Blogger Katie Salo, Storytime, What I Wasn't Taught in Library School...

Spring Cleaning: Storytime Style

Friends and colleagues, it is time to get organized! Spring is here — even though the nearly half a foot of snow Chicago just received might indicate otherwise — and summer is on the horizon. Now is the time to prepare for the chaos awaiting us come June.

So here are my tips and tricks for getting some simple office supplies and storage solutions working to keep us in tip-top shape.

Closet Storage Bins + Library Hanging Bags = Felt Flannelboard Solutions
Hanging File Folders + Sandwich Bags = Clip Art Flannelboard Solutions

Storage bins (left), hanging bags (upper right), hanging files (lower right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]
Storage bins (left), hanging bags (upper right), hanging files (lower right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

I store my flannelboards in two different ways. For the felt sets, I use six closet storage bins and library hanging bags to organize. Each bag contains all of my flannel pieces and a sheet of paper explaining the rhyme, story, song, or game to be used with the pieces. These are in alphabetical order and I allow all of my co-workers to borrow any set as long as they let me know. It takes up two shelves in my cube, but I feel it is well-used space since I have an estimated 150 flannelboards.

The second way I store flannelboards are for my clip art laminated flannelboards. I use a simpler system. I put all the pieces in a sandwich bag and write the name of the flannelboard on the outside of the bag. Afterwards, I toss them in these alphabetical hanging files. I don’t include the rhymes in these since most of these sets are my Letter Puzzles and different versions of the “If You Have…” song I use often.

Desktop Organizers + More Bins + Clipboards = Storytime Solutions

Desktop organizers (upper left), cloth bins (lower left), and clipboards (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]
Desktop organizers (upper left), cloth bins (lower left), and clipboards (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

I use a simple trick to get my books organized for storytime. Desktop organizers are absolutely perfect; the ones in this picture are typical called vertical file organizers. [A very similar one to mine looks like this example from Staples.] Each slot holds a week of storytime books, flannels, and CDs. I can grab a whole slot with ease on my way to step up!

The cloth bins are where all of my personal finger puppets (in the little ones) and hand puppets (in the bottom ones) go. I got both of these sets on clearance once college organizers hit the sales rack. The little ones I’ve had for quite a few years, but the tubs at the bottom are new for this year. All of these were fairly inexpensive since I waited for sales. I like using cloth bins because it doesn’t smash the puppets down like other storage solutions might.

Clipboards! At this point, you might have figured out that I never grew out of shopping for back-to-school supplies. But clipboards make my life so much easier! I keep a clipboard for each of my three weekly storytime programs. Before the sessions starts, I print out each week’s activities and attendance sheets. I put them all on the clipboard. I’m able to have this nearby in storytime in case I blank on an activity and can immediately circle the activities that we used that week. Keeping the papers on the clipboard allows me to write anywhere and also makes sure the papers don’t get crinkled in my storytime bag.

Plastic Bins + Old Kit Bags + Small Bins = Drawer Solutions
Managing the In-box Solutions

Inside of my drawer (left), the in-box solution (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]
Inside of my drawer (left), the in-box solution (right). [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Manage the little minutia by hiding it in a drawer! In here you can see I try to compartmentalize my mess. All of my little office supplies (tape, post-its, expo markers, tacky glue) lives in a small cloth bin, with easy access. The plastic bin underneath the batteries, HDMI cord and cleaning cloths contains my felt supply at work in case I need to make a back-up felt piece. The green kit bag has all the extra charging cords and cables associated with our circulating LeapFrog kits. (That’s what the batteries and cleaning cloths are for as well — part of my job maintaining that collection means cleaning and battery checking once a kit comes back.)

Now for the paper in-box. Get three bins. The top is for weekly to-do items, the middle is for items to be filed, and the bottom is for on-going projects. Right now the top bin has a muffin tin to remind me to make felt cinnamon rolls. The middle bin has some strategic planning documents and ILS training sheets. The bottom bin it contains a replacement order I have to wait to order until after our ILS change in April, an audio order catalog to go through, and my clipboards that have programs that need to be written up from this week. The hardest thing to remember about the in-box is when your week ends, it should be empty except for on-going projects. I’ve used this system for years, including when I was a manager. It is GOLD for me.

I hope you feel confident and full of new ideas about tackling organization now! If you want specific product information, please email me [simplykatie(at)gmail(dot)com] and I will send you more information. If you want to trade tips and tricks, please feel free to do so in the comments! Do you have a favorite organization technique? Or a great idea to share? Let us know!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Liz Fraser

    Whoa, I am in awe. My felt boards are a complete and utter mess. (I recently did not do Little Mouse in storytime because the mouse was missing.) I have struggled for years trying to figure out how to best organize them. You’ve given me some ideas to explore–there might be hope after all!

    1. Renee Perron

      You are not alone in your awe of Katie’s organization system. I also have tried to get my felt board materials organized but I put something on my shelf after story time and forget to put in back in its proper place. So many times, I have to switch up my song plans last minute because I couldn’t find the right felt board pieces that I needed. This week, I didn’t have my ladybugs for 5 Little Ladybugs. After I looked, I realized they were at home in my file cabinet!

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  3. Kelly Doolittle

    Your mess looks so nice!! Being a dedicated re-use type, I put all my [roughly 100] felt board sets into big 3-ring binders that were slated for the landfill at my library. I slide the pieces, plus the accompanying poem or rhyme, into clear film sheet protectors (they all have the 3 holes already punched in) and the binders fit into about 3 linear feet of shelf space, standing up side by side. I put indexes of the contents on the spines, and sort them roughly by seasonal use. It’s not terribly pretty 🙂 but it works well!

    We also had a mess of brown accordion folding files which I used to hold (and sort)different leftover paper die cuts for projects and crafts. Two of those hold a lot of die cuts, and they sit side by side on another shelf (with myriad other things that I hope to organize with some of YOUR tips!!)

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