Monday, June 24, 2013

Faux Gumball Machine! Reading Challenges & Ideas

I have once again been inspired!  Check out this cute idea:

This is adorable, but looking online I found that Gumball Machines aren't cheap!  So today, being my day off, I dragged my girls to the thrift shop and found this plastic container thingy.  Yes, the technical word is thingy.  It was $0.50.  I figured, add a little paint and viola!

I painted the inside of the lid and pedestal.  I knew acrylic paint wouldn't be super durable with kids, so I worked in layers to get the look I wanted.  I started with the gold paint, since I was painting from the inside out.  You want the first thing you paint to be the first thing you see (kind of the opposite of painting on the outside.)  The plastic doesn't absorb the moisture from the paint so you have to let it dry completely between coats, otherwise the almost dry paint sticks to the wet paint brush and comes off the plastic.  Use very thin coats!  I found they dry quickly and there is less chance of the colors mixing and causing you to need to start from scratch (I did twice.)

I found the little plastic containers (called Toy Vending Capsules) on but I am sure you can get them on eBay or other sites, I think the 250 count on Amazon would work for me, as opposed to the 1000 count.  My other thought on this was to make lucky stars (origami).  The silly poem, joke, quote, picture sentence or book suggestion could be printed on a strip of paper and then folded into a star.  Easy-peasy and cheap! Here are some visual instructions.  I did some checking online and I found that start with a strip of paper 30cm, or 1 foot long, and about 1cm wide, or about half an inch.  I found that makes a very small star.  So I might adjust the width.

My daughter informs me that the stars are hard to unravel without tearing them, and she is almost 9 so I imagine younger hands would find it even harder.  I guess I'll go with the toy capsules.  I've been working on a list of reading challenges, here's what I have so far:

  • Read a book where you share either your first or last name with the main character.
  • What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?  Read one 25-50 pages longer.
  • Read a book written about the years when your parents were your age.
  • Read a book written about the years when your grandparents were your age.
  • Read a book that rhymes (poetry!)
  • Do you have a pet dog?  Read about a cat.  Do you have a pet cat?  Read about a dog.
  • Read about a country that starts with the same letter as your last initial.
  • Read about a country that starts with the same letter as your first initial.
  • Choose a book by the cover only.
  • Read a book that takes place in South Dakota.
  • Re-read one of your favorite books.
  • Read a mystery that has “The Secret of the....” in the title.
  • Read a mystery that has “The Mystery of the....” in the title.
  • Read a Newberry Award winning book.
  • Read a book where you share either your first or last name with the author.
  • Read a book recommended by your teacher or Mrs. O.
  • Read a book about a place you have never visited.
  • Read a book about a place you have visited.
  • Read a book where the main character is not a person, dog or cat.
  • Read a graphic novel.
  • Read a book that has a dragon in it.
  • Read a book that your best friend recommends.
  • Read a book about someone who is being bullied.
  • Read a book written at least 50 years before you were born.
  • Read a book with the word “Never” in the title.
  • Read a book from the 000s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 100s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 200s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 300s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 400s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 500s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 600s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 700s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 800s in the Nonfiction.
  • Read a book from the 900s in the Nonfiction.
  • If you are a boy, read a book where the main character is a girl.
  • If you are a girl, read a book where the main character is a boy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fairy Tale Display Idea!

I went shopping the other day and bought myself a new pair of dress boots to replace a pair that I wore out last winter.  What does this have to do with the library??  Well, I was lazing in bed this morning and thought of Puss in Boots - maybe I could put a toy cat into my old boots and display him?  Then I thought, no, it would be funnier to have the boots on display with a little card that says, "Donated by Puss in Boots".  And my next thought was of somehow displaying a pea with a "On Loan from the Royal Collection".  Cheesy, but think of the fun I could have with it!  A picnic basket could be on loan from Red Riding Hood.  An old bucket and scrub brush from Cinderella.  The possibilities are endless!

On one wall of my library is the "Special Collections" shelves.  The top of them is where I am keeping the 5th & 6th grade level books right now.  I think because the shelves are about chin height on me (I'm 5'3") they would be good for displays that I don't want handled.  So where to go with the 5th & 6th grade books?  There is a single book shelf on the far side of the library that right now contains a collection of South Dakota related titles.  I think from the precise way it is arranged, they aren't circulating.  So, I'm thinking I'll pull them from that shelf - but will scan them into my circulation program's list builder to make them easier to find next time I need SD titles - and use that shelf for the higher level books.  I know younger kids read that high of levels, my own daughter is starting 4th grade next year and her reading level is 4.8-6.6 (fourth year, eighth month to sixth year, sixth month), so I want the books accessible but not necessarily in my main collection.  As I've mentioned before, these books will eventually be moving to the new intermediate school.

I've been doing a lot of Internet searches and Pinterest searches to come up with display ideas.  Here are some of my favorites.
I found the idea of color based displays at .  This post includes cute sayings for each color like, "It's Not Easy Being Green" and "Orange You Glad You Read Good Books?"

 I love this FOUND flyer!  I think hanging these flyers in a few places around the school would be a great tie-in with a dinosaur themed display.  The display could include models, toys, stuffed animals, fossil collections and of course books.
These doors are designed for your garden, but how cute would these be tucked into corners or on the ends of shelves?  Simple signs could have the names of your Shelf Elves who help you with keeping the library neat.  I wonder what would be the best way to make these?  I think my husband's wood working skills may be required.
I found this simple idea for Magnetic Poetry at  I have a poetry set that we enjoyed for a few months at the public library (you'd be surprised what silly things "grown up" librarians can come up with).  I would love to have a place in the school library where the kids could build little poems or funny sentences.  I wonder if a small whiteboard would work.  Then I could keep it at my desk and monitor it. 

I have all of these ideas and more pinned on my Library Ideas board on Pinterest.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Whimsey (continued)

Well, after letting everything dry, I found that the destination arrows curled.  So, back to square one, but that is okay.  For this round, I am going to start with black foam core.  I was able to cut more arrows, since it was originally a trifold display.  This time I have 11 arrows.  I also used my husband's box cutter and got decently straight edges, so I am going to stick with the basic arrow shape.

My first step will be to sand all of the edges lightly to remove the scraggly paper on the cut lines.  Then I am going to use a quality acrylic sealer on both sides of the arrows.  I think it would be best to crackle just one side of the arrows (no base coat needed since they are starting out dark colored).  I went to the store today and bought 2 colors of paint: pale yellow and pale blue.  I didn't find a pale green I liked, or a bottle of white to mix my own.  I don't know why the paint selection was so low!

I have an awesome friend with a cricut who is willing to let me cut out the names of my destinations.  I think I'll cut them in different colors of cardstock and then use spray adhesive to attach them to their arrows.  I have changed my list a little:
  1. The Emerald City - with a little flying monkey
  2. Wonderland - with a little Cheshire Cat
  3. The Magic Treehouse
  4. Mr. Zucker's Farm - with a pig and a spiderweb?
  5. Neverland - with Tinkerbell
  6. Whoville
  7. Diagon Alley (instead of Hogwarts)
  8. Gotham City - with the Bat Symbol of course!
  9. The 100 Acre Wood (beware of Heffalumps & Woozles!)
  10. Terabithia
  11. Death Star - with an "Under Construction" logo
I also considered:
  • The Spiderwick Estate
  • AlagaĆ«sia (the land from the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini)
  • Zorgamazoo
  • Ink World (the land from Cornelia Funke's amazing books)
  • Droon
  • Middle Earth (the Shire, Mordor, Hobbiton)
  • Atlantis
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Narnia
I think the little symbols beside the destinations will just be simple silhouettes I can print out and attach like the letters.  I can't think of symbols for each one so I think I'll try for half with, half without.  Some of the arrows are larger - 4 are thicker and longer.  So I am thinking of making them double destination signs like:
  • The Emerald City (to the right) and Wicked Witch's Castle (to the right)
  • Pixie Hollow (to the left) and Mermaid's Lagoon (to the right) - instead of Neverland
  • Diagon Alley (to the left) and Azkaban (to the right)
  • Gotham City (to the left) and Metropolis (to the right)
  • The Shire (to the left) and Mordor (to the right)
  • Pooh Corner (to the left) and Trespassers Will (to the right, you know, Piglet's house)
My library right now serves a K-6 elementary.  But in 2 years, our city will be completing construction on a 5th & 6th grade intermediate school.  My library will go down to just K-4.  Perhaps I need to gear my destinations more to the younger kids?  The hard part is most of the destinations that appeal most to me are for older kids.

As I said above, I was disappointed in the paint selection at Wal-Mart today.  I can make do with what I found, and I'm not complaining when the 2oz bottles are $0.57 each!  I think I might go back and stock up.  Knowing our Wal-Mart they are not going to carry them any more.   I thought I had seen 8.5x10 bi-fold foam core presentation boards there, but when I looked today I couldn't find any.  I was planning to use one like an swing-open frame to display my Book of the Month - I'd have had to cut an opening into one side to make a frame.  But now that I think about it, a simple frame would work just as well.  I will have to see what I can find at the thrift stores - I like the idea of an ornate style frame for my monthly display.

So, more on the destination arrows as I get them done.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adding some whimsey!

I am taking advantage of an full day off from the public library to work on a project for the school library.  I have been inspired by this:

I love this!  But I am an elementary librarian, so I have to consider where would I put it that it wouldn't be constantly getting touched, or even worse, fallen on!  I decided to originally make it using a thick wooden dowel and cutting the "planks" from foam core.  Then my husband would build a base and I'd find a place for it.  But then, inspiration hit me!  I have a large metal post running from my desk up to the ceiling.  I'll make the planks from foam core and then use magnets to attach them to the post up where no one can touch them but everyone can see them.

My destination list includes:
Emerald City (can't forget Oz!)
Wonderland (I considered a two-pointed arrow with "Tweedle Dum's House & Tweedle Dee's House")
Ink World
Never Never Land (this one will point a little up, since it's first star to the right and straight on 'til morning)

I cut the foam core using scissors when I realized they weren't going to be straight and perfect.  The scissors crimped the edges and gave them nice texture.  I tried to vary their shapes.  The base coat was just a simple brown acrylic that I used a dry brush to apply.  I left the brush strokes visible because I thought they looked like wood grain.  After I painted both sides brown, I then applied a thin coat of Elmer's glue to each piece on one side.  Wonder where I'm going with this?  Go to the Elmer's Glue website to see a tutorial of how to use their glue to make a very inexpensive crackle finish!

While waiting for the glue to get tacky, I worked on my computer to find a unique font for each of my destinations.  I found that after I cut the 8 arrows from the foam core sheet (purchased inexpensively at Wal-Mart) letters around 2 inches high would be about right. 

I then attempted to paint each one a different color.  What I learned from the 1st coat:
1.  colors clash.  Yeah, I know, duh.  But at least I know which ones I really like, and which ones I don't. These might end up being the back sides of the arrows with a coat of the new paint colors over the top.
2,  thinning the paint just a touch with water (acrylics are water based) helps the top coat glide on smoothly.  One blog I read said that you should try for long straight strokes, not small broken ones.  I, being the infinitely wise crafter I am, chose to paint the length of the arrows instead of the width. Note to self: try the other direction on the other side.
3.  Pastels will be easier to see the destinations.  I have 8 arrows so I think I'll narrow my colors two 4 colors - pale blue, pale pink, pale yellow and pale green.  I'd have gone with blue and yellow completely but I feel the Emerald City needs a green sign.

So as of right now, I'm leaving this at To Be Continued until I get a chance to buy more paint and work a little more.  I promise pictures!  I haven't been to the school in almost 2 weeks and I will put Before pictures on my priority list as well as After pictures whenever I finish up a project.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I've found a new resource!

I found a really great resource called Teacher LibarianNing.  It looks like a good place to talk with other librarians about what they are doing in their libraries.  I am not a teacher-librarian, I am a para-professional, but I still think this site has a lot to offer me, and hopefully to others.  I filled out all the forms to request membership, so I hope to hear back soon saying I can post in their forums.  I have so many questions!

I am hoping that others who are in positions like mine, who aren't really sure what they are doing, can use my blog and the other resources I list to learn and grow as school librarians.  I have used blogs to reach out in other areas I have interests in: Girl Scouts and digital scrapbooking & design, specifically.

I also found a really great bio page on a school librarian in CA.  You can find that link here. This librarian just seems fun and I'm betting a bit unconventional.  I wrote her an email and I hope she'll respond.  I'd love to gather insights from others who are para-professionals as opposed to teacher librarians.