I’ve been presenting storytimes for over 15 years and I have tried many systems for keeping track of my plans, rhymes, songs, books, and ideas. Binders, Word docs, notecards, file folders…all of them have worked well for awhile but nothing has been perfect. While earlier in my career what I needed most were good ways to find activities to add to my limited repertoire, now that I have more experience, what I need is a way to think of fresh combinations of the activites I love and that I know work well for me. Don’t get me wrong: I still love discovering new ideas, but I also have needed better access to all the great old ideas I’ve stored up along the way.
I was on the verge of starting a storytime Tumblr (why? because it is quick to set up and I wanted to explore tagging the posts) when Andrea mentioned on Twitter that if she were starting her storytime system over, she would use Evernote. I knew about Evernote but had never used it, so I opened an account and tried it out.
Let me tell you, I am IN LOVE.
Here’s the big reasons:
- Clean, simple interface and quick note creation. There is not a lot of clicking around, and you don’t have to open multiple windows to do what you want to do.
- Tagging AND full-text keyword searching. Ahem. FULL TEXT KEYWORD SEARCHING.
- Access. Evernote is cloud-based, so I can get to my notes from my desktop at work, my laptop at home, and my phone while I’m standing in Michael’s wondering if I have all the felt I need for next week’s storytime.
Here’s some of the nitty-gritty of how I’m using Evernote:
I have two types of storytime notes: “plans” notes and “content” notes. The “plans” notes list all the storytime agendas I have on a particular topic, such as “Birds.” The agendas are brief, just enough to remind me what I did.
My “content” notes are each activity, rhyme, song, flannelboard, whatever, written out, like this one for “When Ducks Get Up In the Morning.”
You can tag each note with any number of tags, AND you can add in a URL…this one takes you to Nancy Stewart’s great music site, where I learned this song (thanks Mary for the link!). Never lose track of your sources again!
The reason I decided to do both “plans” notes and “content” notes is that while I wanted to have a record of my agendas, I also wanted to be able to look at activities in different combinations than just what I’ve done in the past.
So that’s where tagging comes in, of course! I tag each “content” post by themes and types of activity. So “When Ducks Get Up In The Morning,” is tagged flannelboard, puppets, and songs, because sometimes I sing it with puppets and sometimes I sing it with flannel pieces. I also tag by a few concepts, like shapes and colors. You could also tag for the 6 skills or the 5 practices, or you could tag for dates or sessions, or types of storytimes (babies, families, bilingual), or venues like certain branches or outreach locations.
I like tagging because it pulls up such clean lists, but remember Evernote is full text keyword searchable. That’s why I type out all the words to the first verses of my activities (as well as key phrases of other verses) even when I already know them by heart. “When Ducks Get Up In the Morning” will come up if I search Ducks and Quack, but also Morning, Moo, Hens, Say, etc.
This allows me to shuffle up the stuff I’ve used over and over and come up with new combinations that work together. This is what happened at Thanksgiving–I was putting together a new “Thanks” storytime (rather than my usual “Food” theme) and I searched in Evernote for “Thank you” –and up came “Where Is Thumbkin!” Of course: you sing “Very well I thank you” at the end of each verse. Never in a million years would I have thought of using Thumbkin for that storytime, but Evernote tossed it at me and it was a perfect thing to add.
This is exactly what I was hoping for! I wanted to be able to think
about some of my favorite content in different ways, and have my archives be
not just a record of what I’ve done, but a brainstorming tool for new storytimes.
I’m still working on entering all my old storytime plans and activities, but
now as I come across new ideas, I’m entering them into Evernote too, even if I
haven’t used them in storytime yet. The next time I search for “Farms” or
“Puppets” or “Songs,” my new ideas will come up right next to my familiar
material and I’ll be ready to mix up a fresh storytime.
I asked Andrea, who tipped me off to Evernote, what she liked about it. She said she liked the saved search feature–so you could save searches you did all the time, such as “Toddlers and songs,” or “Preschool and flannelboards.” Andrea also loves being able to create Evernote notes from just about anything. You could send PUBYAC storytime compilation emails straight to Evernote, or tweets, or websites. Or photos! Evernote takes it all and because everything can be tagged, all different kinds of notes can be kept together and ready for you when you’re ready to plan your next storytime.
What do you do to keep track of your storytimes?
Melissa Depper is a Librarian in the Child and Family Library Services department of the Arapahoe (CO) Library District, where she starts every week off right with baby storytime. She serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee, and is on Twitter, right now probably, at @MelissaZD.