Library Fun

RLA-CE Maker Spaces on a Budget

On May, 30th I was part of a panel about creating Maker Spaces in libraries when money and resources are scarce. I spoke about low cost maker programs that can be modified for different spaces and budgets. I was joined by Mike Campagna and Elizabeth Ludemann who talked about their own libraries initiatives for Maker Spaces and great resources like Make it at Your Library. (If you haven’t check out Make it at Your Library, go now. Go right now. I’ll wait.)  We then broke out into smaller groups to discuss issues around maker spaces like staff learning curve and programming for adults. I learned just as much in those discussion as I shared in my presentation.

Check out our slides below and also visit for more great upcoming programs. Thanks again RLA-CE for inviting me to speak and putting together a great program and Schaumburg Public Library for hosting us.


Take Your Author Visit to the Next Level, Cosplay!

When I heard YA author Kendare Blake was going to visit my library I was way excited. Blake’s incredible Anna Dressed in Blood was one of my favorite reads last year. Anna is like a good Supernatural episode, sufficiently scary, hot male protagonist with just enough angst and a seriously awesome ghost. I snagged the ARC of the sequel, The Girl of Nightmares before anyone else and devoured it in a few days. So I was ready for our author visit, or was I?

I had an idea as soon as I read Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna would make an excellent Halloween costume.  Sure not many (or any) people outside of YAdom would get the reference but Anna is a ghost spooky enough on her own that I could pass as “creepy dead girl.” Anna is described in the book as having long dark hair and wearing an old-fashioned white party dress.  When she appears her dress starts dripping blood and her veins go black. Very cool. And very easy. Here are my simple steps to creating this look for very cheap.

My Supplies

White Party Dress – $20 on sale from TJ Maxx although any sort of white dress would work as long as you don’t mind it getting a bit bloody.

White Bloody Tights – A steal for $7 from Party City since I was still trying to figure out if I could find white tights and then how I could dye them to look like blood without it being a huge hassle or mess.

Long Black Wig – A $17 splurge also from Party City because I am currently very blond and didn’t think dyeing my hair black wouldn’t be terribly effective or attractive.

Bottle of Blood – Also $8 from Party City (I seriously love Party City. Its where I got all my stuff for my Hipster Thor costume last year). Get the big bottle. You’ll need it.

How To

I used a disposable aluminum pan to dip the bottom of the dress into the blood. I had my roommate help so I could hold up the top of the dress while she dipped just the bottom and make sure it distributed properly and looked bloody enough. Then I hung it to dry over the sink for a good 24-48 hours. The fake blood I got was slow to dry but looked realistic. The day of I just changed out of my work clothes (yes, I was technically on the clock for this. And what?) and threw on my get up. Luckily I’m a lovely shade of pale so I didn’t use white make-up although I probably will for Halloween and draw some dark veins on as well.  I bought my books for Ms. Blake to sign and waited patiently.

I was worried for a second what everyone would think, a grown women dressed like Halloween in August. And I did get some funny looks but mostly my coworkers laughed and were impressed. They’re used to me by now. And as things turned out Kendare and the fellow authors she was on tour with (the lovely Lisa Desrochers and Marta Acosta) loved my look as well and obliged me with a photo and an autograph. Everyone who attended had a great time and the authors were very generous with their answers and time, sticking around after to chat with fans and crazy librarian who dressed up.

PS – Big thanks to Tor Books and Lake Forest Book Store from bringing Kendare Blake, Lisa Desrochers and Marta Acosta to my library. It really was a great event to kick off the school year in our teen room.

Urban Legends Program – Mythbusters meets Tweens

My second tween program this summer was Urban Legends. I conceived it as a fun program that incorporates learning about Urban Legends and creating some of our own.  My original brainstorming was inspired by a post for YA Program Activities blog which I highly recommend checking out.  I had 16 tweens that I divided into four groups evenly. Which made me super excited because that almost never happens.

  • Icebreaker: I like doing icebreakers since it helps the kids loosen up but I’m still hunt for the “perfect one.” This one was kinda silly which is what I was going for. Called “Shoe Factory” you make everyone throw their shoes in a circle and instruct them to pick two shoes that are 1) not their own and 2) do not match. Once they have shoes they have to find their mates and line up. Mostly they just found who owned the shoes until they swapped enough to get their own back. Oh well.
  • Introductions: I do this so they know each others name and I know their names but I make them say one thing about themselves to help break the ice. I also used this time to find out how much they knew about Urban Legends and if they knew any good ones.
  • Cleaning Pennies with Coke: Each kid received a dirty penny and a small amount of coke in a cup. I warned them to not touch their cup until the end of the program. This would give the coke about an hour and a half to “clean” the penny. I also warned them that if they got soda on the floor they wouldn’t let me do programs anymore. This scared them significantly and they didn’t touch their cups until the end.
  • Fact/Fiction Quiz: Each team had two sheets of paper, “Fact” and “Fiction.” I read a question and as a team they had to pick, fact or fiction. I got the questions from the Mythbuster’s website. Here’s the ones I used  (Urban Legends Quiz) summer/ocean/bug related questions. Seemed fitting. The winning team got candy. (I had other candy for snacks so everyone got sugar eventually.)
  • Two Lies and a Truth: I used a version of this icebreaker as an activity. I gave each team a true myth, most were from, and as a group they had to make up two “fake” myths. Then they acted the three myths out and the other teams picked the true myth. I gave them about 20 minutes to create and plan the skits and then another 10 to present. This worked well and they had fun being goofy.
  • Pop Rocks and Soda: Passed out pop rocks and more soda and let them test this myth. What I found hilarious was the few who were very concerned that they would be hurt. I didn’t want to come out and say, of course you’ll be fine, because that would have taken some of the “danger”  out of it. But one kid was so concerned I finally said, “Do you really think I’d let you try something that could hurt you?”
  • Mythbusters: While they were finishing their pop rocks and soda I brought out the rest of the snacks (chips, cookies and aforementioned candy). I let them serve themselves and we watched part of the Mythbusters episode that tested the pop rocks and soda myth. They were appropriately impressed and disgusted.

That took us to about the end of the two hours. I had a stack of pre-pubs and let them pick out one to take home. I had loads of fun planning this one and the kids had fun too.  For next time I’d probably have more props for the playacting part since they grabbed anything that wasn’t tied down in the room to use. And once again I was too busy running things to take any pictures. Some day.

Art Attack! Literally!

In another effort to blog more frequently I have big plans to start posting programs that I’m doing at my library. For the last two years I’ve shifted my focus to more programming, especially technology and grades 3-5.  I’ll post inspiration, resources and supply list when appropriate. Most of my programs’ budgets have been under $100 and some if I hadn’t served food would have been very close to free.

Most recent (we’ll work backward) is Art Attck! an art-based program that incorporated two main activities, a print-making station and an “aluminum/yarn/relief design” thing.

Ages: Grades 3-5

Planned for 40, 36 attended.

Staff: Myself plus 2 teen volunteers.

Supplies and Cost: General crafting supplies (markers, color pencils, glue, scissors) dept. already owned. Most of my expense came from the print-making supplies I got from Blick, printing ink, ink roller, around $30. I skipped a brayer and used a coffee mug. I also used recycle styrofoam containers rather than scratch foam. Since I didn’t have enough containers by the time of the program I bought foam plates. The yarn activity was relatively cheap. We had yarn, I bought card stock, spray adhesive, aluminum foil sheets (Sam’s, $10) and a new set of Sharpies. I also bought a fancy rainbow stamp ink set with a coupon $10.

Inspiration: Get on Pinterest. For real. I know, I know I’ve been on the anti-Pinning train in the past but if you work with kids, crafts or education it really is a great resource. All my activities were inspired directly or indirectly by Pinterest. Check out my Tween Program board for the ideas I used or haven’t got to yet.

What Happened: Insanity happened. This was my best attended program for this age group and although everything went smoothly I could have used another set of hands. I also could have structured the activities better. Made the steps clearer and maybe printed out instructions. But part of me wanted to leave the activities open so the kids could play and create. Which they did but it made for a chaotic program. Next time I might do one activity and have different sessions. I also had “filler” projects, advanced coloring sheets and pencil eraser art for those waiting to do the two main activities since some supplies we had to take turns. which worked well. One thing I didn’t have time for was pictures hence the image-less post. Very Pinterest-unfriendly.

Take Away: Smaller groups, fewer activities, more focus.

Cool Thing to Remember: A girl asked if she could have my demo print I made of squiggles and stars. At the time I was like, weird, now I’m really flattered and wished I hadn’t acted all weirded out.

Let’s Nerd this Printz Up!

Inspired by former classmate and all around superstar John Schu and his Newbery/Caldecott challenges, I’m pledging to read all the Printz medal and honor books and today my list just got longer.

The 13th Printz winner was announced this morning at ALA’s Midwinter Conference. (Congrats John Corey Whaley, you’re next on my list, seriously!)  Helpfully I already have one 2012 honor in the bag, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater which was also one of my favorite audiobooks.  In fact for each of the years I have read at least one title, except 2010.  Why, I have not a clue, it wasn’t not intentional just a crazy happenstance.  As of today I’ve read 24 of 62 Printzes (Printzz? Printz’? Printzi? Prizies?) so overall I have a strong head start which will hopefully lead to finishing.

For the next few months I’m going to be reading the ones I’ve miss or intentionally skipped and rereading other I haven’t read in a long time (Looking For Alaska, Jellicoe Road *note buy more tissues*).  I also plan to write a small review for each title, my take, thoughts on why it won and it’s place in the canon (does YA have a formalized canon? Hold please…okay Google is unclear, will investigate further.)

First up tomorrow will be Kit’s Wilderness, 2001 Winner, and Skellig, 2000 Honor, by David Almond, mostly because I’ve just finished them.  Yeah, I won’t really be doing this in any real sort of order so deal.  To the Printzmobile!

Ultimate Convention Throw Down – Library vs Comic

Well that didn’t take long.  Nothing like getting half way through a self-imposed challenge before completely folding like a cheap tent.  I could spew out some wonderful excuses but facts are facts. Then of course when I really wanted to post this week, while I was at a library conference, I couldn’t because of no free wi-fi.  Okay, so that probably passes for an excuse.  But its a good one.  Because while I was at ILA’s (Illinois Library Association not the International Longshoremen’s Association) Annual Conference I came to the realization that library conferences would be way more awesome if there were more like comic conventions.

Library conventions need more cos playing!

No, not 50 Nancy Pearls running around.  Show some creativity.  Most library conventions come down hard on the side of professional.  While I never balk at the chance to pull out my super cute wear that I deem too fancified for everyday use, others seem to follow their everyday uniforms.  This is our chance to show off not just our professional accomplishments but our unique personalities.  And where’s the librarian’s Masquerade?  There could be different categories, favorite fictional characters, best dead author impersonation, Harry Potter.

Hi Eye Candy. Aren't you scrumptious?

More entertainment panels!

Not saying run out and get low-rent celebrities but what about mixing things up with the presentations.  Conferences offer a unique opportunity to share ideas and best practices but sometimes the presentations can be dry and one-way conversations.  There should be a wider mix of types of presentations and dear lawd, less POWER POINT!  Some hot eye candy wouldn’t hurt either.

More videos!

I want to take a second to give a big hell yeah to the ILA Video Shootout team.  They encouraged con goers this week to shoot and edit videos from scratch.  It probably got some people out of their comfort zone but also gave them hardcore skills they can take away.  (Why didn’t I make one? See above various excuses.  Lame.  I Know.)  Library cons need more of these active, rather than passive activities to get people mixing, mingling and gasp, playing!

More hype!

My C2E2 peeps are already gearing up for our third year of rocking the McCormick Center, nerd style.  There is year round anticipation.  While some library cons attract that kind of dedication for many it just inspires jealousy and heartache.  Library conventions aren’t cheap.  It’s the sad fact that it’s cost prohibited for many people to attend the bigger library cons unless they get help from their organizations.  They are also, oddly, on weekdays.  I understand there’s probably some discounting and flexibility in scheduling a conference during the week but it also limits attendance to those that can/afford to take the time off their jobs.

So what are some ways we can get library cons up to comic con standards?  First, make them cheaper.  Second, make the presentation selection process as simple and transparent as possible.  Third, encourage cosplay.  Fourth hold smaller, informal events (think Librarian Bar Crawl, Kidlit Drink Nights) throughout the year to keep interest and excitement up.  Fifth, incorporate more active participation like video contests.  Sixth, invite more eye candy.  Yum.

So let’s be even more like the real library superheroes we are and we need right now!

Oh hai, Eye Candy. You seem to have lost your shirt. Shame.