As a library employee and a lover of books, there is always a thrill of excitement walking into a new library for the first time. Heading into Library 21C for the CATS Winter Workshop was no exception. Outside, the building cut an impressive figure against the beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, and the quiet shufflings of the early morning patrons just starting to file in at opening had a serene quality. You would never guess there were dozens of library employees upstairs, gathering from all over the state, warming up their voices and rubbing the sleep out of their arms and legs, getting ready to launch into a chorus of storytime songs and silly dances.
The opening session, “Adverse Childhood Experiences: Changing the Narrative,” however, was anything but silly. Presenter Kathy Orr discussed the effects of early childhood experiences and trauma on the brain. It was a sobering start to the day, but an important reminder that the work we do everyday is so much more impactful than just sharing brightly colored books and simple crafts. By engaging with youth and creating a space for them to bond with their caregivers, libraries offer a space for children and adults to make meaningful connections that can set them up for successful relationships that support healthy brain growth and prevent future trauma and lifestyle choices that can have lasting impacts on their health well into adulthood. Orr’s talk was jam-packed with well-researched information and felt like a call to arms for library staff to recommit ourselves to making our programs a place for those connections to happen, a place for families to learn how to grow together.
From there, the sessions got more lighthearted, though no less powerful. Presenters offered great resources for how to reach specific demographics and cater to their varied needs. In “Sensory Storytime for Children, Teens and Adults,” the presenters shared some of the ways in which they create a safe space for their patrons with autism and sensory sensitivities. Tactics as simple as creating a predictable schedule and sticking to it can make all the difference in a program like this! In “Grown Ups are People Too,” Julie Crabb reminded us that babies can’t get to storytime all by themselves and that it is important to remember that parents need to feel engaged as well to keep coming back. Again, it was simple tips and tricks like adding pop culture references or spicing up your storytime playlist with a few modern songs that were suggested. So much of the advice shared during all of the sessions followed this same theme: simple, budget-friendly, anyone can do it! After every session groups of library staff could be seen sitting and discussing how easy it would be to start implementing this idea or that at their library or in their storytime next week!
Between sessions and during lunch (which was delicious) we had an opportunity to explore the library. What a treat! Aside from the enviable view of the mountains, the library boasted an incredible display of artwork. There were beautifully decorated display tables set up for Valentine’s Day and Black History Month in the main area and children’s area alike. Glass cases displayed artwork as a way of advertising craft offerings at the branch, such a beautiful way to showcase library programming!
Not only were the sessions full of great information, but we were treated to a preview of the spring collection from Baker & Taylor and spoiled with a selection of awesome freebies! As if our TBR lists weren’t long enough, the reps from Baker & Taylor shared some must read upcoming titles to be on the lookout for and even sent us home with copies of a few of their favorites that were on the horizon. It might be a little silly to say it was my favorite part of the day, but I mean, come on…free books? AND their mascots are cats! How perfect is that!? To be purrfectly honest, I had been waiting all day from some mention of cats…there was a distinct lack of cat-themed puns, and this session more than made up for that.
The final break out session was a close competitor for my favorite part of the day. My own work in my library district is as a Program and Outreach Coordinator for the Lamb Branch for the Pueblo City-County Library District. As such, I oversee programming for all ages. In particular, my goal for this year is to build our offerings for teens, who are currently underserved at our branch. During the last session of the day, we were given the opportunity to split into two groups, discussing programming ideas for either children or teens. This proved to be an awesome opportunity to pick the brains of all the other attendees and see what they are doing around the state to serve teens. Everyone shared at least one program they currently run or have run in the past to serve teens, what size group they served, what kind of budget and set up it took to run and how it went. Hands were flying over notepads (led by our brand-new cat shaped Baker and Taylor pens…seriously these were the best giveaways) as we all took down the ideas generously offered up. It was so nice to hear from more experienced programmers talking about how they organize programs for teens, and also reassuring to know that what I had accomplished so far in growing my teen offerings was moving me in the right direction.
I left Library 21C that Monday afternoon, with a Justin Timberlake song stuck in my head (accompanied by a series of simple dance steps for moms and babies), and a whole bunch of new tools in my toolbox, ready to try things out at my branch! This month I’m dusting off our bubble maker for storytime. Our district is already working on a mommy and baby dance class, and I’m coming up with a list of guests to bring to storytime. I have a list of crafts and programs to try with my teens in the upcoming months and a new appreciation for how important these fun programs and projects can be for all of the young people in our community. I enjoyed the CATS Winter Workshop so much and I can’t wait for the next one!
- Kimberly Sewell
- Program and Outreach Coordinator, PCCLD
A fun visual schedule for Sensory Storytime so patrons know what to expect and when during their visit! This can help manage expectations and assist patrons who may have sensitivities know when a particular activity is coming up that they would enjoy or rather avoid.
Adapting pop music so it’s baby friendly is one way presenters suggested making storytime more engaging for grown ups! This is a silly rendition of “Rapper’s Delight” that presenter Julie Crabb created and shared with us.
One of the awesome art installations on display at Library 21C just outside our conference room. So cool!
Can’t stop the feelin’! Conference-goers dancing to Justin Timberlake in a tutorial of a mommy and baby dance class program model. (Yes, I danced too as soon as I finished taking this photo). We had a lot of fun!