Monthly Archives: July 2011

Worst Case Scenario Teen Program Day

So you plan, you prepare, you pull books, you promote, and your perfect program is ready to go! Teens are tricky, but you’re sure they’ll come, and they do–in droves! Yay! A success, but wait… First one thing, then the next goes wrong and soon all your plans are to the wind. This is sort of what happened today with my food program.

The day got off to an inauspicious start–forgotten ingredients, absent forks, tables mysteriously vanishing, and went downhill from there. While the tables turned up, it required contacting different staff members, sending out email, and consulting with the manager–taking up a lot of time. Which may have led to me adding the wrong vinegar, which meant I had to scrap four pounds of carrots I’d grated yesterday. Worried about the salad and whether I could get more carrots ready for the program, I did comically fall on the floor. Take one rolling chair, one distracted librarian, and a very busy morning short staffed after someone called in sick, and you end up with me on the floor, laughing patrons, and a concerned boss.

That was when the fun really started. After falling on the floor, I knew it would be an AWESOME day, and boy howdy did it deliver. The power went out–and not just flickering–it was out from noon to 5:45. Scrambling to call the alarm company, help patrons half of whom didn’t seem to notice the power was out, the other half didn’t care and wanted to know what would happen to their computer reservations and could they still print, I didn’t even realize what this would mean for my program. Well it turns out you can’t cook rice or make crepes with out electricity or a gas stove, neither of which we had. The second we finally had another staff member show up I took off for lunch, or more likely to figure out what the crap we were going to have for our much advertized food program. A taste of the world was turning into a very small taste of melted ice cream from India.

Fortunately, I found shredded carrots for the salad, and picked up the only exotic looking fruit in the whole grocery store–some melons that didn’t all have labels, and got back to work in time to try to figure out where this food program should take place. No windows in our meeting room or storytime cove, and no food allowed in the other parts of the library meant outside was the only option–except (and there always is one in this story) it was alternating between drizzling, thunder, lightning, wind, and the occasional scorching burst of sunshine. Summer is FUN!

Well rain is better then darkness, so I sent our pages to set up tables outside, threw together another carrot salad, and started chopping melon. Fortunately, we have a great volunteer and she came to help, and was willing to schlep our rice cookers home to cook the rice with her electricity and bring them back for the program.

At this point I’m kind of sure what we’re going to serve, but the structure of the program is all out the window, since I don’t have a good place to demonstrate cooking. It is quarter to program starting, I’m chopping melon outside, trying to direct two pages and hoping the volunteer returns with the rice and that my parent’s malfunctioning rice cooker doesn’t burn her house down. And this girl shows up to set up a proctored test–I literally have melon everywhere, am trying to keep the sample cups from blowing away, while trying to salvage a program that is one lighting strike away from a melodrama (we were under a tree in a thunderstorm). She is persistent, and I finally ask her to please ask me later because I do not have time to talk about this now. (not to spoil the ending, but her and her mom do return later in the story, I’m sure you saw that one though)

Eventually it has to start, and we hope for the best, encourage the teens to try the melon and I give this little speech, as far as I can remember because it was a long day and I’m not sure of what I said at any given moment. Travel is like today’s program, you set out with plans to visit and experience amazing things, but the one constant is that things will NEVER work out how you plan, but that doesn’t mean it is bad, it just means it will be different from what you expect. Today we are going to have a very informal trip around some parts of the world and the food you might find there. It may be messy and chaotic, but so is travel!

As we started teens gathered round a few at a time, a car load at a time, a whole gaggle of girls, until we had probably a hundred. We ate melon, we served mango ice cream–which I gave the recipe and a few directions. The carrot salad came together, as rain was coming down and the wind started blow our sample cups around.

It would be an understatement to say that it was chaotic. Our volunteer showed up about ten minutes into the program with the cooked rice for our Onigiri, so we were scrambling to get it ready. Only one of the plastic wrap containers had made it out to the lawn.

Of course without any demonstrations of cooking or book talks (totally forgot and wouldn’t have wanted to take the books out in the rain) the program wrapped up about twenty minutes early. Some kids stayed for the last half hour to eat all the left overs and enjoy bananas and Nutella (purchased for the unmade crepes).

After scrambling to clean up and gather up all the food outside, I was met with my boss who said there was an angry parent and her mom who said I had told her I was too busy for her and that I wanted her daughter to fail.

Let’s just say that I’m glad I survived that day–as my boss said, this tops the list for program disaster brag rights.


How We Live–Summer Reading Theme Three

Personally, this is one of my favorite Summer Reading Themes–gaining an understanding of how different and similar other childrens’ lives are around the globe is instrumental in creating empathy and perspective on the world. The downside, as with many of these themes is that there is so much to the theme that an entire SRC could be planned around each weekly theme.

This week we are having a special guest speaker, who has been to all seven continents and who probably will have been to 100 countries by the time she gives her presentation. While she is a traveler, a tourist, and not an expert on other cultures, she has an amazing ability to speak to the differences and similarities of countries around the world. Plus one of her favorite pastimes in other countries is to visit markets and shopping centers to buy food from locals and see what is there. (I should say I know this because she is my mother)

So this week our theme will focus on how one gets food in other countries, on going marketing, and on different kinds of food eaten in different ways around the world.

We’ll open with welcoming the participants and asking them if they’ve signed up for the Summer Reading Program, if they’ve been doing their reading, and if they’ve claimed their prizes if they’ve been reading. It is amazing how many kids come to programs, but haven’t signed up yet. I also like to remind kids when the next activity will be, since they are alternating weeks.

After making announcements, I want to plug a few books on the topic, to encourage kids to keep reading and learning.

Because it is my mother giving the presentation, I promised her I’d help get the talk together. In order to introduce the theme, I think I’ll read a story on Markets and then introduce my mother as a world traveler who has been to many, many markets.

First, I’m going to have her talk about a few of her favorite places she’s been. Tell them how she’s been to every continent, and show a map and some pictures of these adventures.

Next she’ll talk about how in many countries people don’t all have electricity, refrigerators, or enough money to buy much food at once. This means a couple of things, people have to buy things as they need them, even every day, and that they may eat more things that are dried–like dried fruit or meat.

Just like families eat different foods around the world, they also shop in different types of places. Some have open air markets, some have stalls, small shops, or others just trade with neighbors do get what they need.

Then I’m going to have her focus on four or five different countries and the markets she visited there.

After her presentation, I want to have a little activity, where kids make simple origami cups and then can bargain with pretend money for dried fruit snacks and other little prizes. This sort of depends on if I can get enough volunteers to help with acting as store keepers.