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!

Windows to the Soul

One of the things that most excited me about the Children’s Library before it opened was realizing how many windows we would have – especially at the front of the building.  Talk about having the perfect canvas for awesome displays to draw kids and their caregivers into our space (which is really truly their own space)!

Well, cut to a year after the Children’s Library opened – where I now finally have a chance to make my visions a reality.  For various reasons I was not truly a part of the Children’s Library for most of the past year (the biggest issue being my health), and so I quietly wept inside as the windows remained empty except for flyers posted here and there – now and then.

In February I finally made my first display – and I’ve been going nuts (in the best way possible) ever since.  I regret that I never took pictures of my first display: I Love My Library where we hung a fun paper bunting with the display’s name, and then we pre-cut hearts in pink and white paper.  We would give out a heart to any child who requested, and they would either write or draw what they loved about the library.  Yes. Shameless marketing at its best.  But the windows became more fun as they filled-up with hearts.

We transitioned from that to our Children’s Library’s First Birthday Party.  We went fast ‘n fun on that.  We also learned how much sunlight we get in the library (and that our windows probably aren’t UV-blocking).  The bright colorful paper was ridiculously faded by the end of the month – and it had only been up for about two weeks.

For March I wanted to have a dramatic window that stayed up all month – so I combined the two big events in March: The NEA’s Read Across America/Dr. Seuss’ Birthday and St. Patrick’s Day.  Instead of there being a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – there would be a pot of Dr. Seuss books!  I was also excited to try out using starch and tissue paper to make the rainbow (having done this technique on a very small scale in the past).

So, on February 28th a teammate of mine and I began the process of building the display.  I had photographed/printed out pictures of a few of our collection’s Seuss books, and then cut out a giant black cauldron (pretty freestyle) using one sheet of black poster board.  Some of the excess paper I turned into handles.  I used a box cutter to slice a curved slit into the cauldron where the cut-out book images would tuck into – so it helped the cauldron  take more shape.

We then went about the process of cutting large strips of tissue paper.  My teammate had the brilliant idea of using a red dry erase marker on the window to outline the outer edge of the arc since that would be the toughest part of the entire process – making the arc nice and…arc-ey?  The red blended into the red tissue paper (if it didn’t completely disappear with the spray starch).  I may use the dry erase technique to map out my large-scale displays in the future – so easy to clean up and it made it a great guide to back up and look at.

Well, I cut strips while she sprayed/hung the different layers of tissue paper.  We flew through it pretty quickly and it looked really good – sort of like an enormous kid had drawn on the window with giant markers.  We realized that we’d need to wait overnight to place the cauldron since the starch was rather drippy.

About ten minutes before we closed for the night, my teammate gasped and pointed.  The rainbow was starting to flake off as it dried.  I leapt onto the circulation desk and sprayed starch on the tissue that was beginning to lift away.  I then ran to the office and grabbed a roll of packing tape and rushed back out with it in hand.  I began frantically slapping tape over the rainbow in overly-long strips (to get the tape beyond the starchy-wet portions).  It was loud and messy.  The one family who came in to grab a few dvds before close must have thought me a madwoman: I was flying.  I’d be darned if all my coworker’s work would collapse overnight.

I went home just exhausted from that last-minute adrenaline rush.  I emailed the members of the opening team to forewarn them that the rainbow (even with my efforts) might have collapsed overnight and that I was aware of this possibility – and that I’d clean it up when I got there an hour after they arrived.  I couldn’t stomach the thought of them thinking that they’d have to break bad news to me.  Our best guess is that the tissue paper was falling due to several reasons: the strips of paper were too large, the windows were too cold, and there’s a vent right near it.

The next morning I arrived to discover that the rainbow had survived the night!  I had a few more gaps to fill with tape (to make the back side consistently shiny – so it would look intentional).  I then went along and trimmed the excess tape with a box cutter making the tape edges look neat and clean.  People give me looks and I’ve freaked out more than one boss as I trim tape edges.  Usually they think that I’ll scrape the glass.  In all the years that I’ve done it, not once have I marred a window’s surface.

Then I taped up the cauldron full of Seuss and trimmed the rainbow’s base to go around the  books.  Et voila!  The dramatic display!  She is done!  We added an enlarged Seuss quote to the window opposite to give a little balance to the display.

I wish that I could capture how bright, fun, and cheery this display is.  I’ve heard children outside gasp “Look! A RAINBOW!” There was even a lady who was driving by and noticed it – so she parked and came inside to say how much she loved it (especially since it’s been so cold and dreary around here lately).  Parents have had sweet conversations about how much more value books have than gold.  The rainbow changes as the light changes too: from the outside it begins to glow as it gets dark out and our inside lights backlight it.  We didn’t plan it, but there are several can lights out front – and the rainbow comes down from one of them.

I already have the next two month’s window’s planned (and those plans can change depending on potential inspiration from myself or others).  I haven’t given up on the starch/tissue paper technique.  If we do it again, then at least I can try modifying what we did previously (like wait until it’s warm, or cut the tissue smaller).  At least I’ll know to keep an eye on it and have plenty of packing tape handy!

Caddy Monster!!!

As I transition more and more over to the Children’s Library, I’m slowly making my desk my own.  I still will, on occasion, share it with my boss – but it’ll be my desk more often than not. (tee-hee!)

For my sanity I like to keep things organized (plus the public can clearly see back into our office, and sometimes the kiddos will wander back there), and I also like to personalize my space. So as I wandered through a store the other day, I swung by their small organization section and found a plain black-wire supply caddy.  In my mind I thought of some cool things I saw online with people treating these sorts of mesh items as a canvas for cross-stitching or embroidery.  I do neither, but thought that it would be fun to try.  So I picked up the cheap (if not boring) caddy.

After I arrived home I set the caddy by the door to remind me to take it to work the next day.  Several hours later I had a SHAZAM moment when I realized what I wanted to do with my caddy: make a caddy monster!  It had a fun monster-head shape and a “monster mouth” already built-in!  I also still have plenty of leftover fake fur from other various projects.  And googly eyes too.  And a hot glue gun.  And scissors.

To succinctly go over the supplies needed again:

  • A boring supply caddy
  • Fake fur
  • Googly eyes
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun/glue

And that’s all!  I trimmed the fur to fit along the bottom of the caddy, and then I left about half an inch of extra fur over the top to fold the fur over and give it a better-looking, easier-to-do finish.  I used three separate pieces of fur: one for the largest portion of the head, one for the “upper lip” and one for the “mouth.”  I glued the fur around the solid borders of the caddy.  Then I sliced tabs into the fur at the top to make it go smoothly around the curved lines, and glued those down.

I then trimmed the fur down where I wanted the eyes and hot glued them on.  I had some leftover red fur and I trimmed that down into a tongue-shape and glued that on too in the little notch in the mouth.  So he looked like this:

Within minutes of completing this super-simple/fast craft (my favorite kind), I decided that I hated the tongue.  It looked rather bizarre.  So I ripped it off.  I may eventually try a different mouth set-up using card stock for teeth or red felt for a tongue, but for one reason or the other I did not like the look of the tongue I’d created.

I still wasn’t completely happy with it, but couldn’t put my finger on why.  It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I had a flash realization: I didn’t like how low the eyeballs sat – they’re too tough to see!  So I got back out my hot glue gun and my bag of googly eyes and made one more addition:

MUCH better!

So I took Mr. Caddy Monster (I shall call him George) to work today and had the best time rearranging items on my desk and bringing some items out of drawers and within reach of my seat.  My teammates squeed and enjoyed how soft he is.  Then my boss came over from the Main Library and we were chatting when she suddenly stopped mid-sentence and said “what the heck is that?”

“That’s my George!”

Library Birthday Party

Last month our Children’s Library had its One Year Anniversary.  Instead of calling it an anniversary, we re-branded it as a Birthday – and we were going to have a Birthday Party!  We would read a special story I wrote about how we discovered a “library dragon” living on our property (which has lead us into a Dragon-naming contest), sing Happy Birthday to the library, have cake pops from a local bakery, and more.

So my team and I went nuts decorating the windows as the first layer of decor – using it to advertise the event as well as starting to create a buzz.  We used nothing but basic copier paper, and construction paper to make everything in the windows (the balloons were a fun touch since they wouldn’t deflate and begin looking depressed).  The second layer would happen the night before the party – we’d go nuts with streamers made from cheap scrapbooking paper and two balloon chandeliers.

The event invitations flew out the door and we had lots of questions and excitement about it.  Cut to a few weeks later with Mother Nature laughing at us: we had that huge blizzard come through on the day of (and the day after – when it was rescheduled) the scheduled Party.  We were closed those two days – a Thursday and Friday.  So our big event was postponed for five days.  We were all sad about that since we know that it affected the turnout, but we still had fun (and we got to keep up the cheery decorations for almost an extra week).

I thought I could share highlights of the decor since we made sure that it was easy and cheap.  I learned how to make those zig-zag streamers from Oh Happy Day.  They’re so very easy and quick – especially when you stack several sheets of paper and cut them all at once.  I also am glad that we used paper that wasn’t colored/patterned on both sides since our library is colorful enough: the white really stood out.  The one note that I’d share on them are that they’re heavier than they look – so be sure to secure them well.  We also trimmed them quite a bit to loosen the weight as well as not make it such an obstacle course for the adults to navigate when using the library.

I used this tutorial to help build the balloon chandeliers.  I wish that I had more variety in the balloon sizes/shapes to create a more interesting chandelier.  I made them way too long, so all I did was use extra curling ribbon to help shorten the length – sort of jumbling the balloons more and…I don’t think that I can fully explain it.  But it just took some extra ribbon – it was rather intuitive for me (and I hate heights, so I was fixing it on a ladder with my eyes somewhat closed – thus making it more difficult to describe).

According to my team the re-re-scheduled Birthday Party was a success!  I was unable to attend since I wasn’t scheduled on that day (so yes, I missed the party that I planned) – silly, but true.  And so far we’ve had a blast looking at the submissions for the dragon-naming contest.

I plan to share more window/decor projects as they happen.  I spent a chunk of last week trying to find a good time of day to photograph the front windows to get the least glare – especially with our latest window decor (a pot full of Seuss books at the end of a rainbow).  I could not figure out what worked the best.  But I think that from now on I can get pictures that won’t make me cringe sooner than I did before.  So look for the Rainbow Seuss windows soon!

Junior Book Tournament

I thought I’d share with y’all what I’ve been working on at the Children’s Library since I’m guessing that other youth librarians out there would enjoy seeing/using this.  I’ve generally kept this blog free of my personal library info, but recently I decided that it wasn’t that hard to figure out who I was or where I worked, so why not embrace that and just go with it?

A little more about that:  I’m very honored to be part of a community that values its library.  We’ve been growing leaps and bounds over the past few years, and there’s no signs of slowing.  Last year, the City recognized that we were running out of room and they gifted us with a unique solution: our library was split into two locations.  One location houses materials for Young Adults and older, and one is the Children’s Library.  As of last month, I have begun managing the Children’s Library and March is the first month where a lot of my planning and work will become evident.  Anywho, that’s enough of that – you’ll get to know more about my work as time goes by.

Back to this particular project that I’d like to share:

I’ve seen other libraries do this with epically-awesome wall-sized brackets.  Unfortunately, for us to do that then it’d involve some tall ladders, and I am not a fan of heights.  We also have a lot of other events going on this month and I wanted something that sort of ran itself. Therefore, I decided to make this an online tournament where the children can vote from our website (thus driving more traffic to our newly revamped children’s site).  I also narrowed-down the tournament to Junior Books since it seems like (unintentionally) the Junior crowd gets overlooked here in terms of events – and I want to change that.  The greatest amount of time given to this was to make the bracket itself – and then inserting the book images.  Looking up the top sixteen most checked-out Junior Fiction books from the past year was easy with our library’s software (hopefully it’s easy for most too). But once that’s set up, it’s just a matter of once-a-week seeing who won their bracket and updating the brackets!

In the end I may actually attempt creating a GIF for the winning book’s reveal – something that I’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t had a good reason to.  We shall see (and I shall share, even if it’s a fail).

The basic gist is that we’ll be updating a Word Document that I created and posting that image online once-a-week.  Here’s an example of the template as it sits so far for our particular tourney:

All of the “book” text boxes listed above were just part of an example template we used to show the kids how brackets work.  All of them are removed from the downloadable template at the bottom, except for the 16 outermost text boxes (in case you were wondering).

We’ll be using Survey Monkey to create the online voting system.  The only thing that I’m bummed about is that the kids will have to vote using the text.  Next year I might see if I can find a “visual” voting system.

So, here I am having done all this last-minute work, and it occurred to me that I should share this with others so that they can do something like this at their library or home.  Therefore, I’m going to share my template with y’all so all that you’ll need to do is plug in the pictures and then adjust the sizing (which is sort of a pain – sorry, I’m not an expert, and our library has Microsoft Office and that’s it in terms of creating signs and similar things).  If you have any problems or issues, then please don’t hesitate to contact me!  I’ve never attempted to created a template for others to use before.  But basically, if you’re comfortable with text boxes, then you’ll be comfortable with this!

If you don’t have the font that I’ve used for this template (it’s called Teen) then you can get it for free at the amazing dafont.com (if you’ve never visited dafont before, then be prepared to spend HOURS browsing and downloading).

Please enjoy and share!

Click here for your very own Tournament Template!