Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Prince George Public Library

It’s our 8th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series! We are so happy to feature our fellow British Columbian today, blogging from the beuatiful Prince George Public Library.  Our guest blogger is Michael J. Cruickshank, a Reader’s Advisory/Teen Programer.  Read on to find out how Prince George Public Library is supporting LGBTQ youth.


Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) are typically found in middle or high schools, and are essentially friendship clubs based around supporting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Two-Spirited, Queer or Questioning  (LGBTQ) youth, teens with LGBTQ families, and their supporters, friends and allies. When teens at the library were asked if they saw the need for more youth-oriented LGBTQ safe spaces outside of schools, we heard an absolute and resounding ‘Yes!’ The response was the same when we spoke with existing GSA facilitators. There was a dire need for more LGBTQ inclusive spaces within our community, specifically for youth. One issue that came up time and again with GSAs in schools was inconsistency of the program’s availability.

prince george picture

We knew that if the library was to provide a  GSA program, we would be able to offer it with consistency. We have made the decision to run the Library GSA throughout the year because we recognize that teens find themselves without a safe, supportive place during times when school isn’t in session. Our Library GSA program has city-wide catchment, so teens from all over the city are able to participate. This also allows teens that might not have access to a school GSA, those who are home-schooled, are in alt-ed, or who do not attend school to participate in a GSA.

Our first meeting was held to help guide us in finding out exactly how the GSA at the library would work. We wanted the program to be a reflection of the teens that would use it, so we asked them to generate two lists; first, the ‘Terms of Agreement’ that outlined the general behavior expectations and rules of the program, as well as second list of ‘GSA Goals’ to establish the purpose of the group. The lists were simple, only  4-5 points, but they established the tone of the program.  Most importantly was that these guidelines were established by the teens themselves. When ever in doubt as to if something is appropriate for the GSA, simply consult these lists and make sure it fits. It is also important that it is known  these ‘rules’ are not set in stone, and any GSA participant can challenge any of the rules, can add rules, or suggest changes to existing rules, upon consensus of the group members.

When I’m asked what we ‘do’ at the GSA, I generally say that we do the same things that any other teen group might do. Teens are teens, and LGBTQ teens are no different. Take any program that you have run in your library for teens, and it will work. Crafts and painting are huge winners with our group. We have also partnered up with many community groups to offer workshops on issues like gender and sexuality, suicide awareness and prevention, LGBTQ History and opportunities to speak to prominent community members who identify as LGBTQ. One of my favorite GSA programs was Queer Story Time. I took as many children’s books from our shelves as I could muster that had an LGBTQ theme, and we took turns reading them aloud to the group. Who doesn’t love children’s books?

GSA pic2GSA pic

We have been especially fortunate to have secured a MyPG Social Grant three years in a row from the City of Prince George. This funding has helped turn the GSA into an extra-ordinary program. We have managed a few off-site activities (movie theater, the local YMCA, swimming) and give us an ability to host special events made possible by then money from the grant.

Our biggest and most successful GSA event has been our MasQueerade dance.  We have run this event twice, and plan on a third incarnation this fall. It is an afterhours party in the library. We hire a DJ complete with light show,  set up a photo booth, provide food,  a pop-bar, gave away door prizes, and encourage  the teens to have a blast – all totally free for the participants. We encourage the teens to show up ‘as you are, or as who you want to be’ and let their creativity take it from there. Some of them dress up in costume to match the theme;  last fall our theme was “Through the Looking Glass” and the most creative costume by far was of Alice Cooper;  Alice in Wonderland.  Get it? Those clever teens!! We also had a Cheshire Cat and a very cool Steam Punk Lady Mad Hatter.

masquerade dancedance

GSA events like the Masqueerade help to change the teen’s perception of the library; from a stuffy place to warehouse books to an amazing social space, a place to have a good time. The GSA connects a group of teens that may otherwise never have the opportunity to meet, to spark creativity and expression and to find a place where they can feel safe just being themselves.

I simply cannot say enough good things about my experience running the GSA. The connections I’ve made with teens, and seeing how important the program has become to them is remarkable. I’m blown away by how brave and incredible these teens are, they inspire me in every way to make sure they are coming up into a world that will value them. The library should be a place they can go and find the support they need, and I’m so incredibly proud of the Prince George Public Library for making this program available to the community.

I recently did a presentation on GSA in Public Libraries at both the Alberta Library Conference and Beyond Hope Library Conference. If you are interested in seeing my presentation, you can find it here.  At the suggestion of community members, we recently re-branded the GSA to a Queer Straight Alliance, in effort to make it more inclusive, and this change has been a slight, but positive one that we feel better represents the group.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you and have a chance to further discuss this amazing program.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: PEI Public Library Service

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 seventh in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. We’re going to turn it right over to our fabulous guest blogger Roseanne to introduce herself and tell you all about her Books to Go program!


The Librarian

Hi! My name is Roseanne Gauthier, and I’m the Youth Services Librarian for the PEI Public Library Service. I’ve only been in this position for a few months – previously I was the Children’s Librarian at the Confederation Centre Library in downtown Charlottetown. I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island and consider myself unbelievably lucky to be working in my home province.


The Library System

There are 26 public libraries across Prince Edward Island, serving a population of 145, 000. The largest branch, the Confederation Centre Public Library, is located in the capital city of Charlottetown, while the other branches reach from Souris (near the Island’s eastern tip) to Tignish (near the Island’s northwestern tip). Most branches are rural libraries staffed by one person, and Confederation Centre is the only library with a full-time, dedicated children’s librarian. Traditionally, PEI was made up of small farming and fishing communities; however, increasingly Islanders are moving to areas in and around Charlottetown, and the province’s other major municipality, Summerside.

Books to Go Cornwall

The Program

A common comment from our patrons with young families is that they are too busy to spend time browsing the libraries’ shelves to find the best books to read with their children. These patrons understand the importance of reading and books, but they struggle with fitting the library into their day-to-day lives.

Mulling over this challenge, the PLS’ Literacy and Public Services Librarian, Rebecca Boulter, remembered a program she had seen at a few other libraries, including the Cape Breton Regional Library Service – picture books in a bag that could be checked out together. What if parents could rush into a library, grab a bag of high-quality picture books, check them all out in one quick transaction, and head back out the door? The PLS could save patrons time and maybe encourage them to make a few more visits to the library than they would otherwise.

Rebecca worked closely with the former Youth Services Librarian, as well as our French Services Coordinator, to come up with a list of titles, and Books to Go!/ Livres sur le pouce! was born. The program launched as a pilot project in October 2014 with 20 bags of books available at our four busiest English branches and 20 bags of books one of our French branches. Each bag contains 5 carefully selected picture books.

After a bit of slow start, Books to Go! started to take off – getting the book bags out from behind the circulation desk so patrons could help themselves was key. And although the original intent was to save parents time, it’s been fun to learn about other ways the bags are being used. Grandparents who aren’t always familiar with what’s new in children’s literature borrow them when their grandchildren are coming to visit. Families borrow them to amuse their children during errands, long waits in doctor’s offices, a sibling’s hockey practice, or on road trips. Some kids even get excited to visit the library and pick a new “surprise” bag – “I’ll try #3 this week, please!”

Although right now there are no plans to expand the Books to Go! program, it’s certainly been a great addition to our services for children. We’d recommend it to any libraries struggling to find solutions for time-strapped families on the go!

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Canmore 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 sixth 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 Rebecca Mastromattei, Library Clerk at Canmore Public Library describes her journey from Storytime Quiverer to Storytime Queen! For honest writing and useful tips, read on Dear Reader…


Canmore, Alberta has been described as a “special town” to me by more than one person who lives here. We are nestled in a valley, surrounded by towering mountains on either side; our town is particularly transient, especially being so close to Banff. The thing that strikes me the most about Canmore is the community. I see a few new faces occasionally at our storytime programs but mostly there is a core group that attends each week. They come and meet up with fellow moms and dads and kids because this time is ingrained into their schedules and when someone doesn’t come for a few weeks you are usually given a long apology and explanation as to why we didn’t see them. You begin to look forward to certain kids or parents and you miss them in a weird sort of way when they are suddenly gone. The library has recently moved from a much smaller facility to Elevation Place, a sort of all in one rec centre in town. The library shares this space with an art studio, a pool, climbing wall, gym and rooms that are rented out for everything from exercise classes, to business meetings, to children’s birthday parties. This has made the library a meet up place for people, a safe haven for some or even just a warm spot to sit and read on a dreary day. Since moving into Elevation Place the library went from a frequented establishment to a staple in the community.

Canmore Public Library

I’ve worked at this library for almost two years now and it is my first job out of school where I received my diploma in Library and Information Technology. I run the Preschool Storytime at the Canmore Public Library and this is the second storytime that I have ever been in charge of. My first stab at running a children’s storytime was Wiggletime, a program for kids who are just beginning to walk and their caregivers. I cannot even begin to explain how humiliating this experience was but in an effort to support other storytimers, I’m going to try. We run our programs for about 30 minutes and my first session was twelve minutes long. Twelve minutes!! I took over the program from another staff member who really needed a break from this age group (something I am sure many of you can relate to) which meant she really wasn’t too interested in talking logistics with me. When I spoke to other storytime leaders they all had very polarizing opinions on how to run my first storytime; to say I was nervous on my first day would be a huge understatement. My Assistant Director came into the storytime with me to sit and watch, when I left I heard her thanking everyone for their patience with me as I was just learning and promising that next week would be better. I cried as I cleaned the bubbles out of the bubble gun that day. But then I made myself go back into that room with the moms still in there and I chatted with them as I cleaned up the program. They were kind to me (as I probably had tears and bubble stains on my dress) and I decided to learn from the experience and move on. I wasn’t going to let this one storytime get the better of me.

The next week I began practicing the entire program with my Assistant Director (she very kindly let me do this for several weeks!) We would practice songs and their actions together, the stories I was going to read, even the little things I would say in-between songs and stories. I learned that, for me, this was what I had to do to be comfortable before Wiggletime. But I was still finding it tough; I was 22 and obviously much younger than the parents coming to my storytime (if not in age, then definitely in maturity- I was just out of school and do not have children of my own) and I could not get or keep the caregiver’s attention! I would ask them to stand up and they would sit and stare at me, they would chat over top of my program and they would complain to me if they felt I had gone too short. It became so uncomfortable; another parent came up to me and told me it was time to do something because it was starting to affect her experience. That was upsetting to hear because I thought only I noticed that I was floundering but to have a participant tell me I had to figure out a way to earn their respect made me feel less crazy, but mostly it just made me feel like a failure. I couldn’t even keep the attention of people who had chosen to come to the program. I enlisted the help of another co-worker who has done several of her own storytimes over the years to help me; she came to a program and when we were done she said to me “I’ve never seen it so bad before.” A part of me felt relief, while the other part was screaming into a pillow. I had been looking forward to having my own storytime all the way through school, I finally had one and I was trying to figure out how to get out of it! My co-worker continued to attend storytime for the rest of the session: she watched how I was performing and gave me incredible tips, she showed me how to stand, sit and speak in a way that showed everyone (including myself) that I was in control of the room and she helped me by speaking to the pesky chatters directly. What helped me the most was she showed me that what was happening wasn’t my fault.

CPL Storytime CPL Parachute Storytime

After the session ended I still asked to be taken off of Wiggletime but I wasn’t so desperate to stop storytimes altogether. My wonderful Assistant Director gave me the age group I desperately wanted: preschoolers and I took what I had learned from my Wiggletime fiasco (the only time ‘fiasco’ and the word ‘wiggle’ will be seen together) and I applied it to this new age group. I started to see why Wiggletime hadn’t worked for me and in large part it was my comfort and capability with younger kids. Although I originally went into libraries to work with children I found I didn’t know how best to interact with the much younger lot, something that I am seeing can only be truly learned with practice, which now I am getting a lot of.

Preschool Storytime has been incredible! I don’t dread storytime days anymore, I don’t have to practice everything I’m going to say anymore, I’ve learned more about the right and wrong ways to talk with kids and I have learned about “magic listening dust” which has been a lifesaver with kids and adults alike. Quick aside: you just tell them “it looks like we need some of our magic listening dust! Dig deep deeeeep into your pockets and sprinkle it on your head! Good job! Now make sure you scoop it up for later!” Its success rate is kind of crazy! I have now learned how to go with the flow so I can quickly opt out of a jumping song I had planned if I see they aren’t in the mood and replace it with something more appropriate. A lot of this comfort and flexibility came from creating a repertoire of songs and stories that I knew and liked, which we have to remind ourselves can take time. I can speak up now and say “I need you to stop talking please” with a lot more confidence (to the children, parents are my next battle to conquer) and I have learned how to have fun in a storytime in the way I always dreamed of when I was in school.

So despite the stress and sweat stains Wiggletime gave me, it also taught me a lot about programming, children, performing and most of all myself. I now look back on that time with a touch of relief it’s over but also a fondness because I have come so far since those early days of practicing my anecdotes in the mirror.

What I Learned:

1. Asking for help does not mean you don’t know how to do something

2. Find the best method that works for your prep and do that until it doesn’t work anymore. Like I said for me it was over preparing and a big part of that was sitting on the Jbrary site and YouTube page and singing the songs along with them.

3. Find your storytime voice! You are in charge in that room and you are the one dictating the next 30 minutes

4. Sometimes you get a group that challenges you to use a new set of skills; whether it’s speaking louder, having difficult conversations with people or literally just teaching you how to smile and get through the next few weeks of your program. Take this for what it is: a learning tool, you might not understand the purpose of this challenge now but one day you will be grateful for what you’ve learned and how you let it help you grow instead of letting it knock you down.

5. If you’re new to storytimes and a little nervous maybe request an older age group

6. If you are finding it tough I say talk it out with someone you are comfortable with (perhaps someone whose storytime style you admire) but stick with it. If you let it get the better of you, it will and you will never come to see what a hoot it really can be! OR ask someone to sit in on your storytime with you, it is always WAY more fun to be singing and playing with someone else and it’s a really simple way to get a bit of confidence without being the centre of attention for the entire program. I sat in on other people’s storytimes and I really attribute that to me finding my “storytime voice.”

7. Ultimately, have fun! The kids do NOT care if you mess up, the parents do NOT care if you forget the words to a song, they are there to have a good time and you should be too!


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.

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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.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Vancouver 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 third 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 Jane Whittingham, Children’s Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library, talks about doing outreach in her community. *Pssst, click on Jane’s name to check out her totally awesome blog!*


“So, what exactly does a librarian do all day?” I’m sure I’m not the only librarian who fields this question on a regular basis from curious friends and relations. While traditional reference and reader’s advisory remain important aspects of my work as a children’s librarian, what really surprises people is the amount of time I spend away from the reference desk, out of the branch and within the community.

As a children’s librarian with the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, British Columbia, providing exceptional service to children and families in our community often means thinking outside the box. A brilliant example of this approach to librarianship is VPL’s Language Fun Story Time program, which was co-developed by VPL librarian Tess Prendergast and speech language pathologist Rhea Lazar. This adapted story time for children with different abilities, including children on the autism spectrum, is jointly facilitated by a librarian and a speech language pathologist, with each specialist bringing their individual expertise. Programs are delivered outside the library, in community health centers, rec centers, and other community spaces, and bring the support and benefits of library story times to families who may not feel comfortable in traditional library spaces, or who may face barriers to access that prevent them from participating in conventional library programming.

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Conception Bay South Public Library, Newfoundland

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 second 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 Rebecca Stone, Library Technician II at the Conception Bay South Public Library, talks about Family Literacy Day her community!


Our Community:

Conception Bay South (CBS), Newfoundland is situated on the Northeast Avalon Peninsula, approximately 20 kilometers from St. John’s. It is one of the province’s newest Towns made up of some of Newfoundland’s oldest settlements. The Town of CBS is one of the fastest growing communities in the province with over 20,000 residents. Incorporated in 1973, Conception Bay South consists of nine communities (Topsail, Chamberlains, Manuels, Long Pond, Foxtrap, Kelligrews, Upper Gullies, Lawrence Pond and Seal Cove) all of which follow the coastline of Conception Bay.

This is our beautiful coastline community.

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Bighorn Library, Alberta

Last month we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the first in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Our guest blogger is Rose Reid, library manager of Bighorn Library in Bighorn, Alberta.  Take it away, Rose!


Bighorn Library serves the MD of Bighorn in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Alberta.  We are situated in the hamlet of Exshaw, population 417.  Our library has been a member of the Marigold Library System for 34 years.  I’ve been the librarian for the last 20. One of my favourite parts of the job is serving children; look us up on YouTube to see some of our favourite ideas!


Our closest neighbor, Exshaw School, is only a couple of blocks from our library and teaches grades kindergarten through eight.  About 90% of the student body are First Nations children and it was these young library members who inspired us to create Bonnybooks.

My assistant was volunteering at the school as a literacy coach and she told the 7-year-old she was working with to be sure and practise reading at home that weekend.  He looked at her like she was crazy and said, “I ain’t got no books at home.”  It turned out that there were no books in many of the homes on the Morley reserve and we started looking for a way to remedy that.  It began with the books we weeded from our library shelves.  We would rescue any that were still usable and when there were enough for every child in a class we would go to the school and give them to the students to take home.  I don’t think it is possible to describe how excited those children were to own books.  It was so much fun, the more we did it, the more we wanted to do it again.

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