It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian
I don’t know about you, but it felt like January lasted forever! I’m so glad February is now on its way. It does mean, however, that it’s time to start thinking about summer reading *cue scream emoji* Allie is planning a series of engineering programs based off of popular fairy tales, and I’m working on a weekly art program tied to a picture book. We would love to share your ideas leading up to June, so feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com with all of your best plans for “Imagine Your Story!”
This month, we recruited the help of our friend Laura to write about 3D printers: how to get started, how to use it with programs, how to develop policies. I hope it inspires you if you have one at your library. Let us know what cool things you’ve done with yours. There are so many considerations to take into account (time, cost, repairs, etc.) that we can all afford to learn from each other!
What to Do with a 3D Printer?
Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
I work at a medium-sized library for a lovely system. My location recently opened our newly redone building and it features a Makerspace. We have a small room for customers to use that includes some tech toys, recording equipment, photo editing software, and most popular: 3D printers!
It has been a learning experience for and customers alike. All our guidelines and rules have arisen from our experiences. There is definitely a learning curve on the machines, and we have had IT out more than once. We generally have the Studio open all hours of the library (minus one hour before close each day/if the space is reserved for something else in the room). We allow up to 8 hour print jobs; we do not print overnight. Currently printing is free and the only real rules are the customer (or their legal guardian) must have a library card in good standing, sign our one page waiver, and may only submit 2 prints a week.
The waiver does state that items that are against the libraries policy (such as guns) cannot be printed and that library staff may refuse any job that they feel does not fit in with the library’s policies.
It is the customer’s job to come in and learn the software and design their own items. There is staff on hand to offer assistance, but often, the customers are more knowledgeable than us! 3D printing might sound complicated, but it is only as involved as you want to make it. Most customers simply go to Thingiverse.com and select an already existing model, maybe making some slight modifications. The current popular print is Baby Yoda, of course! Other customers get more creative and use Tinkercad to design their own project or come in with something they’ve created on their own. There have already been many failed prints that require more attempts to get right. The customer and staff member often work together to tweak the design to make it successful.
If the printer they selected is open (we have 2 for customer use- a Jellybox and a Lulzbot TAZ) we may allow them to work the 3D printers themselves, if not, we add it to our pending queue and have staff print it at a later date.
So far, my favorite customer interaction in the space has been with a family, a mother and her two children that came with a vague idea of what they wanted, and stayed for 2 hours working together to create a successful print. The son even stated that he loved the library and that the experience was the most fun he had had in ages. They left satisfied, and have returned many times since to become even more adept at designing and creating 3D prints!
I have had some success using it for programs. Not only have we demo-ed it during school visits and other community events, but I have created 3D items for customers to personalize as well. I 3d printed ornaments for a special holiday storytime; another staff member made vases for customers to paint. There are many program ideas out there! I am hoping in the future to have a family program where children create a character and then the parents bring the drawing to life by 3D printing it.
Overall the community seems to be enjoying the space and every day we have new customers coming in to use it. The customer’s positive experience is the most important, and that they leave feeling like they’ve learned something.
I encourage other libraries to look into getting one. The variety of printers reflects their variety of uses! Some smaller ones can be purchased for around $300 and it’s a great way to get people in to the building.
Laura Pool is a Children’s Librarian in Bethany, OK.
Internet Round-Up of 3D Printer Usages in the Library:
- 3D Printing Club
- Design a Necklace
- Design a Cookie Cutter
- Customizable Bookmarks
- Maple Helicopter
- Pokemon Planters
- Bubble Wands
- 3D Printer Escape Room (shared by @ontarianlibrarian)
- Use the Morphi App, which creates a 3D rendering of a 2D image (shared by @blayneandsimple)
Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
Buying toys for the library can be a minefield. Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics compiled a report in 2018 on the best toys for kids.
Before we take a dive in, here is a quick glossary of terms:
- Open-ended toy: a toy that can be used in multiple ways often times by kids of different ages. Examples: art supplies, blocks, puppets.
- Close-ended toy: a toy that can only be used in one way. Example: a puzzle
- Fine-motor:requiring the use of small muscles in the hand. Examples: tying shoe laces, holding a pencil, fastening a button
- Gross motor: requiring the use of large muscles in the body. Examples: running, jumping, throwing
- Scaffolding: This concept is lifted from the theory of the “zone of proximal development.” Developed by Russian psychologist Leo Vygotsky, the “zone” refers to what a child can learn with the help of an adult but not yet on their own. A child learns best when there is an adult that can guide them from one level of complexity to another, thereby “scaffolding” the learning taking place.
Here are some takeaways from the report to take into consideration:
- Tech-heavy toys often lack the properties needed to foster creativity and managing emotions.
- Avoid toys that perpetuate racial and gender stereotypes
- Often times, old-fashioned toys are best for learning
- Open ended toys are best to foster creativity. Closed ended toys help with critical thinking.
- Consider whether a toy is safe for the age group it is purchased for: are there sharp edges? Small pieces? Does it generate any loud noises?
- Consider ways for parents to scaffold learning with their children’s toys. For example, instead of just providing a puppet set, have some story prompts available that can complexify play.
And just an extra consideration specifically for libraries: does this toy encourage movement? If so, is my space set up to accommodate movement? It can be incredibly frustrating for a child to find a loud popping toy only to find out they can’t use it because it’s too loud for the children’s area.
Toys fall into 4 categories. Try to have toys from each category!
- Fine motor/manipulative
- Gross motor
Here are some of our favorite toys:
- Alphabet Puppet Set by Lakeshore Learning
- Sensory Ball by Edushape
- Color Viewers by Lakeshore Learning
- Kitchen Sets
- Superhero Costumes
- Chomp and Clack Push Toy by Melissa and Doug
- Chunky Puzzles by Melissa and Doug
- Activity Cubes
Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library
After overhearing several conversations about vaccine safety in my programs, I planned a program to connect parents with an expert on the topic of immunization. I advertised it as a regular playtime, a program format parents were already familiar with. This also helped clear up any confusion that we were hosting a debate on the topic. Called “Take the OUCH out of Vaccines,” the program was held on a Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. A local pediatrician board certified in immunology donated his time and agreed to be present during the program. I set out all of the regular toys we have during our weekly playtimes, and added a playdough station in case older children came. A table with two chairs was set up in a corner in case parents wanted to talk in private.
I advertised the program for two weeks in storytime, and had flyers out in the library. It wasn’t until we posted about it on social media that the program became the center of a heated debate on the safety of vaccines. The post received over 150 comments and there were rumors a local group was planning on protesting the event. Thankfully, the program went on without a glitch and the majority of the feedback was positive. The program was primarily described as a playtime which helped attenuate concerns that the library “was entering the vaccine debate.” Parents got to decide if they wanted to engage with the doctor – no one was presented information about vaccines if they didn’t want to.
I wanted to write about this program to draw attention to the role of libraries in connecting communities with accurate and reliable information on the topic of vaccines. While vaccines may seem too controversial for a library to address, we are uniquely positioned: we already have parents in our buildings and libraries are largely regarded as trustworthy. A parent who may not feel comfortable asking questions in a doctor’s office might be more amenable to a library setting. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve offered something similar or experienced pushback on the topic of vaccines! There isn’t a whole lot of information out there for librarians so I hope we can keep sharing stories and experiences.
Live Animal Guests in Programs
Libraries are for everyone!
I love inviting live animals to our programs! I think it gives a program some pizazz and gives children an opportunity to experience interacting with an animal they might not get to interact with on a daily basis. Plus who doesn’t want to say an alpaca (or other animal) visited their library?
I help coordinate the Children Reading to Dogs program at my location. We have clear guidelines that the dogs that come to the library must be therapy dogs and we keep a copy of their records on hand, in case anyone has any questions. While I like this clear-cut guideline for dogs and this type of program, what about more extraordinary animals (alpaca, mini horse, snakes, falcon, etc.) that might not have been through some sort of “obedience school?” I appreciate that my library has policies about how the handler and the animal should behave in the program. We go over these expectations with the handler prior to the program so everyone is on the same page.
Below are some of the highlights from our guidelines for live animals in programs that you might want to consider as well, if inviting a live animal to your program.
- Only members from the visiting organization hold the animals.
- Hand sanitizer be available so customers can clean their hands after touching any animals.
- Handlers face the animals’ head away from customers when inviting customers to pet the animal.
Also, always consider people with allergies. If you are going to have a live animal at your program, make sure to specify that in your advertising of the program. You don’t want a child showing up to a program and not be able to participate because you did not adequately explain that a live animal would be present.
Ever important when inviting live “exotic” animals to programs is using your librarian skills to investigate the owner of these animals. We want to make sure these animals are being treated well outside of the library.
Do you have any policies about live animals in your programs? What are some cool live animals you have had at your library? Share with us your cool pictures and ideas via our email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to share it (with your permission and to give you credit) on our Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter).
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Discover new authors!
Juvenile historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read as it can truly tell stories that have never been told. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch tells a heartbreaking, but fascinating story through her novel, Stolen Girl. I can’t wait for you all to not only read this book, but read about her inspiration for the novel below.
1. Tell us about your new book, Stolen Girl, and the inspiration for the book.
Stolen Girl is about a Nadia, who immigrates to Canada after WWII with her adoptive mother. She begins to have disturbing flashes of experiences during the war that make no sense. Her past is like several jigsaw puzzles that have been mixed together and thrown into one box. In dreams, flashbacks and memory, she gradually pieces together what happened to her during the war.
Stolen Girl was inspired by my mother-in-law, who lost half of her classmates to the Lebensborn program in WWII. She was not captured — she was brown-haired and brown eyed — but she was haunted by her classmates’ kidnapping for the rest of her life. She shared very little about her wartime experiences with her own two sons but near the end of her life she asked me to come to her house with a pen and steno pad because she wanted to tell me all that happened, and she wanted me to write a book about it. To put this in context, this interview took place in 2007 and I’d had about 10 books published in Canada at the time, most with a similar theme: exploring bits of history that had been swept under the carpet. Stolen Girl was originally published in Canada as Stolen Child in 2010.
I had no knowledge of the Lebensborn program before this interview, and she didn’t know all of the details herself. All she knew was that these kids were taken because of their blonde hair and blue eyes and that she never saw them again.
As I researched, I was horrified to discover that the Nazis conducted child raids throughout Eastern Europe, kidnapping hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Polish children who had what they considered Aryan features. The children were taken to a facility where they were sorted, like how vegetables or eggs would be graded. Sixty-three individual body characteristics were measured, and the small number of children who passed were rated as “racially valuable humans”. They were tattooed with either a small black dot or a tree symbol (Lebensborn means “Tree of Life”) on their wrist and the nape of their neck so they wouldn’t be mistaken for “true Aryans” and then they were brainwashed into thinking they were German. After that, they were placed in the homes of high-ranking Nazis — not as adopted children, but more as trophies.
And those children who didn’t pass? They were deemed “not racially valuable humans” and were either killed outright or sent for slave labor.
I asked myself a question: What would happen if two sisters were captured together, and one was deemed a “racially valuable human” while the other was deemed a “not racially valuable human”?
Stolen Girl is the novel about the “racially valuable” sister, Larissa. Making Bombs for Hitler is about the “not racially valuable” sister, Lida.
My mother-in-law’s name was Lida.
2. What are some books that have had an impact on your life and/or writing?
I am dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until I was 9 and in 4th grade for the second time. Since my teacher had given up on me (this was the 1960s, and she told my mother I would never learn how to read because I was “slow” and “the product of a broken home”) I decided to teach myself.
Since the easy children’s books that were available to me at the time had either bored me or terrified me (See Spot Run = boring / The Cat in the Hat = OMG, how can anyone read that book and not have nightmares?!?!) I decided to teach myself with an adult book.
However, the librarian in the adult department of the Brantford Public Library wouldn’t give me an adult card because I was only 9 and I couldn’t read, but she did kindly lead me down the stairs and she introduced me to the novel room in the kids’ department.
I selected Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, and over the course of a year, taught myself how to read with it. That book happened to be the perfect book for me for a number of reasons. First off, my mom had been trying to teach me to read with flashcards, but dyslexics cope by memorizing, and so she had just delayed my decoding by adding to my stable of memorized words. But Mom had never put any old Victorian English words onto flashcards, so when I opened Oliver Twist, I had no memorized words or pictures to help me along, and I had to slowly decode by sounding out the letters and saying them out loud.
It did take me the entire year to read that novel, but that book transformed my life. First off, it put a movie into my head because it was such a great story. It was written about a kid with no adults to lean on and who has to solve his own problems. I was blown away by the power of the story, and the child’s perspective. I decided that I wanted to write powerful stories too, and about people who had been ignored, like Oliver.
Oliver Twist influenced me in another way too. One thing that I didn’t like about Dickens’ writing was that he was too wordy. I decided I wanted to have all the action and images that he had, but I’d leave out the words that people skipped over. That’s why my novels are short.
3. How can our readers connect with you?
My website (the contact page has an email form and earth address):www.calla.com
Black History Month
Some of our favorite books.
While we have compiled this list from Instagram followers and our own favorite books featuring black authors and characters, I encourage you to check out The Brown Bookshelf. They will highlight a black author or illustrator and their work every day in February.
And as a bonus, check out this article from May 2019 called “Where Is the Black Blueberries for Sal?” highlighting the lack of representation in children’s books about nature.
Follow Up: Social and Emotional Learning
Where we reflect on the deeper questions.
I wanted to take some time to follow up about last month’s “Reflect” on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). First, the summarized information was lifted from two articles and I only cited one! So if you’re interested in this topic, be sure to check out Finn and Hess’ other article on the topic, “What Social and Emotional Learning Needs to Succeed and Survive.” For the sake of space, I left out some of the content that exclusively dealt with SEL in a school setting. As one reader pointed out, it is worth noting that most of the research being published on this topic is coming from the field of education, and therefore doesn’t perfectly translate to a library setting. I see this as a real opportunity for librarians to reflect on what SEL can look like in our spaces and identify some modifications to better suit the work we do.
I received some feedback that my previous post could be construed as a flat-out negation of the value of SEL in programs. I chose to highlight the “Fever” article in question because I recognized my own behavior in the author’s caution: indiscriminate use of the term SEL without stopping to think about what SEL is, how it can be achieved, and how to measure its success. I think it’s great that popular educational outlets and academics are targeting their efforts on SEL, and eagerly wait for more direction and training to be released for librarians! As this reader pointed out, there is absolutely no harm in integrating SEL activities into library services: talk about feelings, coping skills, deep breathing, meditation! These are all good and valuable things. I look forward to learning more tips and tricks to promote emotional wellness, and anticipate more guidance from ALA and/or ALSC!
My friend Heather White and I got to lead a workshop for ALA on collaborative art projects in the library – some of the projects you will recognize from the newsletter and our Instagram but hopefully you find some new ideas! Click on the image to be redirected to the slides.
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