Spiderella (aka “The Fractured Fairy Puppet Show”)

DSC01410One of my favorite programs at our library is our “Starlight Puppet Show & Story-time.” During this event, we invite all of our kids (ages 10 & under) to come to the library at night. Everyone dresses up in their pjs and brings their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Then they all settle in for 30 minutes of puppets and story telling.


It truly is a special and dearly loved program. Despite the late hour, we still average 15-20 little ones in attendance.

It’s also exciting because it gives our teen volunteers an opportunity to lead. Our more charismatic teens help serve as puppeteers and interact with the kids.


Our most recent puppet show featured the story of Spiderella: a retelling of the Cinderella story. With bugs. 🙂 It was a tremendous hit with our kids. Afterwards, we read a few Miss Spider picture books.

I think we’ll continue to use fractured fairy tales as part of our puppet shows in the future. If you’re looking for ideas, I highly recommend 12 Fabulous Funny Fairy Tale Plays as a resource.



Yuck @ the Library: Salty Soda Balloons

???????????????????????????????For this month’s “Yuck @ the Library” science program, I wanted to teach the kids about atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions. Not an easy task for little minds! Molecules and atoms are very abstract subjects and can often be hard to grasp. So I decided to do the Salty Soda Balloon Experiment to illustrate what happens when two different chemical molecules interact (especially under pressure).


– a bottle of coke

– a water balloon

– salt

– measuring spoons

This activity requires some hand-eye coordination skills. Consequently, I’d recommend keeping your participants in the 6-12 year old range.

Step 1: The Lesson

With the help of some volunteers, I explained that molecules are made up of atoms and that molecules get “really excited” when they meet other molecules that are different from themselves. I used this information to explain the concept of nucleation sites, which is how the salt latches on to the CO2 in our soda to “ride” up out of the bottle in a fizzy, gaseous, gush!


Step 2: The Demonstration

I carefully had the kids pour salt into their water balloons. Then we went outside, attached our balloons to our Coke bottles, and watched the chemical reactions!


DSC01398All in all, our kids had a fantastic time with this activity! I’d highly recommend this one. Just make sure you do it outside!

Privacy in the 21st Century


In his article,“2014: The Year of Counterveillance,” journalist Robert Siciliano points out the pervasiveness of privacy issues over the last year. From Edward Snowden and the NSA to Facebook’s new policy’s (which state that they can keep your data in perpetuity and use your images in their advertisements), numerous events throughout 2013 have highlighted just how little privacy we have in this modern, technological era and how easily it is violated (Siciliano, 2014, para 2). What’s more, these issue are not going away. As evidenced by latest techno-privacy threat, Heartbleed, our privacy issues are only going to increase in gravity as technology progresses.

I was one of those 40 million Target customers affected by their credit card data compromise. I bought a $2 soda in the check-out line with my debit card and it cost me my financial security. Thankfully, my bank was quick to notice, protected my accounts, and provided me with a replacement card. But I was left feeling more than a little shaken and vulnerable. It’s unsettling to think about just how easily our data can be mined. For example, if I visit a website in one internet tab with Facebook open in another, I’ll start seeing ads in my Facebook bar based on that web activity within a 24 hour period.  It’s uncanny. It’s also a little horrifying.

The fact that even our simplest activities being so closely analyzed feels like something straight out of a science fiction. Only the dangers are far too real, as pointed out by Daniel Sovlove (2008) in his article, “The Future of Privacy”:

Government agencies are mining this personal data, trying to determine whether a person is likely to engage in criminal or terrorist activity in the future based on patterns of behavior, purchases, and interests. If a government computer decides that you are a likely threat, then you might find yourself on a watch list, you might have difficulty flying, and there might be further negative consequences in the future (p. 58)

I can’t speak for everyone, but the way data mining is going feels a little too akin to 1984 for my taste. Such analytic measures as the ones mentioned above verge on “thought policing” and are the stuff of sci-fi nightmares.

So what, then, is our responsibility as 21st century information professionals? How can we protect patron privacy our current times?

First and foremost, we need to adhere to ALA policy and staunchly resist any efforts at data mining aimed at our patrons. We are one of the last bastions of privacy left and we need to defend that role. Demanding reasonable cause for information requests from the government (particularly under the PATRIOT Act) is vital.  As Rubin (2010) points out, “patrons will not use materials or make inquiries regarding controversial topics if they believe such actions are not free from public exposure and governmental intrusion” (p.  391).  The last thing our patrons need is an extension of the data mining intrusions they already experience online. As librarians, we must take care to be discrete with our patrons’ circulation information.

On a more practical level, many patrons who engage in online activities are unaware of just how easily they can be taken advantage of. How many times have we heard of seniors being taken in by Nigerian prince scams and the like? Or younger patrons being sexually harassed by online predators? Since part of the library’s mission is educational in nature, librarians could consider offering classes in online safety for all ages to better equip our patrons to protect themselves. We cannot control the data mining efforts of every business and government entity. We can, however, arm our patrons with the information necessary to make intelligent decisions.

 A final thought: when privacy is threatened, so too is freedom of speech – which is the very bedrock of our democratic society. At the risk of sounding alarmist, we must do our best to protect this right in our role as information professionals. Otherwise, we run the risk of loosing the freedom we so dearly cherish.


Rubin, R.E. (2010). Foundations of library science.  New York, NY: Neal-Schumann Publishers, Inc.

Siciliano, R. (2014). 2014: The year of counterveillance. Huffington Post. Retrieved from:


Sovlove, D. (2008). The future of privacy. American Libraries, 39, 56-59.

My Writing Process

theloudmouthlibrarianI’m one of those writers who suffer from a sort of imposter syndrome. I feel strange talking about how and why I write. It feels akin to narcissism. But examining the hows and whys behind the things you do can help you understand them better. So when A.B. Westrick graciously invited me to the “My Writing Process” Blog Tour,  I decided to give it a go.


1) What are you working on?

I’m currently working on revising my 6th draft of a contemporary YA novel: Call Me Capulet. If I had to write a book flap synopsis, it’d go something like this:

If there’s one thing Janey Lawson knows, it’s that she wants to get out. Out of Auburndale. Out of Florida. She knows firsthand that getting stuck can do horrible things to people. After all, Janey’s folks got stuck with her and they’ve been screwed-up ever since.

Things have only gotten worse since the Recession hit. Money’s tight, her Dad’s gone AWOL, and her Mama’s coming unhinged. For now, she’s got her best friend Callie and her theater project to help her cope. If Janey can finish her portfolio and keep her head down, she might be able to escape for good.

But when Janey and Callie fall for the same guy, getting out gets complicated. And as Janey’s family falls apart around her, she’s not sure she has the strength to try.

This story has been my baby for several years now. I’m hoping to wrap it up and send it out to agents by early fall.

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Lately, I’ve found myself fascinated by real places – especially those that are often overlooked by the rest of the world. I’m particularly fascinated by Florida and the parts of it only natives are typically familiar with. Not the touristy, beachy stuff, or things you’d find in Hiassen or Dorsey. I’m intrigued by the redneck territories, our circus and psychic towns, and state parks dedicated to mermaids. It’s not all flip-flops and Disney here. There’s so much people don’t see.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always been deeply moved and drawn to stories that deal in darkness. Don’t get me wrong: I love funny, happy, romantic romps, but I’m largely incapable of writing them. I’m intensely fascinated by stories of survivors, of people who look into the darkness within themselves and others but still find a way to come out intact (albeit, undeniably changed). When I was younger, I loved fairy tales and happily ever afters. These days, I like to explore characters who struggle to find contentment in the absence of such things.

4) What is your process like?

Writing is a very slow process for me, much like pulling a tooth. I can spend two hours painfully plunking out a meager three hundred words. This is probably because my stories are very emotional, which makes them hard to write sometimes. I always want my words to be honest and real.

Thankfully, I’m only working part-time right now, which allows me several hours of uninterrupted  time. I tend to work best first thing in the morning, when things are cool and quiet. I do better when I avoid lots of noise and activity since I’m easily distracted, but I’ll occasionally succumb to the urge for an iced coffee with soy and stroll down to the local Starbucks.

I’ve also learned, thanks to NaNoWriMo, that I have to give myself goals and deadlines. Otherwise, my inner editor and perfectionist runs so wildly amuck I never get anything done. By giving myself a ridiculous, brakeneck deadline, it allows me to let go. To plow forward and silence my self criticism so I can actually move forward.

And now, I get to play tag with three other wonderful writers (all of whom are fellow VCFA alumni). Their posts will be going up April 14th as part of the tour. 🙂


Shawna Lenore Kastin is a poet, writer, translator, lover of mythology and folklore and Corsair in training. Her poems have been published in Mythic Delirium and Goblin Fruit. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is currently working on an eerie and unwholesome novel.


pamPamela Livingston writes in several genres, holding both a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and a Picture Book certificate from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her articles have been published in local newspapers and online, and she is a reader for Hunger Mountain Literary Journal. Having been the buyer/manager of an independent bookstore and member of the ABA, Pamela holds a deep appreciation for the book business. As an adjunct professor of Children’s Literature at Dominican University of California, she works with education students on the application of literature in the classroom and is an active member of SCBWI. It was Pamela’s award winning research and academic journal publications in art history which propelled her first creative writing project for young adults and many of the stories that have flowed since.

NicoleNicole Valentine holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently working on her middle-grade time travel novel, The Idle Tree. Her short story, “The Weeping Beech,” can be found in Oermead Press’ anthology, Chester County Fiction. Nicole was the Chief Technology Officer of Figment.com, an online writing and reading network for teens, recently acquired by Random House Kids. You can also find her speaking on the future of the book on the monthly Publishing Business Today’s Futurist Podcast.


What’s your writing process? Feel free to share and leave a comment!