Friday, March 20, 2020

Ready to Go Book Display: Online Displays

In order to help librarians during the COVID-19 epidemic, I've decided to forgo the monthly Ready to Go Book Display and instead share with you some tips on online displays.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Highlight your collection. Right now it's especially important to highlight your digital collection that more people will be open to trying.

  • Use a template. It's fast and easy to change the color background of a template and insert a new image.

  • Use what you can. Many services offer premade social media graphics that you can use. Hoopla makes great banners that I add to my graphics.
  • Link to your resources. Make it easy for your patrons to access what you are promoting quickly and easily.
  • Add your logo so that people can identify your library.

  • Do the best you can! We are living in a world of uncertainty - try not to be too hard on yourself.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Ready to Go Book Display: Fairy Tale Retellings

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are showcasing books fairy tale retellings in anticipation of the CSLP theme "Imagine Your Story."

Recommendations for Adults:

Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire (Oct 2013)

A retelling of "Snow White" set in Renaissance Italy draws a link between the original fairy tale and the Borgia family's infamous practice of poisoning its enemies.

White Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell (Jun 2014)

A Gothic retelling of the real story behind the legend of Sleeping Beauty.

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross (Feb 2019)

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the 17th century France in which Beast struggles to come to terms with his horrid behavior as a man, his years of savagery, and his hope of redemption.

An anthology of unique twists on the fairy tale conceit of the curse, from the traditional to the modern - giving us brand new mythologies as well as new approaches to well-loved fables.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (Mar 2014)

A reimagining of the Snow White story recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity set in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Sisters Grimm by Menna Van Praag (Mar 2020)
Searching for each other after years of separation, five half-sisters, the daughters of a demon who would corrupt humanity, use their elemental powers to prepare for a gladiatorial match against their father's soldiers.

Recommendations for Teens:

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann (Sep 2014)

Free-verse poems juxtapose fairy tale elements against the life of a teen and explore the cruelty of judgment, pressure, and self-doubt while reflecting on how girls are taught to think about themselves, their friends, and their bodies.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (Jan 2009)

A retelling of the tale of twelve princesses who wear out their shoes dancing every night, and of Galen, a former soldier now working in the king's gardens, who follows them in hopes of breaking the curse.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (Nov 2019)

A powerful retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty set during the Holocaust.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani (Mar 2020)

A fantasy retelling of the "Goose Girl" fairy tale follows the experiences of a betrothed princess who is robbed of her identity by a mysterious sorceress before a threat against her betrothed prince compels her to make a dangerous choice.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Jan 2012)

As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.

Recommendations for Children:

Beauty and the Beast: 3 Beloved Tales by Cari Meister (Aug 2016)

Retells the classic French fairy tale of the enchanted beast, and the maiden whose love rescues him, together with two similar tales from China and Switzerland.

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (Aug 2017)

Set in the ocean off Japan, this retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears stars Kiniro, a mermaid, who finds a baby octopus's breakfast, chair and bed just right.

Introduces the concept of point of view through Dame Gothel's retelling of the classic fairy tale "Rapunzel".

Leaping Beauty: And Other Animal Fairy Tales by Gregory Maguire (Aug 2004)

The author wreaks havoc on eight classic fairy tales, with a cast of characters including a dancing frog, a gorilla queen, and seven giant giraffes.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill (Sep 2016)

When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, the two band together to defeat a jealous sorceress with a dire grudge against Sadie.

Reading Beauty by Deborah Underwood (Sep 2019)

A lively fairy tale set in the universe of Interstellar Cinderella, find space princess Lex embarking on a quest to break a curse that has removed all the books from her kingdom.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (Oct 2010)

If you think of fairy tales as nice, pretty little stories to bore children to sleep with, this book will make you think again.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (Oct 2005)

Taken out of foster care by a woman who claims to be their grandmother, orphans Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are whisked away to Ferryport Landing, New York. There they learn that their ancestors, the famous Brothers Grimm, wrote not make-believe stories, but the histories of the Everafters - fairy-tale characters.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Developing a Sensory Storytime for Your Library

We at Five Minute Librarian are thrilled to introduce guest-blogger Erin Collier-Plummer, Youth Services Librarian with the Seminole County (FL) Public Library. Ms. Collier-Plummer has been planning and presenting Sensory Storytimes in her library, and has graciously allows us to share her experience with you. All words below are her own.

Getting Started

Erin Collier-Plummer presents a book at Sensory Storytime.

When I arrived at the Seminole County Library system, I learned that there were only two Sensory Storytimes here, and both were located at different branches. Moreover, the branches alternated months, so interested families would have to travel between the two branches (which are not very close together) in order to attend on a monthly basis. While our Central branch houses an entire Sensory Lab (for which they won both a grant and a state library award), I felt it important to have something similar, albeit smaller and able to be contained on one library cart dedicated for this purpose. 

Resources for parents are available.
Being a librarian that works primarily with youth, as well as a mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, I sought to create a program at my own branch that would run monthly and would serve both neurodiverse and neurotypical families. To this end, I decided to learn what I could from a professional standpoint about how to develop my own Sensory Storytime. Fortunately, I found the book Programming For Children and Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorder by Barbara Klipper. Armed with the recommendations in this book and my own experience with the types of activities that had helped my son in occupational therapy, I went to work pulling together information. I also reached out to local organizations for resources and advice on what to incorporate. [Some of these resources are made available to caregivers at each Sensory Storytime]

I chose Wednesday morning to hold the storytime, since I knew many of the families in my community were interested in a more hands-on, tactile experience than I could provide at my other storytimes. My first session was held late last year, and there has been some tweaking to the format since to accommodate new ideas. Overall, I am very pleased with the way this program has evolved, and I cherish the families that attend and provide very positive feedback regarding the experience. Perhaps my favorite feedback moment was from a family who told me how welcomed they felt and how engaged her child was throughout, which she stressed was a rare thing.

What to Do

Some of the techniques I incorporate come directly from Ms. Klipper’s book, while others were based on other feedback and my own research regarding the sensory needs of children. I’m including some of the tools I’ve found most helpful:

Interactive books are always a big hit
  • Social story: I outline, in graphical format, how the storytime will proceed. Some children on the spectrum, for instance, need structure and find transitions a challenge. The social story gives them a heads-up about what to expect.
  • “Wiggle” or “bumpy” seats: these provide sensory stimulation and allow the kids to move a bit while still sitting. 
  • “Quiet” fidget toys: I use sensory beads enclosed in a plastic cover, but theraputty would work well, too. 
  • Sensory balls: I do an activity where I roll a sensory ball to each child and ask them (or their caregiver) their name, then state, “Hello, [name]” as they roll the ball back to me. This activity provides a wonderful opportunity to help everyone get more comfortable while helping to work on core muscle strength and gross motor skills. 
  • Scarves and shakers provide an opportunity to move, stretch, and sing. Everyone gets scarves and shakers, even babies and adults!
  • Interactive books: stories that allow kids to make noises, move, etc. are always a hit. 
  • Action rhymes and songs about activities of daily living: washing body parts and brushing teeth (such as singing Raffi’s “Brush Your Teeth”) are some of my favorites, but I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.
  • Activity tables: since I don’t have access to a separate room, I have commandeered a library cart and stock it with my supplies. Some of the activities I do every month include hiding plastic toys in plastic bins of kinetic sand and water marbles and allowing the kids to dig through them to find the “treasures”. These are always a huge hit, providing tactile/sensory stimulation and a lot of fun! Other activities include finger painting, gluten-free play dough, and a tissue paper craft that helps children practice their fine motor skills.
  • Mats for de-stimulation: I have small gym mats placed in a quieter corner of the room for kids who need it. 
Textured mats make drawing even more fun


Attendance has been wonderful, and I am looking to possibly expand this program to twice monthly, as scheduling permits. There is clearly a need for this type of program in my community. As a parent, I wanted to create a storytime my own child could have joyfully attended, since traditional storytimes in my area at the time were not designed to be inclusive. The program I’ve come up with is not ideal, and I am not an authority by any means. But libraries are for everyone, and we need to make sure all our children feel welcome and included!

Friday, January 24, 2020

About That Librarian-In-Residence Thing

This week, Reese Witherspoon's book club, which is in conjunction with her media company Hello Sunshine, put out a call for a librarian-in-residence. People have mixed feelings about this opportunity. Some people are REALLY EXCITED about it, and others are very frustrated.

While on the surface, it seems great, we thought we should take a closer look at this. There is already a pretty comprehensive article written on BookRiot, and Library Twitter has plenty of opinions, but we thought we'd share our thoughts anyway.

The Bad

  1. Lack of Information. Though the ad has now been updated, when it was first posted, there was no mention of salary, hours, benefits, etc. In addition, the title "Librarian-In-Residence" implies that you would have to live in Los Angeles, which means it would only really be open to a select few. The updated ad says that this is a part-time, paid position, and you wouldn't have to live in L.A. Some travel is required, which would also be paid for. This doesn't really answer all the questions, though; how much travel is required? Is this something a librarian can do on top of their full-time job? We really don't know.
  2. Wait, a Librarian Is What Now? It seems that the term "librarian" is being used to mean "a person who likes books a lot." This is ... not correct. As we know, many of us got a Master's Degree to have the title of "Librarian," and to see it given away to just anyone raises our hackles a bit. According to the actress, "the word 'Librarian' encompasses all types of interests and educations," and that is just not true. It's hard enough to have people think that we're not volunteers when we're full-time employees; please don't add to this. Really, you don't have to be a librarian to do this job. A really good booktuber would be great at it.
  3. Dance Moves? In the video Ms. Witherspoon made to advertise this position, she mentioned that great dance moves are important. Many people find this ableist. What if the absolute perfect person for the job has limited mobility? Even those of us who are lucky enough to be able-bodied... well, I can't dance to save my life, but it's never come up in a job interview.
  4. It's Too Cute. One of the comments I've read about this is that the whole thing is just too cute. We work so hard to be taken seriously as educated professionals, but here comes this video that makes us seem like, to be A Real Librarian, we have to not only be educated and knowledgeable, but also adorable. Really?
  5. It's Not An Application, It's A Contest. As BookRiot explains, this is more of a contest than a job application. You need to look good on camera, and once you submit an entry video, Hello Sunshine can use that video however they wish, with no guaranteed compensation to you.
  6. So ... Really, Does It Pay? The ad says that it is as paid, part-time position. It doesn't say how much, and the lack of transparency is an ongoing issue in terms of salary in the library world. 

The Good

  1. Honestly, It Sounds Like Fun. The person who gets this position will get to "collect and catalog resources, talk about our book picks with Reese, speak directly with our authors, and have fun and entertaining conversations with our community." A worldwide book club! HOW COOL! It really does sound awesome.
  2. You Get To Talk To Celebrities. I'm going to be totally honest here. The thought of being friends with Reese Witherspoon is pretty cool, but what I would really geek out about is the opportunity to talk to authors about the books they wrote, maybe get the inside scoop on details that ended up getting cut in editing. 
  3. A Little Extra Income. While the ad doesn't say how much the job pays, many of us are drowning under student loan payments and the general cost of living life in 2020. Especially for those of us with Etsy shops or barista jobs on the side, an extra paycheck doing something we love would be pretty nice. 
  4. Free Travel. I mean... how fun! 

Our Thoughts

Look, if this sounds like a good opportunity for you - why not apply? Take these things into consideration, but if you go into this with your eyes open and you still are interested, then go for it. This job sounds like a really great opportunity for someone, and I hope that Hello Sunshine finds the perfect person for the role.

Ms. Witherspoon, if you're reading this (which I know is extremely unlikely), we here at 5 Minute Librarian love you and would welcome the chance to educate you about the field of librarianship. We're a very dedicated profession, and you should drop into your local library and take a tour! 

And please consider hiring a degreed librarian.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ready to Go Book Display: Australia

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are showcasing books that feature Australia. 

Adult Recommendations:

The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Jul 2012)

After moving with his wife to an isolated Australian lighthouse where they suffer miscarriages and a stillbirth, Tom allows his wife to claim an infant that has washed up on the shore, a decision with devastating consequences.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Jan 2013)

A socially awkward genetics professor who has never been on a second date sets out to find the perfect wife, but instead finds Rosie Jarman, a fiercely independent barmaid who is on a quest to find her biological father.

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss (Apr 2018)

What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology showcases many diverse voices, experiences and stories in order to answer that question.

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough (Jan 2013)
A story of two sets of twins - all trained as nurses but each with her own ambitions - stepping into womanhood in the 1920s and 30s Australia.

Growing Up Queer in Australia by Benjamin Law (Jan 2019)

Compiled by celebrated author and journalist Benjamin Law, the book assembles voices from across the spectrum of LGBTIQA+ identity. Spanning diverse places, eras, ethnicities and experiences, these are the stories of growing up queer in Australia.

Teen Recommendations:

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Apr 2011)
In small-town Australia, teens Jasper and Charlie form an unlikely friendship when one asks the other to help him cover up a murder until they can prove who is responsible. 

Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Sep 2014)

Two sixteen-year-old girls in Australia come together at an outdoor semester of school, before university - one thinking about boys and growing up, the other about death and grief, but somehow they must help each other to find themselves.

Children's Recommendations:

Escape to Australia by James Patterson and Martin Chatterton (Mar 2017)

The trip to Australia Rafe has won starts badly, but after connecting with a group of misfits he finds a way to do what he does best - create mayhem.

Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? by Eric Carle (Apr 2000)
Presents the names of animal babies, parents, and groups, for example, a baby kangaroo is a joey, its mother is a flyer, its father is a boom, and a group of kangaroos is a troop, mob, or herd.

The Australia Survival Guide by George Ivanoff (Feb 2020)
This book will help you by providing the knowledge you need to survive in all kinds of Aussie conditions - in the bush, in the desert, or even at the beach!

Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead (May 2018)
Visiting her grandmother in Australia, Livy, ten, is reminded of the promise she made five years before to Bob, a strange, green creature who cannot recall who or what he is.

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai (May 2019)
Knowing very little English, eleven-year-old Jingwen feels like an alien when his family immigrates to Australia, but copes with loneliness and the loss of his father by baking elaborate cakes.

Don't Call Me Bear! by Aaron Blabey (Sep 2019)
Warren the Koala is cute, furry, maybe a bit of a grump, but he is NOT a bear!

Emu by Claire Saxby (Apr 2015)
Protecting his chicks according to the instincts of all emu fathers, an emu in Australia's eucalyptus forest watches over his growing hatchlings as the outmaneuver regional dangers, in an illustrated introduction to the emu life cycle.

One Very Tired Wombat by Renee Treml (Sep 2012)
A tired wombat has trouble falling asleep when penguins, magpies, kookaburras, and other birds native to Australia disturb his peace and quiet.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Read & Bead: Summer Reading on a Necklace

 Readers, we have a special treat for you today: a guest article by the incredible Melissa McCleary, Youth Services Librarian at the Pembroke Public Library in Pembroke, Massachusetts. She brought the Read & Bead program to Massachusetts, and was kind enough to write down everything you need to know if you're thinking of changing up your summer program.

If you love her ideas, please consider following her blog, Little Bit Librarian, for amazing programming and storytime ideas!


As snow falls and ice crunches under foot, many libraries and library staff begin to prepare… for Summer Reading. 

What Am I Going To Do This Year?

Each library does this program a little differently and many have varying names for it: Summer Reading/Library Program/Challenge/Club, etc.  Whatever its title, most public libraries use the summer months as a way to combat the Summer Slide of losing academic skills as well as a chance to increase social opportunities and encourage a love of literacy (yay!).  

Libraries have a plethora of ideas for presenting Summer Reading and incentives that include (but are certainly not limited to) drawings, scratch tickets, BINGO cards, and more with prizes ranging from tiny trinkets to big bucks.  After seeing (and trying) a few things, I began to think of what method might best suit our community, budget, and goals.  And that’s where Read & Bead comes in!

In the summer of 2015 we initiated the Read & Bead Club, a primarily prizeless version of summer reading incentives.  As years have passed, the program has not only gained popularity in our library, but has spread and been successful in libraries all across the continent (see below)!  With some preparation, staff training, and a few purchases you can implement Read & Bead at your own library.  

These little pieces come together to make a BIG difference in Summer Reading!

Read & Bead in a Nutshell

Kids read and record their minutes (or have a grown-up help them track time) then they turn those minutes into beads of varying colors, shapes, and designs to decorate and personalize their very own necklace.  This Club is open to ages 3 through (entering) grade 6; babies, toddlers, teens, and adults have different Clubs or programs at our library that won’t be discussed here.

Upon signing up at the Youth Circ Desk or visiting the library after registering online, participants get three things and are ready to start:
  • 1 Brag Tag 
  • 1 necklace
  • 1 reading record sheet 

The Brag Tag is basically a plastic “dog tag” that your library can personalize to include your name and logo and/or some stock images and phrases.  Our most popular Brag Tag has been “Reading is Cool!” featuring a penguin bundled up and reading a book; below this aquatic, flightless bird is our library’s name.  We always have at least four choices for kids; one will match that summer’s “theme” while the others are just cool or cute.
"Take Me to Your Reader" matched the 2018 CSLP theme of "A Universe of Stories."  We have at least 4 designs to select from each year.

The necklaces are ball chains that measure 30” with a clasp that can be undone (with some practice); staff may need to help kids and even their grown-ups in undoing and redoing the clasp at first, but patrons get the hang of it.  On the topic of these necklaces, one of the biggest questions I get about this program is, “What about the boys?”  Don’t worry, ALL the kids love the necklaces.  When we originally launched, we had a necklace option and a keychain option that was about five inches in length (just in case), but necklaces were overwhelmingly popular. Many libraries that have implemented the program offer only the necklace option and we even stopped distributing them this year with no complaints from kids or caregivers.

The reading record can be anything!  Our library uses the standard CSLP records; these have a blank line on the front for the child’s name and small bubbles on the back to fill in with minutes.  We also subscribe to Beanstack so families may choose to log online instead of using paper at all.  Either way, all minutes are recorded in Beanstack eventually by a library patron or staff member.  We just ask families to track minutes in whatever way best suits them.

I’m Ready for Beads!

We organize our beads, tags, and chains in one divided case.
Each time kids visit the library, they can collect beads for the amount of time they’ve read.

There are 5 "levels" of beads kids can earn: 
  • 15 minutes = Solid color pony beads 
  • 30 minutes = Sparkly/Glitter beads 
  • 1 hour = Shiny/Metallic beads 
  • 2 hours = Glow-in-the-Dark/UV beads 
  • 4 hours = Shaped beads (sports balls, animals, skulls, etc.) 
Participants can "level up" as the summer progresses. So if they read for 30 minutes one day and pick up a glitter bead, then read for 30 minutes the next day, they could exchange all of those minutes for one shiny bead (turning in their original glitter bead). This process can also work in reverse or in any other combination!

Other Successful Read & Bead Libraries:

You don’t have to just take my word for it.  Just because something is popular in one community doesn’t mean it will work everywhere, right?  Put your mind at ease: libraries all over have started using the program.

This year I asked libraries who have successfully implemented Read & Bead to sound-off on Facebook via the group Storytime Underground.  Many of those are listed here along with other libraries who have reached out to me or have been brought to my attention throughout the years.  Some even created their own version years before our Read & Bead program!

  • Connecticut
    • Berlin-Peck Memorial Library
    • Guilford Smith Memorial Library
    • Southington Public Library
  • Florida
    • Monroe County Public Library
  • Illinois
    • Oak Park Public Library
    • Palos Park Library
  • Indiana
    • La Porte County Public Library
  • Iowa
    • Britt Public Library
    • Le Mars Public Library
  • Louisiana
    • Webster Parish Library
  • Maine
    • Libby Memorial Library
  • Massachusetts
    • Ames Free Library
    • Amesbury Public Library
    • Beaman Memorial Public Library
    • Bedford Free Public Library
    • Flint Memorial Library
    • Morrill Memorial Library
    • Newbery Town Library
    • Norfolk Public Library
    • Northborough Free Library
    • Parker Memorial Library:
    • Pembroke Public Library (That’s us!)
    • Plainville Public Library
    • Seekonk Public Library
    • Taunton Public Library
    • Tewksbury Public Library
    • Ventress Memorial Library
    • Weymouth Public Libraries
    • Woburn Public Library
  • Michigan
    • Ionia Community Library
  • Missouri
    • Adair County Public Library
    • Scenic Regional Library
  • Pennsylvania
    • Emmaus Public Library
    • Honey Brook Community Library
    • Lower Macungie Library
    • Pottstown Regional Public Library
  • South Carolina
    • Georgetown County Public Library
  • Texas
    • Brownwood Public Library
    • Pottsboro Library
  • Wisconsin
    • Eager Free Public Library
  • Canada
    • Aurora Public LIbrary
    • Centennial Branch of the Ottawa Public Library
    • Terrace Public Library

Tell Me More!

If you’re interested in details, please visit my Read & Bead blog articles.  The articles and links have information about where you can buy supplies, how you can work to convince admins to get on board with the program, and even a webinar.  I update the FAQ portion of my blog whenever someone has a unique question so feel free to ask via the comments there!

Please note: Parts of this article used information or portions from my original articles about Read & Bead.