Outside the Box

Earlier this month, our children’s librarian was unexpectedly out of town, and so we had to cancel our baby/toddler storytime (we’re super-short-staffed right now and I couldn’t run the storytime and be at our circulation desk at the same time).  When I called all the parents, I mentioned that I’d put out the toys and put on some fun music in case they wanted to stop by anyway.

That morning, when I went back to grab the toys and shaker blocks, I was absolutely stunned to see that the used-everytime shaker blocks were kept in the most generic and covered-in-some-sort-of-advertising box I could imagine.  It was sturdy, but sad.  I had never even noticed this embarrassing box before – how long had this been going on?

I kept the box out on our back counter after the (barely-attended) non-storytime happened, and when Mary arrived an hour later, I mentioned that we really should do something with this box.  I spent most of that day finishing up my large social media display, and eventually left the Children’s Library to hang the display at our Main location.  I was gone for about an hour, and when I returned, Mary had put up the smaller social media display at Kids’ and was finishing-up her redesign of the shaker box.  My jaw dropped.

She did it with super-cheap on-hand materials: construction paper and colored masking tape.  She’d cut off the box lid flaps (that had just been shoved into the inside of the box), and used the tape to cover the lip of the box.  The way that she made it will make it easily fixable in case one of the panels gets damaged.  She took the initiative and made something fast, cheap, bright, and fun.  She’s a rockstar – of should I say boxstar (teehee)!

Update: This box lasted a little over a year with several repairs. I made a few other storage boxes like this, including our office paper recycling box. They lasted for about the same time as well. The tape tended to pull and peel away, and they eventually looked tattered, and so we moved on to using colorful plastic crates.

I Spy a Summer Reading Picture Find

This summer I’m taking on the exciting (and sometimes daunting) task of helping on both the Children’s and the Adult Summer Reading Program.  I’m also there for our Young Adult Librarian in case she needs anything (but she’s awesome, so I doubt I’ll need to do much).  Our library participates in the Collaborative Summer Library Program, so every year we get a fun theme with which to play.  This year the children’s theme is Dig into Reading.  Needless to say, I, like many library workers, have been brainstorming what we can do with that theme from the moment it was announced.

Long story shortish, a few months ago I had a flash of inspiration – and I know it was because I saw some other librarian’s work with making really great looking 3-D “I Spy” display case, and then saw this adorable artwork by Amy Schimler.  My guess (because I’m not 100% sure how my mind works most of the time – just ask my coworkers), is that I saw the word “found” on Schimler’s piece, I thought “lost and found,” which led to “seek and find,” looping to “I Spy.”  SHAZAM!  I knew that I wanted to make a giant seek-and-find poster featuring burrowing animals for one of our front windows this summer.  Children would pick up the “worksheets” pointing them to what they need to find at our circulation desk, and then could spend some time outside our building looking for the “hidden” animals.  The added bonus is that the giant poster would also provide some much-needed shade during the hottest months of the year (woe to the library worker who must sit in that position closest to the windows – it gets hot).

I spent time searching for public domain clip art and quickly decided that I liked the old fashioned-looking woodcut animals.  Because of their aged look, I’m guessing that’s what led me to thinking about how cool they’d look with old paper.  I again raided our ongoing book sale and found several perfect options.  I also found some good book clip art that came close to matching the animals’ styles.  After all, I needed to have something for the kids to seek: the animals interacting with the books.

I’ve been working on this poster off-and-on for the past two months (between finding the clip art, doing some photoshopping, printing, cutting – with a HUGE assist from Mary – and lots and lots of taping), and this weekend I finally added all of the animals.  At this point all I need to do is add the rest of the small footprints and books, which will wait until the day it goes up.  I had to gently fold up the giant poster and hope that the majority of what I’d stuck on today with double-sided tape would remain stuck-on.

All this is to say that I want to share this with anyone out there that would like to use the imagery that I found, or that I tweaked.  Below are pdfs of the animals, books, “hidden” animals, and footprints that you should feel free to download and use.  If you’d like me to also send you the jpegs or pngs, then just contact me via email and I’ll send any or all to you that you’d like.  You can also simplify this concept to the core and use white craft paper and print out the animals/books on white paper, then cut/paste! One more note: the “hidden aardvark” is the only one I feel that I could’ve done better, but with time being an issue, I just went with the blurry version that I created.

Hidden Animals

Update:  This display was up for two full months – and it was definitely popular…for a couple of weeks.  It was dramatic and fun, but once a child had found the animals once, they had no desire to do it again.  However, we have gotten some wonderful feedback about it, and so in the future we may do a different variation on this.  I’m thinking that we should figure out a way to change the images-to-be-found on a weekly basis, and that would probably keep it fresh to the children.  Finally, it was also super-awesome at blocking the harsh sunlight that comes in in the morning – so no matter what, we’ll have something large-scale next summer to help the staff working closest to the window from suffering the heat and glare.

May Flowers

This is one of those projects where I can only take a tiny-bit-o-credit for anything but putting two other peoples’ ideas together, and then asking the amazing Mary to make it happen.  If anything, I actually hurt the project a bit when I tried to help and discovered the best way to attach the 3-D flowers to the ceiling if our main goal was to have them randomly drop and startle both staff and patrons alike.  But the end results are absolutely lovely and just brighten my day every time that I come into work.

Here’s where I got my core inspirations:  Our 3-D Flower Inspiration.  Yes, this first one’s in Bulgarian – if your browser can translate, then great! Otherwise it’s pretty clear what to do based on the visuals alone. (Gosh, I love the internet!) Instead of sewing, Mary used quick-dry craft glue.  This second inspiration for our 2-D flowers made my mind go “gosh, that paper looks like it was color-washed with paint.”  It was a shazam-moment, because up to that point I was planning on using tissue paper again.  I excitedly called Mary when she was working at the Main Library and had her gather some larger picture books from our Book Sale that had been sitting there for months.  I explained to her that we could color-wash the pages pretty colors and then make all of our flowers, both 3 and 2-D, out of them.  She took those ideas and totally ran with them with magnificent results.

Basically, she used some liquid watercolor paints, a spray bottle of water, and a good paint brush.  She removed the pages out of some large outdated junior non-fiction books and she would add color, spray water, spread the color over the paper and sometimes spray one more time to create interesting patterns.  After the first side dried, then sometimes she’d repeat on the other side – usually using a different color.  Many times she left the other side as-is, which was equally pretty.

Once the pages were painted, then she either used a paper cutter to cut out strips of various sizes for the 3-D petals, or would freestyle the large 2-D petals.  Then lots of gluing.

Finally, minimal tape was used to hang-up the 2-D flowers.  She added a fun and unexpected 3-D element to the flower stems with the leaves naturally drooping over.  LOVE it.

The silly way that I had tried to hang the 3-D flowers? I poked a hole in one of the flower petals and stuck one end of some fishing line through it and taped the heckie-pooh out of the end.  Then the other end of the line was looped over a wooden beam and tied with a knot.  The majority of the flowers fell off the end of the line.  We had to go back whenever a flower fell and just loop the line around a petal (similar to the original inspiration blog) and tie a knot or two with the one end of line.  For good measure we’d also tape down the end of the line onto the petal.  We had the doors open the other day to let in the springtime breeze and the flowers looked so pretty twirling in the breeze – and NOT ONE fell down with the secondary tying method.

Mary also made a “May Flowers” sign in the front door (I couldn’t get a good pic of it due to all of the crazy reflections on the glass).

My favorite part of this whole thing?  I was checking out books to a boy (around 7 years old), and he was looking at one of the giant window flowers.  Suddenly he said in a somewhat awed tone “that’s like Eric Carle.”  That was never our intention, but it was one of the best compliments we’ve received about any of our displays.

Oooh! Shiny!

I’m veering back into personal-land here with a post that I’ve wanted to do since Hafuboti’s beginning: my shiny art!

If you recall my blinged-out Vader that Peaches shared with the world, well, when I was finished with that project I had quite a bit of leftover bling.  I couldn’t let those glittery jewels be stored away in some dark corner of the apartment!  I had an extra canvas laying around and I know that I had to have seen some sort of super-cool text art somewhere which must have been my inspiration.  I had the sparkle, the canvas, and a hot glue gun, and an idea – all I needed was something to spell-out in rhinestones.  It had to be short so that the wording would be visible and easy-to-read.  Enter my love of the show Firefly.


It is what it says it is.  Boom.

I eyeballed the lettering and wrote it out using a pencil and then it was a matter of patience.

This sucker is heavy – but it’s home is leaning up against a wall in my living room (so I don’t have to worry about drywall support for it).  There still is a lot of the hot glue webbing all over it, but I hadn’t tried to clean it too much since I had been planning to add more bling to it to make it even more dramatic (you can sort of tell that I was starting that process around the “S” and the lower portion of the “H”).  Once it was officially done, then I would go back and clean it up (but from a distance it looks perfectly fine).

The only reason that I’ve never posted it before is that I never could get a good picture of it.  The lighting in our apartment is atrocious, so anytime I attempted a picture, it looked more sad than sparkly.  But I realized last night that I had plenty of light at work – so I brought in my Shiny work this morning before work and finally was able to capture some good pictures.

I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory, but please let me know if you have any questions about this process!

Bulletin Board Makeover

At the Children’s Library, directly across from the circulation desk hangs our events bulletin board.  It was very dark and utilitarian, but it got the job done of sharing both community and library events.  But I think that when most people think “children’s library” they don’t imagine utilitarian and gray things.

For awhile I’d been letting the thought of what to do with it percolate in my mind, and I finally decided to share that thought with Mary, one of my wonderful teammates.  I told her my kernel of an idea to turn the board into a TV with a color test pattern on it, and with some sort of label saying something like “take a look at what’s happening in the community.”  She liked the idea and so we started brainstorming about how we could make this happen.  We were chatting away when all of a sudden our teenage library page chirped up from somewhere in the stacks “Felt! Use felt!”  Mary and I looked at each other and went tearing back to the craft closet (high fiving our page as we passed her) to look into our felt collection.  We were short a few colors, so I made a list of ones to pick up along with some spray adhesive on my next library shopping trip.  We were wrapping things up for the night when our amazing page chimed in again, “You should totally put an antenna on top.”  SHAZAM! And suddenly our “new” bulletin board went from cute to SUH-WEET.  Never underestimate the power of a creative library page.

Within a week I had the felt and adhesive.  Mary then went about measuring, cutting, and laying out the whole thing.  She truly did an amazing job that would’ve taken me days to do (she did it in a few hours).  I also picked up a cheap rabbit-ear antenna, some white thumb tacks, and some googly eyes.  Yes.  Thumb tacks + googly eyes + super glue = super-crazy fun (and cheap) thumb tacks. So far the thumb tacks have worked fine – we just have to be careful sticking them in/pulling them out since the googly eyed parts are pretty weak.  If they eventually fall apart, then I may just invest in some sturdier pre-made ones.

UPDATE: The googly eyed thumb tacks finally were retired this year (3 years later) because they discolored in the sun and looked jaundiced. So we’re using plain white thumb tacks. For now. Heh.

For the antenna, I used a small angled snipping pliers (usually used for jewelry stuff) to trim the plastic post on the base where the antennas come together.  Then I stuck some cheap adhesive putty in the resulting hole and hot glued that bad boy down, but at a bit of an angle so that it comes out from the board a bit more.

In terms of adding a title to the board, I had the realization that we should create an emergency crawl near the bottom of the “screen.”  So Mary ran with that idea and found the perfect computer graphicesque font, typed a good title, printed it out, arranged, and adhered it to the now bright and cheery board.

So there you have it – from idea to completion – one of my favorite things that I get to look at in the library every day!

And with flyers:

UPDATE: Three years later it’s still going strong! There’s a bit of wear on the felt and the paper “band” near the base, but that’s it! Yay!