My on-call story time kit

In addition to my regular weekly story times I pick up on-call story times around the system. While some of these shifts are booked in advance, I do get a few last-minute calls, as well as the odd “whoops we forgot to tell you that we booked you for a story time” shift.

I like to keep a story time bag packed and ready (I use this tote bag), so that I don’t have to worry about assembling my supplies at the last minute. Here are some of the essentials I like to keep handy:

My Story Time KitIf I’m booked in advance for a story time I like to check out a few age-appropriate titles to have on hand, just in case the titles I want aren’t available at the branch I’m visiting. I’ve also invested in a couple of picture books, to ensure that I always have something I’m familiar with at the ready. I’ve also made a couple of felt stories for myself, so that I can switch them around for a bit of variety.

What do you think of my on-call story time kit? Is there anything you’d add?

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

Happy Canada Day!


In honour of our nation’s birthday (happy 148th!), here’s a great online resource for anyone who’s interested in exploring and evaluating Canadian books for kids and teens.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials is an online resource that reviews new books for youth that are authored, illustrated and/or published by Canadians. The website is free to access, and is entirely volunteer-driven.

New reviews are available weekly from September to June. Reviewers include public and school librarians, professors, school teachers, and other professionals with a passion for books for young people.

I’ve contributed a few reviews to CM over the years, and I’ve very much enjoyed exploring some of the diverse content created by my fellow Canucks.

Have a happy and safe Canada day!

Multicultural Day Event – June 27

Summer in Canada is short – typically three blessed months of blue skies and sunshine. After a long, dreary winter, Canadians are ready to celebrate, and summer is chock-full of special days and events.

This weekend we celebrated Multicultural Day with a special event at the library. We had musicians from Guatemala, an exhibit of traditional clothes from Nepal, folk dancers from El Salvador and Bulgaria, a fashion show of modern First Nations fashion, a local chamber choir, an a presentation of folk stories in Salish, Swahili, Farsi, Gaelic and English!

Throughout the library atrium different groups set up tables showcasing their cultural backgrounds, including Wales, Finland, Nepal, and more.

As the host of the event, the library put together a little display showcasing some of the ways we celebrate multiculturalism.

2For the children’s display I gathered a few picture books from our multilingual collection, to showcase the diversity of our collection.

PicMonkey CollageUnfortunately people sometimes think that the library only carries English material, and don’t realize that we actually offer materials in 10+ different language across the system!

It was exciting to see people’s eyes light up as they recognized their native language displayed on the table.

We also made sure to showcase the diversity of programs and services available at the library – we’re more than just books, you know! This might be a little out of date, though – I can’t think of the last time we had fax reference questions….

7It was a blazing hot day, and the library atrium can be uncomfortably reminiscent of a hot house, but it was still a great day at the library.


Thoughts on Public Speaking

They say that the two most common fears are death and public speaking…

This week I presented at two year-end school assemblies, speaking first to a group of 400 students, and then to another group of 300, which for a shy person is not the most natural environment. While practice definitely makes perfect (or at least less terrified), here are a few things I’ve learned about not being a knee-shaking public speaking mess and embracing your inner motivational speaker.

1. Don’t over think things

I used to memorize my speeches so that I could recite them word-for-word. I thought that having a memorized speech would make me more confident in front of a crowd, as it meant I didn’t have to think of anything clever to say on the spot. While this strategy might work for some people, I’ve realized that I actually work best when I give myself a framework.

When I used to try and recite a specific speech in front of an audience, I would get so wrapped up in trying to remember the right words that my delivery would become forced and robotic – I couldn’t focus on anything other than the speech! Tying yourself too closely to a specific speech also means you can’t easily adapt things if your situation changes. At a recent assembly I was asked to cut my presentation from 5 minutes to just 2 – if had been relying delivering something exactly from memory, I would’ve struggled to quickly adjust it to meet my new parameters.

My strategy now is to outline the major points I want to cover in my speech, note any specific examples or facts I want to include, and give myself the freedom to adapt my speech when necessary. This means I still have some framework to hold on to as a support, but I can also focus on my audience and make sure I’m connecting with them.

2. Focus on the kids

School presentations can sometimes mean making a bit of a fool of yourself (in the best possible way, of course). You wear silly hats, make funny voices, dance about and sing ridiculous songs, all in the name of literacy. Putting on a silly show in front of 400+ people, including teachers, educators, administrators, and caregivers, can leave you feeling a bit self conscious! I know that my active, high energy, silly style of librarianship isn’t for everyone, and some traditionalists might turn up their noses when I step on the stage.

Is this hat too silly? I say neigh.
Is this hat too silly? I say neigh.

What helps me freely tap into my inner Charlotte Diamond in front of a big audience is to focus not on those grown ups, but on the kids in front of me. Grown ups might judge, disapprove, arch their eyebrows or smile condescendingly. Grown ups might make you feel silly for talking to a stuffed monkey at 31 years old. Kids, on the other hand, tend to think you’re awesome. Sure, they might think you’re making a fool of yourself, but you’re making an awesome fool of yourself. The kids are the ones that you’re there to serve, they’re the ones that matter. If your sparkly clothes or wild hair or crazy clothes help kids feel welcomed or included or excited about the library, than who cares what some stuffy old grown up thinks?

3. Wear the right clothes

The last thing you want to be worrying about when you’re up in front of 400 people is whether you wore the right clothes. For me, clothes need to be comfortable, moveable and reliable. I need clothes I know I can easily move in, without worrying about revealing more than I expected. My programs are all about movement, so this is particularly important for me!

Covered, comfortable, and ready to get silly.
Covered, comfortable, and ready to get silly.

Also…I’m not one of those ladylike women who “glow”. I sweat. Especially when I’m zoom, zoom, zooming all morning long. I need my clothes to be breathable, and to not show off sweat stains too badly, so I can wave my arms around with confidence.

4. Get to the point already!

Common sense here – kids aren’t designed to sit still for long periods of time. Get your point across quickly and simply. Have fun, of course, but don’t expect your kids to sit through your magnum opus. Admit it – you hate boring meetings as an adult, so don’t inflict them on the kids.

When in doubt, let a puppet do the talking.
When in doubt, let a puppet do the talking.

I’m definitely not a public speaking expert, and different people have different styles, but these are a few techniques that have helped me level up as a presenter!

Love and Letters from the Library Lounge

Remember the amazing program that the Community Librarian put on as part of 100 in 1 Day Vancouver?

We put on display some of the love letters people typed for us on those beautiful vintage typewriters.



The letters were a beautiful mix of heartfelt and hilarious. I particularly loved this one – what I can say, we’re Canadian!


And I had to include this letter, because story time gets a shout out ;)


Aboriginal Day – June 21, 2015

What an amazing day.

So how’s this for a day at the office:


A fellow librarian and I were honoured to be invited to participate in an Aboriginal Heritage Day celebration at a local park and community center.


We were invited to set up shop in an authentic First Nations teepee.


It was an incredible experience – it was a hot, hot, hot day outside, but inside the teepee we were cool and shaded, with a beautiful breeze that blew in from the base of the tent. It was without a doubt the most comfortable place to be in the entire festival!

We were initially invited to set up a storytelling tent, with librarians providing story times in a nontraditional setting. However neither of us have Aboriginal heritage, and we felt uncomfortable with the idea of telling traditional stories that could have deep significance for many people. Even with the purest of intentions we would not be able to do these stories justice.

In recognition of this, we turned our “story telling tent” into a “story tent”. Instead of leading conventional story times, we instead created a story space in which families could share stories together. We collected Aboriginal picture books from Canada and the United States, picture books featuring local animals, and little stuffed versions of local animals. We scattered the books and toys around the teepee, and invited families to come in and read and play together.

We took turns reading with small groups of children, or with individual children, which allowed us to model and share literacy tips with families. It was beautiful to see families interacting and exploring together.


I also had a bit of a rock star moment when I heard an excited chorus of “Miss Jane!” coming from across the field. Several of my story time regulars had come to the festival as a group! We’re currently on a story time break, so it was lovely to see some of my little munchkins again, and they were delighted to not have to share me with 50 other children!


It was an amazing experience to be a part of this celebration, and to be able to connect with families in such a unique and meaningful way. And really, how many librarians get to share stories in such a beautiful setting?