Reorganizing the Picture Books- Finally!


This summer was BUSY! Sure we had the usual summer program hustle and bustle, but we also reorganized, or genre-fied, our picture book collection! I’ve wanted to to do this for a few years, but with limited staff it was impossible. Enter, the state library!

This year, my library welcomed one of three MLIS interns who came to Alaska for eight weeks, thanks to funding from the Alaska State Library. (Our Friends group pitched in housing.) The internship made this program happen. Period.

Families tell me they are thrilled with the reorganization because they can more easily browse the picture book collection. Some have already discovered new-to-them books as they were looking for books about Alaska and the North, for example. Kids are happy too, and quickly adopted the new system. Just the other day, a little boy, age 2, came into the children’s library and said “Claudia, where are the macheeen (machine) books?” Together we walked to the browsing bins tagged with gold stickers and the word “Go” where families can find books about things that go (trucks, cars, airplanes, hot air balloons, bicycles, etc.).

Why did we make the change

I first heard about libraries’ efforts to reorganize their picture book collections at ALA Annual in 2012 when I attended a session called “I Want a Truck Book! Reorganizing Your Picture Book Collection” led by Gretchen Caserotti, Deborah Cooper, and Tali Balas Kaplan. I agreed with all three presenters that kids, especially the youngest, struggle with the systems we’ve traditionally set up for organizing books. We make it easy for adults, not young children, when we organize books by the first letter of an author’s last name, as in our case. I want little ones to confidently select books, find ones they love, and come back for more! I also want them to help me put books away in the right bin when they are done with them. We’ll teach them the DDC and how to find books by author as they grow.

I flew home from California ready to start moving picture books! But, alas, the realities of time and staffing settled in.

What now?

Over the next few years, my library’s director and I talked about the idea of reorganizing our picture books frequently and discussed how families searched and how we could also make finding picture books pretty easy for staff and volunteer shelvers once the reorganization happened. We also needed to figure out what we needed to make the transition happen without closing the library, making staff work long weekends, or removing all of the picture books at one time.

In terms of a plan, we already had a few things going for us.

  • Our picture books (about 2,500) lived in browsing bins. We liked this arrangement because it already made the books (face-out) more accessible for pre-readers and readers than if they were on shelves, spine-out. In fact, we also bought face-out bins for our beginning readers a few years ago which makes for a friendly transition for emerging readers moving from one part of the children’s collection to the other.
  • We used a colored dot system for the picture book collection and wanted to stick with it. The colored dots helped pre-readers find sections of the collection (and the colors provide a literacy talking point for families). Although the problem we had with the colored dot system was that some parts of the alphabetically-organized collection had grown to include 16 sections of books, T-Z for example,  with 20-25 books per section and this was an unwieldy number of bins to search through for 1 or 2 books.
  • We were a stand-alone library, so we only had one picture book collection to transition.
  • Other staff members were supportive and were willing to help with the process.
  • Other libraries had transitioned their collections, shared their process in blogs and presentations, and were willing to answer my questions (thanks Mel!).

What did we do next?


Then we found out about the internship, came up with a real plan, and applied. Our plan included a draft schedule of categories, the who, what, and when of changing spine labels, what we wanted on the spine labels, and how we were going to remove parts of the picture book collection during one of the busiest parts of the year. (The internship was only offered during the summer.)

Once William, our intern, arrived, learned about book processing, practiced assigning categories with me, and got the appropriate permissions in our ILS, we got to work. The process took about 6 weeks to complete. We did this project while the library was open, picture books were still circulating, and our summer program was in full swing. At no time were all of the bins empty and during this whole process we had good circulation numbers at the library!

Picture Book Bins and New Book section image

Reorganized picture book bins with ‘New Books’ and storytime area in background. Board books now live on bottom shelf of ‘New Books’ area (left side).


As you can see from the schedule at the top of the post, we ended up with 16 categories. We identified categories we liked (many are similar to other libraries’ categories) based on families’ search behavior and sections we wanted to highlight (Alaska & the North). Then we figured out how many bins we had and estimated how many books would be in each category. Again, there are about 20-25 books per section/bin. In this calculation, we also figured two extra pieces: we moved the board books from some of the lower sections so we had more space to work with and brought many of the folk, fairy, and traditional tales from the 398’s to the picture bins if we thought they were a better fit there. A few of the categories changed in some way (grew, changed name, etc) through the process which in our situation was pretty easy because we’re small.

Each category included at least 4 bins (2 bins on the top and two right beneath). The maximum number of bins was capped at 10, versus 16 previously. We wanted that number to be even smaller to make searching for specific titles easier, but we made this work. So far it has been fine and is much easier to find specific books than before the move. Here are the final categories and the number of bins filled with books in that category. The total number of picture book bins is 114.

  • Adventures = 4
  • Alaska = 4
  • Animals = 8
  • Celebrate = 10
  • Concepts = 10
  • Families = 10
  • Favorites = 8
  • Friends = 8
  • Go = 8
  • Growing = 10
  • Movement = 4
  • Nature = 6
  • Rhythm = 6
  • School = 4
  • Tales = 10
  • Wordless = 4

A couple of things to consider:

  • We place books in categories based on the central idea of the book, starting with the LoC Subject Headings associated with the book. Those are so handy, aren’t they?
  • We did NOT include a multicultural section. We incorporate diverse characters, settings, authors, illustrators, and topics throughout the collection.
  • We did not include a miscellaneous category. We wanted to be very intentional about the books and their placement so nothing got lost in a catch all bin.
  • We wanted the categories to be general enough to capture a wide variety of books related to the topic.
  • We did include a ‘Favorites’ category because some characters are just popular and need to be in one place (Curious George, for example).
  • We can plainly see which categories of the collection need more books and which categories have plenty or need to be weeded! The ‘Go’ category is always empty (books are always checked out) and we need more books with things that go. The ‘Families’ and ‘Celebrate’ categories have plenty for now!

Sticker, Stickers, and More Stickers

Homer, Alaska is not the place to buy a variety of dot stickers. We had a bunch on hand that we repurposed
from the previous system, but we needed more. We had to order the new colors and then had to order more. This took time and made us a bit nervous, but some colors just didn’t look as good in hand and some were too similar, less distinguishable on the books. Gold and silver were too similar, for example.

You will see on the spine label that we kept the 3 first three letters of author’s last name. This was something we wanted in case we need to fiddle with the organization at some point without having to redo spine labels. With limited staffing, we didn’t want to spend resources on reprocessing books en masse. The ‘P’ stands for Picture Books which refers to the section and replaced the ‘E’ that was there before


A coworker and I weeded the collection pretty heavily last Spring in anticipation of the big move. However, during the move we weeded even more! It felt good to freshen up the collection. I am still ordering replacements for tried and true books that were beyond repair.

Reorganizing Picture Books Sign imageSigns

Throughout the process we posted signs, talked to families at storytime, and chatted with families as we met them in the children’s library about the move. We added “coming soon!” signs to empty bins, especially when we removed a lot of books at one time.

The schedule of categories is now posted on the end of each row of book bins for families’ reference. The colorful dots are eye-catching and often make families pause before starting their search. The signs and the reorganization are another step towards supporting successful independent searching and finding.

Toddler: Rhyming Words and Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?

Toddler storytime is full of little ones these days. The caregivers are hungry for tips and are so enthusiastic. The kiddos are moving to the rhythm, clapping, signing, pointing to the book illustrations, touching the felt pieces and just generally getting into storytime. What a blast!

Weekly Early Literacy Tip: Singing nursery rhymes or other songs is fun and fosters early literacy! We usually sing slower than we speak and as we sing kids can more easily hear the individual sounds in words. This is called phonological awareness and will eventually help your child sound out words when they are ready to read. often the ending sounds are the easiest to hear, so we’re focusing on rhymes today.

Welcome Song: The More We Get (Read) Together (with ASL)

I brought along my monkey puppet to sing with us on this next song. This crowd LOVES puppets.

Action Rhyme: Monkey See Monkey Do
Monkey see, monkey do
Little monkey in the zoo
Monkey, monkey, in the tree
Can you jump around like me?
(…clap your hands…climb a tree…nod your head…sit down…)

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks book image

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks by Eve Bunting and Sergio Ruzzier (Photo source:

Book: Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting & Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion Books, 2013)

Bunting’s book reads well as a story, unlike some rhyming stories that seem forced. The amount of text, story line and word choice create a pacing, when read aloud, that encourages emphasis on the rhyming words and offers opportunities for the youngest storytime kids to interact with the illustrations and make connections with the text. One on one sharing allows for even more conversation, reinforcing the value of this title as a repeat read.

 Felt game: Little Fox, Little Fox
This felt game was inspired by erinisinire. Lots of people have versions of this game (and it’s cousin Little Mouse, Little Mouse) as Jbrary found out, but I do love this fox the best and it ties nicely with the book we shared this week which includes a fox and some boxes. I used my Folkmanis fox puppet (called Big Fox in this game instead of mom or dad fox) to add another dimension and reinforce the concept of big and small.

Some of the toddlers wanted to hide the fox as well as find it which worked out great because the hiders still let us say the rhyme and were surprised when we found it behind one of the different colored boxes!

Before we sang this song and popped bubbles together, I mentioned why I count starting with my thumb. We count to three a lot during this storytime to show how easy it is to integrate counting (math) into daily activities and I always start with my thumb. These first three fingers are essential for pinching and grasping small objects and will later be used to hold a paintbrush or writing tool.

Bringing out a box of scarves after I put the bubbles away is a great transition! Before our next song which used different colored scarves, I explained and demonstrated what we were going to do with our scarves and then we sang together. For example we were going to wave the scarves overhead and then rub our hair.

Scarf Song: Scarves in the Air
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
Put your scarf in the air, now rub your hair
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
…on your knee, count to three
…on your toe, way to go!
…on your head, who has red? (the families with a red scarf waved it in the air)
Source: Read, Sing, Play
See and hear the tune in action with KCLS

Action Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it.
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, shout “hooray!”
If you’re happy and you know it, do all three.
(wave, wave, clap, clap, hooray!)

Time to clean up our scarves! I usually have a bag to put the scarves in, but today I brought a box so we could sing this song!

Song: Picking up scarves
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Put the scarves in the box
Source: KCLS

Closing Song: Ring Around the Rosie

Activity: Dot painting!
Today I brought out the paint dobbers and some plain white paper for toddlers to try. For some kids, it’s their first experience painting. For all of the kids and adults, it offers a great opportunity to experiment with and talk about colors and patterns.

Maker Books for Kids: Part 1 (Picture Books)

On Twitter recently, Brian Puerling (@bpuerling) was trying to find a list of Maker books for kids. Several of us couldn’t think of one!  I have used or recommended several books that inspire, teach or reflect young crafters, builders, designers, and creators so I decided to make, or at least start, a list. I’m going to post the list in parts. Here are maker-oriented picture books I know and like. Find these at a library near you!

What would you add?Treasure Art Box

Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni (Owlkids, 2013)

Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)

Betsy Ross by Becky White (Holiday House, 2011)

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013)

Coppernickel, The Invention by Wouter van Reek (Enchanted Lion Books, 2008) found on: What We Do All Day

Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012)

Dress-up Mess-up by Kelly DiPucchio (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Balzer & Bray, 2012)

Funny Machines for George the Sheep: A Children’s Book Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci by Geraldine Elschner (Prestel, 2014)

Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Going Places by Paul A. Reynolds (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014)

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers : a Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook Press, 2013)

Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007)

Ish by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick Press, 2004)

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback (Viking, 1999)

Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House, 2012)

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light (Balzer + Bray, 2014)

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, 2014)

The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi (Candlewick, 2013)

Oh no!, or, How my Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett (Disney-Hyperion, 2010)

Oops! by Barney Saltzberg (Workman Publishing, 2010)

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming (Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013)

Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root (Candlewick Press, 2001)

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013)

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012)

The Red Hen by Rebecca Emberley (Roaring Brook Press, 2010)

The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane Books, 2014)

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven by Jonah Winter (Schwartz & Wade, 2006)

Three Little Pigs by various

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton (Random House, 2016)

Happy Unbirthday!

I needed a storytime at the last minute, so I decided it was time for our unbirthday party!  With a few balloons and streamers to decorate the children’s library, a birthday cake (felt), birthday hats (today’s craft), and some great songs, we were set. It was a silly day!

Kids had never heard of an unbirthday so we first talked about when everyone’s real birthday is celebrated. Most kids didn’t know their exact birthdays, but we eventually got everyone’s day figured out. We then sang both Happy Birthday and the Unbirthday Song!

Song: Unbirthday Song
Happy birthday not to me,
Happy birthday not to me,
Happy birthday to someone else,
Happy birthday not to me!
(I found this on the web somewhere!)

We then talked about what we need for a birthday party: decorations, invitations, presents, and cake! Let’s make a cake!

Action Rhyme: A Birthday
Today is everyone’s birthday
Let’s make a cake (form cake with hands)
Mix and stir, stir and mix (stir)
Then into the oven to bake (push hands out)
Here’s our cake so nice and round (make a circle)
We frost it pink and white (spread frosting)
We put five candles on it (hold up hand)
To make a birthday bright!
Credit: Addison Public Library (found on Storytime Katie)

I had the kids pick the frosting colors, instead of just saying pink, but included white for the rhyme.

The first book we read together was Froggy Bakes a Cake by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz (Grosset & Dunlap, 2000). These 20130525-214644.jpgkids love Froggy!

Our birthday was out of the oven now and frosted beautifully, so the last thing to do was add the candles.  I made two of each color candle so we could put them on in a pattern the first time. I found this counting rhyme that go along with my felt cake. This was a tricky one, but the kids figured it out by the time we got down to 4 candles. The visual of taking two candles away each time we blew out the flames helped immensely. We put the candles back on the cake any which way and then sang the song a second time.

20130525-214654.jpgFlannelboard: 10 Little Candles
Ten little candles on a birthday cake.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are eight.
Eight little candles in candle sticks.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are six.
Six little candles, not one more.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are four.
Four little candles, red and blue.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are two.
Two little candles, one by one.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are none.
Credit: ACLD Storytime

With all of this singing, we had time for one more book. We decided on I Want Two Birthdays! by Tony Ross (Lerner Publishing Group, 2010). It’s a great story about why we don’t have a birthday everyday. The other books I pulled out for storytime were checked out and taken home to be shared one on one. Perfect!

20130525-214702.jpg Our craft was the final piece of the party planning- birthday hats!  This simple craft had kids hard at work.  I copied this template onto white cardstock so kids could cut out the hat. They then decorated the hats with crayons, markers, and stickers. Before bending and stapling the hat into the cone shape, parents helped kids staple streamers on the top. We used yarn to ties the hat on kids’ heads which worked just fine. Our library’s moose even got a hat for the party!

Once we had the hats made, we played my favorite party game- musical chairs. For storytime, we used the beanbags found in the children’s library and changed the game a bit. Each time I stopped the music, we took a beanbag away and kept all of the kids in the game. When the music stopped the next time, all of the kids had to squeeze onto the remaining beanbags. Eventually, all of the kids were piled on to one beanbag. Lots of giggles ensued, as you can imagine!  My music choice? Andy Mason, who will be visiting the library this summer from New Mexico.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

To celebrate the many moms who join me for storytime, this week we read books about mothers, mom-love, and families. I tried 20130512-223018.jpgto steer away from the sappy books that seem to pop up for Mother’s Day and instead focused on books that work well as read-alouds for storytime and feature all kinds of moms.

As families trickled in, I told everyone about the upcoming weekend event and about registration for this year’s summer reading program. Phillip Hoose, conservationist and author of several acclaimed books including Hey, Little Ant (Tricycle Press, 1998), is coming to the library during the annual shorebird festival. Hey, Little Ant is a book about tolerance that was originally written as a song by Hoose and his young daughter. The story, and song, are a conversation between a boy who is about to squish an innocent ant, and the ant. the watercolor illustrations portray the two perspectives nicely. We’re looking forward to his visit!

After we were all settled, we talked about everyone’s morning, including things like what everyone had for breakfast and what animals they saw on the way to the library (often moose are included on the list this time of year). This first conversation helps all of the kids, especially the shy ones, feel more comfortable and makes participation in the storytime conversation more likely. After catching up, We got warmed up for storytime with the song Open, Shut Them.

Before starting the first book, I gave them a clue about the books and why I chose them. We talked about the upcoming holiday, 20130512-222951.jpgMother’s Day, the letter ‘m’, mom, and other words with the letter ‘m.’ We spent a little time talking about how moms (and dads) have two names. One boy proudly proclaimed, “My mom’s name has the letter ‘m’ in it…. and an ‘o’…. and another ‘m’! We then spelled ‘mom’ all together.

Everyone insisted I begin with Froggy Gets Dressed (Viking, 1992) written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. It’s a funny, little story about a frog who wakes up early (too early, according to the mom frog) from hibernation and wants to play in the snow. With each item of clothing he puts on, a different sound effect is included making this a great read-aloud. Unfortunately for Froggy, he is forgetful and each time he heads outside his mom calls him back to remind about an item of clothing he has missed. He dutifully starts over with the forgotten piece added to the sequence. The end gets a great laugh because Froggy forgets to put on his underwear and returns to the house for it, only to become too tired for play. Instead of going outside this time, Froggy heads back to bed much to his mom’s delight.

20130512-222944.jpg Then it was now time for a feltboard song! Kids and adults can use fingers and hands to act out the song.

Song: Five Little Ducks
Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only four little ducks came back.

Repeat: 4, 3, 2, 1 little ducks…

Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack.”
And all of the five little ducks came back.
Credit: NIH Kids’ Pages

Some amazing math was happening during this song!  We counted up all of the ducklings and then added mama duck to get a grand total.  These preschoolers are excellent counters, but kids were adding 5 + 1, then expanding to add 2 + 2 and 2 + 1. One boy probably could have played with those felt ducks using addition for much longer! Lots of proud smiles on the kiddos’ faces when I described what they were doing as math.

We next read Are You my Mother? a beginning reader by P.D. Eastman (Beginner Books, 1960). This book was a little longer thanAre you my mother most we read at storytime, but it was well-received. Kids were enthralled!  I had them get comfortable before I started reading so they knew it would a story to get lost in. Its’a story about a baby bird who goes in search of his missing mother. It’s a mystery for the preschool set. Baby bird has no idea what his mother should look like, so he innocently asks everything and anything he meets “Are you my mother?” The story ends well, of course, as mother and baby are reunited.  The kids loved it, asking lots of questions, commenting on the illustrations, and predicting what would happen next.

kiss kiss bookWe squeezed in one last story, by demand! Kiss, Kiss! by Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) was a quick book to end storytime. It’s a sweet book featuring a young hippo (can you say hippopotamus?) who wonders off from his mama without giving her a kiss.  On his adventures, he discovers lots of other animals and each baby is giving the mom or dad a kiss. Baby hippo remembers what he forgot and rushes back past each of the animals pairs to find his own mom. After the story I told the kids in a whisper to find their mom or adult and give them a kiss before we made Mother’s Day presents.

I didn’t end up reading the book Insomniacs by Karina Wolf and the Brothers Hilts (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012). I often have an extra book or two so the kids can help pick what I read or if one doesn’t seem quite right for the group. This book got passed up this time around, but will be on the list for future reading.


This week’s craft is a Mother’s Day gift based on one I received from my own daughter last year. She used craft leaves to decorate a jar turned lantern, but Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things gave me the idea to use tissue paper to create vases. The kids gladly painted the miscellaneous jars I pulled from my20130512-222957.jpg garage with glue and then pasted on the tissue paper squares I cut before storytime. Very simple project and the vases all ended up very uniquely decorated. I only wish we could have done the project without moms so they could be surprised. Instead moms were happily working hand in hand with their little ones! I gave each child a tulip for their new vase as they left the library.

Cut tissue paper squares in lots of colors

Glass jars in miscellaneous sizes

small paintbrushes

paper plates to fill with glue

Note: Each week I print out theme-related coloring sheets for younger storytime kids or those who opt out of the craft.  They are handy to have around for kids who are visiting the library later in the week and need a coloring activity while their parents are busy with other tasks.