Glasses and Dimples are My Forever Heroes: An interview with Dana and Lindsey of Jbrary

dimples and glasses

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.

dimples and glasses

And now, the interview:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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I’m the librarian your teacher warned you about: YA Summer Reading Super-Short Booktalks

Like most of y’all public librarians, I’m doing lots of Summer Reading outreach right now. When it comes to daycares and elementary schools, I could knock out presentations for these kids in my sleep. When I meet with the teens, though, I get a little more than nervous. It’s like every single group of teens is its own separate country, complete with its own culture and laws and I’m just some literacy-crazy over-coffeed tourist. Does this make me sound old? Consider removing yourself from my lawn, OK?

Recently, my coworker and I headed over to a local high school to talk to the teens about summer reading.

In addition to the principal having no idea that we were going to show up (even though it was confirmed in a series of emails) and us having to scramble together some sort of audience for our booktalks, it also seemed like some of the teachers weren’t super-pumped to see us. Case in point, I was booktalking Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake in one of the classrooms. As I’m talking about how Anna rips her victims in half, the teacher starts making THE WORST NOISES:

Me: Are you OK?

Teacher: ::grimace::

Me: Do you…not like the book?

Teacher: I think students should be reading inspirational biographies about successful people, not this… ::grimace::

Me: Sometimes librarians and teachers aren’t on the same page when it comes to recreational reading. Those biographies might be fine for your classroom, but what they read on their own time is their own business.

No joke, the students burst out into applause at this point. I hope I accidentally sparked a crew of rebellious readers. Or maybe they just like to disagree with their teacher for sport. Hard to tell.

In any case, I thought I’d share my super-short booktalks. I’ve tested them out a bunch, and they’ve been tried-and-true crowd-pleasers. Even the surliest groups of jaded Brooklyn teens have liked these talks. I should say that I never memorize my booktalks word-for-word, even though they often come out sounding the same every time. I try to remember key points and then make my talk as conversational as possible. I like to start with questions if I can. I don’t care if the teens interrupt me. If they interrupt, at least I know they’re listening.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Granted, not my favorite title. I’m going to be honest. The super-murderous ghost decides not to kill the dude and then they start making out?!? YOU CAN’T TAKE A MURDEROUS GHOST TO PROM, OK? But, it’s got a solid cover and premise, making it really good for booktalks.

I start by asking: How do you kill something that’s already dead? That’s the job of Cas Lowood, a modern day Ghostbuster (the teens got the Ghostbusters reference, so yay, olds). Cas mostly deals with super-violent ghosts that are out murdering and tormenting the living. Cas thinks he’s pretty good at his job until he faces his toughest ghost yet: Anna Dressed in Blood, who wears a dress that constantly bleeds. It’s known that Anna leaves no survivors. Though Cas thinks his chances of surviving Anna’s wrath are few, he faces her anyway. And while he doesn’t succeed in killing her, Anna spares his life. Why?

(To this, a teen said, “Is Cas ugly? Because if he’s not, maybe that’s why. Anna likes him.” Teens are smart. Don’t forget).

Everyday by David Levithan: Not my favorite by David Levithan, and it’s certainly problematic, but it does REALLY well in booktalks. It’s hard not to give A a gender, but I do my best.

The main character is called A, because A’s never had anyone to give them a name. You see, A wakes up in a different body every morning. A ages with the people they occupy: When A is three, they only wake up in the body of 3 year olds. Same for when A is 15. Other than that, A can wake up in a girl’s body or a boy’s, of any race. Anything is possible. A’s learned to live this way, how to seamlessly fit into the person’s life as to not cause problems. A can barely imagine another way of life, until one day, A falls meets a girl and falls in love. Now, A’s obsessed with getting back to her, not matter what body they’re in. How can A get find their way back to her each day? Could you fall in love with someone who looked different every day?

Sometimes the gender dynamics of this book can get the teens all hyped up (OMG A IS SOMETIMES A GIRL AND IS IN LOVE WITH A GIRL OMGGGG!!). Try and keep the discussion respectful and shut down any hateful speech. This one did really well in a recent visit, with teens snapping pics of the cover so they could remember it for later.

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My glitter-heavy displays for GLBT Book Month, complete with images for you to steal

Did you know that June is GLBT Book Month? It’s true! And while I try and knock out LGBTQ displays all the time, I’m extra excited about the GLBTRT’s first GLBT Book Month. Everybody freak out!

While I do adore the official poster for GLBT Book Month (featuring the artwork from one of my favorite picture books, This Day in June, which I talk about in length here), I made my own ’cause mama’s on a budget. I used this for both the children’s and YA displays I made:

GLBT book monthWe have limited display space in the children’s room, so I made an ever-so-tiny display behind our reference desk:

Some of the books have left the display to go circulate, so I’m a happy camper.

My larger display ended up in the YA section, where I just have much more room to set stuff up. Here’s a simple book display:

Over by the YA ref desk, I had even more room to work with, so I created my own images to display on a corkboard. I also laminated the individual images and stuck them up in each YA computer terminal (I can’t promise that every teen will see the corkboard, but most of them use the computers at some point). I used images and quotes of famous LGBTQ folks and allies. I’m still new at creating images. I should have, perhaps, rethought my font choice (some of the commas look like periods. Ugh.). Some of the transparent edits on the images are my own, and that’s why they SUCK. Also, if the person in the picture is wearing a flower crown, it means I accidentally cut the top of their head off. Not cool.

If you want to use any/all these images in your displays, please do. If they go up on your blog, please credit me, your main girl Ingrid.

harvey milk lavernecox jazzjennings

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Adventures in Library Card Applications and Gender Neutral Bathrooms

If I had my druthers, and I mean 100 percent of my druthers, every library would have the following (among other things): no gender option on the library card application and at least one gender neutral bathroom. My library is not there yet, but I think we’re on our way. We’ve made steps towards getting the gender box taken off the library card application. In the past, you had to mark either Male or Female on the form in order to complete it. Now, gender is still on the form, but it’s not required. It looks like this:


Anything with a red asterisk is necessary information to complete the form. Gender doesn’t have one, so if you skip it, you can still submit the library card form. When you hit the drop-down menu under gender, the only options are Male and Female.

This is not ideal. In a perfect world, there simply wouldn’t be a gender option on a library card form. Period. As we have it now, anyone who doesn’t fit into the Male and Female categories is treated like an “other”, which is generally not how I like to treat library patrons. It’s not very welcoming. If a library were to list all the options for all the different genders, the list would very long and I imagine the jargon would constantly have to be updated. You could use a fill-in-the-blank option, like this:


But, statistics-wise, this seems kind of like a nightmare. While I’m down for any sort of gender expression, I don’t really see how this information helps the mission of the library.

That’s why the best course of action is to remove gender from the library card application altogether. Consider why you need these gender-specific stats from your patrons. If your library attracted more female patrons than male patrons, what would that mean to your programming schedule and collection-building anyway? Any steps you would take to balance out the genders would be under the assumption that every gender acts as a monolith. Think, instead, what information could be more useful to your library. How about how many children, if any, are in the family? What are their ages? What languages are spoken at home? A check-list of a patron’s interests? Surely these questions could offer more insights into the kinds of people that frequent your library.

Adding gender neutral bathrooms can be a trickier task. Gender neutral bathrooms not only serve patrons who don’t fit into the gender binary and/or don’t feel comfortable using gendered bathrooms (check out this scene from Transparent if you’re unsure as to why certain spaces may be unsafe for some. NSFW), but also families visiting the library. Consider a father taking his 7 year old daughter to the library restroom. If he doesn’t feel comfortable sending her into the bathroom by herself, he has to choose either the Men’s or the Women’s bathroom, both of which are not a very good fit.

If you’re lucky enough have single stall bathrooms, consider making them gender neutral. If only one person/family is using that bathroom at a time, who cares who is in there? This will cut down on those obnoxious ladies’ room lines and also offer a safe bathroom for those who need it.

(I wish I had a easy fix for when you have multi-stalled bathrooms. I don’t. It’s important to know what your state/city’s law is regarding bathroom usage. In New York City, you can use the bathroom that matches the gender you identify with, as opposed to your “assigned” gender. Make sure your library is aware of local laws.)

In my particular section of the library, we had two bathrooms: a single stall Boys’ Room and a single stall Girls’ Room, both of which have changing tables. It started to seem silly to gender the bathrooms, so I was given the go-ahead to make them unisex. I created these two signs:

bathroom A bathroomB

What more do you need to know other than the fact that these rooms contain toilets? I also color-coded them, so that patrons could also refer to them as the Green and the Orange bathroom, in addition to Bathroom A and B. Our single stall bathrooms require keys, so each keychain has an image that corresponds to these signs.

Though staff received an email about the bathroom changes, someone, a fellow employee I assume, wrote Male and Female on the keychains, thus re-gendering them. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe old habits are hard to break. However, I am hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and it will seem like second-nature soon enough.

For more on gender neutral bathrooms, check out this article by Everyday Feminism and these FAQs from Lambda Legal.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Thrive Thursday Roundup! (5/14/15)

Thrive Thursday Logo

Check out all these rad program ideas!

♥ Laura over at Library Lalaland is making us all super-hungry with this amazing cake decorating program for tweens

♥ If you have classes visiting your library for tours and storytime, Carol from Program Palooza has you covered with these great ideas

♥ I think Anne from So Tomorrow is so rad. Check out her coding class!

Ms. Kelly at the Library is an overachiever with two posts! I adore her Bubble Bash program, as well as her brilliant Marble Mania program. 

To learn more about Thrive Thursday, check out the schedulePinterest board, and Facebook Group.

Keep on Thriving, y’all!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Thrive Thursday May 2015 Placeholder!

Thrive Thursday Logo

Here’s your chance to participate in this month’s school age programming blog hop! If you have an amazing program to share please post a link in the comments section below and I’ll post a compilation on May 14th.

For more information check out the schedulePinterest board, and Facebook Group.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Happy Thriving!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

ETA: Check out the round-up here!

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Yet Another Toddler Dance Party

I don’t think I’m going to add a full post about our upcoming Toddler Dance, since they’re all somewhat the same and I’ve talked about them here and here and here. But, I am pumped about my ridiculous flyer, so, I thought I’d share it:

spring dance

Is this not the silliest?

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover…But What about the First Line?: A Teen Library Display

Look supervisors! All that time I spend messing around on Twitter paid off! After seeing this brilliant idea from the Johnson County Library, I knew we had to repeat it here in our teen section.

If it’s not obvious, the covers of the books have been covered up. Instead, all the patron see is the first line of said book.

My coworker Emma is usually in charge of this particular display section, but I asked if we could copy the above display for May. She was down, so I got to work finding titles with solid first lines. I specifically looked for books that we had multiple copies of, as well as overlooked gems that weren’t circulating in the collection.

Here are the images I made to tape to the front of our YA books. Feel free to use ’em. It would make me happy, in fact.

baby girl by lenora adams

Baby Girl by Lenora Adams


Cupcake by Rachel Cohn

derby girl

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

everybody sees the ants

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King


Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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My Letter B Storytime: ‘Cause baby there’s no better, baby there’s no better letter

This may sound bananas to all you seasoned children’s librarians, but I haven’t been doing themed storytimes for toddlers. I know! It’s crazy. My flawed reasoning has been that we have a revolving team of children’s librarians here, so I only get to do Toddler Time once a month or so. I was afraid that doing a theme was only for librarians with a consistent storytime schedule and a regular group of program participants. My typical tactic was just to bring my best, A-game material to storytime without a specific theme in mind.

I know. That sounds nonsensical.

I’ve seen the light now, and have started banging out themed storytimes.

I thought I’d share my Letter B storytime, which was highly successful. I haven’t gotten so many compliments from caregivers in ages. One participant, a self-admitted seasoned storytime goer, said that this was the best storytime they had been to in a long time and that they felt that the topic I covered would actually stick with their child.

I set the theme by sticking this up to the wall and adding it to my handouts:


I am going to make a glittery frame for future storytime signs like this, but this time I just taped it up as is.

I started with my typical storytime starters: A hello song (I like this one), our ABCs (I used the ABC Stop Song, too, which I talk about here), and This is Big, Big, Big (which, by coincidence, is a song that has the letter B in it!).

I then launched into Bread and Butter, which is really sung best by those rad Jbrary ladies.

I mentioned that bread and butter are words that begin with B, and that now we were going to read a book about blueberries, which also begins with B. We read One Little Blueberry by Tammi Salzano, which is a solid counting book.

I reiterated that the word “blueberries” begins with the letter B and that’s the letter we were going to talk about today. I pulled out a big, laminated letter B, which I affixed to this box, which has velcro tabs on it so that I can switch out the letter for every new storytime:

I know it looks crooked, but that’s just my awful photography skills.

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Cover Your Library in Glitter and Lights: An Interview with Rachel Moani

One of my most lurked on librarian blogs was run by the very talented Rachel Moani, a Youth Services Associate in Washington state. She posted the most beautiful and breathtaking library displays I had ever seen. Rachel’s library was populated by dinosaurs, massive flying dragons, candy-colored castles big enough to hide in, glittery lightning storms, and twinkling lights. I was totally enamored by the library atmosphere she created and could only imagine how captivated her child and teen patrons must be.

One day, that website disappeared, and I spent a while searching for where her work was now displayed. I found a Pinterest page, thankfully, but I set to work trying to actually find and contact Rachel. Through the magic of social media, I tracked her down for an interview. I want all of you to become super Rachel-fan-girls, just like me.

I hope you find Rachel’s work as exciting and important as I do.

Ingrid Abrams:  Which came first, the art or the librarianship? How did you come to combine them?

Rachel Moani: Art came first, though during the past five years in libraries I’ve attacked projects and learned skills I never would have thought to acquire if I wasn’t putting up a seasonal book display. I’ve been having a wild and enthusiastic love affair with cardboard thanks to libraries.  Before, I’d always been more of a doodler/painter. Working in a children’s section of a library with very neutral décor, adding color and vibrancy where I could made sense to me.

IA: What was the most complicated display you ever pulled off?

RM: I like a challenge, so most of them push my limits in some way, but if I had to choose I’d say my stegosaurus, I think. It’s in six parts, all together she’s 35 feet long and 15 feet high. Hanging each piece individually while making it look like it’s hung as one piece was a challenge. I looked up a picture of a little balsa wood stegosaurus toy model and blew it up x1bazillion. Mathematical. Though the thing that cracks me up is: I spent all summer perfecting the dinosaur skeleton (for the “Dig into Reading!” theme) and then Banned Books week totally surprised me. So I whipped up a little banned books display in a few rushed, distracted hours – and that was the one that hit it big. Practically no one noticed the dino- Lolz!

Dinosaur Construction (Rachel Moani)Banned Books Display At the Lacey Library

IA: How in the WORLD did you get that dragon to hang from the ceiling?

RM: I’m pretty lucky to have a really supportive Lacey City staff, they put in a set of pulleys for me, so I can lift my crafts into our vaulted library ceiling.  Figuring out dimensions/weight/material quantity is a fun way to brush up on all that high school math I never thought I’d use.The Dragon

IA: What kinds of reactions do staff and patrons have to your displays?

RM: My castle right now is really fun, because kids can tug and touch and pull on it. I’m surprised by how long it’s lasted, and that it seems to be dying so gracefully. I thought it would go in a blaze of ripped up glory after a month or two, but it’s been up almost a year! I am obsessed with Yayoi Kusama, the greatest polka dot artist of our time, and I wanted to make something inspired by her installations. So every time kids come to the library, they put one sticker on the castle. My regular patrons, even the babies, now automatically come to the desk to choose their sticker. Which means I get a patron interaction with every visit, even with the ones who have always been too shy to talk with me. Just look at some of the adorable things they write on them!

Put a sticker on the Castle!)

stickers castle

stickers castle 2

IA: Tell me about your favorite display.

RM: Oh, I loved my ‘Dream Big’ chapter book display. But it was all glitter, twinkle lights, and fairy tales, so no surprise there.


IA: What advice do you have for non-artsy, non-craftily talented librarians who strive create stunning displays like yours?

RM: I get so many great ideas from other creative people out there, and I love helping a fellow book displayer out! I know Pinterest isn’t an ideal place to comment and get responses, but I do try to always  respond if someone has a specific craft question. Craft! Have Fun! Take suggestions from the children at your library! Be bold!

There are so many librarians I admire and aspire to be like, and Rachel is definitely one of them. It was such an honor to get to talk to her. If there’s a library in heaven, it looks like this. Click here to check out her gorgeous Pinterest page.

 ~Love and Libraries, Ingrid
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PS: Rachel keeps a visual diary, and she was kind enough to share this with me: