We had a Halloween Toddler Dance Party and it was exhausting

Last year, my coworker Leigh and I threw a Toddler Valentine’s Day Dance party. It was a very successful program (well-attended despite the blizzard and full of happy patrons), so my new coworker/partner-in-crime Emma and I decided that a Halloween Dance Party would be a good idea.

Last time, I spent months creating decorations (some complicated tissue paper garlands that I swear nobody even noticed). This time, we went way more low-key. Emma and I offered three basic features in our party:

  1. A dance floor: The most preparation I did for the event was creating a family-friendly playlist. Think light on the Raffi and heavy on the Ray Charles. I feel like props help when you’re getting kids and adults to dance, so I had a big box of multi-colored scarves. They were a hit.
  2. A photobooth: The pumpkin backdrop was created by our coworker Leigh. It was self-run by parents and caregivers. They took pictures of their own children or asked another patron to take group photos.
  3. Toddler bowling: Emma and gussied up some individual toilet paper rolls to look like ghosts. We wrapped them in white construction paper, and then glued on black eyes and mouths. The tp rolls served as pins, and we let the toddlers try to knock them down with a ball.

Here’s Emma and me with the backdrop:

Emma always looks super cheerful in pictures.

Emma always looks super cheerful in pictures.

Those little glitter doo-dads in my hair are plastic spiders.

Those little glitter doo-dads in my hair are plastic spiders.

The toddlers dug the toddler bowling, though Emma said toddler bowling quickly turned into toddler building blocks, which is also fine. Stacking up ghost-y toilet paper rolls and knocking them down is a perfect age-appropriate activity.


I hung out on the dance floor where I pretended I could dance for a full 45 minutes. I saw a lot of nannies and parents simply fixing their cellphone cameras on their children and yelling, “DANCE!” while the child awkwardly stood there, not knowing what to do. I encouraged the grown-ups to put down their phones and lead by example. I kept saying, “Hold your child’s hand and dance with them! It doesn’t matter if you can’t dance! They don’t know that!” This was, mostly, to no avail. For the most part, the kids danced if their accompanying adult did. Otherwise, there was a lot of kids sitting next to adults on the floor. I eventually decided to let it go (I literally sang that song in my head) and figured that whoever wanted to dance would and that I should stop pestering people. I had a nice, albeit small, crew of toddler-sized dance machines. It was fun.

We had over 60 people in attendance, some in costumes, some not. A good time was had, even though my feet hurt at the end of it. Some parents signed waivers for their pictures to be posted on our library’s family page on Facebook. Click here to see some cute Brooklyn kids being cute.

Wanna steal my playlist of kid-friendly tunes that’s semi-guaranteed to get booties of all ages moving? Here it is:

FYI, the Labyrinth song has the line, “Slap that baby, make him free”. Does this matter to you? Don’t use that song, then. Labyrinth is kind of nostalgic for people my age, so I included it. It gets everyone jumping.

The most popular song was the Harry Belefonte one, though no one seemed to get the Beetlejuice association.

I also added some other songs that I didn’t put on my 8tracks playlist:

  1. We are the Dinosaurs: Obligatory and always a crowd-pleaser
  2. Shake Dem Halloween Bones: It was so-so received. Kind of a Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes situation.
  3. Monster Mash: Hello. It’s a Halloween party.
  4. Brush your teeth: Classic

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Look! We made a Halloween/vampire display in the teen section!

OK. Emma (aka Miss Print) did. But I helped!

namethatvampiredetail

Does anyone get this reference? How old AM I, anyway?

                 Does anyone get this reference? How old AM I, anyway?

Click on through to see the whole to-do!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Beyond ALA’s Code of Conduct: What can we do to combat harassment at ALA Conferences?

This post has been a long time coming. I apologize for its tardiness, but the ideas percolating in my head regarding the results of my ALA Code of Conduct survey have been numerous and various and hard to pin down. And clearly, a couple of issues have come to light since I’ve started compiling numbers and stories. Several librarians whom I respect and admire have voiced their support (monetarily and otherwise) for the Ada Initiative, which, among other things, promotes anti-harassment policies for conferences. In addition, the circumstances surrounding #teamharpy cannot be ignored. I imagine that however Joe Murphy’s legal proceedings play out, it will shape how the library world, which claims to be in favor of free speech and freedom of information, deals with people who speak out against harassment. For whatever it is worth, I would like to state that I fully support the Ada Initiative and #teamharpy (speaking of which, please consider signing the petition asking Joe Murphy to drop his lawsuit). I have no illusions of grandeur that my opinion is some major win for either party, but we all have to add our voices of encouragement and approval.

After collecting over 300 survey results, I have been considering what ALA’s next steps should be. I believe I’ve learned something from reading the survey responses and I wanted to voice some concrete plans-of-attack for dealing with conference harassment. I will also share the ideas and concerns that survey respondents contributed.

Thus, this is how I think we should proceed to make our industry safer for conference attendees.

  • Realize that harassment at ALA conferences is a real concern and a major problem. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t witnessed it. It doesn’t matter if it’s never happened to you. Your colleagues are telling you that it’s a reality. If you are inclined to not believe your colleagues, consider finding a new profession where you do not exist in a constant state of mistrust. I often witness colleagues touting the idea that people are willy-nilly apt to make false accusations against their coworkers/peers for attention. I’m not sure where this idea started. Though my CoC survey dealt with harassment as a whole, I often recall the notion that a man is 32 times more likely to be struck by lightning than he is to be falsely accused of rape. Some of our peers are living in a fantasy world where people are out to make false accusations for attention or some sort of Movers and Shakers-type status. The ALA will not be able to move forward on these issues until we admit that there’s a problem.
  • In a similar vein to the above, let’s not dismiss ALA’s harassment problems because we think it’s just as bad or worse everywhere else. In a previous post, a commenter stated, “I wonder what percentage of reporting there is of sexual harassment in general. I suspect that there are just basically a lot of people, no matter where they are, who do not report sexual harassment.” To muse that it’s just horrible for women everywhere so we can’t expect much more from ALA is a terrible argument. Though harassment is felt by people of all genders, let’s never forget that librarianship is largely made up of a female workforce. The fact that women make up the majority of librarianship yet we’re still subject to this kind of nonsense is despicable. There is zero excuse to give up this fight.
  • Survey respondents discussed who should spearhead a task force that would deal with ALA harassment issues. The Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship, SRRT’s Feminist Task Force and ACRL’S Women’s and Gender Studies Section were all mentioned as groups with the potential to take on this role. I, however, believe that there should be a separate task force specifically designated with overseeing this matter. First, women are not the only ones who face harassment, threats, unwanted touches, etc. Though common sense would bring you to the very same conclusion, the survey revealed that ALA attendees who identify themselves as persons of color, queer/genderqueer, trans*, and/or differently abled/disabled also faced harassment. Additionally, I am vehemently opposed to the idea that harassment is the problem of women (and/or the harassed) alone and that we must be the ones who organize and deliberate how best to not be harassed/threatened/demeaned/etc. ALA is still such a massive and complicated mystery to me, and I don’t always understand its politics, but I maintain that a CoC and harassment prevention task force should be created. It should reflect various factions of the ALA community, from the GLBTRT to the Black Caucus and beyond.
  • Nearly 23% of survey respondents believed that reporting harassment should be easier. Searching for the term “code of conduct” on the ALA website gets you a myriad unhelpful search results. “Harassment” garners similar links. The best I could find was a variety of phone numbers and email addresses at the bottom of pages regarding the Philadelphia and Vegas conferences.  The Philadelphia information is much more helpful, with concrete contact information. The Vegas page simply lets the reader know that contact information is forthcoming. Information regarding what you should do if you are harassed should not be this hard to find. Who should I call? What should I do? Where should I go? This information should be readily available and easy-to-access on the website and in conference signage. Speaking of signage…
  • A good portion of survey respondents mentioned the need for anti-harassment signage. One even mentioned the campaign of Emerald City Comic Con, which included this poster: 

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JP Porcaro: Better Know a Candidate for ALA Presidency

As a whole, I find ALA politics confusing, convoluted, sometimes pretentious, and generally not geared towards librarians such as myself. I see a lot of friendly smiles and hear a lot of generally nice sentiments bandied about, but I never really understood what any of this had to do with me and the kind of work I’m interested in.

That’s why I’m excited that JP Porcaro, who is running for ALA President, has agreed to be interviewed on my blog. I’ll get the interview up some time in November and I’ll use my own questions, along with those that readers (that’s you guys!) submit. I promise to keep the conversation frank, bullshit-free, and void of unnecessary platitudes.

If you have any questions for JP, hit me up at magpielibrarian@gmail.com. Please put “Questions for JP” in the subject area. If you want your question/questions to be asked anonymously, please explicitly state so. Full disclosure, JP and I are buddies, but I aim to keep the interview fair and unbiased. As long as your question pertains to librarianship and ALA issues, I promise to ask it.

I feel like this is a huge opportunity for those of us who feel a little out of place and/or overwhelmed when it comes to ALA elections and offices. I want this to be a real-talk platform for all ALA members, where we can find out who exactly is representing us and librarianship as a whole. Are there issues that you feel the ALA is ignoring? I vow to let your voice be heard.

And, hey, if any other ALA candidates want to be interviewed here, in the same manner, you know where to find me.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Making a Mess in our MakerSpace: Fireworks in a Jar and a Poor Man’s Lava Lamp

We do a MakerSpace session every week with our school-aged library kids. For whatever reason, this is not a program I typically lead, so I always get a little nervous when it’s my turn. I wanted to do something STEM-y and science experiment-y as opposed to artsy and craftsy, so I started searching for inexpensive and easy-to-execute science experiments. After some searching and clicking, I found a website called I Can Teach My Child, run by a former teacher and current mom. Two projects seemed doable: Fireworks in a Jar and a Lava Lamp experiment. I like that Jenae, who runs the site, breaks down not only how to do the experiment but also the science behind it.

I had a fairly small group, thankfully, because these experiments have the potential to get messy and out of hand. Thanks to Emma from Miss Print for taking pictures! She is the best workplace buddy.

First, we tried the Fireworks in a Jar experiment, which used a jar (I knew I saved Classico jars for a reason!), water, oil, and food coloring. We talked about how water and oil don’t mix, how the oil will rise to the top, and the food coloring will sink to the bottom. Jenae says it much more eloquently:

Food coloring dissolves in water but not in oil.   Because the oil is less dense than the water, it will float at the top.  The colored droplets will begin to sink because they are heavier than the oil.  Once they sink into the water, they will begin dissolving into the water (which looks like a tiny explosion).

Here’s how we did it:

We put a plop of Canola oil on a plate and added a couple of drops of food coloring:



Then we used a plastic fork to scramble the dye and oil, noting that the dye doesn’t really mix in the oil, it just breaks down into smaller pieces:
Then we carefully poured the dye-oil mixture into the jar of water: 
And watched what happened!

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An Interview with Scott Bonner, Ferguson Librarian

 

I am not a smart enough person, or eloquent enough, to talk about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I’m not even going to try. I will say that, as I’ve watched events unfold, I’ve been struck at how the community, and in some ways, the country, has come together to support the citizens of Ferguson. When I saw how the Ferguson Library became not only a safe space, but a source of real positivity and support, it made me want to be a better librarian. Not only did Ferguson library workers step up their game, but so did teachers and volunteers of all sorts. I wanted to know how, despite so much strife and conflict, the library seamlessly became a hub of strength and solace. I contacted Scott Bonner, a librarian at the Ferguson Library. He was nice enough to answer some questions.

(Note, this interview took place over a fairly long stretch of time, because Scott’s obviously very busy. Please excuse any weird time continuity issues).

Ingrid Abrams: On a typical day, what is your library like? 

Scott Bonner: We are a small library, in an old suburb of St. Louis.  I am the only full time librarian.  All other employees are part-time library assistants, with one part-time administrative assistant.  As a result of not having reference staff or a Children’s Librarian or a Programming Librarian, we do not get a lot of reference work, and have far less activity involving kids than I would like.  I only started July 1st, so I’ve got plans to improve those areas, but I haven’t been able to move on them yet.  What we do get is steady traffic from the community.  Our public access computers are full pretty much all day.  We have good circulation.  The atmosphere is quiet and businesslike, with the occasional person talking way too loud on a cellphone.  My day is often filled with administrative duties like signing vendor checks, contacting various service providers to get things done, making introductory contacts with community organizations, and troubleshooting technology.  I am guessing it’s normal activity for a small library with limited staff and a new director, and a very good thing.

IA: Since the recent turmoil in your community, how has your library changed? Are the expectations of the patrons different? What are you offering that you’ve never offered before?

SB: This last week has been radically different, and just the kind of change that I want to see.  Suddenly the library is full and overfull.  Everyone knows we’re here.  Regular library traffic continued, thanks in part to me trying to contain the big program to areas away from the front desk and computers.  But, obviously, we’ve had an explosion of activity everywhere else, and it’s not like we’re big enough to have a sense of “everywhere else”.  Everything is in sight of everything, after all.  Lots of kids, lots of people who’ve never been to the library before, lots of noise, lots of camera crews blocking doorways and aisles.  I think we did the best job we could of partitioning school from library, but it was not anything like a normal day.  It was a good deal better than a normal day.

This last week, we made an ad-hoc school!  I offered the library’s space, and put out metaphorical fires, and played taskmaster to the press, and the teachers and volunteers made an actual, working school.  We spread across two locations, the Ferguson Library and the First Baptist Church up the street.  We had 200 students across locations at our peak — before we established the second location, we had 150 at the library alone on Wednesday, and wasn’t that a crazy day!  We had educational organizations from across St. Louis clamoring to help, including SpringboardSTL, St. Louis Science Center, MO Dept of Conservation, and many more.
Sad to say I have no credit for this photo. Contact me if it's yours.

Sad to say I have no credit for this photo. Contact me if it’s yours. I’ll credit you.

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Little Reminders Everywhere: Beware the Summer Slide!

This is a summer-related post and summer’s almost over (can I get an Amen, public children’s librarians?), so this is being written up very late in the game. I’ve talked about how hard summers are on me, so you’ll forgive me for my tardiness. Usually, I leave an early literacy tip behind the reference desk for about a month or so. However, since we are inundated with school-aged children all day in the summer-time, I decided to aim this literacy tip at an older crowd. It went up in July and won’t come down until school starts.

This literacy tip discusses the Summer Slide, which is what happens to children who don’t read during the summer. Their little child-brains eat up tons of knowledge during the school year, but, if they don’t read during July and August, they can lose vocabulary words and even fall back an entire grade level.

Like the Summer Reading plug I snuck in there?

Here’s a closer look at the illustration, which I stole/borrowed from here:

Stay tuned for next month’s early literacy tip, which I will hopefully post in a timely manner like a grown up.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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“You angry feminist types are always looking for crap to stir”: Code of Conduct Survey Trolls and Others

Capture

[The full and required-to-read comic here]

This is the third installment of responses to a survey I created concerning Code of Conduct violations at ALA conferences. The first post consisted of numerical findings, while the second shared the stories of respondents. But even all this is not the full story, as I received a good number of troll comments, many of which were clearly made to get a rise out of me (or anyone who read them). My first instinct was to delete or ignore them (Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t read the comments! Etc.). These, though, weren’t the standard “STFU, go make me a sandwich”-style trolls. This was something else altogether. Sometimes the comments were just plain rude. To be fair, some of the responses weren’t even troll-y, just dismissive or totally clueless. So, I decided to post them. It seemed important to respond and make their comments visible. These are, after all, our colleagues (or they’re pretending to be!). We must attend conferences with them. We must interact with them. It’s good to know what’s out there. Even if some of these comments were meant in jest, we have to think about why our fellow professionals find harassment funny.

In the previous CoC posts, I tried to refrain from adding my personal comments to the mix. Now, you’ll say that I have quite a bit to say.


Comment #1: “I have also acknowledged simple compliments for what they are and do not consider them to be harassment.” I think it’s important to note that sexual harassment (or general harassment) is quite different than a compliment. Note some of these “compliments” respondents talked about in the previous CoC post: “An inappropriate comment from two colleagues about the size of my breasts” and “comment about a male’s sexual organs, veiled as being a joke/compliment” and “he complimented my clothing and body and said it was nice to see a young, attractive woman at the conference.” An example of a compliment appropriate for a work conference would be, “That’s a nice hat” or “I enjoyed your poster session.” Anything that sexualizes the person, mentions intimate anatomy, or that would be inappropriate in your place of work is in bad form and generally unwelcome. I did not receive a single response that included someone complaining about a standard compliment, nor would I start a CoC survey because someone told me I had pretty hair. When you hear about a person’s experience with harassment, try not to go out of your way to insist that it was appropriate. Believe your colleagues.

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Code of Conduct Survey Results: Your Stories

Welcome to my second post regarding the results of my Code of Conduct surveyPreviously, I shared the cold-hard numbers, which are certainly helpful, but do not reflect the entire story of Code of Conduct violations at ALA Conferences. I left ample room for respondents to talk about their experiences. Here, I will share the stories and anecdotes that respondents were kind enough to include.

Before others tell their stories, I believe it would be polite and only right to share two of mine. I have been harassed several times at conferences, but two main stories compelled me to create the Code of Conduct survey. We all respond to different situations in our own ways. Verbal harassment never bothers me for long. It just rolls off my back. I think my tough NY exterior has desensitized me to certain kinds of behavior. However, unwanted touching bothers me beyond all belief. For me, personally, it is something that I just cannot accept from other professionals (or anyone, really). One incident happened at an after-conference party. Yes in a bar. Yes with drinks. A gentleman, who I had never met before that evening, kept trying to hold my hand. Repeatedly. I don’t think hand-holding is harassment at all. However, when someone pulls their hands away from yours, again and again, most people would understand that said person is not asking for physical contact. No matter how often I pulled away, he kept reaching for my hand, often times succeeding in holding it. It was odd, it was unwanted, and I did not like it. Getting away from this librarian was awkward. Did this ruin my conference? Did this make me feel unsafe? No. But I am entitled to my own physical space and the onus is not on me, entirely, to explain to those around me (librarians, no less) that I am not public property just because I’m at a bar.

The other incidence occurred on the conference floor at the Vegas conference, which I like to point out to people who say that harassment at conferences only happens around alcohol (as if a cocktail explains and permits harassment). I was handing out model releases for the Kyle Cassidy portrait project. I was choosing my words very carefully as I approached people as I didn’t want anyone to think that was hitting on them. I approached a male librarian with a model release in hand. After I gave my “do you want your portrait taken”-spiel, he was giving me an odd, confused look, so, I added, “I’m not hitting on you, I just think you’d be good for the project.” He grabbed my hand and said, “Oh, I’m hitting on you. I am hitting back.” He then proceeded to grab my hand and open-mouth kiss it. It was not a standard kiss on the hand. In fact, one of our library teens always kisses our hands and it’s very sweet, actually. This gentleman on the conference floor was not being sweet. It felt lech-y. It felt gross. My hand was covered in spit. I stood there, stunned, as he walked away, occasionally turning around to look back at me and smile. Another librarian had witnessed the scenario and asked if I was alright. She offered me some hand sanitizer. It was a very kind thing for her to do. I felt that she was acknowledging that the situation was inappropriate and I appreciated that she checked up on me.

So, those are my stories. I am consistently shocked at the behavior of some conference-goers. My job pays for my conference days as if they were actual work days. Therefore, conferences are work for many of us. I’d like to think that those who harass conference goers don’t harass their coworkers back home. I could be wrong. I think that certain people think it’s OK to harass at conferences because they won’t be found out or because they think that a conference allows a set of behaviors that are different from those allowed in a more conventional workplace. I can’t be sure of this theory, though.

Moving on, these are some of the stories respondents were kind enough to share with me. I will quote them word for word, only editing them for length.  I tried not to alter people’s grammar, spelling, phrasing, capitalization, etc. In cases where survey-users mentioned specific names or divisions/round tables, I left out that information, though, in some cases, it was quite tempting to let identifying information remain. Some specifics were left in if they did not appear to be too identifying of those involved.

I do not believe I have specifically witnessed any of the following incidences and therefore cannot confirm or deny any story.

Brace yourself. This is a long post.

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Crowded Classes, Busted Voices, Kid-less Adults: Storytime Ninjas explain it all

Hey, look! I was a featured Ninja on Storytime Underground!

Grab button for Storytime Underground

Click through to hear Michelle, Natasha and I talk about crowded storytimes, taking care of your voice, and what to do about child-less adults crashing your kids’ programs.

Thanks to the kind folks at Storytime Underground for letting me act like someone who knows what they’re talking about!

Have a question for a Storytime Ninja? Click here! Are you a super-smart Ninja who has all the answers? Click here to field some submitted questions.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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