Friday, April 28, 2017

The Ultimate List of Nontraditional Items You Can Check Out From Libraries

Over the years, libraries have collected unusual items that they have allowed patrons to check out. In some places, they are designated in special categories like the Library of Things. In other places, these items may only be mentioned in the catalog. We here at the 5 Minute Librarian were really curious what everyone was circulating and did an extensive search to see what was out there. Every item is linked back to one library, though many (like cake pans) are located in many libraries.

For the curious and for those considering adding something to your own collection, we present to you the ultimate list of nontraditional items! And if we missed anything, please let us know in the comments and include the library URL, too.


  1. Cake Pans
  2. Cookie Cutters
  3. Cake Decorating Accessories
  4. Dehydrator




  1. Fishing Poles and tackle boxes
  2. Life Jackets
  3. Knitting Needles
  4. Yarn Winder
  5. Sewing Machines
  6. Tent and camp stove
  7. DJ and music production equipment
  8. Snowshoes

Home/Lawn Care

  1. Kill-A-Watt electricity usage
  2. Weed Wackers (and Heavy Duty Extension Cords to use them!)
  3. Water Saver Usage Meter
  4. Sunlight Calculator
  5. Drain Snakes
  6. Demolition Hammers
  7. Saws
  8. Tools and more Tools




  1. DVD/VCR Player and Recorder
  2. Wi-Fi Hotspots
  3. Fitbit
  4. Label Maker
  5. iRobot Roomba
  6. Garmin GPS
  7. Smartphone Video Stabilizer
  8. Clip-On Universal Smartphone Lenses
  9. Binaural Field Recording Kit
  10. Portable Scanner
  11. Curve 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna
  12. Solar Pack
  13. LED Projector
  14. Portable Desktop Screen


  1. Prom Dresses
  2. Blood pressure cuffs
  3. Bike locks

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ready to Go Book Display: Wonder Woman

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. See her new movie in theaters on June 2nd and celebrate Wonder Woman Day on June 3, 2017.

Recommendations for Adults and Teens:
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson (Oct 2016)
A Princess Diana unlike any we've seen before. As a child, she is spoiled and free to exert her will without restraint -- until her selfishness leads to tragic results. Before she can become a hero, she will first have to find redemption.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (Jul 2014)
A cultural history of Wonder Woman traces the character's creation and enduring popularity, drawing on interviews and archival research to reveal the pivotal role of feminism in shaping her seven-decade story.

Wonder Woman, A Celebration of 75 Years by William Moulton Marston (Oct 2016)
Celebrate over seven decades of the awe-inspiring Wonder Woman, from early years as one of the first female superheroes in the comics industry to today.
This volume brings together the biggest and greatest battles and moments in Wonder Woman's history as a DC Comics superhero.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (Aug 2017)
Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law - risking exile - to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling (May 2017)
This book showcases the earliest concept art, set and costume designs, sketches and storyboards, as well as delving into the filmmaking process, from creating the stunning island of Themyscira to the war-torn trenches and towns of First World War Europe.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies (Rebirth) by Greg Rucka (Feb 2017)
In order to solve the riddle of her orgin, Diana must embark on her greatest quest of all: finding a way back to her vanished home. To get there, she must team up with her greatest enemy, the feral beast-woman, Cheetah.

The Legend of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Origins by Renae De Liz (Dec 2016)
When a man from the outside world is brought to Themscira as part of a conspiracy to overthrow its queen, Diana will risk everything to save his innocent life... and lose everything in the process.

Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple by Charles Soule (Mar 2015)
The first in a series that details the relationship between The Man of Steel and the Warrior Princess. These two super-beings love each other, but not everyone shares their joy.

Recommendations for Children:

This board book introduces Wonder Woman and some of her superhero friends, including Batgirl and Supergirl.

Wonder Woman Origami by John Montroll (Aug 2015)
This book provides instructions and diagrams for folding origami models of characters, objects, and symbols related to Wonder Woman.

My First Book of Girl Power by Julie Merberg (Oct 2014)
Meet super heroines Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Black Canary and more.

Flower Power! by Country Carbone (Jan 2014)
Wonder Woman and Batgirl team up to stop Poison Ivy.

Wonder Woman ABCs by Benjamin Bird (Aug 2014)
Learn the alphabet with Wonder Woman. Also check out Wonder Woman: A Word Adventure by Donald B. Lemke.

Wonder Woman: Amazon Warrior by Steven Korte (Feb 2016)
A biography profiling the Amazon princess details how she became a superhero protector of humanity, discusses the abilities she uses to fight for justice and provides a timeline of major events in the character's life.

Wonder Woman: An Origin Story by John Sazaklis (Mar 2015)
Born an Amazon princess on the island of Themscira, Diana leaves the island to become Wonder Woman, defender of Earth.

Wonder Woman to the Rescue! by Courtney Carbone (Jan 2016)
Introduces Wonder Woman, an Amazon gifted with powers from the gods to fight evil and save the day.

Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee (Mar 2016)
Wonder Woman's desire to become a superhero takes her to Super Hero High, where she juggles new friendships, intensive training, and a roommate obsessed with social media.

Be a Star, Wonder Woman! by Michael Dahl (Jun 2017)
As a new day dawns, a young girl faces the ultimate challenge: school! Follow along as she demonstrates her greatest superpower (sharing), overcomes her worst fear (the playground), and conquers her archenemy (the spelling test).


Friday, April 14, 2017

Why I Play My Ukulele At Storytime

Librarians with ukuleles - it's a craze! When I mentioned at a job interview that I play an instrument, the Director interviewing me said, "let me guess: ukulele." Who knew?

There's a reason for this: they're fun, easy to learn, and add a little extra zing to your storytimes. (Also: George Harrison's favorite instrument was the ukulele, and if it's good enough for a Beatle, it's good enough for me.)

My Story

A few years ago, my library started circulating some unusual items, including a telescope, American Girl dolls, and two ukuleles (complete with tuners and how-to books). I checked one out and had so much fun that I ended up buying my own, and have been promising myself that I would play it at storytime. I had the best of intentions, and every so often I would pick it up and start to learn a couple tunes, before neglecting to pick it up again for weeks at a time. (Note: You can't learn if you never practice.) When it came up in my Time Hop that I've had it for four years and still couldn't really play, I decided that it was time to take the plunge and really learn to use the thing.

I joined the Librarians with Ukes Facebook page, bought myself some how-to books, watched a lot of YouTube, and - yes, started playing at storytime. I'm loving it! Honestly - what took me so long?! Once you know a few chords, you can play tons of songs, and the kids love it! All it takes is a little practice.

Why It's Awesome

I try to play one song a week on the ukulele, and the kids always get really excited when they see me unzip the bag. The first few times, I made a point of saying how, "I'm just learning, so I might not be very good yet. That's okay, because you can't be good at everything right away, and I'm having fun, which is the important part." I quickly learned - they have no idea if I'm any good or not, but they don't care, because it's music!

Some of the first ukulele-playing librarians I met were Jessica Lamarre and Noelle Boc, who are both amazing librarians even without the music. Ms. Lamarre enjoys uke storytime because it "gives plenty of opportunities for audience participation." 

Some testimonials from other uke-brarians:

Ronda Kirkbridge commented, "I played because the kids loved it! The ukulele is such a happy sounding instrument and that translates back to my little ones as joyful, hand clapping, dancing, fun music!"

Susan Perry also commented, "The first time I brought a ukulele into storytime, I wasn't really very good, but at the first chord I strummed, I will never forget the faces of my storytime kids--their eyes went wide, their mouths dropped open and they were completely mesmerized. I knew then I'd found something special to add to my storytimes. That was about 2 years ago. Now I play 3-4 songs each week and the children are still totally enthralled by it."

I love this article on the ALSC blog, "Music and Libraries: A Magical Combination" by Tess Goldwasser. She explains exactly why she loves it, and the wonderful ways that music can transform a library. (I would paraphrase, but she did an excellent job writing, so please take a read.)  Ms. Goldwasser's article inspired many people, including Lisa Taylor, who wrote her own article in response.

How To Get Started

First, you need to buy yourself an instrument. I got mine at a local music store, but you can get them online from Amazon very inexpensively - some as low as $20. A super cheap instrument won't be the best quality out there, but it'll give you a chance to try your hand at playing without a huge investment.

Now that you have it, let's learn! There are some amazing YouTube tutorials out there! We particularly like:
Cynthia Lin's YouTube channel 
The Ukulele Teacher
Ukulele Cheats
Ukulele Storytime

I also use an app on my iPhone called "Yousician," which teaches ukulele, guitar, bass, and piano. It's free for 30 minutes of lessons a day, and you can get unlimited lessons for $9.99 a month. (No, they didn't pay me to say this. And I use the free lessons, anyway.) It listens to you play with the microphone in your phone, and lets you know if you're doing well or need more work.

There are also lots of books that will help. The Hal Leonard books, like this one, are incredibly helpful. I also enjoy The Daily Ukulele, which even tells you at the top of each song which chords you will need.

Once you're comfortable with a few chords, be sure to check out the Storytime Ukulele Blog, written by April Ens, who posts classic (and new!) storytime songs with their chords. (Side note: I was actually going to mention this one before I found out she was a member of the Facebook ukulele group - April, you rock!) is also extremely helpful.

Librarian Melanie Ramsey recommends joining your local ukulele group. She was able to partner with the Allegheny Uke Club.

For inspiration, be sure not to miss Jake Shimabukuro's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's amazing!

Special Thanks!

Special thanks to the members of the Librarians With Ukes Facebook group, especially Rhonda Kirkbridge, Tess Sparky Goldwasser, Lisa Taylor, Susan Perry, Jessica Lamarre, Deanie Michelle, April Ens, Kris Embry, and Melanie Ramsey.

Friday, April 7, 2017

9 Vital Ways Facebook is the Best Partner for Libraries

Two weeks ago, I presented at an Empowering Women in Business Conference about Facebook. A few years ago, I had researched how libraries can successfully use Facebook (10 Facebook Tips Patrons Wish Their Libraries Knew) and updating all of my information made me realize:

Facebook is still the best place for libraries to be!

1. Facebook is the Powerhouse Social Media Platform

Last spring, the Pew Research Center shared their update on social media statistics. They found 86% of Americans are online. Of this group, 79% of people are on Facebook. As you can see in the chart below, this far exceeds any other social media network. If you want to reach your patrons on a social media platform, you can't do better than Facebook.

2. Organic Reach is Better with Less Followers

It works to your library's benefit that you don't have millions of followers. Over the years, Facebook's organic reach has declined from 12% to 6%-2%. If you have over 500,000 followers, you're more likely to have the lower reach. However, libraries typically do better on Facebook. I always felt that if I had 100 organic reach, I was happy. For my library, that was actually 10% organic reach. On our popular posts, that would jump to 25% or more.

3.  Three-Quarters of Followers are on daily for 50 minutes!

79% of Facebook users are on daily for an average of 50 minutes. You are not going to get this reach anywhere else. Instagram comes in second with half of their users (which is only 32% of Americans online) visit daily. When Facebook is used successfully (following these tips that we discussed back in 2015), you are going to reach your audience more often than anywhere else online.

4. Facebook can Grow Your Newsletter

Since Facebook only shares your post with a small percentage of followers, you will want to find other ways to reliably get your message out. We highly recommend sending an email newsletter. With all of the social media platforms, email is still the golden ticket in advertising. Remember, Facebook's average reach is 6% or lower, but email is sent to 100% of your followers every single time. While not everyone opens their newsletters, an average of 20% subscribers do. So, use Facebook to your advantage and periodically redirect your traffic to sign-up for your newsletter.

5. You Must Be Social on Facebook

I always find it heartbreaking when libraries only post about their upcoming programs on Facebook. You want to kill reach? Don't be social. Treat Facebook like a bulletin board. It is really important to understand Facebook's algorithm. The typical user receives 1,500 posts in their newsfeed DAILY. So, Facebook had to come up with an algorithm to make sure that their users were getting the posts they most want to see. It is based on 100,000 factors, but the chart below is the simplified version that we know for sure: they pay attention to what users respond to on Facebook -- what did they like, share, give an emotion to, comment, or click to read? Those are the types of pages and posts Facebook will show that user more often. If followers aren't responding to your post, Facebook will assume they don't really want to see posts from you and will show them less of your future posts. So, whatever you post, make sure you post it in a way that you know will get a response from people. (For example, don't just advertise about an upcoming story time. Take a picture from a previous story time of an adorable young patron and casually mention that story time meets weekly. People will like the picture because of the cute kid!) If you know people are going to ignore your post, it doesn't belong on Facebook.

6. It is Easy for Libraries to Be Social

So, what do you post if you can't just talk about your programs? What worked for us -- we posted twice a day. In the morning, it was something serious and library related. In the evening, it was something fun that related to our common values with patrons: the importance of reading, author quotes, statistics to literacy, author news, etc. If you want specific ideas, check out our posts about the different types of viral Facebook content ideas that has worked in other libraries. In my previous library, we learned that articles that supported reading did really well as well as photos of kids reading and enjoying the library. You can also join The Shareable Clique, which 1,700+ libraries share their viral posts that may also work for your page, too.

7. Use the "Pages to Watch" to find Viral Content

Under you Facebook Page's Insight, you'll see an option for "Pages to Watch". This is a great place to follow other libraries with successful pages. Every week, you can visit this section and see what was most popular with their followers. If it was generic, you can reshare it on your page! [Facebook will give you a natural boost if you share viral posts that had received a lot of interaction from users. They love it when pages share quality posts and will share it with more of your followers than they usually do.] You can also follow other pages that have content you might want to share, like the Goodwill Librarian and Bookstr. Note: to schedule a shared post, just click on the Time Stamp of that post. That'll bring you to a special URL that you can use when you are scheduling ahead.

8. Utilize Facebook's Event Calendar

Facebook is really pushing their event feature. It can be time consuming making events online, but if you focus on the major events that are coming up, it is manageable. Do a chunk of them at once so followers will get an upcoming list. When your followers mark that they are interested in an event, it appears on their calendar AND it is advertised to their friends. When the event is a few days away, Facebook gives them an automatic reminder. You can also advertise that they can follow all of your events so they'll always be in the know.

9. Try a Facebook Ad

Many libraries have had great success with advertising their big events on Facebook, even with teen programs. Facebook is inexpensive and they allow you to limit your advertisement to people living within your area, gender, and age. It is worth trying out and see if you can reach more than your usual library patrons.

For more posts about Facebook, check out:

10 Facebook Tips Patrons Wish Their Libraries Knew

8 Free Ways to Boost Your Library's Facebook Reach

15 Viral Content Ideas for Your Library's FB Page! (Part 1)

15 More Viral Content Ideas for Your Library's FB Page! (Part 2)