Storytime For All


Over the past few weeks, my storytime outreach has taken me on some wonderful new adventures.  This week alone I’ve visited four different home daycare settings and done storytimes for some adorable babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  Holly and I had a good laugh this Monday after I reported back to her that most of the kids at one of my storytimes seemed cranky and off. Well, Monday was Daylight Savings time.  Also, I scheduled the storytime too close to lunch and nap. I’d never had this as an issue before because I usually do storytimes earlier or later in the day. As a parent, of course I completely understand why the babies and toddlers were off.  Their whole schedule had been shifted thanks to DST. Of course! Note to self and to future storytime interns: don’t schedule storytimes 1) close to DST or 2) too close to lunch or nap. Poor babies! The great thing about this work is that there isn’t any judgement.  I’m just a lady trying to read and sing and dance with little kids. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as some arbitrary clock change that wreaks havoc on most of us, let’s be honest, everything is still going to be ok. I’m very comfortable shifting quickly from one activity to the next and have been able to continue to add to my bag of tricks over the course of my internship.

Working with so many schools and businesses in the community continues to bring me to new experiences each week.  Since my last blog post, I’ve performed three storytimes at MCC Academy, an Islamic school with pre-K through 8th grade, District 68’s Early Childhood Center which offers preschool to special education students and for English language learners ages three through five.  I’ve also been webcast from one classroom at Madison School to another so that kids of all abilities could experience the storytime where they were.  I’ve walked into a classroom ready to perform what I thought was an inclusive storytime only to realize that my repertoire to accommodate a child in a walker or stander is still limited.  Holly and I have talked about “universally designing” storytime so that as many kids as possible can participate fully in all of the physical movements. This has led me to think so much more about how I plan what we will do in storytime as I want to be able to accommodate as many children as possible.  After performing my storytime to two classes at Madison school one morning, I returned to read to the afternoon classes with a visual schedule (see image above for an example of one of the visuals) for those who may benefit from knowing when I’d be transitioning from one activity to the next. I noticed that the classrooms had such transitions and I knew that I could bring in my own.  Honestly, it’s nice to have a visual schedule for myself! Then I don’t forget what comes next after I get a little too crazy dancing the “Winter Pokey” with 25 preschoolers.

Being mindful of our community, I also try to include books in my storytime that are representative of our very diverse community.  I’m grateful to work with such experienced librarians as Holly Jin, who helped me to locate one such item after mentioning to her that I hadn’t come across one in a hurried visit to the board books the previous day.  


I read the book to a very diverse group of twos and toddlers this morning. When I read about skin, hair and eye colors the kids enthusiastically chimed in when they could identify with what the author had written.  Even at age 2!  When I stood up to leave and a two year old commented that I was “very big,” (at 6’2” I know that ‘big’ means ‘extremely tall’ – I get it).  I referred back to the book and recited “‘I have long legs’ – just like (a character) in the book!”


Success Story to Share

I wanted to share my library success story because it makes me happy and because we all need to hear success stories.  In January, I started having one-on-one appointments with job seekers. One of my first appointments was with a woman who had requested help with her resume.  She completed her teaching degree a number of years ago, but because of family commitments, never actually worked as a professional teacher. Her goal was to get back into the education field, in efforts to eventually work her way into a full-time teaching position.

The resume she brought to our initial meeting was pretty sparse. Over the years, our job seeker had a number of temporary or part-time jobs, some of which were education or child related.  We talked pre-resume brainstorming and preparation, such as taking an inventory of what teaching related skills and experiences she could identify. We then moved on to different resume formats that might work best to tell her unique story.  Thirty minutes is not a lot of time to completely overhaul the representation of twelve years of your work life, so she left with a lot of homework.

Because she had so much work to do, I was pleasantly surprised when only two days later I received a copy of her revised resume for additional review.  The resume was very well done and I didn’t have a thing to add. To wrap up the story, we continued to email over the next couple of weeks. She got an interview with a local school district and was hired as a substitute teacher.  Hopefully, this is her first step.

My personal take away was that I loved that I was able to use by skills and experiences in a positive way, by helping one of our patrons to reach her goals.  In my past world, my help would have come into play in more negative situations, such as after I’d told an employee (and oftentimes, a friendly colleague) that  they had lost their job, or in trying to covertly nudge an employee along because I knew that it was only a matter of time until they would need an updated resume.

My library-focused takeaway from this exchange, and others that I have had over the last few weeks, is how important this service is to our patrons.  Resumes are completely intimidating for a lot of people, regardless of industry or education and income levels, and most people don’t have trusted, quality options (for free) to assist them.  If the library can help patrons overcome this one hurdle, these individuals will be positioned to move forward towards employment and career success.



The Start of a Digital Journey

For my independent study this semester, I’m working on two digital projects: first, to tell the story of A. Louise Klehm, Skokie’s first lady doctor, and second, to digitize and create an online exhibit around Skokie Public Library’s fantastic solar eclipse party from 2017.

The goal of the A. Louise Klehm project on a practical level is to become familiar with Omeka, the content-management tool the library uses to create digital collections. The digital ‘items’ and the metadata surrounding them already exist; it’s now a matter of organizing them into a cohesive and interesting story.  As I’ve been digging into the material and starting to shape the exhibit, here are some things I’ve been learning and thinking that will help drive what comes next.

Message – what’s the big idea? 

First and foremost, what is this about? A helpful way to begin to answer this question is to use the formula, “My story is about X, but it is really about Y.”

“My story is about A. Louise Klehm, Skokie’s first lady doctor, but it’s really about perseverance and resilience, about women breaking barriers in history.”

Audience – who cares?

Knowing who you are speaking to drives organization, design, and storytelling decisions. For example, the likely audiences for this project are:

Community members interested in local history – for them, this is primarily a storytelling mission, so it makes sense to emphasize local ties to places and people and relevance to the current day (common pain points, triumphs). What are the moments of drama?  Let’s shape the story around those(for example moments of conflict or overcoming obstacles), How will it end? In this case, we can end on a high note with an uplifting message.

Students – for example, how can we balance giving them the factual information they need without doing all the work for them? What additional resources can we include to help with further research? How can we incorporate this into what our youth librarians are doing?

Researchers (local/Illinois/country) – this isn’t our main audience, but there may be people interested in specific items as part of a larger context, like 19th century medical equipment (or is it early 20th century? shoot, I’ll have to check) or the history of female physicians. How can we present this information so it is easy to find and rich in needed detail?

Us! – How can we use this in the library? Talking through the project with Jessica and Annabelle, Annabelle suggested launching it for Women’s History Month in March and  thinking about how it could work with youth research projects and/or a Civic Lab presentation. In addition, we should think about how the Virtual Community Engagement department can help get the word out.

Narrative – what themes will guide the story you’re telling?

What will audiences learn? What will they feel? What do we want them to do at the end of all this? I’m in the process of categorizing all the items to help me find emerging themes around which to tell the story.

Design – what’s it gonna look like?

This isn’t just about colors and pictures, it’s about how the content is organized and what major principles will inform decisions. For example, the design principle of, “Show, don’t tell,” may translate into keeping the navigation simple and the text minimal, instead using imagery and interaction to communicate.

What’s next?

Now that I have a handle on the answers to some of these major questions, I am digging into all of the items in the collection in detail and starting to organize them. Thanks to Jessica, I have a articles and papers about Dr. Klehm that I can pull from for the story itself. The ultimate goal is to have this ready to go by the end of February so the library can start to promote it as part of Women’s History Month in March. Lots to do, but it’s fun, so I’m sure time will fly!

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this approach so far, especially around the messaging, intended audiences, and potential for collaboration with others.





Family Science Expo: Nobody Burst My Bubble

I’m what you’d call very “right brain” when it comes to what I’ve always excelled at and found interesting in school. I joke that my sister, a biology major, is my left brain and I’m her right; we’re identical personalities with opposite passions. Because I’ve never had a natural understanding of science, I doubt I would have ever actively sought out STEM programs to volunteer at without Skokie Public Library’s encouragement. For that little push, I’m grateful. Stepping out of my comfort zone to help with the Explore Space event a few months back and the Family Science Expo this last weekend has helped me feel infinitely more confident in my ability to learn and teach something new to a wide range of audiences. I was so proud of how smoothly it ran, I texted my sister afterwards to brag about my baking soda and vinegar-based experiment. She responded “Anything that explodes is enough to entertain a kid.” That’s a pretty formal seal of approval.

After volunteering to help, I was able to find a fun and simple scientific demonstration pretty easily browsing sources other librarians had posted and I created the below visual guide to accompany my station:

Chemical Reaction Visual Guide

I printed out approximately sixty single-sheet copies of the instructions, sans pictures, for kids and parents to take home after the demonstration, along with a balloon of the kids’ choice. Most of the worksheets were gone by the time the event ended and I definitely failed to stop a couple kids from taking… more than one balloon. But overall, my supplies lasted the entire two hours and having Eric there to rinse my bottles after a handful of demonstrations was beyond helpful.

I had more than just Eric’s help, though. About halfway through the event, a couple of our regular junior high patrons came over to watch my demonstration. One of them had to leave early with his family, but the other pulled up a seat and watched me run through my spiel a couple times before asking if he could help. Soon, he knew the questions, hints, and answers I prepared for participants almost better than I did. While I cleaned up the remnants of one demonstration, he’d set up the next one without question and I began referring to him as my lab assistant when I introduced my station to a new set of participants.

He and I had a really good interaction the previous week in the Junior High Zone, so it was incredibly satisfying to see that relationship solidified outside of my normal hours and away from his group of friends. I’m sure he was primarily bored and looking for something to do when he offered to help, but I’m just so glad he chose to do something productive with me. He even hung back and helped me clean when the event was over and we had a good talk about his involvement with basketball at school. Mid conversation, though, I had to walk away to intervene with an outburst between three other junior high regulars. Luckily, the situation diffused pretty quickly. Two junior high boys had tried messing with a different junior high boy by turning his computer off. He responded by pushing a chair over, but calmed down after we encouraged him to come to a librarian if the two boys tried bothering him again. I had a brief talk with the two boys responsible for the incident and they agreed to back off. They ended up going outside to play, which worked out perfectly considering how much energy they apparently had to waste.

Once everything was calmed down and cleaned up, I chatted with people at the Youth Services desk, said goodbye to my junior high lab assistant, and headed out. Naturally, I got my partner to drive me to the library long before the event started and I found him reading near the swan statues, enjoying that natural sunlight we all raved about during Staff Day. Driving back home I felt a little tired, but more than anything I felt satisfied. I spent a lot of time fretting beforehand over whether I had everything I needed to make my station a success, if the kids were going to like the demonstration I chose, and memorizing enough facts to accurately explain the “why” and “how” of what I was going to show them. But each time I’ve helped lead another program at the library, whether it’s a science expo or a Challenge Accepted hour or a high school council meeting, I get more and more confident in my ability to provide information and services to the community in a natural, proficient way. This experience and practice is exactly what I wanted to get out of interning at Skokie Public Library so, once again, thank you. And more importantly, thank you for always capturing how insane I usually look.

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New semester reflections

Echoing the posts from Rachel and Colleen this month, there has been much reflection this past month regarding my internship, my final semester in graduate school and my career. The first half of the internship was so action packed and full of opportunities for development.  There was so much to absorb as it came to an end.

During the winter break, I also had a chance to reflect over the course that I took at Dominican in the Fall, Issues of Access, Advocacy and Policy in Youth Services, and the course in which I’m currently enrolled, Assessment of Programs, Services and Organizational Practices and consider how they informed my internship and practicum.  It took me a while to decide on what would be a relevant 801 project, despite talking about a few options with my mentor, Holly, in November.  I finally settled on a project designed by Amy Koester which is going to assist her in determining the optimal number and arrangement of school-age program offerings during the year. I’m pleased that this project will compliment the course that I’m taking this semester.  Before I attended the Outcomes Committee meeting on the 16th and the Data Summit on the 25th, I can honestly say that I never thought too deeply about outcomes and program assessment.  Since the last meeting, I haven’t been able to stop noticing these words in my work – perhaps because I am in Community Engagement, which so heavily relies on measuring outcomes, assessing impact and evaluating all things outreach.  Now I’m hooked!  I’m looking forward to bringing some of my assignments into my office and hopefully helping to collect and assess information in a small yet helpful way.

Lastly, just a note about the community and some of the outreach that I’ve done since I last posted.  I was so happy to go on a school visit today with my colleague, Laura.  We read stories to two sections of 2 and 3 year olds at Cheder Lubavitch, a Jewish preschool not far from the library.  It was a pleasure to meet with the preschool’s director and hear from her that she looks forward to the visits from the library.  She attended sessions by both of us and said she always feels like she learns something new.  You can imagine how thrilled Laura and I were to hear that!  The director requested that we not read any books with talking animals in them which really stretched me to look at our collection differently.  It was a great exercise and though I was nervous that I might accidentally offend or make a mistake, we all still had a wonderful time.  It was wonderful to have a class of 18 three year old girls dancing “The Winter Pokey” with me and laughing.  The director liked that song so much she said she plans to use it right away in classes.  Again, that made me feel amazing.

This month has been so full.  In addition to these great experiences, I also attended Staff Day ‘18 and felt really lucky to be part of this library.  I enjoyed seeing so many colleagues all at once, meeting new people through game that we had and talking with new people about the space plan.  Bring it on, February!


New Year, New Opportunities

I returned to my internship earlier this week after spending the last two weeks on my holiday “vacation”.  It was a very much needed and appreciated break, as it allowed me to not only  participate in holiday celebrations and spend time with family, but also to relax and reflect on the past semester and plan for this new semester.  As we’ve discussed since the beginning of the internship, one of the great things about being at the Skokie Public Library, is that we are able to be here for the full academic year and actually put what we’re learning in practice.

I reflected on my experiences since late August, which I feel have been considerable and diverse.  I learned that each shift. on each of the four service desks, can be a completely new experience from the time before.  Overall, I noted where I feel most comfortable and areas that I felt could use a bit more attention.  I thought that there would be more of the latter, but when I really thought about it, I realized that I felt pretty confident working in most areas.  I took the time to break apart some of my current “roadblocks” and it dawned on me that I’m not concerned about the actual experience, but more about if I’ll be able to use the correct systems or process.  What is she talking about?  Well, I feel confident in making a book recommendation at the Readers Services desk, but need to gain confidence that I’m completing the hold or ILL request correctly for the patron.  Or, I’m not intimidated about teaching a tech class, but am intimidated about knowing how to use the computer lab at the SPL.  This realization made me feel pretty good about my current world, as learning the system or process is very achievable. It just takes time.

My reflection time also allowed me to take stock in the transferable skills I have and review how I can use these skills, in conjunction to what I’ve learned through the internship, to help shape this semester.  I have the goals of getting more hands-on with what is going on with the SPL, the Skokie community and the community of librarians.  I’m looking to take a more active role in outreach this semester and already have a number of activities in the works to support this goal.  My list is pretty long, but I’m very excited about it. I feel like there are some very substantive activities, such as leading a book discussion or training class and going to more industry-focused networking groups.

Thanks again to all of those at the Skokie Public Library who are contributing to my learning and are supporting me in having this huge range of experiences.


Thinking Back and Looking Ahead

I spent a few hours today reviewing and editing my forty-page daily log of the shifts I worked this past semester at Skokie Public Library and somehow it feels like both a massive undertaking and a brief moment in time. I flip-flopped between wondering how I found the time to participate in so much and wishing I had more time to train. But speaking with so many different SPL employees and shadowing so many diverse roles really puts into perspective how endless my training could be regardless of how many hours I put in a week, and that’s coming from someone who only every really witnessed the night shift. But I mean it when I say the expertise and passion in SPL staff is palpable.

I’ve brought it up before during our intern reflection meetings, but I really feel as if working with young adults requires more hands-on experience than hypothetical training to build any sort of proficiency. Most library roles are unpredictable, but young adults are a particular kind of lovable/chaotic and I feel much more comfortable working with them in larger groups than I ever have before. When I tell people I’m training and studying to become a young adult librarian I usually brace myself for a sympathetic look or disgusted comment. It’s beyond my understanding why so many people feel adversely about a population they used to occupy, but I never felt that disconnect or aversion from SPL staff. Instead I felt a real supportive appreciation this semester for the work Laurel and Jenny and Denise and Earl and Jarrett all do to include young adults in the larger Skokie community and I’m beyond grateful for that refreshing perspective.

Speaking of refreshing, coming from a very standard for-profit office setting, I was not prepared for such a culturally competent work environment. Not only are there equitable policies and practices in place to uphold a safe staff and library culture, but SPL goes above and beyond an HR Department with your internal Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee staff training. I’m sure some of you remember how rough it is out there on the other said, but to briefly put how significant this is for me into perspective: I’ve been sexually harassed by coworkers at open-bar, no-rules office parties working for a company that very rarely recruits non-white college graduates. And let me tell you, no one gives a f***. I digress, but really witnessing first-hand how actionable equity can be in a work environment has me striving to seek out positions in libraries that share those same values when this is all said and done. I have you guys to thank for setting that bar so high.

More than anything, I’m just appreciative of all the time and effort so many SPL staff members have invested in my training these past few months. As someone who has never worked in a library, I doubt I’d be able to gain such high-level experience anywhere else and I really feel putting this practicum on my resume could be the difference between the dreaded “Thank you for your application, but we’ve decided to go with someone else…” email and landing a job I can be proud of. I don’t know who else can say they’ve managed to plan and implement STEM programming, co-facilitate young adult councils, participate in weekend science expos, and attend their first library conference while still finding time to train on desks in a matter of three or four months, but the expert guidance and planning of SPL staff made that possible for me. I can’t wait to see what I get done next semester, but I hope the time doesn’t fly by this fast.