Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Bibliothèque Publique de Westmount

This year we’ve hosted a variety of guest posts from library staff around Canada.  For the last post of the year we are delighted to feature the Westmount Public Library, also known as Bibliothèque Publique de Westmount.  Our guest blogger is Children’s Librarian Wendy Wayling who is here to tell us all about a very special Summer Reading Club in Quebec!


Just when the rest of the library is winding down and looking forward to those lazy, hazy days of summer, children’s departments all across the country are gearing up for their busiest time of year – the season of the summer reading club! And the Westmount Public Library is no exception.

We have been hosting a summer reading club in our library for decades, but in 2011 we joined the TD Summer Reading Club to share ideas with librarians across Canada. Over the past years we have enjoyed successful summer reading clubs using such themes as science, mystery and fantasy, to name a few. This year our theme focused on play.  Choosing a theme as versatile as play left the door open for so many possibilities allowing our staff to brainstorm and come up with some terrific ideas. I had been playing with the idea of transforming our department into a giant Candyland game when another idea hit me: What is the quintessential children’s book about play and imagination?:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll of course! The choice was no coincidence, however, as the classic children’s book is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. This year’s theme was of particular interest to me as Alice has always been one of my all-time favourite books, as a child, as a teen and even now as an adult.

Our new library mascot, Findlay Featherton, joins the TD SRC!
TD SRC Launch at Family Day in Westmount Park
TD SRC Launch at Family Day in Westmount Park

What better way to celebrate play and imagination than through the discovery, rediscovery and sharing of Alice and her wonderful adventures down under! Our team got busy preparing reading-incentive games and activities based on play and Alice.

Asking children to keep track of the time they spend reading can be a challenge and understandably so, as not many of us want to set a timer each time we sit down to enjoy a book. Over the years, we have tried to make this aspect more enjoyable for the children by creating some fun reading-incentive games, giving out small weekly prizes throughout the summer and carefully selecting a gift book to give to each child who reached his or her reading goal.

Tech-free day at the library!
Tech-free day at the library!

This summer we developed a game that would teach some basic library skills, while still being fun and at times quite silly, in keeping with the spirit of Alice. Of course, the whole point of the games is to pique the curiosity of the children. For example, once the children had read for one or two hours (depending on their reading level), they were given a clue or a challenge. Here is one example:

In Wonderland, Alice met a Mock turtle – a character named after soup!
Look up books about making soup!

Once the children found a cookbook, they were asked to come up with their own silly soup recipe and share it with the staff. Here is but one creative recipe that a member came up with:

1 teacup of ice
1/2 bowl of unwashed potato skins
1 diget (sic) of pi
5/3 eggs
7 cups of water
9/5 toad’s feet
Boil it in a cauldron for 3 leap years until it is the colour of mud and serve it with dragonfly wings.

Some clues required a bit more research. For example:

Find a biography about our very own Queen Elizabeth II who, by the way, is nothing like the nasty Queen of Hearts!

Hidden in the book was the following question:

How old was Queen Elizabeth when she was crowned Queen? Did you know that she visited Westmount in 1959!

Besides the games and clues, we have also tried to transform the entire department each summer according to the theme. We do this with the amazing talents of the library staff and our local teen volunteers. I have been consistently blown away by the enthusiasm and artistic talents demonstrated by the teens. It is a treat to see how proud they are when they drop by the library to see their artwork on display. Partnering with local teens is a fantastic way to keep this busy age group engaged at the library.

The desk murals painted by a staff member and local teen volunteers.
The desk murals painted by a staff member and local teen volunteers.

Of course, we wanted to highlight other aspects of play: we invited the children to learn how to lawn bowl with the staff and the local lawn bowling club; we hired a local Irish musician to perform in our storytelling garden; we created birdhouses based on the TD SRC illustrations; we offered two Minecraft sessions; we played croquet in our local park dressed as the characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and perhaps the most shocking activity of all this summer was Tech-Free Day when we took away all the computers on one Friday each month over the summer! Jaws dropped, but no tears were shed and parents enjoyed some quality time with their children playing board games and reading together.

Alice playing croquet
Alice playing croquet
Croquet and a Mad Hatter Tea Party in Westmount Park next to the library.
Croquet and a Mad Hatter Tea Party in Westmount Park next to the library.

So why do children’s librarians go through all this work every summer? Because we know that it makes a difference to the children in our communities. We put the extra time and effort into developing a fun summer reading club because we want to foster a love a reading that will last a lifetime. We want the children to feel comfortable in our libraries and to experience that magic moment when a story transports us to a different world, full of possibilities. We also want to reach out to those children who might think that they don’t like reading, but we all know that they just haven’t found the right book yet. The children’s staff love to book talk and recommend great reads to the children and summer is the perfect time to try out new books and share titles!

Our TD SRC closing party - 250 kids and parents participated!
Our TD SRC closing party – 250 kids and parents participated!

Even though it is autumn, I am already thinking about next year’s summer reading club and I am sure that most other children’s librarians are doing the same. Maybe it is time for our adult department to get into the summer spirit and develop a summer reading club designed just for adults!

Happy reading and don’t forget to celebrate Alice’s 150th anniversary this year!

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Belleville Public Library

This week our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series turns fifteen! We’re celebrating with a post from a fellow YouTube creator: the Belleville Public Library in Ontario. Suzanne Humphreys who is their Coordinator of Children’s, Youth and Readers’ Services shares the how’s and why’s of a public library YouTube channel and we’ve even included one of their fan-tab-ulous videos down below!


We at the Belleville Public Library are adding another string to our social media bow with a YouTube channel. As with most libraries a frequently discussed issue is that of the schedule of a program being an obstacle for some families. As much as we make our customer needs a priority we are still bound by the confines of staff and space. We have very well attended story time programs but got to thinking about children who were not able to attend and came up with the idea of Storytime Anytime as a way for kids to have at least some of the storytime experience at home on their own schedule.

We are lucky enough to have an iPad in our department so the filming of the video clips was relatively easy and we figured that we could edit in iMovie and upload to YouTube in one swoop. However, it turned out to be the case that there were compatibility issues and using YouTube editor was the better option.

Our storytime programs are always introduced by our puppet Blossom the Bookworm who sings our welcome song and the kids just love her. We could not have Storytime Anytime without Blossom! We filmed a clip of Blossom introducing the Storytime and added this to the beginning of our videos. We also used her image on the button at the kid’s page of our website to link to our YouTube channel.


We recorded a handful of videos ready to upload. It is funny how intimidating that camera can be even when you are usually quite happy to be singing and bouncing and making a complete fool of yourself in the name of a fun filled storytime. And yes it is still painful to watch yourself on video but just fine watching your colleagues!

Once we had uploaded our first handful of videos we realized that the image quality was good but the sound was not great. It also varied from one computer to another and certainly from one reader to another. This (plus the onslaught of our Summer Reading Club!) slowed down the rate of adding more content. However, we were lucky enough to have the support of management to go ahead and purchase a camera and tripod that will certainly improve the quality of our videos and our still photography too. We are now filming new videos and using Movie Maker on our laptop to edit and upload. At the moment it is only videos from Children’s Services on our YouTube Channel but that is about to change as staff from throughout the library add patron testimonials, tutorials and book talks and create playlists for each. The possibilities are very exciting!

I have found that as with any new initiative and particularly when it involves technology there have been hiccups along the way but the very thought of one of our young story time patrons watching us at home when sick on the couch or while getting fussy in the car makes it so very worthwhile. Engaging new and existing customers through social media is an essential part of promoting the services and collections of the library and we hope that with this YouTube channel we can reach out to another segment of our public.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Côte Saint-Luc Library

We can’t believe that we’re well into double digits in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series, which aims to highlight the outstanding work being done in Canada to serve children and families. This week is particularly exciting as we welcome out first guest blogger from Quebec! Read on as Valerie Medzalabanleth from the Côte Saint-Luc Public Library talks about how her library has gone above and beyond to make the library an exciting place for families to be.

jbrary-flagThe Côte Saint-Luc Library is located on the Island of Montreal, but is independent, and not part of the larger Montreal system. We serve a bilingual community, but it is predominantly Anglophone. I started working at the Côte Saint-Luc Library about four years ago, and I noticed almost immediately that it was a vibrant and well-loved library with loyal users and a fantastic staff. When I arrived, our population of children and families was steadily increasing, and has continued to do so since then. At the time, we were also seeing more and more newcomers, often from other countries; understandably, not all of them came running immediately to the library. One of the things I envisioned was including these new families and helping them find a community here at the library.

Before I began working here, the CSL Children’s Department was known for its great baby programs, and it also had very fun special events. Over the past years, my goal has been to maintain that level of service, loyalty and satisfaction, while expanding the age demographic. I envisioned the department as a place where creative and fun things happened at any time, a place where families, kids, tweens and teens would find something engaging to do whenever they happened to be here. Accomplishing that, in my eyes, meant offering an array of fun programs, but also making sure that there is enough to do when simply visiting the space. If a children’s department is all about families, then we should embrace their presence, allow for the noise that comes with them, and do our best to keep them interested and entertained for as long as we can.

With creating a true community and family space in mind, I’ve been actively working to create and grow the range of opportunities for exploration and collaboration, and there have been quite a few successes. This past summer, we invited the community to complete a puzzle challenge. We left a puzzle out at all times and whenever it was completed, we took a picture of the team or individual who had done it and put it on our “Summer Puzzlers” display wall. To put it simply: this was a big hit. Even those who might not have looked twice at a puzzle before desperately wanted to be on that wall. After their puzzle was completed and their pictures were taken, kids, parents, and grandparents would often return to the library the next day to eagerly search for their picture. We even had a few “too cool for school” teens participating, and more than a few kids who usually came in just to use the computers were asking when we’d change out the puzzle so they could complete it again.

CSL Summer Puzzlers wallOne of the goals of our Summer Reading Club was to have kids want to visit the library on their own time and on a weekly basis. If they were visiting regularly, we hoped that they would also be tempted to read more regularly. To encourage this, we had a weekly treasure hunt, of sorts, which had kids scrambling through the department (safely, of course!) to find a letter X hidden in various spots. This simple game encouraged kids to discover parts of the department that they had perhaps never seen. It was also just plain fun. We never tried to trick the children; we wanted them to enjoy the process of searching for–and hopefully finding–the hidden X. We gave out prizes, but kids seemed to find even more satisfaction in completing the challenge as their parents looked on amused, trying not to give too many hints.

Those passive programs are just two examples of how we worked to get families excited about their library visits. While they were here, I also hoped to tantalize them to return for fun “active” programs. This fall, we had a sock-puppet workshop aimed at 5-to-9 year olds. The program was full; we even opened up extra spaces so more people could participate, reaching our max attendance for a children’s activity. One of the most exciting thing about the workshop was that whole families came. We saw sets of siblings, accompanied by parents and sometimes grandparents, working together and with other families, sharing the resources (glue sticks, fabric markers, etc.) and ideas. It’s incredibly rewarding to organize and lead a program that helps children unleash their vivid imaginations. We gave them the loosest of directions (let’s read this silly story together, then you can sketch out your plans, and make use of whatever material you want to make your sock puppets) and they created superheroes, dragons, princesses and a few entirely original beasties. One nice surprise: a few families posted pictures of the event on Facebook, which raised the profile of the department and our activities even higher.

Riding high on our puppet-makers’ desire to create, I began talking with some of our participants about an upcoming program that I have been really excited about: a parent/child knitting class/group. I have been an avid knitter for about seven years, coming to it as an adult after trying to get the hang of it a few times as a kid. There’s something really rewarding about creating something, and the sense of community that arises when you have a group of similarly creative people around you is like no other. Lots of libraries, including our own, have knitting groups for adults, and some have knitting lessons for children, but I wanted to focus on a cross-generational group. I had previously put out a call to find out if anyone in the community was interested, and almost everyone said the same thing: “My child and I really want to do this, but we don’t know how to knit yet.” This fall, we have started to solve the problem. We are leading two groups into a basic three-session intro to knitting. Afterward, all the participants will be invited to switch over to a monthly meeting. This community-building activity now has a healthy registration; based on early feedback, I’m optimistic that the class will definitely develop into a regular group, and from there, it can only grow!

Knitting-Together_2015-10_500pxWriting this post has been a lot of fun because it has made me focus on the various ways we have tried to keep our public engaged and invested in their public library. I like to think that our active programs help feed into the passive games and toys we have in the library, and vice versa. Just this past Sunday, our weekly storytime took an exciting an unexpected turn right when we were wrapping up, as a group of kids began using our giant tinker toys. It was great to see kids who would never have spoken to each other (despite just having finished a program that they were in together) turn into a team with an ambitious goal: build the tallest tower they possibly could. Looking on, I couldn’t help but think they were demonstrating what it means to be an engaged community by building a tower, and by offering that blend of programs, the public library was helping them get there.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Winnipeg Public Library

We are so excited to share our first guest post from Manitoba!  As part of our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series, we’re highlighting the outstanding work being done in Canada to serve children and families. This week we’re learning about the amazing mobile makerspace programming happening at the Winnipeg Public Library.  Megan O’Brien, a youth services librarian at WPL, gives all the details about the five makerspace programs they developed for tweens.

jbrary-flagNo doubt by now you’ve seen some of the amazing makerspaces – physical locations dedicated to creating, making, learning and experimentation. At Winnipeg Public Library, we have taken a mobile approach to makerspace programming. Programs are centrally developed and curated, and the kits are then requested by and sent to any of our system’s twenty branches. Once the -40C degree weather hits, program registrants will only have to go as far as their neighbourhood branch to participate in quality makerspace programming, rather than travel through the snow across the city. This approach allows us to provide users all over the city with access to a wide variety of tech- and craft-based programs.

Another benefit of the mobile makerspace has been increased opportunities for staff to provide input regarding the programs we run. Programmers are invited to follow the included program outline when they receive the kit, but are also able to tweak the program to suit the needs and interests of participants. They then provide reports outlining what worked, what didn’t, and how the program was received by participants. This is a great way to keep branch staff invested and involved in the programs, and to ensure that our programs are meeting the needs and interests of our community.

This summer, we debuted five new makerspace programs for tweens: Making with Minecraft: Treehouse Challenge, Making with Minecraft: Papercraft, LEGO Story Makers, Cubelets Robotics, and Making with Magformers.

making with minecraftMaking with Minecraft: Treehouse Challenge is a tech-based program using a 12-unit Surface Pro lab. Participants can work in teams or on their own to build a treehouse in a closed-world Minecraft environment, which is monitored and run by the program facilitator. At the end of the program, participants show the rest of the group what they built. We weren’t surprised when the program filled quickly, but since the waiting list also filled almost immediately, the decision was made to run the program again, to meet customer demand. A successful program is more than just full registration; however, and I am pleased to say that throughout the entire three hours of the program, the tweens shared ideas, tips, triumphs and struggles, and took a genuine interest in the builds of other participants. When a question had them stumped, it was time to do some research!  The Minecraft books displayed in the program room were a great resource, and the internet helped with the questions that weren’t answered in the books. The tweens completed some very impressive treehouses over the course of the afternoon, and one comment that appeared on all program evaluations was “have a longer program next time!” I guess they had fun!

Making with Minecraft: Papercraft took Minecraft building off the computer and onto the table in front of participants, who were divided into groups and given a set of cubes to build creatures, scenes, or buildings. Once the base of the build was complete, they could add papercraft components such as creatures or decorations such as torches, doors, fences, and even beds and cake, to complete the look. This program originated as a one-off event run by a branch staff member, and used pre-cut Styrofoam cubes as the basic building form. To make the kit components more reusable and longer-wearing, it was decided that the reusable mobile kit would instead use plastic snap cubes. The pictures below are pattern-covered Styrofoam blocks, held together with tape.

paper minecraftsOur LEGO® Story Maker program gave tweens an opportunity to test their storytelling skills, and was a hit with participants. Listening to the kids brainstorm all sorts of wild and wacky plotlines was a lot of fun for program facilitators, and the participants loved using the LEGO® kits to build the scenes of their stories. After each scene was built, the tweens took a picture, which was then uploaded into the StoryVisualizer software we installed on a set of Surface Pros that are used for mobile program purposes. Once the images were uploaded, the software allowed the tweens to create graphic novel/comic book-style projects. Here’s a small example below, where text and a fire sticker have been added to the original image:

story makerNext up is Making with Magformers. Magformers are sturdy geometric shapes that snap together using very strong magnets.  These magnets are free floating in the shapes so that they will always attract and never repel, so any piece can be used in any way.  For this program, each of our five Magformers sets is a station with its own building challenge:

1.    How High Can You Go? (build a tower)
2.    Vroom Vroom and Zoom! (build a vehicle)
3.    Hard Had Required! (build a building)
4.    It’s Alive! (build an animal, creature or robot)
5.    MAGnificient Creations! (build anything you imagine)

Participants can work alone, or in teams. This program kit shipped out mid-June and was in constant use over the summer, only arriving back at the program coordinator’s desk in the third week of September. The bright colours and ease of use make this program appropriate for our 6-8s, as well as our tween demographic, and it never seems like there is enough time for the participants to do all the building they would like!

magformersmagformers 2The other new-comer tween program this summer was our Cubelets Robotics program. This program allows participants to explore some of the ways in which robots think, sense, and act (three key qualities for a machine to be considered a robot). The kit comes with LEGO® brick adapters, so once the tweens have had a chance to test the functionalities of different cubes, such as the distance sense cube, flashlight action cube, brightness sense cube, or inverse think cube, they can work on building their own robot, capable of thinking, sensing, and acting. The interactive exploring and experimentation involved in this program brings a lot of creative energy into the room, and received many positive comments and requests for more this summer! Below is a picture of a Cubelets flashlight using the flashlight cube, the light sense cube, and a battery cube.

cubeletsCurrently waiting for its first public run is the Duplo® Story Maker program for parents/caregivers with children 3-5 years. Similar to the LEGO® Story Maker program, Duplo® Story Maker is a fun way for young children to develop their storytelling skills by building scenes using the Duplo® blocks and the background scenes that come with the sets.

Winnipeg Public Library began developing its roster of makerspace programs in 2013, and the number of maker programs has risen steadily to now include 5 adult programs, 6 teen programs, 8 tween programs, 3 school-age programs, and 1 pre-school program.  The Makerspaces Programming Working Group is always looking for ideas for new programs, especially for younger children, and are excited to see what our next mobile makerspace program will be!

At Winnipeg Public Library, our goal with makerspace programming is to encourage excitement about and experimentation with learning by providing access to technology and materials in such a way that participatory, collaborative learning can occur. Along with strengthening reading, sequencing, storytelling, and social skills, these programs offer participants an opportunity to engage with multiple literacies. These can range from computer and technological literacy to information, visual and digital literacy. This approach encourages “outside the box” thinking by providing participants a framework in which they can safely try new things, without fear of judgement, thereby increasing the potential for innovative knowledge creation, as opposed to simple knowledge consumption.

By supporting the development of transferable skills and bringing together community members in a fun and positive environment, library branches become a destination of choice within the community. Makerspace programming is an investment in our community, and is a valuable addition to the traditional programs run at Winnipeg Public Library. The programs I’ve outlined above are just a few of our offerings, a list which will continue to grow to meet the needs of Winnipegers throughout the city.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Cumberland Public Libraries

We are thrilled to bring you the 12th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series from the small but mighty Cumberland Public Libraries in Nova Scotia.  Feeling behind? Check out past posts. Feeling inspired?  Submit one from your corner of Canada! Now, we’re going to sit back and listen to Jenn Atkinson share about an incredible community partnership she’s been working on.

jbrary-flagI Get by with a Little Help from My Community Partnership

Cumberland Public Libraries is the smallest library system in Nova Scotia. We serve a large geographic, but sparsely populated, area.  Our 26 employees, 7 branches and Borrow by Mail program serve a population of about 31,000. As a rural librarian with a small staff and budget, community partnerships are a boon. Partnerships can give you access to more ideas, staff and resources; they can take your programs to levels you couldn’t achieve on your own.

CPL has a long-standing partnership with Maggie’s Place, our amazing local family resource centre.  Every Wednesday for the last 10+ years, the Amherst branch has hosted Once Upon a Time, a 1.5 hour-long program for ages 0-5. An employee from Maggie’s Place and the Youth Services Librarian sing songs and do action rhymes, read a story, and deliver a snack. It’s a fabulous little arrangement: the library provides the venue and story, while Maggie’s Places brings the songs and snack. It’s easy to execute and we consistently draw anywhere from 30-60 people (children and adults) per week.

Logo_MaggiesPlaceThis spring I proposed an expanded partnership with Maggie’s Place. The main impetus was to improve our summer program attendance, specifically in Amherst. There are several organizations in our community that offer summer programs to children, but with a population of 9000, there are only so many children to go around. Since we target the same youth population as Maggie’s Place, I wanted to work together this summer to maximize our programming.

In April, the Deputy Chief Librarian and I set up a meeting with the Executive Director and one of their early childhood educators. We went in with three program ideas, and to our happy surprise they readily agreed to all of them. They loved the idea of increasing our partnership and were as keen to work with us as we were with them.

We ran 3 summer programs in partnership with Maggie’s Place:

  1. Summer Storytime – Last year I held a weekly storytime in a local park without knowing that Maggie’s Place was also doing an outdoor storytime. This year we combined our storytime forces and held weekly 1.5 hour programs in 4 Amherst parks on a rotating schedule. In the event of rain, the Amherst Library was the storytime venue. I planned the half-hour story segment while Maggie’s Place staff planned our outdoor games and brought snacks. My storytime attendance increased by 11% from last year, and together we were able to offer a longer program with more engaging activities.
  2. Family Fort Night –I’d wanted to do this program since reading about it on Tiny Tips for Library Fun, but never tried it because I was too worried that no one would show up. I find family-oriented programming to be challenging in Amherst, especially in the evenings. I hoped that our partnership with Maggie’s Place would draw in families who use the centre, but might not normally visit the library (as is often the case with Once Upon a Time). We had 22 people show up, which I consider a huge success for a beautiful July evening. We invited families into the library with pillows and blankets to make reading forts in the library. We provided books, games, puzzles, and colouring sheets to occupy the kids when in their forts. After reading and playing in the forts, everyone gathered around a fake campfire, ate a s’more treat, listened to stories, and finished up with hide-and-go-seek in the dark. Every kid who attended had a blast.
  3.  StoryMob – This Paper Bag Princess-inspired flash mob was the crown jewel of my summer programming. It was by far my most ambitious undertaking and I couldn’t have done it without the help I received as a result of this partnership. I was responsible for promotion, volunteer recruitment, and script direction, while Maggie’s Place took on the vast majority of craft and prop making. We were fortunate that Maggie’s Place lent us 2 staff members for the crafting session the day before, and 3 for the StoryMob itself. In all, we had 30 volunteers, 80 spectators, and a ton of fun!

Photo_FamilyFortNight Photo_StoryMob Photo_StoryMob_Crafts02 Photo_StoryMob_Crafts

What I’ve learned about community partnerships:

  • Start early – Don’t ask an organization to work with you a week before your planned program. They will probably say no, even if it’s something in which the organization would have been interested. Like us, Maggie’s Place plans months in advance, so we were sure to meet with them in early spring to propose our summer partnership. This allowed ample time to advertise our programs in their flyer and make the appropriate staffing arrangements.
  • Communicate – Be clear about what you expect from your partner organization; they don’t want to be caught off-guard by unanticipated costs or staffing needs. I recommend a meeting (either in person or on the phone) to establish your partnership, and another  the week leading up to your joint program/event to make sure everyone’s on the same page and ready to go.
  • Appreciate – Like in any good relationship, be sure to let your partner know how valuable they are, and thank them for helping you accomplish more than you could on your own.

Our expanded partnership with Maggie’s Place has been highly rewarding for both organizations, and we already have plans to continue working together throughout the fall and winter. They readily agreed to another Family Fort Night in late October, and we are talking about organizing another StoryMob in January. In addition to repeating two of our successful summer programs, I will perform a puppet show at the centre in December, and I will represent CPL at their popular Family Days  that happen throughout the year to celebrate Halloween, Christmas, Family Literacy Day, and Easter. At these events I will do library card registration, check out books, promote the library, and be on hand to help Maggie’s Place staff.

I strongly recommend developing a partnership with your local family resource centre, or other youth-oriented organizations in your community. In my experience, it has been positive and productive endeavour that has raised public awareness of the library and taken my programs to an exciting new level.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Ottawa Public Library

We are so excited to feature the Ottawa Public Library in our 11th post in the Canadian Libraries Spotlight.  Need catch up on our series? Here are all the posts.  This post was written by Kirsten, Lise, Angela and Jessica , current and past members of the Children’s Services team at the Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library (OPL). Take it away, ladies!
jbrary-flagHello and bonjour from Canada’s capital! One of the most exciting things about life in a library is that you never know what to expect, and each day has its own new adventures to be experienced.  We feel very fortunate to be part of OPL and we would like to give you a glimpse of what life in the Greenboro Children’s Department looks like.

OPL is the largest, officially bilingual (English and French) library system in North America and serves a population of approximately 870,250.  Our branch is one of 33 branches scattered throughout the city. We also have two big Bookmobiles and a new Mini Bookmobile.  Without a doubt, Ottawa is a very diverse city. As such, OPL offers material in 13 languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Persian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Being the capital city also means that we are lucky to have a wide range of museums, both national and local, on our doorstep. What’s more, OPL has partnerships with most of them. Therefore, our customers enjoy free museum admission passes for the whole family to places like the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and the Canadian Children’s Museum. Furthermore, employees from many of the museums often come and do programs at the Library.

OPL is also very proud to have a Makerspace, called the ImagineSpace and a Kiosk that has automated holds pickup lockers and vending-machine style library material dispensers. The children’s department at the Greenboro branch features an integrated program room, a lot of natural light, bright colours, and space to play and learn. Join us as we take you on a tour of the children’s department.

The absolute star of the Children’s Dept is our Flintstone style car; it’s the perfect spot for reading. It has two openings at the top with Jetson-style bubbles.  It has generous front and rear trunks – perfect for kids to load up with books… much to the chagrin of our Pages!

The pod area is where all the action happens. And, by action, I mean all of our preschool and class visits happen here. We call it the pod as it’s semi circular with a sturdy accordion curtain that closes to provide more privacy when needed. Hidden behind a series of moveable panels, are handy storage cupboards with a sink and countertop. Most of our supplies are kept here and the sink makes cleanup after a messy program easy.  Kids and adults alike get a kick out of finding out that we have a Harry Potter cupboard, offering more storage under a set of stairs (of course) near the pod.


Between Babytime, Toddlertime and Contes en famille (that’s French for Family Storytime!), to mention just a few programs, we see lots of families and caregivers each week which makes for a vibrant and noisy branch!

These are some of our favourite programs that we have offered over the years:

A guide dog took part in Babytime:


LEGO® building programs:

opl4Programs offered by local museums, such as the Ottawa Art Gallery’s Labyrinth Race program shown below:


We also have a special relationship with a local school for students with profound or multiple developmental delays, the Clifford Bowey Public School. We offer four Storytimes, for many of the classes, per year. Due to the unique needs of this group, we creatively adapt Storytime to meet their needs. Each session involves some combination of books, rhymes, songs, felts, puppets and ends with a short video, usually one of the Weston Woods series of picture book films.

Some of the specific adaptations which we have used for groups with special needs include:

  • A supersized felt board (a 2 ft x 3 ft corkboard covered with felt) which is not only more visible to the children, but sits nicely in an easel and is easily moved to an appropriate height
  • Incorporating books with much rhythm, rhyme and colour
  • Enlisting the help of the classroom aides so that each child gets a chance to feel and experience the puppets
  • Reading books at a toddler or pre-school level with a lot of animation.

These programs are a 45 to 50 minute workout where the animator is in constant motion. Even while reading we move along in front of the group to keep all engaged. They are exhausting, but highly rewarding.

As in any facet of life at the Library, communication is key. To improve our services, we will often discuss songs, rhymes or books we tried during the program, to evaluate those that were successful, or those that flopped, and keep track of the videos and books we share with classes to avoid repetition.

Signs of a great program:  
There are quite a few gestures from customers that make offering programs even more rewarding , but these are a few that stand out:

  • When teachers ask for the book titles we shared with the class
  • When a child feels the need to give you a hug in the middle of the program
  • When the class breaks out in an impromptu dance party.

In the spirit of sharing, a favourite CD of ours (which has found its way into many programs) is The Second Line by Johnette Downing. Her songs Shake Your Scarves and Flitter Flutter have become favourites for the children, aides and teachers of Clifford Bowey and beyond.

Here are other resources that are a hit with our special needs groups:

Picture books:

  •  Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson
  •  Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton
  •  If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jan Ormerod  (and other books based on songs)
  •  Is Everyone Ready for Fun? By Jan Thomas
  •  Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Book DVDs

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
  • LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
  •  Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
  •  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


  • Clap Your Hands from The Wiggleworms Love You by the Wiggleworms
  • If You’re Happy and You Know it from Monkey See, Monkey Do by Michael & Jello
  • It’s a Beautiful Day from Reaching for the Stars by Kathy Reid-Naiman
  • Shake it Baby, Shake it from Oh Baby! By Rainbow Songs. This is perfect with shakers or bells
  • Shake Your Scarves and Flittler Flutter from The Second Line by Johnette Downing. As previously mentioned, these are hands-down our favourite scarf songs

Please stop by and say ‘hi!’ or ‘bonjour!’ if you’re ever in town!

Population (n.d.) City of Ottawa.  Retrieved from

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Windsor Public Library

It’s the 10th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series, hooray! If you’re just joining us, we invited library staff in Canada who serve children and families to write about the awesome work they are doing.  This week our guest blogger is Chelsie Abraham, the Acting Associate Branch Librarian with Richmond Hill Public Library’s Oak Ridges branch in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  She also blogs about library services to children and young adults over at Rock the Library.  Check her out!  She’s here to tell us about developing programs on a tight budget.

jbrary-flagLet’s face it, not all of us have an infinite programming budget. Pressures to increase program attendance paired with the high cost of makerspace gadgets, small-to-medium sized libraries have to think outside the box.

My first contract as a Children and Young Adult Librarian was at Windsor Public Library’s Remington Park branch in Windsor, Ontario. Programming budget for this 1000 square foot branch for the entire year was a whopping $100.  And that included summer reading! We were open 3 days a week, and we had a program scheduled everyday. Sometimes even two. We had higher program attendance than all 5-days a week branches and were neck-in-neck with the largest central location.

So, I’m here to show you that the feat is not impossible.

Programs to Run Under $5

Spool Knitting

An easy program to run in the fall/winter. Spool knitting is simple to learn and teach. There are a ton of free critter and monster patterns available on Pinterest too!

howl the owlWhat you Need

  • Receipt paper spools (ask your circulation staff to save them for you!)
  • Nails
  • Yarn donations
  • Miscellaneous craft supplies such as googly eyes, felt, hot glue gun
  • Optional: If you have access to a 3D Printer, have crochet hooks made!

To make the spools, glue the nails around the spool evenly with either a hot glue gun or industrial strength glue (E-6000 works best).

Junior Writers

A weekly program to run throughout the school year.

junior writers

What you Need: Shop back-to-school sales to get the biggest savings.

  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Folders
  • Exercise Book

Give yourself lots of time to prep for this program. Exercises can be as simple as developing a character and then writing a letter to that character to writing a myth or a legend.

Tips for Buying Supplies

  1. Invest in reusable supplies. Some supplies such as the 1-gallon of Elmer’s Glue may be an expensive start-up, but is reusable. Try to laminate everything. If you don’t have access to a laminator, ask your local school board to do it for you. Tip: Offer a school visit in exchange for lamination. It’s a win-win for everyone!
  2. Ask your manager to view an office supplies catalogue. Libraries get mega discounts on their office supplies – sometimes up to 60% off the store price! It’s a great place to get construction paper, glue, and even a case for your iPad! Ask to have a programming account set up if they’re worried about budget allocations.
  3. Sales, coupons, and bargains. Back to school supplies are not just for kids! Pencils, lined paper, duo-tangs, and pencil crayons all go on clearance the first week of September. Freshen up your supplies for the entire year. And let’s not forget Michael’s coupons. Never shop without one!
  4. Sharing is caring. If you work in a multi-branch system, ask one of them to go halfers with you on supplies.
  5. It doesn’t have to be dollar store craft supplies. It may be $1, but not the best value. If you’re buying in bulk, sometimes it’s better spend a little more.

A big thank you to Chelsea for sharing her budget friendly programming ideas!  Please leave a comment with any tips or tricks you use at your library.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Nova Scotia

Welcome to the 9th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series! If you’re just joining us, we’re highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries in the field of youth services. This week our post comes from our fairy godmother Angela Reynolds who works at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library in Nova Scotia.  Read on to learn about StoryKits, Baby Boxes, and Be Fit Kits!

jbrary-flagKits and bags and boxes, oh my.

As Head of Youth Services for a rural library system, I have the great pleasure of providing resources and training for our library staff. We are a small system with around 60 employees total. We have 11 branches and a bookmobile, and many of our branches are single staffed, or perhaps have 2 people working at the same time. My goal is to make it easier for staff to provide quality programs and storytimes with limited funds and limited time to plan and prepare

Enter the StoryKit! In my previous job at WCCLS we had a huge store of these kits, which is where I got the idea. I like to think of these as a “Storytime in a Box” – open it up and add kids, and you have yourself a storytime! Currently, we have 11 kits for staff use. I try to add one or two each year, to keep things interesting.  Each kit is stored in a Rubbermaid tub, and labeled with eh kit name and number on the outside. They are delivered along with books to our branches. The kits contain books, felt stories, active play items, puppets, and a resource notebook that contains craft ideas, fingerplays and songs, and early literacy information.  Each kit is themed. . I always suggest that those who are new to storytime use these kits for their first session of storytimes, just to get a feel for the types of books and activities are in a good storytime. The kits all have an ECRR focus, and contain Early Literacy tips for the presenters.

To give you a better idea of what is in a kit, here are the contents of our “Song & Dance” kit, which gets used a lot!


  • Animal Music – Harriet Ziefert
  • Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming
  • Cha Cha Chimps- Julia Durango
  • Doing the Animal Bop – Jan Ormerod (with CD)
  • Drumheller Dinosaur Dance – Robert Heidbreder
  • How Can you Dance? – Rick Walton
  • In the Fiddle is a Song- Durga Bernhard
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae
  • Tanka Tanka Skunk – Steve Webb


  • Rhythm Sticks Rock- CD
  • Egg shakers (12)
  • Polka Dot Maracas (4)
  • Dance ribbons & CD (12 ribbons)
  • Brementown Musicians felt story
  • Hey Diddle Diddle felt rhyme
  • Singing English kit
  • Resource Notebook

I recently created Baby Boxes for baby & toddler storytimes. These are boxes that stay at the branch while they are doing Baby Storytime, and they include new board books, scarves, resources,  and a hand puppet. We also have a large puppet collection that branches can borrow. I try to buy quality puppets from FolkManis, but we also have some nice puppets that have been donated. We keep these kits and puppets at our Headquarters location, and branches schedule them as they need them. This cuts down on branch storage issues, and allows us to do some resource sharing.

baby boxpuppets
We also have kits for public use. I know that parents are often looking for information on a subject or for books of a certain type, and so we’ve made it easy to grab and go! Our most popular are the Potty Kits – again, an idea I stole from my previous job. The Potty Kits contain – Everyone poops by Gomi – No more diapers for ducky by Ford – Potty Power DVD – Potty Time by Paterson – The Potty Training Answer Book by Deerwester – Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot (with CD) – and Too Big for diapers by Barrett.

wellused pottyWe also have “Little Reader Bags” – leveled early readers in a bag. These were so popular that we created them in French as well as English. Another kit that we have for adults is our Breastfeeding kits. These were created in partnership with the local La Leche League. Many of the kits for the public have been created with grant funding, and we update them with our own book budget when needed.

Our most recent kit is the Be Fit Kit.  We’ve partnered with Sport Nova Scotia and Department of Health & Wellness,  Active Living Branch to create kits that you can take home and play with! Each kit contains fun items such as balls, juggling scarves, activity dice, frisbees, skipping ropes, and more! There’s an activity booklet included in each one that guides you in ways to use the items included. We’ve even included 4 picture books that will get you moving as you read together. The kits are designed to increase physical literacy and to make it easy for you to be active. Our kits are modeled on kits that were originally developed in Kingston, ON.

While the kits can sometimes be a lot of work in the background for staff, for patrons they are really convenient and helpful.  And our StoryKits are the same for staff—takes a bit of time to create them (but I love doing it!) and they are a big help to our storytime presenters.