Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mindfully Thankful and not Thanksgiving

How We Said Thank You
 Family Story Time @ Thanksgiving Time

Thanksgiving story time has presented a problem for me for all 28 years in children's library services. I have been blessed with supervisors who recognize the changing world and the often narrow path we walk in the children's departments of public libraries.  Mind you we walk these paths with open arms.  

The majority of time our fall story time session ends 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving.  This purposeful pause in programming allows approximately 29 holidays to pass before we resume programming in mid January.  It's a long break but we do offer a variety of specials throughout this time. Think: Family Game Day, Lego Play, Pop-Up Art, Yoga for Two, Calm Coloring...these specials "mix it up" for families and staff.  It's a nice change of pace and no focus on any holiday.


Working in a richly diverse community with more than 60 languages spoken in our neighborhood I do not ever wish to make a family or a child unwelcome or uncomfortable in the library.  This is their library.  
This year our library system has been playing with the Children's schedule - with all good intentions.  We are trying to find the right recipe for children and family programming for three different buildings, three different communities  And we'll get there. But in the mean time...Monday night's Prime Time with Piper met on Nov 21 and I did not do a Thanksgiving story.  Nope.  Turkey craft?  Never.  This book? No.

The majority of parents attending are foreign born.  Their beautiful children are first generation Americans.  Our relationship is built on trust.  They trust their preschoolers with my silliness, my off-key singing and my book selections. I trust they will do the good work of reading, singing and playing until I see them again. Our early literacy program is not the place for a lesson on America's treatment of indigenous people.  It is also not the place for me to mislead these families with a tale of  the 1621 first Thanksgiving, Myles Standish, the pilgrims and the Wampanoags.  My respect for First/Native Nations and for the library families will not allow me to do that.  No way.  

So what did we do?  We learned to say Thank You in sign language.  Here's a link.  We learned to make the heart shape with our hands.  We read a book about caring for our family. We shared a story of filling our heart with happiness and being ever-so-grateful for that happiness. We danced to a hip-hop version of If You're Happy and You Know It.  

And then we moved to the craft table and mindfully created collage hearts with torn pieces of origami paper.  As I glued my pieces I voiced: I am thankful for my family, my library friends, good books, good food, ice cream, my Piper dog, the beach, the warm sun.  Yep.  That worked for me.  Beautiful hearts, beautiful children and multi-lingual parents silently signed thank you.  And they all had hugs for Piper!  

This post, How I Learned to Savor Thanksgiving by Meteor Blade, has helped me both understand the history and maintain my love of family/food gatherings each fall. 
I like having deep conversations on ideas often held in conflict.  Children's books place me there.  Loving a story that has horrible reviews or not liking a book that everyone loves, problematic characters bring about amazing conversations.  Talk to me - we'll both learn.  But Thanksgiving with three year olds - I will trust their parents to tell them what they wish.  Older children, proper books and we can talk truth.  

P.S.(Piper Script) Hopefully next year we won't have a program on top of Thanksgiving.  

Thanks for reading.  We love your comments 
~ Jane and Piper


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Big Thinking for a Little Branch

For the Love of Bryant Park
and the girl who introduced us!

Bryant Park is a 9.603-acre privately managed public park located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues,  between 40th & 42nd Streets  click here for more

Once upon a time, seems like only yesterday, my daughter lived in NYC.  She told me of this park, her favorite for all it has to offer, and it happens to be located on the back side of the New York Public Library.  Can you even stand it?  For this librarian is a dream come true.  I stop at Bryant Park almost every time I go to the city.  I actually stop at the park more than the library...hush! That will be our secret!  That and the champagne!

A library colleague visited the park a month ago and she was thrilled to have a fencing lesson!  Yes, fencing in the park!  In those fancy fencing jackets! There is so much to do here.  They have ping pong tables, checkers, chess, backgammon, wi-fi, an art cart, putters & putting and yoga.  During November the park is teaching juggling and they featured the movie, Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving, on Monday the 21st.  (follow them on Twitter and you'll be in the know!)

This park with the stunning skyscrapers of NYC marking the four walls and the generous open space middle is a dream come true for many in my field.  Libraries across the nation are reclaiming space.  Removing outdated reference sections, replacing heavy furniture with small footprint pieces and opening up floor plans. It is exactly what many community members want in their libraries.  Bryant Park offers open green space anchored by the amazing NYPL. It doesn't get better. 

When you can't find it inside make it happen outside!  Many librarians work in small busy libraries with popular collections.  Removing a stack and opening up the space visually is good but if we have some outdoor space to utilize...I say go for it.   Open the doors, people!!


Now on to the point of today's blog!  Of course I have a motive here!  Three library directors and three branch managers into this little branch and I'm still singing the same song...can we be "like Bryant Park", please?  Can we look at the NYPL/Park relationship? Think big, little branch, think bigger!  Do you think we could have....
     A shady outside patio by the bay window for chess, and checkers and wi-fi users
     Ping pong tables on the side lawn
     Art cart by the picnic tables
     Yoga in the early morning in the parking lot, (free street parking)
My little branch has some usable green space.  Not much, but some.  Enough for the above! If we ever offer a day for hula hooping again we shall do it outside.  On our first day of Yoga for 2 we had more than 80 people in our community room - they were climbing the walls and that's not a yoga position!  We need to take that outside.  Our children's movement class - Party Like a Preschooler would be joyful with the green grass all around.  

We have an abundance of Teen volunteers each summer.  Volunteering is required in some of our high school courses.  Our Teens can help with this open air addition to the branch.  

Bryant Park is an outstanding model of community engagement and there's much to learn from this library/park proximity.  Thank you Bryant Park for inspiring dreams for the community.  Maybe I should suggest a field trip? (we can sip champagne or a steamy hot chocolate here before taking the train home - that's what Piper does!)

Many thanks to my daughter, the former NYC dweller, now suburban mom in N.C.  She visits a few area libraries with her children; one even has a small playground tucked into the property.  Swings!  Don't worry I won't go there!  But really, swings!  Or I could just ask for the Bryant Park Carousel!  #aparkforallseasons #librariestransform

Thanks for visiting Piper Loves the Library.  We love city parks as well.  How about you? 
~ Jane & Piper

P.S. (Piper Script) If management is by any chance reading this...Piper and I have many more ideas for our mid-century modern library.  We'll be happy to show you our pinterest page!  We're available!