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Second Generation Librarian.

This week I’m in the midst of both being Branch Librarian (taking care of the branch and all of the people therein except for circ staff and librarians) and a huuuuuuge event in Children’s Services that I hadn’t yet prepared for. Also programs started this week so we have a handful of new instructors running around, bins of program materials being delivered just in the nick of time, and storytimes. Of which I did three this week. During all of this, I’ve been ingesting (by coincidence) a lot of Tina Fey managerial advice. Which, to be honest, I could listen to forever.

I had a doctor’s appointment last week and managed to read a New Yorker article written by Tina Fey on things she had learned about producing from Lorne Michaels. While I’ll never have to ask an actor if she’s comfortable fake breast-feeding a grown man she’d only just met, some of the points she made resonated with me and my managerial struggles, particularly this week. Coincidentally, I’m also listening to Bossypants on audiobook and I wish I could listen to it always. I basically want Tina Fey as my managerial Jiminy Cricket. But I’m sure she has better things to do so let’s get to it.

Being Disappointing for the Good of the Organization: I think Ms. Fey said something like “being the producer means crushing the creativity of others.” She meant it in the way that if you ask for a bran muffin and the props department gives you a hugely decorated bran cake, you have to kindly insist on the muffin. At some point in your life, saying no will make the shift from “sticking it to the man” to “crushing someone’s dream kindly.” Or just being disappointing. What I mean by this is if you work with fantastically creative and passionate people, as I do, sometimes the vision gets a little out of hand and it falls to you to reign it back in to workable, feasible or suitable proportions. As one of the “creative types” this happens to me frequently. That is, I get reigned in. When it doesn’t, sometimes it’s because everything has been correctly anticipated but sometimes I realize the mistakes that I’ve made in scope or content or whatever only too late and things turn out not-so-good. I think a trait of a good manager is to recognize the difference between when trusting staff with their intuition and when to impose a bit of your own. The fine line between letting them dream as big as they can and identifying the point where it becomes unattainable or will potentially be unsuccessful. Encouraging risk-taking and protecting the library. You get it.

Owning Your Disappointments: The flip side to that coin is owning your decision to crush people’s dreams. This bit of advice that I got from my husband, who is a legitimate Leader in Our Profession. Although I’m sure Tina Fey knows this, too because she’s just the best. Once you disappoint people, you have to stand by your decision. Essentially: Own your shit… like a BOSS. When I was a baby librarian and was confronted with an uncomfortable decision to make or bad news to give, I tended to reference the overriding authority of others or tried to ignore the problem until it goes away. Needless to say it’s caused me a lot of guilt, anxiety, and trouble. In the intervening years, this has evened out a bit, but the act of letting others down is extremely distressing to me. This week I had to deliver disappointing news as a result of being “disappointed for the good of the organization.” As a side note, the interesting thing about wearing two hats at the same time on my maiden supervisory voyage is that sometimes these things are done to me as a employee and sometimes I have to inflict these things on others. It keeps me honest, to say the least. Anyway, I was agonizing over this and Nick basically advised me to own my shit. So I did and it felt… awful, yet like I had made the right decision in the end. On the other hand, I suppose any real manager would tell you that you don’t do these things so YOU can sleep well at night. So let me rephrase. You do these things so that your staff have a clear understanding of why you make the decisions you make. You want clear lines of communication and honesty and transparency are far better managerial currencies than being everyone’s buddy. And to be honest, the idea that I won’t always be the Good Guy makes me INCREDIBLY uncomfortable, so I know I have to keep working at it. So there you have it. Not quite Bossypants, yet, but good start.


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My fourth year of legit librarianship, and I’m kind of a boss. I mean, I was always kind of a boss – my library system only has one librarian per department per branch. After working at BTPL during my internship, I sort of assumed that I’d be taken under the wizened, awesome tutelage of more experienced librarians than myself and we’d all live happily ever after singing “The More We Get Together” until one day I would magically become a wizened, awesome librarian. Not so. I kind of floundered for the first year, but fortunately, the library techs who worked in the department who I did not manage, but also kind of did, were seasoned, smart, and pretty independent. So independent, in fact, that it took awhile for me to find my niche as the Children’s Librarian.

Fast forward three years and 11 months and I’m told that my Branch Librarian (supervisory w/o being the Branch Manager) has been seconded to work on a special project and would I like the job in the interim? I said yes, with trepidation. It was only a month, so how much could I screw up the branch? Not too badly. I worked in this position pretty blithely – most of it was Christmas vacation. It wasn’t a walk in the park by any means, but hardly as daunting as I expected. In the meantime, a permanent opportunity for that position came up. To my surprise, I applied. And I got an interview. But it wasn’t a surprise when I didn’t get the job. Coincidentally, my boss-hood has been extended for another few months and I think it would be a good chance to learn from this experience and better prepare myself for these nebulous future positions, should they arise.

I’ve been told that I have “leadership potential” which, I think, is to say that I’m not there yet. 🙂 I would have to agree with that assessment. I’d describe myself currently as an independently motivated follower, and a good librarian, but not yet a leader. It’s become clear that yes, there is a difference between leadership and “volunteering to do all the work.” What that nuance is, I haven’t quite figured out. Toward this end: I thought I’d write a series of posts about what leadership at a branch level actually means (to me) and what I think being a leader is at all. So, kick back, relax while I librarian LIKE A BOSS.

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Of course everyone and their mother is talking about e-content nowadays, especially in the wake of the Harper Collins/OverDrive upset. After squawking about e-books enough in my “trends” portion of month-end reports, I was asked by my administration to develop and lead a series of sessions to train staff on the fundamentals of using different kinds of e-readers. I responded to this request by saying “Well, erm… I don’t actually OWN an e-reader, would you like to give me one?” (I didn’t mention I absolutely hated the idea of reading in an electronic environment of any kind, I don’t care how book-like it is.) To my surprise, I got not only one, but several different formats of e-readers (on loan!), including an iPad to train staff. To my even bigger surprise, I didn’t hate reading on an e-reader! After the first series of training was done, I wanted to know more about e-readers, especially how it would affect younger readers, especially those just learning to read and also students who are ‘reading to learn.’

During one particular session at OLA “Is the Medium the Message? E-Readers in the Classroom,” curriculum developers for the local school board recounted success stories of using e-readers in school to encourage students with learning differences to read. One boy used the zoom feature to create enlarged sections of text that were easier for him to focus on and was proud of himself when he read “20 pages” really quickly.  Other librarians reported purchasing Kobos in order to entice reluctant readers into book clubs.  More interesting, at least from my early-literacy-loving point of view, is how e-content is effecting the way that reading itself is changing. How we have moved from the reader deriving meaning from text as a static object to decoding text that is laden with other layers of meaning that is programmed into what you are reading. Don’t know what a word means? Look it up in the handy dictionary linked to the text file on your e-reader. Want to reference another article that’s readily available online? Link to that reference and your reader is a click away from a deeper understanding of context. On Kindle – readers can annotate portions of the text, but also have available to them the notes of other readers of the same text! This gives readers the unique opportunity to compare their ideas and sections of import with people from around the world (in theory). I am not a teacher, but my knee-jerk reaction was “SWEET. Let’s get right on it! Let’s make it part of the curriculum! Let’s make a comparison assignment based on the notes you find in a Kindle text!” But the majority of the more vocal teacher-librarians in the room were skeptical if not downright hostile to this type of reading. But what happens to education when some children are reading texts that are inherently richer than others based on what they are able to do?

In my personal experience, exposing children to e-readers doesn’t necessarily have to be an either/or scenario – we can love books just as much as we love e-books. We can introduce children to one format by way of another. Your reluctant reader might not love books, but loves gadgetry – e-Readers or Tumblebooks might be a better avenue to introduce literacy than a book. Conversely, your avid reader might not want to take 50 lbs. worth of print on a vacation – easy solution – the e-Reader.  “Finding the right tool” for any given child should be the goal in order to make reading meaningful, and we should embrace whatever format motivates children to read. But whether or not you agree this is a useful feature is not entirely the point – I think the discussion around whether electronic texts are changing the very act of reading is significant when viewed through a social lens.

How will this impact the future of the education of my non-existant children???  According to a teacher in the session (who, admittedly, I only half-heard), a local enormous school board has supposedly made the commitment to provide their textbooks at the not-so-distant future in (primarily?) e-format. And how will the children get access to these lovely e-format materials? Furthermore, if e-readers truly are the ticket to encouraging reading in those who have difficulty or lack desire then how do we ensure that children in at-risk communities get the tools they need to succeed in school?  What about the communities who can’t afford the technology, the administration or teachers who are wary of it or infrastructures that don’t support such items? Are we relegating children to second-rate educations based upon a trend?

While I understand educational institutions being more cautious with the “wait and see” game – after all, do we want to experiment with technology with the future success of children at stake? – do libraries have to be so conservative? I would say – of course not. After all, in addition to helping frazzled parents with last-minute assignments on pioneer village life, we also have an obligation to try to provide access to information and technology. We can be the hip substitute teacher that swoops in à la Jaime Escalante and LouAnne Johnson and teaches the class of misfits to be information literate using rap! Okay, well maybe not rap. How about e-readers? Oh, and actually make sure that people have access to the technology in question. I’m currently making a request that as part of curriculum I’m developing for Summer Reading book clubs that the participants be allowed access to the iPads that the library bought for the purpose of training. While children in my branch generally are very well-off and could possible have iPads of their own, this experience might be something that the customers at the at risk branches in the system would really value. We’ll see what happens, but you don’t know until you ask. “Come learn about iPads at your library.” “Come borrow an e-reader and see if you like it.” Once again, we have the opportunity to be a institution turned social equalizer and we should seize it.

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Since school gets out a full week before Christmas this year, I felt like I should provide entertainment at the branch. After Christmas – I’m on vacation and the library is on it’s own! We have an awesome Teen Advisory Group (TAG), who really enjoy working with the kids here, and even beg the teen librarian to ask me if they can do programs with the kids. Hey – I’m not complaining! They made a few different craft projects for the kids to do, so they’re going to be running those programs al0ng with some of the children’s staff who are doing Christmas stortyimes and carol sing-alongs in the branch. I decided to be slightly less denominational and decided to do a winter and snow themed party on Wednesday, December 22. It’s for ages 0-7 years, but really it’s free with no registration so who knows who I’ll get?

Here’s what I’m doing. I did steal some rhymes and songs and an introduction from the Storytime Idea Machine, so credit goes to Cherie Rainwater credit!)
Winter Wonderland Storytime


Getting Dressed for Winter: Hold up items of winter clothing. Ask children to name them – proceed to wear it in the wrong place and ask children to tell you where to wear it correctly.

Repeat. (From the blog Storytime Idea Machine:

Songs and Rhymes:

Snowflakes, Snowflakes

Tune of “Frere Jacque”

Snowflakes, snowflakes,
Snowflakes, snowflakes,
All around,
All around–
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Hit the ground,
Hit the ground.

Five Little Snowmen

Five little snowmen standing in a row.
(Hold up five fingers; stand up straight like soldier.)

Each had two eyes and a carrot nose.
(Point to eyes; point to nose.)

Along came the sun and shone all day,
(Form sun with hands; wipe sweat from brow.)

And one little snowman melted away.
(Hold up one finger; slowly “melt” to the ground and say the words slower as you do.)

Four little snowmen…
Three little snowmen…
Two little snowmen…
One little snowman…

Good-bye Song: Winter Pokey (Snow-ky Pokey?)
To the tune of “The Hokey-Pokey”

You put your right mitten in,
You take your right mitten out.
You put your right mitten in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the winter pokey, [shiver]
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

You put your left mitten in….
You put your right boot….
You put your left boot….
You put your long scarf in….
You put your warm cap in….
You put your snowsuit in….

Five Little Icicles

Five little icicles hanging in the air
The first one said “It’s COLD out there!”
The second one said “The sun is very nice”
And the third one said “Not if you’re made of ice!”
The fourth one said “Drip, drip, drip, drip!”
And the fifth one said “I’m falling! KER-PLIP!”

Snow is Falling Down

(Like the rhyme “Rain is Falling Down”)

Snow is falling down
Snow is falling down
Sifting, drifting, sifting, drifting
Snow is falling down


Snow Dude (Daniel Kirk)
Snow Is My Favorite and My Best (Lauren Child)
Teddy’s Snowy Day (Ian Beck)
Snowballs (Lois Ehlert)
All You Need for a Snowman (Alice Schertle)
A Winter Day (Douglas Florian)
Names for Snow (Judi K. Beach)
Snowball Fight (Jimmy Fallon)
Thomas’ Snowsuit (Robert Munsch)
50 Below Zero (Robert Munsch)

Craft Ideas:

Icicle Painting: Draw a thick line of glue across the top of a black piece of construction paper (with the paper turned landscape style). Pick the paper up and let the glue run down the page. Sprinkle with irredescent glitter. Let dry.

“Frost” Paintings: Dip sponge stamps, cookie cutters, etc. into white glue and stamp on black or blue paper. Sprinkle with irredescent glitter.

Cupcake Liner Snowman: Glue 3 cupcake liners onto a sheet of construction paper to make the snowman. Use buttons, felt, construction paper, markers, etc. to make it look like a snowman.

Q-Tip snowflakes: Lay a sheet of wax paper on a table. Use Q-tips to make a snowflake on top of the wax paper. Squirt glue on any spot where 2 Q-tips meet. Let dry completely and peel off of wax paper. Don’t forget, you don’t have to use whole Q-tips, you can break them up and use pieces too!

I thought it would be a cool idea to make a snowball that won’t melt, (like the one we read about in The Snowy Day). Unfortunately for the “everyone welcome” storytimes, this just isn’t feasible. But for those of you who have a limited number of kids in attendance, here it is:

  • Buy Styrofoam balls (6 at the Dollar Store for $1.25)
  • Roll the Styrofoam balls in white glue and stick things like cotton balls, Styrofoam peanuts, white yarn, fabric, to the ball to make it an un-meltable snowball!

Snack: Vanilla Wafer Snowmen
Decorate your cookies to look like snowmen!

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Ah, back in the Ontario Early Years saddle. I asked if they had any special themes for the day – usually it’s something like “fall” – and Elham and Kim said “Well, what about making new friends? A lot of the kids are new today.” Wellllll usually no problem! Unfortunately today, we’re in Day 3 of database migration downtime and I can’t use the catalogue for anything. But then I thought of this book I happened to find over the summer called Pouch! by David Ezra Stein. Pouch! is about a little joey who leaves the safety of this mother’s pouch for some exploring. He meets some new animals on the way a bee, a rabbit, a bird and is terrified! But he slowly goes farther and farther from his mother until one day he meets a friend who looks a very similar to him. They find strength in friendship and venture out into the unknown, sans pouch, together. Soft, lovely illustrations wtih pencil and… hrrmmm… watercolour (?) make for a very cute read.
pouch book cover

Also on the docket:
Hello Day book cover
Piggies book cover

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Today was my last day of storytime for the summer. 🙁 We only ran Family Storytimes this summer – for ages 0-5 years. This is a notoriously strange storytime to do since it’s hard to select materials appropriate for that age range and even more difficult to keep all those involved engaged for a full 30 minutes without slipping into utter chaos. Not going to lie – there was some chaos involved, particularly since the numbers went from 45 people the first week, to 75 to 90 back to a manageable 70-something today. Action rhymes became some baby mosh-pit action! It was wild and totally fun. If I could make a living free-lancing storytimes for libraries… I would. Except, y’know, there’s librarians to do that sort of thing. 😛

Here’s a brief outline of what I did each week. But “brief” I mean the craft and one of the books or rhymes… I can’t remember them all!

Week 1: Leaf necklaces (Materials needed: Leaf-shape cut outs, yarn, things to decorate with, glue)
Debuted my new song Who’s My Pretty Baby,(I learned it from Elizabeth Mitchell’s album You Are My Little Bird), with success. Goes like this:

Who’ll be my baby
Who’ll be my pretty little baby?
You’ll be my pretty little baby
Hey, hey, pretty babe

Hey, hey, pretty baby
Ho, ho, pretty little baby
You’re my, my pretty little baby
Hey, hey, pretty babe.

Who’ll be my little man?
Who’ll be my nice lady
Who’ll be my funny little bunny
Hey, hey, pretty babe

(lather, rinse, repeat first verse)

Week 2: Monkey paper bag puppets (Materials needed: brown paper bags, pink oval shapes for the face and brown oval shapes for the ears, glue)
The book Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett, (who I laude copiously throughout this blog), worked phenomenally well for Family Storytime! Babies enjoy the simple rhyme and pre-schoolers enjoy reading it as a “read along.” You read a line and they repeat it back. For extra fun – act out the animals!

Week 3: Butterfly straw puppets (Materials needed: Butterfly-shaped cut-outs, straws, crepe paper streamers, markers, tape)
The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell. I love, love, love this book. Babies enjoy the theme and the “baby’s day” aspect of it… toddlers like helping you make the onomatopoeias. It’s easy for parents to help you out – everybody wins!

Week 4: Paper plate flowers (paper plates, tissue paper or crepe paper cut into pieces, glue)
Is Your Mama a Llama (Deborah Guarino) – One little boy liked this so much he took it home with him!

At the end of the hour, several of the mothers came up to tell me how much their children enjoyed the storytime and promised to be back in the fall. In light of all of the extra administrative /off-desk and hands-off type of work I seem to be doing lately, it’s the ability to interact with customers, especially in an environment like storytime, that makes my job worthwhile.

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During Library Day in the Life Round … was it 3? I was running around doing Summer Reading Club programs and working at the reference desk like a madwoman. This past Monday, I ran around troubleshooting camp administration, overseeing more super-secret library classification testing, whipping Programming Volunteers into shape and lots of administrative unpleasantries that I should not describe not only under the auspices of good professional conduct, but would also bore anyone reading to tears. But let it be said that I administrated with the best of them. More tomorrow, as it’s Storytime Day!


Today is technically the first day of Library Day in the Life Round 5. But, since I’ve already been at work for two days, I thought I’d fill the Internet in on my “Monday” and “Tuesday.” Also, this provides a good explanation for my unintelligible blogs and tweets towards Thursday and Friday of this week. (Psst! It’s because I’ll have been at work for seven days…)

Saturday in the Life: The Day of Good Intentions or The day where e-mail happened.

9:00: I get to work expecting a delicious day off-desk during which I will surely achieve all of the prep-work for the end of the month reports, etc.

10:00: Summer Reading Club reporting hours begin. I say hello to the volunteers and go back to e-mail.

10:00: A lovely young woman shows up for a proctoring appointment. Good news: I totally know what she’s talking about! Bad news: Between her virtual educators and the library, someone has managed to think a “9” is a “4” (or vice-versa) so, here she is, ready to take and exam on the 24th instead of the 29th. The study room we usually use for proctoring has been booked all day, so I put her in my manager’s office since she’s not here and it’s a really nice office. I type in the password for her online exam and she’s off!

10:20: Volunteers are bored. So, I give them project to do, then of course, that’s when people show up to report. Volunteers are un-bored.

10:30: Sit down at my email again, remember that the chess instructor needs yet another white board because the dry-erase surface on the big white board on the wall has somehow lost its capacity to … er… dry erase. Basically, it’s borked. Carry another white board upstairs. Bump into a lot of things.

10:40: E-mail.

11:15: Proctoring person says her exam crashed. I log her back in.

11:30: Prepare registration materials for all classes running in the next week…

The afternoon was really a blur. I don’t even remember what I ate for lunch. Basically, I got through my e-mail and that was my major triumph of the day. Buh. “Oh well,” I thought (foolishly), “there’s always Sunday!”

What did happen on Sunday? I should give you a little background. Shortly before I was hired, Markham Public Library created a new kind of classification system. It’s called Customer Centered Classification, or C3™ for short. It basically limits the call numbers to four fields, and arranges the books by subject headings which are, we hope, more intuitive for customers to find. The arrangement facilitates browsing and the shorter call numbers is supposed to make it easier to find, shelve, and shelf-read the books. It even won an award this year. Before anyone asks me questions, I should mention that I don’t work with C3™ since my branch hasn’t been converted yet. We’re still living in the days of Dewey, which is fine by me since I don’t know Dewey very well, yet, and it’d be nice to learn before we switch to the new system.

I mention all this because my main activity on Sunday was to conduct some testing with Dewey using some volunteers from the Teen Advisory Group. I can’t really get into the nature of the tests, but at 9:59 am, I realized that I needed to select about 90 more random titles for volunteers to work with. This involved pulling all of the books, writing down their titles and call numbers and re-shelving them. And the volunteers were due at 11:00. I’m happy to say that I can re-shelve 90 books in 20 minutes never having worked as a page, but by the time we were ready to begin, it was 11:20. I did bring them Timbits, so I was mostly forgiven. As I’ve mentioned – I can’t describe the tests, but I will say that after I told the volunteers what they would be doing, they looked a little bleak. “This, uh, sounded much more fun in the e-mail.” one of them said.

Flash forward to 2:30 p.m. The volunteers have left, shakily agreeing to take part in the second part of this test. I sit down to type up their response sheets and I realize – I’ve forgotten to have them do the last part of the test. Ah, well. They didn’t have it in them to get up on the Dewey Decimal System for 4 hours straight, anyway and really neither did I.

2:30 pm: Oh right, lunch. I should mention that Sunday was the Deli Duel, where several awesome local delis faced off to win the title of best smoked meat sandwich. Several of my friends attended to eat various sammiches. I was… not there. 🙁 I had cold pizza.

3:00 p.m.: I now find I’ve lost the will to do any actual, thinking work. So, I turn to my crafts for storytime, which I had originally been saving for the volunteers on Monday. I am making snake puppets. After tracing about 35 of them, I realized they look distinctly sperm-like. Hopefully the parents won’t be offended…

5:00 p.m.: Stumble out of the building, into my car and make it home in time for the 6:20 show of Inception. Which was spectacular.

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I’m sure we all know about the Old Spice Guy “Man your man could smell like” commercial. After all – it’s one of the best ad campaigns ever, resulting in hundreds of kazillions of internet dollars and serious lulz. (Did I just say that? Yes, I did.) Recently, the campaign (look – I’m referring to it as a sentient being) has given back to its expansive internet fan base and had the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa answer questions in character in a slew of hilarious video responses. It was like talking to an internet meme!!! It was delightful and crazy. I loved it. I especially loved that libraries got a little special moment in the sun thanks to the tweets of @wawoodworth:

Old Spice Guy Talks about Libraries

The following day, my twitter feed yielded this library promotion gem:

New Spice

The Harold B. Lee Library has harnessed the Old Spice Guy’s single-shot internet fame and used it for a hilarious way to promote libraries. Of course it won’t be recognized (the joke, that is) in 15 years or so, but I was really pleased that this library was savvy enough to jump on this popular ad campaign and work it in our favour. Monocle smile.

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Question: When is information too much information?
Answer: When information is in the form of my Twitter feed that I established in the interest of being professionally responsible and then… became kind of involved (read: addicted) on a personal level. At first I tweeted sparingly about library related topics only but then it kind of branched off to personal topics… frustrations with work… gastrointestinal upset… hangovers… etc.

Also did I mention that I’m a bit of a potty mouth?

Then Library Day in the Life Round 4 happened, and I used Twitter for most of the week because I didn’t have a lot of time to blog properly. I gained some extra followers from the library community at large – I was pretty surprised. After awhile, though, I realized that this is not professionally prudent. Now, I also feel the need, as so many others have, to separate personal from professional in the realm of social media. Why? I want people who follow me because we’re in the same profession to have a stream of relevant information (not that mine is the best professional Twitter feed ever) but also spare them the mundane facts of everyday life. Like what I had for breakfast, where I’ll be for the afternoon, etc. Also, I want to be able to drop the occasional F-bomb or talk about the strange colour of my pee post-ingestion of B50 complex vitamins if I feel so inclined without worrying about being viewed as immature or unprofessional (although sometimes I am both :)) on a day to day basis.

The Plan: Slowly but surely starting up my “official” library Twitter feed ( @garz4lib, bien sur!). Then I’m probably going to lock up my personal feed because you never know when Library of Congress is watching.

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