Friday, May 25, 2018

10 Insider Secrets Librarians Only Tell Their Friends with Kids

The library is the perfect place for people to bring their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Not only do we have oodles of books, but you can do so much more. Today, we're going to talk about 10 things that only library insiders know (which librarians would share with anyone... who is willing to listen):

1. Audio Books

There are so many different types of audio books which can making reading really fun for kids who don't want to read quietly with a book. If you have young kids, look for books on CDs. You can read the book while listening to the CD, which is filled with lively music, different voices, and sound effects. For older kids, you can get audio books. Turn it into a family affair and listen to an audio book together in the car!

2. Music

Expose your kids to a variety of music. Libraries also have soundtracks to your kids' movies as well as kid friendly classical music like Mozart's Magic Fantasy which combines classical music with fun narration. And, of course, you can find any version of your favorite children song in the collection as well.

3. Passes

Call your library and see if they offer museum passes. Many do, and they offer a whole lot more than museums: state parks (a bonus if the park also offers swimming!), amusement parks, baseball games, aquariums, zoos, gardens and more! Some passes offer free entrance and some offer discounts, but definitely worth checking out.

4. Check Out Board Games, Puzzles, and Dolls

Many libraries are expanding their collections with board games, puzzles, and even American Girl Dolls. This is perfect since these toys won't clutter your house and by the time the kids are bored with it, it is due back at the library.

5. Play Rooms

What to do on a rainy day? Come to the library and let your kids play with the toys! Many libraries offer a play room (or section) with dolls, figurines, dinosaurs, trains, cooking station, and more. They have computers which your kids can play learning games and offer other educational learning entertainment.

6.  Librarians are Trained Recommenders

Found a book your kid loved? Librarians can suggest readalikes to keep your kid reading and engaged all summer!

7. Libraries Have Your Kids' Favorite Characters

Feeling a little intimidated with what to check out with all that the library has to offer? Start with your kid's favorite TV characters. You'll find books, DVDs, music, and maybe even video games that star their current interest in the moment.

8. Fun Programs

Check out the library calendar to see what events and programs they are holding throughout the summer. They offer them throughout the day and on weekends. They hire professional performers as well as host their own events for a great variety. Everything is free!

9. Don't Worry About Fines

Who hasn't lost a library book? Or misplaced a DVD? If your fines are below the set limit (usually $10), it will not hold you back from checking something out at the library. If it is higher, you are still welcomed to participate in programs, visit the play area, and use the computers. Most libraries will even have a fine forgiveness summer event where you can clear your fines with doing something as simple as bringing in a few can goods. Call and ask! But whatever you do, don't feel embarrassed. Even librarians rack up fines.

10. Libraries Aren't Safe to Leave Little Kids Alone

Libraries love kids, but librarians worry about little kids when there's no adult (or older sibling - usually age 9 or above) around to keep an eye on them. Libraries are a busy place these days and they are open to the public. Librarians are constantly away from the desk, either running a program, preparing for a program, or helping patrons. They can't keep your precious little ones safe.

Bonus: You can use the library from the comfort of your own home!

Check out your library's website. Do they offer Hoopla, Freegal, or Overdrive? These places will let you download movies, TV shows, audio books, music, and ebooks with just inputting your library card number. You can also request books ahead of time so you can just stop at the library to pick up books and you won't have to be stressed trying to browse with kids.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ready to Go Book Display: Dogs

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. We are looking at books featuring some of our favorite four legged friends. This month is dogs! (Check out our Cats Display.)

Recommendations for Adults:

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel (Oct 2012)

An award-winning pet photographer and animal rights activist presents 80 underwater portraits of canine pals, each with their own unique personalities depicted in the bubbles, paws in mid-paddle and billowing ears. 

For all the love and attention we give dogs, much of what they do remains mysterious. This book uses the latest science on dog cognition and emotion to share new information and myth-bust about about our furry friends. 

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet's Journey by Stephen Kuusisto (Mar 2018)

A blind poet describes his relationship with his first guide dog and how it changed his life and gave him a newfound appreciation for travel and independence. 

A Dog's Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron (May 2017)

Traces the story of Bella, a dog who is drawn to Lucas Ray, only to be separated from him by rules that disallow pitbulls in their Denver community, a situation that compels the puppy to travel back to the person she loves.

Recommendations for Teens:

Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire (Sep 2013)

Based on the web phenomenon Dog Shaming and containing photos that are all-new and exclusive to the book, this hilarious album showcases adorable snapshots of shamed pups confessing their biggest - and grossest - sins.

Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth by Guinnevere Shuster (May 2016)

What better way to showcase adoptable dogs than by letting their true personalities shine in a photo booth!

Presents selections from the popular Twitter account that combines photographs of dogs with ridiculous captions.

Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood (Apr 2018)

In the near future, the few surviving dogs are studied in a sanctuary, Dog Island, where seventeen-year-old Nano Miller tests robotic dogs, seeks her missing brother, and her experiences her first romance. 

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus (Apr 2013)

Follows the World War I experiences of Stanley, who upon joining the war effort to escape his father is assigned to the experimental War Dog School, where he trains a Great Dane with whom he attempts to find his missing soldier brother.

Recommendations for Kids: 

Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs by Jacky Davis (Mar 2018)

While at the farmers' market with her mama, Ladybug Girl spies some rescue dogs and, together with the Bug Squad, finds one of them a forever home.

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart (Mar 2018)

Brodie the dog returns from the afterlife to save his boy. 

Learn about dogs, famous and infamous and otherwise, throughout history.

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (Aug 2016)

The heroic adventures of Greg the police dog who, after being injured on the job at the side of his police officer companion, makes history through a life-saving surgery that transforms him into Dog Man.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensey (Apr 2018)

When he is paired with a girl who has lost her legs, Rescue worries that he isn't up to the task of being a service dog. 

Let's Find Momo! by Andrew Knapp (Apr 2017)

In this board book, fan-favorite Internet sensation border collie Momo hides within lavishly detailed, photographic spreads that also invite children to search for other hidden objects.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Creating a Plan to Create an Escape Room

Despite our best efforts, the 5 Minute Librarian team doesn't know absolutely everything there is to know about librarianship. Luckily, we do know some really awesome people. This week, we have guest blogger Christina Dufour, Teen Librarian at the Thayer Public Library in Braintree, Massachusetts, to walk us through one of the coolest - and most intimidating - programs ideas we've seen lately: Creating escape rooms.

So you want to create an escape room…now what?


The first thing I did before creating any of my Escape Rooms was to do field research – I went and played in several Escape Rooms.  In my area that is a 5 Wits as well as Escape Rhode Island in Providence.  I played several different narratives to see what kinds of puzzles we might be able to use and how different places designed their rooms.  Since then, I have also read several articles about what other libraries are doing. You can use lock boxes, Morse code, word searches, black light flash lights, and tons of other stuff! With all that in mind, here’s how I ran 2 different Escape Rooms for our library.

Choosing a Theme & Narrative

For me, when planning a room, choosing the theme is the first step.  In my mind, there’s no sense planning a room of puzzles first.  It has been much easier to pick a theme, create the narrative, and then plot the puzzles.  I use my flyers to communicate what the theme is, but the narrative stays a surprise!
Last year, our community read theme was themed around art.  So I created an Escape Room under the guise that Scott Cawthon (Five Nights at Freddie’s creator) had a traveling art exhibit.  The narrative was that teens had been invited for a private tour 15 minute tour of Scott’s private art gallery consisting of tons of framed Video Game art prints (thank you, internet!) but Scott was nowhere to be found.  Rumor had it that he had hidden an Easter egg to his next video game somewhere in the room, but teens only had 15 minutes to search and find it before getting caught.  Now, I don’t actually know Scott Cawthon, so all of this is made up, but my teens had fun anyways.
My second theme and narrative is Stranger Things-inspired (it will be taking place next week during school vacation). My Teen Advisory Group voted for this theme and I focused on the narrative.  Luckily, it syncs up with our mystery theme for this year’s community read.  The idea is that teens have been invited on a tour (man, I like giving tours…) of the Hawkins Laboratory. The only problem is that, just before arriving, a monster may or may not have been let loose in the lab.  Now teens have 15 minutes to solve* the puzzles in the room and find the code that will unlock the door override system. 
*Please note that most Escape Rooms are traditionally longer.  1 hour is most common but, due to time constraints and limited staffing, my rooms have been condensed down to 15 minutes.  I do let teams re-try a room, if time or participating teams permit.

Escape Prep:

                Now that you have your theme and your narrative, you’ll need to pick some puzzles and an end goal.  The end goal could be to unlock a box, find a key, or find a certain thing.  With my first room, there was a hidden object (a book) that contained the video game plans.  With my second room, they need to find a 3 digit code that contains the “off switch”. 
                I find that working from the end goal backward is helpful, as was asking my teens for input because I used some and then some of what they had to say spawned other ideas.  I also like to use, what I am calling, a “puzzle planner” – this helps me think methodically through any puzzles I want to use and track how they link to each other and the goal.  The attached one was one brainstormed from Teen Advisory Group and hasn’t actually been tested…
It also helps to be aware of what you can logistically use.  For both of these rooms, I think I spent under $50. I purchased two blacklight sets (yellow, blue, pink pens with blacklight lights) from Amazon. I also purchased 2 Vaultz lockboxes and 1 mini lock box with a key from Amazon.  Everything else was printed or recycled from within the library.  We don’t have any doors to actually lock, so the word locks wouldn’t have made sense for us.
This year I am using a word search and Morse code, which is easy because there are online word search builders as well as Morse Code keys. I plan to print multiple word searches and simply replace them during the reset phase.
                With the Art Exhibit Escape Room, I used our program room.  This room has 2 kitchens and 2 tech closets, so I explained to teens that they were to stay within the open space unless a clue specifically said otherwise (the book was hidden in a kitchen).  I used several tables and placed Video Game pictures in black frames.  I hung some up as well.  There was also one random vase (which contained tissue paper and the blacklight lights).  Some of the picture frames had blacklight messages, such as “nice try!”, “so close!”, and several math equations.  These numbers (when all found) gave them the code for lockbox #1*.  This box contained a key.  The key led them to the locked “cash” box (with printed Monopoly money).  If they noticed, there were only the same couple of bills in there.  On the back were more blacklight flashlights and simple math.  Again, put the 3 digits together and it unlocked the final box.  The final box told them it was “behind these doors” and they’d be able to find the book.  Don’t be afraid to add red herrings - if you have a longer program especially - because it adds to the fun. 
Note: *If you use Vaultz lockboxes, keep that code!  It’s a pain to have to reset it without it.  You can change the numbers after initial set up, but you’ll need that first code.
The plan sounds like a lot, and for some groups it was, but I allowed all teams to try to ‘beat their time’ and they loved that.  We also used this set up with a Dr. Seuss art museum theme for the children’s department.  It was slightly different as we dropped a lot of the math parts.
Next week, we will be running Escape the Lab (a Stranger Things-inspired Escape Room) in our program room.  Here’s the rough outline:
Teens have been invited for a tour and now have to escape.  In the room, they will find several things: a board game and 2 boxes. One is locked and needs a 3 digit code, one is unlocked and contains cassette tapes.  If players open the board game, they will find a Morse code key, a word search, a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet partially filled out, and D4 dice.  (Please note: you won’t need to think about a red herring here because the board game choice doesn’t matter – it will be enough to throw them off.)  In the unlocked box are several cassette tapes, blacklight flashlights, and a journal entry from Dustin.
The goal of this is the 3 digit coded box, as it contains the “off switch.” 
Digit 1: The teams will need to realize that there is Morse code on the board game box as well as the D&D character sheet.  The Morse code key is in the box, so they just have to see what it spells (eight, 8).  
Digit 2: The word search contains only The Clash songs from their album Combat Rock – in particular it had “Should I Stay or Should I Go” a few times.  If they look at the cassette tapes, they will find Combat Rock (and other albums) and in that album case is a clue that says “track 3” (3).  (Sidenote: I don’t actually own cassette tapes anymore.  I used cassette tapes that had been donated to the library, which we normally throw out, and upcycled them.  I measured the cassette tapes, recreated the album cover, and created a track list in Publisher.  With mod podge, I glued the new album covers to the inside front of the case, and the tracklistings to the inside behind the cassette tape, so it would still shut).  
Digit 3: The D&D sheet is important.  It’s Dustin’s (well…it says so on top) and there is a journal entry where he takes notes.  If teams read it, they will realize that Dustin brought 4 D4s this session, as he was expecting to level up to 4th by the end of that day (4).  (I fibbed A LOT here, as I don’t actually have a D&D book to rule check 1983’s Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook and haven’t read that edition).  

Enter 834 and they can get to the off switch!

Before the Day of:

                Before the day of your program, you’ll want to consider the following: how much time am I allowing for play and how much time will I need to reset?  Also, for waiting teams, what will they be doing?  I typically give 15 minutes for teams to solve the room, 5 minutes to reset- repeat.  I run this over a 2 hour time frame. While waiting, I have provided word searches, riddles, and other games that get teens brains working. 

On the Day of:

On the day of your room, you’ll want to consider the following:
  •     Do I have all of my puzzle pieces?  Am I missing anything important?
  •     Do I have/need a timer?
  •     If I wrote a clue in blacklight, can it still be read? (Sometimes blacklight ink fades, making it next to impossible to read with the lights.  You may need to redo/reink these clues.)
  •     Have I created something for teams to do while waiting?

In the end, it doesn’t take much to be clever.  Your teens are experiencing an Escape Room for free and are bound to have fun with their friends. 

In Conclusion

Many thanks to Christina for her valuable input on an intimidating topic! We'd love to hear if you have attempted to create an escape room, and how it went for you. Tell us in the comments here, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Star Wars Day: 6 Ways the Library Strikes Back

So, you like Star Wars. Your kids like Star Wars. Your kids' kids like Star Wars. Did you know that one of the best places to celebrate Star Wars Day is at your Public Library? We kid you not! Here are 6 ways the force can be with you:

1. Star Wars Events

Lots of libraries celebrate Stars Wars Day with special events. It could be anything from meeting the characters from the movie to making yoda cookies to building pool noodle sabers! Check out your library's calendar to see what they have planned.

2. Star Wars DVDs

Don't own every DVD in the Star Wars series? No worries, every library has the whole collection and if it is checked out, you can request it from another library through interlibrary loan, if your library participates in that service. (Go here to see the complete list of movies:

3. Star Wars Books

There is so much to the Star Wars franchise than just movies and toys. There are also a lot of books for adults to teens to kids (here's a great starter list we made a few years ago). Even babies can enjoy learning the ABCs with their favorite Star Wars characters. You can read stories which continue on the saga, you could learn how to make special arts and crafts like Yoda ears, you could make your own Star Wars costume... If your library has Hoopla or Overdrive, you don't even need to step a foot into the library to get the ebooks or audiobooks!

4. Star Wars Music

Did you know you can check out CDs from the library? You can enjoy the original motion picture soundtracks, lullaby renditions for your baby, the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, and more! If your library offers Freegal Music, you can download three songs each month to keep forever! (No returning!) 

5. Star Wars Games

Libraries also offer video games and board games! Go to your library's catalog and search Star Wars (limit to games) and see what pops up! Every library offers something different, but Stars Wars is a popular theme. Who wouldn't want to play a game of Star Wars Guess Who or Star Wars Battlefront II?

6.  3D Print Star Wars Models

If you are lucky to have a library that has a 3D Printer (Not all of them do, though check nearby libraries as well), then you are in luck! There are so many different ways to use that printer for Star Wars decor:

So, what are you doing for Star Wars Day? Perhaps visiting your library?