It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Field Trip Adventure!

In the past, our tours were ok but lacked punch and direction. Kids were led around from one collection to the next and given pretty much the same spiel no matter what the age. The highlight was a half hour of stories and songs at the end. Content often depended on which staffer hosted the tour and messages and emphasis varied widely. It didn't seem like we were getting any over-arching message across like, "Hey this is a really fun place and cool too!"

So a year ago, we decided to re-imagine the tours into field trips with a concentration on fun and giving kids a glimpse into how libraries really work. But before the fun we had to work on the mechanics. 

The first thing we did was make some decisions on dividing field trips into appropriate content depending on age/comprehension. Then we worked on some messages we felt all kids needed to hear: Books belong to everyone in the community and are shared. A library card allows access to great books and information.  We are like your school library but you have more time to browse for books and we are open when your school library is closed (evenings; weekends; summer). 

Preschool-Gr. 1
We use this scenario to explain how a library works:
Ask who the books belong to (librarian? Nooooo; Library? Nooooo. You?  YES!)?  The books belong to all the kids and people in La Crosse. They live here at the library but they love to visit you.  When you have a visitor, do they stay forever?  Noooo. That’s right, they go back home.  When a book “visits” you, it stays for 3 weeks then you bring it back here to the library- its house.  Then another child checks it out.  We all share. [This can be expanded and played with depending on your crowd.]

For their tour, we do a theme each school year based on a children's book. Last year it was based on Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny. We placed stuffed book characters at the collection or room points we wanted to highlight. Then we searched for Knuffle Bunny and found all the other characters and told kids about those collections. Knuffle Bunny was found back in the storyroom where we shared another book or two. This year we are using Emma Dodd's Dog's Colorful Day. We'll have a white dog cut-out for each child and they will collect dots at each stop on the room tour.  More great books to use include Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where's Spot by Eric Hill.

Gr. 2-4
We can "play" a bit more with this age group. Our new colleague Sara came up with a great way to engage these kids. You can read about it at S. Bryce Kozla.

We also give the teachers options for an activity rather than just stories. So kids can be cataloged, barcoded and shelved; can do origami ; can create spine poetry; can play Book Bingo or get a booktalk. If teachers want a non-fiction concentration we let the kids know that the non-fiction is arranged alot like grocery stores. In stores, all the cereals are together; all the canned veggies are together -they aren't arranged alphabetically and that's how it is in non-fiction. I also like to ask kids if they know words in other languages.  Then I tell them my other language is Dewey Decimal and it helps me know exactly where the books are that they crave!

Finally, no matter what the age, we build in time for the kids to browse and ask questions while they go through the collection. These changes have really refreshed what we do and made our old tours into SUPER fun adventures for kids. What do you do to sparkle up these opportunities for kids at your library?

Image: 'Thor vs. Superman (49/365)'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/83346641@N00/4369073183


  1. Great ideas. I love the idea of using a theme to introduce the kids to the library.

  2. What great ideas! Thank you, Marge.
    The outdoor book drop has been a hit with tour groups at my library. Maybe it's kind of a minor point in the grand scheme of stuff kids need to know about the library, but I do find that they like it quite a bit. I love to show it to them from the outside, and then after showing the kids the key parts of the public part of the library, give them a "behind the scenes" tour that ends at...the indoor part of the outdoor book drop! I didn't think this would interest the kids so much, but they seem to like it.
    Also, a dramatic interpretation of the beauty of the outdoor book drop has been fun. While we're outside, I ask for a volunteer, and then we act out a little scene, saying, "Here we are, returning our books to the library. And right on time, too! But (strike a dramatic pose)...oh no! The library is closed! Now what do we do?!" Then the child-helper says we could use the outdoor book drop, and then I say, "What?! An Outdoor Book Drop?! How does it work?!" and then the child demonstrates how you use it, we celebrate a happy ending to our little scene, and then everyone applauds the helper. It's a lot of fun!

  3. We have Kindergarten classes sign up for library cards and come to the library every September. We do a story, a dance of some kind, some music - then I gather them around our microphone/sound system and have them yell at the top of their lungs "having fun isn't hard, when you have a library card". They love doing this. We also have a special "siren light" we put on when they get use their cards for the first time to check out books. We do this any time a child gets a card for the first time. We bought it from Oriental Trading or Kipp or US Toy. It's very dramatic and makes the kids feel special.

  4. Enjoy all of these ideas!