Im in ur blog…

…writing about kitties!

Today I’m a guest contributor at the awesome ALSC blog!!!

Click on pretty much anything on this post and it’ll lead you to a super sweet story that an attendee shares about our Kitty Cafe!

Click here to learn the origins along with tips about having your own Kitty Cafe (which you totally should do).

A HUGE thank you to the ALSC blog for sharing Christina, Zoe, and Abigail’s story.

The Kitty Cafe

Our library's first Kitty Cafe! Partnering with our local humane society and coffee shop? Possibly the purrrfect program! |
Sometimes the stars align, a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, and someone posts cute kitty pictures on the web. One such day happened a few months ago, and what it led to was one of the most remarkable events I have ever experienced.

I must confess, of all the social media that I manage for our library, Twitter is the one that seems the dullest to me. There’s just not a lot of interaction, but then again I don’t put a heck of a lot of effort into cultivating it. So, when the Nebraska Humane Society posted yet another crazy-adorable picture of kittens, I impulsively responded. And magic happened.

(To this day the above photo just kills me with teh cutes)

I cannot even put into words how I felt about this interaction (especially because I was the specific person that they could contact to try something out), so here’s a gif:

The Humane Society turned out to be a wonderful partner, and they even have their own PR department that helped with promoting this event. They said that I could focus on the local, and they’d do their more widespread thing. It really sunk in when we received a phone call from someone who’d heard about the event on the radio. I’m not aware of any of our events hitting the airwaves before.

I mean, seriously? More people liked this Humane Society Facebook post than we have page likes. Kinda awesome (well, except for the whole not having that many page likes).

The setup for this event was crazy-easy: a table with coffee/creamers in our foyer, putting away our tables in the meeting room, and edging the room with some chairs. Our Children’s Librarian even offered up the use of her rolling dry erase/felt easel to put outside declaring that the Kitty Cafe was open.

Having managed cafes in bookstores before, I knew that health codes would be an issue with this. I did reach out to our county’s health department, but I never did hear anything back. So I did the thing that seemed wisest: I had the coffee in a completely separate room from where the kittens were. This had the added benefit of allowing at least one (allergic to cats) mom a nice place to hang out while her older kids went in with the kittens.

I had also reached out to a local coffee shop to be a part of this, but did not receive a response. Next time around, I’ll approach the competing coffee shop in town (a chain, but it’s Nebraska-based). That was probably my biggest disappointment – I was excited about helping a local business get some positive PR, and to be met with crickets? *sad face*

During the event, I was the only library staff member at the building since the Main Library was closed (it’s a long story). So, except for the first hour when the kittens were acclimating to the new space, I didn’t have time to enjoy the kitties ::trombone wah wah:: BUT, I already have an amazing 13 year old cat, so playing with the kittens would have been a bit selfish on my part. I spent my time welcoming people (many whom I did not recognize), and shooting videos.

Our meeting room is where the Friends of the Gretna Library house their booksale, and it’s worth mentioning that they made $42 during this event!

Oh, and obviously this event struck a chord: a family in Lincoln (40-ish miles away) drove up having seen the Humane Society’s Facebook post that morning. And there were quite a few comments on that thread about “I want this to happen in my city!” How cool is that?!

Ultimately, all four kittens found forever homes which still gets me all sorts of choked-up. Every person (except one), thanked me and the Humane Society ladies for such a neat event. I must say, I’ve never had such a positive warm-fuzzy response to any of our events before. And people were asking if/when we’d do it again!

There definitely was a huge learning curve during the event, and I’ll share those things (including why the one person was unhappy), plus a few tips for you if you decide to try an event like this – all of this after this video that I made of the event:

Okay, so here are some things I feel that I should point out about this event in case you’re interested in doing this at your library:

  • Look for areas where kittens might hide and try to block most of them. Our kittens would get overwhelmed and hide behind a huge filing cabinet (in a space that I thought that they wouldn’t be able to fit into). Then kids would bother them even more by trying to lure them out.So it’s good for them to have places to hide for a break, but hopefully it’s in an area where extraction by an adult can happen without fear of bodily harm (it took four of us after the event was over to get one of the kittens out of her hiding spot).
  • We gave the kittens an hour to acclimate to the space, and then we opened the doors. Next time we’re considering having the first hour of the cafe be for adults-only. This is because there was such a rush of enthusiastic families, that the kittens were almost immediately worn out from the kids’ energy. The adults who would sit patiently sort of got the short end of the stick. Having an early adults-only time might also help the kittens acclimate further while getting used to strangers being around them.
  • Speaking of kids: I think that I should put together a short script (maybe with the help of the Humane Society) to help educate them on how to treat the kittens such as “no chasing” and “you must be seated to hold a kitten.” Things like that. Many parents helped guide their children, but there were plenty of others who didn’t seem concerned that their children were being too rough on the kittens.
  • Along those lines we did have one upset woman. It was tough to understand why she was upset, but from what I could gather after I asked several open ended questions was that she had expected to be able and purchase the kittens like a cup of coffee, and was upset that with 20 minutes left to go, all of the kittens were worn out, hiding, or already claimed. It seemed like she did not understand that the Humane Society adopts and does not sell animals (or force them to amuse people). So with that in mind, on our flyer I might make it clear that you can claim a kitten at the library, and then go to the Humane Society later that day to fill out the adoption papers and pay the fee. Here’s what our flyer looked like:
  • We may also use a baby gate in the doorway instead of opening/closing the door. I’m not sure how convenient that will be for letting people in and out, but it’s something to consider. It may also help keep the number of people down in the room if they can easily look in and see what’s happening.
  • One of the awesome Humane Society ladies (::waves hi to Sarah::) is also considering bringing slightly older kittens. At that point, however, we would need to be extra careful about the number of people allowed in the room at a time. We would also possibly need waivers for those going in to sign stating that they won’t hold us liable if a kitten or cat bites and/or claws them.
  • Finally, if you’ve been wondering about library staff members’ allergies: it wasn’t a problem (one of the other reasons having a separate room is so great). Our Director is terribly allergic to cats, and since I cleaned/vacuumed/practically hosed down the room right after the program, she didn’t even have a sniffle come Monday morning.

And I think that about covers it! As always, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments or by email if you have any questions. I’d love to see this awesome life-changing event (for both people and cats) sweep the nation’s libraries and Humane Societies!

Minecraft IRL

Eep! I’ve had to let the blogging slide a bit since things in my life and at work have been…interesting. Yes. We’ll say interesting. But we’ve had some great themes that I’ve been dying to share with y’all, so let’s get back to it. I mean, I’m dying to share what we’re doing this month since our front windows have had a fabulous response from the public (and we may have discovered my favorite medium to use on the windows). But I digress, and need to digress a bit more time-wise.

Back in September we had a big crossover celebration of Minecraft at both library locations, with the teens playing a big part. The focus on this particular game was because we were launching our own server that kids/teens could register for and interact with other library patrons:

The above video was created by our new Young Adult Librarian Dustan. The server was his brainchild, and his enthusiasm for the project was infectious. Actually, his enthusiasm for everything in the library is infectious – he’s been a joyous addition to our team.

All of us were exhausted after a very dramatic and tense summer, and so Dustan offered to have the members of our TAB decorate the Children’s Library for us. They took over the Children’s Library for a few hours during a day that that location was closed. Minecraft mashup songs were played, snacks were snacked upon, and lots and lots of construction paper squares were taped onto windows.

It wasn’t until I was writing this that I realized that I never did get a picture of the completed front windows. It’s one of those things that apparently fell through the cracks, and I’m a bit bummed. But I think y’all get the gist of what it looked like.

I’m not that much into Minecraft, but I understand its appeal. But OH MY LORD the number of kids who were wildly excited about the characters in the windows. I think some parents of younger kids were shocked that they knew who and what all of the characters were.

The teens also helped me with my experimental origami clouds. Basically, large pieces of white craft paper that we folded into half of a box. Later, we hung them from the ceiling to try and make them look like pixelated clouds. On a scale from bad to success – they fell somewhere in the middle – more of an eh. 

Our newest team member Natasia (who holds a degree in art) was given the daunting task of creating a 3D Minecraft flying chicken. Considering none of us have attempted something like this before, she really rocked it.

And only one wing fell off once – right at closing so no one got hit by an errant chicken wing. It was fixed the next morning, and the rest of the chicken’s limbs were reinforced.

Did you notice the clouds? Yeah, I didn’t think so – they’re just…eh. But the chicken wins the show. I call her Sir Clucksalot, and loved her so much that I had her hung above my desk. The view from my chair:

Another one of our newer employees (a former teen summer intern for us) Shelby made a scavenger hunt focused on finding small versions of the various characters. Normally it’s parents who have to help their kids on the scavenger hunt – this time around it was more likely the parents who would need the kids to show them what they were looking for. Heh. For the prize, I made a special bookmark featuring our dragon mascot drawn all Minecraft-like:

The whole time that I worked on him I kept singing to myself Libraries for nuthin’ and your books for freeI want my, I want my, I want my li-brar-y.

Feel free to curse my name for getting that stuck in your head. Or, if you don’t know the Dire Straits song, then do not look it up and be grateful to avoid an insidious earworm.

Besides the opening of our library’s Minecraft server, the other big event of the month was a Minecraft In Real Life event that was a collaboration between our Children’s and Young Adult Librarians. It was pretty awesome on many levels.

Dustan took some bottle poppers that I donated (after realizing that my kitty would never forgive me if we popped them inside our new home) and he wrapped them with a Minecraft TNT paper so that they looked like this:

I loved these so much! I think that the empty bottles were kept as souvenirs by everyone.

They were used for the finale of the event where Dustan dressed up as a Minecraft skeleton and the kids chased him outside, surrounded him, and set off their poppers. And yes, he told the kids afterwards that he knew that the skeleton would have burst into flames by going outside into the sun, but there was no way we were gonna set off poppers inside the library.

That about covers it for September! But before I end this post, I thought there were a few things you might enjoy knowing and/or using. The top photo on this post I created using these cubees and this font (which I made more true-to-the-original by using Photoshop). Please feel free to click on that image for a higher-res version that you can use for your own programming. And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about this!


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.]

Artsy April

Artsy April: celebrating the arts at our Children's Library! |

What a month!

I knew it was going to be fun/intense, but boy howdy was it fun/intense!

Artsy April actually began two months ago when I reached out to all of our local public schools’ art teachers. I simply wanted to see if they wanted to participate in turning our Children’s Library into an art gallery. We would provide them with as many sheets of card stock that they’d like, and would pick up the work by mid-March. The only thing was that the artwork would not be returned since most of it would be sewn into mobiles.

Two of the six teachers that I reached out to said a very enthusiastic “yes!”


Then a lovely library patron allowed me to come to her very beautiful home and walk around her vast property picking up sticks. She and one of her sons helped me load my car with as many sticks as would fit. It was a neat experience and a fun “field trip” away from the library.

Brittany used her mad sewing skillz and made strands of the art in varying lengths. I then used the sticks and some twine and did a very tricky balancing act. I don’t really have any advice for anyone who tries this. It’s just patience and lots of nudging the art and sticks in various directions.

I think that I’m always happiest with our decor when there’s stuff twirling from the ceiling. I adore these even more since it’s art from kids in our community:

I posted informational blurbs near any of the art. I tried my best to keep the information brief, but fun. I also included questions to hopefully prompt interesting discussions with kids:

We laminated about 18 of the kids’ art, and hung them in our Reading Tree.

And then, of course, the City (who takes care of our grounds) informed us that they would be finally trimming our Reading Tree (we’ve been asking ever since we opened). So I had to go out and take the art down. My boss brought in some old corrugated plastic signs that I disassembled and then hung the art from. I had to move them due to how hard the wind was whipping them over to a more protected area near our building. As of yet, the Reading Tree has not been pruned (takes zen breaths), but I’m so glad that we figured out a way to make sure that the kids’ artwork was displayed.

We also had a “Family Art Day” at the library in March. I purchased the Kandinsky mural from Art Projects for Kids, and it made the project easy. Not as many people showed up as I’d hoped, but it was a lovely day out, and I was pretty vague in the description of the event. Here’s the finished product on Jennifer’s office window:

We promised that we’d give the art back if people would write their name and phone numbers on the back of the art. It didn’t occur to me until I had this hung, that people’s personal information could be seen. So I quickly made an artsy cover-up:

After I saw this pin on Pinterest, I was determined to do this with our front windows as well as the rest of the windows on the side of our building. I did learn a few things worth passing along. Cover the entire tissue paper square/rectangle with packing tape. I tried not using packing tape on my office window and I accidentally ripped at least three holes in it. Plus, when the electrical tape started shifting due to the extreme changes in weather, it tore the paper even more.

That’s my other HUGE lesson: plot out the lines you’re going to make using packing tape. Actually lay the tape down. Then put your electrical tape down onto that tape. It keeps it from doing odd waves and/or shrinking, and it makes clean-up a cinch. With putting the electrical tape directly on the glass, it’ll take WD-40 and lots of glass cleaner to clean of the residue that’s left over.

I figured all this out by doing the massive front window section. By the time I hit the side of the building, I’d realized my error. So the front has some…let’s call it “pop art” flair, and the side windows (notice the primary colors vs. secondary colors?) are (and have stayed) perfection:

Brittany made the incredibly cool “We Heart Art” sign for our reading bench display:

I was going to skip the Great Wall-O-Pun this month, but then I had an idea, and I couldn’t let it go: Hanksy. He’s this fabulous street artist who riffs on the famous Banksy, and makes fabulous puns (usually involving celebrities). I found five examples of his work that I thought parents and/or kids might get, posted a basic explanation of what the art was and by whom, and then tweeted a pic of it.

And Hanksy responded.

And I almost fainted.

After we tweeted back and forth a little bit, he totally gave his blessing to the display and even called it “amazing.” ::faints::


We decided to make this month’s scavenger hunt fewer things to find (three), but make it a bit more challenging. The hope was that parents would get a chance to work with their kids on several concepts: what happens when you mix colors together, and Venn Diagrams. For the most part, that’s happened, but the other day one mom took a look at it (after her daughter begged for an explanation) and flatly said “that’s too tough for you.” That little girl was a total rockstar, though, and she tried!

We also brought back our Little Library LEGO Checkout Club – and the kids have been so excited that it’s back! We “upgraded” it a bit by trimming down the size of the base (which hopefully will equal a taller tower), and by sticking it onto a rotating base. Now we can turn it a bit each day so that all of the sides get worked on a little more equally. There’s even a motor in it that we hope to turn on at the end of the Club in order to show off the completed tower.

The other change that we made was we have a participation tally sheet this year. Last year I had to break down the tower right away to get the participation numbers (it was so sad and such an immediate end to such a fun program). So this year we hope to keep it up for at least part of the summer.

Rebecca of Sturdy for Common Things fame wrote this post about her kids’ camera station. I thought that it would be a fabulous addition to our art theme:

I think that perhaps there’s just way too much going on at our circulation this month – I’ve only heard one kid ask about the camera (and then decided not to do it). The only pictures that we’ve gotten has been by approaching the kids and asking if they’d enjoy taking pictures for us. Then it seems like they have a blast trying to figure out unique pictures for our small space. I definitely plan on trying the camera station again, but figuring out a better way to highlight it.

Brittany put together a really cool Artists’ Name Scramble  for us on our dry erase board.

She made awesome worksheets (click here to get your own) and then even thought to include a set of Artists books that have all the names that she used in the cover papers. That’s been fantastic to point kids (and sometimes parents) to. In the below picture you can also see the special “cubist dragon” coloring sheet that I made for this month.

Finally, the big finale to the month was a special Art Gallery Exhibition at the Kids’ Library. We invited the middle school’s quintet groups to play and I served diet sparkling sodas in plastic champagne glasses. I was hoping to make it a First Friday event, but it turned out that the first Friday in April was Easter weekend. D’oh!

I’m so glad that we invited the live music, otherwise no one would have come. It was a lovely (if a bit humid) day out, and we were quiet all day until the students and their families arrived.

I absolutely adore this picture that Brittany took while the woodwind quintet warmed up. I’m coming out of the office with more “champagne” and the awesome reporter/editor for our local paper and I are cracking up about something.

Well, I think that’s about it for Artsy April! I hope that enjoyed seeing what we did. If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to ask – like I mentioned, it was a rather epic month and I tried to keep this post as trimmed as possible.