Catapults and Kids: Or how to destroy Voldemort and Justin “Beever” with popsicle sticks and rubber bands

Greetings from the 7th level of Summer Reading Hell. I’ll be your librarian until I can no longer keep the screaming, steaming, roaring semi-illegal summer camps at bay.

Now that I’m done with the kvetching that keeps me so young and vibrant, let me talk to you about my most recent program. All of the Youth Wing librarians were expected to provide a “wild card” program for school aged kiddos, and I chose the one that came with a pre-assembled kit of supplies (I lose a lot of my I HAVE TO BE THE BEST LIBRARIAN EVER-motivation during the summer. I blame the humidity and how bad it makes my hair look).

The catapult kit came with popsicle sticks, rubber bands, the sturdiest cupcake wrappers I have ever seen, teeeeeeeeny pom-poms, and instructions (mostly taken from this post by Amy of The Show Me Librarian blog).

Here's the program flier I made!

Here’s the program flier I made! No camps, please, OK?

Really, the only thing I added to this program was the targets. I mean, what good is a catapult if there’s nothing diabolical to seek out and destroy? I quickly whipped up some solid villains:

Yeah. This would be the Joker, Justin Bieber, Voldemort, and the Green Goblin.

Yeah. This would be the Joker, Justin “Beever” as the youths call him, Voldemort, and the Green Goblin.

I glued their faces to some cardstock, attached them to the popsicle sticks, and then mounted them on some playdough.

First, I helped the kids assemble the catapults. I was glad that the program size was small. They all needed lots of help with the rubber banding part. I have to admit it was tricky, even for me.

I provided a pre-made catapult. Even though I don’t usually include a model project, I think it was helpful in this case. I would take it apart and reassemble it to show the kiddos the different stages of building it:

Hey, before the program started, I glued the cupcake wrappers to the popsicle sticks. The kit provided velcro dots, but those weren't really working. I didn't want the kids to have to wait for the glue to dry.

Hey, before the program started, I glued the cupcake wrappers to the popsicle sticks so the kids wouldn’t have to wait for the glue to dry. The kit provided velcro dots, but those weren’t really sticking well enough.

While we made them, I talked about how catapults worked because of levers, which are a kind of simple machine. I said that it would be really hard to throw a heavy rock at your enemies with your bare hands, but a lever would help you do lots of the heavy-lifting.

I taped this info all over the table and the program room.

I taped this info all over the table and the program room.

I have to say, they weren’t really into the actual building of the catapult (I think wrapping the rubber bands around the sticks was a bit frustrating), but they were SUPER pumped about firing pom-poms at the villians. We quickly learned that the tiny pom-poms didn’t work that great, so we switched to some bigger ones.

We weren’t really able to knock down any of the targets, at first, but with some practice and the addition of some heavier ammunition (dice, stamps, and tiny rubber bus toys), our aim got better.

The first villain to bite it is was the Green Goblin:


We talked about how the pom-poms went further because they were lighter, but were less likely to knock over the target. The dice and stamps made more of an impact because they were heavier, but didn’t go as far.

This little girl was shy and quiet at first, but by the end, she was screaming,

This little girl was shy and quiet at first, but by the end, she was screaming, “DESTROY THEM!”

By the end of the program, all of the villains met their doom. At one point, the girl above knocked down Justin “Beever” by catapulting the Green Goblin at him, which is pretty clever, really.

I tried several times to explain to them that the name was Bieber, not Beever, but they all firmly told me that I was wrong.

Be sure to check out Amy’s post for more info, including a link to assembly directions.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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#SLJTeenLive: I’m moderating the Teen Transgender Experience panel

You know who is super bad at self-promotion? Me, your main girl, Ingrid. I had speaking engagements several times this year and have failed to mention a single one of them on my blog. This ends now.

Did you know that on August 13th, School Library Journal is offering a full day of teen library-centric online programming? Yeah! And guess how much it’ll cost you to attend? NOTHING! It’s totally free, sons.

Oh, and guess who will be moderating the Teen Transgender Experience panel? Me! Ingrid! I’m the one whose blog you are reading RIGHT NOW!


I’ve already mentioned I’m a huge fan of Alex Gino and GeorgeBeyond Magenta is a huge hit at my library (every time I put a copy out on display, it goes out immediately. It was also a Rainbow List selection when I was on the committee) and Lies We Tell Ourselves had one of the most poignant descriptions of school desegregation I’ve ever read (I’m currently waiting on a copy of Talley’s newest title What We Left Behind, I’ll tell you what I think).

I hope you’ll tune in.

Click here to register!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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I am Reading this So Hard Right Now: George by Alex Gino

A little late on posting this, but here’s my review of George by Alex Gino in School Library Journal (scroll down to the first entry in the “Middle Grade” section).

If your library works with a Middle Grade population, I highly recommend you read and purchase this title.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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How teachers can create a Summer Reading list that won’t make librarians die or children cry: Unsolicited advice from a public librarian

Summer Reading depresses the bejeezos out of me. While my school librarian friends are looking 10 years younger and more carefree than should be permitted by law, I’ve got the Summer Reading blues real hard. The reference desk lines are non-stop, everyone needs everything right now (stress levels of parents seem to go up to 11 during July and August), we’re running out of titles and our will to live, and the Summer Reading assignment lists from the schools don’t seem to have been written by actual people:

Often, parents hand me lists so outlandish I’ve considered whether I was being featured on a really bad hidden-video reality show. They’re either really poorly organized or they contain titles that I know just by looking at them that we just don’t have. I’ve tried contacting schools and teachers, either by phone, email, or in person, and have had absolutely no luck. We have pre-written form letters that we send home with the parents (we call them “Dear Teacher” letters: Dear Teacher, Name of Child was unable to obtain this book due to 1) lack of copies 2) high demand 3) plague of locusts 4) flood of librarian tears, etc.) so that their children won’t get in trouble for not being able to access the books on the list. The letter has our contact info on the bottom, so the teachers and librarians can talk before the next summer comes around.

(On the rare occasion that I get a really great list, I ask the parents to tell the teacher I said so. I don’t know if that feedback actually goes anywhere, but, girl, I try).

Sending kids home with a Dear Teacher letter instead of a book is not a good moment. The kids feel guilty for not doing their summer homework, I feel bad that they’re not reading, and the parent, child, and school have had a poor library experience. What if this is the only time I interact with this family all year? What if their entire opinion of the library is based on this transaction? This is not literacy positive! This is the opposite of what I hope to accomplish during the summer.

So. Teachers. I love you, but you’re bringing me down (hashtag Not All Teachers hashtag Not All Summer Reading Lists). In response to the bananas lists I’ve seen in my 6 years as a public librarian, here are my tips for writing the perfect Summer Reading list. This will be the list where your local librarians will actually be able to help your students and their families. Don’t be mad. We’re in this together.


Make sure your list is in alphabetical order BY AUTHOR. Not by title. Never by title. Please not ever by title. If there’s a library where books are arranged by title, I don’t know that library but I’d like to smack that library. Most libraries arrange their books by author. No one wants to run in circles looking in the stacks for books. I don’t. I promise your students don’t.

I wrote about it in another post about Summer Reading: Imagine if you listed your books by title instead of author:

And if the Moon Could Talk, by Kate Banks
Buster, by Denise Fleming
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Froggy Goes to Camp, by Jonathan London
Previously, by Allan Ahlberg

Do you see what’s happening here? If our books are shelved by author, that means your future student or the nice if not neurotic librarian is running from B to F to S to L to A, instead of just straight through the alphabet. If you make a list alphabetically by author, the student, parent, or I get to walk in a straight line, instead of in circles like a raving lunatic.

Imagine how easy it would be to scan the stacks, list in hand, and actually be able to find the books in a timely manner. What fun!

♥ Offer options. My favorite Summer Reading lists are the ones where the teacher has given the students some choices. If your students have options, there’s a better chance that they’ll actually get the reading done. As far as choices are concerned you can: 1) Offer a large range of titles but state that students need only choose a few. 2) Say that the students can read any title by a certain author. 3) If you’re offering a book in a series, say that any book in the series will suffice.

♥ Make sure the book is in print and that the library has multiple copiesOnce, a teacher assigned a book that we only had one copy of in our 60 branches. That copy was in storage. It was also non-circulating. No child was going to get this reading done. They were being set up to fail. You can check the library’s online catalog for how many copies the library owns. When in doubt, contact the library. Call us. Email us. We’ll let you know. It’s our job.

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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)

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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!

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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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