Observation: Baby Bounce! at the Chattanooga Public Library

Observation

Program: Baby Bounce
Target Audience: Babies ages 0 to 18 months and their caregivers
Time: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 10 am
Location: Chattanooga Public Library, located in downtown Chattanooga
Registration: None required
Staff/Librarian: “Miss Emmy”, staff in Children’s Department of CPL; 1st year library science student; appears to be in her late 20s or early 30s

Climate of the Building
The downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library is located on Broad St., with plenty of street parking as well as a parking structure across the street from the building. Patrons can also get to the library by bus or on foot. The building has a newly renovated fountain out front, a reading garden on the side, and a newly built café at the main entrance, with tables and plenty of seating. There are “Nothing Quiet About It” signs throughout the library to suggest it’s okay, even encouraged, for patrons to move around and interact with the staff or each other. The general climate of the library is welcoming and non-stifling.

The Children’s Department
The children’s department of the library is located on the second floor, and as you walk upstairs you are greeted by a large mural at the landing of different animals, people, and landscapes (farmland, oceans, mountains, etc.). Patrons can also go upstairs using the elevator, helpful for those patrons with strollers or patrons who are disabled. The second floor of the library is home to the teens and tweens as well, though the children’s section is in its own room, separated from the teens and tweens areas by a set of doors and glass walls. The glass walls leading into this area contain a colorful mural of animals reading, adding to the playfulness of the environment. The information desk is located around the corner from the entrance to the room. Patrons can obtain brochures about different programs offered at the library (and its branches), as well as interact with the librarian on duty.

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Displays & Decorations; Layout of the Children’s Department
The children’s room is painted celery green, and there are tables, chairs, and benches of various sizes, fit for both children and their adult caregivers. The computers recognize the different needs of the patrons as well – there are regular computers with access to educational games, the OPAC, and the Internet, as well as computers with modified keyboards (with larger, rubberized, color-coded keys that are easy to find and press). Each lookup station comes with its own headphones. For the younger patrons, there is a play area with interactive game centers and activity islands, allowing them to manipulate various puzzles and moving mechanisms (gears, wires and beads, etc.). There are also a couple of caterpillar shaped book bins, filled with board- and touch-and-feel books. There are many whimsical decorations and displays throughout: hanging mobiles showing animals reading, window and wall decals (flowers, moon and stars, etc.), stuffed animals small and large on shelves, a tabletop fairyland model, and painted wooden cutouts of trees located outside the storytime/programming room. There are also a couple of tables set up with books on display, though they don’t seem to belong to a common theme. Children’s programs take place in a circular room. The wall is painted in a shade of green and features a mural of children reading in and under a tree, along with a tree house, a tire swing, and animals). The pastel colors lend a calm and dreamlike quality to the room. The circular opening leading into the room is closed off by gates. On the day of the observation, a table was set up in the front of the room with a CD player, a basket of scarfs and egg shakers, handouts, and a plush skunk. There were no books displayed in the room.

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Organization of Books
Picture books can be found on low shelves lining the two walls of the children’s room. Books are also displayed along the top of the low shelves, as well as magazine holders. DVDs and puzzles are located towards the entrance of the room. Juvenile fiction and non-fiction books are arranged on bookcases extending from the middle of the room to the far end of the room. Pop-up books and series such as the American Girl books have their own spots on the shelves, marked clearly with labels. The books are arranged by the Dewey Decimal system.

Children’s Physical/Emotional State; Response to the Librarian
The Baby Bounce program I observed took place at 10 on a Thursday morning. I arrived approximately 15 minutes early to talk to the librarian, Miss Emmy, about the program, as well as to observe the kids and caretakers as they enter. Most of that morning’s participants arrived a few minutes before the start of the program and spent time in the play area/game center. A few babies arrived in their strollers, but some walked/crawled with their caregivers. They appeared alert and happy, though one grandmother mentioned to Miss Emmy that her grandson was particularly cranky that morning because he missed his morning nap. Throughout the 25-minute program, I noticed that he was indeed a little fussier than the other babies. As participants entered the storytime room, they were greeted individually by Miss Emmy, given a colorful scarf and an egg shaker, and encouraged to play with them while they wait for the program to begin. All of the babies reacted positively to Miss Emmy, though during this time there weren’t much interaction between Miss Emmy and the babies/caregivers past the initial greeting. Miss Emmy had told me earlier that she was not very experienced with this age group and joked that she was a little scared of babies, and I wondered if this was one explanation for the lack of physical engagement with them.

The Program – Outline
Here is the outline of the Baby Bounce program, followed by some of my observations.

1. Greeting song: “Hello and How Are You Today?” – Miss Emmy repeats the song for each child in the room, personalizing it each time with the child’s name.
2. Fingers and toes song: calls attention to the baby’s fingers and toes.
3. 2 clapping songs
4. Sign language: Miss Emmy said this is a new segment they are adding to the program, then proceeds to teach 14 common signs. When asked, she provided reasoning for teaching babies sign language.
5. “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” – taught body parts
6. “If You’re Happy and You Know It” – taught body parts (clapping hands, stomping feet) as well as common emotions (happy, mad, etc.)
7. Bicycle song: the babies were placed on their backs and the caregivers moved their legs back and forth, up and down; this was modeled by Miss Emmy, using the stuffed animal, Skunky. Encouraged exercise of leg muscles.
8. “Hickory Dickory Dock”: Miss Emmy asked everyone to use their egg shakers for this song; taught rhythm, and numbers 1 to 3
9. “Ring Around the Rosie”: this song allowed caregivers/walkers to stand up. Pre-walkers are held by caregivers, and “dipped” during the “all fall down” part. This track repeated 3 times, with increasing speed.
10. “Let’s Fly a Kite”: Still standing, the caregivers are encouraged to “float” around the room with a scarf in their hands as though they were flying a kite.
11. Goodbye song: sitting down, Miss Emmy plays a rocking song to signal the end of the program.

The participants were encouraged to stay and play with the scarf and egg shaker longer. Miss Emmy stayed in the room to answer questions, though most participants did not linger.

What I’ve Learned: Observations/Level of Engagement/Body Language, etc.

• Except for the greeting song, the program is entirely done with the help of a CD – with songs selected by the main children’s librarian. The same CD is used for every Baby Bounce session for the year, though the librarian can skip or replay a song depending on audience feedback. Though the songs played one after another, the program seemed well-paced. While I understand the value of familiarizing kids in this age group with the same songs, I would maybe add a couple of books each week – themed or not – so that participants have an additional reason to come back.
• Most songs were only done once, unlike what we have discussed in class about teaching the song (and any movements associated) the first time, then repeating the song as practice. I can think of two possible reasons for this: time constraints and the fact that this program is repeated every week and the participants are likely already familiar with the songs. That said, because the program encourages drop-in patrons, the librarian might want to consider doing the song twice for new participants.
• I felt too many signs were introduced during the sign language segment, especially since this was the first time this segment was introduced. That said, Miss Emmy spent some time explaining the rationale behind this segment, and the caregivers responded positively. There was also a handout showing the words and illustrations of the accompanying signs, which can help caregivers practice at home during the week. These were given out at the end of the program.
• For most of the songs, Miss Emmy used Skunky to model the movements. This was a great way to show the caregivers what to do, as well as letting the librarian take a more active role in the program, especially since the program is primarily run on the CD.
• The children and their caregivers were engaged throughout the program. There were lots of smiles and the caregivers were focused and fully-participatory (i.e. not chatting with each other; not distracted with their phones, etc.). There was one particularly fussy child (the same boy mentioned above) who whined a bit and wandered in and out of the room during the program. Miss Emmy did not seem distracted by him – she simply carried on with the program without calling out the behavior, letting the grandmother take care of the situation. I thought this is a good practice for this age group, since a) the babies are too young to understand library “etiquette”, and b) this is clearly a case of a child being tired (having missed his morning nap), not him being openly defiant, disruptive, etc. It is more important for the librarian to foster a loving/caring/welcoming environment (where it’s okay for babies to fuss) and be flexible.
• I felt that more resources – books, handouts – could’ve been provided to the caregivers at the end of the program. A couple of board books during the program would seem appropriate (especially for the walkers of the group) and it would afford the librarian a way to model reading and the importance of pre- and early-literacy to the caregivers. Since sign language was introduced during the program, I expected some sign language resources available for caregivers to check out, as well. This would have further reinforced the benefits of teaching babies sign language.
• More interaction between the librarian and the participants (both babies and adults) would encourage repeat attendance and be a great first step to build long-lasting librarian-patron relationships. I felt though Miss Emmy was friendly, she could have spent more time with the participants before and after the program.

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