midwinter freakout #9672

I get to go to Midwinter in Chicago this weekend! Yay!

I’m kind of freaking out about Midwinter in Chicago this weekend! Boo!

I didn’t even realize I was freaking out until a few days ago when I stopped sleeping because nothing helps a freak out more than insomnia.

I think I’ve finally sorted out all of the reasons for the freak outs and have talked myself down or at least enough to maybe let me sleep tonight. I’m not gonna lie: I’m sort of hoping admitting all of the reasons will help.

1. I’m only at Midwinter Saturday-Monday. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), this means I have to take Friday off. Which means I’m missing 2 work days. I somehow managed to say “YES! I CAN DO THAT!” to a few too many projects with looming deadlines and with an active programming schedule, meetings, and desk time, I’m feeling like there is no way I’m going to get everything done.

Hey, guess what, Erin? It’s going to be okay. Nothing on your list is life or death. Prioritize. Do what you can. And ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness. It means you need help. And maybe in the future? Consider saying “Actually, I don’t think I’m able to commit to another project right now.”

2. Midwinter is BIG. I had the opportunity to go to Annual last time it was in Chicago and it was awesome and I loved it and while it was a little overwhelming I had a PLAN. My plan right now is all on my phone and I have about 50 things I want to do and only 3 days to do it all and I haven’t really taken the time to untangle everything.

Hey, guess what, Erin? It’s going to be okay. Midwinter IS big. Prioritize. Do what you can. Take that glorious day off Friday before you leave and figure out where you want to go and what you want to do. You’re also not going alone. You have the best conferencing partner and the two of you can divide and conquer!

3. My Midwinter packing list looks like this: “PACK.” You haven’t even thought about all of the things you’re going to need! Your mobile charger! Your iPad! Snacks and coffee because McCormick Place can be a food desert and Starbucks lines are long and you need coffee! Uke chord sheets because you want to go to Guerrilla Storytime and you want to share what you know and you know you’ll forget all your chords the minute you get there! Clothes that are comfortable but professional! Boots! Toiletries!

Hey, guess what, Erin? You kind of just wrote your packing list. Calm.down.

4. There are so many cool people I want to meet in person for the first time or people I have met once or twice and what if I’m overcome with anxiety and an attack of shyness and I end up only talking to the best conferencing partner whom I adore but we have 6 hours in the car together and a hotel room and she and I can talk to each other just about whenever we want?

Hey, guess what, Erin? You can be anxious. That’s okay. There are other people who are anxious too. And Sara just wrote a post that made you feel so much better. If you’re going to Midwinter and you’re feeling like “OMG! I don’t even know what to SAY?!” Sara gives some pretty awesome advice.

If you happen to be going to Midwinter, I know I’ll absolutely positively be attending Guerrilla Storytime and the Storytime Petting Zoo on Saturday and Guerrilla Storytime on Sunday too. Details are HERE. I hope you’ll be there too so we can learn from each other and have FUN doing it!

You know what? I actually do feel better! LET’S DO THIS, #ALAMW15!


sometimes? i like to flirt with danger

Confession #1: I don’t make a lot of flannels for storytime. It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s more that I find myself repeating the same one week after week for a session because I do toddler storytimes and repetition repetition repetition is the name of the game.

Confession #2: I sometimes have a devious mind.

Which leads me to my very first Flannel Friday submission!

I am fairly certain most are aware of the charming rhyme “Little mouse, little mouse are you in the _______ house?”

May I present: Little Fox and his boxes!



I am not what one would call an “artist” so my little fox pattern came from a quick google image search of fox coloring pages.

And may I just say, I despise puffy paint. That black box never looked the way I wanted it to.

I used little fox and little box for my last session.  I’d hide little fox behind the 3rd box. I’d change the color, but he was always behind the 3rd box. Before we’d start our rhyme, we’d go through each color. I’d then ask “What box should we look in first?”

They never.ever.ever.pick the 3rd box first. Ever.

We’d then clap our hands and chant our rhyme: “Little fox, little fox are you in the BLUE box?” And I’d say “Get your fingers ready to count! Remember, caregivers, Miss Erin starts counting with her thumb because counting on our fingers this way strengthens our first three fingers which happen to be the ones we need to be strong in order to write! Here we go! One, two, THREE! Ohhhhh….little fox isn’t there! Where should we look next?”

I’d usually go through it at least twice before I’d suggest the 3rd box and then we’d cheer for ourselves for finding him!

It doesn’t seem devious. And little fox is gosh darn adorable. But f-o-x is a particularly challenging word for toddlers and it can sometimes sound like a bunch of 2 year olds are chanting…something…else.

I still chuckle just thinking about it sometimes.

Little fox is now retired along with little mouse. They’ll both be back some day. I’ve come up with something new for this session:

“Little duck, little duck are you in the BLUE truck?”

I’m living on the edge.

family fort night ftw!

I’m a firm believer public libraries are community builders. It’s why I believe play time at the end of storytime is a fantastic service as it allows caregivers time to not only put into action all of the things we just learned in storytime, but also the opportunity to meet and and talk with other caregivers.

So when I read Marge’s post on Tiny Tips for Library Fun and then Amy’s post on The Show Me Librarian, I knew I wanted to do it here.

We decided to do it in January-a daring move on our part given we’re in west Michigan and the weather can be a bit tricky with the whole lake effect snow issue-as January is one of those months where everything is just so….January. The holidays are over. Schools are back in session. We have months of snow and cold ahead of us.

We got oh so lucky. The previous weekend we had subzero temperatures. This upcoming weekend is looking like a storm is a-brewing. This past Saturday night was clear and unseasonably warm and by “warm” I mean we were hovering around 32 degrees. Heat wave! We did not require registration for this program (which probably was the reason I went into pure freakout mode Saturday during the day, but more on that later) but instead put out detailed “instructions.” Bring blankets, flashlights and whatever else you’d like to build your fort in the library! The program starts at 5:45pm so please be on time as the doors will be locked at 6pm. Meet in the auditorium. This is a family event so all ages are welcome!

Here’s how it went down:

At 5:30pm, we stationed someone at the door to direct people to head down to the basement to start. I thought this might be the trickiest part given the Children’s Department is on the top floor and everyone would be lugging their fort-making materials all over the building, but everyone was very understanding. We explained we needed everyone participating in the program to meet in one place so staff could clear the building at closing. Not surprisingly, there was a bit of excitement over being in the library after we were closed!

5:45: Hand out s’mores and rules. We had advertised we would be serving “s’mores” and one member of the team had taken this very seriously by taste-testing a whole bunch of different options. She landed on Honey Maid Grahamful S’mores which came individually wrapped and were perfect. We asked everyone to eat their s’mores in the auditorium as we wanted to keep our books from getting sticky. As far as rules go? We pretty much said everything in the department was fair game for making forts. We had rubber coated wire clips available to help with fort making. We laid out the time line: 6:10 we head upstairs, 6:30 we make an announcement that reading time starts, 6:50 we make an announcement to start cleaning up. We did allow people to check out (yay for self-check machines!), but were not able to issue new library cards or accept cash for fines. I read “Moo” by David LaRochelle and my team member, Anne, brilliantly read “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak. And we were OFF.

6:10-6:30: Fort making! It was so much fun to watch families work together to put up their forts. Staff took turns with the camera and getting release forms for pictures. We had one family who hadn’t brought fort making stuff and we were about to hand him some fabric we had stashed in the staff area when he came back up to the desk and said another family had offered to “share” their fort with them. I almost got a little teary-eyed. Community building!

6:30: Reading time! This is what it’s all about! Families reading stories together all over the department!

6:50: Announcement that it’s time to clean up!

We decided to stand at the door to say goodbye to everyone and I can’t believe how amazingly positive the feedback was. “Please do this again! WE didn’t have anything else to do on a Saturday night, but I bet YOU did so thank you for providing this program! Please do this again! Please do this again!”

So…yeah…we’re going to do it again.

We learned a lot. First of all, I had no reason to freak out. I had the day off Saturday until the program and I was a crazy person on my phone texting my coworker. I even knew my anxiety had taken over and I needed to stop, but I just couldn’t help myself. No freaking out next time! We could have used 4 times as many clips to help with fort building. We will definitely shut off some of the lights next time or have a “dark area” and a “light area” for those with little ones who might get a little nervous in the dark. I’d like to make it a Register for a Library Card program next time which will mean additional staff from the adult services department. Or I’d like to have library cards as their “ticket” into the event with a library card drive leading up to the event.

All in all? It’s a fantastic program. We had 140 people in attendance and about 34 forts were made in the department. And outside of the s’mores and staff time? This program cost ZERO dollars.

Let me repeat that: This.program.cost.ZERO.DOLLARS.

Do it, friends. Just do it.



“there’s only one in this wonderful world, you are special”

Hello. My name is Erin and I’ve become obsessed with Fred Rogers.

It’s not really a problem (though one night after leaving my in-laws’ house with my husband, his Mom remarked on how nice he looked in his cardigan and I responded with “I love it too! It reminds me of Mister Rogers!” and he responded with “Yeeeah, we’re a strange couple.” That gave me pause…), it’s more of a hobby-that-I-can’t-stop-thinking-reading-watching-all-of-the-time. THANKS, CATE.

But this post isn’t about what I’ve learned so far and how I’m implementing it into programming. It’s about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately in regards to the dreaded comparison game I play.

I spend entirely too much time and energy thinking about all of the things I wish I could do. I’d love to offer an afterschool STEAM-y program like Katie or Kelly. I wish I could get a giant dance scrunchie like Lisa for use in storytime. Hell, I wish I could sing a hello song at the beginning of storytime where we greet every child by name.

There are just things I can’t do at my library. I routinely have 30-40 toddlers in my storytimes so a hello song that greets all of them? There goes at least 10 minutes of storytime. My library does not like to require registrations for programs so an afterschool STEAM program would be really challenging to plan and execute because I might have 75 kids show up and I can’t fit that many kids in our children’s activity room let alone try and guess how much to purchase for supplies. I also know I struggle with crowd control when it comes to school aged kids. I have a Rainbow Magic Fairy program coming up and I’m terrified I’m going to have to manage 60 kids.

I just broke out into a cold sweat thinking about it.

My coworker, Anne, has this amazing singing voice. So, when we did a Frozen sing along program? Anne was the best choice. She also agreed to dress up in an enormous hoop skirted princess dress to do it so she RULES. She’s waaaaay better when it comes to school aged crowd control than I am, she kicks ass at finding the right books for kids of all ages and her preschool storytimes are fantastic.

While 60 school aged kids (COLD SWEAT AGAIN!) is nightmare inducing for me, 30 toddlers and their caregivers? No problem. A process art program for 18 mos-5 year olds with caregivers where all of a sudden everyone has abandoned their art in favor of playing with fiberfill? I can roll with that and still talk to caregivers about what their children are learning through this play experience. I’m great at school tours, I love giving book talks to all ages, I can put together and present a killer presentation for parents about how to read with their children.

When I peruse the 9672 youth services blogs I follow, I tend to forget that not only do people have individual talents, but  libraries are unique to their communities too. I might want to offer all of the amazing things I’m seeing from other people, but they might not be right for my community. I need to keep my library’s mission statement in mind. I need to keep my community in mind. And I need to remember there are limitations to what we can do.

YOU have amazing talents. YOU provide amazing programs for your community. The internet has opened up the ability to share and learn from each other, but it can be a double edged sword sometimes. Stop comparing yourself to everyone around you. It’s a waste of precious energy and time. It offers you nothing but insecurity and doubt. I love my PLN and I know they support me. They don’t want me to compare myself to them. They are there cheering me on.

So, when you’re feeling like you’re not doing enough or your programs aren’t as “good” as someone else or you’ve jumped down the rabbit hole of self doubt, consider listening to this song.

It always makes me feel better.