Sunday, October 31, 2010

The best (and most stressful) program ever

When I began my new job, I inherited some tried-and-true programs. This is one of them, and it's one I will continue over and over. Despite how much work and stress it is, it was completely worth it for a final attendance of 121. That isn't counting the 30 or 40 people the next day that I sent home with pumpkins, either.

What is this program, you ask? Pumpkin carving.

What you need: pumpkins, buckets of water and rags for cleaning, carving tools, table cloths, apple cider, napkins, hand wipes, plastic bags for seeds, heavy duty black garbage bags, and crafting supplies. For crafting supplies, I purchased a mega box of sharpies, paper for kids who wanted to practice their drawing, pom poms, pipe cleaners (the biggest hit!), stickers, sequins, and tacky glue.

Nuts and Bolts: The biggest stress of this program is finding pumpkins, since every attendee who wants one gets a pumpkin. I called around to a number of local farms, and I had 2 farms that donated a total of about 160 pumpkins. If you aren't so lucky to get such a donation, ask your local retailers for discounts on a large lot. Some stores sell them at $2.99 each, and if you can get 100 for half price, it's still not that expensive.

All of the pumpkins needed to be transported, and between a coworker and myself, we did it in 3 trips. It took a few hours and a lot of manual labor, since our programming room is downstairs in our building. We borrowed a cart from the store next to the library, piled them in, then lined the perimeter of our programming room with pumpkins. Naturally, we had a few other programs prior to the pumpkin carving one, so we needed to keep some space clear.

Prior to the program: We clean and gut the pumpkins before the program in order to make it run smoothly. Our room capacity is 35 without tables and chairs; with tables for carving, it's probably more like 25-30. To get 120 people in and out within 4 hours we have to do some work beforehand. If the idea of cleaning and gutting 160 pumpkins overwhelms you, think about the community resource you already have: teens needing service hours.

I'm lucky to have some regular volunteers and their families who eagerly volunteered. One mom wanted to so she could take all of the innards home for cooking (which I was game with). In addition, I put a call out to the sponsor of our high school's National Honors Society; from that alone, I got an additional 10 volunteers. I also put an announcement into the school's daily announcements and begged a good friend of mine to help. All together, I had 20 volunteers who came. Oh, I forgot: I advertised free food. I got a deal with the pizza shop next door to give us 7 pizzas for $50 (I am a HUGE proponent of not asking for free things from local vendors -- I ask for discounts because I believe all businesses deserve the actual business. Too many hand outs isn't good partnering). I also picked up a bag of candy and a few bottles of pop.

We made it an assembly line: a few people cleaned pumpkins with the bucket of water and rags; my friend and I cut the tops off the pumpkins (since I'd rather we get hurt than the teens); and then we passed the pumpkins off to the teens who gutted them on the table clothes I had laid on the floor. I told the teens they were welcome to take home seeds if they wanted to separate them from guts and had plastic bags for them to do so. As soon as they finished cleaning out the pumpkins, they relined them up along the wall and waited for their next one. With that many volunteers, we were done with cleaning in an hour and a half. The kids got service hours, free food, and time to hang out with their friends.

I also contacted our local newspaper about the program a week prior to the event. We had a member of the press show up and take a ton of photos. This ended up being prime opportunity to tell him who donated the pumpkins, and I'll be thrilled to see the photo spread in next Sunday's newspaper! Perfect pr opportunity for the library and our generous donors.

The Program: The next morning after story time, I pulled out 7 tables and covered them with new table clothes. One table had cider and cups, one had craft supplies, and all of the others just had an assortment of cutting utensils. The table with cider also had a sign thanking our pumpkin donors and thanking the volunteers from the night before.

I sat by the door and let people come in in groups, limiting capacity to the best of my ability without cutting families apart. They were told they could pick out their pumpkins and have fun. After they finished, I took a photo of each group with their creations, which apparently was the thing some of the kids MOST looked forward to (one ran upstairs to our adult services area and told the librarians there they got their photo taken - too cute!).

We did have a backup with people at the beginning, so my boss pulled out tickets and numbered them. I then called ticket numbers to let people in. No one seemed to mind waiting since it wasn't a lengthy wait to get in, and I had pulled out a ton of new coloring sheets and had them available in our youth services room for families to use.

Aftermath: When the program ended at 4 p.m., the floor was a mess. Thanks to the table cloths, tables were mostly clean, but the floor was another story. Craft goodies were everywhere. But fortunately, after sweeping the floor of the big pieces and then vacuuming carefully, clean up was finished in 30 minutes with two people. That was worth it for the crowd, the work, and the endless thank yous we got for this program.

We had tons of pumpkins remaining after this program, and the next day, I offered them to anyone who came in the library. So many people were thrilled to take one home -- and we had even hidden some small ones that stayed ungutted for those who really wanted to have seeds or pumpkin pie.

Lessons Learned: I followed notes from my predecessor about cider quantity, and I wish I had purchased a little more. No one complained at all, but I think more people would have taken advantage of it had I had more. I would also invest in an additional electronic cutter or two and I would probably bring out more craft supplies. My other big lesson was that I should have pulled out the photo printer: I think families would have LOVED taking home a photo of their creations.

Other information: I get asked a lot about the size of my library with the turnouts we get, and I will say my community is about 8,000 people. We do not take sign ups for this, nor do we expect people to even have a library card. So, turn out can be tough to gauge but since this program has gone on for a few years and gets nice press, we know it grows. In fact, this year's turn out was the highest yet (and the turn out for the night before for clean out was a huge leap from the year before). This is the kind of program that would work best in smaller libraries or in branches. You could make this a sign up only program to get an idea of numbers, but always be prepared for those who just show up. I hate turning anyone away and I'm fortunate I did not have to do it for this one.

Bonus program: My coworker runs our on-site storytime and was able to use the small pumpkins we chose not to gut for her storytime craft. Again, the kids and parents love it and thank us for letting the mess be made at the library and not their home.

Total cost: After the pizza, pop, candy, and new supplies we needed to purchase, I spent probably around $110-120. For a turnout that huge and the press we'll be getting, it was worth every penny.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two teen displays

I've done two new displays recently upstairs in our teen area. The space is one small shelf above our heater for now until I figure out how to rearrange everything. Apologies in advance for the less-than-spectacular photo quality.

First up, the Teen Read Week "Books with Beat" display:

This is the display in its full glory. Let's look to the left side first.

And now the right side.

I got one of my teen volunteers to decorate both of the vinyl albums. I told her I'd be using them in a display which got her excited. I picked a pile of them up for $.25 each at our Goodwill. My teen volunteers will be decorating a few more to help liven up the walls in the teen area.

I also pulled a few music-related titles and tried to stick to ones that really show cased the music aspect on the cover.

My display signage was, I think, one of the better ones I've done. When you don't have access to a good photo editing source, you make do. I got the vector image for free here. You do need to make an account, but it is totally free. I then added my own music clip art and added my words.

The second display was one I popped up this week and will likely leave up for another week while I figure out what I want to display through the end of the year. Given the time of year, you can guess what the theme is, right? Let's get scared:

It's a little mix of traditional horror with some spooky, eerie, or just creeptastic stories or books with covers fitting that bill.

Murky water, a carriage with sharp objects, and laser cut tree limbs qualify as scary in my book!

These probably qualify as a little more on the creepy side.

You get a glare when you take photos of signs in acrylic cases under light, so, there you have it. I dug out a witch hat and those two tissue ghosts from my storage closet in the basement and thought to use them for some props in this display. I found the border for this sign in Publisher, and I got the image from the fantastic image site stock exchange. That's another one you need to register for but it's free and worth the two minutes of your time.

That's what I've been displaying these last couple weeks. What about you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Storytime

This week was my short story time week -- only 3 classes (Preschool, Kindergarten, and the Day Care for a total of about 60 kids). The theme was Halloween.

We started by singing the always fun "If You're Happy and You Know it." Since this was a Lutheran school, I was informed in the first class that we don't shout "hooray" but "amen." I went with it.

Then, I shared three stories:

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin is a fun one to read. The kids got a kick out of making "ick" and "yum" noises with the suggestions of what Peter the Tiger would make with his pumpkin. They even offered their own (including pumpkin fish and pumpkin chicken).

Boo, Bunny is a really sweet story that starts out like it'll be a scary one. The kids loved that the bunnies were dressed like a superhero and a bumble bee, and they were eager to help me with some of the words in the story (we all shouted "Trick or Treat" and "Boo" together). This one's got very few words and is really about the images. I was able to get the kids to predict what they thought would happen, which they LOVE doing.

After that story, we shared the finger play of "Five Little Jack-o-Lanterns":
Five little jack-o-lanterns sitting on the gate (5 fingers up and point to each one)
The first one said "oh my, it's getting late"
The second one said "let's have some fun"
The third one said "let's run run run"
The forth one said "let's dance! let's prance!"
The fifth one said "now's our chance"
When whoooooo went the wind (blow the whooo)
And out went the light (make one loud clap)
Then the five little jack-o-lanterns rolled out of sight (roll arms).

Then I shared one more book:

This story is hilarious. The little witch and her cat capture all of the ghosts then do very silly things with them. The kids and the teachers were laughing so hard as we saw what she did with the ghosts, and there was again good opportunity to ask the kids what they thought would happen next. Every single one of them figured out the purpose of the last two ghosts, too.

With all of my groups, I played a version of "Little Mouse" more thematic to Halloween -- "Little Bat." I printed a little bat and 7 different colored hats, so we asked if the little bat was under the little hat. It astounds me how much the kids love this game. When I came into the classrooms, they were asking me if we were playing Little Mouse again and they were even MORE excited I'd brought something a little different.

For my Preschool and Kindergarten class, we played a few rounds of Little Bat so that everyone could have a turn guessing, but for the Day Care, we just played a couple quick rounds because they made a craft. Again, I stole from my favorite story time blog and had the kids make their own paper jack-o-lanterns. My wonderful crew of volunteers cut out circles, squares, hearts, triangles and some other shapes for them to make faces like these (photo lifted from above mentioned blog):

My pumpkin pattern was a wee bit different, but the kids made some awesome pumpkins and they were all excited to have Miss Kelly (yes, I'm Miss there) see their creations.

I promise next week I will bring my own camera to capture some of their wonderful pieces of art!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Storytime!

I am officially done with my first ever rounds of story times. On site, one of my coworkers does the story times, but I am in charge of the story times off site. I visit the 2 elementary schools' 4K classrooms twice a month; there are a total of 40 kids at one school and 20 at the other. . . for the first groups. There are the same number for second ground. Did you get that? 120 different kids, but I only need to do one story time plan.

I also do bimonthly visits to the local parochial school, where I visit preschool, kindergarten, and day care -- about 80 kids total.

So for my very first story time ever, I knew I faced 40 kids at once. I wanted to pick a theme that would be pretty easy, so I chose Fall (which ended up being a lot more "fall animals" than actual fall). Here were my reads of choice:

Kitten's Autumn was a hit because the kitten hides in each of the pictures. We were able to look and find him on each page together. Nuts to You is just plain fun, as the kids were very excited to talk about animals they see outside and don't want to see inside (and I'm shocked how many kids said they have seen bears lately -- I guess it IS Wisconsin). I'm Not Cute got the kids nice and riled up for their craft, since they can participate with the book and they get the chance to shout "I'm NOT cute" over and over.

Before diving into reading, I had the kids stand up and do "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" with me. We did it normally, then we did it fast, slow, loud and quiet. They loved it.

We then read all three stories, and I brought out the flannel board. For the first group, we did "Five Little Squirrels." The kids were SO EXCITED to help me count 5 squirrels. I made 5 squirrels, 1 door, 1 tree, 3 coats (and asked the kids if they'd ever seen squirrels wearing coats), and 1 sun. The story goes:

5 little squirrels sitting by the door
1 ran away and then there were 4 (as a group, count them out and swap out the door for a tree)
4 little squirrels playing by the tree
1 ran away and then there were 3 (as a group, count them out and swap door for coats)
3 little squirrels with coats so new
1 ran away and then there were 2 (as a group, count them out and swap coats for sun)
2 little squirrels playing in the sun
1 ran away and then there was 1 (as a group count them out and take down sun)
1 little squirrel wasn't having any fun
he ran away and then there were none.

I love this simple flannel board because the kids LOVE to help count. They will tell the story for you by the end, and that's exactly how it should be.

For the 4K and the day care groups, I was asked to bring a craft to share. They made owl masks, which you can see a photo of right here. The craft required paper plates, cotton balls (which I ripped in half to double the number), orange construction paper, popsickle sticks, and glue. I pre-cut the plates, the eyes, and the nose to bring with me, and after the first session of story times where the kids wanted to play with their masks before the glue dried onto the sticks, I decided to tape them on before handing them out (for immediate gratification). They kids loved the craft, and they were all eager to hoot around the room.

A couple of classes elected to go without a craft, so we played "Little Mouse." This is a story time favorite everywhere, and I plan on bringing some sort of variation of it with me regularly.

I'm jazzed to do story times now. I loved getting hugs from the kids at the end, and I know that even if I am not perfect, as long as I have fun and let the kids have fun, it all works out just fine.

(Also: this is the longest post on story times you will ever see here. From here on out, it'll be much shorter - books, activities, lessons learned).