Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Oakville Public Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the fifth in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Justine Gerroir, Teen Services Librarian at the Oakville Public Library talks about the Tablet Time program they developed in Oakville!


The Oakville Public Library is located in Oakville, Ontario and is a suburban community situated west of Toronto with a population of just over 180, 000. Our current library mission is to build community by connecting people and ideas.The Tablet Time program at Oakville Public Library was first conducted in the Fall of 2013 after piloting tablet use in several of our preschool storytimes.

OPL Official Logo

Tablet Time is a free program for ages 3-5 years that lasts one hour. The first half of the program features a programmer demonstrating various apps and ebook apps to create a fully digital storytime. This program relies on a tablet that is hooked up to our mounted projector with speakers that are plugged in. After the programmer has demonstrated various apps the tablets are distributed to the participants from our bank of ten iPads and for the last half of the program participants are encouraged to explore the stories, rhymes, and activities that the programmer has just demonstrated.

The programmer’s responsibility once the tablets are distributed is to assist with the technology, answer any questions and support navigation through the various apps, databases, and ebooks explored. This aligns with our goal to provide physical access and hands on experience with technology. I should mention that we also meet this goal in our day-to-day service offerings as we make available leap pads and touch screen AWE stations for our young library members at all of our six branches.

Parent and caregiver involvement in early literacy has again and again been cited in relation to academic achievement, success as a reader and of course love of reading. It is our aim to support this in the digital realm. Tablet Time also lends itself to the concept of joint media engagement that supports families having fun, connecting and sharing new learning experiences with technology. During our Tablet Time program we also strive to model appropriate and balanced use of technology: when it is time to put down the device and how to be selective about using it. We know that not all households are going to have access to technology and have a parent/caregiver that can take the time to be a media mentor. As a facilitator of a program that incorporates technology, the main goal is to empower those attending your programs to make impactful decisions and decisions of intent with respect to media with their children. We ask those present to consider what is to be gained by using devices and apps. Is it for entertainment? For educational purposes? Practicing letters and fine motor skills? Caregivers are role models and will have to make informed decisions about best media practices and routines for their children.

Continue reading “Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Oakville Public Library”

Tween Book Club Resources

Awhile back I wrote about the Tween Book Club I run at my branch and all the extension activities I’ve done with the kids.  I recently landed a new (PERMANENT FULL TIME!) job that has me switching my focus from middle years to early years, so unfortunately I won’t be in charge of a tween book club anymore.

But I did promise to write more about the resources I used to plan my tween book clubs.  I view this post as a living document, so please leave a comment if there is anything you think I should add.


Websites and Blogs

Discussion and Activity Ideas

  • Skype Book Club by GreenBeanTeenQueen – call the author via Skype and let the kids ask him or her questions.
  • 10 Ideas to Get Your Book Club Talking About Books by Teen Services Underground
  • Grab some dice and play roll and retell.  Or make one of these Cootie Catcher Story Elements (Thank you, Angie for pointing me towards these!)
  • Book Resource Guides by the California Young Reader Medal – these include discussion questions, activities, read alikes, and more! Super, super useful.
  • Have the tweens write tweets and then share them with the author. I did this with Sage Blackwood, author of Jinx.  The kids spent a good 15 minutes of the meeting writing 140 word questions and feedback that I later tweeted to Sage (who replied to them all!). At our next meeting I shared what Sage wrote.


What did I miss? Please leave a comment and I’ll add in your suggested resources!

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the fourth in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Children’s Services Librarian at the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, writes about how they shook up their Summer Reading Club last year. Ideas and inspiration abound, let’s dive in!


About me: I am the Children’s Services Librarian at Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library in Nova Scotia. I also manage the Antigonish Branch, which is known in our community as The People’s Place Library. Managing a busy branch takes a lot of my time so I don’t get to be as hands-on with children’s programs as I would like to be therefore I had lots of fun redesigning our summer reading club last year.


In 2014 we decided that we needed to give our summer programs a big boost. Our numbers were dropping and it was getting harder to engage kids in our programs. Over the last few years, we had made some small changes to our summer reading program, including designing our own reading log and transitioning from numbers of books read to time read. But in 2014 we decided to try a new approach altogether. I must extend a big thank you to fellow Nova Scotia youth services librarian, the awesomely creative Angela Reynolds, whose ideas were a big influence on our new program.

Making slime!
Making slime!

Rather than focus just on reading, we decided to focus on learning through the concept of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Experiences, Arts, and Math.) When children registered for the program, they received a SRC Logbook with different activities listed for each category as well as a place to keep track of their reading. Throughout the summer the children were encouraged to try the different activities, which they could then check off on their logbook. When the children had completed 15, 25, and 35 activities, they visited their local branch to enter a ballot to win prizes that are supplied courtesy of the Adopt-a-Library Literacy Program. The prizes are a good incentive for participation as well as an easy way for us to keep track of the numbers of activities that are being completed. In keeping with this, our library branches offered weekly programs that could count towards these activities. These activities included Hogwarts Hijinks, Slimy Science and Squishy Circuits, Minute to Win It, and more.

Ella Hunter gets to meet a caiman during a visit from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo
Ella Hunter gets to meet a caiman during a visit from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo

This program was not only fun but gave us the opportunity to work with other organizations. We encouraged kids to visit local museums and art galleries and we were able to work closely with the Community Access Program (C@P) on technology programs such as 3D printing, Makey Makey, LEGO Robotics, and more. Our branches are all C@P sites and, through C@P, three of these branches have 3D printers. Other items, like LEGO Mindstorm and Makey Makey kits, are shared among all of our branches. C@P also hires summer students to do programs so we encouraged our STREAM participants to take in some of the “cybercamps” that were offered for kids. Something else they could check off in their logbook!

Liam and Roslyn Smith try out the Makey Makey
Liam and Roslyn Smith try out the Makey Makey

Although some avid readers missed counting their books this new approach was a great way to encourage non-readers to visit the library. All in all, it was a big success and we hope to build on it this year.

We’ll Link to That: Spring 2015

Every quarter we write a column for YAACING, a youth services newsletter published by the Young Adult and Children’s Services (YAACS) arm of the British Columbia Library Association.  This spring our column is all about STEAM resources, but make sure to check out the entire Spring 2015 issue! If you’d like to catch up on our past columns you can find them here:

Summer Reading Club is right around the corner and this year’s theme is Build it!  Many of the sub-themes have a connection to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), so we thought we’d round up our Top 10 STEAM online resources. There is so much information online that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  Well, here are 10 websites that will get you inspired to plan STEAM programs for kids ages 0-12 years old.

1. The Show Me Librarian
There is a reason why we think you should start with Amy’s page. Dubbed the STEAM Queen, Amy has created lists of science and STEAM programs she’s done with preschool and school age kids, other folks who are running STEAM programs and resources to locate non-fiction books and brush up on your science. We also love her emphasis on tapping into STEAM resources in your community. Truly a one-stop shop!

2. Abby the Librarian
But please don’t stop there. Our friend Abby has a series called Preschool Lab in which she includes all the storytime gold we’re used to like songs, rhymes, flannels and books with explanations about what makes each of them great. But that’s not all, Abby also includes stations that allow her storytimers to get their hands around different scientific and mathematical concepts. She ends with her thoughts on how it all went as well as additional ideas for caregivers to build on the ideas explored at home.

3. SimplySTEM
This is a wiki started by students from Spring 2013 ALSC course “S.T.E.M. Programs Made Easy” as a way to collect STEM resources and ideas floating around the interwebs. Check out their preschool and school age resources for lots of great tried and true ideas.

4. Robot Test Kitchen
This group of children and teen librarians blog about their failures and successes when it comes to programming with robotics in a library setting. We love their true confessions for thoughtful writing and lots of links and their reviews for learning about products we’ve only read about. In their words, two robot thumbs up!

5. Library Makers
This blog, which is connected to the Madison Public Library includes all kinds of great STEAM program ideas in the WonderWorks series. But don’t stop there, we love their Supper Club where they invite families to come eat dinner and take part in an app-based storytime, Toddler Art Class plus Craft Lab and NeedleReads for Teens.

6. Science Sparks
Though not a librarian-run blog, this website is chalk full of fun and easy science experiments broken down into age groups. They’ve got ideas for preschool science all the way up to tweens. The writers make a point to showcase activities you can do using commonly found household items. We especially love their book club posts which feature science experiments tied to popular children’s literature like The Lorax.

7. TinkerLab
Run by a mom and arts educator named Rachelle Doorley, this blog features open-ended experiments and art projects. She has one of the most user-friendly navigation bars, allowing you to easily search by art activity, science experiment, or age group. And her Resources page lists everything from what supplies she buys to books to read to her favourite blogs.

8. Little eLit
One of our favourite technology programming websites that specifically focuses on the role of libraries. Want to know what apps to use in storytime? Want to get ideas for iPad based programs? Little eLit is leading the way on innovative ideas and research on using new media in libraries with young children.

9. StarNET
StarNET provides science-technology activities and resources for libraries. Created by a coalition of groups such as ALA, the Space Science Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance, when you join their community you get access to successful STEAM programs libraries across North America have run.

10.  ALSC Blog
We’ve been following the official blog of the Association for Library Service to Children for a long time, but we just recently discovered their STEM/STEAM Tag. This tag gives you access to their archive of all STEAM ideas bloggers have shared over the years. From booklists to conference sessions to grant writing to program ideas, just spending an afternoon reading through these posts is sure to inspire and educate.

Community-Led Children’s Librarians

We’ve had some pretty powerful posts in the past which have touched on the idea of community-led library service and I wanted to kick off a series of posts which allow me to explore this philosophy in a little more depth. So here goes: an introduction to community-led work, Children’s Librarians style! A quick definition if you please:

Excerpt from Connecting the Dots: A Guidebook for Working with Community
Excerpt from Connecting the Dots: A Guidebook for Working with Community

The excerpt from above comes from a brilliant handbook written by some great folks at the Vancouver Public Library including one of our heroes Els Kushner. You can access this guidebook, plus a lengthier exploration of the Community-Led Service Planning Model developed out of the Working Together Project here. As you might have noticed here in Vancouver we are swimming in innovative folks and have also been lucky to learn from the cross-Canada work of John Pateman who we saw at a conference last year (here’s a similar version of his presentation) and Ken Williment who blogs at Social Justice Librarian.

I am also blessed to work in a large enough library system that I have a Community Librarian right at my branch. Not to mention she is a dear friend to both Lindsey and I and taught us both Boom Chicka Boom AND There Was a Crocodile. Let’s just say she’s our favourite! But I digress, working with (and watching!) Christie has taught me some simple principles which I now do my best to remember and practice as often as I can. Continue reading “Community-Led Children’s Librarians”