Just Add Rhythm Sticks!

We’ve heard about these things called rhythm sticks, we’ve read many a blog post but for way too long they remained a mystery to us. Lindsey finally put her foot down and bought some. We’ve done shakers, we braved scarves and darn it it was high time we mastered the sticks! The result? We had a blast filming a whole bunch of new songs! We had so much fun we declared November #RhythmSticksMonth and you can find them all here on this playlist.

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To get us started we turned to the wonderful wide web of our colleagues for ideas and strategies. Storytime Steph has a fantastic post on Using Instruments in Storytime which features some great songs to get started and a link to make your own rhythm sticks. That link takes you to Amy’s Laptime and Storytime blog where she provides simple instructions on how to make your own rhythm sticks, an activity to get the kids practicing responsible rhythm, lots of songs and even books with rhythm. Whew, what a post! Next up is Anne’s Library Life, where she dedicates the activity section of her babytime to rhythm sticks and includes some great parent-talk and early literacy tips on how to use them and why they’re important. Kathy and Christine at Storytime Stuff share some brilliant ways to use rhythm sticks which go beyond the ordinary and would work for school age kids as well. Using them as wands, turning them into spiders, flutes or clock hands? Pure genius! Finally, Claudia at Never Shushed has put together a magical storytime all about snow (Winter Hokey Pokey!) as well as one on rhythm and sound which on top of some neat new songs has lots of ideas for using rhythm sticks.

So with all this great advice from our wise colleagues we jumped in. We hope you’re ready for the guided tour! Continue reading

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Adventures in Booktalking

Since starting my current position as a “middle years” focused children’s librarian, I’ve spent a good chunk of time developing relationships with the Teacher Librarians at my area schools. It’s been a wonderful part of my job – all of my TLs are super friendly and open to collaboration. We’ve been developing ways we can work together throughout the year that benefit both parties. On my end, my overarching goals are to ensure that all the kids in my area have three things:

  • a public library card
  • a visit to the public library
  • a knowledge of and (hopefully!) a relationship with the public librarian (that’s me!)

One of the ways I’ve made headway on the last goal is by doing booktalking programs at the schools. In addition to promoting our collection and cultivating a love for reading, booktalking programs let the kids get to know me. They see my face, they learn my name, and we get to talk about our favourite books together. It’s been amazing, and somewhat astonishing, at how effective this program has been. Kids have been coming in and asking for the books I talked about. Some of them personally ask to speak to “Len-say.” And my hope is that when I visit them again in June to promote the Summer Reading Club, I’ll be a familiar face.

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Last fall I’d definitely been feeling what Erin puts into words so well – the pressure to put on ground breaking school-age programs that I see on so many wonderful blogs. But then I realized that booktalking – though it may be considered a very basic program – is exactly what my community needs; in addition to falling in line with my library’s strategic initiatives. So I’m going with it, and I’ve been super happy with that decision.

So, what exactly did I do? Well, the first thing I did was email Abby who gave me lots of booktalking advice and shared some examples of booktalks she’d done. She has been a great role model to me in this endeavor and I highly recommend checking out her blog further.

Here are the details! I’m providing you with pretty much EVERYTHING I used because I wish I would have had something like this last year when I started to plan.

Continue reading

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We’ll Link to That: Winter 2015

We are excited to finally share our column in YAACING Winter 2015! YAACING is published by the Young Adult and Children’s Services (YAACS) arm of the British Columbia Library Association and if you’d like to catch up on our past columns you can find them here:

Usually we’re all about bringing you all the link love one little article can contain, but this quarter we’re changing things up. We are constantly discovering new blogs dedicated to youth services. Some of these blogs are just starting up, and some of them are well established. In both cases, they’ve made it onto our radar over the past few months, and we want to share them with you. So get your RSS feeds ready!

  1. Hafuboti: Rebecca’s blog is an absolute must-read! Her monthly displays and passive programs are a sight to behold with recent additions such as Dinovember and Decemberley. This blog is bursting with creativity, from crafts to graphic design projects. Everything you see you’ll want to do in your own library.
  2. Playing the Hits: Don’t let the byline fool you – Maggie is no rookie! One thing we look for in blogs is a diversity of content and this one delivers. Read about unique storytime themes such as Pizza Dinosaurs, learn about apps she uses in her iTots storytime, or get the rundown on holding a Minecraft club. The Chicago area is lucky to have her!
  3. Geeked Librarian: Lots of STEM ideas on this blog by a newly minted children’s librarian. Learn how to make squishy circuits or find out how to make a library website with no budget!  We also love how she discusses how she tweaks and revamps the programs she’s inherited such as this music and movement storytime.
  4. Laura’s Library Adventure: We were drawn in by the adorable profile picture, we stayed for the top notch content. With over 10 years experience, Laura wows us with her full spectrum of programs such as her preschool labs, pumpkin palooza, and storytime goodies. We also love her ideas for the after school crowd: hands-on science and sweet snacks.
  5. Miss Colleen’s Corner: Colleen blogs about all different kinds of storytimes and her posts are very thoughtful and detailed. She explains why she chose the books and songs for each theme. We also love her StoryTech posts which explain how she incorporates technology into storytime. Additionally, she’s blogged about a sensory storytime she offered with the cutest visual cue cards ever.
  6. LibraryKirsten: While Kirsten’s blog is only a couple months old it is brimming with thoughtful content. Her blog focuses on both her experiences as a Children’s’ Librarian and her participation in the Colorado Association of Libraries Leadership Institute (CALLI). The result is lots of great reflection on topics like screen time, professional goal setting and awesome ideas when it come to books and programs.
  7. erinisire: We love following Erin on Twitter because she keeps it so real and her blog is no different. Her recent post about what she wants to do highlights her commitment to all things awesome and early literacy. Look no further than her TMNT Passive Program or her Ode to Babytime for original ideas and plain old hilarious writing.
  8. The Adventures of a Bookgirl: We love Bookgirl’s blog for its well organized content (c’mon we’re librarians too!) and lots of gorgeous pictures. Check out her Tween, Teen and YA programs and display ideas as well as her Sensory Storytime for some neat visual tools.
  9. The Frozen Librarian: It’s not just because she’s so close to the Canadian border she gets French radio that we’re excited about this new blog. We really like the range of formats she covers in her recommended reads, interviews like this one and did we mention her Taco storytime?! Oh yes, and oh you’re welcome.
  10. Teeny Weeny Library: First of all check out this list of themes, Andrea’s even got being sick. Love it! Ok, now back to it Andrea writes awesome book reviews and has contributed big time to Flannel Friday. And just to round this out she’s got a growing list of School Age Programming and Young Adult book reviews. All this makes for a blog worth following.
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Call for Canadian Youth Services Library Content!

As the new year rolls around, Dana and I have been thinking a lot about the direction we want to take Jbrary. Since the beginning, one of our goals with this blog and our YouTube channel is to highlight the youth services work taking place in Canadian libraries.

When we first debuted the maple leaf tag on our blogroll to draw attention to Canadian bloggers and YouTubers, our dear friend Angela said, “We need more maple leaves!”  And we couldn’t agree more.

Over the past few months I’ve been mining Twitter for Canadian library staff who serve children, trying to make connections with as many people as possible.  And it’s been a good start. But we’d like to do more here on the blog.

Are you working in a Canadian library and serving children and families in some capacity?

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We would love to highlight the work you are doing!  Our goal is to feature a monthly guest post written by children’s librarians, library technicians, or any other staff who answer yes to this question. We have no rules or guidelines for the guest posts –  just tell us what’s going on in your part of Canada! You could describe a recent program, share some favourite storytime books, or even talk about your community. The options are endless.

Interested? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com!

Please share this call for Canadian library content with anyone you think might be interested in contributing. As we slowly build our network, we rely a lot on word of mouth and the reach of social media.  Thanks so much!

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Help Us Celebrate 1,000,000 Views!

We’ve been counting our zeros and we’re almost at 1,000,000 views! To celebrate this momentous occasion we’re asking for your help.

We’re asking you to send us a short video featuring you, your storytime crowd or your little one singing a song you learned on our channel. It doesn’t have to be the whole song – a small clip is fine! We plan on compiling all the clips and making a celebration video to show off all the amazing faces that have been part of our journey thus far.

To submit a video please upload your video file to Google Drive. Then “Share” the video with Jbrary (jbrary@gmail.com) by our January 31st, 2015 deadline. Google Drive accepts most formats including .WebM files, .MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files, .AVI, .MPEGPS, .WMV, .FLV and .MTS. If you have any questions or need any help, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

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2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

It’s that time of the year again….when all the “Best Of…” lists come out!  Last year I started what I think will become an end-of-the-year tradition on Jbrary.  I wrote about my favourite storytime books published in 2013. This year I’m back with my favourites from 2014.  I’m always looking for new books to share at storytime, so I hope this list gives you some options for freshening up your storytime collection.  Some of these may have come out in 2013 in the States, but it was 2014 before we got them here in Canada.

Without further ado! Presented in alphabetical order:

 1. Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

baby bear In this soulful book, Baby Bear searches for his way home with the help of his animal friends, and ultimately, his own heart. The illustrations are gorgeous and captivating.  Because of the more serious tone of this book and the length, I think it makes a great preschool storytime or pyjama storytime choice. I love recommending it to caregivers as a bedtime readaloud.

2. Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox; illustrated by Emma Quay

baby bedtimeA super sweet book perfect for babytime or toddler storytime! Each page uses the sentence starter, “I could…” so there’s a built in early literacy tip about repetition right there. For babytime, have caregivers point to the body parts mentioned or mimic the actions in the book.  There’s also a lovely page on singing the same songs that their mother sang to them – a great reminder to caregivers that their home culture is valued and important. Another great choice for a pyjama storytime.

3. Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Jane Chapman

 bear sees colorsIf you liked Wow, Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood or Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff, then you’ll love this one. Each page focuses on a different colour that Bear finds in nature, and kids are invited to “spy” the colour which makes a nice interactive element. I’ve used this with toddlers and it works great, though it could easily scale to preschoolers who would want to spend more time talking about the objects they see.

4. Big Bug by Henry Cole

 big bugThis concept book is a great toddler storytime choice. An image is presented on one page and then shown in relation to something else on the next page.  So something you thought was big ends up looking small. This would work well in an opposites storytime or if you want to broach the STEM topic of scale. I used with toddlers and followed it up with a round of Roly Poly.

5. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

bookEdited to Add: When I first wrote this post it was before I tried this book with any storytimers. But my copy finally came in the day before I went on holiday and I read it to groups of K, 1, and 2 students.  I have my doubts about children’s books written by celebrities, and the kids told me they didn’t even want to read it when I read the title. But they laughed the whole way through and the kindergarteners started to chant, “Read it again! Read it again!” when I was done. I mean, I should have known for a book with the phrase Boo Boo Butt in it.

6. Breathe by Scott Magoon

BreatheWhen I read this book at storytime we all practiced “belly breathing” before I started to read. Then we took nice big breathes whenever it came up in the book. I had one caregiver who thanked me for sharing this book because she was looking for something to help her toddler learn how to calm himself. I also love the message in this book – be happy, breathe deeply, live in the moment. I could see it working great at a yoga storytime too.

7. Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look The Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin page

creature featuresI used this non-fiction title with a Grade 2 class and it spurred lots of discussion. The format is interesting – each page starts with “Dear (insert animal name)…” and then the animal answers the question posed. Scale it to younger audiences by not reading the whole book. One of the many Steve Jenkins books I pull out for storytime.

8. Dangerous! by Tim Warnes

DangerousMole loves to label things, but what does he call the Lumpy Bumpy Thing he discovers? This book works great for school-age kids as they cue in to the adjectives Mole assigns the alligator. All of the descriptive language could lead to an excellent post-storytime activity.

9. Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

Dog vs. CatTwo pets; one room. Author Chris Gall brings back the age old rivalry between these two pets in this funny book. My 3-year-old niece cracked up at the mention of poop, and I think other preschoolers will enjoy this one though I’ve used it with Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes.

10. Flight School by Lita Judge

Flight SchoolThis one gets the cutest cover award. I’m a sucker for penguin picture books. I like the positive messages about determination, perseverance, and accepting help from friends. The kindergarten class I read it to kept giggling at Penguin’s attempts to be an eagle. Could work for preschoolers with a bit of extra explanation from the librarian.

11. Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino

following papas songMs. Marino has done it again – She’s given us a beautifully written and illustrated parent-child story that brings me to tears. Perfect for a toddler or preschool storytime, this book emphasizes the importance of family and traditions. The colours in this book amaze and the story is heartwarming.

12. Found by Salina Yoon

foundSalina Yoon is one of my favourite children’s book authors because every story she writes is so darn sweet. In Found, she addresses a topic many preschoolers are familiar with – passing on toys. After Dana and I read this one with my 3-year-old niece Sophie, she told me, “When I grow out of my pyjamas I’m going to pass them on to a smaller kid.” They listen!

13. Froodle by Antoinette Portis

froodleA book filled with giggle worthy rhymes and an underlying message of non-conformity – I’ll take it! Little Brown Bird plays with sounds and language in this delightful book that kids love to hear read aloud. I think it would work best for preschool – Grade 2 kids. There’s a spattering of puns to keep the adults interested too.

14. Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

hooray for hatThis one’s gotten a lot of buzz already this year, so I’ll add to it by saying how much I appreciate books that model the concept of kindness, empathy, and sharing. Also, I think this one could be translated into a puppet or felt story.

15. Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

hug machineOne of my top picks this year! I read this to a kindergarten class and they absolutely loved it. They thought it was funny and sweet, and a little boy took it home with him that day. I love seeing books that portray boys as affectionate and emotional.  I’d also use it with preschoolers and it goes great with a peace or friendship theme.

16. Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo

hug meAnother book about hugging! I had a parent request for more social/emotional books and this one fit the bill. Felipe is a young cactus yearning for a hug from his “prickly” family. Pair with Hug Machine and you’re halfway there to a hug themed storytime.

17. I Got the Rhythm by Connie Shofield-Morrison; illustrated by Frank Morrison

I got the rhythmA young girl walks through her diverse neighbourhood and experiences music with all five sense. You could totally read this at babytime and have parents point to body parts and tap out rhythms on babies’ backs or bellies. Also works great for toddlers because the text is short and sweet. I read it at the beginning of one of my family dance parties and it was a hit.

18. If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey; illustrated by Colin Jack

if you happen to have a dinosaurA funny read aloud from a Canadian author. The first half of the book presents examples of what dinosaurs are good for (can opener, snow plow, umbrella, etc.), while the second half stresses their downside. The pages are huge with bright illustrations making it a good choice for a large group. It is a bit long though, so I’ve only used it with K-2 kids.

19. It is Night by Phyllis Rowand; illustrated by Laura Dronzek

It is NightThis is a reprint of a classic bedtime story illustrated by artist Laura Dronzek. It has an interactive element as kids can guess where each animal sleeps before turning the page. I’m planning on using it in an upcoming PJ storytime for kids ages 0-8. The illustrations are nice and bright, and I like how it weaves in factual information about animals.

20. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr

it's okay to make mistakesAnother hit from Todd Parr. When I read this in toddler storytime, the kids were immediately hooked by the cover illustration – in fact we spent a few minutes talking about it before we even read the book. I like it because it features scenes from a child’s life – spilt milk, colouring – and one little girl came up to me after storytime and told me, “Yesterday I spilled my milk but it’s okay because I just cleaned it up.”  Parr’s books are great for any age.

 21. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate; illustrated by G. Brian Karas

ivanI work primarily with school-age kids, so I am always on the lookout for books I can read aloud to Grade 2-3 students. This is a perfect choice as it gives the back story to Ivan, the main character in Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. A fascinating read that has inspired kids and adults alike.

22. Little Lola by Julie Saab; illustrated by David Gothard

little lolaA perfect choice for preschool storytime, this book features a curious little cat who wants to go to school. She experiences lots of school-like activities – including storytime! – and even bounces back after her pet rat causes havoc at show-and-tell. With short sentences, it is a quick read but ultimately a timely topic for those about to head to school.

23. Music is for Everyone by Jill Barber; art by Sydney Smith

music is for everyoneEdited to Add: I didn’t get my hand on this one before the year was over because Jill came to my library and did a singalong event, and her book was all checked out. Jill Barber is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, and her book takes kids on a musical genre journey. The text is lyrical, the pictures feature a multicultural cast of kids, and I love the universal message. Pair with I’ve Got the Rhythm for a music-themed storytime, or be sure to include this one at your next library dance party. Great for a toddler or preschool storytime.

24. My Bus by Byron Barton

My BusByron Barton publishes a new book and toddlers around the world rejoice! In this transportation themed book, a bus driver picks up animals and delivers them to their destinations. I like that it includes some basic counting and math. A great introduction to the author if caregivers haven’t discovered him already.

25. Naked by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

NakedYou should probably have a good feel for your group’s vibe before reading this one at storytime, but I think it’s perfectly fine! I bought a copy for my toddler nephew and it became his favourite book in less than 24 hours. Like I’m Bored, it is a hilarious tale that caregivers will appreciate and kids will relate to. I’d recommend it for toddlers and preschoolers.

26. Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz; illustrated by Dan Santat

ninja red riding hoodFractured fairy tale? Check. Rhyming verses? Check. Surprise ending? Check. I loved Schwartz’s Three Ninja Pigs, so I’m not surprised this one is a hit too. I’ve read it to K-2 students and it keeps them captivated the whole time. I love the ending – the wolf takes up yoga!

27. Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

number one samWhat’s better than winning? Helping a friend in need. A sweet message is embedded in this race car heavy book from the creator of The Watermelon Seed.  There are some cute details in the illustrations that kids will pick up on subsequent reads. A great choice for kids ages 3-7.

28. Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

oi frogA super fun rhyming book! Cat insists that frogs sit on logs and then goes on to name other increasingly absurd animal-seat pairs (think lions on irons and parrots on carrots). The illustrations are humorous and the K/1 classes I’ve read this too love looking at them again post-storytime. I could easily see creating an extension activity where kids have to make up their own silly rhymes.

29. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems

the pigeon needs a bathKind of a shoe in, right? I just love how versatile Mo Willems’ books are. I can use them with any age and they work. I could especially relate to this one as my niece went through a “hating to take baths” stage when she was one, and I wish I’d had this book to read to her. Pigeon is a familiar face to many kids now, so they are pretty excited when you bust this one out.

30. Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg

tea with grandpaGrandpa + grandchild books seem like a rare beast to me, so I was super happy to see this adorable book. With short sentences, it makes a great toddler storytime pick. The ending is a bit of a surprise – the tea party is happening via a computer. But I think that made me like it even better!  I Skype with my nephews in California all the time and it’s good to see authors reflecting ways technology can support long distance relationships.

31. You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang; illustrated by Christopher Weyant

you are not smallIt’s all about perspective in this clever picture book.  Simple text and large illustrations make it a good book for storytime. It’s short enough for toddlers, but I think preschoolers and school-age kids will get the most out of it.  It shows an escalating argument that comes to a amicable end.  I like that it challenges kids to think from a different viewpoint.

Honourable Mentions: These books have been on my “To Read” list all year, but alas, my library hasn’t gotten them in yet.  I can’t say for sure how they’d work in storytime  – but maybe you can!

What were your favourite books to read in storytime this year?  Let me know in the comments.

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Thrive Thursday December Round Up!

Thrive Thursday LogoWe could not be more thrilled to host this month’s Thrive Thursday Round Up and for those of you who might be new to Thrive Thursday, here’s what it’s all about:

Thrive Thursday is an online blog hop in which participating bloggers post a description of an after school activity on their blogs the first Thursday of the month. All the participating posts are gathered into one spot in a link round-up. It is a way of sharing ideas, encouraging new techniques, and building community among children’s library staff and around the country (and fingers crossed…around the world). For more information check out the schedulePinterest board, and Facebook Group.

And now, without further ado this month’s fabulous contibutors! Storytime Steph starts us off with a super cool and simple Light Painting program for 3rd-5th graders. Ms. Kelly at the Library stopped by to tell us all about her Brushbots program which was part of her ATLAS (After School at the Library) series. She was inspired (as we all are) by Anne Clark who also sent in a couple School Age program ideas this month. Behold the third installment of her Minute-To-Win-It programs, now with even more fun games and an instructional YouTube video! As big fans of Smile we also loved Anne’s Smile Tween Book Club, especially (like the tweens…) the emoji portrait! The Thrive Thursday Queen herself shared what she’s been up to lately, including the new Winter Collection sported by her felt board table and a super awesome Gingerbread Book Character Scavenger Hunt. Awnali Mills of Librarian on the Loose (and App Reviewer Extraordinaire!) recently hosted a Diary of a Wimpy Kid Party to celebrate the release of Long Haul complete with Pin the Booger on the Finger, because she HAD to! While we all know Minecraft is where it’s at Maggie’s Minecraft Club harnesses the sheer excitement and steers the kidlets towards a common goal, complete with awesome prize buttons and bookmarks. Neato! Lindsey (being the darling that she is) reminded me that we collected a whole load of Passive Programs mostly for school agers not too long ago, including TMNT Skills Testing and scavenger hunts galore so we’re adding that to the mix.  Now it’s time for your Thrive Thursday dessert and believe me, we saved the sweetest for last! Laura from Laura’s Library Adventures recently wrote about her Sweet Snack Series and in particular making ice cream which looks like a whole bundle of delicious fun.

That’s all for December’s Thrive Thursday Round Up. Thank you to everyone who contributed and we’ll see you all around the interwebs !

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Jumping Off the Holiday Ban-Wagon

Disagreement, while uncomfortable, is a normal and needed part of librarianship.  I know going into this that people will disagree with me.  And many of those people are librarians I deeply admire which in a way makes this post even harder to write. But I truly believe that disagreement is healthy and can be done respectfully. And it definitely shouldn’t stop us from sharing our opinions and engaging in conversations about our profession.

Two weeks ago, Kendra told us to Check our Holidays at the Door.  Kendra advocates against the type of inauthentic holiday programs that some librarians try to squeeze in in an attempt to be “diverse.”  And I am in total agreement that this type of holiday programming is tokenism and should be avoided.  And as someone who grew up in the United States, and is still aware of movements like this one, I can see why for some American libraries it makes sense to focus on seasonal themes rather than holiday ones.

But the problem for me is that this argument was then extrapolated to include all holiday programming in any library ever.  And I think whenever we use phrases like “all,” “any,” and “ever” we have to be aware of the implication of those words.

The reasons given for excluding all types of holiday programming are:

1. You are not an expert on all holidays.

2. Holiday programs exclude and alienate people from the library.

I’d like to address both of these arguments because after grappling with this topic for over a week, I’ve come to realize I simply disagree.  And as a pretty outspoken atheist, I can assure you it has nothing to do with any religious hidden agenda.

#1: Your Community is the Expert

Where I live –  Vancouver, British Columbia –  we take a an approach to holiday programming that encompasses the official government policy of multiculturalism.  As my colleague Tess Prendergast pointed out, we don’t do the whole “melting pot” thing here.

At the Vancouver Public Library where I work we follow a community-led libraries model.  This model was developed to reach community members who have traditionally not used the library due to social exclusion and other barriers.  In this model, the community member becomes the “expert” and helps guide the library in developing services and collections that meet their needs.  Different groups have different wants and needs and our programming should reflect these differences.

Using the community-led model means we work with community groups and other agencies to plan holiday programming which fit with my library’s stated mission to create an “engaged, informed, and connected city.” Recently, my library hosted a week long series of holiday programs called “The Day of the Dead, Coast Salish Style.”  Our VPL Aboriginal Storyteller in Residence, Rosemary Georgeson, has worked in years past with Latino artists from California on the intersections between the Day of the Dead and First Nations traditions around honouring ancestors and acknowledging the life cycle. Drawing on these conversations, she and other library staff decided to work with community groups to put on a week full of art workshops, storytelling, hands on crafts, and participation in a local parade.  This series of programs was a huge success and drew in many community members who have traditionally faced social exclusion from the library.

Here’s another example. At Surrey Libraries, librarians work with community groups to showcase Diwali.  They hosted a program that included a sari wrapping demonstration, a bollywood dance workshop, and menhdi by donation by partnering with a local South Asian women’s group. They also worked with a local arts club called Shan-E-Punjab to provide a Bhangra and Gidha performance.  These festive activities were chosen by the community groups as ways they publicly celebrate Diwali, and it drew a crowd of over 200 people.

Neither of these examples focus on religion; they focus on the cultural significance the holiday has for members of our community. These programs are not viewed as an assimilation tactic or an expression of cultural power or privilege.  In fact, I would argue they do the opposite. They help build partnerships with community groups and foster the belief that all of our cultural backgrounds are welcome and visible in the library.

Do these types of holiday programs happen all year round and for every major holiday from all cultures? Probably not. Like many other libraries, we experience a stress on limited staff and resources, in addition to an ever increasing list of job duties.  But it’s certainly what we strive for, and working with the community in general (not just for holiday programming) is always a top priority. My point is - it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing mindset.  We plan these programs based on community feedback and we try to the best of our abilities to reflect what is important to them.

#2: Every Program Has a Chance of Alienating or Excluding Someone

One of the commenters on Kendra’s post wrote this statement that summed up exactly what I was thinking.  Kate, if you read this post, thank you for this perspective:

…the exact same thing happens when our therapy dog visits, and little Johnny is allergic to dogs. The same thing happens when we don’t buy the hardcover book because we are using that book’s money on a downloadable audio instead; little Johnny with no device nor internet can’t read it. And the same thing happens when we have Lego club on Saturday, instead of during the week because then the Orthodox Jewish family cannot come. Exclusion happens whether we want it to or not (gosh we try so hard for not, don’t we!!), but it happens. Sometimes we don’t see it or know about it, and I think this is the entire thrust of ‘no holiday programs’ – just remove it all together and we won’t exclude (offend) anyone…well, except those that wish we had some kind of fun event because they can’t afford to take their kid to the paid event at the local mall, or don’t want to drag their kids through the department store to see Santa and have to worry about purchasing something. Yep, we’ve now excluded them too, because the library’s events are FREE and open to anyone who WANTS to come. It’s simple really – if you don’t want to come to THIS particular program, then don’t. There will be something equally fabulous some other day that you WANT to come to, not to worry.”

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be mindful of potential exclusion – we absolutely should and I think Kendra’s post gets that point across.  But the reality is some people don’t celebrate anything – holidays, birthdays, nothing – while other people would have a problem with Harry Potter programs because of witchcraft and magic.  So then it begs the question – why are we drawing the line at holiday programs when so many other things we do have a chance of offending/alienating/excluding?  If you look at it from an academic standpoint then the argument starts to fall apart.

Lastly, on a more philosophical level, when I think about the best possible community I imagine a place where ideas are freely exchanged, where we support diversity in actions and words, and where people are open-minded about each other. How do we achieve this? We have to bring people together, and to me the library stands as one of the most appropriate places to do just that. If people only celebrate within their own cultural group, then we’ve lost a chance to bridge a cultural divide and create an inclusive community.

So that’s my opinion.  This is what works in my city.

I’m thankful to all of my fellow library workers for starting and adding to this discussion.

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