Guerrilla Storytime

by Kate Kosturski, Head Editor, INALJ Rhode Island

Guerrilla Storytime

kate_kosturski_photo2I went to the Networking Uncommons at the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia with only one purpose: to Charge All the Things. (Which is why many of us use the Uncommons, really.)  It just happened that the time I showed up to provide my iDevices with some very needed power was the same time as Guerrilla Storytime – and I left with a fonder appreciation for the hard work and community that youth librarians provide, to themselves and the children in their libraries. (As well as a charged iPhone and iPad.)

For those not in the know, Guerrilla Storytime (“GS”) is part of the Storytime Underground collective, a group led by Cory Dickason Eckert (Houston, TX Public Library), Kendra Jones (Vancouver, WA Community Library), and Amy Koester (St. Charles, MO City-County Library District).  These three passionate youth librarians sensed a need in the large youth services community for both advocacy and information sharing, and created an online community for both.  Guerrilla Storytime, created by Ms. Eckert and launched at the Annual Conference in Chicago, is only one part of the Storytime Underground movement; their site features research that librarians can use in their advocacy for Youth Services, a “Storytime Guerrilla of the Month,” and regular postings on networking, marketing, and overall cool things.


Guerilla Storytime is spontaneous, in-person training and idea sharing.  The group provides detailed instructions on how to set up your own Storytime at your library or conference, but here’s the short (the “tl;dr*” portion) of how it works:  The moderator provides the challenges for participants to draw, and then on the spot, they have to provide an answer to that challenge.   Nearly 50 librarians participated in the Sunday afternoon meetup at Midwinter, and it was an energizing, fun, and education hour for all (observers included – my iDevices weren’t the only thing that got charged that afternoon!)


Here are some ideas that came out of GS this conference:


  1. What’s your favorite “shaker song?”  (This is the point where I realized that I needed to capture this in some part on video, so I recorded several different challenges.  Here’s one of the shaker songs.)

  2. What would a yoga storytime look like? (Here’s a sample, with some audience participation!)

  3. How can you best use puppets in storytime? (Angie Manfredi, Head of Youth Services at Mesa, NM Library shares one of her ideas, along with another participant).

  4. You have some restless kids in your storytime?   How can you shake the sillies and the wiggles out? (Here’s an idea from the La Crosse, WI library courtesy of Marge Loch-Wouters – complete with audience participation).


Why do I think this is awesome?   Three reasons:


  1. It’s an excellent way to train and teach. A concept like this is one that I find would not fit well in a lecture format.  It’s best experienced live, where there is a component of doing, and a conversation about what works and what doesn’t.  (There’s also a strong virtual component to GS, with their blog and social media presence – thus training extends outside of in person meetings, but still retains its informal character..)  You can’t get this from a Powerpoint slide deck and a limited question period after a presentation; it’s just not an effective way to learn.

  2. I love Youth Services librarians.  It’s in part because my sister is one.  It’s also in part because I know that while they don’t do the “sexy” technology work, they are playing a key role in childhood development.  I see this in the pictures that my sister shares on her Facebook page – drawings. comments, and gifts from her library kids calling her the best “librairian” ever.  And from what I can see, there’s nary an iPad in sight in her work – she’s reading stories, making crafts, and promoting the library as a place to have fun and grow.  To these children, the librarian is as much a part of the family as Mom or Dad.   It’s sad that youth librarianship does not get the recognition it deserves, or is viewed as “soft” or “women’s” work.  It deserves a great deal more attention that it currently receives, and as such, I am making it a goal this year to be a good advocate for youth services.

  3. It’s just plain fun.  The previous week was my job’s staff retreat, in which we spent three days in a conference room at a hotel listening to lectures.  Interesting, yes (especially hearing about what other departments in my company were doing), but I wonder how much more fun it would be if one of the presentations was done in yoga or interpretive dance. (Just in case people at my office happen to read this and are already planning the summer staff retreat.  🙂

You can read more about Guerrilla Storytime at ALA Midwinter on their blog, as well as a wrap-up from American Libraries, courtesy of the aforementioned Angie Manfredi.   There is no doubt in my mind that you will see GS at ALA Annual in Vegas (and me there), so keep an eye on their blog for details!


* “too long, didn’t read”

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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