had STEM kits for staff to use in programs, but not for check-out, I was very confused on how to even start the process. 

Crowdsourced Answers and Helpful Resources 

Elizabeth Murray of the Stillwater Public Library shared with us some great tips and tricks.  On our Instagram, she shared that the Finch robot is a favorite robot to circulate as it is “sturdy and has no extra parts to count.” She comments: 

“Circulation needed to know exactly how to incorporate our Take it Make It Kits into their check-in procedures. It is very important to have circulation on board as they end up dealing with the kits the most and have to check each little piece. We had written inventory sheets but I would recommend making picture inventory sheets as it is easier for patrons & circulation to double check. Plus labelling as many as the parts as possible.”

Another great tip that Elizabeth Murray shared with us is that the circulating items don’t have to last forever.

“I like to explain that if we have some of this technology in 5 years we are probably circing obsolete material- which is something we don’t do in nonfiction and shouldn’t do in kits! Also we want people to using these items so at some point they should be showing wear or get worn out and that’s OK.” 

You can check out the Stillwater Public Library’s great Take it Make It Kits on their website! They also have Sprout Early Learning Backpacks for checkout for their early childhood learners. 

The Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Network, or STAR_Net has some great resources as well for those who have questions on how to catalog kits, fines and fees for kits, and other ideas for circulating items. The Indian Prairie Public Library also has some great kit ideas in their catalog.  

What should they be called? 

We’ve previously discussed how some educators argue that STEM or STEAM projects and activities should include all letters of the acronym. If it’s only including science and math concepts, and not also including engineering and technology concepts, then it is a science and math activity, not a STEM activity. Maybe these kits could be called, “Learning Kits,” or a name that is more descriptive of the content. I love the Stillwater Public Library’s “Take it Make It Kits” name as it gives an appropriate expectation of the kit. 

We’d love to hear from you, neighborhood! Tell us what are some of the tips and tricks you use for circulating these types of items. What types of items do you have? What do you call them? You can email us at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com or direct message us on Instagram: @thecardigannewsletter


Big Body Play

Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries. 


The term “big body play” first came upon my radar at a conference last year.  The speaker argued that educators need to promote and create opportunities for boisterous and physical play.  Coined by Education professor Dr. Frances Carlson, big body play (BBP) describes highly active, physical, play such as rough-and-tumble play and roughhousing. Other examples include jumping, chasing, running, and spinning.  It can also include wrestling, rolling with, or tagging other kids. 

Big body play is necessary for children to regulate their emotions (like learning to scale back if a child is smaller than them) and reading social cues (such as knowing how to read a child’s face if they seem afraid or uninterested). Research shows that the longer children go without big body play, the more aggressive they become when they finally have the opportunity to engage in it. Think of pressure building up in a tea kettle.  Researching BBP helped me identify a blind spot in my programming: I was so focused on supporting fine motor skills (because of its direct correlation to writing) that I was neglecting opportunities for gross motor. 

There’s a lot more to cover on this topic, so I encourage you to get Dr. Frances Carlson’s book called Big Body Play published by the NAEYC. You can also watch a webinar she gave for free, and access her slides

Some questions naturally arise for librarians on this topic (myself included!):

  • It sounds like BBP is best suited for outdoor spaces. How can libraries without an outdoor space offer more opportunities for BBP?
  • How do we keep BBP safe?
  • How do we educate caregivers about the importance of BBP?
  • How do we distinguish between BBP and aggressive behavior?

I’ll be covering BBP more in future newsletters, so as to break it down into digestible chunks. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve offered programs that have focused on gross motor development and movement! And be sure to check out to the ALSC Blog in July; I’m working on a guest post featuring library programs that integrate BBP. 


Habitat Dioramas 

Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library 


This June, I got to lead a diorama program for the first time as part of a two-day camp about wild animal habitats, for children in 1st through 5th grade.

The Challenge 

Before we dove into the diorama project, we discussed the nature of a habitat and what a habitat might include: food, water, shelter, etc. Each kid was then assigned a wild animal, and was instructed to browse through some non-fiction books on animals in order to gather facts. They had to include at least 2 features from their research in their diorama.  

The Supplies

  • Shoe boxes
  • Miscellaneous supplies
  • Glue, tape, scissors 
  • Optional: plastic wild animals (like Nature Toobs)

Dioramas are a great opportunity to use leftover supplies from other programs. I had pipe cleaners, pool noodles, felt, paint dobbers (because you want fast drying paint so they can take it home), pinecones, plastic and paper straws, construction paper, and more. I also started requesting staff to save their shoe boxes for me a few months before the program so that I would have plenty of shoe-boxes. Even large tissue boxes would work as well! I wanted to save some time so I also bought some small plastic animals so the kids wouldn’t have to make the animal and could just focus on the habitat. The kids loved taking home their dioramas, but one of my favorite parts was watching the kids play with the dioramas they had made. One child showed me how she didn’t want to glue down her iguana because she wanted her iguana to be able to swim through her river she made. As she shared with me facts about iguanas, she moved the iguana around her habitat. I used Nature Toob animals which you can find on the Nature Toob website, Amazon, and at Hobby Lobby.  

The Research

I wanted to make sure their creative habitats were being built on facts so we spent the first few minutes of the program discussing the research process. We learned about gathering information and how our new knowledge should inform the creative process. I then provided at least 2 non-fiction books about each animal available. The kids spent time looking through their books to decide what features they would include in their habitat. 

The Documentation 

As Katherine will discuss in the next newsletter, documentation of children’s work in the library is important. We had the kids make posters that shared the information they had learned and included pictures of their amazing habitats. 

Other Tips 

This was one of my favorite programs I have done and I was surprised how engaged the kids were in both the research and the creation of their habitats. This program was 1.5 hours and I would recommend that you have at least this amount of time for the research and creative process. We also had 5 volunteers helping with the program which helped the program run smoothly. Also, if you are wanting to do other dioramas that don’t involve animals, I recommend you check out Teen Underground’s great post about Peep Dioramas



Libraries are for everyone! 


Amanda from Stow, OH e-mailed us about inclusive terminology to refer to caregivers. It’s always a good reminder to check our language to make sure no child feels excluded because of their family structure! 

“One thing I try to convey as often as possible to anyone working with kids is that if you don’t know a child personally you should never assume that they have a mother or father in their life. I always try to refer to “your grown-up”  even if the woman they are with appears to be their mother, it may be a babysitter or foster parent.  If the man appears to be a grandfather, they may actually be an adoptive father or uncle.  If you use mom and dad, you might trigger some feelings you didn’t intend.” (shared with permission)


Toy Stores

Discover new people to follow online 


Check out these unique vendors to find creative and unusual toys for programs and your play space!


Nature-Based Storytime Books

Some of our favorite books. 


Doing a storytime on a nature-related theme? We’ve got you covered! This list was crowdsourced by our amazing Instagram followers and I’m so excited for you to discover some new titles. I’m especially excited about the beautiful photography books included on the list.  Click on the image to be redirected to the full list. 

And don’t forget about ALSC 2019 Summer Reading book lists

Check out our other booklists:


Vocational Awe

Where we reflect on the deeper questions. 


A few years ago, a coworker pointed me to Fobazi Ettarh, undergraduate success librarian at Rutgers University-Newark, and her work on “vocational awe.” You can read her journal article on the topic here, or read a shorter summary published by American Libraries magazine.  She defines vocational awe as “the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in beliefs that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.”  Essentially, she argues that a dominant narrative portraying libraries as holy ground prevents librarians and library staff from reflecting honestly and critically about systemic issues in the profession, often times at the expense of the well-being of staff. 

I’m so thankful to Fobazi Ettarh for naming and reflecting upon this trend among librarians. It’s a helpful reminder that boundaries are not indicative of a compromised commitment to the job; it’s an integral part of a well-balanced life. 



We asked the Instagram neighborhood about their favorite audiobooks in honor of Audiobook Month! Here are some of the titles that were shared.


It’s giveaway time! I gushed about my love for this book on the ALSC Blog last summer and it’s now available in paperback! I’m so excited for one of our readers to receive this copy. Everyone else, please put a hold on it through your library 🙂  To enter, fill out this form. We will pick a winner next week! 

Congratulations to Nathalie for winning last month’s giveaway book!

You can access a PDF of this newsletter in our Google Drive. This is where we will be storing all future newsletters. 

Logo by Thomas Freeman

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