Our Early Literacy Corner

A few weeks ago, Cory Eckert (of Storytime Underground fame) shared a quote on Facebook from EarlierIsEasier.org about how important repetition is in a child’s life:

Repetition is a key ingredient to building a healthy brain. When your child asks for the same book, activity or outfit again and again, this is really just their brain demanding what it needs– lots of repetition to help cement those learning pathways!

Her post rocked my mind for two reasons: 1. I hadn’t been aware of Earlier Is Easier – and dang if this isn’t a super-de-duper resource for parents/caretakers of young ones, and 2. THE COMPLAINT ABOUT AND DENIAL OF CHECKING SOMETHING OUT AGAIN BY PARENTS HAPPENS WAY TOO OFTEN.


But seriously, I’d say at least once-a-week I hear a parent or grandparent refuse to re-check something out that the child so desperately wants to rewatch or reread. If I get a chance to, then I try and gently mention that repetition is important and valuable to children.

I shared this quote with my library team, and we brainstormed a way to share it with our community. We always have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how best to use our tiny space, which can be fun, but also a big challenge. Ashlynn was the one who finally came up with the idea of using the back side of our computer carols. It wasn’t until after I put up the display that I realized that it was literally an “early literacy corner.” Heh.

Check it out:

The Early Literacy Corner at Gretna Public Library's Children's Library featuring information from earlieriseasier.org | hafuboti.com

Close up on the pamphlet holders because people are always unsure of whether or not they can take something – be it a pamphlet or a book on display:

Red dot sign on a pamphlet holder that says "Please take one, two, three, or four - we can print out many more!" on it to encourage patrons to take as many pamphlets as they'd like | hafuboti.com

One more artsy-fartsy photo:

Using the corner of a computer carol to feature early learning/literacy tips from earlieriseasier.org | hafuboti.com

And it won’t always be the same tip on each side – I just really wanted to mimic repetition to really send the concept home. All that I used was some looped scotch tape, and then contact paper to put up those signs and pamphlet holders.

Hopefully this inspires you to look at unexpected locations for early literacy tips. Like maybe on paper towel dispensers:

Putting early literacy tips on laminated card stock on our paper towel dispensers. Literacy tips are found at storytimeunderground.org | hafuboti.com

You can find/print out these and other great early literacy tips at Storytime Underground‘s Fast Facts. All I did was print them out on card stock and laminate them before sticking them up with packing tape. Yay for fast and easy! I swap these signs out about once every month or so.

Please feel free to share any of the ways that you get important information out to your community – either by commenting here or sending me an email at hafuboti.com. I’d love to hear/see them!

Socially Shiny

Combining Storytime Underground's Storytime for Social Justice logo, and my purple shiny muppet crystal | hafuboti.com

Since accepting Storytime Underground’Resolve to Rock several years ago (but in my own sparkly way), I have come to look forward to January’s reflection and goal setting. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but having a librarycentric/professional focus has helped me really appreciate their power.

This year the SU Joint Chiefs have a different challenge: Storytime for Social Justice. Basically, we need to focus on and bring awesome aspects of social justice into our libraries and programming in only ways that YS-peeps can. Even if you don’t have a blog (which you totally should) you can still join in on this.

There Went 2016

While 2016 was a very difficult year overall, my professional life went through a metamorphosis. I discovered a lot about myself, how I view myself, and what I want to do in the library world – and for the world at large.

My biggest fail was not following through on my plan to write a nice note to each Nebraska youth service librarian that I could find. It was like turning this hope into a resolution totally took the wind out of my sails. But, over time I realized that I still want to do it, but as a Punk Rock Book Jockey, and not as the Chair of the School, Children, and Young People’s section of the Nebraska Library Association.

My biggest successes really boil down to figuring out what I truly meant by being shiny in the library world:

  • I spoke on behalf of my library in front of the Nebraska Senate General Affairs Committee (you can read it on page 75 of the transcript ). I sort of stumbled into doing it, and now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
  • I gave my first presentations. It was rough going for awhile, but ultimately had a happy ending. This, in turn, led to me co-presenting at the Nevada Library Association’s annual conference (which was friggin’ AWESOME).
  • The idea for Punk Rock Book Jockeys was formed.
  • I became a published artist! I submitted this artwork based on Banksy’s The Flower Bomber to Resist!, and it was accepted:

A modified version of Banksy's Flower Bomber featuring a female librarian throwing Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale | hafuboti.com

I must give another heartfelt thank you to Jessamyn for both telling me about the call for entries and encouraging me to submit.

Here Comes 2017

Here’s a small sampling of my hopes and goals which, shockingly – I know, tie in with social justice:

  • Finish writing my Accessibility Series post for Bryce Don’t Play. This has been a tough piece for me to write on many levels, and so I tend to distract myself with other things and procrastinate ::has a moment of self-realization while typing this post:: Heh.
  • Continue working on Punk Rock Book Jockeys.
  • I have a massive artsy-early-literacy-skills-diversity thing I’m hoping to get going. OooOOOoOoooo…mysterious vagueness…
  • I’m gonna continue adding more diversity to our library’s collection. Tied in with this is that I want to make sure that more diverse titles get featured in our displays.
  • Become fluent in conversational Spanish. As a fibromyalgia manager, it can be a struggle to do physical things to help during this uncertain and downright terrifying time in our country. While watching the January 21st protests I thought “at least I can still raise my voice,” and that’s when this goal occurred to me. If I succeed, then I want to try to also gain fluency in Arabic. This world could use more understanding in a multitude of ways.
  • Learn more children’s names who visit the library. I’ve been working on this for a few months already, and the reaction from both the kids and parents has really inspired me to work harder on this. If I draw a blank, I do what Reading with Red‘s Brooke does and say “friend.” Like, “Hi, friend!” Even that can get a beaming smile.

And there you have it: my super-shiny mostly social justicey goals for 2017! If reading my goals somehow sparked your own, then I’d love to know. Please feel free to comment on this post or email them to me. I hope to touch base with you around this time next year to see how you did.

¡Listo o no aquí voy!


First Library Card Celebration

library card celebration


Over the past few months, my overall vision for our library has become about making good memories for everyone at our library. I have been working on a two-parter post to delve into this new managerial perspective, but I just had to share a new tradition that we started at our library.

Because IT. IS. AWESOME!!!!!!


One of the neatest experiences at our library is when a child finally turns six years old, and thus becomes old enough to get a library card. There are times that kids have come in still wearing their party hats and have proudly stated that they are now six and would like to get their first card.

But what if we could make this experience even better? To really signify to the kids that this is an awesome thing happening (and hopefully an experience they will cherish for the rest of their lives).

How about make a special pledge for the kids to recite? Eh, too serious.

Have a monthly library party for kids who got their first card? Nah – too much work that would not equate directly to the moment the first card is given.

I also didn’t want it to be something to take away from the focus of what’s special: getting a library card for the first time.

To make a long story short: I believe the idea came to me while watching MLP: Friendship Is Magic. Pinkie Pie had hidden confetti cannons around Twilight’s castle. What about those little confetti poppers?  I loved those as a kid!  But they’d be WAY too loud (and slightly dangerous) in our small space. But what if there was a quieter/cheaper confetti shooter out there? Pinterest to the rescue!

After handing this project over to Natasia, she ran with it and made some really beautiful cannons. Feel free to ask in the comments (or via email: hafuboti@gmail.com) if you’d like details on what she did and I’ll happily share.

Here’s our first confetti cannon trial:

I wish that the video could show how amazing the confetti is – it goes up high and shimmers beautifully as it flutters down. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of confetti to be effective (about a teaspoon I’d guess).

And here’s our very first kid to get this special treatment:

I’ve lost count of how many kids we’ve given this special treatment to, but lemme tell ya what: this has been even better than I had hoped. A mothers shared with us that her (under six) daughter gathered up some of the confetti that we shot when her older brother got his first card. Now the little girl keeps it in her pocket because it’s special. Everyone who happens to be in the library at the time end up smiling and cheering with us for our newest patron. It’s simply joyful.

When I shared this in Storytime Underground’s Facebook group, the main comments were about the mess.

Now lemme tell you what’s what: I hate a messy/disorganized work space. I’ve banned glitter except for in rare cases. But to have the library look like a fun party went down? I can live with that. For a bit. And a suggestion from a Director at a nearby library turned out to be perfect: get a manual floor sweeper. I think her words were, “it’s a confetti beast.”  We purchased one of these and have been very happy with that purchase.

The confetti has been very impressive in terms of how far it can go. But you know what? I think that most people who see it will not think “messy,” but “I wonder what happened here? It looks like they had fun!” We also hand sweep-up confetti on our circ desk to reuse to cut down on waste.

And there you have it: one of the funnest passive things we’ve ever done. Do you do anything special for first library cards (regardless of age)? I’d love to know about it!

Summer Reading Party

Back in April a group of amazing librarians and I received an unexpected invitation from Bryce of Bryce Don’t Play. She was wanting to know if we’d be willing to put together short videos for her team members out in the Washington County Collaborative Library System (WCCLS for short – be sure to check out their fabulous series featuring P.A.C. Cat – I’m totally inspired to do something similar when we upgrade our catalog system this fall). The goal was to make our videos hype videos to help inspire them throughout the summer season.

Lemme see…create a fun video for librarians? I could maaaaaaaybe possibly do that. Heh.

I had ideas for several videos, and Bryce graciously let me make more than one. But today I’m sharing the first since Bryce is sharing one video per week. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen most of the other participants’ videos – and I am utterly thrilled to be a part of such an inspiring and talented group of librarians – y’all are gonna be in for some real treats.

Okay, with out further ado, here’s my Summer T.R.I.P. Tips video:

I know what you’re thinking: gosh, Rebecca made that look so easy – she’s a video rock star! (heh) To help dispel your sweet but very misguided belief, I put together a blooper reel from just a few of the many takes it took me to take this video to the next level.


To answer your main question that I suspect you have: I had never met those little boys before I asked their mom (whom I also didn’t know) if we could videotape me tripping them. I am so glad that the first family I asked readily agreed! I don’t think my blood pressure could’ve handled asking more moms or dads.

I also created a Radioactive Man library mashup image (seen very briefly in the video) that I wanted to share here:

And there you have it! The first in a virtual summer librarian par-tay!


A couple of years after Hurricane Katrina I moved to New Orleans. It was the best of times, etc. New Orleans is truly both a magical and a brutal place, and it will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. When I left a few years later, I had one “experience regret”: I never did get to eat at Commander’s Palace.

A year ago my husband Bruce gifted me a trip to New Orleans (he’d never been), so that we could hang out with our dear friend, and New Orleans resident, Rachel. She asked me for a wish list to make the visit extra-special, and since it’s New Orleans my list was all about the food (Bruce didn’t understand that until he had his first bite of food at Jacques-Imo’s the night that we arrived. Five words: shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake – which our waiter surprised us with as a welcome to NOLA). But at the top of that list was brunch at Commander’s Palace. Rachel made my wish came true.

Now, I could go into the details of how amazing our meal was, but I’ll just say that the food was the greatest food I have ever tasted in my life. I was on the verge of joyful tears with almost every bite. No exaggeration.

I promise that this is going to relate to libraries – stay with me!

What I want to instead share with you was the strongest memory/impression that I have from my time at Commander’s Palace, and it wasn’t the food –
it was the staff.

I had been so excited to try the food at this restaurant, that I had never considered what the rest of the experience would be like. I mean, I had my fancy new duds, so I thought that I could blend in with the more “elite” people who dine regularly at this restaurant. But I did find myself being incredibly self-conscious while waiting in the foyer for someone to seat us (“They all know that I’m a middle-class impostor trying to fit in with a better class”).

Here’s what made this experience magical: as we were being led throughout the many hallways, EVERY SINGLE SERVER SAID “WELCOME!” I mean, there was even a group of servers obviously having a brief meeting, and they stopped what they were doing, turned, and every single one said in the most genuine way: Welcome! (not all at once – that would’ve been creepy – it came out naturally staggered with some of them even slightly bowing). It was almost overwhelming, and I was probably bright red as I stammered many thank yous.

Now, I’ve been a customer service trainer prior to my library life, and greeting customers was always number one on my list. But when I would tell employees to welcome/greet customers, I never thought of using the actual word welcome, instead everyone (myself included) would greet people with a hello or something similar. Side note: if you want to work at our library, but don’t want to greet everyone who walks into our door, then spoiler alert: you will not work at our library.

Another thing about the Commander’s Palace Welcomes! were that they felt 100% genuine. I mean, we have a grocery store here in the Midwest where their slogan is about how “there’s a helpful smile in every aisle.” And when you’re shopping there, employees say “hi” and a “how are you?” But you know what? Many times it feels like they’re obligated to do so (cuz they are).  And of all the grocery stores that I’ve been to, this one has the nicest atmosphere where I know that I can ask anyone a question and they’ll help. But would I rave about their customer service? Nope. I don’t want to belittle that practice, but it really stood out after my experience in NOLA.

I think that I’ve only ever used the term welcome when people are visiting my home for the first time, or if I’m telling a loved one “welcome home.” And I think that’s why this simple word is so incredible: it’s something that is generally reserved for people you’re genuinely happy to see while letting them know that they can come in and be a part of your home.

And you know what? I’ve tried it a few times at our library, and it really feels awkward! I’ve been thinking about this a lot and why I hesitate to do the practice of Welcome! And I think that it’s because of the intimate association of the term. It was way easier to say Welcome! to every single person who walked through the door at our Kitty Cafe event, but there were so many new people excited to be there that it felt like a party. But isn’t our library special enough, and our staff like family? Why shouldn’t we want to truly welcome everyone?

A week after our Kitty Cafe event I saw one of our regular patrons coming up with her children, and I got up and went out to greet them since other staff members were busy with other patrons. She walked in and I said “Welcome, everybody!” and I saw her do a literal double-take! She stammered out a smiling thank you and then went about her normal library routine. But in that moment of her stun, I saw what those servers must see on every new person’s face. It was pretty awesome.

And you know what? I haven’t used Welcome! as much as you think I would have after that experience. It still feels really weird. Isn’t that weird? And I’m hoping that writing this post might help me work through the process of why it’s a struggle for me even though it’s like the bestest thing that I’ve ever realized in terms of customer service. And I still plan on incorporating it into as many greetings as possible, but I hope that it becomes more natural over time.

A few more thoughts about my Commander’s Palace experience that I think relate to our jobs:

As we left, we got turned around and ended up taking the servers’ stairs down into the kitchen! We realized it halfway down, but there was a server behind us who reassured us that it’s fine – and gave us instructions as to what to do once we made it to the kitchen (turn right and go through the “YES” door). We walked into the kitchen and every single one of the kitchen staff who were facing our direction said “hello!” or waved. WOW! We were doing the wrong thing, and still, we felt welcomed and that the staff were STILL happy that we were there.

It wasn’t until I was writing this post that I realized how this last experience relates to library life. I mean, kids and sometimes adults wander back behind our circulation desk and/or into our offices. We’re all usually kind about it, but we point out that whoever is back there should not be back there. Sometimes I’ll tell kids “hello” but it’s usually quickly followed by a “you shouldn’t be here” type statement. What if we changed our attitude about that?

In an Iron Fist class, I learned to look at patrons as visitors to a new country where the rules/etiquette are different from other countries. It was our responsibility to help guide new visitors and let them know what’s expected. But, what if we treated our patrons like they’re visiting our restaurant for the first time? Just think about that for a bit. (“Welcome to your library, let me tell you about our specials…”)

This past weekend a five year old girl wandered back into our office at the Children’s Library, and you know what? Instead of telling her a “rule,” I asked her, “would you like to become a librarian too?” And she shyly smiled and went back to her mom. IT WAS SO SWEET!!! What if to any of those kids or parents who cross an invisible line, we say “Hi! Welcome to my world – want to learn more about it?” I mean, unless there’s private patron info visible, then why wouldn’t that be a neat thing to do?

Then I got to thinking about “chef’s tables,” which are very special tables that are within the kitchens of high class restaurants where you can eat while watching the chef and kitchen team work. What if libraries offered something similar now and then? A “get a look inside the library” to all ages (and not just school groups). Show off our library mad skillz? Wouldn’t this help our patrons have an even greater sense of ownership?

I mean, how many people might self-consciously approach our buildings, feeling like they’re not “smart enough” to be there. Maybe they’re intimidated by how “intelligent” and “professional” the staff seems to be? How heartbreaking would it be if they weren’t welcomed, weren’t helped, and not shown that we’re there to help them learn to enjoy their library? To drive this analogy into the ground: if they had a negative experience, then they’d likely leave and never want to return because of the bad taste left in their mouth.

Take a few minutes and read Brytani’s post on Protecting Patrons in the Library. Do you recognize how she promotes a culture of Welcome!? I wanted to give her the biggest hug imaginable after reading her post.

This has been a rather epically long post for me, but it’s been a pure joy for me to write (even though it makes me miss New Orleans more). While trying to find a picture or video to show off the staff of Commander’s Palace, I stumbled across this 17 min video about the Commander’s Palace culture.

This video should be considered continuing education for anyone involved with the public. Also, I squealed when I recognized our server (Tiffany McEntee) who is the featured image on the video. That should tell you a lot about how much the staff made this an incredible experience. Can you think of any server at any restaurant that you’ve been to who 1. you’d remember their name, or 2. would make you make a happy sound when you see them on a video?

Seriously, take some time and watch this video – it’s worth every minute (just don’t be hungry when you watch because you’ll get crazy-hungry which can lead to hanger. You’ll also hate me a bit because I’ve had some of this food):

What struck me most about this is that they talk about making their restaurant an experience and making memories which is exactly what I try and do at our library every day, but maybe not as consistently as I’d like. Up until now I’ve always said that I wanted our library to be like Pixar, but now I’m changing that to be like Commander’s Palace without the food. After all, Pixar isn’t customer-service oriented.

But how cool would it be to be known as a world-class library because of your atmosphere? That librarians want to work at your library because of how much you teach and train in all of the areas to promote growth? I would be beyond thrilled to have people go bonkers if they learn their friends are heading to Nebraska, and that tell their friends that “YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE GRETNA LIBRARY – IT’S INCREDIBLE!” Seriously. I want to make that a reality.

I may even create a presentation based on the above video and how to apply that culture to libraries – how fun of a presentation would that be?! I wonder if I could get Commander’s Palace to sponsor the talks and provide the catering… Heh.

I’ll leave y’all with this: please think about how welcoming your library space is. Choose a day to try saying “welcome!” instead of “hello!” to patrons as they come in and see how it makes both you and them feel (if you can tell). If you try this, then I would LOVE for you to give me the results of your experiment(s).