Why I Will Never Cut Blobs for Felt Board Pieces Again

This past Christmas I decided to make my daughter (1), niece (1.5), and nephew (2.5) felt boards and felt board sets as gifts. As a crafter with no actual ability to draw or cut a straight line I went looking for a better way, and I found it in this tutorial from Keeping Life Creative. I will never cut blobs out of colored felt again.

I know that other librarians have used this method before, but I don’t see it used widely so I wanted to share.

First, you need some cute clipart. These are the sets I used for my project:

  • Monkey Business, Cars and Trucks/City Transport, and Brown Bear sets from MyClipArtStore
  • Farm Animals, Woodland Animals, and Sea Animals sets from PixelPaperPrints
  • Star Wars and Cute Kids sets from Dorky Prints

I’m planning to do some other themed sets for holidays and birthdays as well.

Then you need Avery Inkjet T-Shirt Transfers, an iron, and some white felt.

I used Publisher to fit as many images on one page as I could and printed them out on the transfer paper. Don’t do what I did here, if there is text you need to flip your image so it comes out right when you iron it on.

ClipArtOnTransfer

Iron the transfer face down on your felt. It takes a pretty hot iron, no steam, and a lot of pressing. I was singing verses of songs while I was doing the ironing so I wouldn’t get impatient and pull away too quickly.

Here is what they look like on the felt sheets:

onthfelt

Then you just need to cut around the characters. I left a little bit of the white border because I liked the way it looked. If you are doing a lot of sets be sure to leave yourself time for a break, the cutting got to be hard on my hands.

And voila:

FeltPieces

You can make your own flannel board by stapling some felt over an artist’s canvas.

I store our felt pieces by slipping them into page protectors in a three ring binder. For most of the sets I slipped some rhymes in the sheet protector as well.

FeltBinder

There you have it. For me this method has so much better results that it is worth a few extra steps.

Beyond Rhymes: 5 Take-Aways for Better Programming

I wanted to share with you an excellent professional development experience I just had, the Beyond Rhymes webinar series from Infopeople. Presented by Patrick Remer and Heidi Dolamore the series encouraged youth services librarians to work with their administration and think strategically to offer the best storytime experience to their patrons.

With the abundance of easily accessible resources online for the content of storytime it was a pleasure to have a team of presenters take a different look at storytime.

I wanted to break down what my takeaways are because I think there is a lot of inspiration and motivation to be had there. This is one more piece of how my hiatus is changing the way I will do my next job.  As I said these are Heidi and Patrick’s ideas. I’m just reflecting on them and putting them in a place I’ll be able to re-visit from time to time.

1. Start with setting goals and priorities. What does your department want to accomplish? What impact does your library want to have on the community? Is there an age group you want to reach?  A percentage of your population? You need to know the answers before you start. Then when faced with a decision to make or priorities to set you can go back to those goals. Every decision you make should serve those goals. Working with administration to set these goals is important and brings us to the second truth.

2. Big outcomes take buy-in and participation from everyone, not just the youth librarian. Once you know what you want to accomplish and your administrators are on board then it is time to bring in the rest of your staff in. In Heidi and Patrick’s libraries all staff are aware that storytime is an organization-wide priority and they all have roles to contribute to that. This is both a a great example of teamwork and internal advocacy. Some staff might be involved more directly in storytime than others, but everyone is on the same page on the program because they understand why it is a priority.

3. “We can’t do that because” is not an answer, it’s an opportunity for problem solving. Space, resources, and staffing are some of the typical road blocks to presenting all the programs we would like to offer. Working as a team to come up with creative solutions such as moving storytime to a larger space or training additional staff to present storytime become more realistic when everyone knows it is a priority in service to the organization’s goals.

4. Decide who your audience is and then design your programs to reach them. Too many times we have a cool idea or opportunity for a program and then go searching for an audience. Then we wonder why we are sitting in an empty room.  I think this is a great lesson no matter what age group you are working with. A wonderful example of this are the Black Storytimes (and storytimes in several other languages) offered by Multnomah County Library.

5. Be welcoming and accessible in your space, publicity, and policies. Do an audit of your space, including one from the point of view of a preschooler. What looks like a small shelf to us may be a huge barrier that cuts off a large part of your space to a three year-old.

Look at your publicity. Does it use a lot of jargon like “lapsit”?  Don’t assume everyone knows what storytime programs are, providing more information could bring in a wider audiences.

Think about your policies. Is your schedule hard to follow? Do you limit size? Some creative thinking might remove these barriers to participation. How can you bring the storytime experience and it’s  benefits to the highest number of patrons?

Serving NICU Parents: Or How the Reason I Quit Reminded Me Why I Love What We Do

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Early in December the specialist I was seeing at the end of my pregnancy decided that it was safer for both me and my little girl to deliver her at 35 weeks rather than wait. I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say we were incredibly blessed that both of us are healthy and she only spent nine days in the NICU.

Preemies sleep a lot, and so there is a lot of time both to think and to take in your surroundings during a NICU stay. Once we knew she would be fine and I was able to move around better my librarian brain kicked in.

Some of us are rather privileged when it comes to our own information needs. The ability to pull out a tablet and download a book on a subject by a reputable author or knowing how to conduct an internet search and be relatively confident our results are both accurate and presented in a way we can understand is a great advantage not just professionally but personally as well.

Try to imagine yourself as a young, mother of a premature, ill, or special needs newborn with a high school education. You may not have internet access at home, and even if you do you barely spend any time there between working the hours you need to pay your bills at your job and spending time with your child.

In that limited time you try typing your questions into Google, but when you do you find a bunch of message board posts where every answer contradicts the one before.  There are a couple of other websites on the first page, but now you aren’t sure which to believe. You’ve never been a big reader, but you decide to stop at Walmart on the way home and see if they have a book. They have two, both of which cost a couple hours of pay and each of them only has a few pages on preemies.

Essentially the reason I’m choosing to stay home for a while served as a great reminder of how much I believe in what we do.

NICU parents (and new parents in general) face many challenges we can’t do much about, but low literacy, access to information, and information literacy are needs that create opportunities for librarians serving children and their caregivers.

While we as public librarians are sensitive to the first two sometimes it’s too easy to leave information literacy to the school and academic librarians. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it excludes a large number of people who need these basic skills in everyday life who may or may not have had the opportunity to continue formal education.

 So what can we do to serve our tiniest patrons and their parents?

-Make an effort to seek out resources for our collections on topics like pregnancy and child care written on a lower reading level or at least set up to be less intimidating.  Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book is well known but I can only imagine how intimidating its 784(!) pages would be to someone who struggles with reading.

-Partner with local NICU and PICU departments to provide resources for patients and parents. While the NICU had a small shelf of donated materials it included only a few board books for parents to read to their babies. Between regular life and spending time with their child NICU parents rarely have time to visit the library, and many times the large hospital where the child is cared for is not in the same area where they qualify for a library card.  A deposit collection of some type can help meet these needs.

-Make contact with the social worker who handles the NICU. They can provide expertise on what kind of materials would be most useful to their patients as well as providing information on support resources for parents in your community.

-Seek out partnerships with organizations in your community that work with parents who are likely to struggle with these skills. Shelters, low cost health clinics, and alternative education programs are great places to start. Sometimes just knowing the library welcomes them and their children can make a world of difference.

-Create handouts in the library directing patrons to quality, research  based materials including books, health databases geared for the general public, and reputable websites. Share these with your hospital and other community contacts.

The Storytime Song Bucket

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A long time ago, like many new librarians, I planned my storytimes around a theme. I would carefully select books, songs, and a craft about monkeys, bath time, zoo animals or whatever other ideas I could find on my shelves or online. The songs changed every week, and I often found myself singing solos. Not fun for me, and definitely not fun for the little ones.

I still think themes are fun, and if you can find enough quality books in your collection go for it. In my current position I don’t have a repeating group for storytime, but when I did I solved the song problem with the Song Bucket.

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