Goal Setting Revisited

In a previous post, I talked about goal setting, and how CALLI had us make a plan to set goals and follow through on them. This exercise was extremely helpful to me and has helped me reach some more professional and personal goals in the last few months. One of the most helpful parts of the process was having a goal coach. My goal coach and I just caught up on the phone a few days ago, and we had both reached the goals we set for ourselves at CALLI. We agreed that having each other, having someone we knew we would be accountable to, really gave us that final push to accomplish our goals. We didn’t want to let someone else down.

photo credit: viZZZual.com via photopin cc

photo credit: viZZZual.com via photopin cc

As November comes to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting on goals quite a bit, as I’ve been working on NaNoWriMo over the month of November. The goal of NaNo: write a 50,000 word novel over the month. This ends up being about 1,666 words a day. 50,000 words sounds a little daunting when you look at it as one big chunk, but when you break it up daily, it isn’t nearly as scary. As of today, I’m at a little over 45,000 words (and I haven’t done my writing for the day, yet), and I’m confident I will hit 50,000 words by November 30th. NaNo, in many ways, is the definition of a SMART goal. It’s specific (write a novel); measurable (a 50,000 word novel); attainable (break down the writing into smaller daily chunks which is hard, but doable); realistic (again, not easy, but not impossible if you chip away at it a little bit every day); and time-bound (over the month of November). This was exactly like the goals we worked on crafting at CALLI. Another common factor with my CALLI goals: I told people. I told everyone I knew that I was writing a novel. That again kept me accountable, and meant I forced myself to write even when I didn’t want to. I promised the people close to me I was going to do this, and I wanted to follow through.

Another of my goals for November: to take a break from Facebook. I didn’t want it distracting me from my writing. Again, I told people. I made sure everyone I knew understood I wouldn’t be on Facebook for the month. And (hopefully you’re sensing a pattern here) I stuck to it. I haven’t been on Facebook for the past month.

All of this has gotten me thinking about goal setting and the importance of just telling people my goals. Being accountable to another person, and feeling like another person has a stake in helping me reach my goals, clearly makes me more able to reach them. I’ve found that even in small ways this works. Say I want to get one thing done at work one day and it’s essential. Just telling my coworker: “This is what I want to get done today” means it pretty much always happens. Do you have a goal you’ve been thinking about but slacking on getting started? Tell someone. It may be what helps you get started on the path to accomplishing it.

Things I Wish I’d Known: Baby Storytime

Welcome to Things I Wish I’d Known, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about things I wish I’d known when I started my job as a children’s librarian.

Originally, I was going to do a “Things I Wish I’d Known” feature on all storytimes, but then I realized that was too much to cram into a single post. So I will break down the three storytimes I do weekly–baby, toddler, and preschool–over the next few weeks. If you want to see how my baby storytime works, I talked about it here.

Baby storytime was probably the storytime that scared me the most when I started my job. What can I do with a room full of babies? I wondered. I was sure it was going to be a disaster. Imagine my surprise when I started baby storytimes and realized that they would actually be my weekly therapy. Baby storytime is easy to plan, fun, and makes my whole day better. Here are some things I have learned over the couple of years:

What I Wish I'd Known: Baby Storytime

photo credit: Harald Groven via photopin cc

1. It’s more about the parents/caregivers than the babies. Babies learn a lot from baby storytime. I’ve watched lots of babies blossom. But at the end of the day, I consider my baby storytimes to be about supporting the new parents and caregivers in my community. We have lots of stay-at-home parents who come to baby storytime, as well as grandparents and nannies who spend their whole day with a child. They need some time out of the house, time to see other adults, and something that reinforces all of the awesome things they are doing with their babies day in and out. In storytime I get to model ways to read a book to a baby, hopefully teach my caregivers some new rhymes to use at home with their babies, and give them some time to connect with other adults. I also get to pass on a few tips about what research tells us about baby brains and brain development.

2. Flexibility is key. Sometimes something just isn’t working. If all the babies are crawling or walking around, it’s not the time to try a lap bounce. If there’s a lot of chatter and activity in the room, I find it best to stop what I’m doing and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” If I really can’t get the room’s attention, I’ll pass out shaky eggs and and sing together for the rest of the storytime. Baby storytime requires a lot of reading the room and adapting to the needs of the room as things come up.

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Baby Storytime: How Mine Works

There are probably as many different baby storytimes as there are librarians who provide them, but here’s a little bit about my baby storytime: what I do and what works for me. On Wednesday, I will also be publishing a post on what I wish I’d known about baby storytime when I started my job.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

Baby storytime at our library is about 20-25 minutes long. Our age range for it is birth to 18 months, although we are loose with that. Some babies like to stay a little bit longer before they are ready to move up to our much more active and busy toddler time (more on that next week), and some are ready to move up a bit earlier. I tell parents to go where their baby seems to be having the most fun and is the most comfortable.

Baby storytime is full of lots of repetitive elements that we do every week. Here’s the plan from the last baby storytime I planned: baby_storytime_11_12_14. Although I like to mix up the rhymes for myself to keep it fresh, I also try to make sure that we do a lot of things over and over so the babies and parents know what to expect, can sing along, and get lots of that repetition that we know is so important for baby brains. (Along with that, we do all of the rhymes and songs twice.) There are a lot of rhymes on this sheet–we never get to all of them. I just like to over-plan, and then I can pick and choose the elements I feel like using on the day of storytime. As you can see, I don’t use a theme in my baby storytime.

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How to Throw a Preschool Dance Party

Last Friday was one of my favorite days in the library: Preschool Dance Party day. This is a music and movement program we do twice a month at my library. It’s consistently popular (usually around 50-75 attendees), builds early literacy skills, and is FUN. I’ve seen lots of awesome posts on how people do their own music and movement programs. This is how we do ours.

Our program is 30 minutes long (although, full disclosure, we usually go over) and it consists of a movement book or story to start, 20-25 minutes of dancing, and ending with an activity with the parachute. Our music for this program is pretty much all pre-recorded music that we make into a playlist on our iPad and hook into our sound system in our meeting room. The age range for the dance party is technically 2-5, but younger siblings come, and that’s always been fine with us. Although we call it Preschool Dance Party, in a lot of ways it’s toddler dance party.

Some of the props we use.

Some of the props we use.

What kinds of music and dances do we do? All kinds! We always do one song with instruments, one song that we dance to with scarves, and quite a few classic songs like “Wheels on the Bus,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and “The Hokey Pokey.” We also do the Limbo quite a bit, usually to a Motown song because I love them. And for the other songs, we use a lot of Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and other children’s songs you can follow along to and that spell out the dances and moves you can do. At last preschool dance party, we danced liked robots for one song (“Robot Friends” by Yo Gabba Gabba, another dance party favorite), played our instruments along with “Day-O” by Gregory Isaacs, pretended to surf to “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys (I really love using oldies in the dance party because it gets the caregivers dancing with the kids), pretended to be dinosaurs to Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” and shook our sillies out with Raffi.

If I’m not making it clear, I really love Preschool Dance Party. It’s one of my favorite programs that we do, and I think it has a lot of value. If you’d like to throw one of your own, here are my top tips:

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I’ve Got a Mentor!

In her great guest post on mentoring, Amy Bland talked about the CALLI mentoring day and how the mentoring relationship is supposed to work. I wanted to follow up on her thoughts once I found my own mentor, and I’m pleased to say I’ve found a mentor for the year-long CALLI program: Nancy Maday, the Children’s Services Manager at Pikes Peak Library District. She’s also a co-founder of CLEL (Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, a fantastic organization that I currently volunteer for as a member of the Steering Committee–check out their website if you haven’t already) and is passionate about children’s librarians either moving into management or learning to lead from wherever they are in the organization.

I feel so lucky to have a found a mentor that so perfectly matches up with my goals for both CALLI and my career. When we chatted briefly on the phone to decide whether we would be a good mentor match, it already expanded my thinking of my role and how it relates to the whole organization, rather than the day-to-day aspects of my job (I also talked about this quite a bit in the post on the organizational map). I’m lucky to be a part of CALLI, which has a formal mentoring program as part of the year, but I think mentors are important regardless of whether they are formal or not. I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, and here are some things I recommend thinking about when looking for a mentor:

All great questions to ask.

All great questions to ask.

1. Look for a mentor who will question you about the big picture. My first librarian mentor has always been the person I go to when applying for jobs or considering a job change. She is always thinking about, and helping me think about, how this step relates to the next one. Having someone who will help you think strategically about your next job and how it fits into your career arc is incredibly important.

2. Think about what you would like to gain from this relationship. Do you want a mentor who is one step ahead of you in your career and can help you take that next leap? Or do you want someone who is several steps ahead of you, where you’d eventually want to be, and see if they can help you build a path that might help you get a job like theirs? Or do you need someone to help push you in your current role, whether or not you have any desire to move up in the near future? All of these are great reasons to have a mentor. Just decide what you want up front and approach the person who will help you where you are.

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Things I Wish I’d Known: Collection Development

Welcome to Things I Wish I’d Known, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about things I wish I’d known when I started my job as a children’s librarian.

I’ve been a children’s librarian for 2 1/2 years now, and before that was a teen librarian for about a year. When I look back at what I’ve learned over these last few years, it’s a lot. So I thought I’d try to share some of the things I’ve learned in case they might help some of my readers avoid the same mistakes I’ve made. The first post in this series will focus on Collection Development and all I’ve learned from trying to build and maintain the collection at my library for the last few years.

Whenever I see something like this in a book, I know it’s pretty much my jam.

1. It’s not about you and what you like. This is obvious, and it’s Collection Development 101, but it’s one thing to intellectually know, and another to actually focus on when making purchasing decisions. One thing I learned while perusing review journals early on: I love books that have maps in them. As a kid, I read so much fantasy, and I still love poring over the maps in any epic fantasy I might read. When a review mentions that a book has maps, I’m tempted (still, every time) to buy it without even thinking about it. I mean, it has maps, it must be good, right? I’ve had to learn to think critically about whether or not this particular book is a good fit for my collection, and whether my patrons would want to read it. Fantasy circs really well in my library, which works in my favor here, but I have to make sure I stop, think about it, and make an informed decision about whether the book is one my patrons–and not just me–will love.

Really, any time a review of a book sparks an immediate gut reaction in me, either positive or negative, that’s when I take a step back and make sure I’m thinking critically about the book and its reviews, rather than just going by my own personal tastes. For instance, as a reader I would never pick up a book in verse on my own. It’s just not my thing. But there are many popular and well-reviewed books that are books in verse, and I need to make sure my collection has them.

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Halloween Spooktacular Program

My coworker, the fabulous Miss Katie, as Fancy Nancy, and me as a mad scientist.

My coworker, the fabulous Miss Katie, as Fancy Nancy, and me as a mad scientist.

Although Halloween is over, I can’t resist posting about our insanely popular Halloween Spooktacular program in case you want to try it at your library next year. It was a relatively easy program to plan, pretty inexpensive, popular (there were around 100 attendees!), and a lot of fun.

Here’s the basic summary of the program: It was geared at toddlers and preschoolers, so we had it the morning of Halloween. We asked people to come in costume. We decided we would read a book or two, dance to the Monster Mash, make some crafts, and then trick-or-treat around the library. Below is a breakdown of all the parts of the program:

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