My First Guerrilla Storytime

The past month was sort of a whirlwind with me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and contemplating things that I hope to share in the near future. But, one thing I had to share ahead of everything else was my experience hosting the Nebraska Library Association’s first Guerrilla Storytime at the 2015 annual conference.

You can read the transcript over on the SCYP blog (where I need to do some updating).

But, I thought that it’d be fun to share what I learned in hosting such an event. First and foremost: no gorillas were harmed in this process – though I did spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for a fun gorilla image on the webz that I could use in this post.


Here’s the nitty-gritty if you ever have even contemplated doing a Guerrilla Storytime:

1. My preparation started the day before the event when I said to my boss, “I should probably prepare for the event.”

I proceeded to put together a list of questions for the jar. Which would have gone crazy-fast if I’d realized that the awesome ladies at Storytime Underground had already done that.I also raided my Children’s Librarian’s cabinet-o-stuff to grab scarves, egg shakers, and plastic blocks. I brought my ukulele along. That’s it.Now, some of you might know that I’m a Type A personality, so I like to be PREPARED and usually overthink and worry about things.

This event? Crazy-easy. My only slight concerns were that a) no one would show up, or b) people would show up but not share anything. But I had faith in the youth service community, and that faith was affirmed a bajillion times over. I had to use the jar more heavily in the beginning since it took everyone a while to both wake up and get into the rhythm of thing.s

2. Be careful where you put your phone (assuming that you’re recording just the audio using your phone). I’d say videotaping would be even better, but I didn’t want to add that job to anyone attending – I wanted it to be fun for all.Thank goodness that I moved my phone onto the second row next to the aisle, because when listening to the conversations, I could really make out even the quietest voices in the room.

But, I set the phone alarm to go off ten minutes before the end (since I hoped that we would have trouble leaving the session – we did). At that point, I grabbed my phone and set it next to me, which was right next to a projector. A projector that was on, so its fan was humming along.When I got to that part of the event while transcribing it? I couldn’t hear ANYTHING – barely even my own voice. And I was devastated because one of my favorite moments was lost.

3. Next year I plan to get to the room earlier (it was the very first session of the first day – UGH – and started when I’m usually taking my second round of morning medication, so I was struggling). I want to get there earlier so that I can arrange the room in a circle if possible. I think it will have had better energy that way, and everyone should be able to see everything better. It will also really help with that audio recording issue.

4. Finally, my biggest struggle which will probably be my biggest struggle next year: shutting my dang mouth. I’m one of the world’s biggest introverts (my husband and I marvel that we ever met because I NEVER LEAVE MY HOME after I get home from work), but get me on a stage, even a quasi-stage, and I will ham it up to the nth degree.My mantra, after I realized that I was speaking more than I really needed to was “you’re not the center of attention, you’re not the center of attention, just facilitate the conversation,” and repeat.

It sort of goes back to my thoughts on how I want to steadfastly sparkle this year (and for years to come). This was a perfect chance to embrace that goal. Did I handle it as well as I’d like? No. But I have a good goal for next year, because heck yeah I want to do it again!

Basically, what I’m saying here is that every state conference should have a Guerrilla Storytime. It’s the easiest event to do with tons of rewards. I mean, at minimum you’ll walk away feeling energized and so proud/inspired by what others do for their communities.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about this, or even if you’re contemplating maybe submitting a proposal for a Guerrilla Storytime and need to freak out to someone that isn’t in your state. I’ll talk you down with an email that will basically say (with the added bonus of a funny/cute image or two) “you’ll be fine – you and the attendees will love it!”

[Top image is The 1949 Traveler’s Gorilla ad posted on – where you can buy the original ad if you were so inclined.]

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