Storytime Underground, an informal idea-sharing website where youth librarians can learn from each other, started with Guerrilla Storytime—gatherings of children’s librarians sharing ideas, brainstorming, and troubleshooting issues related to early childhood librarianship—at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. Since then, Guerrilla Storytime has been held at conferences all over North America, creating grassroots professional development opportunities.
These events allow librarians to see beyond the walls of their own storytime rooms and teach each other techniques for creating dynamic programs for young children. Topics covered in each session are as diverse as the librarians attending. Participants might share activities including early literacy skills in preschool storytime, strategies for getting caregivers involved during programs, or group management techniques.
Guerrilla Storytime developer Cory Eckert of Houston Public Library calls the movement “a fire waiting to be kindled. Our mission is we train each other, we support each other, and we promote each other.” She tells American Libraries, “The whole idea of Guerrilla Storytime and, by extension, the Storytime Underground community, is that everyone has something to teach and something to learn.”
Storytimeunderground.org is the virtual equivalent of Guerrilla Storytime. Created as an online home for ideas shared in person, as well as for toolkits on running face-to-face sessions, it enables youth librarians to ask and answer each other’s questions and to share good work being done by colleagues. Compared to more traditional, top-down methods like attending webinars or taking classes, Storytime Underground provides an online location where librarians can train, support, inspire, and promote one another—whatever an individual’s level of experience, because everyone has something to bring to the table.
Angie Manfredi, head of youth services at the Los Alamos County (N. Mex.) Library System, says, “Before Guerrilla Storytime, I struggled to find footing as a children’s librarian, notably in serving ages 0–6. After attending, I had a thriving network of colleagues, and, by seeing their examples in practice, I not only gained ideas, tips, and tricks, but the confidence to try new things, ask questions, and experiment with what my storytime could do.”
The Storytime Underground website is run by a team of self-described joint chiefs: HPL’s Eckert, Kendra Jones of Fort Vancouver Regional Library, Vancouver, Washington; Amy Koester of Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, and Brooke Rasche of La Crosse (Wis.) Public Library. Together, they provide a wealth of content that makes creating a personal learning network (PLN) easy for librarians who may lack time to seek out resources. Regular roundups of links gather lots of useful blogs and websites in one place, pointing readers to further professional development resources.
The joint chiefs provide many opportunities for Storytime Underground visitors to make it their own. Readers can submit questions to the “Storytime Ninjas” volunteer corps of librarians and are also encouraged to volunteer as Storytime Ninjas and share expertise or brainstorm solutions. The variety of content submitted by librarians nationwide makes Storytime Underground an excellent place to begin a search for your own PLN.
Get involved by connecting with other librarians on the Storytime Underground Facebook page. Send roundup links (self-promotion is encouraged) or volunteer to facilitate a Guerrilla Storytime at your next professional conference.
Much of youth librarianship is learned on the job, and everyone can benefit from connecting with others and sharing ideas. Visit Storytime Underground and start your professional development journey today.