I’m not entirely sure how I first found Jbrary. Twitter, probably. I don’t remember. All I know is, my baby and toddler storytimes have improved 1000-fold since I started frequenting their site. From their bajillion YouTube videos featuring songs on every topic ever (their videos recently surpassed 1 million views! Crazy!), to their general posts about programming, Dana and Lindsey provide invaluable resources for youth librarians. I am a better librarian for having “discovered” Jbrary. If you’re a librarian working with children, especially those under the age of five, I high recommend getting familiar with the bloggy gift that is Jbrary.
Dana and Lindsey, whom I called Dimples and Glasses respectively, before taking the time to actually learn their names, were nice enough to answer some of my questions. I just want everyone to be as pumped about these two as I am. They really represent and embody that “spirit of sharing” vibe I really appreciate about youth librarians.
Jbrary? I salute you, the dynamic duo of children’s librarianship.
And now, the interview:
- How did you two meet? Did you know that you’d work well together from the beginning?
Dana (Dimples): We first met while doing our MLIS at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I think we bonded over the general craziness of school which blossomed into a friendship as we discovered our shared passion for all things youth services. I know I had a healthy respect for Lindsey as I watched her present in class and I relished any opportunity to work with her. The fact that I could pour my heart out to her over breakfast may also have had a role in cementing our friendship 🙂 When Jbrary started I don’t think either of us knew what it would turn into and just how well we’d work together. Lindsey, did you have any idea?!
Lindsey (Glasses): I had hopes and dreams! When I started my MLIS at UBC I had just moved to the city and had zero friends in Vancouver. Dana had an enthusiasm I absolutely loved, so I knew I wanted to become friends if I could convince her I was cool enough. I knew from class projects that we’d work well together. Our personalities are a very natural fit.
- What inspired you to create Jbrary?
L: In one of my MLIS courses I was asked to create and present a storytime. I kept trying to find songs I could listen to because I wasn’t familiar with many of the “tunes” people listed on their blogs. And the way I learn songs and rhymes is by hearing them, not reading the lyrics. I did find the King County Library System’s Tell Me a Story song and rhyme database, but it wasn’t organized on YouTube. I guess I just thought, “I’m running into this information need. A lot of other people are running into this information need. A free video platform exists that could fill this information need.” Initially I had a very narrow audience in mind – just children’s librarians – which was too narrow really. I’m proud of all the different people who use it now.
D: I’ll second that frustration while trying to learn new songs and rhymes. It felt horribly old fashioned to read the rhyme and have to track down someone who knew it, especially in this day and age! Lindsey (being the kickass librarian she is!) took it one step further though and started recording videos on her own. When we found ourselves in the same Social Media class and seeking a final project Lindsey pitched expanding her idea and I could not have been more excited to join her.
- What is your absolute favorite song to use in an all-ages storytime?
D: Such a tough question- I feel like this changes all the time but I am a big fan of stand up and shake it all out action songs when it comes to all-ages or family storytimes. My current faves are I’m a Knife, Fork, Spoon, Spatula and Little Raindrops Falling Down.
L: I can’t list just one! A lot of my favourites have to do with food. I love using Fruits and Veggies Unite! or Fruit Salad because they’re easy enough for toddlers, but fun enough for the older kids to get into. If you have school-age kids you can challenge them to make up their own verses. Another go-to is An Orca Whale because you can get to make a fun sound using your body.
- What’s your favorite age group to work with and why?
L: A year ago I would have said toddlers, hands down. They’re curious, loving, and totally honest about their emotions. I love to see their faces light up when you start to sing their favourite song. It’s also a time when new words are being added to their vocabularies daily, and they say the cutest and funniest things. My name was one of my storytime toddler’s first 50 words – how do you measure that?! I also have two toddler nephews and a niece who just graduated from toddlerhood, so I’ve been pretty immersed in that age group. In my last position I got to focus on working with school-age kids and the Grade 1 and 2 students completely stole my heart. They’ve got their own interests and reading recommendations, but they still think I’m a cool person to hang around.
D: I got suckered by a group of preschoolers when I first started and have found it difficult to move on. I love how verbal and emotive preschoolers can be which opens the door to longer stories, songs and rhymes. I have not had as much opportunity as Lindsey to work with the school age crowd and this is something I would love to try!
- You could work with children in a number of settings. Why libraries?
D: I come from a family of teachers and thought long and hard about being a teacher myself. I even spent a year teaching English in a Francophone community in northern New Brunswick. Over the course of this year I realized I wanted to interact and connect with whole families not just individual kids and I wanted this to be centered around literacy and a love of reading. There was no way a classroom would allow me to do all this. As I finished my MLIS and started working in libraries, I’ve come to appreciate and understand libraries as literacy-loving community spaces and as a place where I belong and have work to do.
L: I actually did go down the teaching route first and spent 4 years teaching middle school and high school English. It was tough, really tough. Teaching was emotionally exhausting for my personality type, and there was a huge emphasis on getting the kids to pass state exams. It crushed me to see a love for reading and writing being suffocated in the classroom. After a particularly harrowing year where I had my personal items pissed on by a group of boys (Editor’s Note), I knew I needed a change. I wanted to work with a variety of age groups. I wanted more flexibility in my daily schedule. I wanted to be part of an organization that promotes lifelong learning and a genuine love for literacy. Libraries felt like coming home.
- Where do you find all your songs?
L: Lots of different places! Many of them are nursery rhymes or common children’s songs that have been around forever. I like when we can show interesting variations on those ones, like how to do “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” in baby storytime. Others come from our professional learning network – our colleagues at work, our friends who blog about storytimes, conferences we attend. We’ve done a bunch that I or Dana learned in Girl Scouts, summer camps, or playing sports. We try our absolute darndest to give credit to the people and places we learn from and direct our viewers back to their sites.
- What librarian and/or educator inspires you?
D: Ooh, I am inspired by so many people! The list of teachers and librarians who have had a hand in my journey would have to include my Dad, Lindsey, Angela Reynolds and the amazing children’s library staff at VPL. We’re so lucky to have no shortage of inspiring colleagues in our PLN (near and far!) and I am eternally grateful to those children’s librarians who started blogging so long ago and created the community we get to be a part of.
L: When I was a teacher, bell hooks and Linda Christensen were my social justice inspirations. Nowadays, everyone who blogs about librarianship in general inspires me to continue putting myself and my work out there for others to see. I especially look up to people willing to tackle tough topics that make us question tradition. Right now, I’m constantly inspired by the people who share on the Canadian Library Association’s Community-Led Library Service Network because they embody the type of librarianship I believe in.
- What would be your advice for someone doing a storytime for the first time?
L: Well there’s the practical advice – read through your books beforehand, practice your songs and rhymes, prep more than you’ll need. I wrote a post on Building Your Storytime Confidence, and much of the same advice applies. But I’d also add – Don’t forget about the relationship building. There’s a lot of emphasis on finding the right book for a theme and choosing the right song playlist, but the most important part of storytime to me is getting to know the families in my community. Work in time to learn people’s names; ask about milestones in the children’s lives. The power of a positive relationship can go much further than a storytime session.
D: This is all fantastic advice and I’ll just add one small thing: though you may be nervous and sweating through your sweater (me to a T!) try and have fun. Even if it’s only during one song, if you can genuinely smile and enjoy yourself throughout the program this will go way further than a perfectly executed read-aloud in terms of welcoming people and making sure they come back.
They are like Canadian Fairy Godmothers, I swear. If you haven’t hit up Jbrary yet, I literally have no idea what you are waiting for.
To close this out, I’m going to add my favorite Jbrary/Glasses and Dimples video, the Elevator Song. I changed the lyrics to this song and made it my new storytime staple. Instead of “The city is great, the city is grand,” I sing, “Oh, Brooklyn is great and Brooklyn is grand.” That way, in addition to the other advantages of singing this song, I’m talking to our kids about what borough they live in. And that’s what I love about Jbrary: Sometimes I outright and shamelessly steal their songs, but, other times, their site is a jumping-off point for my own ideas. You can bop around Jbrary and tailor their songs and ideas to suit your own program needs.
Here is my latest storytime crowd-pleaser, all thanks to Glasses and Dimples, my library heroes:
In addition to their website, don’t forget to follow Dana and Lindsey on Twitter.
~Love and Libraries, Glasses and Dimples, Ingrid