Friday, July 17, 2015

Guest Post: Library on the Green

It's summer in the North Country, and that means taking advantage of the mild weather while we have the chance. Rebecca Donnelly of the Norwood Public Library has been doing just that with Library on the Green. Today, she gives this blog the scoop:

Parachute play is a big hit during Norwood's Library on the Green program.

So, tell me a little about this program. 

I ran a preschool music & movement program at the Norwood Beach last summer, and while we had fun, attendance was low because there wasn't any drive-by traffic. It was too windy to be outside, so we ended up using the dimly-lit arena, which didn't really offer the fun and breezy atmosphere I was looking for. So this year I moved over to the Village Green in the center of Norwood's downtown and added something I've been dreaming about for a while now: a pop-up library. I set up a canopy and a table with my laptop, information about the library, and a selection of picture books, and I invite families to browse and check out books after the program. It's running for 6 weeks, and the first two have been pretty successful.

That sounds wonderful! So far, what have been the benefits of moving outdoors? 

It's all about visibility and access. I set up near the excellent village green playground, so I can easily reel in participants who just showed up to hang out there. (Guerrilla librarianship is another of my long-term goals.) We're also visible from the street, and I'm hoping that people who see us do parachute play and all that will go, Hey, I didn't know the library did that! Because we're a special district library, I'm always trying to think of ways to show the community what we're doing. So far, I've seen some of my very best regulars and many more whom I've never seen in the library. The weather has been perfect (knock wood, spin three times). I could keep this thing going year-round, right? Winter's not too bad up here?

Not too bad, no. *side-eye*

What challenges - apart from potentially rotten weather - should someone hoping to duplicate your program expect?

It takes a little capital to get started with a music and movement program of any stripe (plug for NCLS summer mini-grant from last year!). I have a 12' parachute, egg shakers, bean bags, bells, and some new tambourines. But there are plenty of things you can do with just some music and some homemade instruments, if that's all you have. I love using the Wiggleworms' CD, Wiggleworms Love You, because it's got some great classics for moving around (Skidamarink) and fun new ones, too. I read a couple of stories, and then we get into a circle and do some movement guiding songs (like "If You're Happy and You Know It"), then instruments, then parachute time. I'm not exactly the Nancy Pearl of the musical world, as you well know, but I refuse to let ignorance stop me. I can't sing, I don't even know what real dancing looks like, and I have fun anyway.

The pop-up library part is a work-in-progress. I use the laptop, but I forgot to charge it the first week, so that part was a bust. The second week, I forgot to bring library cards with me to register new users. The village has kindly let me use their wifi, so I have to make sure I'm set up close enough to the municipal building that I can get signal to use WorkFlows. I bought a really cool canvas utility wagon and some waterproof boxes for my books & equipment, and I was going to walk the few blocks downtown with my library-in-a-cart, but I find I'm bringing more than the wagon can hold (canopy, table, etc). So I drive, and then I set up the wagon as a mini-library, because that's more fun than just using the table. The kids love that it's at their level!

I did ask permission to hold a program on the green. I'm not selling anything, and I'm not attracting a crowd of thousands, but I wanted to be safe. It helps to have volunteers for set up, but it's not essential. And bring more than you think you'll need--tape, pens, calendars, whatever. Better to have and not need...

Too true. Thanks for sharing, and good luck with the rest of your summer!

Rebecca Donnelly is the Director of the Norwood Public Library. She spent six years as a children's librarian in New Mexico and then moved to the North Country because she enjoys seeing the color green. She occasionally tweets about her #tinylibrary from @_becca_donnelly

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